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Translink Buzzer Blog

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 »

Friday fun poll: do you hang onto the bars or the straps?

Earlier this week, I asked where you like to sit on the SeaBus.

After 58 votes, facing forward was the clear winner — 81 per cent liked facing their destination, while just 19 per cent liked facing away from their destination.

Since there was a bit of a truncated timeline on this one, there are fewer comments to spotlight for this post. Cow, however, did share a tiny SeaBus secret (and thank you Cow for sharing — I know you were reticent to put it up!).

I almost hesitate to post this, since it feels like a SeaBus secret, but my favourite seat is up front, but the seats backed against the front row of front-facing seats (the third row of seats, if you think of it that way), and all the way to the end of the row. Everyone rushes the front-facing seats, ignoring the back-facing ones, so it’s easy to get, and if you turn and sit sideways you can both look to the front and off to the side without getting in anyone’s way (since you’re at the end of the row and there’s extra space for gathering for the exit doors).

Plus, there’s no urge to rush the doors when you’re approaching the other side; once the SeaBus docks and the doors open, you just stand up and you’ve already got a place right near the front of the line.


All right, new poll time!

If you hold onto something (or someone!) else, feel free to mention it in the comments :)

Fleet Overhaul Series, Part 2 of 6: Panel fabrication

A template for a bus body panel that fits over a wheel.

A template for a bus body panel that fits over a wheel.

Here is the second in a six-part series about Fleet Overhaul, the vehicle maintenance centre down at Burnaby Transit Centre. (Check out the first article, which talks about the body shop at Fleet Overhaul.)

Did you know that Fleet Overhaul makes all of the aluminum body panels for the vehicles in the fleet?

We started making our own body panels a long time ago, so we can easily get panels for repair jobs or bus overhauls.

As body, paint, and trim manager Jack McKenna explains, it’s tough for bus manufacturers to build and send you the panels themselves, since they’re either using all the panels they have to build more buses, or they’re just generally busy.

Read more »

Retired trolleys in purple and red!

Just wanted to point out another post from Jorge Luis Guevara: it shows two trolleys in purple and red paint schemes, in their new home in Mendoza, Argentina. How lovely!

And as always, here are the past posts on the retired trolleys in their new home:

First phase of the Olympic transportation plan released

Hey, the Olympic and Paralympic Transportation Team has released the first part of their integrated transportation plan this morning.

With thousands of Olympic visitors expected, the team is laying out the transportation challenges they will face, and the travel smart tips that you’ll need to get around the region okay during February 2010.

Take a look at the full press release for many of the details. Edit: The official transportation plan page is now up on the 2010 website too, with a giant PDF full of specifics.

There’s going to be a significant boost in public transit to help manage the huge crowds expected and reduce single occupancy vehicle traffic on the roads.

If you have questions or comments, send them to, as that’s where the Olympic Transportation team will be able to answer you.

As well, check out many of the plan’s highlights at Ken Hardie’s Twitter account – he’s our director of communications, and he’s tweeting from the press conference this morning. (Edit: The Sun and the Province have stories up now too.)

Ken is a key part of the Transportation Team and will be using Twitter to do key updates about the Olympic plan: if you’re interested, subscribe to his 2010 Transit feed, or again, his own Ken Hardie feed.

The Transportation Team is made up of VANOC, the City of Vancouver, Resort Municipality of Whistler, TransLink, BC Transit, the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit. Planning is also supported by other partners, including Transport Canada and the municipalities of Richmond and West Vancouver.

Over the next few months, detailed planning will continue, including fine-tuning plans in the Lower Mainland and Sea to Sky corridor.

Fleet Overhaul Series, Part 1 of 6: The body shop

An articulated bus getting a mid-life overhaul down at Fleet Overhaul, the conventional bus maintenance centre down at Burnaby Transit Centre.

An articulated bus getting a mid-life overhaul down at Fleet Overhaul, the conventional bus maintenance centre down at Burnaby Transit Centre.

So, this is the first in a six-part series about Fleet Overhaul, the vehicle maintenance centre down at Burnaby Transit Centre.

Let me be frank: Fleet Overhaul is pretty much mindblowing.

A huge team of incredibly talented mechanics and tradespeople work there to keep the articulated and conventional bus fleet in good working order. The phrase “vehicle maintenance” just barely hints at what they do, which includes the following:

  • mid-life overhauls on vehicles that are eight to 10 years old (that is, they restore the whole vehicle to good as new condition, so they will last another eight to 10 years)
  • repairs to articulated and conventional buses involved in major vehicle accidents
  • totally rebuilding engines and transmissions for vehicles that have done over 800,000-900,000 km
  • programming the destination signs so they display custom messages like “Go Canucks Go”
  • constructing almost all the body parts for conventional buses in the fleet
  • warehouse storage and inventory control for all vehicle parts
  • and even more, if you can believe that

(I should mention that Fleet Overhaul only takes care of articulated and conventional buses—community shuttle repairs are done elsewhere.)

I was really lucky to go on a tour of the facility a few weeks ago, so in this series, I’ll share lots of behind-the-scenes photos and video to let you see just what they do there.

We’ll start with the body shop!

