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A look at T-Comm, the Transit Communications centre

A glance at T-Comm, the Transit Communications centre out at the Surrey Transit Centre.

A glance at T-Comm, the Transit Communications centre out at the Surrey Transit Centre.

When a transit operator talks on their radio, have you ever wondered who’s answering at the other end?

It’s the men and women working at Transit Communications, which is located out at the Surrey Transit Centre.

T-Comm, as it’s often called, is like an air traffic control centre, but for public transit instead. Twenty-four hours a day, three to seven T-Comm supervisors are constantly monitoring the buses on the system. They manage the flow of bus traffic as much as possible, and provide information and support to operators as needed.

I was lucky enough to visit T-Comm, meet the fine folks who work there, and see their brand-new real-time communications system in action. So, let’s take a closer look and see what managing a bus system is all about!

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On Thursday at 6pm, transit will make some noise for the Olympics!

Trains, buses, and more will be making noise for the Olympics on Thursday! (Yes, I like writing speech bubbles for trains and buses.)

Trains, buses, and more will be making noise for the Olympics on Thursday! (Yes, I like writing speech bubbles for trains and buses.)

It’s one year to the 2010 Winter Olympics on Thursday, Feb. 12! The Olympics organizing committee is calling for our region to make some noise at 6 p.m. that day to recognize the milestone — and transit will be answering the call!

So at 6 p.m. tomorrow, all SkyTrain passengers will be encouraged to MAKE SOME NOISE. A pre-recorded announcement just prior to 6 p.m. will remind people to take part. Horns, cowbells, tambourines, and those paper thingies that you use at parties are more than welcome!

All West Coast Express trains en route at the time will also blow their whistles at 6 p.m., so people living and working along the WCE route should be aware that the whistles will sound in an unusual circumstance. Both SeaBuses will also join in the noisy event, blasting their horns at four bells of the “first dog watch.”

Coast Mountain buses will get into the Olympic Spirit, too. Beginning Thursday, the route destination signs will alternate with the words, “Countdown 2 Gold”. As the year progresses, the messages “Go Team Canada” and “Go Canada Go” will also be displayed.

I’ll make sure I’m on SkyTrain at 6pm to get some video. Feel free to send in your own pics and video too, if you see the buses, trains, and SeaBuses celebrating!

The Olympic and Paralympic Games are a unique opportunity for Metro Vancouver to welcome the world, and TransLink and its family of companies are excited and honoured to be part of it!

Capilano University interim transit exchange opens today

Capilano University students, your new interim transit exchange opened this morning!

Starting today, buses #130, #28 and #255 will be re-routed to the exchange, located off Monashee Drive, north of the Studio Art Building. (The #255 will be extended to the new exchange and will travel along Lillooet Road—#255 service at Old Lillooet Road and Mt Seymour Parkway will be discontinued.) Route #239 will remain on Purcell Way.

Here’s a PDF detailing the reroutes and some changes to local bus stops.

So why is it called an interim transit exchange?

Well, our ultimate goal is to build an exchange located at the centre of activity at Cap U, where students and customers want to be. We also want it to be integrated with surrounding land uses, and sized for mid-to-long term growth.

However, recent service increases associated with the January launch of the Vancity U-Pass program ramped up the need for a transit exchange. We had to develop a temporary solution, to make sure the extra buses and service were not disrupting the residents in the neighbourhood surrounding Capilano University.

So, we’ve created this interim exchange at a site that was available. It has a five-year expected capacity, based on current ridership growth assumptions. The interim facility will still have new shelters, garbage receptacles, and proper lighting to ensure everything is up to safety and accessibility standards.

During this time, we will work with area residents, the district of North Vancouver, and the University community to site and plan a longer-term facility. So, that’s why this current exchange is “interim” for now.

Main Street public art program has its official launch

In the midst of all this Pattullo news, I just wanted to mention that our first Main Street public art project had its official launch last Saturday. I put together the video above and the post below to showcase some of the sights and sounds from the launch, which was held at Vivo Media Arts Centre on Main Street.

