ALERT! : More info
Translink Buzzer Blog

Pulling the curtain back on who keeps SkyTrain operating

SkyTrain staff Andrew Ferguson and Annaliese Hunt

SkyTrain’s Andrew Ferguson, a vehicle technician, and Annaliese Hunt, a control operator.

As night descends, SkyTrain’s Operations and Maintenance Centre in Burnaby becomes a hive of activity, as staff complete critical maintenance, both on the tracks and in the shop, to ensure there’s a full complement of service in the morning.

It’s a race against the clock that takes a host of characters working together to complete.

On the SkyTrain tracks, the tasks change every day. They include everything from grinding rail to smooth them out for a more comfortable ride for our customers and replacing aging tracks as part of our Expo Line Rail and Rail Pad Replacement program, to retrieving dropped cellphones and cameras for customers.

A guideway technician replaces a piece of rail on the SkyTrain tracks

A guideway technician replaces a piece of rail on the SkyTrain tracks.

And back in the shop, as we reduce service after the evening peak, every SkyTrain car starts going through the Vehicle Cleaning and Inspection Facility to receive a disinfectant wipe down of poles, seats, ceilings, handles, windows, sills and other surfaces within the cars from cleaners.

While each SkyTrain car is cleaned, vehicle technicians like Andrew Ferguson are on the lookout for seats, lights and doors that need repairs. Andrew, who has worked at SkyTrain for five years, explains how vehicle technicians are trying to clear out as many of these faults that have been registered on the onboard computer throughout the day.

Vehicles needing more extensive repairs or are due for routine maintenance are queued up outside the shop and removed from where the automatic trains can go by SkyTrain Control. One-by-one, they’re manually driven inside by vehicle technicians to be looked at. This includes things like routine maintenance for radiators and heaters, or changing out the “shoe” that the train uses to draw power from the rails.

“There’s a bigger window at night to take care of it, especially after they’ve reduced the service for the evening,” says Andrew, “so a lot of the work is done at night when we have access to more of the trains and more time to work.”

Vehicle technicians working on a SkyTrain car

Vehicle technicians working on a SkyTrain car

Even though the trains only carry passengers for about 20 hours a day, it’s a 24-hour operation at SkyTrain for both vehicle technicians and control operators, like Annaliese Hunt, who has worked for the company for about 26 years. Annaliese not only helps to keep the trains moving, but also has a very important safety role as a control operator.

“A control operator conducts safety critical work 24 hours a day, not just during revenue service,” Annaliese explains. “We ensure maintenance staff are given safe access to the track area where they’re working, otherwise they could be in danger of an automatic train.”

For example, staff who are performing nightly track maintenance, cannot enter without what’s called an “occupancy permit” from the control room, which they can only grant after the tracks have been powered down and the area where they’re working is removed from where the automatic trains go.

And during the daytime, control operators are monitoring the tracks and trains even though they’re operating automatically, responding to everything from a lost child on the system with SkyTrain Attendants, to system delays.

Photo of SkyTrain's control room

The SkyTrain Control Room, which is the nerve centre for all of its operations.

“SkyTrains are known as being automated but in actuality, they are remote controlled,” explains Annaliese. “The trains don’t move without a control operator providing commands to the computer interfaces.”

This is critical when SkyTrain has to run alternative service for example. During a system delay, like a medical emergency, a control operator would have to make on-board announcements to keep our customers informed, re-route trains so they use the same track in both directions (called “single tracking”) and help maintain system safety, powering down track sections if necessary.

Needless to say, SkyTrain’s vehicle technicians and control operators are integral to a safe and reliable service for our customers. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not lost on Andrew or Annaliese how important their work is in ensuring the region can keep moving for essential workers.

“There’s lots of important people such as the healthcare workers, grocery workers and elderly that depend on transit to get around, so our job is to keep it running and keep it safe,” says Andrew.

Annaliese adds, “The working class needs us so they can be the backbone of this crisis and of our economy. Janitors, hospital workers, CareAids, daycare workers, grocery clerks, gas station attendants, etcetera need transit. We need to be there for them.”

“I am proud to be an integral part of keeping transit moving.”

Annnaliese Hunt, a control operator at SkyTrain

Annnaliese Hunt, a control operator at SkyTrain.

Taking care of kids of frontline workers

picture of Ava Jade, who works at a non-profit childcare facility that looks after kids of frontline workers

Ava Jade works at a nonprofit childcare facility in Kitsilano, making sure that the kids of frontline workers are taken care of. (Photo courtesy of Ava)

Ava works as an administrator at a non-profit childcare facility that looks after kids of frontline workers. She also regularly posts uplifting Instagram Stories while getting to work on public transit, sending kind words of support to all the essential workers and encouraging everyone who does not need to commute to stay home. She’s also a singer, songwriter and bunny rescuer, but our story focuses on Ava’s full-time job because it happens to be one of the essential professions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We managed to get in touch with Ava just before her morning commute to learn more about her and the important work she does.

