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More gift ideas: Jason Vanderhill presents working papercraft SkyTrains!

Here’s another transit holiday gift idea from Jason Vanderhill: a working train set, dressed up in papercraft to look like our SkyTrains!

A video of the trainset is above, and here’s how Jason describes it:

Here is my Super Express SkyTrain Papercraft toy train set, made just for Christmas! You can buy Super Express trains at Daiso, and the blueprints for making your own SkyTrain cars are available here:

Jason’s blueprints are for a Mark I train and the new grey/blue Mark II 1300-1400 series train. Thanks Jason — what a fun transit craft project for the holidays!

And of course, check out Monday’s post for more transit gift ideas.

20cm of snow forecast for today and Tuesday morning

As you may have heard already, 20cm of snow has been forecast for the region this afternoon and tomorrow morning.

So if it does happen, do make sure you check out this earlier blog post! There’s winter rider tips, plus all the info on where you can find the latest updates on transit system conditions.

Edit: I should also add that I’m home sick at the moment, so please keep your eye on the TransLink Twitter account for the latest system updates from our media team, especially on Tuesday morning!

Edit 2, Tue @ 10:45 a.m.: The snow didn’t really materialize today! Hurrah!

Holiday gift ideas for transit fans

In my line of work, I tend to come across things that fans of transit might enjoy. So I thought I’d put together a list of transit gift ideas for the 2009 holiday season, for those with transit fans in their lives!

Some notes: I’ve tried to ensure these suggestions are reasonably affordable. Also, no one on this list has asked me to promote their items. Please feel free to add further gift ideas in the comments – I’m sure there’s lots of stuff I’ve missed (especially for kids).

Transit Maps of the World by Mark Ovenden

Transit Maps of the World by Mark Ovenden.

Transit Maps of the World by Mark Ovenden.

Design nerds and transit nerds alike will enjoy Mark Ovenden’s 2007 book, which collects all the transit maps from every city with rapid transit.

It might sound dry, but trust me, it’s fascinating. The book vividly shows how each transit system evolved, and spotlights each system’s different map designs over the years. My particular favourite is Berlin – the book shows how the Berlin Wall chopped up the transit lines and cut some stations right out of the network.

Available at Chapters ($18.15) or ($17.24). Or check your local bookstore!

Read more »

Friday fun post: do you usually talk to your transit operator?

If you like, skip to the end of this post to answer the chatting with your operator poll.

Last week: ever been the only one on a transit vehicle?

Last week’s fun post asked if you had ever been the only one on your transit vehicle, besides the operator.

We had 194 people weigh in, and the vast majority (91%) said they had been the only one on a transit vehicle before. Just 9% said it had never happened to them.

There were a great many comments on this one! Most seemed to show that you end up riding alone if you travelled very late or early, or to not-very-busy destinations, or on new routes that were building ridership. For example, here’s typoprone:

When I took summer school at UBC a couple of summers ago, I often rode an empty 480 to campus and pretended the bus was my limousine and the bus driver was my chauffeur. Ah, memories…

And Steven had a cautionary tale from outside our region:

In Budapest we got on a subway and we were all alone on it. The next thing we new it was going into the sidings – it was there for 10 minutes and thought we would be there overnight!! Luckily the train did go back the other way. Since then whenever I have been on my own on public transport I get the feeling I am going the wrong way!

Many people also mentioned the challenge of deciding whether to talk to the operator or not. Sally was in favour:

If that happens, I feel like I should move up to keep the operator company!

Last 351 was more torn:

Sometimes it’s a tough call whether to strike up a conversation or not. In those cases I figure it’s the driver’s choice to break the silence since they’re the one stuck there!

Dora had another view:

When I’m the only one on the bus I usually feel really awkward, and go sit in the back half of the bus and read my book rather than striking up a conversation with the driver… Sometimes when my stop is coming up I’ll walk up front and just let the driver know, instead of ringing the bell, though.

And Cliff had another take on the situation:

The most awkward thing about being the only one on the bus is letting the driver know when you want to get off.

If it’s after 9:30pm and I’m the only one on the bus, I’ll use that and ask the driver if he wouldn’t mind dropping me off somewhere specific (Request Stop). That opens up the conversation and there’s no awkwardness of stopping a conversation to say “That’s my stop, bye!”

It was a hard time choosing just a few quotes to spotlight — however, as always, you can check out the full list of comments to see what everyone said!

This week: do you usually talk to your transit operator?

Since the last poll involved so many comments about chatting with operators, I thought that would make a good poll for this week.

I have to say I don’t usually talk to the operator. But operators out there: want to tell us if you like it when passengers strike up a conversation? Are you more likely to stop for them if you see them running :) It would be nice to hear your side of the story!

Winners of the SeaBus launch ceremony spots

I’ve done the draw and our winners are Jamey, Graydon, Ian, Adrian, and Ben!

