A Bus Too Far
Today, after being let out of my last class of the day just a tad too late, I was faced with a dilemma when waiting for my usual bus home to White Rock, from SFU's Surrey campus. Upon hastily sauntering out to the bus terminal I saw my bus, the 321 to White Rock Centre, waiting innocently for me to climb aboard. I approached the bus a little bit quicker than I normally do, for I was indeed running behind schedule and didn’t want to risk having the door shut in my face and a cloud of carbon monoxide filling my lungs as a very un-metaphorical added taste of failure. This story is not about a missed bus though. I did in fact reach the bus in time; however, my dilemma was just about to come into being.
I was taken aback by the “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” worthy number of passengers the bus driver had let on to the bus. The fine print on the outside of the window near the front of the bus read “Maximum Capacity: 77 persons”. It was as though the people of this bus had taken that statement as some sort of challenge. Surely, I thought, there must be at least 90 people in total. Before stepping on, I contemplated my options. Getting on this specific bus now meant I’d be standing for what could prove to be the better part of the sixty minute duration of my journey home, but it also meant I’d be home that much sooner to do really important things like play Xbox, and, uh, homework. I seriously considered waiting that extra twenty minutes for the next bus and the guaranteed seat tenure it entailed. I then considered the fact that waiting for the next bus would mean missing the connecting bus I would need to take from White Rock Centre to get to my house, and remembered that its frequency was far more…indeterminate. With a heart full of faith in the decency of the strangers I’d be spending the next hour with in close quarters, I pulled out my student pass and boarded the bus.
After having the bus driver request everyone to move towards the back of the bus a few times, and watching 30 standing people shuffle around to gain a few millimeters, it struck me, along with a high school student’s backpack. I’d been in this situation before, so I knew a large majority of the passengers would be getting off at one fairly common stop about a little less than halfway through the route. The 321 south comes in two flavours, the first being the kind that go all the way to White Rock, and the second being the kind that only go halfway, to Newton Center, that popular hub where many people riding the White Rock route would get off the bus. These two routes alternately depart from Surrey Central every ten minutes or so, so missing the White Rock route is a twenty minute wait till the next one. Sure enough, almost the entirety of the people riding that day all got off at this one stop. I would have no qualms with this system if the White Rock express bus that runs from King George Station would come more than three times daily. This express bus, the 394, bypasses Newton Centre entirely, but again only departs three times daily, each time an hour later than the last.
As it would seem that very few people even use the White Rock version of the 321 for its intended purpose, why not instead make it only go to Newton Center, with limited service during peak hours to White Rock, and greatly increase the frequency and number of 394’s? Or how about making a peak time Newton Center bus that will go there directly, taking the pressure off the White Rock route? There are many other solutions to this ridership problem. It just seems like the amount of people riding the 321 is excessive. If transit route planners rode my bus more, I think they’d take another look at the way they designed this system.