Ava moved to Vancouver in 2011 after leaving school in Southern Ontario to look for a life that would be purposeful and enjoyable. She found these things in her work at Hudson Out of School Care Society based in Kitsilano. Ava’s office shares the same building with a preschool, which is a small yellow schoolhouse located on the grounds of Hudson Elementary School. She has been working there for five years.

“I find it really fulfilling because you really get to be a part of these children’s lives. One of the favourite parts of my day is when I get to interact with all the children. They just bring you so much joy.”

Hudson Out of School Care Society was founded in the 1970s with the support of government funding and help from parents who wanted affordable childcare before and after school. While the childcare facility usually takes in kids from the local community, beginning this week (March 30,2020), the facility started accepting only the children of essential workers with the guidance of Vancouver Coastal Health, the Ministry, and the Vancouver School Board.

“We have children of nurses, people who work in pharmaceutical industry, infrastructure… You know, when we are thinking of essential workers, we tend to think of doctors and nurses, but there are so many more people who are crucial during these times.”

Ava and the whole team are working on getting the ball rolling and keeping the channels of communication open with families who require childcare. She explains, “If you’re a nurse, for instance, you can tell other nurses at the hospital that we’re open, and we’ll take in new children at this time.”

With the events quickly unfolding, the childcare staff is making sure that all the kids know how to protect themselves. “We’re communicating things like washing your hands every hour and not touching your face to children through stories and books. We’re trying to make it fun and informative.”

She also added, “I have to give [my appreciation] to childcare staff, who are still coming to work and taking care of kids. They’re amazing.”

These days Ava uses public transit to get around. “I’m definitely a huge transit user. I take two different buses in the morning to go to work and then at night to get back. I also use the bus to get my groceries.” Before the pandemic Ava used car share sometimes but thinks that now it’s especially important to only go to essential places to keep ourselves and everyone else safe.

When asked if she feels safe commuting and going to work these days, Ava responded:

“For us essential workers, every day you get up, and you have to make a choice. It’s a really hard choice no matter what work you’re doing right now because there is a risk involved. But as long as everyone is doing their part, people are staying at home, keeping everything clean for frontline workers, everything should be fine.”

She wants to thank everyone, whether they are a frontline worker or working from home or not working, for making those hard decisions. “We all are doing our part here, and the choices we make affect everyone else.”

For those who are staying at home and wonder how they might help, Ava suggested that they can reach out to local initiatives and communities. “Around my building, we have elderly residents. So, I’ve been sanitizing and bleaching the door handles in my building. There are things that we can all do to keep each other healthy and safe.”

We, at TransLink, applaud Ava and all the frontline workers who are doing so much during this difficult time. Do you have a story like Ava’s or know someone doing good these days? If so, we’d love to hear from you via our social channels or email.

 

Bus operator embraces helping the community out

Bryan Stebbings has been a bus operator with Coast Mountain Bus Company for nearly four years. (Photo: Josh Neufeld Photography)

“I’m just so thankful that I get to, first, help out my community as much as I can, but also for my family, I get to continue to come to work.”

Those are the words of Bryan Stebbings, a bus operator with Coast Mountain Bus Company. He’s one of myriad dedicated transit staff on the frontlines ensuring the region can keep moving during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bryan operates the 7 Nanaimo Stn / Dunbar and 9 Boundary / Commercial–Broadway / Granville / Alma / UBC routes. The 9 route travels along Broadway, passing by the Fairview neighbourhood that’s home to Vancouver General Hospital and a cluster of healthcare institutions, so it’s no surprise many of his customers are healthcare workers.

He’s embracing this important role transporting these frontline workers and others such as grocery clerks, janitors and other transit staff who depend on transit to get to work. There’s also those who need transit for essential travel to pick up groceries and medication.

“Well, it makes you feel good,” says Bryan, who has been an operator for nearly four years. “There’s a purpose behind my work. It makes you want to get up, go out there, serve my community and get these people to the places they need to be to help us out.”

Transit staff like Bryan are also among the people on the frontlines and we’ve taken steps to protect them.

Buses have temporarily moved to rear-door boarding for most passengers, while customers who need mobility assistance can still use the front doors if needed. The red line, which customers have to stay behind, has been moved further back from its usual spot to allow greater physical distancing.

“Loading from the back door has really helped us out,” says Bryan. “I think that was so important to implement, and then obviously getting that six feet from the red line being moved back another few feet so the general public doesn’t really enter your space too much.”

