Double-decker buses like this one – painted to blend with TransLink’s colour scheme – are to be part of pilot project later this year. (Contributed photo)

Double-deckers eyed for Surrey, White Rock, Langley routes

Pilot of higher-capacity, two-level buses eyed for late fall

TransLink is testing the waters for the use of double-decker buses on routes that include long stretches between key stops – including that of the 351 and 354 in South Surrey.

A decommissioned bus fitted with a metal frame “to simulate the profile” of a double-decker made the rounds in South Surrey on Tuesday and Wednesday; it was in the Tsawwassen/Ladner area on Monday.

The runs were to identify “areas of concern” that would need to be addressed – such as low-hanging branches or cables – in advance of a pilot project anticipated for later this year, Chris Bryan, senior media adviser for TransLink, told Peace Arch News Wednesday.

“We’re looking at November right now,” Bryan said of the pilot, noting it would use coaches on loan from manufacturer Alexander Dennis.

The double-deckers – which bring to mind the two-level red icons popular in England – are being considered as a means to improve the customer experience, Bryan said.

The standard highway coaches that currently serve the routes seat 47 passengers, and can leave rush-hour commuters standing for much of the high-demand journey.

“Anybody who takes those trips knows there’s pretty high demand, for sure,” Bryan said. “The great thing about a double-decker, if you’re on a long trip, it’s pretty nice to get a seat.”

Bryan said the double-deckers – which would be “more modern” than the London Bus – have capacity for about 80 passengers.

Minutes from the July 27 Mayors’ Council meeting note the use of double-decker buses on specific routes was considered during discussion of a report that noted record ridership in 2016 and a 10 per cent increase in bus ridership growth south of the Fraser.

TransLink announced in July that ridership had increased by 5.7 per cent in the first six months of 2017 over the same period of 2016, with 2.5 per cent of that on buses.

In August, it was announced that capacity would increase on three routes, including the 351, on Sept. 4.

If double-deckers are adopted to replace highway coaches on a permanent basis, Bryan said routes running them would also include the 555 that runs between Langley’s Carvolth Exchange and Lougheed Station.

The pilot is to run for about two months, he said.

“What we want to see is how does it work from a customer-experience perspective.”

Last year, Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) began operating fully electric double-decker buses on Vancouver Island.

 

TransLink crews with a bus that has been modified with a metal frame to simulate the profile of a double-decker bus were out this week to test its compatibility with various routes, including that of the 351 and 354 in South Surrey. (Roderick Louis photo)

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