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Greater Vancouver, Canada’s third largest urban centre has a long history of integrated land use planning and transportation investment. Through the adoption of a "transit oriented transportation system," the region has developed a rich mix of rail, bus and water transit. An integrated fare system allows transfer between modes.

The provision of transit service is the responsibility of the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority or TransLink as it is locally known. TransLink operates the largest urban transit district in Canada in terms of area served, and with more than 225 million unlinked trips per year, it ranks third in ridership. Service is provided by 950 diesel buses, 244 electric trolley buses, 210 automated light rail cars, 37 commuter rail cars, and two passenger ferries. The system serves a regional population of 2.1 million.

Median in the road with cars on the left and buses on the right
The median Busway on No.3 Road in Richmond features two 3.5 metre centre lanes reserved for buses separated from general purpose traffic by landscaped medians

Rapid Bus Development

Rapid Bus service was first introduced in 1996, under the brand name B-Line. The objective was to develop a high quality bus service featuring many of the same characteristics of rapid transit. These included high frequency, high capacity and limited stops in an easy to use and understand package.

The first route, the #99 B-Line operates over a 13 km east-west route connecting a major rapid transit station with the uptown business district and the University of British Columbia. The system uses 28 low floor articulated buses in a distinctive livery and carries 25,000 per day.

A second route, the #98 B-Line, was introduced in August 2001 connecting downtown Vancouver with Richmond town centre. The 16.5 km north-south route uses a dedicated fleet of 28 low floor articulated buses and cost $47.1 million (CAN) to implement. The service carries 18,000 passengers per day.

A third route, the #97 B-Line opened in September 2002. Unlike the first two lines, the #97 B-Line operates as an on-road extension of the Millennium SkyTrain Line connecting the Lougheed Town Centre Station with Coquitlam City Centre in the northeast sector of the region. The #97 uses a fleet of 10 low floor articulated buses and carries 6,000 per day.

B-Line is one of four bus brands that TransLink offers to customers. The others include Bus, Express Coach and Community Shuttle. Each brand has its own unique identity within the TransLink family of brands.

#99 B-Line

TransLink’s first rapid bus route - the #99 B-Line, was substantially modified in September 2002, when the eastern half of the line was replaced by the new Millennium SkyTrain Line. The remaining western section connects with both the Expo and Millennium SkyTrain lines at Broadway-Commercial Station. Transfer volumes have grown substantially, necessitating increased frequency. The #99 B-Line currently operates every 3 to 4 minutes during peak periods, every 6 minutes during the day and every 12 minutes during the evening.

The #99 B-Line serves an urban corridor that includes medium density residential development, an uptown business district, the medical precinct as well as a community college and the University of British Columbia with over 35,000 students. The entire route operates in mixed traffic on arterial streets.

An on-board survey conducted in 1997 indicated that 20% of #99 B-Line customers previously used a private vehicle, while 74% formerly used another bus route – primarily local bus routes. The survey indicated 31% of former automobile users were more satisfied with B-Line, than their previous mode.

#98 B-Line

The #98 B-Line connects downtown Vancouver with Richmond, a suburban town centre with a high-density residential population and major commercial centre. A frequent shuttle bus connects the B-Line with Vancouver International Airport. The #98 B-Line operates every 5 to 6 minutes during peak hours, every 7 to 8 minutes in the day and 15 minutes during the evening. The service operates up to 22 hours per day, seven days per week.

Median Busway

 Roadway lanes dividing regular traffic and right-of-way commuters.
At Alderbridge Station the right-of-way is very wide providing extensive landscaping between the Busway and the traffic lanes. The wider right-of-way was achieved by converting a frontage road to southbound general purpose traffic.
A key component of the #98 B-Line is a 2.5 kilometre median busway on No. 3 Road, the main commercial street in Richmond. Traffic studies indicated that traditional curbside bus lanes would not provide sufficient reliability or time savings due to conflicts with the many driveways and right turning traffic at intersections along the corridor. Two 3.5 metre bus lanes have been created in the centre of the street through the elimination of a dual left-hand turn lane and by narrowing the general-purpose lanes. Five stations were developed on the busway at approximately 300-400 metre spacing.

The 2.5 kilometre busway cost $16.5 million (CAN) including $5.5 million (CAN) for property acquisition. In addition, the City of Richmond contributed $2.1 million (CAN) for landscaping the medians which separate the busway from the general-purpose lanes.

Modelled after busways in Curitiba and Paris, the system required many years of planning with local government and businesses to come to fruition. As result of the investment, the main street has taken on a very different appearance while providing a significant transit presence. As the City’s long-term interest calls for a surface light rail transit, the median busway was seen as having a good fit by reserving right-of-way.


 Digital signage displaying bus arrival times.
Digital countdown signs are used at all stops along the route. The signs which countdown the next two bus arrival times, are mounted inside the bus shelters.
The #98 B-Line uses automated vehicle location (AVL) technology which enables the operating company to identify the precise location of buses using a Global Positioning System (GPS). The AVL technology is accurate within 3 metres when a bus is stopped and to within a city block when the bus is moving. Transit control coordinators can adjust the schedule as required to help maintain the interval between buses, and communicate changes in status to the bus driver and on-road supervisors.


If a bus is running late, the system automatically links that message to either the City of Vancouver or Richmond’s traffic signal controls. The signal system then grants priority to extend or advance the green time at intersections based upon a hierarchy predetermined by the cities. Sixty-five intersections along the route have been outfitted with transit signal priority. There are three full bus priority signals, where buses are given "hard" pre-emption over other traffic.

On-board buses, an audio message and digital displays indicate the next stop. At each stop, an outside the bus speaker announces the route number and destination for audio-impaired customers.

At each stop there are digital countdown signs which provide customers with the arrival times of the next two buses. The signs, which are located inside the shelter, provide customers with accurate information on the arrival time of the next two buses.

Buses are parked alongside signalized crosswalks for pedestrians.
Median Busway stations are reached by signalised crosswalks.

Bus Shelters

Architecturally designed bus shelters are the front door of the Rapid Bus system. In addition to the functionality, TransLink wanted an identity that conveyed a modern, high tech system to users. A modular design allows for shelters to be constructed from common elements to meet space and ridership requirements and to provide a look common to all shelters along the route. Specially engineered lighting enhances personal safety. To help combat vandalism, vandal shields have been installed. The shields go on all the glass to provide for easy cleaning and repair. There are six sizes of shelters ranging from five metres to 17 metres in length. The average cost is $74,500 (CAN).


The three B-Line routes now carry about 50,000 people per day, or 10% of daily bus ridership. Surveys indicate about 20% of B-Line riders are new to transit. Cost recovery ranges from about 50% to 95%. The overall investment in the system including vehicles, infrastructure and technology is $70 million (CAN). Future plans include additional upgrades to the #97 and #99 B-Lines including bus priority measures.