Translink Buzzer Blog

Buzzer illustrator interview: Zach Bulick

Zach and his fantastic cover for the Buzzer newsletter!

Zach and his fantastic cover for the Buzzer newsletter!

The December issue of the Buzzer newsletter includes the month of January. So, I thought I’d post this interview now since some of you might not have picked up the latest issue. For more on what’s included in the issue you’ll want to read this post or download the issue. If you want to know more about the fantastic illustration and the man behind it, read on!

How would you describe yourself?
I’m a designer, illustrator, and lover of all things taco and terrarium. I’m currently living in Mount Pleasant – and when I’m not drawing, using power tools, or reading (usually in that order), I’m the Creative Director for Union Gospel Mission in the Downtown Eastside.

What’s your favourite thing to illustrate?
I really love hand drawn type – taking a phrase, name, or letters and bringing some character or personality to them is fun. I also enjoy drawing faces on objects that don’t typically have faces.

How did you come up with your illustration?
I initially sketched out a few directions and felt most resolved about the one I went with. I was imaging riding the bus in winter and hoping to create an image that might make someone smile as they sat down after coming aboard from a chilly sidewalk.

Do you take transit? If so, what do you like about it?
Yep, me and the #3 are buds. I really enjoy the connections that can happen on transit. Whether its someone you see at the same bus stop every day, or a random one off conversation you have with a fellow rider – it’s these little connections that build into the greater story of the community surrounding you.

What does the future hold for you?
Moving forward in a perpetual state of awe and wonder.

Thanks for the interview Zach! Wanna learn more about Zack? Check this out!

Introducing Julia!

Hello there!

Hello there!

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
It’s Julia.
Julia Who?
Julia the new Buzzer contributor!

Why hello there! Nice to e-meet you.  My name is Julia Ren and I am a new member to the TransLink communications team. Since the Compass Card and fare gates project is my bread and butter, I will do my best to keep you posted on the latest scoop of this very exciting system. Stay tuned…

Three things about me:

  • I am a certified Yoga instructor and I get a little giddy when I see my students carrying re-usable bags and drinking coconut water.
  • I have the cutest puppy in the whole wide world (totally objective), and he sleeps with a baby seal.
  • I always say hi to people in the elevator and I get REALLY offended if someone ignores me and maybe cry a little in the bathroom.

Anyway, I hope to hear from you. Comment away and I will do my best to answer all your Compass related questions.

Rethinking Transportation: New Voices, New Ideas


Lecture Series Photo_SkyTrain-small


Hello Buzzer readers, if you are looking to join an interesting conversation about transportation, this is the event for you.


Breaking the Political Gridlock to Address the Transportation Challenge: Lessons Learned from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, lecture by Dr. Anne Golden will address many important issues facing Metro Vancouver regional transportation.

The lecture takes place on January 28 at 7 pm at Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema, Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (at SFU Woodwards), 149 West Hastings, Vancouver. Admission is free, but reservations are required. RSVP here.

Dr. Golden brings the unique and relevant experience of leading the Transit Investment Strategy and Advisory Panel in its recent work on identifying a viable transit investment strategy for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. She will describe the political and financial context that was blocking progress in Toronto, and set out Making the Move, the plan that she and her 12 panel members hope will break the political and transportation gridlock.

Like Metro Vancouver, which will add one million new residents  over the next 30 years, the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area is projected to see its population increase by 40 per cent in the next 20 years. Both Metro Vancouver and Toronto are seeking ways to give their residents new transportation choices, ease congestion, better connect people with jobs, and enable people to travel efficiently in all directions.

This is the first lecture in the speakers’ series ‘Rethinking Transportation: New Voices, New Ideas’. The series, focused on key transportation issues and opportunities facing the Metro Vancouver region, will explore new perspectives on the movement of people and goods in cities with thought leaders, decision makers, and experts from across North America who have tackled some of the most pressing transportation challenges.

For more information and to RSVP, visit the lecture page.

Do you know someone who would be interested in attending this lecture? Feel free to share the lecture information with your colleagues and friends or post it on your social media channels. Help us spread the word about this important conversation! For Twitter mentions, the hashtag for the lecture is #sfucity.

Behind the scenes with the Compass team


Doug testing a Compass card

Doug testing a Compass card

The Compass project is in full swing after our first customers tapped in on the system a few weeks ago. We already have over 600,000 taps in the system and about 80,000 Compass Cards will be in use by end of January! Yay, Compass!

Daily cutoff time

Now that you know how to tap in and tap out, it’s time to get a bit more technical and give you a behind-the-scenes look at some of the activity under way.

For the transit buffs out there, do you know when one day ends and another begins on transit?

Since there’s always a bus on the road at any given time of the day, the cutoff time is actually quite arbitrary.  This makes delivery of an automated fare collection system that deals with the ‘start’ and ‘end’ times of the bus service both tricky and difficult to test.

