The No. 49 bus route is the most overcrowded bus in Metro Vancouver, according to a TransLink spokesperson. It’s easy to blame TransLink, but riders share a significant portion of the blame themselves.
TransLink is aware of the overcrowding, and have recently cut out a portion of the route to make it more direct. What it has no control of, however, is the poor habits of its passengers.
The bus is the main route for Langara College students who live to the east of the college, or for those commuting in from the SkyTrain. It is also one of the main buses going to UBC, and as such, it is busy westbound in the mornings, and eastbound in the evenings.
On my morning commute to Langara from Fraser Street, I have far too often had a “SORRY, BUS FULL” fly past the stop I had been waiting at. On more than a few occasions I have managed to chase it down — some clever bus drivers stop a few metres away from the line so that they can unload without letting anyone on. I hop into an open backdoor, leaving behind the poor souls diligently standing in line (this may not be entirely legal, but a compass scanner is at those doors to tap in on).
It’s clear that drivers do this because they understand rider habit. Even though the same amount of people who unload could, ideally, be allowed on, the stubborn refusal of riders to move to the back leaves it impossible to pack any more riders into the front.
To my knowledge, not many others have attempted the backdoor trick — which may be impossible for elderly or disabled people — but it has a higher success rate than simply waiting in line as bus after bus goes by.
Unless TransLink starts encouraging riders to board by the backdoors, or people onboard actually start shuffling along at each stop, would-be passengers of the No. 49 will continue to be doomed to watch as half-full buses drive past them.
Read our related story about the 49 bus route here.