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Translink Buzzer Blog

Reminder: United Boulevard open house, Tue Dec 7, 2010

Just a reminder that a third United Boulevard open house has been scheduled for Tuesday, December 7, 2010, in response to a great deal of interest in this project.

The details:

December 7, 2010
6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Justice Institute of British Columbia
715 McBride Boulevard
New Westminster
*Presentation in the theatre begins at 6:45 p.m. followed by a discussion.

On the blog, check out this United Boulevard Buzzer post for some of the discussion happening so far—you’ll find links there to other conversations happening online as well.

This project is also part of our proposed 2011 supplement plan.

And as always, general information, resources, and upcoming events related to this project can be found at the United Boulevard Extension public consultation page.

Friday fun poll: what features do you want to see on TransLink’s mobile site?

How the TransLink mobile site (m.translink.ca) appears on BlackBerry and iPhone.

Well, this is a fun poll with real implications!

As I’ve mentioned, we are currently working on a project to revamp our mobile site and iPhone app, with a launch tentatively slated for spring 2011.

We’re currently in the brainstorming phase for features and priorities, which makes it it’s the perfect time to throw it open to your input! Just a few caveats before you launch into it though:

  • SUPER IMPORTANT: we won’t be able to do everything you suggest! There’s a limit to our budget and development time, plus our backend scheduling system Trapeze has its own technical limitations. So please do understand if a feature you suggest doesn’t make it in!
  • Please think about priority: we love to hear your blue-sky dreams, but make sure to highlight the one or two items that you think are mission-critical for the new mobile site.
  • Any light you can shed on how you use on our mobile site in actual practice would be extremely valuable—it is really good to know how people are ACTUALLY using the site so we can optimize the site for reality!

Also, given that we’d like lots of input, I’m going to leave this poll up for two weeks or so, to really give some time for people to get into it.

And now, the poll—I’ve preloaded it with some obvious suggestions but they are by NO MEANS a fixed list that we are starting from!

What features would you like to see on the TransLink mobile site? (pick as many as you like)

  • Optimized performance (speedy, clean design) (71%, 89 Votes)
  • Save favorites (stops, routes, trips) (70%, 88 Votes)
  • Trip planning (66%, 83 Votes)
  • Enhanced maps (51%, 64 Votes)
  • Fare info (26%, 32 Votes)
  • Destination info (points of interest, special events) (22%, 27 Votes)
  • Social media (TransLink's Twitter/blog/Facebook feeds) (19%, 24 Votes)
  • Feedback (include feedback form) (15%, 19 Votes)
  • Other (share more in the comments) (14%, 18 Votes)

Total Voters: 125

(Yes, the poll widget’s width is way too narrow, but there doesn’t seem to be a way for me to fix that, blargh.)

Anyway: feel free to make all kinds of suggestions in the comments—just again, make sure to indicate priority, and know that we can’t do everything!

The December 2010 Buzzer is now out!

The December 2010 Buzzer is now on board all buses, SeaBus, SkyTrain, and West Coast Express!

This issue talks about our winter service changes, which roll over on Monday, December 13. Make sure you have a look to see if your regular routes are affected!

You can also find out some tips for travelling in winter conditions, much as we’ve talked about on the blog before. And there’s a notice about our Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve (free rides after 5pm!) and New Year’s Day service.

Plus our history tidbit is about our ticket vending machines, and there’s a special appearance from a cheerful bus with a holiday greeting!

Again, we are happy to have a cover from a local illustrator: this time it’s Seiko Karakama. Great job, Seiko!

And if you can’t get the Buzzer on the system, you can always read it in PDF form on our website. Visit our Buzzer PDF archives, or grab this direct link to the December issue PDF.

Remember to enter the FareCard contest too! You can win a free FareCard in every issue of the Buzzer: read the issue, then email in your info and the answer to the trivia question by Tuesday, January 4 at 9 a.m.. We’ll pick a winner from all the correct answers, and he or she will be notified by phone shortly after the draw.

Enjoy the latest Buzzer as always! Comments are welcome below.