You should be getting a PDF invite in your e-mail — make sure it doesn’t end up in your junk folder! I will also give you a call to make sure you’re aware that you have won.

Thanks to everyone who entered — I had 18 people in the final draw!

Look out for the big T: new transit station markers are here

New T markers will be posted at three Canada Line stations this December. This one is at Richmond-Brighouse Station.

New T markers will be posted at three Canada Line stations this December. This one is at Richmond-Brighouse Station.

Hey hey — look out for big white T signs at three Canada Line stations.

The T signs are our new transit station markers, acting as beacons to help you to spot the location of transit nearby. (The T stands for “transit”.)

They’re planned for the entire system, but we’re putting them up at Marine Drive, Bridgeport, and Richmond-Brighouse Stations first.

So why are we doing this?

Well, the big Ts are part of our new wayfinding standards: that is, a new system of signage and information sharing to help you better plan trips and get around our system. It’s a really big project and we’re still hard at work on it.

As you also probably know, cities worldwide have similar markers to help wayward riders find transit services. For example, London has its famous red, blue, and white roundel logo to help you find transit.

Read more »

The December Buzzer is now out!

The December 2009 Buzzer is now on all buses, SeaBus, SkyTrain, and West Coast Express!

In this issue, we’ve got a list of the December service changes and holiday service, plus we’re asking what you would like to see in the Buzzer. Tell us: we really want to get it in!

We’ve also got a great story about B.K. Singh, one of our operators who also acts in his spare time! Check out his acting resume: he’s been in Punjabi soaps, has a part in the new movie 2012, and he’s been featured in a Coast Capital Savings commercial!

Again, we’re proud to have a cover from illustrator Jane Koo, who did the September cover as well! We credited her wrong on the September cover, so we’re finally recognizing her properly. (Awesome job as usual, Jane!)

And as always, 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, which now stretch back to January 2000. (Here’s the 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 Monday, January 4 at 9 a.m. — we’ll pick a winner from all the correct answers.

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

Eep: chance of snow as early as tomorrow

A photo of a snowy #130 from March 9, 2009.

A photo of a snowy #130 from March 9, 2009.

Look out: forecasts are predicting snow in our region as early as tomorrow (Friday December 11), which may certainly affect your travels in the region.

Hopefully this isn’t news to you, but if you are planning on taking transit on a snowy day, there are a number of tips to help you prepare as a rider. We listed a bunch of them in the November print Buzzer, including:

  • 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:

  • Radio and TV
  • Our Alerts page
  • Our TransLink Twitter account (a recent addition to our Twitter list)
  • 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 Line platforms
  • The TransLink mobile site:

As for what we’re doing to prepare, our media team sent out this news release detailing how we’re getting ready for the winter blast. And you can also see the SkyTrain snow plan and the CMBC snow plan posted on the blog at the beginning of 2009. (Also, here’s a 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!

TransLink’s third-quarter report: our deficit has gone down

In case you’re interested, we’ve released our third-quarter results for 2009, which shows our deficit has gone down this year.

We forecast a deficit of $74 million by the end of September, owing to higher operating costs driven by service expansion in the past 5 years. But the actual deficit turned out to be $34 million.

So this means we’re on track to have a 2009 total deficit of $78 million, rather than the $103 million deficit predicted at the start of the year. (This deficit will be covered by our reserves.)

Btw, the deficit was cut due to cost containment and lower fuel prices, despite a drop in our revenues. And along with the $130 million funding supplement approved by the Mayors’ Council, this means that the current service on our road and transit network will remain financially sustainable.

Check out the press release on the third-quarter results, and see the full Q3 report here.

You can also find all 2009 quarterly reports in the Board of Directors’ Meetings and Reports section of the main website.

Bus service changes coming December 14: new 99 B-Line stops and more

The 99's getting two new stops this December!

The 99's getting two new stops this December!

Just a few bus service changes are coming on Monday, December 14, but they do include four highlights that you might be excited about.

First, the 99 B-Line will finally get stops at Arbutus St and Fraser St along the Broadway corridor! People have been asking for these stops for a long time, so it’s great to finally put them in. Woop!

Second, the #8 route will now be running only 60-foot articulated trolley buses, which will give it a much needed capacity boost. (Owing to our stabilization budget for 2010, we couldn’t increase the number of buses operating along the route, but we were able to give the #8 bigger buses instead. Yay!)

Third, the #50 False Creek South makes a triumphant return to Granville St, marking the gradual return of bus service to Granville Mall in downtown Vancouver. (Trolleys will be back on Granville in fall 2010: we’ll start installing trolley overhead there in March after the Olympics.)

And fourth, bus traffic will be greatly reduced on Saba Road near Richmond-Brighouse Station, in response to concerns from local residents. The drop comes from bus bay changes at the Richmond-Brighouse bus loop – 232 buses a day will now go down Saba Road, down from 800 per day in September.

