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Go By Bike Week: mapping your route and the “slow” streets movement

Cyclists on Hornby Street in Vancouver

While transit ridership is down in most cities around the globe you might have noticed more people out walking, cycling and breathing in the fresh air!

In the latest in our series to support HUB Cycling’s Go By Bike Week, we take a look some of the changes to streets happening locally and around the world, as well as some trip planning tools and recommended routes to make sure you can get around Metro Vancouver actively and safely.

Is it me or have I been seeing lots of people out walking and cycling?

It’s not just you! While active commuting trips and commuting trips of all types have decreased during the pandemic, recreational cycling trips are up significantly in cities like Vancouver (an 85 per cent increase during March).

Similar increases have been seen across the globe — in Beijing, New York and London — as people look to stay active, commute to work were needed, and take important mental health and physical activity breaks.

Parks in B.C. have witnessed a 62 per cent increase in visitations in May while in the Lower Mainland, Metro Vancouver parks are seeing similar activity with a 67 per cent increase to the end of April 2020.

What’s happening to streets around Metro Vancouver and the globe?

Now you might have been hearing terms like “COVID streets,” “summer streets” or “slow streets.” Local, federal and global physical distancing regulations have sparked conversation around reallocating more road, park and sidewalk space for people to walk, cycle, roll, sit and queue safely. With traffic decreasing during the pandemic, that’s meant cities around the world have moved to turn car lanes into active transportation lanes.

Cities such as Vancouver (50km of slow streets), Oakland, California (119km of slow streets), Portland, Oregon (slow/safe streets at 160 locations), Milan (35km of Strade Aperte [open roads]) and Paris (50km converted bike streets and 30 pedestrianized streets) have reacted rapidly to re-allocate space for cars, to people.

Locally, the City of Vancouver has launched its Room to Move, Room to Queue and Room to Load initiative, installing new routes that prioritize walking, cycling and rolling to make it easier for people to exercise and access businesses in their local neighbourhood.

The city has closed the eastbound lanes on Beach Avenue to all vehicles from Stanley Park to Hornby Street, as well as closing Stanley Park to all vehicles (excluding the Stanley Park Causeway/Highway 99).

To find out more about these developing changes visit the city’s temporary road closures and changes during COVID-19 page, have a read of their FAQs on Slow Streets, or email the city directly: slowstreets@vancouver.ca

What are some things to keep in mind when planning my bike trip?

TransLink recommends using routes with dedicated cycling infrastructure separated from motor vehicles, such as bike lanes, as much as possible. To map out your cycling route, there are a few tools we recommend.

1. Visit TransLink’s Cycling Maps page to view several major TransLink-funded cycleways running parallel to SkyTrain routes.

2. Use Google Maps for trip planning and the estimated time it will take you, but please be mindful, particularly beginner cyclists, that Google Maps does not always recommend the safest cycling routes or take new and existing protected infrastructure into account. If you want to make sure you’re accessing cycling routes for all ages and abilities, please check out these other trip planning platforms:

3. Vancouver Bike Route Planner allows you to filter for “bike routes” and “safer” bike routes as well as a full list of SkyTrain stations, Mobi Bike Share stations and elevation gains.

4. Bikemaps.org is a useful mapping tool that also allows you to filter through new cycling infrastructure, collisions reports, hazards and bike thefts.

5. Bike Citizens Vancouver Did you know that nearly half of all trips under 5 km in Metro Vancouver are made by car? Many of these trips for groceries, prescriptions, and other essentials can easily be done by bicycle. In fact, running errands by bike for trips of this distance is often faster and more convenient than driving. Bicycles are one of the most efficient forms of transport so if you want to SEE how far you can go on a city bike, road bike or mountain bike over 5, 10, 15, and 30-minute increments, check out this handy mapping tool. You might be surprised!

What are other cities in Metro Vancouver doing to open streets?

For a full list of temporary streets changes during COVID please visit your municipality’s website for the most recent updates. In the meantime, here are a few that have been confirmed in the Lower Mainland:

New Westminster

  • McInnes Overpass – Closed the northbound vehicle lane to vehicles, opening it to pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Sixth Avenue – reallocated some curbside parking spaces on Sixth Street (near Sixth Avenue) to a place where pedestrians can wait for the traffic lights to change and pass one another on the sidewalk.
  • Central Valley GW – Closing a southbound curb lane on East Columbia Street / North Rd north of Hume Park to motor vehicles to improve conditions for people walking and cycling along the Central Valley Greenway.

City of North Vancouver

  • Grand Boulevard – Converted road space west between Keith and 19th and Grand Boulevard between 19th and 23rd (these routes are also appropriate for commuting traffic to and from Lynn valley to central Lonsdale).
  • Proposed – All local neighbourhood routes with low traffic volumes (St Andrews, 17th, 4th, 27th and Sutherland)
    • Esplanade, Lonsdale with focus at the intersections of 13th, 15th, 17th streets.
    • Existing bike routes that do not facilitate passing with physical distance without taking the vehicle travel lane: 3rd and 15th streets, 1st/2nd Street west of 3rd, East and West Keith, 13th Street.

Maple Ridge

  • Proposed
    • 123 St Avenue between 203 St to Laity St
    • 227 St between Brown Avenue and Abernethy Way

Port Moody

  • Recommended Routes
    • Neighbourhood bike routes: George Street, Glenayre Drive, Glencoe Drive, Ailsa Drive, College Park Way, Washington, Princeton Ave, Harvard Drive, as well as the Shoreline Trail (some portions are one way only).

