B.C. Transit has a brand-new website. There is also a brand-new route: the 33 UVic via Richmond. Some transit execs could slather these accomplishments on a PowerPoint and present them at some sort of “look at how we’re improving” board meeting, but they don’t solve the bigger problems that affect all users. Any regular transit user is plagued by late busses, early busses, breakdowns, or busses that don’t show up at all.
Lets start with the website. It is, for all intents and purposes, a reskinned version of Google Maps—it just has B.C. Transit logos plastered here and there. It eliminates the step of clicking “maps” when you start up your Chrome app. It cost close to a million dollars.
Now, about that 33 route. This new bus runs in the morning during the weekdays, and since it’s another UVic-bound route, so it’s great for students, at least in theory. The issue is that, in practice, the drivers don’t seem to be working together, or maybe the route timing is just completely off. Whenever a full 14 drives by in the morning there is always an empty 33 chasing it. I think a double-decker would do the same thing in that situation, and if you miss both—remember: they are traveling the route in tandem—you have to wait 15 minutes to get the next one, which, knowing the 14, will be more like 20 minutes. Why not just have them run every seven minutes instead? If the 14 is getting bogged down with people and is running late, the operator could let the 33 know, and they could keep their distance. How is that hard?
The other transit brouhaha involves drivers calling out stops. Drivers think it’s distracting, but advocacy groups say that silence discriminates against the blind. It certainly would be frustrating having to pronounce some of our city’s street names (Blenkinsop, Tyndall, Boleskine, Nelthorpe, McAnally), so we should have speakers and screens to dictate our stops instead of frustrated bus drivers. Everybody wins. We should have those things in place of a redundant website. Visually impaired riders could benefit, and riders new to the city would have an easier time as well.
Or, instead of spending money on fancy websites, speakers, and screens, let’s just work on making these busses run on time, for everyone’s sake. We can’t expect to be winning any transit awards. The cities that do—Buenos Aires (2014), Mexico City (2013), Guangzhou (2011)—are usually larger and have a sprawling setup to them. What we should expect is for those in charge of transit to put time and money into creating a consistency in the routes, in lieu of bells and whistles.
Of course, if we had all the money, I say let’s start making this city run on pneumatic air tubes a la Futurama—way cooler. Since we don’t have that kind of dough, let’s just work on fixing those shit routes. Baby steps, B.C. Transit. Baby steps.