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CMBC’s Snow Plan

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

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

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

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

Coast Mountain Bus Company’s Adverse Weather Plan

OVERVIEW

Coast Mountain Bus Company’s Customer Service Support/Service Delivery Division has developed this System Operations Service Level Response Plan for use during significant events. These events include various weather conditions such as snow, ice, wind, flood, and incidents including Hazmat, Labour Disputes and Major Service Disruptions. Alerts will be sent out advising on the impact these events have to our service whether it is a localized or system wide.

The plan is intended to co-ordinate the efforts of the System Operations Team, and to ensure that their staff act with the information and authority required to provide a safe service and a minimum amount of disruption to our customers. This plan is a general overview for significant incidents and adverse weather conditions and the use of the level system. A transit centre may require their own more detailed plan that addresses their unique circumstances.

WEATHER UPDATES

System and Weather updates can be used to notify members of the system operations team of current conditions, even though a Level threshold has not been met.

SYSTEM OPERATIONS SERVICE LEVEL STATUS

CMBC’s System Operations Service Level system includes a paging system to alert and update members of the System Operations Team. Below is the colour coded status bar.

Systems Operations Service Status: Normal
NORMAL

LEVEL 1

LEVEL 2

LEVEL 3

Below is a table showing what response level will be used for each situation

Incident Forecast/Threat Confirmed Occurrence
Hazmat, Health Epidemic, Civil Unrest, Major Service Disruptions Level 1 Level 2: less than three centres’ routes affected
Level 3: greater than two centres’ routes affected
Evacuation Level 1 Level 2: less than 12 hours duration
Level 3: greater than 12 hours duration
Labour Dispute Level 1 Level 3
Weather Condition
Snow, Ice, Wind, Flood Level 1 Level 2: less than three centres’ routes affected
Level 3: greater than two centres’ routes affected

If a Level 3 condition lasts for a prolonged period of time, the opening of CMBC’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) will be considered to support the day of operation.

NORMAL OPERATING CONDITIONS

Routine transit operations continue.

LEVEL 1 – Warning

Members of the System Operations Team are advised by receiving a Level 1 page that there is a warning of severe weather condition or the need of awareness to an adverse incident that has no impact to service. No response is required.

ROUTINE TRANSIT OPERATIONS CONTINUE

TCOMM DUTY MANAGER RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Monitor the conditions and transit operations
  • Send out Level 1 page to the System Operations Team
  • Update the System Operations Service Level Status on the Tcomm Sharepoint Site
  • Obtain regular updates of the significant incident through outside agencies (police, fire, PEP) and transit supervisors. If weather related, monitor Environment Canada’s website
  • Ensure there is enough TComm and Transit Supervisor coverage
  • If the forecast is for snow or ice, confirm that all Transit properties are pre-salted in anticipation of the event
  • If the situation involves any weather condition(snow, ice, flood, wind) ensure all requests, confirmations and locations of contractors’ services are recorded in the CIR and the Adverse Weather Log
  • If the advisory is for a windstorm ensure there is adequate Trolley Overhead Crew coverage

DEPOT MANAGER OR DESIGNATE RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Be aware of the level status and the prediction of an event
  • Ready transit centre staff in preparation of pending event

MAINTENANCE MANAGER OR DESIGNATE RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Be aware of the level status and the prediction of an event
  • Ready maintenance staff in preparation of pending event
  • If the advisory is for snow or ice, ensure there are enough supplies such as salt for both maintenance and Transit Supervisors to meet the demand
LEVEL 2 – Localized Service Impact

Transit Operations are being impacted in some areas. Reroutes are in effect and service to our customers is disrupted.

TRANSIT OPERATIONS ARE IMPACTED IN LOCALIZED AREAS.

TCOMM DUTY MANAGER RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Assume all the responsibilities at Level 1
  • Send out Level 2 alert to the System Operations Team
  • Update the System Operations Service Level Status on the Tcomm Sharepoint Site
  • Page weather and/or service conditions regularly to the System Operations Team
  • Keep up to date with TComm reports of weather conditions in all service areas
  • Advise Corporate Communications and senior management of changes to service
  • Ensure Customer Information is notified of problem areas and any cancellation of services
  • Keep in touch with all Depot Managers or their designate during office hours on local area disruptions
  • Support outside agencies(police, fire, Emergency Health Services, Provincial Emergency Program, Provincial Regional Emergency Operations Centre)
  • Coordinate all snow management affecting the operation both on the street and at all off street bus loops
  • Initiate Connectivity Conference Calls if requested by Translink Subs
  • In the case of flooding call contractor for sand bagging of properties effected
  • In the case of evacuation ensure Transit Supervisors and Security are supporting evacuation plan

DEPOT MANAGER OR DESIGNATE RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Assume all the responsibilities at Level 1
  • If your depot is affected, report to your depot. Call the Duty Manager to confirm your arrival or designates’ arrival.
  • Call in additional personnel to assist as needed at their depot. This includes Service Delivery Supervisors, Depot Staff, Operators, and Transit Supervisors
  • Advise the TComm Duty Manager of your requirements. For example snow and/or ice clearance and salting of employee parking and sidewalks
  • In the case of evacuation, execute Evacuation and Shut down Procedures, advise the Duty Manager.