2010 holiday parade reroutes for the weekend, Dec 4-5

Our reindeer bus, photographed by David Lam! Click the picture to see David's full gallery of reindeer bus photos.

Santa will be busy for the next couple of days—there are five holiday parades coming up around the region this weekend! And as you know, parades also mean some extra service and bus reroutes, along with a lot of holiday spirit :)

Check the TransLink Alerts page for the exact details on all the parades and reroutes: I’ve compiled the highlights below.

Parades on Saturday, December 4, 2010

Maple Ridge
Santa Claus Parade
Reroutes from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Routes affected: C43, C47
View reroute map

Langley
Langley’s Magic of Christmas Parade
Reroutes from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Routes affected: 320, 341, 364, 501, 502, 595 reroutes
View reroute map

New Westminster
Hyack Santa Claus Parade
Reroutes from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Routes affected: 106, 112, 123
View reroute map

Parades on Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cloverdale
Santa’s Torch Light Parade
Look out for one of our buses in the parade!
Reroutes from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Routes affected: C70, 320, 341
View reroute map

Vancouver
Rogers Santa Claus Parade
Look out for one of our buses in the parade!
Reroutes from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Routes affected: 5, 6, 22, 135, 240, 242, C23
Reroute maps for each route: 5/6, 22, 135, 240/242, C23

As always, SkyTrain will provide extra trains for the Rogers Santa Claus parade in Vancouver (an easy, traffic-free way to get there and back!). The parade starts at 1 p.m., and to get there, exit SkyTrain at either Burrard or Granville Station (both have elevators for wheelchairs and strollers), and walk to Georgia Street.

SeaBus will also double its regular Sunday service, with sailings every 15 minutes between the Lonsdale Quay and Waterfront Station from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

By the way, remember our group ride offer applies on Sundays and holidays! The specifics: if you have an adult FareCard, West Coast Express 28-Day Pass, or Annual Employer Transit Pass, you can take five children, or one adult and four children on transit with you for free.

And if you have any questions or concerns about your trip, please do call our Customer Information line at 604-953-3333!

Links and tidbits for Thu Dec 2

Tidbits and links rounded up about transportation in the past week. These are fun. I promise.

If you have any items to suggest, or a photo to showcase on these posts, e-mail me at thebuzzer@translink.ca! (Seriously: good photos. These posts need them. Send them along!)

Heads up: detour for the 33 starts Mon, Dec 6, 2010

The route detour for the 33, starting Monday, December 6, 2010.

The 33 UBC/29th Avenue Station will be on a slightly detoured route starting on Monday, December 6, 2010!

As the City of Vancouver is installing a sewer main on East 33rd Avenue between Knight and Victoria, the 33 UBC/29th Avenue Station will be rerouted off 33rd Avenue around the work. The estimated completion date is February 2011.

So if you currently board the 33 between Knight and Victoria, you’ll now have to walk to the nearest stop on Kingsway or Knight St to catch it. If that is much too far away, please try an alternate routes to reach your destination—you can use our Trip Planner for help: the 33 detour info is already included in there.

Some questions that you may have (and some answers!):

Why didn’t you operate it via Knight, King Edward, Kingsway, Victoria then back to 33rd? We couldn’t do this because the current schedule would not allow for the additional running time required for this routing option. Operating on Kingsway to Slocan was the best option because it allowed us to maintain the existing schedule integrity while still connecting with the SkyTrain.

Will the #33 use the stops on Kingsway/King Edward/Knight? Yes, so long the stop meets the safety standards. That means that as long as the bus can enter and leave the stop safely it meets the standards—bus stops that may not be possible are stops that immediately follow a turn, for example.

And feel free to call our Customer Info line at 604-953-3333 if you have questions about this detour and how it affects your trip!

Recaptcha!

A screenshot of our new Recaptcha spam catcher, now installed on the blog!

When the blog got its redesign in June 2010, it included a captcha, or a short challenge commenters would answer to prove they were submitting a real comment, not spam.

