Transit service is unreliable and failing to meet the needs of riders in the central Fraser Valley.
That’s according to a veteran bus driver who is sounding the alarm on a system he says is in desperate need of improvement.
“The last six months at least, it’s just been so horrible,” he said. “As an operator, I see the people that are affected, sometimes almost crying because they might have lost their job or they missed an interview or they missed an important appointment.”
The driver (who asked not to be named) said he loves his job and is a regular transit user in Abbotsford, but he has become increasingly frustrated with the system.
Buses are often late, or miss a run entirely, he said, leaving riders stranded at stops. And even when they are on time, they’re not frequent enough to serve as a reliable commuting option, he said.
When you run for a bus in Mission or Abbotsford and see its red tail lights pulling away, it’s not like Vancouver, where you’ll know the next bus will be there in the next five to 10 minutes, he said.
“Now you figure s—-, I have to wait a half hour or maybe 45 minutes, if it’s evening or Sunday service.”
At least once a week he said he sees a bus driver waiting to work without a bus to drive or buses sitting in the yard, without drivers.
“That’s just poor management.”
In a recent rider survey, the Central Fraser Valley scored poorly on reliability compared to other BC Transit jurisdictions. Forty six per cent of respondents gave gave Abbotsford and Mission buses a four or five out of five for having buses run on schedule – the second lowest percentage of BC Transit’s 14 systems.
Nathan Logel told The News he expected to wait 30 minutes for the No. 3 bus on McCallum Road, after he narrowly missed the previous bus Thursday afternoon. He said he has found almost every bus to be five to 10 minutes late, since he started taking transit more frequently due to a knee injury preventing him from biking.
Nearly 100 Facebook users responded to a recent post from The News, asking for comments on the local transit system. Virtually every comment painted a negative picture of an infrequent, unreliable and inconvenient system.
“I have been turned down for three different jobs this year strictly because I take the bus. It’s not even close to reliable,” wrote Serena Andersen.
Victoria Capell wrote: “The entire system here needs to be redone. The routes are horrible for servicing the entire city.”
The system has improved slightly in recent years, but there is still much room for improvement in both frequency and reliability, according to Jenni Wren.
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said there’s room for improvement in the bus system, particularly when it comes to frequency of buses on major routes.
He said the Central Valley system is “a mile wide and an inch deep,” as it tries to services nearly every corner of B.C.’s largest municipality.
“We need to do a much better job, and we will do a much better job,” he said.
City staff are working on a new transit master plan, which will lay out new priorities for service in Abbotsford, Braun said.
“There may be parts of our community that we’re trying to service today that maybe we need to reign that in,” he said. “There’s no sense sending a bus out there because there’s no sufficient ridership.”
Braun said there needs to be more focus on improving service on major corridors, where the city’s official community plan calls for more housing density, along South Fraser Way, Old Yale Road, downtown and near Highstreet Mall.
“We have to have more frequency in those areas. Ten to 15 minute frequency would be great because then people would use the transit system.”
A major “pinch point” in improving service is a lack of facilities to service and store buses, Braun said. A new $28 million transit depot and maintenance facility for buses fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG) was announced last year, with funds pledged from both the provincial and federal governments. Once that facility is up and running and a new master plan is in place, Braun said the public can expect significant improvements in transit service.
Construction of the new depot is on schedule for completion by March, 2018, according to BC Transit spokesperson Jonathon Dyck. The preferred site for is at the corner of Gladys Avenue and Sumas Way/Highway 11, he said.
Dyck said BC Transit identified reliability issues in Abbotsford and Mission during a recent service optimization review. He said BC Transit is working with both the City of Abbotsford to improve service and has already seen improvements in Mission after recent changes.
BC Transit customers are encouraged to voice their complaints and concerns directly to BC Transit.