For instance, the last N10 bus arrives Downtown at 5:27 a.m. on Sundays and actually belongs to the Saturday schedule. However, the first #10 Bus leaves Marpole Loop at 5:26 a.m. on Sunday and is part of the Sunday schedule.

So what does it mean for Compass?

For Compass, the transition occurs at 4:00 a.m., the time when the fewest number of passengers are on the system, according to ridership statistics.

The secret society of Compass

Between 3:30 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. when most of us are sound asleep, William Hui, System Engineer and Doug MacKinnon, Manager of Compass Implementation, are wide awake! And no, before you go there, they are not planning a heist or dumpster diving for Happy Meal collectibles. They are part of the ‘secret society of Compass’.

No wonder William, Doug, and their teammates always seem so positive and together first thing in the morning around here! They are the behind-the-scene heroes who rise in the wee hours of the night to run tests using a variety of Compass Card and Compass Ticket products, replicating numerous transfer scenarios and verifying that the fare charges are correct.  Their mission is to ensure our customers can tap in and tap out and transfer seamlessly before and after 4:00 a.m. and they have been doing a fantastic job!

Though William and Doug might be a bit sleep-deprived these days, they are super stoked: it’s just one of the ways we’re working to make sure the system is right for our customers.

Did you know?

The mobile validators on buses are bi-directional. This means you can still exit (and enter) through the front doors – tapping in and out on the same validator. It means that on buses that  have all-door loading, such as the 99 B-Line, you can  tap in (and tap out) at the back doors too.

I hope this update has whet your appetite for more Compass info. I plan on updating you more on Compass in the future!

Poll: How can we best communicate with you in 2014?

Tell us how you want us to communicate with you.

Tell us how you want us to communicate with you

It’s a new year and time to start fresh. When I look ahead to what’s on TransLink’s to do list this year, saying it’s a busy year is an understatement.

For one thing, Compass Card integration to the entire system will be in full swing in 2014. If fundamentally changing how people use transit in Metro Vancouver wasn’t enough, we’re also continuing to upgrade our Expo Line stations, rolling out more service optimization to best use the resources we have and change some schedules during our four annual service changes. Those are just a few items that TransLink needs to tackle this year and communicate to you our customers.

In an effort to make sure we’re doing all we can to inform you the customer about the above items as well as service disruptions and other factors that affect the movement of people and goods in Metro Vancouver, we’d like to know how you would like TransLink to communicate with you so that you feel informed.

There are 1.2 million transit trips on our system every day. We know you rely on our transit system to get to work, school, medical centers, friends and family. So, we want to make sure you have the information you need to get to where you need to go quickly, efficiently and safely.

Below is poll we’d love for you to take, share with your family, friends, colleagues and whomever else you think would benefit from hearing from us. We’ll use these poll results and any comments you leave to help us administer our communications resources more effectively.

When considering the options, think of your typical commuting day. Where are you and what are you doing if there is a service delay on a bus, SkyTrain or TransLink operated road or bridge? How do you usually find out about TransLink and the services we provide? We’re excited to read you answers!

How can we best communicate with you in 2014? (note: you can select up to three answers)

  • Through posts and tweets (69%, 100 Votes)
  • Posters, ads on the system (48%, 69 Votes)
  • In person help at stations and stops (43%, 62 Votes)
  • Through journalists and media reports (37%, 53 Votes)
  • Other (9%, 13 Votes)

Total Voters: 145

Some of the bigger projects in 2014 we want to communicate to our users

Some of the bigger projects in 2014 we want to communicate to our users


SkyTrain Station Upgrades Project

2014-01-10 SkyTrain Station Upgrades Buzzer Post

Click the picture for a full infographic!

Wondering why Main Street–Science World Station and Scott Road Station are under construction right now? Well, TransLink is upgrading seven key SkyTrain stations and exchanges to ensure the rapid transit system will meet the needs of passengers and the region for years to come.

The upgrades are happening at stations along the Expo Line, and while the stations were considered state of the art when the system officially launched in January 1986 (and subsequent extensions in 1987/88 and 1995/1996), the time has come for necessary upgrades. These upgrades will allow for enhanced accessibility including new or improved escalators and elevators, increased safety and security measures, and greater platform capacity.

What stations are being upgraded? 

The following seven SkyTrain stations along the Expo Line will be upgraded:

  • Main Street–Science World
  • Commercial–Broadway (Phase 2 Upgrades)
  • Joyce–Collingwood
  • Metrotown
  • New Westminster
  • Scott Road
  • Surrey Central and Bus Exchange

What to expect 

TransLink’s number one priority is the safety of the public, passengers, employees, and contractors and we’ll do everything we can to minimize the impact of construction to passengers.