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Pattullo Bridge update – 10 a.m Wednesday

(Ken Hardie’s YouTube video from 5:30 p.m. yesterday is above)

Morning all,

Not a huge amount of updates on the bridge status today. The biggest is that New Westminster is offering access to nearly 800 parking spots in the City’s Front Street parkade — you can leave your car overnight for $2 and use the SkyTrain as a shuttle between Surrey and New Westminster.

I am also told there is an announcement planned for 2 p.m., so I’ll update you when I get that info.

Transit appears to be running smoothly. The 4:30 start for SkyTrain went well. Loads are considered light – there’s lots of room at this hour, if people want to head out early.

In Surrey there are a couple of reroutes off 152 and 108 on 104. Plans are also in place to divert buses around heavy traffic (there should already be signs in place on stops that advise customers where to go to catch their bus if the traffic in their area is not moving).

Plus, the de-icer truck and 12-16 ice-cutting trolleys worked well overnight to keep the trolley wires clear. There aren’t any trolley ice troubles at this time — hurray!

And for fun, Rebecca over at Miss604.com has a post about the history of the Pattullo bridge and its namesake, Premier Duff Pattullo.

One more thing — I’ve launched a Twitter account for the Buzzer blog! Currently it’s providing blog updates via Twitterfeed but it may get more active in the future… we’ll see what kind of time and exciting updates I have to offer. I also posted a comment yesterday that you might be interested in — it refers to the status of issuing customer alerts on Twitter. That information crystallized for us last week, so that’s why I’m only reporting on it now.

Profile: Tafyrn & Seamora Palecloud, Canada Line construction photographers

A double rainbow over the Operations and Maintenance Centre --- one of the many fabulous photos found at Canada Line Photography.

A double rainbow over the Canada Line's Operations and Maintenance Centre --- one of the many fabulous photos found at Canada Line Photography.

For Friday, here’s the second profile in a series on Lower Mainland transit enthusiasts — our first was on the Trans Vancouver bus photo archive.

Look up “Canada Line photos” in Google, and the first hit you’ll get is Canada Line Photography, an enormous repository of terrific photographs chronicling the train line’s construction.

There are two people behind the site, Tafyrn and Seamora Palecloud, who were kind enough to do an interview with me for the Buzzer blog. (And I did ask about their unusual names: Tafyrn just laughed, saying, “As you probably know, it’s good practice not to use our real names on the internet.”)

So, here’s the interview, and sprinkled throughout you’ll find some of the Canada Line photos that Tafyrn and Seamora consider favourites—they link back to related pages from the Canada Line photo blog, too.

Tafyrn, Seamora — thanks again so much for helping me put this together!

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Look, the #125 is going strong so far

The lineup for the #125 at BCIT.

The lineup for the #125 at BCIT.

Hey—the #125, which you might remember as a trial route launched in our December service changes, is actually showing excellent ridership so far. Just thought we’d showcase some pics of the growing lineups hopping on!

Why is the #125 a trial run? The key issue was (and continues to be) bus congestion at the Metrotown loop. With the #125, we were trying to give BCIT riders another option to connect to the SkyTrain line, and reduce the number of buses going to Metrotown. We were going to look for another solution if the bus wasn’t popular, but so far, the bus route is turning out to be in high demand. The #125 was also established partly at the suggestion of our operators, too—great work there!

The #125 runs every 10 minutes on Monday through Friday during peak periods only. Here’s a few more photos.

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CMBC’s Snow Plan

Trolleys stuck in the snow on Main Street, January 4, 2009. Photo by the indefatigable Terry Muirhead. (Thanks Terry for all the photos you send in!)

Trolleys stuck in the snow on Main Street, January 4, 2009. Photo by the indefatigable Terry Muirhead.

