Transit users disgruntled with service along 49th avenue

Infrastructure of the route may block the way for solutions


By Andrea Dante

Langara College students and residents are increasingly disappointed with the service of bus No.49, and most say the attempted solutions to improve the service are so far ineffective.

According to a 2021 review, TransLink identified the No. 49 bus route as the second-busiest in Metro Vancouver. The route, which connects West and East Vancouver along 49th Avenue, averages 22,000 boardings on weekdays.

The No. 49 is also ranked 11th among lines that cause the most delays in the region, according to another TransLink report from 2019.

Crowded buses and long waits have some riders choosing different bus routes to avoid the No. 49 when possible — and desperate to see changes to the service.

Fran Ferrada, a health sciences student at Langara, who takes the No. 49 every day, is disappointed with the service.

“It takes too long,” Ferrada said. “Most of the time, buses pass by [because] they are full.”

David Chin, who ran with Progress Vancouver for city council in the latest municipal election, began a petition to increase the frequency of buses, provide shortened routes/loops, and introduce express bus services along 49th Avenue.

Shortened routes/loops are used so some buses only go partway on a route to help with areas of a line that may be busier than others.

“The capacity for those buses is never enough for the people that are waiting for them,” Chin said.

In September, Chin came to Langara twice to collect signatures for a petition to Vancouver City Hall andTransLink.

“I obtained around a hundred signatures in a couple of days and half a dozen students volunteered to take the petition by themselves,” he said.

Leah Gies, design formation student at Langara, thinks the same solution that was adopted on 41st Avenue should be used for the No. 49.

“It used to be very busy, but eventually they got the express bus and the service improved,” Gies said.

Rod Anderson, who has been a bus driver in Vancouver for 25 years and drives the No. 49, has a different opinion.

“The problem with the express service on 49th Avenue is that it’s mostly all single lane so there is nowhere to pass,” he said. “If there is no way to get around you do not benefit really by the express service.”

Steve Brown, City of Vancouver manager for transit integration and projects, said an express bus could improve the service, but further investments would be necessary to make the express bus effective on 49th avenue.

“Sometimes if the width isn’t quite enough, you have to change curved edges and so it becomes a lot more expensive and complicated to make it into your rapid bus take route.”

TransLink said via email that route No. 49 is considered “a future major transit network corridor and our 10-year priorities commitment is to assess long-term capacity needs and evaluate potential rapid transit technology alternatives.”

TransLink also said that in September it made “minor adjustments to route 49” to improve the service and “address overcrowding.”

These changes included providing more space during peak times on weekday afternoons by adjusting the frequency to every four-to-seven minutes towards Metrotown Station from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. (down from five to eight minutes).

VIDEO: Photo story by reporter Andrea Dante

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