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Translink Buzzer Blog

Property tax rates released for 2009

Well, this is a slightly awkward topic to bring up, but we’ve officially released our property tax rates for 2009. (And it’s not an April Fool’s joke, sadly.)

On average, homeowners can expect their property tax to rise by about $16, and business property taxes will go up by about $59. It all goes to fund the ongoing operation, maintenance and rehabilitation of the region’s major roads and transit network.

Here’s the full press release if you’d like to see it. Also, Jeff Nagel at the Surrey Leader also has a really good article on the increases.

I should mention that this tax increase has nothing to do with the 2010 10-year plan. That’s the plan for our next 10 years which has been bandied about in the news lately, owing to the discussion of a vehicle levy and other proposed funding mechanisms for the future. (We’re also starting to consult about it over at BePartofthePlan.ca.)

Instead, this property tax increase is to resolve a loss of revenue from last year, which happened because our parking site tax was cancelled at the end of 2007.

We lost $18 million of revenue when the parking site tax was cancelled, and the province gave us special permission to make up that $18 million using additional property tax on residences and businesses.

In 2008, we chose to collect only half of that tax ($9 million), through boosting the property tax on businesses alone. (Here’s the 2008 press release about that decision.) This year, we’re collecting the full amount from both residential and business properties.

TransLink turns 10!

Happy 10th birthday to TransLink!

Happy 10th birthday to TransLink!

It’s TransLink’s tenth birthday today!

And yes, it’s funny that it lands on April 1, but we have some good company: Apple also celebrates its birthday today, as well as the Wrigley candy company.

You might not know this, but TransLink is a pretty unique organization — it’s the very first transportation agency in North America, responsible for planning and managing both public transit, major roads, and other transport modes in the region.

This integrated model lets us plan the network as a strategic whole, has helped Metro Vancouver become one of the most livable regions in the world, and has won us some lovely accolades along the way. (Check out this nice article about us from Mass Transit magazine in May 2006!)

Similar agencies now exist in New York City, London, UK, and very recently (as in two days ago), the greater Toronto and Hamilton area.

If you’re interested in learning more, have a look at our recently written history book (3MB PDF) — it tells our story from the start in 1999 to 2008.

And if you’d like some quick tidbits, here’s our last 10 years by the numbers!

Read more »

Knight Street Bridge lane closure tonight

A heads up to drivers and riders out there—one southbound lane will be closed on the Knight St. Bridge overnight.

The closure will in effect from Tuesday, March 31 at 10 p.m. until Wednesday Apr. 1 at 5 a.m. Workers will be performing a routine warranty maintenance check on the deck joints.

So, if you’re driving, watch out for the closure, and remember to observe all signs and instructions from traffic controllers and the 50 km/h workzone speed limit.

(And if you didn’t know already, TransLink owns and maintains the Knight Street Bridge, the Pattullo Bridge, and the Westham Island Bridge.)

Hope this doesn’t inconvenience anybody!

Friday fun poll: do you have a secret friend at your transit stop?

Last week I asked if you stepped off your transit vehicle when standing near the doors, with people rushing to exit behind you.

After 142 votes, 61 per cent said you do step off the bus when people are rushing to get out, and 39 per cent said you stay on the bus and let people exit around you.

Well, that’s certainly a closer result than our previous poll! Anyway, in the comments, the “step-offers” were much more vocal than the standers. Here’s Dan Udey:

I don’t know if I’d classify ’standing in the doorway’ as a strategy. Generally it just serves to make everyone’s life harder (including the stander, who gets shoved around as people try to get off the bus).

And Dan B also added a few more thoughts on the matter:

I dislike it when people stand in the doorways of buses as well. Usually there are free seats or room away from the doors. I surmise that the people who do stand in the doorway like the extra room, even though it is technically forbidden by the placards. Many times, people stand in the doorways so they can chat with their friends, or because they like the extra room — even in cases where there are free seats!

——

New poll time! Bet you’re wondering what I’m talking about with this “secret friend” business.

I’m officially naming this type of person a “secret friend.” If you have an alternate term, please feel free to suggest it. And if you have actually talked to your secret transit friend, tell us all about it in the comments :)

Be Part of the Plan: join our discussion site about our transportation future

Check it out, yo—we’ve launched a new discussion website at BePartofthePlan.ca!

The website is basically the starting point for a conversation about our shared transportation future. Starting Friday, you’ll start seeing ads promoting the site in the media and on transit.

