ALERT! More info
Translink Buzzer Blog

Bike to Work Week: an interview with bike mechanic Mike Grant

Mike Grant, bike mechanic from Edmonds Cycle, at the Bike to Work Week commuter station at Metrotown.

Mike Grant, bike mechanic from Edmonds Cycle, at the Bike to Work Week commuter station at Metrotown.

For Bike to Work Week, I thought I’d talk to a bike mechanic and ask for some tips on caring for your bicycle—especially for novices.

Mike Grant from Edmonds Cycle was kind enough to share his advice. He also helped out at the TransLink commuter station on the B.C. Parkway this morning – so thanks times two to you, Mike!

If you currently have a bike, what are a few symptoms of future problems you should watch out for?

The most important thing is to check that everything is tight—the bolts are tight, your handlebar bolts are tight, the pedals, the crank bolts, no loose spokes.

Everyone should have an Allan key. You can check everything with about three sizes of Allan key, and you should do it once a month, depending on how much you’re riding. You just want to make sure nothing will fall off. You’ll notice if things are loose. If something feels weird on your bike, then there usually is something wrong.

The next big thing is your gears: make sure your chain is lubed. If a chain gets dry, it will be at risk for breaking and won’t shift very well. You can do it two times a week if you’re riding daily. Don’t use WD-40, since it’s too thin. Chain lube is thicker and will stay on for a good period of time. Tri-Flow and ProLink are good brands.

Tire pressure also highly affects the ride. Check every week or two: give your tires a pinch or use a gauge. If you’re on the road, your tire pressure should be maxed out completely. And every tire shows the pressure max and min on it.

Read more »

The bicycle diaries: five more things learned from biking to work

Me riding on the B.C. Parkway on Monday. Hello!

Me riding on the B.C. Parkway on Monday. Hello!

I’ve been biking to work for three days now! Here’s a few more lessons I’m learning while out there. (I wrote about five other lessons on Monday.)

1. Biking home in the dark isn’t scary, but it is really easy to get lost.

The trail I follow in the morning (the B.C. Parkway) can be very confusing to navigate backward in the dark.

I was lucky to have an experienced cyclist friend bike back with me on the first day, which gave me a strong idea of where to go. But as I ride to work now, I find I’m trying to memorize landmarks on the route so I can better orient myself on the ride back. (“Was that playground on my left when I rode to work? Then it should be on my right now.”)

I’m not sure what other strategies you could use to get around this one, besides asking all the municipalities to post a huge amount of obvious signage. Biking your route over and over seems to be the only way to know the twists and turns so you can stay on the right path at night.

Read more »

CMBC stuffs a bus full of food donations for the Food Bank

Staff from the Coast Mountain Bus Company donated enough food to fill up a bus for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.

Staff from the Coast Mountain Bus Company donated enough food to fill up a bus for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.

Staff from the Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) filled a bus full of food for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank yesterday!

CMBC’s 5,600 staff members donated throughout the month of October, and their efforts added up to 7,000 pounds of food for those in need. Operator John Abou-Samra, who’s famous for his on-bus trivia contests, even donated $2,000 of his own money to the Food Bank.

You can see this press release for more info on the food drive. It also points out that the Food Bank is seeing a decrease in donations at the moment. Here’s the key paragraph:

The Greater Vancouver Food Bank (GVFB) reports that there is a 10% increase in demand for their services this year. Unfortunately, food donations are down from the summer months by 30,000 pounds of food at the GVFB. The tough economic times have many families struggling to keep a roof over their heads making it very difficult for families to have healthy meals on the table. The Food Bank customers are single parents, new immigrants and the elderly on a fixed income. However, 40% of customers at the GVFB are children.

So if you’d like to help too, check out the Greater Vancouver Food Bank’s “How You Can Help” page. And a hearty pat on the back to CMBC for their food drive!

Here’s a couple more photos of the bus full of food, too.

Read more »

SkyTrain weekend track maintenance starts Saturday, November 7

A heads up that SkyTrain will be replacing sections of running rail in the New Westminster area of the Expo Line over the next three weekends: November 7-8, 14-15, and 21-22.

