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Wanted: questions for the Friday fun polls

Does anyone have any questions for the Friday fun polls?

I’m running short on good ideas and I’m certain you all have questions you’d love to ask :)

I only have limited criteria — make it a fun transit culture topic, the questions & answers shouldn’t be too complex, and fewer answer options are better. (It’s a fun poll: we don’t want to make it too hard for people to answer! Or too hard to understand the results once the poll closes.)

Feel free to use the comments or email me if that’s preferable!

Improved interiors for the new SkyTrain cars!

The new SkyTrain car, sitting on the Stadium Station side track.

The new SkyTrain car, sitting on the Stadium Station side track.

Finally, I’m able to share info about the improved interiors for our new SkyTrain cars!

If you don’t know about it, the train pictured above is one of the 48 new Mark II 1300 and 1400 series SkyTrain cars. These 48 cars will be in service by the end of 2009, boosting capacity on the Expo and Millennium Lines by 30%. (Most of these cars are still being built by Bombardier – we only have 6 cars (3 two-car trains) on hand right now.)

We debuted the interiors with a little media event at Stadium Station this morning (a few friends of the Buzzer blog were also able to attend :)

Just as a side note, this new SkyTrain car will be on Stadium Station’s side track for the next while, so attendants can be trained on its new features. So if you’re rolling through the station, you’ll definitely catch a glimpse of it!

But enough dillydallying – on to the interiors! Remember to click on all the photos for much larger versions!

Read more »

Port Coquitlam bus reroutes for the May Day Parade

The 86th annual Rotary May Day Parade is on Saturday in Port Coquitlam. (86 — that’s almost as old as the Buzzer!)

Anyway, this all means some reroutes for buses on Saturday — the C36, C37, C37, C38, 159, and 160. Have a look at the Alerts page on the TransLink main site for all the changes. And enjoy the parade, if you’re going!

Transit on film: The Trial of the Incredible Hulk

Well, this might be the best transit-on-film clip yet —- reader ;-) posted this clip from the Trial of the Incredible Hulk TV movie, shot on a Mark I SkyTrain & inside Granville Burrard Station in the late 80s.

There is one word for this: awesome. Thank you to ;-) for digging this up!

(Also, I have no detail on how this sequence was done, because I don’t know who was in charge of film shoots in the late 80s! If more info gets dredged up I’ll share — and feel free to share any details you might know too.)

Bike to Work Week 2009 gets rolling on Monday, May 11

Try cycling to work during Bike to Work Week, which launches its 2009 edition on Monday, May 11!

Sign up a team online, and win prizes for participation and distance travelled. (A free bike will also be given away every day!)

Plus, the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition (VACC), who runs Bike to Work Week, will set up commuter stations around the Lower Mainland during the week.

Commuter stations have 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 last year.)

A huge celebration is also planned for the Seawall near Science World on Friday May 15, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. There will be free food, entertainment, and yes, even more prizes!

Worried about biking with 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! (Email Diana at the VACC or call 604-878-8222.)

Don’t know the bike routes in your area? Try out UBC’s handy cycling route planner, which I also profiled on the blog.

And if you still need reasons to try biking to work, the VACC has put together a list for you here :)
Read more »

Transit on film: Paycheck

All right, for Monday, here’s a fun item to start your week off.

Paycheck wasn’t exactly Ben Affleck’s finest two hours on film (that was Gigli, right?). But what it does have to offer is extended sequences involving elements of Vancouver transit :)

Hit 1:46 on this trailer and you’ll see Ben running between two of our articulated old MCI Classic buses. Close to the end of the trailer, you’ll also see Ben make a narrow escape from an oncoming SkyTrain.

The buses were shot downtown, and some of the SkyTrain filming was done in Burrard Station. Note that I say “some” and not “all” — the SkyTrain action sequence was actually done in a studio. Here’s the full story from Bill Knight, who, among other things, manages our film requests and supervised the Paycheck shoot on our property.

Ben was actually not present for the scene in the station, it was his double – who really does look like him. The scene of him being chased by a train was shot on a local sound stage, not at SkyTrain. This was a question of time available, safety and logistics. The shots would take too much time within the station – needing multiple nights of filming. We couldn’t have filmed anyways as you would have live power for a moving train. A moving train would have presented too much risk to the actor as well. Logistically it wouldn’t work because there are communications cables in the track area you could trip over plus the LIM reaction rail in the center of the track (which isn’t in their studio version of SkyTrain).

The train is authentic; well at least the first two feet or so! The production company was able to acquire a Mark II end cap for their mockup. In effect, Ben is being menaced by a two-foot long piece of fibreglas with car headlights added! The end of the train used to sit outside in the Vancouver Film Studios yard, visible by trains using the Millennium Line.