We’re encouraging everyone to visit BePartofthePlan.ca, learn about the six transport goals our region has set for the next 30 years, and let us know your thoughts on transportation issues.

Your thoughts and feedback will help shape the upcoming 10-year plan for 2010. And after a draft of that 10-year plan is released in June, we’ll continue the online discussion to get your thoughts on the plan’s details. A final version will then be put together for approval by the end of the year. (Here’s an explanation of the difference between all these plans!)

And I’m actually going to help moderate discussions over at BePartofthePlan.ca, so I’ll be splitting my time between that site and the Buzzer blog for the next little while. (Don’t worry though, I’m not abandoning the Buzzer blog!)

A note on the discussion topics, and the site

One of the ads you might see on transit in the next while.

One of the ads you might see on transit in the next while.

There are six discussion topics right now, to get you started thinking about each of the goals.

But every week or so, we’ll update the site with new topics to discuss. If there’s a topic you think should be up there, feel free to suggest it.

Also, we know this website isn’t the most perfect way to conduct this conversation, and we welcome your comments to improve it.

The site will be tweaked as we go along, and there will be a bigger redesign for the June discussion, so make sure you let us know exactly what you think.

Join in!

So I’m really encouraging you to visit BePartofthePlan.ca and talk with us! We want to hear from you, and your thoughts will really help us develop a transport plan that reflects your needs and values. I hope to see you all there!

Take transit to the Juno Awards

The Juno Awards are in town for four days (Thursday Mar. 26 to Sunday Mar. 29), and we’d just like to suggest taking transit to get to the celebration. Here’s some useful info on the transportation situation.

The City of Vancouver will be closing roads in the Granville Street Entertainment District and some sections of Abbott Street around GM Place. (These closures don’t affect bus routes!)

Stadium-Chinatown Station is the nearest SkyTrain stop to General Motors Place, where the Junos will be held. You can reach GM Place by taking the east exit and crossing Expo Boulevard via the Abbott Street crosswalk.

Please note the last Skytrain to Surrey on Sunday leaves Waterfront at 12:15 a.m. After this time, you can use night bus service, which operates every 30 minutes, seven nights a week, from approximately 1:30 a.m., with the last bus leaving downtown Vancouver at 3:09 a.m.

You can use our online Trip Planner to plan your trip to the Juno celebrations, or give Customer Information a call at 604-953-3333.

By the way, here’s a list of our 12 NightBus routes:

Free pink whistles can help you stay safe

The pink safety whistles from our Whistle Blower campaign -- they are available at Collingwood Community Policing Centre, at 5160 Joyce St in Vancouver.

The pink safety whistles from our Whistle Blower campaign -- they are available at Collingwood Community Policing Centre, at 5160 Joyce St in Vancouver.

We had 1,000 pink whistles in the office this week!

They’re part of the “Whistle Blower” safety program, which was launched in May 2007.

The program provides free, super loud whistles to anyone who requests them, so they can make as much noise as possible if attacked or threatened.

It’s a partnership between TransLink, SkyTrain, the Collingwood Community Policing Centre, Vancouver Police Department and the Transit Police.

You can pick the whistles up at the Collingwood Community Policing Centre, 5160 Joyce Street in Vancouver, which is where we delivered these whistles this week. (We’ve given away 2,000 whistles so far – this is the third order of 1,000 whistles since the program began!)

And check out the Collingwood Policing Centre’s page on the program too—it includes a list of great safety tips for when you’re out and about.

A short history of interurbans in the Lower Mainland

The very first interurban on the Burnaby Lake line, leaving New Westminster. (Item 166-001, from the Burnaby Historical Society Community Archives Collection, courtesy of the City of Burnaby Archives.)

The very first interurban on the Burnaby Lake line, leaving New Westminster. (Item 166-001, from the Burnaby Historical Society Community Archives Collection, courtesy of the City of Burnaby Archives.)

Today, I’m pleased to present a look at the history of interurbans in the Lower Mainland.

Lisa Codd, the fantastic curator at the Burnaby Village Museum, helped me put this article together. She first shared a luncheon menu and programme from the 1937 Pattullo Bridge opening in January – and this is a continuation of that collaboration, to explore transit history and Burnaby’s archival holdings!

Read more »

Golden Ears Bridge hosts opening celebration June 14

The Golden Ears Bridge, in mid-construction. The bridge will be in one piece when you go out to celebrate in June!

The Golden Ears Bridge, in mid-construction. The bridge will be in one piece when you go out to celebrate in June!