The bus company has also accelerated the installation of operator protection barriers, which was already underway after a successful two-year pilot in 2017. In addition to daily cleaning schedules, we’re spraying all buses with a disinfectant weekly. This week, we began limiting seating on buses to allow for extra space between customers.

Bryan operates the 7 Nanaimo Stn / Dunbar and 9 Boundary / Commercial–Broadway / Granville / Alma / UBC routes.

While Bryan embraces helping the community out during this time, it’s being reciprocated by the community. SPARKMOUTH, a local tonic and sparkling water producer, reached out to TransLink to donate their beverage to transit staff.

“We at SPARKMOUTH want to sincerely call out and thank all of you at TransLink that are not able to stay at home because you are out supporting essential services for the rest of us,” says Jackie Fox, vice president of sales and marketing at the company, in a letter to transit staff.

“We recognize that you, on the frontlines, are keeping this region moving, and we appreciate and salute the work you do to help all of us during this challenging time.”

The sparkling water beverages will be distributed to transit staff like Bryan in the coming days.

Donated SPARKMOUTH sparkling water beverages will be distributed to transit staff like Bryan in the coming days. Thank you to SPARKMOUTH!

Special thanks to Josh Neufeld Photography

“It’s a lifetime of freedom to travel”: Overcoming the fear of SkyTrain

Read the story of how Jon, a teen with autism, overcame the fear of boarding the SkyTrain with some help from Mo Hassabou from BCRTC (SkyTrain) and Jon’s teachers.

 

We all have our own unique phobias and some of them are pretty common – claustrophobia or arachnophobia for example are often listed as fears that large numbers of us share. But for some people, their phobias can intrinsically impact their day to day life and present a number of challenges in navigating the world.

For high school student Jon, the SkyTrain presents this very challenge. As a teen with autism, Jon often finds himself unable to enjoy the same hobbies and interests as his classmates, and in some cases, cannot participate in school field trips as he is too scared of our transit system to board the train and join his classmates on activities downtown. Jon gets frustrated with this and it is a problem that both the student and his teachers find upsetting.

Trying to bridge this impasse, some of Jon’s teachers got in touch with SkyTrain to see if anything could be done to help encourage their student onto transit and overcome this hindering fear. Fortunately, Mo Hassabou, a Field Operations Duty Manager, was excited to answer that call and invite young Jon to the Operations and Maintenance Centre (OMC) facilities to coach him through this particular obstacle.

“I worked with children with special needs in my previous career as a teacher and I worked with autistic children then and I thought it would be nice to do that again,” recalls Mo, who was not daunted by the challenge at hand.

Mo had to use all his previous teaching expertise and knowledge of the SkyTrain to make sure Jon felt as comfortable as possible during his visit to the OMC. It wasn’t an easy task as Jon has a fear of confined spaces, crowds and vehicles moving without being in control – the SkyTrain is a perfect mix of these triggers and quite a stressful environment for him.

Despite Jon’s hesitation, Mo could see how interested and determined his student was to board the train. He kept watching all the things Mo was showing him from a distance and was always listening.

“I got him used to what to expect from the train. He saw us all walking in and out, we opened the doors and closed the doors, and I even honked the horn. I asked him if he wanted to come and push buttons. He would come to the door and look but then back away again.”

Mo and Jon’s teachers weren’t beyond a few bribes to get some success.

“The teachers said he liked Michael Jackson songs so I hooked up my phone to the speaker in the train and put Michael Jackson on to get him closer to the train to listen to the song. I played Michael Jackson and we all sang a little,” laughs Mo.

Of course, the way to any teenager’s heart is food and the final trick that encouraged Jon to step onto the train was an offer of raspberries around midday, just when he started to want some lunch. “I think by the end he was a little hungry so the raspberries helped, he wanted some of the snacks so food for sure got him on,” says Mo.

Although Jon didn’t stay on board the train for too long, it was a huge step for the teenager who had never managed to get onto a train before and his teachers were ecstatic with the development, saying that they hoped it would allow him to participate in more school activities and help him integrate all the more with his classmates.

“For me, it’s just three hours of my life; for him, this is the step towards the freedom to travel anywhere at any time.” adds Mo.

Mo hopes that in the future, BCRTC will have more education and interactive elements fall under their scope as they continue to serve Metro Vancouver. Mo sees an opportunity to teach school children (and some adults alike) the importance of train safety and encouraging transit usage from a young age.

“I like to imagine that soon we could have our own ‘Science World’ for SkyTrain, where school trips can come in and classes can learn. That’s what I would like to see in the future. In 10 or 20 years, we would have our own interactive museum where we can have MKIs that aren’t running anymore and kids can come and learn about our system, our history, what makes the train special. They can drive simulators and see what it takes to keep us running. That’s how I see the future, because those kids are our future,” finishes Mo.