However, it was recently brought to my attention that the captcha didn’t provide an audio option for those with visual impairments! So we’ve switched to a new captcha plugin called Recaptcha, which provides an audio option. At the same time, the words you decipher to pass the new Recaptcha test are actually words from old books, newspapers, and radio shows that are being digitized! So you’re killing spam AND helping digitize books and radio. Double win.

Anyway, amid all this excitement, if you find you are encountering problems with the new Recaptcha plugin, please don’t hesitate to send me an e-mail or leave a comment here if possible. If we need to roll back to the old captcha standard or try a different one because this is not working, we will!

United Boulevard Extension: an interview with Sany Zein, TransLink Director of Roads

A map of the United Boulevard Extension with the issue areas delineated. This is pulled from the boards put up at the United Boulevard consultation sessions. Click for a MUCH larger version!

Please note: in response to the huge response on this project, another consultation session has now been scheduled for New Westminster, on Tuesday, December 7, 2010, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Justice Institute of British Columbia! Find out more at the United Boulevard page.

Sany Zein, TransLink's Director of Roads!

As you may know, we’re currently consulting on the United Boulevard Extension, a project to improve multimodal travel and regional goods movement in the Coquitlam and New Westminster areas.

The project, which is part of our 2011 supplemental plans, has raised a ton of discussion about implementation, its value, and what will happen next—for example, see these posts at Tenth to the Fraser and the New West Environmental Partners.

So I thought I’d also do an interview with Sany Zein, TransLink’s Director of Roads, to find out a bit more about the project and hopefully add to the discussion that is already out there.

Read more »

Winter bus service changes coming on Mon Dec 13, 2010

The reindeer bus is out and about for 2010! Photo thanks to David Lam. (Click the picture to see his full Reindeer Bus gallery!)

Our regular winter bus service adjustment is coming soon! Starting December 13, 2010, some bus service will be changed to improve efficiency and productivity on high-demand routes.

Make sure to check the full list of transit service changes to see if your route is affected. Here are some of the major highlights as well:

  • Increased service during different periods on the 2, 16, 49, 100, 410, 620, 791 and more
  • The 32 Dunbar/Downtown will now serve all local stops between Macdonald/4th Ave. and the Burrard Street Bridge, to relieve congestion along this corridor.
  • The C28 Coquitlam Stn./Port Moody Stn. will use conventional buses instead of shuttles during morning and evening rush periods, to address capacity.
  • For the 99 B-Line, selected eastbound Monday to Friday morning deadhead trips will be converted into full-service trips, in response to morning capacity issues. (This will be at the discretion of the transit supervisors based on the day’s conditions.)
  • The 125 BCIT will get its own bay at Patterson Station (woo!)
  • Various other routes have some reductions in service, with slightly less trips in the early morning, midday, or super late at night. It’s hard to summarize them all in a pithy way though, so please have a look at the the full list and make sure you know if your route is affected.

Again, we adjust bus service like this four times a year, reflecting major passenger ebbs and flows in April, June, September, and December! Look out for the next set of changes in April 2011, and please pass this along to anyone who might find this useful.

And of course, feel free to ask questions—I will try my best to get you answers!

Moving on Evergreen Line and more: an update on TransLink’s 2011 supplemental plans

Here’s another update on TransLink’s proposed supplemental plans for 2011, which focus on funding for the Evergreen Line, the North Fraser Perimeter Road, and several other key projects in our region.

This update is really an announcement from the Province of B.C. and Metro Vancouver’s mayors, but TransLink is clearly affected, so I thought it was important to share here!

What’s new now?

Update: I have revised some of the text as the explanations were not quite clear! Please take note of the changes.