MAINTENANCE MANAGER OR DESIGNATE RESPONSIBILITES

  • Assume all the responsibilities at Level 1
  • Call in additional personnel to assist as needed at their garage. This includes Mechanics, Dispatchers, and Service Personnel
  • Determine when snow and/or ice clearing from bus parking areas at all garage locations is required. Ensure contact is made with the contractor when they are on site to ensure Transit Centres needs are met
  • Ensure all pedestrian and traffic areas around the depot and operations buildings are clear of snow and salt is spread
  • In the case of evacuation, execute Evacuation and Shut down Procedures, advise the Duty Manager.
LEVEL 3 – Region Wide Service Impact

Transit Operations are being significantly impacted by an adverse weather condition or incident. Reroutes are in effect and service to our customers is disrupted.

CMBC’S SYSTEM OPERATIONS PROCEDURES ARE IN FULL EFFECT
THERE IS A MAJOR DISRUPTION TO TRANSIT OPERATIONS

TCOMM DUTY MANAGER RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Assume all the responsibilities at Level 1 & 2
  • Send out Level 3 alert to the System Operations Team
  • Update the System Operations Service Level Status on the Tcomm Sharepoint Site
  • Report to TComm, if not already on site
  • Activate Conference Calls with members of the System Operations Team
  • Follow specific protocols pertaining to each significant incident (ex. bomb threat, evacuation procedure, etc)
  • Consider EOC Activation Depending on the event

DEPOT MANAGER OR DESIGNATE RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Assume all the responsibilities at Level 1 & 2
  • Participate in Conference Calls with System Operations Team
  • Provide support to other depots as needed

MAINTENANCE MANAGER OR DESIGNATE RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Assume all the responsibilities at Level 1 & 2
  • Participate in Conference Calls with System Operations Team
  • Provide support to other depots as needed

Snow and Ice

Order of Priority Attention Required
Transit Centres & Seabus Snow or Ice Clearing
Bus Loops Snow or Ice Clearing
Park and Rides Snow or Ice Clearing
Other Areas (Rectifier Stations) Snow or Ice Clearing

Transit Supervisors are responsible during snow conditions or freezing temperatures, for salting the landing areas, sidewalks of bus loops and washroom accesses in loops and not in loops in their areas. Salt bins have been positioned at UBC, SFU, Coquitlam Stn., Lougheed Stn., Surrey Central, and Ladner Ex. for salt use on landing trouble areas. Before leaving the depot they must ensure that their vehicles are stocked with a supply of salt.

All landings or sidewalks must be salted as required during the day and prior to going off shift at night.

Trolley Coach Ice Cutters

Due to frost conditions there is need to keep trolley lines clear. TComm will take the following steps in this order to try and ensure the lines stay clear.

Level 1 Response

The T-Com Owl shift will:
Check current conditions and weather forecast from the Environment Canada Website.
Based on supervisor confirmation, order ice cutters, as per Ice Cutter Schedule. This request should be made at or before 24:00 hours.

VTC Garage will:
a) Equip assigned ice cutter coaches as per ice cutter schedule.
b) Put the Trolley fleet into zero mode
c) Ready 8 additional trolley buses with ice cutters and put them on a spare track in the event that T-Com needs to augment regular ice cutter service.
d) Ready the deicer truck

Level 2 Response

In addition to the level one response the T-Com Owl shift will:
Determine whether to run coaches after regular service hours to keep the trolley lines clear of ice or whether to use the ice cutter coaches.

If you decide on either option use the follow the procedure for filling the work:
1) First call out operators using the daily overtime list. Operators off of the Daily Overtime List will be requested to report to VTC to pick up either an ice cutter coach or a coach that will be used to keep trolley lines clear of ice.

If required, assign deicer truck, as per T-Com routing instructions to assist extended service.

Level 3 Response

In addition to the level one and two responses, the T-Com Owl shift will:
Assign the area car to VTC to dispatch the additional cutter service and to liaise with the service supervisor.
Have operators pick up the eight cutter busses that were readied at the level 1 notification to augment the morning ice cutter service.


14 Comments

  • By Dan, January 12, 2009 @ 4:38 pm

    Thank You for posting this. As I am reading this. This plan needs to be revised as it needs work. And from reading this plan, The “plan” failed throughout the 3 weeks as some procedures were NOT followed. This is a great concern as if this were to happen again the system would fail big time. If you want some ideas with this snow plan im willing to give advise.

  • By Scott, January 12, 2009 @ 4:41 pm

    Thanks for posting this.

    I would assume that with the plans for the GPS system to show customers where their bus is that service updates (aka what routes are on reroute or cancelled) will be updated more often and people will be more in the know how of what their commute will look like.