Written by Alex Jackson

 

A 7 p.m. thank you for frontline workers, plus share your transit story and appreciation with us

Over the past week, every night at 7 p.m., a cheer has been ringing out across Metro Vancouver for healthcare workers and all frontline staff, and we’ve been telling you about it on our social media channels.

We want to give thanks to those on the front lines too — including our transit staff! That’s why for the next little while, you’ll hear a voice announcement onboard all Expo, Millennium and Canada Line trains at 7 p.m., thanking frontline staff and asking customers to cheer for them.

The announcement played for the first time on March 27 and you can watch below. Thanks to the customer that gave a “woo!” I think we can do better, so tonight, let’s hear you cheer even louder!

For us at TransLink and its family of companies, not only are we thankful for the healthcare workers and grocery clerks on the frontlines, we’re also thankful for transit’s frontline staff and all those who work behind the scenes to keep the region moving for essential workers and essential trips like grocery runs.

That’s your bus operators, SkyTrain Attendants, SeaBus Attendants, West Coast Express Attendants, Transit Security officers and Transit Police officers, staff at Customer Information and Compass Customer Service, as well as the operations and maintenance staff — to name a few — for ensuring a reliable transit system for those essential trips.

Are you a customer that’s using transit because you’re an essential worker or need it for essential trips? We want to tell your story about who you are and where you’re taking transit to. Email us at thebuzzer@translink.ca!

Or perhaps you’re just super thankful for transit staff and want to send us your appreciation for them. Snap a photo, write a Haiku, draw a picture, perform a song or whatever you can dream up to show your appreciation! We’ll make sure it share it with our transit staff.

Here’s a selection of what we’ve spotted on social media from you!

View this post on Instagram

Thank you to all the TransLink operaters, workers and maintenance staff. You are making sure us #essentialworkers get to where we need to be. You're essential at @translink and I appreciate all of you. Thank you to all the grocery store workers, pharmacy staff, government workers and child care workers for doing your part. Thank you to those that are staying home. And to those of you who are still out and about for leisure, STOP. GO HOME. #STAYHOME The government needs to do something about all the people still out and about. They are putting us all at risk and belittling the efforts the rest of us are making. #coronaviruscanada is here and if the government needs to step up fines for individuals, I would totally agree with that @justinpjtrudeau @ndpcanada @bcliberals @greenpartybc @conservativebc

A post shared by AVA J 2020 (@thatavaj) on

TransLink limits bus seating to promote physical distancing

Beginning from next week, TransLink will be limiting seating on buses in Metro Vancouver to enhance physical distancing measures.

  • Roughly half the seats on board buses will have signage installed to indicate that those seats are to be left vacant, which will allow for extra space between customers.
  • If the new seated capacity is reached, bus operators will not make any further stops to collect passengers, who will have to wait for the next bus.

Given declining ridership is resulting in far fewer passengers on the system, we don’t expect these changes will impact travel times on the majority of bus routes. That being said, commuters who use busier routes should consider building in additional travel time and consider their need to travel, particularly during rush hours.

This comes in addition to the physical distancing measures currently in place across our system:

  • Customers are being asked to board buses using the rear doors where possible as part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers needing mobility assistance can still use the front doors if required.
  • Given we are not able to collect all fares at the rear doors, including cash fares, TransLink is suspending fare collection on the bus system and HandyDART.
  • We have launched an education campaign promoting hygiene and asking customers to allow extra space for fellow passengers when on board transit.
  • Customers will not be able to use seats close to crew on SeaBus vessels.
  • Coast Mountain Bus company is accelerating installation of operator protection barriers on all of its buses.  Nearly 700 buses currently have barriers installed.
  • Due to the physical distancing required by health authorities in BC, bus operators will not be able to assist our wheelchair customers with being strapped in a front-facing position on our conventional buses. Those with mobility devices on buses that have a rear facing accessible seat will be able to park in the designated area themselves and secure their device. This is the case for most buses. For buses that do not have this area (e.g. highway coaches, Community Shuttle) customers with mobility devices will need to travel with someone who can assist them or find an alternate mode of travel.

Public transit remains crucial for thousands of essential service workers in the region, including those in the healthcare sector. We would like to make sure that those who rely on transit are able to use our system and get to their destinations safely.

HandyDART fare collection suspended to protect operators and promote physical distancing

Beginning March 25, we are suspending fare collection on the HandyDART system. Because HandyDART fare payment can often require close interaction between operators and customers, we’re taking this step to protect operators and promote physical distancing.