Richmond

  • Bayview Street – Established temporary walkway in Steveston Village along the south side of (No. 1 Road-Third Avenue) that provides additional space for safe distancing.
  • Garry Point Park – Implemented one-way walking routes in Garry Point Park in
  • Other recommended routes – Railway Greenway, Railway Ave (Granville Ave-Moncton St), Crabapple Ridge Neighbourhood Bike Route, Granville Ave (Railway Ave-Garden City Road), Parkside Neighbourhood Bike Route, Shell Road Trail (Hwy 99 Overpass-Steveston Hwy)
  • Perimeter Dyke Trails: South Dyke, West Dyke, Middle Arm

Surrey

  • Proposed
    • Surrey reports a 40% decrease in traffic volumes and is exploring 7-8 ‘recreational’ cycling routes around the city to connect to civic facilities, parks and close roads around parks to create loops.

UBC

  • Proposed
    • North West Marine Drive

City of Vancouver

  • Stanley Park – close to cars (some exceptions apply)
  • Beach Avenue – Eastbound lane closed to vehicles on Beach Ave (including Park Lane) from Stanley Park to Hornby St.
  • From May 22, Vancouver is added a further 12km of Slow Streets. Visit the website for more information.

Author: James Ranson

Knight Street Bridge is ready to support the restart of BC’s economy

Cars and trucks crossing the Knight Street Bridge

We are excited to announce that the Knight Street Bridge’s Rehabilitation Project is now complete and the bridge is ready to support the restart of BC’s economy.

Bridges play a vital role in the movement of goods and people in our region. The movement of goods includes anything from the shipment of produce to local grocery stores and food to your doorsteps to components and materials required to manufacture finished products, such as plexiglass partitions and protective barriers.

Together with various modes like roads, waterways, rail facilities and air and sea ports, bridges form an intricate network that enables us to access essential goods and services so that we can carry on with our day-to-day lives.

The Knight Street Bridge (2020)

Everyday about 100,000 vehicles cross the Knight Street Bridge, the second busiest bridge in the Lower Mainland. The bridge acts as the main corridor from Downtown Vancouver terminals to industry in North and South Richmond North as well as the Tilbury Industrial area out to Delta Port. Many of these are trucks support the goods movement in/between the region and the rest of Canada/US.

On the regular days, you are most likely to encounter various trucks delivering containers from the ports in Vancouver, Seattle and Tacoma to destinations in British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon Territory as well as Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. Even during the pandemic, the bridge continues to play an essential role in the movement of goods.

The Knight Street Bridge was opened on January 15, 1974. To ensure safe and efficient operations for all bridge users, we conduct significant rehabilitation work of this nature approximately once every ten to 15 years, in addition to ongoing maintenance, as a part of TransLink Maintenance and Repair Program. This work also safeguards the bridge from the effects of climate change and allows for seismic preparedness and resilience.

The 2020 Knight Street Bridge Rehabilitation Project commenced in January and was conducted overnight from 10 p.m and 5 p.m to minimize the impact on bridge users. The work included:

    • Concrete pier repairs, bearing and expansion joint replacement
    • Replacement of signage, including warning signs, regulatory signs and pedestrian crosswalks signs
    • Lighting upgrades for better visibility and energy efficiency
    • Replacement of crash cushions (impact attenuators)

We have recently successfully completed the upgrades on time, just as the province announced the plan for easing COVID-19 restrictions. The Knight Street Bridge is refreshed and ready to support the gradual restart of our economy. Learn more about TransLink’s role in Metro Vancouver’s goods movement by checking out Regional Goods Movement Strategy.

A sneak peek at the redesigned bus transfers for community shuttle buses

The new bus transfer customers will receive on community shuttle buses starting on June 1.

Starting Monday, June 1, fare collection and front-door boarding resumes on all buses, and seating restrictions will be eased. Customers who ride a bus route that’s operated by a community shuttle will also see a redesigned bus transfer if they’re paying by cash.

What’s new?

  • New transfers use a colour and icon system to show the day the transfer can be used. Our old transfers printed each date on the ticket.
  • There are five colours and five symbols that will alternate each day.
  • They are also reusable. Using symbols instead of dates allows us to reuse transfers that aren’t distributed each day, reducing waste across the system.

What’s the same?

They’ll work just like the current paper transfers on community shuttle buses.

Operators will provide customers who pay their fare with coins, bills or FareSavers, with a new transfer tickets that’s cut to indicate a time 90 minutes in the future. The ticket then becomes a “flash pass” for transfers to other shuttles and regular, conventional buses. That means you won’t need to insert the transfer into the farebox — just show it to the operator. As usual, please have an exact fare.

Just like before, customers who are planning to transfer to SkyTrain, West Coast Express or the SeaBus should consider using a Compass Card or Tap to Pay with a contactless credit card as the paper bus transfers don’t open the faregates. As well, a reminder if you’re paying by cash, we recommend you keep paying with exact change as the fare boxes don’t dispense it.

The current bus transfers issued on community shuttle buses.

Why the change?

While we continue to replace and expand our fleet, we needed a solution for our end-of-life fareboxes.

Last year, we transitioned our Community Shuttle fleet to “mechanical” fareboxes. In July, the same fareboxes will start appearing on our regular, conventional buses too, replacing the “electronic” fareboxes. Soon, our whole fleet will be rocking this back-to-the-future-style machine.

The paper transfers we currently use on our Community Shuttle fleet won’t work with our conventional fleet, so, we developed a new paper transfer ticket compatible with both fleets (pictured right/above).

The bus transfers from the 1990s before the switch to the “magnetic strip” transfers in 2001.

COVID-19 transit safety tip

Customers are reminded to consider travelling outside of busy times if they can and to stay home when unwell. We’re recommending customers to wear a face covering when riding transit. Non-medical masks, bandanas, scarves and cloth can all be used. Please maintain physical distance from other passengers and transit staff when possible and follow our physical distancing markers where outlined. To reduce the risks caused by the pandemic, we installed new temporary barriers on our bus fleet. There will be a slot in the barrier for our operators to safely hand cash paying customers their paper transfer.