Bill also pointed out that this trailer doesn’t contain one crucial scene of Ben sitting at the back of a bus, in which to his immediate left sits a small black and white box marked “The Buzzer”! :)

Friday fun poll: eye contact on transit

If you like, you can skip to the end of this post to answer the eye contact poll.

Results from last poll: saying thank you to transit operators

Here’s the results of the last poll, which asked if you usually say thank you to your bus driver.

There were 192 votes on this poll, and the vast majority (79%) usually say thank you when they get off the bus! The rest (21%) do not.

Obviously the results aren’t representative of the entire service region — this is a fun poll, after all! But it does show that lots of the Buzzer blog’s readers take the time to recognize operators for their work. Peggy even uses it as a learning experience for her son:

Yes, I say thanks and making sure my kids do, too. Sometimes shouting it from the rear makes my teen feel self-conscious, especially if other folks don’t bother. So then we have the conversation about how using our manners might make it easier for other people to follow in our footsteps – step by step we can all create a more civil society!

David Lam also said that a thank you can mean a lot to an operator.

I always try to be nice to transit ops – having to deal with hundreds of different passengers everyday, it’s not an easy job at all! Upon several conversations with different transit ops, and also with a few buddies of mine who drive buses, the biggest challenge is not only traffic and road conditions, but rather how to emotionally overcome the feeling that one is being mistreated and degraded by a handful of people in our community who are often abusive and rude. If all of us can make someone’s day better by giving a little smile and say a simple phrase such as “thank you” before we disembark – why not?

As usual, there were many good comments this time round, including a short debate on whether you should yell “thank you” from the back doors or not: if you’re interested, please do check them out!

This week’s poll: your strategy for eye contact on transit

Transit’s a funny space — it’s a shared area, but everybody still wants a measure of privacy. So in this situation, how do you decide where to look when people are everywhere?

If you avoid eye contact and try to look at other things, feel free to share what those things are. (I personally read a lot of transit ads and try to stare out the window :)

Our retired trolleys make their official debut in Mendoza, Argentina

The governor of the Province of Mendoza, Celso Alejandro Jaque. Photo by <a href=http://www.trolebusesmendocinos.blogspot.com>Jorge Luis Guevara</a>

The governor of the Province of Mendoza, Celso Alejandro Jaque. Photo by Jorge Luis Guevara.

Twenty-five of our retired trolleys were officially put into service in Mendoza, Argentina yesterday!

Check out all the photos and coverage at Trolebuses Mendocinos — that’s the blog of Jorge Luis Guevara, our man on the inside at Mendoza’s transit agency.

The governor of the province of Mendoza was on hand for the first official trolley trip, and a marching band even played during the celebration.

A couple of comments from Mike in my last trolley post also had a bit of detail on the launch.

Apparently the e-fare machines are not yet installed onboard 20 of the 25 buses — the machines will be transferred from some of Mendoza’s retiring German trolleys.

So, those buses without the fare machines will pick up people for free! (As far as I can tell, Mike’s comments were confirmed in articles from Uno, one of the Mendoza papers.)

Edit: Jorge just sent me an article about the launch from Diario Los Andes, another Mendoza newspaper. Jorge also attached this note (translation provided by Google!): “Jhenifer, newspapers, radio and TV echoed the Flyer, again in the afternoon the passengers were required to balance the great state of units and that this reflected the culture of the Canadian FLYER really reflect the quality of life of the Canadian people.”

The governor and his officials in the first official trip to the Flyer. Photo by Jorge Luis Guevara.

The governor and his officials in the first official trip to the Flyer. Photo by Jorge Luis Guevara.

Trolley 01, with the Argentina flag on its front! Photo by Jorge Luis Guevara.

Trolley 01, with the Argentina flag on its front! Photo by Jorge Luis Guevara.

It’s great to see the trolleys out on the streets!

And as always, here are the past articles on our retired trolleys:

A note about the H1N1 influenza

As everyone might be concerned about the H1N1 flu outbreak, I just wanted to draw your attention to the information alert on the TransLink Alerts page.

In essence, we’re taking direction from the health authorities in our region, and have been told normal transit service levels are fine for the situation right now. Here’s the full alert though:

The situation regarding the H1N1 influenza (“swine flu”) is not “critical”, but TransLink customers may be concerned about the current outbreak. Your transportation authority is in contact with provincial and local Health Authorities, and at this time, service is operating normally. Medical health officers state there is no need to change service levels to reduce the risk of influenza to our customers. TransLink vehicles – including SkyTrain cars and buses – are cleaned daily, and health authorities have told us that the process used is suitable for the current situation in this area: there is no need to increase the frequency of the cleaning or change the method. We would remind our customers to practice “common sense” hygiene to minimize the risk of germ transmission – as they would at any time. For updates on the situation and tips on hygiene, please consult the HealthLinkBC website, at www.healthlinkbc.ca

I hope this flu outbreak is short-lived!