The work will result in reduced train frequency and some delays east of Edmonds station.

A little background on the work

In the nearly 24 years since opening in 1986, the original Expo Line has seen close to three million trains (more than 10 million SkyTrain cars) travel over the tracks between Waterfront and New Westminster.

Sections of rail in the curve approaching New Westminster station are now due for replacement. Some additional sections will be modified to improve the ride quality in the curves between New Westminster and 22nd Street station. The work requires closure of one track at a time over a full weekend, from the end of service on Friday night, until the start of morning service on Monday.

What this means for you

So on the weekends of November 7-8, 14-15, and 21-22:

  • At 22nd Street station, and on some occasions at New Westminster, trains will operate in both directions from a single platform. SkyTrain staff will be on hand to provide direction.
  • Train frequency in the Edmonds-Columbia section will be reduced to every 16 to 18 minutes. Expo Line trains will wait for up to 7 minutes at one of: Edmonds, New Westminster, or Columbia.
  • Millennium Line trains from VCC-Clark will run every 7 to 9 minutes, and terminate at Columbia. Passengers to/from the Expo Line must change at either Columbia, or Commercial-Broadway.
  • Additional trains will operate between Waterfront and Edmonds, where both tracks remain in service. This will maintain near-normal frequency and capacity in the western half of the Expo Line.
  • Canada Line operation will not be affected.

Passengers travelling within or through the Edmonds – King George section should allow an additional 15 minutes for their trip. We will do our best to minimize delays and inconvenience.

As always, we ask our riders to watch for signs, listen to announcements, and follow the directions of SkyTrain staff. Thanks for your patience and cooperation as we continue to maintain your SkyTrain system!

Reminder: Dunsmuir tunnel maintenance continues until mid-December

And in the meantime, just a reminder that evening maintenance in the Dunsmuir tunnel continues most Monday through Friday evenings, through to December 11.

Service frequency between Waterfront and Stadium stations is reduced to every 12 minutes after about 9:45pm, although some exceptions apply during major events.

The bicycle diaries: five things I learned on day one of Bike to Work Week

Yours truly, arriving at Metrotown for work.

Yours truly, arriving at Metrotown for work.

It’s Bike to Work Week this week! And as today is the first time I’ve biked to work, I thought I’d share five lessons I’ve learned along the way.

1. Check the weather before you go!

Knowing the forecast helps you equip yourself appropriately for your ride. For example, I saw it wasn’t supposed to rain much today, so I could wear some water-resistant boots for my ride.

2. Dressing in layers really helps.

Boy, does your body temperature fluctuate throughout your journey. You’re freezing when you start out, but as you keep pedaling, you get warmer and warmer—and if you hit a hill, you’re burning up! So if you wear layers that you can take off as your ride progresses, this can help you stay at a comfortable temperature.

Read more »

Friday fun post: ever forgotten to buy a FareCard at month’s end — then boarded transit without valid fare?

If you like, skip to the end of this post to answer the FareCard question.

Last week’s post: have you thought about your Olympic travel plans?

Last week’s fun post asked you about whether you were thinking about your Olympic travel plans already.

After a scant 97 votes, 41% said they had some rough plans in mind, 30% hadn’t thought about it, and 29% said their travel wasn’t affected by the Olympics.

Well, it’s good to see that many of you are thinking about it already, since things are going to busy come Olympics-time! A couple of different strategies were mentioned in the comments. For example, here’s Reva:

Well, as I live on the North Shore, and I won’t be attending any of the Olympic events, my plan is to stay on the North Shore and not venture into town for the entire month of February. If there is something urgent, I can travel to Vancouver by SeaBus. I don’t think I would want to rely on a bus to get me over either of the bridges, with the extraordinary amount of vehicle traffic they are predicting. Then I could SkyTrain it out of the downtown core and transfer to a bus further east to get wherever it is I need to go.