Fare collection and front-door boarding to resume, bus seating restrictions eased

On Monday, June 1, Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) will resume fare collection and front-door boarding on buses throughout the region. Bus seating restrictions will also be eased, and buses will be able to accommodate approximately two-thirds capacity before being deemed full.

The increase in passenger capacity on buses will allow CMBC to accommodate the growing number of customers who are returning to the transit system, in alignment with British Columbia’s Restart Plan. CMBC has restored bus schedules to what they were before the COVID-19 pandemic to add as much capacity as possible. However, with bus ridership increasing by more than 30% over the past month, demand cannot be met with the current seating arrangements.

These necessary steps are being taken following the installation of temporary plexiglass extension barriers or vinyl barriers on all buses to protect transit operators.

Physical distancing will not always be possible on transit and that’s why TransLink is encouraging customers to take the following steps to protect themselves and their fellow passengers:

  • Do not take transit when sick.
  • Travel at off-peak times whenever possible.
  • Wear a non-medical mask or face covering while waiting for or taking transit if you’re able to do so.
  • Use bus seating when possible so operators can best estimate the number of customers on board.
  • Allow more time for your commute.

As part of the Safe Operating Action Plan announced last week, CMBC has doubled bus disinfecting sprays to twice per week in addition to daily cleaning schedules. Customers will also notice changes at transit hubs designed to create space where possible, including installing two-metre spaced decals at some bus stops and station entranceways to help guide customers.

Go by Bike Week: what do you need to know about buying an e-bike

Electric bikes have never been more popular than they are now! Interest is e-bikes is booming and for good reason.

More people of different backgrounds and ages and abilities are finding that e-bikes are helping them stay mobile. Whether that’s seniors or people who find conventional biking difficult or impossible or others who just like the technology and don’t mind a little help getting up that last hill.

E-bikes are fun to ride, help to erase hills in our hilly region and can extend the range that the average rider would have considered. Not to mention they’re good for hauling stuff!

The technology has improved by leaps and bounds, improving the quality of manufacturing and bringing the price of entry level e-bikes down to around $2,000 — about one-quarter the annual cost of owning a car.

The diversity of options has rapidly increased, and you’ll find electric options for nearly every flavour of bike – commuter, beach cruiser, folding and cargo bike.

“Electric bicycle” search popularity on Google Trends

What are the electric bike trends for 2020?

Watch this video find how the technology has evolved and what some of the hottest trends are.

What are some of the things you’ll need to keep in mind when you buy an e-bike?

Motor type: the biggest decision you’ll have to make is whether to purchase an electric bike with a hub motor or a mid-drive (or crank) motor. Hub motors sit in the middle of either your front or rear wheel. Mid-drive motors are housed between your pedals on the frame of your bike. Which is better is subject to an ongoing debate as both motor types have distinct pros and cons. To learn more, check out this video by Blue Monkey Bicycles or these motor guides from Bicycling.com, Canberra Electric Bicycles or Electric Bike Report.

Range: how far your battery will last depends on a number of variables, not the least of which are the specs of your e-bike. If you’re hauling cement blocks on a heavy cargo bike, uphill, against the wind, on gravel, in a rainstorm, your battery isn’t likely to last very long. And are you even pedalling? Many e-bikes come with throttle assist, which means no pedalling, but will drain your battery in a flash. To learn more about what affects e-bike range, check out this article by Really Good Ebikes or try your hand at Bosch’s slick range calculator for its mid-drive motors.

Weight: electric bikes come in a diversity of options, with some just a bit heavier than a conventional bike, with others weighing significantly more. When choosing an e-bike, it’s important to consider weight not only for riding, but also for other transport options. If you’re going to use a TransLink bus bike rack, keep in mind there is a 25 kg (55 lb) weight limit – and the battery should be removed. Other carriers also have weight and battery restrictions, including many common bike racks for automobiles, that you’ll want to keep in mind.

With the higher sticker price of e-bikes (hint, check your HUB member benefits for discounts to save a few bucks), always ensure you have access to secure storage. Buy the best lock you can afford (see lock reviews at bikeradar, GearLab, and Wirecutter), and register your bike for free at 529 Garage. Importantly, insurance options for e-bikes are available.

Just get out and try a ride! While buying an e-bike can seem complicated at first with all the technical options, you’ll get a feel for what works through test rides. Just have a clear understanding of how you’ll use the bike, what trade-off you’re willing to make and you’ll be zipping up hills in no time.

Can I convert my conventional bike to an electric?

Yes you can! Two local, popular vendors for conversion kits include EbikeBC and Grin Technologies. There’s also many more vendors online and an extensive DIY community. Just keep in mind that electric bike parts are often expensive and proprietary. Warranty, service, and repair should be top of mind for any purchase – and that goes for buying a used e-bike.

More resources

Reviews: Electric Bike Review has an in-depth guides and videos. Bicycling.com and BikeRadar also offer reviews on a variety of e-bikes.

Buying guides: REI has all the basics on how to choose an electric bike. And electrek’s guide is worth checking out since it’s aimed at first-time purchasers.

Where can I buy an electric bike in Metro Vancouver? Many of your favourite bike retailers will offer electric options alongside conventional models, but there are a retailers that specialize in electric bicycles:

Go By Bike Week: where to start when buying a bike

Bike sales are booming in Metro Vancouver. It’s no surprise.

“[People] need to get out of the house, they need to do something,” John Fialkowski, manager at Bicycle Sports Pacific, is quoted saying in a CBC article. “All of the gyms are closed, they can’t do their normal workout so people are rediscovering cycling.”

His store is among the Metro Vancouver bike shops experiencing daily lineups outside their doors before they open. Visit HUB Cycling’s website to find a bike shop near you that’s open.

What kind of bike should I buy?