Hey, you’re invited to celebrate the opening of the Golden Ears Bridge in June!

The bridge should be completed by early summer, and while the official opening date for traffic isn’t yet set, a public celebration will be held on Sunday, June 14.

It’s going to take place on the new Golden Ears Bridge deck, and it will be a pedestrian-only event. The celebration will feature entertainment and activities for the whole family.

TransLink’s new bridge and 13-kilometre road network will provide a quick, easy and convenient link from Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge to Langley, Surrey and beyond.

Here’s a few comments from TransLink executives on the celebration, from our press release:

“This is an exciting opportunity for people to get a close up look at the bridge and to experience the magnificent view from the bridge deck,” says TransLink CEO Tom Prendergast. “For the first time ever, the people living in Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Surrey and Langley will be able to connect easily to friends, families and opportunities on the other side of the river.”

“We want to invite the region to share in this historic event,” says Fred Cummings, TransLink vice-president of major construction projects. “The opening celebration is an opportunity to thank the communities for their support and commitment to the new crossing and to honour the bridge workers whose skill and dedication created the bridge.”

The Golden Ears Bridge uses QuickPass, the first electronically tolled system in western Canada, and will allow drivers to cross the bridge and pay the toll without stopping or slowing down. Find out more about QuickPass in this October 2008 Buzzer blog post on the subject.

And for more information on the project, please feel free to visit TransLink’s Golden Ears Bridge website, or the Golden Ears Bridge construction website.

Rail Talk #2 with SkyTrain CEO Doug Kelsey

Check out the second series of Rail Talk videos with Doug Kelsey, SkyTrain’s president and CEO.

Rail Talk is a series of candid question and answer sessions that Doug does with members of the TransLink Listens online customer survey portal.

The first series from September 2008 focused on SkyTrain security questions, but this series was open to general questions. Doug answers inquiries about our snowy Christmas service, plans for the Olympics, and more. (By the way, the webcast was recorded before the Olympic Transportation Plan announcement, so that’s why Doug’s answers are not detailed.)

The Rail Talk sessions are originally done as one-hour webcasts, and then split into shorter clips so that everybody can see them on YouTube.

And before you ask, here’s why nobody looks into the camera in this set of clips. Both a webcam and a video camera were set up to record the Rail Talk session—and Doug and Drew Snider from TransLink media relations were focused on just the webcam to connect with the customers participating in the original webcast :)

The first clip above answers the following question:

During the Christmas snow “storms” accomodation was made on the Sky Train to increase the train frequency & hours, as well as some municipalities stepping up to accomodate parking for transit riders. The challenge was for those of us living East of Surrey (i.e.West Langley) who still needed to get into Surrey, and the bus service wasn’t adequate. What plans are in place to improve this situation for Olympic Games time, weather related emergencies, or regular commuting times?

I’ve provided the rest of the questions below, linked to each of the appropriate YouTube clips. But if you’d like to watch the whole webcast continuously, we’ve also created this playlist that goes through all the clips in order.

Read more »

Friday fun poll: do you exit then reboard a transit vehicle to let others off?

Last week I asked whether you preferred holding onto metal bars or hanging straps when balancing on a bus.

And after 152 votes, metal bars are the clear winner with 91 per cent of the vote. Only nine per cent rely on the hanging straps.

In the comments, Rob was actually on both sides of the argument:

Personally, I like to use both simultaneously, which my wife insists is going to some day result in me breaking my arms in an accident…

And many pointed out that height was a factor in choosing your handhold. For example, Alan Robinson wrote:

I may be an oddity, but I find that the straps are too low to hold onto. They would work best for someone about 5′8 to 6′0 tall who can pull down on them a bit. Depending on how much elbow room I have at the level of other peoples heads, I hold onto the vertical bars above the main horizontal bars.

But by and large, many people said that the straps would be more useful if they were nailed down to the bars. And upon investigating that situation with our fleet management staff, I learned that the straps *aren’t* chiefly recommended as handholds — the manufacturers have really put them there to help you lift yourself out of your seat!

However, as Cree pointed out in the comments, the new Nova buses actually have all of their hanging straps affixed to the metal bars. Perhaps that signals bus manufacturers might be nailing those straps down in future buses.

But considering this discussion, if you do feel very strongly about having straps nailed down, I would suggest you call Customer Relations at (604) 953-3040, or email them through our web form. They will put all of your feedback into our system, and fleet management can be notified that this is something you guys are interested in for future vehicle orders.