Steve’s concern was mainly for work:

I haven’t really read up on this yet, I am mainly concerned about getting to/from work. At least I have options, work remotely from home or if I really have to go in to the office just avoid downtown – luckily I have plenty of route choices despite them adding another 30-45 minutes to my journey. My office is usually flexible about these issues anyhow.

And Cliff said he’d try a different type of vehicle out:

I personally don’t think I’ll be too affected. I’m switching to a motorcycle for those two weeks. If you can’t find a parking spot with a motorcycle, may as well turn in your licence.

This week: ever forgotten to buy a FareCard at month’s end — then boarded transit without valid fare?

David2 suggested this poll, which seems apropos at the end of the month.

Let this be your reminder to buy your November FareCard today, so you’ll have a valid fare for Sunday :)

I guess the follow-up question would be: what happened next? Did you rush right out and get the FareCard immediately?

Transit costume ideas for Halloween

Paul poses in a U-Pass Halloween costume made by one of our planners.

Paul poses in a U-Pass Halloween costume made by one of our planners.

The B-Line bee!

The B-Line bee!

If you’re scrounging for last-minute Halloween costume ideas, here’s some inspiration from our staff at TransLink.

First, one of our planners made this U-Pass costume for Halloween in 2006!

Yes, that’s Q from Star Trek on the front. The joke is that he’s omnipotent, so he doesn’t even need a U-Pass. Irony!

(The back also has Star Trek rules in place of the U-Pass terms and conditions, but obviously you can replace them with whatever you see fit).

Second, here’s the B-Line bee!

The bee tells me she repurposed an old bee costume and mixed it up with some transit-related signage.

If you don’t have a ready-made bee costume on hand, you can still make one fairly easily.

Put on a black t-shirt and use yellow tape for the stripes. Or put on a yellow shirt and use black tape for the stripes.

Then find your B-Line signage, and you’ve got an instant B-Line bee!

If you have a good transit costume for Halloween too, feel free to e-mail me a picture!

And if not, oh well! Happy Halloween!

Bike to Work Week: prepping for the bike ride

This lady probably knows a lot about getting ready to bike to work.

This lady probably knows a lot about getting ready to bike to work.

If you’re new to Bike to Work Week, do you need gear or anything to be ready for the ride? (Besides a bike and a helmet, obviously!)

Well, I turned to the experienced cyclists at TransLink for their advice on preparing for the Week. (I’m going to need it, as I’ll be cycling to work!) Let’s see what they have to say.

Read more »

Winners of the 2009 U-Pass photo contest

The 2009 U-Pass photo contest winners: Abbye Dahl, Maggie Baynham, and Claire Seaborn.

The 2009 U-Pass photo contest winners: Abbye Dahl, Maggie Baynham, and Claire Seaborn.

Congratulations to Abbye Dahl, Maggie Baynham, and Claire Seaborn for winning the 2009 U-Pass photo contest!

Watch for them in a transit ad near you — each of them won a professional photograph for an ad on a bus and SkyTrain, plus a $200 Vancity Mytreat Visa.

Here are their winning photos with a little description, plus their professional photographs!

Read more »

Extra service in place for the U2 concert, Wed Oct 28

Over 50,000 fans are expected to attend the U2 concert at BC Place on Wednesday night, so we’re ramping up our transit service to help you get to and from the event.

Expo and Millennium Line will extend rush hour service into the pre-show period (the concert begins at 7pm) and will operate rush hour service again after the concert.

Canada Line will also extend peak service into the pre-show period with spare trains available if need be. The reduction in service from evening to late-night levels will take place at midnight rather than 11pm.

Portable fareboxes will be set up at Stadium-Chinatown, Yaletown-Roundhouse and Vancouver City Centre Stations, so you can buy your return ticket before the concert and avoid lines at Ticket Vending Machines after the show. These return tickets will be valid until the end of service.

SeaBus will run 15-minute service until the 10:45pm sailing from Waterfront.

Coast Mountain Bus Company will have Transit Supervisors on-hand to monitor the situation and call in any additional resources, as required.