Read more »

Canada Line stations… in LEGO!

YVR Station, built in LEGO by the Vancouver LEGO Club! This model is now on display at Science World’s LEGO exhibition, Wheels, Wings and Waves—a LEGO® World of Transportation. (Photo by <a href=>Tim Tosino</a>.)

YVR Station, built in LEGO by the Vancouver LEGO Club! This model is now on display at Science World’s LEGO exhibition, Wheels, Wings and Waves—a LEGO® World of Transportation. (Photo by Tim Tosino.)

Check out Science World’s LEGO exhibition to see two Canada Line stations modeled in the famous building blocks — YVR-Airport and King Edward Stations!

These station models debuted last Saturday, Mar. 7 to expand the existing exhibition, which originally launched in January.

I’m waiting for more on the King Edward replica, but right now I can share lots of background on the YVR model.

Read more »

Retired trolleys get a new look in Argentina

A retired TransLink trolley has been painted into the colours of the Mendoza, Argentina system!

A retired TransLink trolley has been painted into the colours of the Mendoza, Argentina system!

Jorge Luis Guevara, our dear friend from the Mendoza, Argentina transit system, has posted photos of the Flyer trolleys painted in their new colours!

Check out all the photos at Trolebuses Mendocinos, Jorge’s blog about the trolley system in Mendoza. As well, make sure to watch the video in that post. It shows the the newly blue trolleys driving on the streets, and takes a good look at the updated interiors, where the seats have been reupholstered in grey. (It’s pretty!)

Again, thank you to Jorge for keeping us updated on the trolleys’ progress!

Here’s are the past posts on the retired trolleys:

Snow service update for 9:40 a.m.

The 130 at Metrotown Loop was carrying a layer of snow this morning.

The 130 at Metrotown Loop was carrying a layer of snow this morning.

Not only did we lose an hour on Sunday, but there’s snow this morning? What a day…

Anyway, so far, snow and icy conditions on roads around Metro Vancouver are affecting bus service throughout the region.

Problem areas include Granville Street, 41st Avenue, any south slope hills in Vancouver and Burnaby (although the #20 is still making it to Harrison Loop at this time), and Westwood Plateau in Coquitlam — Community Shuttles serving the area are being held at the base of the hill.

Here’s some regional specifics:

Surrey – the #314 line is avoiding hills at 124 & 96, 123 & 100.

Richmond – No known major issues in Richmond. But the 98 B-Line is encountering major delays on the Granville corridor.

Port Coquitlam/Coquitlam/Maple Ridge/Port Moody – Community bus is not attempting to access Westwood Plateau. Service is terminating at Poco Stn. Mariner is clear.

North Vancouver – Roads are mostly cleared with some minor delays.

Vancouver – #7, #16, and #20 line are experiencing delays.

West Vancouver – All service on regular route


Due to the increasing snow fall in the greater Vancouver area HandyDART has reduced service in the New Westminster, Coquitlam, Maple Ridge and south of the Fraser River to essential medical services only for this morning. Stay tuned for an update this afternoon (the weather forecast promises the snow will stop by then, but we’ll see).

As always, we appreciate your patience during such inclement weather. Please remember to dress warmly and be aware you might have to walk if your bus is forced to turn around earlier than expected.

Belated Friday fun poll: where do you like to sit on the SeaBus?

(Yarrgh — I didn’t realize this got stuck in the backend last Friday! Anyway, here is the belated Friday fun poll from last week.)

Last week, I asked if you stood up early on the bus when you got close to your stop, if you happened to be in a seat in a full bus.

With 97 votes counted, the result is a blowout in favour of standing up ahead of time — 78 per cent said they get out of their seat and head into the aisle early, so they are all set to get off the bus. The remaining 22 per cent say they stay seated and wait for the bus to get to the stop before making their way off the bus.

I’m obviously not a good predictor of these polls — I thought we’d have a much more even showing between the two sides. Personally, I’m with the minority for this one, as I don’t like shoving into people and making their transit experience uncomfortable while we’re in transit—plus I always feel like everyone on the bus will help keep the doors open if I’m struggling to get to the exit.

LisaB was also on the sitters on this one, as she explained in the comments:

Dude, I deal with this EVERY day – the people who stand up (in a crowded bus where there is no room for them to stand up) and make a commotion to get to the door blocks (and minutes) ahead of their stop. If they would just wait – since 70% of the people on the bus are getting off at the stop, there would be no need to push and shove and disrupt all the sardined people! Just relax and wait!

And Dan said that it really depended on many factors: whether you were on an express or local service, how full the bus is, where your stop is, and more. He wrote:

This really does take some thought and practice when you’re in the moment, though. Interacting with people in cities can sometimes be quite a chore — likening it to a logic puzzle is bang-on. Who needs Sudoku when you’re trying to calculate whether to give-up your seat, get-up before your stop, board through the front door of the B-Line to beat the rear-door crowds, get-off an express one stop early to do a running transfer to a local so you can save 5 minutes of walking, etc.?


New poll time! This one is a request from Eugene.

We settled on just two choices since there are so many possible places to sit on the SeaBus. But feel free to share in the comments if you have some specific SeaBus seats you like to sit in!