The diversity of different bike options has exploded in different years as interest in the transportation mode has increased.

Whether you’re a first-time rider or an experienced bike user, whether you have short or long commutes, whether you want to cruise the beach, get to work, or haul groceries or your kids – there’s an option for you.

This is the most important question you need to consider. Among the types of bikes are are city, hybrid, road, step-through and folding bikes:

Types of bicycles (Photo: City of Boston)

The answer on what you’ll need will be driven by your travel needs and preferences.

How often and where will you be cycling – hills, paved roads or gravel? Do you value performance or comfort? Do aesthetics matter? Will you be cycling long distances, and/or carrying anything? What kind of weather will you be travelling in? What’s your budget?

The answers to these questions will inform the type of bike that will work best for you.

When it comes to bikes, we often must make trade-offs because there is no such thing as the perfect bike for every occasion.

For example, a bike you’d use to just commute to the office would probably look different from a bicycle you’d only use for long-distance and fast spins to Iona Beach. Although there are multipurpose bikes that are good for everything, but not great at anything.

Some good resources to consult include:

  • Bicycle Planet’s The Five Types of Bikes video
  • City of Boston’s Choose a Bike guide
  • MEC’s How to Buy a Bike page

Some other things to pay attention to:

  • Brakes: light and cheap or high-performance, read about brakes at MEC
  • Budget: while some bikes are quite expensive, for most people a few hundred dollars will be all you need. It’s important to weigh the costs of buying and maintaining a bicycle against car ownership, which averages about $10,000 per year per vehicle.
  • Thinking about buying a strictly commuter bike? See this video by Pure Cycles, which outlines the basics.
  • Thinking about buying a cargo bike? Sales of cargo bikes are increasing as more people and households replace their family cars with these stuff-hauling two-wheelers. Check out Momentum Magazine for cargo bike tips, reviews and buying guides.
  • Thinking about buying an electric bike? Electric Bike Review has great guides and videos. REI has all the basics on how to choose an electric bike.

Buying a bike doesn’t need to be expensive

Consider a used bike: Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, or places that sell pre-loved bikes like Our Community Bikes. Always ensure the bike you’re considering purchasing isn’t stolen by checking 529 Garage. For more information, Average Joe Cyclist has a complete guide on how to buy a used bike on Craigslist.

How should you check out a used bike prior to purchasing? For inspection tips, watch this Global Cycling Network video, read this article by Total Women’s Cycling, or use this checklist submitted by a Reddit user.

What about accessories?

Buying a bike is more than just picking up a bicycle, you’re also going to need to accessorize with essentials. Check out HUB’s Commuter Bike Shopping List to identify all the accessories you may need.

Perhaps the single most important accessory out there – a good u-lock! Prepare to shell out at least $50 if not $100 (or more) for peace of mind. Confused about which lock to buy? Check out these pages, which have scientifically tested dozens of locks on the market: bikeradarGearLab, and Wirecutter.

More low-floor community shuttles rolled out

49 new, low-floor community shuttles are now in service!

Exciting news for customers who take the bus on routes that are operated with community shuttles! Our roll out of 49 new “low floor” community shuttles, which began last October, is now complete. This means more customers will benefit from a sloped ramp — instead of stairs — making it easier for all our passengers to board the bus.

What’s new?

  • Low-floor access through the front door using a deployable ramp (no more stairs!)
  • Winch (electric motor with a cable/rope/strap) to help operators guide customers who are using mobility devices into the bus, if necessary
  • Initial field-testing surveys suggest these shuttles are quieter and vibrate less than their predecessors, leading to an improved customer experience
  • New shuttles are ~305mm from the ground while older shuttles (2014 Eldorado’s) are close to 1 foot higher at ~323mm from the ground
  • Higher ceilings in the new shuttles (2.16m in the front, 2.01m in the rear) compared to approximately 1.94m in the front and rear of the Eldorado’s
  • A redesigned interior layout which allows for easier access for mobility customers to enter and move around the shuttle
  • A dedicated HVAC unit (combined heating and air conditioning) which runs quieter and is more powerful than anything currently installed on any CMBC Community Shuttle
  • Larger windows and upgraded emergency exits
  • Improved seat covers that are more comfortable and easier to clean (identical to conventional buses)
  • Interior and exterior LED lights
  • A Vortec 6.0-litre fuel efficient, low-emission gas engine

TransLink first tested out low-floor community shuttles in 2017 when West Vancouver Blue Bus piloted five of them on North Shore routes, including the former C12 Lions Bay/Caulfield and the 251 Queens/Park Royal. After receiving positive feedback from customers, as well as the operations and maintenance teams at Coast Mountain Bus Company, we decided to expand our community shuttle fleet to include more low-floor community shuttles.

Forty-five of the new shuttles are based at Hamilton Transit Centre bus depot and are replacements for buses that have reached end-of-life. Four shuttles from the new order will also be going to West Vancouver Blue Bus, completing their full transition to low-floor shuttles.

COVID-19 transit safety tip

Customers are reminded to consider travelling outside of busy times if they can and to stay home when unwell. We’re recommending customers to wear a face covering when riding transit. Non-medical masks, bandanas, scarves and cloth can all be used. Please maintain physical distance from other passengers and transit staff when possible and follow our physical distancing markers where outlined.

TransLink implements Safe Operating Action Plan

Enhanced cleaning, restored service, masks recommended on public transit

In order to support British Columbia’s Restart Plan, TransLink is introducing new and enhanced measures to make transit service safer and keep it available for those who need it.

Over the next several weeks, customers will notice changes at transit stations and on vehicles designed to improve sanitization, create space where possible, and enhance personal safety.

TransLink’s initiatives, many of which have been taken since the beginning of the pandemic, are now part of a Safe Operating Action Plan. This plan will be implemented in phases to meet the needs of our customers as B.C.’s economy re-starts. Below are the steps customers will see, as well as the actions we are asking them to take.