(If you don’t know, we do these service adjustments four times a year, reflecting changing rider volumes in April, June, September, and December. And in 2010, owing to the Olympics, we’ll also do a special service adjustment for February.)

Now: details on all of these changes plus more after the jump!

Read more »

Abandon ship! BCIT video from last week’s SeaBus rescue exercise

BCIT just posted a video of the SeaBus abandon ship exercise last week!

You can see the full post over at BCIT’s blog. Scott McAlpine was the intrepid photographer who captured the event — well done, sir!

And here’s a link to my earlier post about the SeaBus rescue too.

The new Bombardier streetcars have arrived!

The new Bombardier streetcars have arrived for the Olympic Line, a City of Vancouver streetcar demonstration line during the Games! Photo by <a href=>David Lam</a>.

The new Bombardier streetcars have arrived for the Olympic Line, a City of Vancouver streetcar demonstration line during the Games! Photo by David Lam.

Woop woop — I’ve been sent some photos of Vancouver’s new Bombardier streetcars, from intrepid transit photographer David Lam!

Check out all the pics in this gallery, over at the Trans-Continental photo site.

The streetcars arrived this morning from Brussels, Belgium, and they’ll be running on the Olympic Line—that’s the demonstration streetcar line that will operate during the Games (January 21 to March 21, 2010). It’s a project from the City of Vancouver and Bombardier.

And our congratulations goes out to the City! We’re excited to see the streetcars arrive, and excited to see how the project goes, as it’s a rare opportunity to try out streetcars in our region.

Grab a spot at the launch ceremony for the new SeaBus, Wed Dec 16!

The new SeaBus! Photo by Charlotte Boychuk.

The new SeaBus! Photo by Charlotte Boychuk.

The new SeaBus will have an official launch ceremony on Wednesday, Dec 16 at 10 a.m., and I have five spots for the launch to give away!

(The SeaBus won’t be in official service until some time after the launch, and this event will also have 100+ dignitaries in attendance — just so you know!)

To enter, please send an email to by Friday, December 11 at 12 noon with the following info:

  • make your subject line “SeaBus contest”
  • include your name and phone number (so I can contact you quickly!)
  • include the answer to this skill-testing question: 96 + 21 * 13 – 89

Key items to keep in mind:

  • One entry per person!!!!
  • If you enter, you have to come to the launch – you can’t give your spot to anyone else.
  • No entries from employees of TransLink or its family of companies.
  • The event will start at Waterfront Station on Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 10 a.m., so you must be able to make it there in time.
  • This draw is only open to those in Canada.

I’ll randomly draw five names from everyone who gets the correct answer and contact you on Friday afternoon. (All entries will be deleted after the draw is over — I won’t keep your personal info for anything.)

Friday fun post: ever been the only one on a transit vehicle?

If you like, skip to the end of this post to answer the solo on transit poll.

Last week: are you the transit encyclopedia among your friends?

Last week’s fun post asked if you were the designated transit encyclopedia among your friends. (Thank you to Tsushima for suggesting the poll!)

And after 142 votes, it’s a landslide victory for the encyclopedias!

89 per cent (126 votes) said yes, they were the transit encyclopedia among their pals, while just 11 per cent (16 votes) said no. And yep, as Sungsu pointed out, obviously this is a bit skewed, considering you wouldn’t be at this blog unless you have some interest in transit :)

Anyway, you encyclopedias provided some good stories about the burden of having strong transit-fu. Here’s MaxNV:

For me it’s gotten to the point where my friends will actually print out the route suggested by the trip planner and ask me if this is indeed the best route.

And here’s Philippe G.:

It’s actually really bad…
I routinely get calls at 3:00am to help get my less than right-minded friends home from downtown.

Tsushima Masaki also had this to say:

It does get tiresome though sometimes, when I get an MSN message from a lazy friend asking me how to get from point A to point B when they could just use the Trip Planner or Google Transit.

So folks, remember not to abuse your transit enthusiast! But on the flip side, transit enthusiasts, please do be patient with all of us who don’t know everything about the system, as long as we’re polite :)

This week: have you ever been the only one on a transit vehicle?

A quick situational question this time around!

I can only ever remember this happening to me once, actually, and I take transit every day. How about you?

2009 holiday parade reroutes for the weekend

The reindeer bus from Coast Mountain Bus Company! It will be in the Rogers Santa Claus Parade this Sunday, Dec. 6. (Photo by the indomitable <a href=>David Lam</a>.)

The reindeer bus from Coast Mountain Bus Company! It will be in the Rogers Santa Claus Parade this Sunday, Dec. 6. (Photo by the indomitable David Lam.)

Boy howdy, there’s a whole bunch of holiday parades coming up this weekend. And as you’ve probably guessed, the holiday spirit will mean some bus reroutes in the region, along with a lot of good cheer!

(It also looks like Santa’s got a very busy schedule this weekend :)

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

Read more »