Okay, again as requested in the comments from the first entry of 2009, readers Dan, Sungsu and Coffee Barista were interested in seeing the snow plans from SkyTrain and CMBC.

I’ve posted SkyTrain’s snow plan, and now here’s the snow plan from CMBC.

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Well, if it’s not snowing, it’s flooding. How does this affect transit?

(Watch the clip to hear Drew Snider give an update on transit service from 7:15 a.m. — or just read below.)

As many of you might have heard by now, Environment Canada has issued a major rainfall warning for our region until mid-Thursday. Combined with the huge amount of melting snow lying around, that could mean major flooding in Metro Vancouver. (Here’s an article from The Province on the matter, too.)

For us, the anticipated flooding may well cause transit problems thoughout the Lower Mainland today.

As of 7:15 a.m., there are a couple of bus routes already detouring in Surrey:
– #320 turns off Fraser Highway onto 176, then onto 58th Ave (and the reverse in the other direction)
– #395 detours via 64th Ave., 176 and Fraser Hwy.

In North Vancouver, #230 is still turning around at Rockland & Prospect; the #210 is turning around at Dempsey & Underwood: both due to road conditions.

In West Vancouver, the #254 British Properties is still on partial snow route, leaving out St Andrew’s and Bonnymuir. Update at 11:10 a.m.: It’s now back on regular route.

HandyDART is running full service throughout the region, but is encountering some road closures due to high standing water.

Everyone on the system should expect larger than normal passenger volumes, as a lot of private vehicles are still snowed in on side streets. Please dress for the elements and expect the occasional heavy load passup. And a big thank you all for your patience and understanding during this trying time of weather-related woes!

I’ll keep you updated on the Buzzer blog if anything changes. You can also see the latest updates at our Customer Alerts page or our Youtube info stream.

P.S. Feel free to send along any photos of the heavy rainfall as the day continues. I’ll post them up on the blog along with later updates.

Hello 2009! Er… why is the snow still here?

The packed walkway between Commercial and Broadway Stations.

The packed walkway between Commercial and Broadway Stations.

Happy new year to you all on our first day back from Christmas holidays!

It’s a busy day for public transit, as most everyone is back to work or school today, but our crews are working hard to keep the system going. My own morning commute wasn’t too bad. Bus service was a bit slower but definitely consistent, and while Broadway Station was packed (as you can see in my photo to the right), the longer trains were slowly but surely moving the crowds out to their destinations.

And here’s the official transit updates as of 10:30 a.m:

SKYTRAIN
SkyTrain is running longer trains, with wider gaps between them, to get as close to full capacity as possible. All trains are staffed by SkyTrain Attendants for safety purposes. Platform management procedures are in place at Broadway and Metrotown stations.

BUS
Most routes are starting to return to normal as the snow continues to melt and the roads clear. Articulated buses are now back in service on the #3 Main, 98 B-Line and #135 SFU, as well as the 99 B-Line to UBC, which had always been using the longer buses.

Mariner Way in Coquitlam is back open, but there may be some service disruptions still at higher elevations, particularly those areas served by Community Shuttles.

WEST VAN BLUE BUS
#253 Caulfeild has returned to its regular route. All other routes are open, except #254 British Properties – on snow route.

ALBION FERRY
Is operating full service

HANDYDART
Essential services only – medical calls and as many work calls as possible. Remember that, while conventional buses use main roads, HandyDART uses side-streets as well, and may get stuck, as many buses were last night.

Again, thank you all for your patience and understanding during this trying time. Remember you can grab the latest updates at our Customer Alerts page or our Youtube info stream.

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day holiday service and fares

And now, here’s the overview of transit service and fares during the New Year holiday!

For more details, please visit the TransLink website or call 604-953-3333 for more information. (I’m on holiday until Jan. 5, so I won’t be able to respond to your comments.)

New Year’s Eve – Wednesday, Dec. 31

Regular weekday fares until 5 pm, then free service.