What we are doing to make transit safer:

Increased Cleaning and Sanitizing

  • Deploying cleaning “pit crews” to disinfect SkyTrain cars at high traffic stations.
  • Increasing bus and SeaBus disinfecting sprays to twice per week in addition to daily cleaning schedules.
  • Maintaining daily cleaning and disinfecting schedules on SkyTrain and West Coast Express cars, as well as HandyDART vehicles.

Managing Physical Space

  • Limiting fare gate access at busy stations to help manage the number of customers on SkyTrain.
  • Installing two-metre spaced decals at some bus stops and station entranceways to help guide customers.

Adding Service to Create More Space

  • Restoring service across all modes to add more capacity, including to routes which were previously reduced. Service will be operating at nearly the same levels as before the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Monitoring passenger loads in order to deploy additional service at times and on routes where physical distancing is more difficult.

What customers can do to enhance their own personal safety and that of fellow passengers:

  • Stay off the system if you are sick.
  • Wear a non-medical mask or face covering while waiting or on-board our vehicles.
  • Travel outside of peak times when possible. This is especially recommended for vulnerable people.
  • Allow more time for your commute.

Quotes

Kevin Desmond, CEO, TransLink –
“Thousands of essential workers have relied on transit every day during the pandemic and many of our customers will return over the coming weeks and months. We’re committed to keep our system running and making it widely available to the people of Metro Vancouver as they go back to work, to school, and to moving around the region. Our Safe Operating Action Plan is meant to make transit as safe as possible and asks our customers to help out by keeping themselves and their fellow passengers safer.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s Provincial Health Officer –
“Public Health and WorkSafeBC are working with transit agencies to ensure all reasonable steps are being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, however, it’s clear that maintaining a safe physical distance may not be possible in every situation. We recommend all passengers consider wearing a face covering while using public transit, especially during those instances where physical distancing may not be possible. We also ask the public to be patient during this challenging transition period and we are grateful to British Columbia’s transit agencies for doing everything possible to protect the public during these changing times.”

From one Metro Vancouver institution to another: a retired bus operator on Army & Navy

I Love Transit - Angus McIntyre

Retired bus operator Angus McIntyre on his first day of work in 1969.

After temporarily closing like other retailers in March to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Canadian department store Army & Navy recently announced their closure is now permanent. The COVID-19 pandemic’s economic impacts proved to be insurmountable. This ends the Canadian institution’s 101-year run that began in 1919 as Canada’s first discount department store.

Just like Woodward’s and Eaton’s before that, Army & Navy holds a special place in Metro Vancouver’s collective hearts.

TransLink’s part of a storied history of transit in Metro Vancouver than spans more than a century — it celebrates its 130th anniversary this June 27. Our buses today and streetcars before that brought generations of families to Army & Navy.

Retired bus operator Angus McIntyre was no different. He steered his way through four different employers during his 41 years as a bus operator. His incredible journey began in 1969 when he went to Army and Navy to purchase a pair of Oxford shoes for his job interview with BC Hydro, which operated transit in Metro Vancouver between 1962 and 1973.

Read his guest post on what Army & Navy meant to him and transit.

Angus McIntyre

By Angus McIntyre

I shopped occasionally at the Army and Navy downtown, when skid road was an area of the city that was a bit rough, but still considered approachable by most people.

When I moved out on my own at age 19, I bought kitchenware at the Army and Navy.

At age 21, I didn’t have a lot of money, and I needed to buy a pair of black Oxford shoes in July 1969 to go for my job interview as a bus driver with B.C. Hydro. The shoe department of the Army & Navy was in a separate building on the south side of Hastings, next to Wosk’s huge appliance store. They had an affordable pair of shoes and I got the job.

Once in training, we were supplied with a changer, a transfer punch and a change fund of $120. An instructor said the best thing for our supplies, including rolls of tokens and coins, was a tackle box from the large basement fishing department at the Army & Navy. I bought a Canadian-made Beach tackle box, which sat on the front dash of the bus next to the bracket for the changer and transfer clips.

I worked the Nanaimo bus in the evening for many years, and one of my regular passengers worked in the shoe department of the Army & Navy. He always dreaded the huge annual shoe sale, which involved bringing in the inventory and dealing with massive crowds that showed up for the sale. When he boarded the bus to head home, he would give a run-down of the day’s events.

I bought a bicycle in 1970, and about a year later met another cyclist during a rainfall. He had on a lightweight, waterproof jacket and pants that he wore over his clothes. I asked where he bought it, and he told me to go to the Army & Navy. I made the purchase, and it lasted for many years.

In the 1970s the Christmas rush downtown was always very busy, and all the department stores filled with shoppers. A visit to the Army and Navy or Woodward’s usually included a snack or a meal at the Only Seafoods at Hastings and Carrall. Over the years I also shopped occasionally at the Army and Navy store in New Westminster, which was in the former Eaton’s building on Columbia Street.

How is TransLink funded?

Many of you inquired over the previous few weeks about how funding at TransLink works. One of the most common questions we received were about fares and if they comprise the main source for our revenue.

We’ve pulled together some details, graphs, and data and bring back an updated version of TransLink Funding 101 for everyone who’s curious about the subject! 

Diversified approach to funding

As the regional transportation agency, we are responsible for more than just public transport. We maintain major roads and five bridges (Knight Street Bridge, Pattullo Bridge, Golden Ears Bridge, Westham Island Bridge, The Canada Line Bike and Pedestrian bridge), work on developing multi-modal travel in the region, collaborate with our partners on the regional cycling strategy and more.