  • The Minister of Transportation and the Chair of the Mayors’ Council were meant to vote on our 2011 supplement plan on December 9, 2010, but they have now agreed to extend their decision deadline to March 31, 2011.
  • This now gives the Province and the Mayors more time to look at alternate funding options under the Memorandum of Understanding they signed in September.
  • The Minister of Transportation and the Chair of the Mayors’ Council have agreed to extend the deadline for confirmation of the region’s contribution to the Evergreen Line Project to March 31, 2011. (Originally, the province had set a deadline of December 31, 2010 for this confirmation.) The new date will allow more time to discuss alternate funding options, as agreed to under the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Province and the Mayors’ Council in September.
  • However, amid this news, the timeline for TransLink’s 2011 Supplemental Plan still remains on its established path. The supplement plans have already been endorsed by the TransLink Board in November, and by law, this means the Regional Transportation Commissioner must prepare a report on the plans within 30 days, and the Mayors’ Council has 90 days to decide whether to support these plans or not. This means the Mayors’ Council must ultimately decide on the supplement by February 9, 2011, and they can do so in any of their meetings held before February 9. (The Commissioner’s report is due on December 9, 2010.)
  • In the case that the Mayors’ Council decides not to endorse any of the supplements, TransLink’s base plan will be put into effect—it maintains our current level of service and a state of good repair.
  • The extension also should not compromise the schedules for completing the Evergreen Line or the North Fraser Perimeter Road projects, which are slated to start in 2011.
  • Here’s a couple of links that discuss reference this latest news: Jeff Nagel’s article in the Surrey Leader, and Paul Hillsdon’s post on CivicSurrey.com.

What’s the 2011 supplemental plan again?

A reminder that this news isn’t really coming from TransLink—it’s a provincial and mayors’ announcement—so I don’t actually have lots of further detail to share on this latest development. But if you do have questions I will try my best to refer you to the right place!

Brrr! Tips for riding transit in snowy weather

Metrotown SkyTrain station, covered in snow this afternoon!

The weather outside is frightful, so it’s a good time to highlight some handy tips for snowy travelling.

Hopefully this isn’t news to you, but if you are planning on taking transit on a snowy day, there are a number of things you might do to prepare for your ride. We listed a bunch of them in the November 2009 print Buzzer, and they include:

  • Have a transit plan in place, so you know your options for alternate routes, if any
  • Check the weather before you go out
  • Leave extra time for your journey, in case of delays
  • Bundle up for cold weather and wear appropriate footwear so you don’t slip
  • Hit the bathroom before you travel, in case of delays (so important!)
  • Be aware that hilly areas may have delays as it’s harder to get through
  • Move to the back of your transit vehicle so others can board

For our part, we’ll try to get you the latest info on the transit situation through a number of channels:

  • A super-handy source right now is our TransLink Twitter account, which is heavily staffed owing to a November pilot project
  • Our Alerts page
  • Our media YouTube account — for audio clips, updated as needed (primarily for the broadcast media, but also available to the general public)
  • Customer Information at 604-953-3333 (may be very busy on a snowy day)
  • The big video screens on the Expo/Millennium/Canada Line platforms
  • The TransLink mobile site: m.translink.ca
  • Radio and TV announcements

You can also view our snow plans in these links: here’s a 2010 media release, a 2009 blog post about CMBC’s snow plan, and a 2009 post about SkyTrain’s snow plan. (Also, here’s a 2009 Vancouver Sun article on how the municipalities are preparing for snow.)

Anyway, hopefully there won’t be snow tomorrow! But if there is, safe travels to all of you and we’ll be working hard to keep the system on track!

Donate blankets at SkyTrain stations for Blanket BC’s Drive on the Line, Fri Nov 26

It’s the Blanket BC Society‘s second annual Drive on the Line campaign this Friday, November 26, 2010!

Feel free to bring your clean, warm blankets to select SkyTrain stations to help out folks in need this winter.

From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., volunteers will collect blankets at the following SkyTrain stations:

Canada Line
Richmond Brighouse
Bridgeport
Oakridge
Broadway/City Hall
Vancouver City
Waterfront

Expo/Millennium Line
King George
Columbia
Lougheed
Brentwood
Commercial-Broadway
Waterfront

Blanket BC distributes the donated blankets to the needy through outreach programs and churches throughout Metro Vancouver. The Society is a registered charity, and is in fact the brainchild of a Canada Line employee, Gregory Ould, who has collected over 35,000 blankets with his family since 2006.

