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.
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.
We also visited the training centre, where we entered a classroom full of ticket machines!
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!
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.
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!
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.
We went out into the garage and the yard next, where we discovered that THERE ARE SO MANY TIRES AT VANCOUVER TRANSIT CENTRE.
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.
We got to see the buses parked in the yard. As it was midday, most of them were out on the system.
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.
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.)