West Vancouver Transit will have extra buses leaving Horseshoe Bay, Dundarave and Park Royal between 5:30-7pm and additional buses will be provided during the post-concert period, as well.

The concert by U2 is one of the biggest events of the year, and we hope to help you get to and from the show easily and safely!

Also, through much self restraint, I avoided posting any U2-related puns in this post.

Join the Halloween party on the SkyTrain!

The 2008 SkyTrain Halloween party from the Vancouver Public Space Network. Photo by <a href=>jmv</a>.

The 2008 SkyTrain Halloween party from the Vancouver Public Space Network. Photo by jmv.

Put on your costume and board the SkyTrain this Halloween!

You’re invited to the third annual Halloween Party aboard SkyTrain, organized by the Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN).

(Please note this is not an official TransLink event! The Lions game will have our chief attention on that day, so please be aware.)

It’s on Saturday, October 31, and here are the details from the official party page:

1. Meet at VCC-Clark station at 8:15pm. Board the train when you hear the conductor’s call. We depart at 8:30pm SHARP so arrive on time or you’ll miss the fun. Don’t forget to pay your fare.

2. The route will make a full loop on the Millennium Line, making regular stops at every station along the way.

3. Get off at Stadium station and proceed to the party location.

The “party location” is Funky Winker Bean’s Fortune Sound Club at 147 East Pender. See the official site and the Facebook event for more info!

The VPSN also had some good advice from last year that’s worth repeating: Have proof of payment, be kind to the train carrying you on the loop, remember to take everything with you when you leave, and mind your manners and keep the good vibes going—no smoking and no jumping around, especially.

For more Halloween things to do around town, check out Miss604′s Halloween post — she mentions some Halloween train rides at Stanley Park and Bear Creek Park too!

Happy Halloween to everyone, and have a spooky time on the SkyTrain!

Bike to Work Week starts up on Monday, Nov. 2

Hop on your bicycle for Bike to Work Week: Monday, November 2 to Friday, November 6!

I’m even going to try it this year, and I’m rather a novice at cycling. (I’ll write a bit about my experience getting ready to ride, in case it’s of use to potential cyclists out there.)

This is the second 2009 Bike to Work Week put on by the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition in 2009. As you may have guessed, the Week is designed to encourage cycling—especially to common destinations like work or school.

Sign up a team from your school or work for the week, and you might win prizes for participation and distance travelled. (There’s bike gear, gift certificates, and free bikes on offer!)

And watch for commuter stations around the Lower Mainland, with free coffee, snacks, and more prizes, plus mechanics to tune up your bike if needed. (Here’s a look at the TransLink commuter station in Metrotower II from 2008.)

For those worried about biking in traffic, the VACC offers courses to help get you comfortable on the road. See if your workplace will sponsor a course – the VACC has workshops aimed at safety, comfort, route planning and increasing bicycle knowledge. (Their site also has handy tips for biking, especially in winter.)

And if you don’t know the bike routes in your area, try out UBC’s handy cycling route planner, which I also profiled on the blog.

Give it a try — maybe I’ll see you out there on the road!

Friday fun post: have you thought about your Olympic travel plans?

If you like, skip to the end of this post to answer the Olympic travel question.

Last week’s post: 1937 Buzzer trivia

Click to see a larger version!

Click to see a larger version!

Last week’s fun post asked you to solve six picture puzzles from the Buzzer in 1937!

The answers were all Vancouver street names, and here they are:

1. Granville
2. Grandview
3. Pender
4. Sasamat
5. Hastings
6. Columbia

Number 2 and 3 seemed to give people the most trouble, especially since the guy is saying “Swell!” in number 2. (He means what a swell view, which equals Grandview. Hey, it was the 1930s.)

But congrats to CJ Stebbing and zack for getting the right answers anyway!

And CJ and zack, since you guys did so well, I can mail you a set of transit buttons as a prize if you like. Just e-mail me your address and I can send them out to you.

By the way, there are more of these puzzles in the 1937 Buzzers, so I’ll put a few more up in a later fun post!

