How fast and convenient is the new Rapid Bus service from Langley's Carvolth Exchange Park and Ride to the Braid Street SkyTrain station?
The Langley Advance took a trip on the bus this week and talked to a few riders to test out the newest public transit feature to connect Langley to the rest of the Lower Mainland.
The Rapid Bus leaves at 10minute intervals during morning and evening rush hours, from 5-9 a.m. and 3-7 p.m. The rest of the day it runs every 30 minutes.
At 7: 59 a.m. Tuesday the bus left Langley with a cargo of six passengers, and headed out through the new special on-ramp that leads directly onto the HOV lanes near 202nd Street.
Having avoided the interchange at 200th Street, it headed west at full speed, along with three other lanes of traffic, all of them moving as fast or faster.
Among those riding were regular transit commuters Al Forsyth and Chris Hoff.
Both of them have switched to using the Rapid Bus park-and-ride from their previous commutes.
Hoff used to drive to the Scott Road SkyTrain station, Forsyth to King George.
On Tuesday, Hoff said he was a bit disappointed by his first trip on Monday morning.
The bus hit congestion once it was across the new, currently eight-lane Port Mann bridge, and slowed down considerably, he said.
On the way back, it took about 15 to 17 minutes to get across and back from New Westminster to Langley.
Hoff estimates that his commute will still be about an hour and 15 minutes each way, from his home to Vancouver.
But he hopes the new route will save him some money, as he'll be driving his own car less, and saving on gas and maintenance.
Forsyth used to take about an hour and a half to make his morning commute, an hour and 15 minutes on a good day.
With an accident and congestion on the north side of the bridge, it took him a bit longer Monday morning.
"I'm hoping to do better today," he said, just before the Rapid Bus pulled out.
An electronic sign over the highway reminded drivers that the new Port Mann Bridge is now open.
They'd be hard pressed to miss that fact, considering it now takes a bus just 10 minutes to get from 200th Street to the bridge deck itself.
Cars entering the bridge set off a nearby speed reader, which warned them to keep their speed to 70 km/h in a construction zone. Few of the flickering numbers on the board are below 80 km/h.
As the bus left the bridge, congestion loomed.
At first the HOV lane was still empty, and the bus passed hundreds of slow-moving cars. Then near the signs for the Brunette exits, the bus slowed to a crawl itself, at 8: 14 a.m.
After a quick trip from Langley to the bridge, the trip from the bridge to the SkyTrain station, considerably less distance, took 10 minutes.
Some of the highway widening between the bridge and Vancouver remains to be completed over the next year.
The bus unloaded at Braid at 8: 24 p.m.
A bus heading back just after the end of rush hour was faster. At 9: 10, just a couple of minutes after the listed start time of 9: 07, took a mere 17 minutes to get to the Carvolth Park and Ride.
The only passengers heading back were John Morhan and Arnie McKay, two seniors heading for Walnut Grove to have breakfast.
"I think it's grand," said Morhan.
Before the bus route was introduced, they would have travelled "in his car," Morhan said, pointing to his friend.
McKay also liked the trip, noting that he got to see places he normally wouldn't while driving.
Shirley Rowe was waiting to head in to Vancouver for lunch.
"I used to drive every day, three hours a day," she said. "That was my commute." "I do everything to avoid the Port Mann," Rowe added.
She expects her trip time to be about an hour, between the bus and SkyTrain.
Rowe is happy about the new service, including the coach-style seats on the bus.
She may use the Rapid Bus or she may drive, depending on the time of day and the destination on the far end, she said.
Rowe will make her decision by considering the tolls, gas costs, and parking versus the costs of the transit trip, she said.