Buses will operate on a regular weekday schedule, with extended late-night service on a number of routes.

SkyTrain and SeaBus will extend late-night service by one hour, with the last train and ferry leaving Waterfront Station at 2:20 a.m.

West Coast Express afternoon trains will depart from downtown at 1:00, 3:00, 4:50, 5:30 and 6:20 plus the regular TrainBus service.

New Year’s Day – Thursday, Jan. 1

Regular holiday fares in effect — only a single-zone fare is needed for travel in all zones all day. As well, on a Sunday or holiday, all passengers with an adult FareCard, West Coast Express 28-Day Pass, or Annual Employer Transit Pass can take either five children, or one adult and four children on transit with them for free.

Buses, SeaBus and SkyTrain will operate on regular Sunday/ holiday schedules.

There will be no West Coast Express service on New Year’s Day.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Public art hits the road on Main Street

The two sides of the afghan-wrapped articulated trolley that will be travelling the #3 route. (Click for a larger version!)

The two sides of the afghan-wrapped articulated trolley that will be travelling the #3 route. (Click for a larger version!)

Note: I’m still on holiday until Jan. 5. This post was scheduled to launch before I left!

Watch out for an articulated trolley wrapped in an afghan print travelling on the #3 Main route on Monday. It’s the first sign of a Main Street public art program that’s been in the making for over three years.

This program is called 88 BLOCKS • Art on Main, and it’s part of the Main Street Urban Transportation Showcase project, an innovative transportation improvement program launched in 2004 and jointly funded by Transport Canada (through the Urban Transportation Showcase Program), TransLink and the City of Vancouver. (Check out the official Main Street Showcase page for more on the project.)

The public art is just one of many measures in a broad package of improvements being installed to give people a better transportation experience on Main Street.

Urban design, new transit technology, and a fleet of new buses all contribute to a more efficient transit system and make Main Street more welcoming for pedestrians and transit riders, in turn serving the ultimate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

So far, the project has brought Main Street some new street furniture, sidewalk improvements, and the new articulated trolleys on the #3 route. In the coming months the busiest stops on the route will be fitted with next-bus information and on-bus technology will ‘talk’ with traffic signals to help keep the buses on time.

One of the sandwich boards that make up Instant Coffee's permanent Main Street artwork.

One of the sandwich boards that make up Instant Coffee's permanent Main Street artwork.

For the public art program, an artist collective called Instant Coffee is behind the afghan design on the bus, as well as a few more art works that will also crop up on Main Street.

One of those upcoming works is a trolley containing 20 artworks in place of its interior ads, commissioned from artists from North, Central and South America and Europe. You’ll be able to vote for your favourite piece of artwork at Instant Coffee’s website or through text messaging, and the winning card will be blown up and put on the outside of a third trolley in January.

Another Instant Coffee work is a series of brightly-coloured sandwich boards bearing hand-painted slogans permanently installed up and down Main Street.

And in addition to the Instant Coffee installation, 88 BLOCKS will present four more art installations over the next three years, wrapping up by April 2011.

Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day holiday service and fares

Here’s the overview of holiday service and fares for this week!

For more details, please visit the TransLink website or call 604-953-3333 for more information. (I’m on holiday until Jan. 5, so I won’t be able to respond to your comments.)

Christmas Eve – Wednesday, Dec. 24

Regular weekday fares in effect

West Coast Express afternoon trains depart downtown at 1:00, 3:00, 4:50, 5:30 and 6:20, plus the regular TrainBus service.

Christmas Day – Thursday, Dec. 25

Regular holiday fares in effect — only a single-zone fare is needed for travel in all zones all day. As well, on a Sunday or holiday, all passengers with an adult FareCard, West Coast Express 28-Day Pass, or Annual Employer Transit Pass can take either five children, or one adult and four children on transit with them for free.

Most bus routes will run according to their Sunday/holiday schedules; however, some routes will also run with further frequency modifications.

