The 98 B-Line is a bus rapid transit line in Greater Vancouver, Canada. It connects Richmond, British Columbia to downtown Vancouver, with a connection to Vancouver International Airport. It travels mainly along Granville Street in Vancouver and No. 3 Road in Richmond. It is operated by Coast Mountain Bus Company and funded by TransLink. The route is 16 kilometres (10 miles) long. The line carries over 18,000 passengers daily (, PDF file).
It was an experiment in rapid transit using global positioning system (GPS) technology, automated stop announcements, specialized bus stop displays that show the amount of time until the next bus arrives, and special traffic light signals that sustain green lights long enough for buses to pass through. All these were developed by Siemens. In 2007, the bus stop displays were admitted by Translink to be frequently broken or inaccurate and shutting them down was raised as a possibility, but as of May 2008, they continue to be active. The GPS system which sustains green lights continues to be operational.()
The 98 B-Line has nine stops in Richmond (including the transfer point to the airport) and fourteen stops in Vancouver (including seven stops downtown). Waiting times are approximately five to seven minutes per bus during peak hours and ten minutes per bus during mid-afternoons. In the evening and at night, the waiting time is around fifteen minutes per bus, and in the early morning the waiting time is around 20 to 30 minutes. Total travel time from end to end on the route is approximately 42 minutes, but can increase to one hour during peak hours due to traffic.
In Richmond, the 98 B-Line followed a dedicated bus lane separated from mainstream traffic on No. 3 Road, between the Lansdowne and Sea Island Way stops. Currently, that lane is closed for construction of the Canada Line (which will eventually replace the route within Richmond) and the buses travel with regular traffic.
The route was modelled after the successful 99 B-Line, which operates between UBC and the Broadway and Commercial Drive SkyTrain stations. Like its older counterpart, larger articulated buses are normally used for this route, each with a 120-passenger capacity. Those buses are built by New Flyer Industries of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Although the idea of a rapid bus line from Richmond to Vancouver had been discussed for decades, it was first proposed by BC Transit in 1994. In 1995, Vancouver city council approved a southbound high-occupancy vehicle lane for the evening peak hours in the Marpole neighbourhood in preparation for an express bus service. In 1997, the idea of a rapid transit line was re-introduced with the objective of providing the express service at regular fares. A study was done and it was determined that the best route for the line would be through Granville Street in Vancouver
The project cost about $52 million CAD to build -- this includes the price of new vehicles, the construction of a dedicated bus lane in Richmond, installing new bus shelters, automated on-board announcements and similar technology, transit priority systems for traffic lights and a share of the new Richmond bus depot (as the old Vancouver Oakridge depot could not accommodate the longer articulated buses used on the route ). The line was officially opened in August 2001.
With the introduction of the B-Line, almost all other local bus services traveling between Richmond and Vancouver were eliminated, resulting in most commuters having to transfer from a local service to the B-Line. As a result of the added transfer and quicker travel times of the B-Line that did not materialize, commute times for passengers increased even though a commute time savings of several minutes had been promised. Within a few years, rush hours routes were created which effectively restored direct rush hour service from most urban areas of Richmond to Vancouver.
The B-line is currently one of the most used routes in the TransLink system. Around 2002 to 2003, plans to replace the 98 B-Line with a light rail line were being brought up. This new line's working name was the "RAV Line" (with RAV standing for Richmond-Airport-Vancouver). It generated much controversy, mainly due to its estimated cost of $1.72 billion CAD. The project was also threatened by political interference from Richmond city council, which had insisted that the line being operated in the city at grade principally because they favored the aesthetic attributes of an at grade line over an above grade line; faced with the majority of public favoring an above grade line and the consideration that an at grade line would increase operating costs and significantly increase trip times, Richmond council backed down. The project was voted down by the TransLink board twice because of political infighting because the board members representing the northeast areas of Greater Vancouver wanted a line built to Coquitlam. The "RAV Line" project was saved after the board agreed to build both lines by 2010. While not part of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the current plan is to have it completed by 2009. This new Canada Line will eventually replace the 98 B-Line once it begins operation in late 2009.
On February 13th, 2006, the 98 B-Line's bus lane in Richmond was closed as utility crews prepare for the construction of the Canada Line along No. 3 Road. The 98 B-Line now travels with regular traffic. Before, the route had its own dedicated busway that ran down the centre of the road, separated from regular traffic by a grass median.
As February 2008, 98 B-Line route passengers with valid proof of payment may board using any of the three doors at any stop. To facilitate this, the bus driver controls the operation of all three doors at each of the stops. Passengers who are paying cash or validating FareSavers must board through the front door.
Temporary reroutes of the 98 B Line between Richmond Centre and Lansdowne were introduced at the end of 2007 during Canada Line construction. It is anticipated that the service will be withdrawn completely when the Canada Line opens in 2009.