With our minds focused on spearheading an integrated system for the Greater Vancouver region, we also take a diversified approach to our funding. In short, our funding comes from more than one revenue source. This approach helps us weather changes to economy and minimize the impact of service disruptions or loss of ridership during most critical times so we can continue deliver transportation and operational services. However, with COVID-19, this has become more challenging.

SCBCTA Act has all the answers 

The discussion about TransLink’s funding would not be complete without the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Act. This is the provincial legislation that provides formal guidelines for the planning, funding, management and operation of our regional transportation system.

Any changes to the revenues TransLink can collect – or how they can be collected – require many levels of approval, typically from the Province, Mayors’ Council, or some combination of these. They also require a process of extensive consultation with the public and our customers.

Under SCBCTA Act, TransLink develops a 30-year strategy and fully funded, ten-year investment plans (updated at least triennially). While 30-year strategies like Transport 2050, which is under development, provides a bigger picture of how people will live, work, play, and move around the region today and in the future, The 10-Year Investment Plan outlines all the details that determine the funding levels, such as level of services to be provided, major capital projects, estimated revenue, expenditure and borrowing.

What are our main revenue sources?

 

We rely on three main revenue streams that help us deliver our transit and operational services.

Taxation revenue (44%). This is our largest revenue stream. Although transit revenue covers about 51 per cent of our operating costs, taxation revenue helps supplement the remainder of these costs and a lot more. Sources of taxation revenue include fuel and property tax, parking rights and the hydro levy.

Transit revenue (33%). These are all types of payments that we receive from you whenever you use our transit system or programs such as UPass BC and the BC Government Bus Pass. Revenue from other complementary sources, including transit advertising, Park and Ride and revenue from the sale of carbon tax credits also fall under this category.

Government Transfers (19%). The third largest revenue stream comes from federal and provincial government transfers and helps us to fund major capital projects. This includes funds received from the Federal Gas Tax, Canada Line funding, Building Canada Fund, Public Transit Infrastructure Fund and other miscellaneous programs such as the City of  Richmond contributions for Capstan Station.

Other (4%). Other revenue sources include income from investment (interest on sinking funds, capital contributions, debt reserve funds and cash balances) and amortization of deferred concessionaire credit – both of which are not currently available to fund operations.

Figures taken from the 2019 Year-End Financial and Performance Report.

 

What do property taxes have to do with a transportation agency? And other tax details you might be wondering about.

For those who are not aware, the fact that tax revenues, and not fare revenues, comprise the largest revenue source for TransLink may come as a surprise.

TransLink relies on tax revenues, such as fuel tax and property tax, to continue to create transportation and infrastructure improvements. These initiatives, in turn, positively affect property values, increase travelling options for other modes of transportation and contribute to other complimentary benefits that don’t necessarily fall neatly under “transportation” category.

a pie chart showing the breakdown if transit revenue numbers

Transit Revenue Breakdown based on 2019 figures

a pie chart showing the breakdown of tax revenue numbers

Tax Revenue Breakdown based on 2019 figures

Fuel Tax. When people fill up their cars in TransLink’s service region, 18.5 cents of every litre sold goes to TransLink.

Property Tax. A portion of property taxes collected in the region is used to support transit, roads and bridges, walking and cycling infrastructure. The majority of property taxes goes to the Province and local municipalities.

Parking Rights Tax. TransLink currently administers parking sales tax for all off-street parking (hourly, monthly, and annually) within TransLink’s service area in Metro Vancouver.

Hydro Levy. This is a levy that is added to the hydro bill of residences in Metro Vancouver.

DCCs. A fee is collected from new developments to help pay for new transit and transportation investments required to support growth.

What are TransLink’s expenditures?

As you can guess, our expenditures are mainly spent on various transit operations and infrastructure maintenance. Below is the expenditure breakdown for 2019:

  1. Transit Operations. 62 per cent of our budget is spent on transit operations, including rail and bus.
  2. Amortization of tangible capital assets and interest – amortization is a non-cash expense that allocates the cost of our capital assets over the period the assets are expected to be in use. The cost of capital assets is funded through debt and government funding. Interest expense is incurred to service the debt.
  3. Corporate operations. about six per cent of our budget goes to corporate operations, such as information technology costs, planning, finance and human resources
  4. Road and bridges – we spend around six per cent of the annual budget on maintaining roads and five bridges.
  5. Transit police – part of our expenditure goes to maintaining Transit Police operations. This includes police equipment purchases, as well as vehicle and facility maintenance costs.
  6. Corporate one time costs – one per cent.

How has COVID-19 impacted TransLink’s revenues?

The outbreak of the pandemic has significantly impacted our operations over the last two months. With most of us staying in, the transit ridership has declined across all the modes in tandem with lower utilization of parking spaces and decreased consumption of fuel. In turn, those changes have also contributed to considerable reductions to our transit, parking tax and fuel tax revenues.

The announcement made by the provincial government and TransLink on May 8th was therefore highly important in giving reassurance to our customers.  As the province is gradually unrolling the BC’s Restart Plan, TransLink will resume fare collection on buses on June 1. We will be working on a comprehensive solution to address the major financial impacts to the work TransLink does and will continue to call on the federal government for a national solution to the challenges facing transit systems.

 

Public art installation comes to the Stadium–Chinatown Station

Davey's two photographs featuring a fowl and equines at the Stadium-Chinatown Station

Installation by Moyra Davey, Plymouth Rock, 2020 at Stadium-Chinatown SkyTrain Station. Courtesy of the Artist, Courtesy the artist; greengrassi, London; and Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne/New York.

TransLink has been a part of Capture Photography Festival for the last three years. In the past, we partnered up with local artists to bring public art installations to our SkyTrain stations, including Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation Basketball  in 2019, Qimash in 2018,  and Precession of the Feminine in 2017.

This year was not an exception, despite the unforeseen circumstances. The Stadium–Chinatown SkyTrain Station now features Plymouth Rock, a series by New York–based Canadian artist Moyra Davey. A set of black-and-white photographs stands out prominently against the urban backdrop of the station.