SkyTrain and SeaBus will run on a Sunday/holiday schedule.

There will be no West Coast Express service on Christmas Day.

Boxing Day – Friday, Dec. 26

Regular holiday fares in effect—see Dec. 25 entry for more info.

Most bus routes will run according to Sunday/holiday schedules. Service frequency will be enhanced for routes that serve major shopping destinations and entertainment venues.

SkyTrain will run according to its Saturday schedule, but will feature more frequent service during midday to accommodate shopping crowds.

SeaBus will run according to a Sunday/holiday schedule, but will extend late-night service according to a Saturday schedule.

There will be no West Coast Express service on Boxing Day.

Merry Christmas and good luck with the shopping!

Retired trolleys make their way to Mendoza

One of our retired trolleys on a flatbed truck, arriving in Guaymallen, Argentina en route to Mendoza.

One of our retired trolleys on a flatbed truck, arriving in Guaymallen, Argentina en route to Mendoza.

Thanks to the kindness of Jorge Luis Guevara, we have pictures of our retired trolleys arriving in Argentina on Friday, Dec. 5!

(Recap for those new to the story: we sold 80 of our retired high-floor trolleys to Mendoza, Argentina. Older stories on the trolleys’ voyage to South America can be found here, here, and here.)

Jorge works for Empresa Provincial de Transportes de Mendoza (EPTM), the transit agency who bought our trolleys. He’s promised to send more photos of the buses during their journey in the Andes, too!

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Version 1.1 of TransLink’s iPhone App is now out

The updated iPhone app features Google Maps integration!

The updated iPhone app features Google Maps integration!

Hey, version 1.1 of TransLink’s iPhone app is now available!

Version 1.1 is both an update of our original iPhone app and an update to our mobile site, adding new features and fixing some old bugs. If you have the app installed, it should already be updated on your phone, and you’ll find it includes:

  • Google Maps integration
    Instead of using PDF maps, Google Maps are now integrated into the app. Google Maps are more interactive maps that can display data like bus routes and stops, unlike a static PDF.
  • Full-text search
    You can now search for bus stops using full text, instead of inputting specific bus stop ID numbers. For example, search for “Burrard” and you’ll get a list of bus stops related to Burrard Street.
  • More information about bus stops
    Bus stops are now marked with directional information (westbound, eastbound, etc) to help users figure out which stop on an intersection they are looking for.
  • Location-awareness, to help you find nearby bus stops
    Tap the bus icon and if GPS is enabled on your phone, the app will automatically locate the closest bus stops to you. (This feature was included when the app moved to the App Store.)
  • The Buzzer blog!
    Huzzah! A big hello to all of you who reached the blog through the app today!
  • And of course, multiple bug fixes and interface improvements

As always, our iPhone app and the improvements are the handiwork of Handi Mobility, who develops the app for TransLink. And if you haven’t read it yet, here again is a past interview with Igor Faletski from Handi on the development of the iPhone app. Igor also mentioned why the app is mainly focused on iPhone customers at the moment in another comment thread:

While a lot of phones support Java, only a little fraction of them have data services enabled. On the contrary, 98% of iPhone users actively access the Internet. Moreover, the demographics of RIM and Symbian users in Vancouver do not match the transit rider population in a way that the iPhone does.

We carefully measure the stats of the universal mobile portal at http://m.translink.ca and iPhone users are the absolute majority there, with RIM being in a very distant second place. It’s a priority for us to provide service to everyone, but at the same time we work hard to improve the quality for those who use it the most.

Did you know, by the way, that TransLink is the first Canadian transit system to create its own iPhone app? I found that out from a post by Greg Andrews over at Techvibes. Greg also says that the Toronto and Montreal transit systems have third-party iPhone apps that cost $1.99 and $0.99 respectively. Ours, on the other hand, is free.

Also, here’s a few updated stats on how the rest of our mobile and web services are doing. Woo!

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