Fare collection is already suspended for conventional bus to reduce close contact between operators and customers. Regular fares still apply on SkyTrain, West Coast Express and SeaBus as payment doesn’t involve any person-to-person interaction.

This comes in addition to several other operational changes we’ve made to improve cleanliness and allow for more social distancing on HandyDART:

  • HandyDART vehicles are being cleaned and disinfected every day.
  • HandyDART operators are spacing customers out in vehicles wherever possible, to promote social distancing.
  • Every HandyDART operator is being supplied with a sanitizing kit which includes gloves, as well as hand sanitizer bottles or sanitizing wipes.

Customers are cancelling around 70% of HandyDART trips daily, resulting in significantly fewer customers travelling on each bus, and therefore greater social distancing.

Minor service reductions and in-person customer service centre closures

 

City scene with bus and SkyTrain in the background

Given significant ridership declines on transit due to social distancing measures in Metro Vancouver, TransLink will be making minor service reductions to SeaBus, bus, and SkyTrain services.

  • SeaBus will transition to sailings every 15-minutes during weekday rush hours, instead of every 10-minutes.
  • Bus routes which have excess capacity, including those with empty buses, will have some frequencies reduced.
  • Expo and Millennium Lines will see slight frequency reductions, with first and last train schedules remaining in place.

Passenger levels will be carefully monitored in order to balance lower ridership with the need to maintain social distancing.  Customers should check Trip Planner or Transit Alerts before travelling, to ensure their route is not impacted by service reductions.

TransLink has also enhanced social distancing initiatives with the temporary closure of the Customer Service Centre at Stadium-Chinatown Station and the West Coast Express Customer Service Centre at Waterfront Station.

Customers requiring assistance are still able to use any of the below contact details:

TransLink moves to rear-door boarding on buses to promote social distancing

Beginning March 20, customers will be asked to board buses using the rear doors only where possible. Given TransLink cannot collect cash fares at the rear doors, we are also suspending fare collection on the bus system.

We are taking this step to allow greater social distancing to protect our Coast Mountain Bus Company operators at this time. Customers requiring mobility assistance can continue to use the front doors if needed. Regular fares still apply on other TransLink modes.

TransLink has also implemented the following changes:

  • Customers will not be able to use seats close to operators on certain buses.
  • Accelerating the installation of operator protection barriers on buses.
  • Customers will not be able to use seats close to crew on SeaBus vessels.
  • Launching an education campaign promoting hygiene and asking customers to allow extra space for fellow passengers and transit staff.
  • Increasing cleaning and disinfecting on all modes of transit.

As extraordinary social distancing measures are being put into place across the region, TransLink has also seen a commensurate and significant decline in ridership.  This means there are far fewer passengers using the system, which allows for greater social distancing.

We will keep customers up to date using social media channels, TransLink customer information (604.953.3333) and our website.

Here’s what precautions we’re taking for COVID-19 (coronavirus)

In addition to daily cleaning schedules, we’re spraying the entire bus fleet with a strong disinfectant each week. We’re also cleaning Stations and Bus Loops, SkyTrain, SeaBus, West Coast Express and HandyDART.

What is TransLink’s approach to COVID-19?

TransLink is following the lead of health officials when it comes to our response to COVID-19. We want to remind everyone that we need to work together, and that we need your help to keep the system safe and clean for yourself and those around you.

TransLink is closely monitoring the situation and we remain in contact with regional health authorities and other transit agencies in order to determine best practices and ensure our response is appropriate.

At this time, we have not been directed to make any operational changes, however, we are all taking steps to ensure a high standard of cleanliness is maintained in order to reduce any potential risk of viral spread.

How’s TransLink keeping the transit system clean?

  • Facilities: Stations and bus loops across the TransLink network are being cleaned at least once per day, including a disinfectant wipe down of stair and escalator handrails, elevator buttons, door handles, fare gates, Compass vending machines, garbage handles, benches, seats, emergency cabinets and emergency phones.
  • SkyTrain: All SkyTrain cars are cleaned overnight and receive a disinfectant wipe down of poles, seats, ceilings, handles, windows, sills, and other surfaces within the cars.
  • Bus & SeaBus: The entire Bus and SeaBus fleet are being sprayed using a strong disinfectant each week, which comes in addition to daily cleaning schedules.
  • HandyDART: All HandyDART vehicles are being cleaned and disinfected everyday.
  • West Coast Express: All trains are cleaned and disinfected each evening once they come out of service.