——-

New poll! New poll!

I’ve seen both of these strategies in use and am wondering what’s more popular. What do you think?

New federal and provincial funding for transit

Hey, the federal and provincial governments announced $280 million in new funding for transit this morning! Thanks, senior government partners — it’s good to see more investment in transit!

Check out the press release and backgrounder from the provincial government. Here’s the key explanation from the news release:

Lower Mainland transit users will benefit from SkyTrain and West Coast Express enhancements, thanks to a partnership between the Government of Canada, the Province of B.C. and TransLink, announced Premier Gordon Campbell, Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, and TransLink Chair Dale Parker.

Through this partnership, the Government of Canada and the Province of B.C. have identified several major transit projects, valued at $280 million, as priorities for infrastructure funding.

The federal government is setting aside up to $88.3 million, which will amount to a maximum of 33 per cent of eligible costs for the selected transit projects. The BC government is contributing over $118 million, with the balance coming from TransLink and local government partners.

And from the backgrounder, here’s where the money will specifically go:

Included under the $280 million investment are

SkyTrain Improvements

  • Station expansion (Expo Line): $133.3 million, including Main St. and Scott Road.
  • Additional SkyTrain cars: $75 million
  • Expo Line upgrades: $7 million

West Coast Express Improvements

  • Increase in West Coast Express capacity: $27.7 million. Purchase seven additional cars and upgrade 2 stations.

Other Transit System Improvements

  • Improvements to regional transit maintenance facilities: $36.5 million.

And in case you’re wondering: no, this new funding doesn’t actually alleviate our financial deficit situation any. This funding provides us with new money that is earmarked to pay for this new infrastructure, but the operating costs of this new infrastructure and the existing system still fall to us. (For a bus, operating costs are actually 90 per cent of their lifetime costs.)

And yes, we do still have to come up with the TransLink side of the funding for these initiatives, which we’ll consult you about in the upcoming months.

But still, hurrah — this is great news for SkyTrain and West Coast Express! And the new Fleet Overhaul home in Maple Ridge!

Plan your cycling trips with UBC’s online map tool

Want to bike somewhere in Metro Vancouver, but you don’t know the best route? There’s a cycling map tool from UBC that could help you out.

It’s called the cycling route planner, and it’s a project from professor Michael Brauer at UBC’s Centre for Health and Environment Research.

It uses Google Maps and has the same functionality — plug in your start and end points, and the planner design your trip using local cycling routes. (TransLink provides all the data about the cycling network, including the locations of cyclist-operated traffic signals!)

However, the cycling planner will also show how steep the hills are on your trip, whether your route has lots of greenery, how much traffic pollution and greenhouse gases you’ll prevent, and how many calories you’ll burn.

Read more »

The March Buzzer is out!

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

(Sorry for the late notification — I should have written this last Friday, but there was a bit of a mixup and we didn’t get the PDF on the website until today. So here’s the update now!)

The issue gives everybody a recap of I Love Transit Week here on the blog, sharing your system secrets, favourite SkyTrain stations, I Love Transit Night, and more!

There’s also a little bus route puzzle, an update on the Easter weekend holiday service, and a 1975 Back Issues that shows how much transit operators were paid back then.

Once more, we are pleased to feature the work of a Canadian illustrator on the cover, from illustrator Randy Laybourne.

And this issue marks the first issue produced by Carol Evans, a colleague who now works with me on the print Buzzer, since the blog takes up quite a lot of my time! I’m sort of the Buzzer’s editor-in-chief now, I guess you could say — I direct content and oversee production, and Carol’s doing more of the actual writing and layout.

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 stretch back to the heady days of June 2006. (Here’s the direct link to the March issue PDF.)

Don’t forget to enter the FareCard contest too: you can win a free FareCard in every issue of the Buzzer. Read the issue, then answer the question right by Thursday, Apr. 9 at 9 a.m. to win!

Enjoy the latest Buzzer: comments are welcome below!

A closer look at the LEGO model of King Edward Station

King Edward Station from the Canada Line, modeled in LEGO by Dan Emerson. Photo by Sandy Webster.

King Edward Station from the Canada Line, modeled in LEGO by Dan Emerson. Photo by Sandy Webster.

As you may know already, Science World is currently hosting a LEGO exhibition that involves two Canada Line stations modeled in the famous building blocks — YVR-Airport and King Edward Stations!

I wrote a post last week about the YVR model, and now here’s a look at the King Edward Station replica.

Read more »