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Snaps from our tour of Vancouver Transit Centre

Group photo from our tour of Vancouver Transit Centre!

After our annual general meeting, we took interested folks out on a tour of the Vancouver Transit Centre!

Vancouver Transit Centre is one of our seven transit depots across the Lower Mainland. It’s the facility that hosts all the buses serving the City of Vancouver—that’s 450 buses, and includes our entire trolley bus fleet—and it also houses our training centre, a maintenance centre, administration, and more. Roughly 1,200 people work there!

The tour was an hour, so we got to see the main highlights of the centre. Keep on reading for some photos and facts about the facility.

Standing in the 'bullpen' in Vancouver Transit Centre.

Staff took us to see the “bullpen” in the transit centre — that’s the place where operators can get their schedules, or wait for assignments if they’re on duty to cover any last-minute shifts that day.

The big shelf along the back of this photo holds the schedules for each operator. The schedules are also known as “paddles,” because in the streetcar days, a paddle would be passed from operator to operator to indicate who had the right of way.

Ticket machines in the training centre.

We also visited the training centre, where we entered a classroom full of ticket machines!

Just one of five thick binders that each trainee driver gets.

The training department has 29 full time trainers, who together have 600 years of experience in transit (!). They run a 30-day training course for all new operators, including on air brake training, trolley bus operation, and customer service. They’ve trained as many as 500 trainees in a year!

A working air brake model for operators to train on!

Air brakes are heavy-duty braking systems that are important for stopping big vehicles safely. All of the training instructors are certified by ICBC as road-test instructors, and can test and certify our drivers in their use of air brakes.

Demonstration trolley wires.

Trolley operation is another major area of training. Our guide said that learning to drive trolleys forces you to add a new level of awareness while driving: you need to be aware of what’s around the top of the bus, not just what’s on the road ahead!

Teardrops and triangle markings on the street.

We learned that the teardrops and triangle markings that you see on the streets of Vancouver are actually key symbols for the trolley drivers. For a regular-sized trolley, the teardrops indicate when a trolley driver should start making a turn—they indicate that the poles are just about to reach a turning point in the wires hanging overhead. And for an articulated, double-sized trolley, the triangles indicate the turn.

The tire shop at Vancouver Transit Centre

We went out into the garage and the yard next, where we discovered that THERE ARE SO MANY TIRES AT VANCOUVER TRANSIT CENTRE.

Heading out into the yard.

Regular maintenance of buses is done at each of the transit centres. For major repairs, we send our buses over to Fleet Overhaul at the Burnaby Transit Centre.

Walking out in the yard.

We got to see the buses parked in the yard. As it was midday, most of them were out on the system.

A few buses in for repairs and maintenance.

Vancouver Transit Centre has 35 repair bays, and on a busy day, they can have 100 buses come through. They do preventative maintenance on the buses every 6,000 km.

Inside the top of a trolley bus!

And if you’ve ever wondered what’s inside the top of a trolley bus, wonder no more! It sort of looks like the inside of a computer.

Thanks to everyone at VTC for giving us the tour, and for all who joined us on the outing!

Update: Photos from Caelie Frampton

Caelie came on our tour and sent along a few photos from her Flickr stream. Here they are! (Click each photo to go to her Flickr page.)

Photo by caelie.

Photo by caelie.

Photo by caelie.

Photo by caelie.

Photo by caelie.

Photo by caelie.

Photo by caelie.

Photo by caelie.


  • By JKKT - Kyle, May 31, 2012 @ 11:24 pm

    About the teardrops on the pavement:

    One thing I’m sure of is that they point to the direction of “power on”. This is where a switch occurs, and “power on” usually the direction of the branch of the turn. Drivers should lean toward the direction of the switch they are going toward before the teardrops, and use the left hand side switch to switch it “on” or “off”.

    Drivers, please correct me if I’m wrong.

  • By JKKT - Kyle, May 31, 2012 @ 11:34 pm

    One more comment:

    Interesting that you didn’t show the \spare room\ where drivers can watch television while waiting for expected unexpected traffic or high passenger volumes before being distributed on needed routes.

    According to Translink’s website, VTC is at full capacity. One of the main obstacles to buying new buses is finding a place to store them!

    Clearly, From now til 2015 when NVTC closes, there should be adequate room to store trolleys at BTC for routes like 14, 16, 7, 9.
    Only Problem: Convincing Mayor Corrigan that trolley wires are not ugly…

    Question: Do the 1200 people who work at VTC include those who drive buses? But with 450 drivers, that still leaves 750 people doing…?

  • By Derek Cheung CMBC, June 1, 2012 @ 4:19 am

    Yes, the teardrops indicate the direction taken with “power on”.

    VTC has just over 1000 conventional transit operators.

  • By Joe, June 2, 2012 @ 8:01 pm

    Well Kyle, having trolley storage at BTC wouldn’t be much of a stretch. Would just require wires on Boundary between Hastings and Lougheed Highway (about 2km each way), and less than a block of wires on Kitchener. Surely we can convince Mr. Grumps that there’s nothing wrong with some wires on the Burnaby side of Boundary Road (he wouldn’t be able to object about the Vancouver side, as that’s a City of Vancouver road.

Other Links to this Post

  1. The Buzzer blog » Notes from TransLink’s 2011 AGM at Vancouver Transit Centre — June 4, 2012 @ 3:55 pm

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