Social Distancing and Protective Measures on Public Transit

  • Consistent with the advice from health officials, if people are feeling unwell, they should stay home and avoid public transit.
  • The best ways to prevent contracting or spreading a contagious illness are frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water, coughing or sneezing into tissues, and staying home if you are sick.
  • Over the past several days we have seen ridership in decline, meaning that transit services have fewer passengers, which allows for more social distancing.
  • We are preventing customers from using some seats on SeaBus to allow social distancing for our operators.
  • On certain buses, customers will not be able to sit in seats which are near bus operators.
  • Coast Mountain Bus company is accelerating installation of operator protection barriers on all of its buses.  Nearly 700 of our buses currently have barriers installed.
  • Every Coast Mountain Bus Company bus and vehicle has been supplied with a sanitization kit, which includes gloves and sanitizing wipes for drivers.

If Public Transit Will Be Shut Down 

  • Transit services are essential for thousands of people who rely on our system to move around the region, including healthcare workers.
  • We follow advice from health officials and have been given no indication that shutting down public transit in Metro Vancouver would be an appropriate course of action at this stage.

What can I do?

According to health experts the best ways to prevent contracting or spreading a contagious illness are frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water, coughing or sneezing into tissues, and staying home if you are sick.

We advise everyone to follow the guidelines set out by the Canadian Public Health Agency:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the washroom and when preparing food. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand. Dispose of any tissues you have used as soon as possible and wash your hands afterwards.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands especially after coming in contact with commonly touched surfaces like handrails, vending machines and poles.
  • Stay home if you are feeling unwell.

Where can I get more information?

Twitter

Facebook

Web

Take part in the international survey and help us improve bus and SkyTrain

We need your help so we can make our services even better! 

Did you know that TransLink is a member of two international benchmarking communities, the International Bus Benchmarking Group (IBBG) and CoMET and NOVA Metro Benchmarking Group?

Both organizations were founded to create an international network for transit agencies to learn best practices, share knowledge and innovate. Each year they also measure the performance of transit systems across the world in their annual surveys.

Join the conversation and share you experience with TransLink’s bus and SkyTrain services in the 2-5 minutes surveys before April 5, 2020.

Share your experience with SkyTrain  service here

Share your experience with bus services here

Vancouver’s SkyTrain (BCRTC) is a part of CoMET and Nova Metro Benchmarking Groups, a global metro benchmarking community comprising of 42 metro systems in 39 international cities. Current members are some of the world’s largest metro systems, including Beijing Subway, Tokyo Metro, and Moscow Metro, as well as medium to small-sized ones, such as Tyne & Wear Metro (Newcastle) and Singapore SMRT.

IBBG features 15 medium and large international bus organizations, including London Buses, MTA New York City Transit (New York), and Vancouver’s Coast Mountain Bus Company.

Check out our interview from 2015 with IBBG associate director Mark Trompet to learn more about their organization:

 

 

Spring service changes to boost North Shore bus service

The new R2 Marine Dr RapidBus launches on April 6.

Beginning April 6, transit on the North Shore is being boosted to provide more frequent and reliable bus service. With the upcoming introduction of the R2 RapidBus along Marine Drive, there will be several additions of new routes and adjustments to existing routes on the North Shore. These changes will allow the North Shore transit network to better integrate with the high frequency RapidBus route.

New North Shore bus routes

R2 Marine Dr (Park Royal/Phibbs Exchange)

  • High frequency RapidBus service with limited stops
  • 8 to 10-minute service every day from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • 15-minute evening service every day from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

222 Willingdon Express

  • Express service with only six stops
  • Serves Phibbs Exchange, the Kootenay Loop, Hastings and Willingdon, Brentwood Town Centre SkyTrain Station, BCIT, and Metrotown
  • 10-minute peak service
  • Former 125 (Patterson/BCIT) customers are encouraged to switch to the new express service

245 Phibbs Exchange/Capilano University

  • 10-minute peak service during summer months
  • More service coming fall 2020 for the new school year

Adjusted North Shore bus routes

240 Lynn Valley/Downtown

  • Terminus extending from Grand Boulevard to Lynn Valley to integrate with the R2 RapidBus

28 Joyce Station/Phibbs Exchange and 130 Metrotown/Phibbs Exchange

  • Terminus moved from Capilano University to Phibbs Exchange

239 Park Royal/Capilano University

  • Service replaced by R2 RapidBus, and increased service on routes 240 and 255

Other major permanent service increases

 31 River District/Metrotown (New Service)

  • Will provide a direct bus connection to the Expo Line for residents of the River District

319 Scott Road Station/Scottsdale Exchange/Newton Exchange

  • Introducing 4 to 8-minute service all day on weekdays until 10:30 p.m.
  • Increasing to 4-minute peak service between Scottsdale Exchange and Scott Road Station

Seasonal changes

Each year, TransLink temporarily increases service during the spring and summer months to key tourist destinations like ferry terminals, parks, and beaches. On April 6, service will increase on route 620 (Bridgeport Station/Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal). In May, service will increase on route 19 (Metrotown/Stanley Park) to reflect growing demand.