For more information, please visit the Blanket BC website, or contact Gregory Ould, founder and executive director, at 778-242-9940 or gregory.ould@blanketbc.com.

Poll results: 86% line up at the bus stop, not the nearby shelter

In last week’s fun poll, I asked whether you lined up at the bus shelter, or at the actual bus stop.

There were 169 votes in the poll, and the vast majority said they lined up at the bus stop (86%)! Just 14% said they lined up at the shelter.

The pro-stop majority argued their case convincingly in the comments. Here’s Audacity:

Usually the bus drivers get grumpy if I don’t line up right at the stop (I usually get priority boarding due to wheelchair), so nowadays I bite the bullet, weather-wise, and skip the shelter unless it’s really pouring hard.

But really, if the weather’s dry and not windy, lining up at the stop itself is definitely a much better idea unless you’re obstructing the sidewalk in the process.

And here’s Alan:

The bus stops at the bus stop right? So why would not wait at the bus stop. ;)

Even if you were first to the bus stop and a line formed at the bus stop after you arrived, you seem rude to the people at the end of the line because it looks like you are budging, so I always line up.

And a resounding finish from peter b:

If you’re concerned about getting a seat on the bus, you should “weather the queue at the bus stop.” You could always carry an umbrella with you. The shelter is for when there’s no queue, and for the people that don’t care if they have a seat on the bus or not. I’m sure this is fact… isn’t this written in a transit guide somewhere?

But you know, some said it really depended on the circumstances. Allan K said weather, route and the general ground rules of a stop made a difference:

Interesting question… and I have an interesting response too. I generally wait at the shelters (if there is one) on days with rain or snow… on cloudy days (and in places without shelters) at the bus stop… and on hot sunny days (all cases) I’ll try hiding behind the shadow of a tall object (e.g. tree or light pole) to reduce exposure to UV rays. It also depends on the route too… for example, TransLink requires me to line up for three-door boarding at the 145 stop in Production Way Stn., but at the top of the hill it’s a free-for-all and I just wait under the shelter in that case until the bus comes by.

And ??? provided an excellent analysis of multiple situations, which is too long to quote here but you should have a look at. Here’s the beginning to whet your appetite though!

I start first at the shelter, but inch myself closer to the pole as more than a few people show up or the bus arrival time approaches. It’s not fun when you are LEFT BEHIND, as others who show up later are able to make on the bus. Which happens often during rush hour.

In the ideal situation, there is the pole, the seats are near the poles, and the people queue up after the shelter. However this is not possible as the shelters are centralized at bus exchanges (Phibbs Exchange), people arrive in various directions (eg #29 at 29th station), a cyclists ride between the pole and the shelter (eg Bridgeport station), the sidewalks are too narrow to have a shelter up against the pole (eg #49 Eastbound at Cambie), or stop serves multiple bus routes (eg Granville Street).

Jacob, however, had an entirely different strategy:

I line up at the stop, no matter what the weather, but then I still let everyone on the bus before me.

So to each their own, really :)

Anyway, once more with feeling: thanks to everyone who took the poll! As always, you can check out the full list of comments to see what everyone thought. I’ll have a new question next week!

North Van riders: reroutes for the 232, 239 start Mon Nov 22, plus what’s up with the queue jumper lane near Lions Gate

The 240 crosses the Lions Gate Bridge.

A couple of important notices for North Vancouver riders!

Reroutes for the 232 and 239 start Monday, November 22

Starting on Monday November 22, 2010 and continuing until February 2011, the City of North Vancouver will be undertaking construction work on the Cotton Road Bridge. The number of traffic lanes will be reduced while this work is ongoing, and as a result, it is expected that traffic levels will be higher with increased congestion. To keep our buses on a reliable schedule, we have decided to re-route the #232 and #239 away from this area.

Here are the maps of the expected reroutes:

This means that stops on Main Street, Cotton Road and Brooksbank Avenue will be cancelled for the duration of the works, and passengers are advised to walk to either Keith or Oxford to catch their buses. Please do call our customer information line if you have any questions: 604.953.3333.

What’s up with the queue jumper lane near Lions Gate?