The pictures were captured during Davey’s visit to the country home of Dalie Giroux, a political theorist in La Pêche, Quebec, during the making of her film i confess (2019).  “I’d been planning to photograph the political theorist Dalie Giroux, but ended up taking pictures of her animals instead,” Davey recollects in her interview with Capture. 

Photo Credit: Capture Photography Festival

If you pay a closer attention to the photographs, you’d notice that the artist focuses her lens on fowl and equines; while providing little indication of her subjects’ context. This technique emphasizes how certain animals stand “outside of history” – “free and wild and untrammeled by the weight of human concerns”.

Photo Credit: Capture Photography Festival

This series is indebted partly to a candid identification with the work of Peter Hujar (1934–87), known for his black-and-white portraits, including those of animals.

Plymouth Rock will be on display at the station until March 2, 2021. Visit Capture Photography Festival website to learn more about the other exhibitions.

 

Province and TransLink to ensure transit service in place to support B.C.’s Restart Plan

TransLink to suspend planned service reductions, rescind employee layoffs

People in Metro Vancouver can rest assured that they will be able to get back to work as the Province of B.C. and TransLink announced their commitment to ensure transit service is available as British Columbians safely restart the province and its economy in the coming weeks and months.

The Province and TransLink are working on a comprehensive solution to address the major financial impacts that TransLink, like many transit agencies across the country, has incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given the progress in these discussions, TransLink and its operating companies will suspend the service reductions planned to begin on May 18 and rescind layoff notices issued to approximately 1,500 employees. The Province and TransLink will also continue to call on the federal government for a national solution to the challenges facing transit systems.

With the release of British Columbia’s Restart Plan, TransLink will review all transit service levels to ensure it is balancing the need to help people get around the region, with the need to maintain and respect enhanced safety protocols. Further service and safety-related announcements will be made in due course.

Quotes

“As we begin to restore the economy through BC’s Restart Plan, services like TransLink will be key to British Columbia’s transition and recovery success.  We remain committed to working with and supporting TransLink through this difficult time and into recovery to find solutions that will benefit Metro Vancouver and British Columbia as a whole and continue to call on the federal government to join us in this support.”
Selina Robinson, Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing

“Today’s commitment by the Province of B.C. to help TransLink keep transit service running on Day 1 of the BC Restart Plan is an important first step towards returning TransLink to financial sustainability in the long-term. I look forward to working with Minister Robinson and her team through the summer to address the pandemic’s impacts on TransLink finances so that TransLink is equipped to help rebuild our region’s sustainable, innovative economy.”
Jonathan X. Coté, Chair of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation

“This is another important step forward for re-starting British Columbia and Metro Vancouver’s economy. The transit service provided by TransLink is essential to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in our region. We will be ready to provide safe, reliable transit service as people return to work. We are proud to be partnering with the Province of B.C. to ensure transit service is there as the economy recovers.”
Kevin Desmond, TransLink CEO

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New temporary barriers give Bus Operators peace of mind

photo of: Carmen Niculescu - Community Shuttle Operator

Carmen Niculescu – Community Shuttle Operator behind a made by CMBC temporary barrier

To further protect the health and well-being of CMBC Bus Operators during the COVID-19 pandemic, new temporary barriers were recently installed on our Community Shuttle and Orion highway coach fleet.

With many teams working hard behind the scenes to complete this project as quickly and efficiently as possible, we thought we’d share an inside look at the process and people involved in developing and installing the barriers.

Engineering

From the beginning, Maintenance Engineers had a few important considerations when developing their design. It had to be easy and safe to use, rolled out on a large scale, meet all regulations, was flame resistant, and Operators had to be able to see through it.

“An intern and I did the initial install,” explained one CMBC Maintenance Engineer. “We came up with the design and tested it on two shuttles. Once we had the preliminary design, we worked with the [Upholstery] Shop to make templates so it could be rolled out easily, and all the garages could do the installs with minimal help. We also made instructions for them on how to install it. This was all completed in about three days.”

The engineer reinforced it was an excellent collaboration across multiple teams: “We had to make sure everyone was on the same page so this could be rolled out quickly.”

Inventory Management

An Inventory Procurement Coordinator was responsible for working with our suppliers to find and purchase the material needed to complete the project.

“It was challenging to find such large volumes of materials in a short period of time considering the current global climate,” he explained. “Fortunately, our suppliers went above and beyond to make sure we were able to get what we needed. From our Stores personnel to our Tradespeople in the [Upholstery] Shop, to the Supervisors and Managers who were involved, this was a real team effort. The safety of our Operators is important. If these barriers give peace of mind and assist in making them feel safer, then it’s well worth the effort.”

Fleet Overhaul

photo of: Extra velcro and metal parts from bus seats used to install CMBC created barriers

Extra velcro and metal parts from bus seats used to install barriers

The Upholstery Shop at CMBC repairs/rebuilds transit vehicle seats and completes custom reupholstery jobs. For this project, our Body, Paint and Trim Manager was responsible for coordinating all stakeholders, including purchasing, operations and maintenance management, engineering, body shop, and more, to ensure that the Upholstery Shop had all the materials and resources necessary to complete the work.

“This project was a team effort in every way,” they explained.

While it was challenging at times to balance the immediate requirements for both barriers and regular inventory items, the team was able to successfully equip almost 250 buses.

Environmental and Maintenance

A CMBC Environmental Officer and Inventory Management Coordinator also collaborated on an initiative that reused existing inventory and reduced costs.

They realized that they could utilize the package of Velcro and metal that comes with every bus seat in the installation of the new temporary barriers on our Community Shuttle fleet. These items almost never get used – often they are just changing out the seat which already has Velcro installed at the base – so they were able to save them from the garbage and avoid having to purchase new materials.