In May, service will be temporarily reinstated on the 42 (Alma/Spanish Banks), 150 (White Pine Beach/Coquitlam Central Station), 179 (Buntzen Lake/Coquitlam Central Station), and 236 (Grouse Mountain/Pemberton Heights/Lonsdale Quay) until the fall.

TransLink also temporarily decreases service to post-secondary institutions in these months, as there are less students travelling to and from campus. Service will temporarily reduce on routes 9, 42, 145, 258, and 480.

#IWD2020: Envisioning a fairer world with Tasia

International Women’s Day on March 8 is a dedicated day to acknowledge the work that needs to be done for gender equality around the world. This year’s theme is #EachforEqual. It highlights that working towards equality is something that is the responsibility of every individual.

Part of this work is recognizing and celebrating the achievements of women in our workplaces. We’re proud to share the stories of those that work at TransLink and its family of companies.

Transit was not the first career that sprung to mind for Tasia Balding, the director of capital and major business Projects at BCRTC, which operates the SkyTrain’s Expo and Millennium lines. Instead, Tasia’s childhood dream was to become a judge – with ever so noble intentions.

“As a little kid, I was really concerned with things being fair and equitable,” she recalls. “My uncle was a judge and I thought I could become one to help make things fair for everybody.”

Ensuring fairness stuck with Tasia, even if the plan to become a judge didn’t. A key aspect of Tasia’s management approach is having a team of people who can learn from each other as they strategize and plan for the largest expansions in SkyTrain history.

“Weakness in the workplace can be hard for us to acknowledge. I think it’s important to surround myself with people who are equally talented and who make the team work better together. That’s what helps make my team a success.” Tasia says.

Tasia has taken many opportunities to learn from colleagues in other industries. She has a keen interest in environmental engineering, has spent time in the financial services industry and worked in construction across the continent. All of these experiences have built up Tasia’s skills allowing her to adapt to the transit industry with ease upon her arrival.

Joining TransLink as the manager of the Project Management Office in 2017, Tasia worked with the Infrastructure Management and Engineering division to mature TransLink project management practices. Then in June of 2018, she made the move to SkyTrain, taking a newly created director of capital and major business projects position.

“Coming into this role, there was already an established team, and we are in a period of growth to facilitate delivery of our portfolio,” she adds.

To achieve successful growth, Tasia is a big believer in team bonding and integration. The team needs to compliment one another and understand roles to work well with each other. Fortunately, Tasia is experienced in forming team and bringing people together to work toward common goals.

For the approaching period of rapid growth at BCRTC, Tasia expects her team to be harnessing all their tools and all their expertise together, regardless of gender. She’s also well aware that she is in a role and industry that is male dominated.   “We have a lot of engineers; not many of them are women. We have a lot of tradespeople; not many of them are women,” she emphasizes.

Tasia believes that a part of the discrepancy in female representation in the industry is linked to broader societal factors. She references how we need to encourage more female representation in STEM subjects and the trades from an early age to help drive longer-term systemic change and to stand up for change in work cultures if discriminatory language is used.  “We need to be persistent and work together to address these areas of inequality. If your message doesn’t work on someone the first time, do not give up!”

Perhaps with that conviction Tasia would have made a good judge after all – but she is excited about working on incredible technical and complex modernizations happening at SkyTrain right now.

Author: Alex Jackson

#IWD2020: “I wear a duty belt of tools. But the most important tool is my voice.”

Sergeant Cheryl Simpkin looks after the Community Engagement Unit at Transit Police. Her team works with with clients of the vulnerable sector and persons dealing with mental health problems.

International Women’s Day on March 8 is a dedicated day to acknowledge the work that needs to be done for gender equality around the world. This year’s theme is #EachforEqual. It highlights that working towards equality is something that is the responsibility of every individual.

Part of this work is recognizing and celebrating the achievements of women in our workplaces. We’re proud to share the stories of those that work at TransLink and its family of companies.

Sergeant Cheryl Simpkin has worked in law enforcement and community policing for over 18 years. Under her leadership, the Community Engagement Team at the Metro Vancouver Transit Police connects with diverse communities across six Community Service Areas within Metro Vancouver, and works with clients from vulnerable backgrounds.

A member of the Vuntut Gwitchen First Nation, Cheryl grew up in the Lower Mainland and, as an Indigenous woman, faced life experiences and challenges that helped her develop a life philosophy which she confidently brings into her current job.