Construction work is underway at Main Street–Science World and almost complete at Scott Road Station. SkyTrain service will operate normally during construction at Main Street–Science World with the exception of early 2014 to summer 2014 when SkyTrain will operate shuttle train service to Main Street–Science World Station. During this time, two–car trains will provide service to/ from Main Street–Science World Station via Waterfront and Commercial–Broadway Stations.

Construction is expected to begin at New Westminster Station, Commercial–Broadway Station and Metrotown Station later on this year. Work at Joyce–Collingwood stations is scheduled to begin in 2015 and Surrey–Central is still in the planning phase. Work will be complete at all seven stations by the end of 2016.

More information about the upgrades to all seven stations is available in the project backgrounder.

Stay in the loop!

We’ll be updating with information about construction and potential service impacts, and we’ll also share updates here at the Buzzer blog! More details on the Main Street shuttle train will be available later this winter.

Thanks for your patience as we make these much-needed station improvements!

Links & Tidbits – January 10, 2014

Links and tidbits is our semi-regular roundup of interesting fodder about transportation from the last few weeks or so. If you have links to contribute, put them in the comments, or email us.

transparent LCD Bus

Are transparent LCD buses hokey or the future?


  • Our friends at Translinked posted this video of an Italian subway stop disguised as a typical Japanese station.
  • One of our @TransLink followers tweeted this interesting post from Transport for London. It’s part of a campaign called Travel Better London – “Transport for London has teamed up with London poets to help make travelling around the capital better for everyone.”
  • Check out the finalists for the Audi Urban Future Award 2014 – the winner was announced on January 6, 2014!
  • Passengers stop a gun robbery on a Seattle bus.
  • Jakarta Globe reports that municipal officals in the city must use public transit on Fridays.
  • What a concept, a train that never stops! See the video from China.
  • A seasonally appropriate project in Chicago to illustrate application of newly-adopted, complete-streets, design guidelines using… gingerbread.
  • Love those papier-mache heads! – from a colleague at SkyTrain.
  • See images of before and after transit innovations in Santiago! Low cost ways to decrease congestion in the subway stations.
  • Did you hear that in November Starbucks launched its first on board train store in Switerland. Is Canada next?
  • Here is a neat photo history of bus shelters in Vancouver.
  • Our Australian neighbours had a cool contest to find the ‘Voice of the Tram’ for the Gold Coast Light Rail System in 2014. Check out the winning voice!
  • Here is a video demonstrating an experimental crosswalk traffic signal in Germany – you can play a game of Ping-Pong while waiting at a crosswalk.
  • Could transparent LCD buses be the future of transit?
  • Would you pay your subway fare with recyclable materials? Beijing introduces recycling banks at subway stations.



Tap in like a pro


21011495 Compass_olympic village_60

Just a few weeks into our first customers using Compass, and our Compass Card readers have already registered thousands of transactions through our system!

“Tap in and tap out” is a bit of a mantra for us here on the Compass project, but if you’re using a Compass Card for the first time, you might be wondering what exactly that means.

Is it like a secret handshake? Can you swipe it through a slot? Insert like a credit card? Swoop in and out as fast as possible? Close your eyes and tap your heels together three times? Nope, not quite.

How to tap in (and out!)

Hold your Compass Card (or Ticket) flat against the card reader, fare gate or station validator until it beeps or until the fare gates open (once we close them later in 2014, that is). The screen display should also change and give you a message.

First time?

The first time you use your new Compass Card, you’ll need to hold your card on the reader just a smidge longer (think “one-one thousand, two-one-thousand”) until the screen says “Card updated.” This gives the system time to recognize that the pass is loaded on the card and ready for use.

If you try to remove your Card too quickly, you’ll get a red X indicating that it didn’t load properly. Simply try again—this time for a bit longer—and it should load just fine.

Once the Card is loaded, your taps after that will be much faster and smoother. Before you know it, you’ll be tap, tap, tapping along like a pro!

What’s next?

Right now, BC Bus Pass holders and TransLink and operating company employees are tapping in and out on the system. CNIB customers will be coming online in the next few weeks as well and by the end of January, we’ll have about 80,000 people using Compass.

We’ll be rolling Compass out to all our customers in phases over the coming months, with West Coast Express expected this spring, and most remaining customers this summer. Stay tuned for more information in the coming months about how and when to get and use your Compass Card.

Before you know it, everyone will be tapping in and tapping out of our system and taking advantage of the flexibility and convenience of Compass and features like Balance Protection and AutoLoad with registered cards.

Got questions?

Ask away at

Knight Street Bridge – Mitchell Island Interchange Improvements Project

TransLink Knight Street Bridge - Mitchell Island Improvements

Before picture

We’ve made some great improvements to the Knight Street Bridge– Mitchell Island interchange!

These changes will make the bus stops and pedestrian walkways much more accessible and safer for both transit riders and operators alike.