Traffic and transit info for the BMO Vancouver Marathon on Sunday

The BMO Vancouver Marathon is coming up on Sunday, May 3, and here’s some transportation info that you might find handy.

First, traffic in Vancouver will be affected, especially downtown, Granville Island, and the Kitsilano/Point Grey neighborhoods.

There will also be some Vancouver bus reroutes owing to the marathon, in effect from 6 a.m. until about 1:30 p.m. That includes routes #3, 4, 6, 8, 17, 19, 22, 50, 84, 98, 210, 211, C21, C23. (You can find the full list of reroutes on the Alerts page, over at the main TransLink website.)

If you’re taking transit to the marathon, SkyTrain will start 90 minutes early, with the first train leaving King George at about 5:38 a.m., and arriving at Stadium by 6:15 a.m. First trains also leave Lougheed station in both directions at 5:45 a.m., and the first eastbound train departs Waterfront at 6:20 a.m.

Expo and Millennium Line service will be every six minutes, resulting in three minute service between Columbia and Waterfront. Regular Sunday and holiday (single zone) fares are in effect.

SeaBus will be operating on its regular schedule on Sunday, with an 8:02 a.m. start from Lonsdale Quay. (The #242 provides earlier service to downtown Vancouver via the Lions Gate Bridge.)

For those not running in the marathon, please be aware that there may be some bus delays, so try to give yourself extra time to reach your destinations on Sunday.

And nicely enough, the BMO Vancouver Marathon website has a PDF with all of these transportation schedules listed. For more about the race, explore the official site, or check out a recent post at Miss 604. Apparently the marathon really needs volunteers!

Fleet Overhaul Series, Part 5 of 6: The warehouse and more

This is the fifth in a six-part series about Fleet Overhaul, the vehicle maintenance centre down at Burnaby Transit Centre. (Check out the earlier articles on the body shop; panel fabrication; the paint shop; and high-mileage vehicle work.)

A glimpse of the warehouse space at Fleet Overhaul. Sorry for the out-of-focus-ness of the photo!

A glimpse of the warehouse space at Fleet Overhaul. Sorry for the out-of-focus-ness of the photo!

Fleet Overhaul also contains a big warehouse of bus parts, which is about 40,000 square feet.

The warehouse has about 60 to 70 per cent of our total inventory—the rest is new items that have to be ordered as needed.

This warehouse supplies Fleet Overhaul and all the outlying transit centres across the Lower Mainland with any bus parts they might need.

During the day, each transit centre e-mails the warehouse staff about what parts they need. The items get picked out in the afternoon, and then at midnight every night, two trucks go out and tour all the transit centres, dropping off products.

It’s a bit easier for Fleet Overhaul staff: since they’re in the same building, they just go over to the warehouse office and order the parts they need.

Also, sitting next door to the warehouse is the Materials Control office. That’s the department in charge of regulating the warehouse inventory, including buying parts and issuing work orders so Fleet Overhaul staff will produce parts. Materials Control basically makes sure that all the items we need are actually on hand.

Read more »

Buzzer blog internet outage for 30 min, 8 p.m. Wed. Apr 29

As the title of this post suggests, the Buzzer blog will be offline for 30 minutes, starting at 8.p.m. on Wednesday April 29.

So don’t worry if you can’t find the Buzzer at 8: some maaintenance is being done, and it will be back up circa 8:30 p.m. or so.

Two hybrid buses are here in town

A hybrid New Flyer articulated bus (left) and a hybrid Nova bus (right) are in town for evaluations right now.

A hybrid New Flyer articulated bus (left) and a hybrid Nova bus (right) are in town for evaluations right now. Photos by David Lam.

We’ve got two diesel-electric hybrid buses in town right now!

The Province wrote about the Nova hybrid bus about a week ago, but we actually have an articulated hybrid bus from New Flyer around too.

The Nova is a “pilot” bus — it’s still the property of Nova and it’s here for evaluation. Our staff is currently examining it from top to bottom to identify any issues, and then the bus will be sent back to Montreal so Nova can correct them for the rest of our order. (We have 141 Nova hybrids coming in this year!)