 

An Operators’ Perspective

Made by CMBC shuttle barrier

Carmen Niculescu, a Community Shuttle Operator based out of the Port Coquitlam Transit Centre, enjoys the community aspect of driving the shuttles: “I love being able to pick up the same people at the same time every day. I know to expect those people and enjoy creating interactions with them.”

In the early days of the pandemic however, Carmen found herself limiting interactions with customers to try and keep everyone on the bus safe. While she still picks up many regulars, there are people she doesn’t see anymore: “It makes me sad. I miss the routine and the community.”

With the new temporary barriers installed, Carmen feels much more at ease and is able to carry on with her regular, friendly interactions: “You get on the bus, you do your job, and the barrier gives 100% peace of mind. They are really well designed. Whoever did this project did an amazing job!”

In the light of recent service reductions, we’re asking all of our customers to use transit for essential trips only – especially at peaks hours and busy times – so space remains available for those who need it most. You can find more information about peak hours on transit here.

Written by Rebecca Abel

Helping with taxes for essential workers and local businesses

head shot of Emma smiling

With tax deadlines being extended for individuals and businesses till June and September, you’d imagine things would slow down for organizations providing tax services. As we found out, that’s not exactly the case. On the contrary, many of us require professional advice more than ever to make some important decisions in the light of new COVID-19 -related government programs and initiatives .

Emma Nguyen is one of the essential workers who help individuals and businesses to navigate through various financial bumps along this uncertain road. She’s an accountant for a tax consulting and accounting company in North Vancouver.

Emma, as well as many other essential workers in Metro Vancouver, relies on public transit to get to work. During the pandemic, Emma switched to a multi-modal commuting to accommodate for her personal circumstances. She carpools with her friend in the morning to get to North Vancouver and in the evening uses bus and a SkyTrain to go back home.

Emma, can you tell us more about your work?

Our organization provides services to individuals, as well as small to medium-sized businesses, in different fields ranging from hospitality and commercial sectors to law and professional services. Some of our clients are frontline and essential workers, such as doctors, dentists and people who are operating local businesses and stores. We help individuals and businesses stay compliant with government and industry standards – so we help them with tax returns and GST returns in addition to tax consulting and accounting services.

We know that the tax returns have been postponed till June, but it seems that it’s still a quite busy time for companies likes yours?  

Yes, that’s right. The tax returns have been delayed until June 1st and payment deadlines until September. You know, these days people are worried about their finances. If they file the returns or payments earlier, they can receive refunds or just plan for the cash flow. Also, the requirements for some of the government relief programs are based on tax returns. So if you have this information early on, you can decide if you qualify. This is really important for our clients and their long-term planning.

Busy time! So I imagine most of people would need to come and work in the office?

Yes, my colleagues and I still come to the office to work. For tax consulting firms that really depends on their culture and IT systems in place. A lot of our tasks involve physical documents, since our company is not entirely paperless. Also, since we are in consulting, our work involves a lot of communication. For junior staff, like me, we work closely with our managers and senior staff.

How have things changed for your company during COVID-19?

Because we are handling physical documents, we make sure to follow some safety measures, such as not touching documents for at least 24 hours and washing hands before and after. Our company is relatively small, but we are also make sure to maintain physical distancing. There are about 10 people right now working on one floor.

What would your message be for other essential workers and just everyone who is going through this challenging time?

I think COVID-19 has made us conscious about every little thing that we took for granted before. I really appreciate everyone’s efforts these days, whether they’re staying at home or going to work. It’s a challenging time for all of us. If you are an essential or frontline worker, I hope you’re staying safe!

A lot of people are feeling worried and anxious about the current situation. I felt the same way (my family lives outside of Canada), and I guess one advice that I have for everyone is to try to maintain some kind of schedule or routine. In my situation, my work helped me to do that (smiles).

In the light of recent service reductions, we’re asking all of our customers to use transit for essential trips only – especially at peaks hours and busy times – so space remains available for those, like Emma and Laura, who need it most. You can find more information about peak hours on transit here.

 

Why are escalators at SkyTrain stations out of service so often?

At a height of 13 metres (43 feet), the escalators at Metrotown Station’s west stationhouse are the second highest in the SkyTrain system, surpassed only by the escalators at Granville Station at 14 metres (46 feet).

It may feel like it, but surprisingly, escalators at SkyTrain stations are not out-of-service that often.

Across the SkyTrain network, monthly escalator availability during January 2020 was 99.42 per cent for the Canada Line, and 93 per cent for the Expo and Millennium Lines.† During the rest of the times when an escalator was unavailable, it usually wasn’t because it was broken, but rather it was undergoing inspection.

There are three types of inspections that happen over the course of year.

  • Monthly: includes checking all external safety devices to ensure they are functioning and a visual of all exterior parts. This inspection takes approximately two hours per unit.
  • Quarterly: involves removing 10 steps, cleaning the top and bottom interior ends of the escalator, checking all internal and external safety devices, and inspecting the interior for wear or damage. This inspection takes approximately two days per escalator.
  • Annually: involves removing 50 per cent of the total steps in the escalator, cleaning the entire inside, checking the entire escalator for wear or damage, and inspecting all safety devices. This inspection takes approximately five days per escalator.

These inspections are part of our rigorous and robust maintenance program to ensure our escalators are safe and reliable for our customers, and ensures we maximize the escalator’s life expectancy.

“Because of this program many customers believe that our escalators are continuously out of service due to break downs when actually we are performing maintenance,” explains Harry Schmidt, manager of elevating devices at SkyTrain.

“Usually our inspections go as planned, and the escalator can be returned to service in a timely manner. However, if our escalator technicians discover any device or part that affects the safety of the unit during inspections, it must be repaired before it can carry customers again.”

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