This week: have you thought about your Olympic travel plans yet?

So, Phase 2 of the Olympic transportation plan was released last week, and in light of the extraordinary travel situation that we’re going to be in, has anyone started thinking about how you’ll get around the region during the Olympics?

Feel free to use the comments if you have strategies or any other insight to share!

Mayors approve funding stabilization plan

The Mayors' Council meeting this morning.

The Mayors' Council meeting this morning.

As we talked about on Wednesday, the Mayors’ Council met this morning to decide on our 2010 10-Year Plan.

And the mayors have decided to approve the $130 million Funding Stabilization plan supplement, which works to maintain road and transit operations at current levels, and puts further expansion of the system on hold for now.

Most mayors see this as an interim plan, and the Council has actually called on us to develop a new transportation plan supplement within the next six to nine months, establishing a framework to start system-wide expansion once again.

(See the main TransLink planning site for more on our planning process and the full details of the plans before the mayors — this past blog post has info on the planning process too.)

We’ve issued this press release with our reaction to the plan, plus background on how we came to this point.

There’s a key point in the release about how we are working hard to bring costs down and keep them down.

For their part, Chair Parker and TransLink’s CEO Tom Prendergast committed to continuing with aggressive cost controls and efficiency gains in order to completely resolve the $150 million annual funding gap. The Authority has frozen the salaries of management and exempt staff as well as expansion capital; no further hiring is underway and the 2009 budget was reduced by $6 million. TransLink also ended 2008 with an $8.2 million surplus, $3.2 million better than expected.

And the release also has detail on how the funds for the Funding Stabilization option will be raised:

The additional revenue will be generated in part by 3 cents per litre increase in fuel taxes levied within Metro Vancouver (to 15¢/l) and a transit fare increase on FareSaver tickets and monthly passes in 2010. TransLink will apply to the Regional Transportation Commissioner for the price increase on FareSaver tickets. There will be no increase in cash fares in 2010 and U-Pass rates are set in contracts with participating colleges and universities.

We’ll be announcing the timing of those increases by the end of the year. As for now, we’ll be working to figure out the details of what comes next under our newly determined funding. As always, I’ll have more on that as the info comes in.

You can also check out these further stories about the decision in the Vancouver Sun and the Province.

The Nova hybrid buses are out and about

A new Nova hybrid bus on the 106 route.

A new Nova hybrid bus on the 106 route.

The first of our diesel-electric hybrid buses from Nova went into service this week!

Seventeen Nova hybrids arrived a few weeks ago, and after getting radios installed, the first few went into service on routes like the 130 and the 106.

The new Nova hybrid buses have new stickers to help you open the door. It's like giving the bus a high-five! :)

The new Nova hybrid buses have new stickers to help you open the door. It

We’re expecting 141 of these vehicles in total over the next three months, and we do already have 39 articulated hybrid buses from New Flyer on the streets — they all went into service by September 2009.

So, how can you spot these hybrids? Again, from the outside, the biggest difference from a conventional bus is the big grey boxy hump on top of the back section. And there’s also a hybrid sticker on the window beside the front door.

Look out for the interiors too — the interior layout is the same a regular Nova, except now it has two rows of rear-facing seats in the back.

The seats also have new upholstery, like the seats on the articulated hybrids and the new SkyTrains. Plus there’s new door stickers, and the stanchions (the yellow poles) have a new arched design!

Here’s what I was told about how the hybrids work, by the way:

The hybrid buses use a smaller diesel engine and start off from a stop on an electric motor powered by a battery pack and diesel powered generator. The buses are quieter than any previous diesel bus in the TransLink fleet and the hybrids should have 20% better fuel economy and 20% lower green house gas emissions. The buses have to be operated in very urban bus service (lots of stop and go) to regenerate power to the batteries under braking.

Also, for those curious, I’m told the Nova hybrid vehicle numbers are from 9401-9542, skipping over 9500.

More photos of the buses, all courtesy of Leon from our engineering group!

Read more »