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T-Comm: they were ready before the Games began!

View of T-Comm from Duty Manager’s desk.

View of T-Comm from Duty Manager’s desk.

Here’s a great story about T-Comm, written by my delightful colleague Carol Evans for TransLink employee communications.

(If you don’t know, T-Comm is our Transit Communications Centre out in Surrey, which monitors and coordinates our entire bus system. It’s kind of like air traffic control for buses! Here’s a past blog post explaining the T-Comm centre and how they do what they do.)

There is no division or department whose name better fits the actions and behaviour of the people in it more than T-Comm. So much so we should change the official spelling changed to “T-Calm”.

For a group of people whose job it is to go from one fire to another or sometimes from two to more, they certainly appeared to have things under control 110 per cent! That was my experience on Thursday, February 18 when I dropped by T-Comm to check on “the Games situation”.

Harry, T-Comm Supervisor, (in the forefront) worked for months to have a solid snow plan in place.

Harry, T-Comm Supervisor, (in the forefront) worked for months to have a solid snow plan in place.

A Duty Manager for two years now, Susie has been with the company for 11 years, the first six of which she was a Transit Operator. When we sat down together, Susie said that all their preparations for fireworks-like crowds 24/7, preplanning shuttles, the daily conference calls and working six on/one off has paid off.

When asked what T-Comm wasn’t prepared for Susie said the lack of snow. They are very prepared for snow and surprised we don’t have any.

They worked for months to have solid snow plan in place and are all geared up and ready to go with three new trucks for de-icing the overhead trolley wires, sanding, plowing and salting the yards and are set to deal with situations like frozen doors or stuck coaches.

Nothing they can’t handle, but their phones, of all things, have been crazy busy. Sometimes one person will be on two or three phones at the same time.

T-Calm… T-Calm… T-Calm!

A monitor on one desk displays a live-cam from downtown Vancouver, so T-Comm can monitor the movements of crowds.

A monitor on one desk displays a live-cam from downtown Vancouver, so T-Comm can monitor the movements of crowds.

Still, in a room full of computers, there’s a little paper work to be completed. Here long time transit employee, Barry, assists Kuldip, trainee (whose spelling and penmanship I checked).

Still, in a room full of computers, there’s a little paper work to be completed. Here long time transit employee, Barry, assists Kuldip, trainee (whose spelling and penmanship I checked).

Normally T-Comm has seven desks covering the service for Metro Vancouver, but during the games two additional desks have been added and they are responsible for Games shuttles.

Lynn, one of several T-Comm Supervisors, said she was pleasantly surprised by the number of coaches there are available for service and how well the maintenance trucks are working. Normally if a bus needs servicing on the road a call is made to one of the depots and a maintenance crew heads out to look after the vehicle. During the Games there are several maintenance crews strategically located for easy deployment to ailing buses. Apparently they’re busy all the time and having them out in the mix of things has been a great idea!

T-Comm’s message to staff? Without hesitation – they are doing a great job out there! An awesome job! And if there is anything to take away from the Games, it is that we should be pleased with how we have worked together as departments, as a company. Everyone.


6 Comments

  • By Cliff, February 22, 2010 @ 9:47 pm

    The preparation you guys have taken have really made getting around during the Olympics easy.

    Newspapers around the world have been buzzing with nothing but good things to say about the transportation during the Olympics here. And to top it off, the UK media, busy playing up all the mishaps that have occurred so far, have continually praised the transportation situation here. Simply fantastic.

    My commute to work has actually gotten better as traffic that usually crosses the Alex Fraser in the morning is nowhere to be seen! I would take transit, but I work in an area where it’s pretty impractical.

    Overall, a fantastic job. On the flip side, I know this didn’t come cheap. I hope we get to see some numbers after the games are done.

  • By Monty, February 23, 2010 @ 3:28 am

    Since I now live in Scotland, I haven’t had a chance to experience the system personally during the games but it definitely sounds like everyone is pulling together and doing a great job. It is getting praise over here (mainly from the BBC) Hopefully the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (Glasgow’s equivalent to Translink) are taking notes for the Commonwealth games in 2014!

    I agree with Cliff that the current operation isn’t cheap but stuffing buses and trains full of paying passengers must be helping. Sure there are more buses and trains and staff to operate them but there are even more paying passengers to off-set those additional costs. I’m sure it’s still a deficit but it’s possible it’s the closest it’s ever been to braking-even revenue-wise!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, February 23, 2010 @ 8:30 am

    Cliff, Monty:

    Hmmm… I’m not sure about whether we will release the figures — I will ask.

    In the meantime, however, have a look at this blog post about how TransLink prepared for the Games in a general sense. There’s a bit in there talking about how we negotiated with VANOC for funding for the planning and the operation of transit for the Olympic period.

    Now I don’t know the exact figures, but I do know TransLink was quite adamant that we were not going to put ourselves into a great deal of debt because of the extra Olympic service — we wanted to remain “whole” at the end of the Games. There’s always a chance the budget has varied by now, but I guess my point is that VANOC has provided us with extra funding to supply this service, and the Olympic planning team was very keen on staying within that budget.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, February 23, 2010 @ 8:59 am

    Oh one more thing: it’s just crossed my mind that we are bound to report our budget publicly anyway in an annual report and such, so I’m going to surmise that we will probably release the figures.

  • By Kelvin, February 23, 2010 @ 5:29 pm

    Mmmhmm! I often listen to Skytrain coordination, using a UHF radio. It -amazes- me just how professional, calm and on-the-ball everybody involved in keeping the system running smoothly are. If I were to ever meet the people at T-Calm (hehe) or Skytrain Control, I’d be bringing a box of donuts/coffee along. They truly deserve it!

  • By ;-), February 26, 2010 @ 10:34 am

    But will they be ready for Critical Mass tonight at 6pm??? Not to mention the evening storm that’s forecasted.

    Believe.

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