“I am a strong Indigenous woman. When various difficult things happen in your life, you need to learn how to cope with that. And as a young person, I became a leader very quickly. I learned how to take a leadership role, how to manage crisis, and how to deal with difficult situations.”

The inspiration to join the police force came when Cheryl was only seven years old. While attending a Remembrance Day Ceremony with her parents, she saw a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. “I had no idea who he was, so I asked my mum. I knew instantly that’s what I’m going to do when I get older.”

Fast forward several years, Cheryl was studying criminology at the Native Education Center at Douglas College. She applied to the Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police, the only Tribal Police Service in British Columbia, to work with them as a part of her first year practicum. She appreciated their philosophy of community policing and accepted a permanent full-time position.

Despite the need to relocate to the rural area based in Mount Currie and Lillooet, Cheryl was pleased to be a female police officer working for the community.

The job was very challenging and extremely rewarding. She worked closely with the community and admired the cultural awareness and their focus on addressing challenges in the community.

The time in Mount Currie also taught her about the power of her voice. It also shaped her approach in meeting people at their point of need, while staying firm in her beliefs. As Cheryl explains:

“It’s all about understanding someone’s situation and treating people with respect and dignity, whether it’s a small child or a family that is dealing with crisis. Sometimes it’s also about telling the difficult truth. Back then I used to wear a duty belt full of tools, but I realized that my most important tool is my voice.”


Cheryl brings this cultural sensitivity to her current role at Transit Police.

Sergeant Simpkin supports her team of eight strong independent members, whom she describes as “absolute shining stars,” as they engage with boots on the ground to tackle issues of homelessness, addiction and mental health, and Indigenous relations. Their goal is to break barriers to address decriminalization and stigma. This enables the team to reach out to clients on a more personal level and take time to understand their needs:

“I had situations when I called up a client’s physicians to make sure they are taken care of, whether it was appropriate medication changes or just a simple appointment.”

What it means to be a woman in law-enforcement?

When asked about this year’s International Women’s Day celebration, Cheryl shared some of her thoughts:

Women have a huge part to play in policing. We need to be the leaders in our fields and bring our unique abilities and strengths to the job we do. For me, at least, it was always about finding ways in which we can all work together to build resources and focus on engagement rather than criminalization. It’s important we create a foundation for trust that helps people to see the police beyond our uniform and allows us to meet each other at the point of our needs.”

Cheryl is appreciative of the support she receives from Transit Police and the diversity that her department offers. If you are ever interested in meeting the amazing women that work in policing, give Cheryl a shout!

Cheryl’s team is also active on social media and documents their everyday work with the community.You can follow them here:

Sergeant Cheryl Simpkin https://twitter.com/SgtCSimpkin

Constable Gwen Ranquist https://twitter.com/CstGRanquist

Constable Julien Ponsioen https://twitter.com/CstJPonsioen

Constable Kirk Rattray https://twitter.com/CstKRattray

Constable Bruce Shipley https://twitter.com/CstBShipley

Constable Justin Biggs https://twitter.com/CstJBiggs

Constable Nicole Dennis https://twitter.com/CstNDennis

Constable Darren Chua https://www.instagram.com/cstdchua/?hl=en

River District and North Shore Express to Metrotown bus routes approved

The new 31 and 222 bus routes start operating on April 6, 2020.

Two new major bus routes have been approved to serve residents in Vancouver’s East Fraser Lands (the River District), the North Shore, and Burnaby. Beginning April 6, the new services will connect North Shore and River District residents directly to the SkyTrain at Metrotown Station.

New routes:

31 River District/Metrotown – A new service operating between Metrotown Station and the River District. This new route will serve the River District’s growing levels of residential and commercial development by providing a direct bus connection to SkyTrain.

222 Willingdon Express – This new route provides an express service connecting Phibbs Exchange in North Vancouver to Metrotown in Burnaby via Willingdon Avenue. This will be a limited-stop service with only six stops on the entire route. It will serve key transit hubs such as Phibbs Exchange, the Kootenay Bus Loop, Brentwood Town Centre SkyTrain Station, BCIT, and Metrotown. The demand for this route was identified as part of the Integrated North Shore Transportation Planning Project (INSTPP).

Both routes were accepted as part of the 2019 Transit Network Review – which consults on new ways to optimize the transit system for customers. The full Transit Network Review consulted on proposed changes to 12 routes last year, and these are the first two to have their proposals implemented. These and other transit expansion projects are funded through the Mayors’ 10-Year Vision.

Engagement results:

In total, there were 4,000 surveys completed for the two new routes. Nearly 80 per cent of respondents said they would be likely to use the Willingdon Express, and two-thirds of respondents said they would be likely to use the River District service.

More information:

Transit Network Review