To serve you better…

I recently took a short survey from Translink, which asked for public input on proposed service optimizations to the network (full details here).

While the phrasing “service optimization” sounds a bit bureaucratic, it is a laudable and important aim: Translink has finite resources with which to serve riders in Metro Vancouver, so it makes sense to use those as effectively as possible. Striking a balance between ridership goals on the one end of the spectrum and coverage goals at the other, the plan does an admirable job of improving service, albeit not by as much as many would like.

The Design Considerations section is an impressive primer on how to most effectively structure transit routes to avoid duplication and overcrowding, while allowing connections to numerous points in the network, and at appropriate frequencies. These are the fundamentals that are often lost when discussing why certain routes should be scaled back, and busy ones enhanced, all in the name of optimization.

As a regular reader of Jarrett Walker’s blog Human Transit, and having read his book, this section is an excellent summary of his major points on what makes for effective transit networks.

There are some great new enhancements. The new 555 Port Mann Express line, running across the new Port Mann Bridge, provides a much-needed connection to the existing Skytrain network. It should provide a fast alternative to the rush hour crawl on Highway 1, in a region historically with few transit options. Although it isn’t a rail-based option, by running in a dedicated lane, it completes the roughly 35km stretch from Langley to Braid Skytrain station in just over 20 minutes – impressive.

As for the proposed changes, closer to my neighbourhood, there are improvements to a couple of the community buses. The C21 and C23 routes are proposed to be split, improving frequencies on the more frequented C23 route along Davie Street, and extending the coverage for both routes. The C21 is poised to run to Second Beach in Stanley Park, which should help with lugging around a BBQ and camping chairs for those impromptu summer picnics – currently the route terminates at Denman and Davie, some distance from the park. And the C23 may be extended along Terminal Avenue, providing local service. (While the Expo Skytrain line has run along the industrial stretch for years, new development along the road will give people reasons to stop by, rather than simply speeding past above the empty lots.)

With these proposed enhancements, the introduction of the new Compass card for fares and a pending provincial election which could be the catalyst for major upheaval in structure and governance at Translink, 2013 will definitely be a year of changes for transit riders in Metro Vancouver – stay tuned.

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A singles purpose

There seemed to be a single purpose as I walked into the club with my friend: have an enjoyable evening. Or maybe it was to meet a prospective partner, where the only certain commonality would be our current relationship status.

This was not a typical club night. I was given tickets to a singles event hosted by Events and Adventures and a couple of local radio stations. While I would typically be opposed to (what I would consider) a contrived setup, the tickets were free, so there was no risk.

Having modest expectations at the outset, I was pleasantly surprised. We arrived an hour and a half after the start, and while there weren’t many people at the club, there was certainly a fun vibe. The staff were friendly and upbeat, smiling and cracking jokes. The music was good, and not so loud as to inhibit conversation. There were games: a contest for the worst pickup line, Christmas bingo, and a photo booth with accompanying silly hats and glasses for the perfect cheesy pics. And there was complimentary wine (white of course, in case you inevitably spilled on yourself or someone else).

We walked over to a group of older women and simply introduced ourselves and started chatting. I wasn’t even wearing my “boyfriend material” shirt (the line my friend used to place second in the contest), but absent the pressure there often is on a typical club night, we were free to chat, take goofy group photos and have fun getting to know each other. I made a good connection with one of the girls in the group, and we all went for pizza at the nearby Megabite after leaving the club. A fun night all in all.

So really, what was going on? In my past experience, I’ve found that my best relationships started when I met my partner somewhere I wasn’t really looking: school, work, traveling, sports, through friends.

Scenarios where I was having fun, in a positive and confident mood, and doing things I would normally do in my life. Scenarios where I wasn’t actively out to meet someone.

This is why I haven’t been a fan of the bar scene. The connections are tenuous and overly concerned with image rather than emotion. If you go clubbing or bar hopping just to pick-up, there’s a good chance you’ll be out-alpha’ed by someone with a more attractive image, however vain and fatuous.

And yet, with singles events – where the purpose is ostensibly to meet potential long-term partners, but in fun environments as diverse as clubs or hikes in the great outdoors – I could see it possibly working well.

So is it better for singles to do things they’re passionate about and be open to meeting new people through those pursuits, in the normal course of life? Or just to have fun with other singles even if it’s not something you’d normally do? Maybe there isn’t a single best way after all.