Translink’s 99 B-Line to face annual test of strength tomorrow as summer ends

School’s back tomorrow, bringing with it the annual test of capacity on Translink’s 99 B-Line, whose jammed buses are the best possible argument for rapid transit investment on the Broadway corridor.

Will more riders be passed up? Can Translink’s buses carry the load? We’ll see in the morning.

With UBC registration up a rumoured 700 students, new residents moving in along the corridor and new jobs gravitating to the Broadway- Cambie medical complex, the end of summer pressure on the 99 B-Line will be significant.

Despite new investment in off-peak service hours, the B-Line remains Translink’s busiest route with vehicle occupancy running at 86 percent, more at peak periods. (Vancouver city council is expecting a staff report some time this fall on whether or not the city could take steps to improve matters, but any gains would likely be marginal.)

The B-Line is already Translink’s flagship route in virtually every category, driving 16.8 million boardings in 2012 for a cost per boarded passenger of only 57 cents.

But there’s very little room to add more capacity, as Translink’s Marisa Espinosa told Vancouver resident Frank Jameson in this recent letter. More than $1 million in additional service hours in the past year has reduced, but not eliminated, the number of time periods when peak passenger loads exceeded the guidelines.

For even more numbers on how Vancouver’s Broadway corridor compares to other sub-regions, check this summary of 2012 bus service performance. South of Fraser service hours are rising quickly, but have a long way to go to catch up to the B-Line, Translink’s heavy lifter in bus capacity.