TransLink's late night transit service
September 17, 2010
News of a police crackdown on drinking and driving has brought an often-asked question: “Why does SkyTrain service not run 24 hours?” Simply put, SkyTrain requires nightly maintenance so that it can run as well as possible during the critical morning rush hour. But more importantly, people out for a night on the town in Vancouver are not without late-night transit service.
TransLink established NightBus service in 2003, after an experiment with OWL service, along with extensive analysis of centres of activity and late-night travel, demonstrated the level of demand. The 12 NightBus routes – 11 of which originate in downtown Vancouver – are generally full, the overall demand is modest.
NightBuses cover more ground than the three SkyTrain lines: all parts of Vancouver, as well as Burnaby, Coquitlam, New Westminster, Surrey and Richmond. The routes all leave downtown at the same times, and the last departure is at 3:09am. (The exception is the last N10 Richmond, which leaves downtown at 4:44am: as part of the Canada Line Bus Integration Project, it was decided that the schedule of the N10 should approximate the 98 B-Line, which was discontinued when Canada Line began operating.)
Coast Mountain Bus Company and TransLink monitor passenger loads, and if the demand is there, changes in service can be made. As an example, an auxiliary trip on the N17 UBC, which had been leaving from Broadway and Granville to supplement the last trip from downtown, will leave from Howe Street and Nelson, beginning Sept. 27.
However, operating additional service takes resources, both human and equipment. Based on the analysis of the demand, increasing the service beyond its current level is not an efficient or effective use of TransLink’s resources – especially when we are trying to meet the heavy demand of the morning and afternoon peak periods.
It is also important to note that transportation services in many other regions of the world do not offer all-night rail service. Many larger centres – London and Paris among them – shut down their rail systems earlier than SkyTrain. Cities like New York that do offer some form of 24-hour service are large enough to have redundancy built into the system, so that some lines are shut down for maintenance while others keep running.
Even during the Olympics, we did not offer 24-hour service on any of our routes; as it was during Games Time, the principle of “Know Before You Go” still applies. A little pre-planning – including knowing when to call it a night so you don’t miss the bus – can help keep a night of fun safe ... and fun.