I’ve received a couple of questions about this, so I wanted to share the information with you!

At the start of November, the Lions Gate Bridge queue jumper lane was closed due to the construction of a new HOV lane into West Vancouver. The work is slated to continue until the end of March 2011. But on the bright side, the buses will be using the HOV lane and service will likely be zippy come March 2011!

The closure of the lane means that sadly, 240, 241, 242, 246, 247 and N24 can no longer use this special lane to skip past traffic. As well, this means the stop on the on-ramp to Lions Gate Bridge has been cancelled for the duration of the works. The last stop before the bridge for passengers on weekdays between 7 am and 9:30 am is stop 54434 northbound on Marine and McGuire, and at all other times is stop 54440 westbound on Marine and McGuire.

This is posted in our Alerts section but I just want to amplify its reach in case you were looking for the answer. Again, please do call our customer information line if you have any questions: 604.953.3333!

CUTA 2010: three Coast Mountain operators win employee awards!

Angus McIntyre with one of the TRAMS buses from the 1930s. Angus won a lifetime achievement award from CUTA this year!

TransLink hosted the 2010 Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) fall conference this week! See the CUTA 2010 category for more conference coverage.

Just want to mention that three of our transit operators were honoured with employee awards from CUTA this year! Here’s the story from our press release:

Three bus drivers with Coast Mountain Bus Company were honoured today at the annual Employee Awards presented at the 2010 Fall Conference of the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA), which wrapped up in Vancouver.

Danny Haddow and Jim Baxter received awards for “Heroism on Duty”, while Angus McIntyre, who retired earlier this year after 41 years as a bus driver, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

“We are proud of Danny and Jim, and have a deep admiration for the work Angus did over the years, both as an operator and as an ambassador for Coast Mountain Bus Company,” says Stan Sierpina, CMBC Vice-President, Customer Service. “There are many more stories like these among our 3,000 bus drivers – both heroic deeds and quiet acts of kindness that can have a big impact on people. It’s important to note that we only heard about Danny’s and Jim’s actions because our customers told us. The only horn these employees would blow is in the middle of a steering wheel!”

Haddow happened on the scene of a car crash and spotted that smoke was starting to fill the driver’s compartment. He parked his bus, pulled the driver to safety, then went back to make sure no one else was trapped inside. Once that was done, Haddow continued on his route; a passenger on the bus brought the incident to the attention of Haddow’s bosses at CMBC.

Baxter was credited with remaining calm and instilling that calm in his passengers when a drunk man became belligerent. Sensing the passengers were feeling threatened, Baxter activated the emergency alarm, sending a message to Transit Communications (T-Comm) that there was a problem. The drunk passed out, and Baxter quickly got all the passengers off the bus, then locked the man inside until police arrived to take charge of the situation.

Both Haddow and Baxter continued on their routes after the incidents, running “just a little” behind schedule.

Thirty-six of McIntyre’s 41 years behind the wheel were accident-free, and he was and remains a favourite of passengers, management and co-workers. Wearing his original BC Hydro uniform to accept the award (he also wore the uniforms of Metro Transit, BC Transit and CMBC during his career), McIntyre was also inducted into the CUTA Hall of Fame – the first “front-line” transit employee to be so honoured.

Angus McIntyre is still involved with transit, as treasurer of TRAMS – the Transit Museum Society – often taking transit enthusiasts on excursions on one of the vintage trolley buses restored by the society. (TRAMS provided a selection of its restored coaches – including a 1937 Hayes inter-city bus – for viewing at Trans-Expo 2010, the trade show that accompanied the CUTA Fall Conference.)

Members of the public are encouraged to bring good deeds of our employees – including bus operators, SkyTrain Attendants and other front-line personnel – to the attention of TransLink and Coast Mountain Bus Company. Simply call Customer Information at 604-953-3333 or use the Customer Feedback form on the TransLink website.

And this isn’t the first time our employees have won these awards either! In 2009, another of our operators also won a CUTA award for saving four from a house fire, and in 2008, two employees won—one for charity work and one for helping out a passenger in need with money from their own pocket.