Pedestrian Improvements

There are a few changes for the off ramp to Mitchell Island Northbound and Southbound. Transit riders and pedestrians have been walking alongside traffic, with just a small barrier between walkway and traffic.

The road surface has now been widened up to one metre, to accommodate for more room behind the barriers for pedestrians to walk safely along the expanded path. Over 60 metres of barrier have also been installed to further improve the safety of the walkway.

Pedestrian crosswalk signs are now also up to signal newly painted crosswalks to new traffic islands both north and southbound Mitchell Island off-ramp.

TransLink Knight Street Bridge - Mitchell Island Improvements

After picture

For both the northbound and southbound stops, bus operators have found it difficult to maneuver their buses into the catch basin for transit riders to board easily.

To address this, we’ve created larger passenger landing areas for both bus stops, and replaced the asphalt with new concrete capping.

For the southbound stop, the catch basin has been shifted to accommodate the new landing area and wheelchair ramp access. This helps the operator easily park the vehicle parallel to the landing area.

The passenger crosswalks to both bus stops were also reinforced with repainted crosswalk lines, and new signage was put up to signal drivers to watch for pedestrians.


Do you frequent this interchange at all? If you do, we’d love to hear your thoughts! Do these improvements make it more safe and accessible for you to take transit?

New year, new service

Happy January everyone! This week we return to our regular routines, so if you were away last month or just not taking your usual routes, you might want to take a look at the recent service changes made on December 16, 2013.

Four times a year TransLink performs a round of service changes to ensure a reliable, efficient and safe transit service to help you get where you need to go.

All the details can be found on TransLink’s Transit Service Changes page.

hot coffee

Getting back to the grind isn’t so bad


2013 Holiday Service Adjustments: New Year’s Eve & New Year’s Day



Wishing all Buzzer readers a safe and happy 2014!

Happy holidays!

We hope you’ve had a chance to relax and spend some time with family and friends, perhaps enjoy a cup of hot chocolate (or two).

As always, rides will be free of charge on New Year’s Eve (Dec 31) from 5:00 pm until 5:00 am on New Year’s Day. All services (Bus, SkyTrain, SeaBus, West Coast Express) on New Year’s Eve will operate a normal weekday schedule with additional trips or extended service.

New Year’s Day (Jan 1) will offer a normal Sunday/holiday schedule for Buses, SeaBus and SkyTrain. The West Coast Express and TrainBus will not be in operation.

Regular services resume on Thursday, January 2, 2014.

Details can be found on the Winter Holiday Service Schedule page. Please see below for some resources to request current updates in regards to transit service conditions:




Merry X-Mas and Happy New Year from the Buzzer!

What we lacked in colour coding we make up for in Christmas decorations.

What we lacked in colour coding we make up for in Christmas decorations.

From our Buzzer family to your family, we wish you all a happy and safe holiday season and 2014. Thanks for reading and contributing to the blog in 2013!

We’re celebrating 40K followers on Twitter!

We reached 40,000 followers of the @TransLink Twitter account! We’re super excited about the attention and engagement of our customers on Twitter. To celebrate we randomly gave away four FareCards to followers who tweeted the #TL40K hashtag and completed this sentence, “I’m grateful for…” Have a look at what you (our transit customers!) shared with us. We here at the Buzzer are grateful too — for all you loyal readers of course! #TL40K


Buzzer blog editor away over the winter holidays

I'll see you all in 2014!

I’ll see you all in 2014!

I’m taking a break from the blog to catch up with family over the winter holidays. I’ll be back in mid-January. But don’t worry, Jennifer, Angela and Jiana will be watching things while I’m away.

This year was a big one and 2014 looks even bigger with Compass Card, a new SeaBus, station upgrades and so much more. Thanks Buzzer readers for making 2013 a great one!

2013 Holiday Transit Service: Christmas & Boxing Day

Sparky the Elf and Santa!

Sparky the Elf and Santa!

Hello Buzzer readers!

With the winter holiday season soon approaching, the holiday service schedule will begin on Christmas Eve (Tues, Dec 24).

On Christmas Day (Dec 25), buses, SeaBus, and SkyTrain will be running on Sunday/holiday schedules. Some routes will be adjusted to reflect customer demand. The West Coast Express and TrainBus service will not operate.

Boxing Day (Dec 26) will have an enhanced holiday schedule for buses, SeaBus and SkyTrain, especially on routes to popular shopping destinations!

Services returns to their normal schedules on Friday, December 27.

You can find all the details on the Winter Holiday Service Schedule page. For the very latest news on transit service conditions or for more details, visit or call:


Please Note: The Buzzer blog is on holiday until at least Thursday, December 27, 2012. Tina and Stefanie will be checking in, but brand new content (we have scheduled some content over the holidays) won’t be online until the new year.

We wish all of our Buzzer friends a safe and happy holiday season!