The hybrid New Flyer articulated bus is also undergoing some evaluation. The bus is still the property of New Flyer, who is correcting some issues on the bus before presenting it to us for acceptance. In the coming weeks, we’ll get about two to three articulated hybrids a week until we reach our full order of 39.

All this adds up to 180 hybrid buses arriving this year in total. The 39 New Flyer hybrids will be in service by September 2009. Eighteen of these buses will expand the fleet, and 21 will replace the high-floor articulated buses.

The 141 Nova hybrids will be in service by December 2009. As the Province article talked about, 109 of these buses will replace older vehicles, and 32 will expand the fleet.

Plus, let me repeat a few fun facts about the hybrids, which you may have seen in the Earth Day post:

  • The diesel-electric hybrids will save between 15-20% on fuel consumption, meaning they’re sending out about 15-20% fewer greenhouse gas emissions into the air.
  • As well, when we compare the hybrids to the buses they are replacing, the particulate matter levels (the smoke they send out) will be reduced by 90-100%.
  • The transmission of the hybrid buses also means a smoother ride with no more jerky gear changes. For those who care, here’s the specifics on that: the hybrid transmission has electric motors in place of the clutches that would be in a normal transmission, and the electric motors are capable of creating any gearing ratio, meaning that the hybrid transmission is a CVT (continuously variable transmission) which never actually shifts gears. No gears to shift means no clutches to wear, and no jerky gear changes for passengers!

And mad props to David Lam from the Trans-Vancouver bus photo site, who scooped EVERYONE with the photos you see above. I think he managed to snap the buses about three weeks ago! Check out his galleries to see more photos of the New Flyer hybrid and for the Nova hybrid.

Friday fun poll: do you usually call out thank you to your bus driver?

If you like, you can skip to the end of this post to answer the “thank you” poll.

Results from last poll: best ways to pass time on transit

Here’s the results of the last poll, which asked everyone what’s the best way to pass the time on transit?

We got 195 votes on this poll (a new record!) and listening to an iPod/music player was the most popular answer, with 32 per cent of the vote. Looking out the window (22%) and reading (20%) were second and third.

It also seemed that a lot of you enjoy people watching (11%) and sleeping (8%)! Meditating (4%) and “other” (3%) brought up the rear.

In the comments, most people said they do a mix all of the options when they’re on transit. Here’s a comment from Gennifer:

I actually do just about everything on that list. I like grabbing a 24 Hours and a Metro before I get on the train. While I read, I listen to my iPod. Then when I finish my papers I people watch/wave at the little kids and look out the window. But if I’m on the train and I am tired, I will put my head down and go to sleep. I have ridden past my stop about three times.

And Betty moved from one method to another for passing time on the bus:

I used to read a lot on the bus. Now, I usually look out the window and think about things. When I feel like using my brain I do the puzzles in the free newspapers. I’m surprised I’m in a minority because I do see other people doing the puzzles (sometimes in ink, even — I’m a pencil puzzler).

I also got some flak for not mentioning BlackBerries or other mobile devices. Catching up with email and RSS feeds seemed to be a popular option for passing the time. Here’s JasonV:

Ok, I’ve been reading my fav RSS feeds on a PalmPilot while on transit for YEARS! And for FREE! (the Palm was a hand-me-down, and Avantgo.com made subscribing to any RSS feed simple!) I STILL recommend this technique!

Then I upgraded to the iPod TOUCH for free wifi-bility! And best of all, offline browsing! Add the little app ByLine for a few bucks and you can nearly replicate Avantgo’s service, but via Google Reader! What’s great is you can fav and comment on posts while offline, and then when you get home and resync, your comments/favs/shared posts get synched to Google Reader without any effort at all! You can also start to see other recommended shared items from friends if you choose to follow shared items from your contacts!

And by the way, when it came to good podcasts for passing time on transit, Jason suggested The Moth storytelling podcast. As mentioned, I also think This American Life is excellent bus fodder. If you have more suggestions for music/podcasts for transit, let me know — maybe I can put a list together for everyone in the future!

This week’s poll: saying thank you to your operator

For the new poll, bear in mind that I’m asking what you do on an average trip, not the best or worst trips!

I hear it sometimes on buses and sometimes not, so I’m curious about the results! Plus, does anyone have a particular strategy they use when deciding to shout out thanks? Informal chats with my coworkers have turned up very inconsistent approaches: one colleague doesn’t like to say “thank you” if another passenger has already said it — and often I don’t say it unless somebody else has broken the ice already :)

One more set of photos from Lansdowne Station

A quick follow up to the earlier post about Lansdowne Station. Terry Muirhead has sent along a set of photos from the Canada Line open house too. Click the thumbnails below to check them out!