  • By David, January 13, 2009 @ 11:39 am

    Okay – my first read is that it is overly complicated and most of the direction is vague. No wonder it doesn’t work!

    This needs throwing out and starting again from scratch.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, January 13, 2009 @ 12:59 pm

    Well David, I can’t really speak to the value of the plan — that’s for CMBC to decide. It’s built upon CMBC’s past experience and more than likely makes more sense to those directly involved in the work of carrying the plan out.

    But I can say that what seems like vague direction actually does provide a broad checklist of responsibilities for the people involved. I think it’s more open in its direction because the plan needs to be flexible depending on the incident, as it does apply to a number of different crisis situations and not just snow.

  • By Sungsu, January 13, 2009 @ 5:54 pm

    Jhenifer,

    Thank you for posting the snow plans for SkyTrain and CMBC!

    I think it would be beneficial for CMBC to formalize snow routes for some of its routes. For example, it seems they are regularly “short-turning” Victoria buses. Here is an example of a snow route from the MBTA (greater Boston transit system), that I posted previously: http://www.mbta.com/uploadedFiles/Documents/Schedules_and_Maps/Bus/093map.pdf

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, January 14, 2009 @ 9:41 am

    Thanks Sungsu, I did see that PDF in your earlier comment. I am pretty sure CMBC is hesitant to designate exact snow routes due to the unpredictability of those events — accidents, super thick snow, or any other road blockage or challenge might alter the snow routes right away. Nobody really wants to make promises and then break them, you know?

    Also, just out of interest, I took a quick look at Environment Canada’s historical snowfall record in the city of Vancouver, and it seems on average we get 25 days of snowfall, and over half of those produce snowfall of less than 0.2 cm. And Surrey seems to get a bit less snow than that. So with the exception of this amazing 2008 snowfall, snow appears to be a rather less frequent occurrence during the year, with not too much snow really gathering on the ground. So on-the-fly reroutes might be a reasonable solution to this issue instead of promising permanent snow diversions that might be rerouted again later on anyway.

  • By jim, January 17, 2009 @ 3:45 pm

    I’m glad to see this blog is here, I hope some of the feedback is making it’s way up the corporate chain and this blog is not merely serving as a venting place for customers.

    I experienced the transit system quite intimately during the recent Vancouver snows and experienced 2 occasions where trolley buses were completely shut down due to snow. In both cases I walked home in blizzard conditions for over an hour without a single bus passing me.

    In the first case, when we got the first dump in December, it was late on a Friday or Saturday night and I waited in vain at a stop on Broadway and Yukon for 45 minutes before deciding that no bus was coming. The next morning I called the Bus Info line to check if buses were running at all and whether I had to prepare for a long walk. The agent wasn’t even aware that the bus service had stopped the night before and couldn’t tell me if my connecting bus, the #50 was going to be running. CMBC seems to have some problems with communication within it’s operations.

    In a subsequent conversation with a trolley driver, just before Christmas, when I was asking him if he thought the buses were going to stop running during the heavy snow that day, as his bus was sliding all over the place, he informed me that the trolleys do not have snow tires! Amazing.

    I believe it was on the evening of Sunday, January 5th, when I experienced another bus shutdown. Instead of waiting for the bus and freezing I decided to start walking home right away. As I walked east along Broadway, I passed huge groups of people waiting at each stop who had no idea the buses weren’t running. I told everyone I passed that they would be better off walking or finding a cab if possible.

    Anyway, I think that one aspect that CMBC is overlooking in their weather emergency plans, is to have some way of informing people along the routes that the service has been suspended. Would it be so difficult to have supervisors in well equipped vehicles (chains and snow tires) to travel the route letting people risking hypothermia waiting at the stops that the buses aren’t coming. They could even have an LED readout sign announcing this, so they wouldn’t have to stop and risk the wrath of customers. :-)

    Another suggestion is that the great system of text messages for bus times needs to have information on whether the buses are currently running or not added to it. When I was waiting on the bus that never came in December, I texted Translink and informed several of my fellow would-be passengers that a bus was due any minute.

    And why is it that the trolleys don’t have snow tires? Do they simply not make them or is this just a budget decision based on Vancouver’s usual small amount of snowfall?

    Just wanted to add that I appreciate the efforts of the drivers during this trying time, many were very helpful, during what must have been a stressful several weeks for them. CMBC communications though, were not so helpful.

  • By Sungsu, January 17, 2009 @ 5:31 pm

    Jim has many great suggestions, but among them I think it’s critical that the front line customer service staff have the most up-to-date information.

    I remember at one point last year, the 424 Airport bus was experiencing one-hour plus delays due to Canada Line construction, and the agent wasn’t even aware of the news release warning the general public about road closures in the area.

  • By Alex, April 25, 2009 @ 7:19 pm

    How does the ice cutters coaches look like?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, April 27, 2009 @ 10:42 am

    Ice cutter coaches are just regular trolleys with cutting tools in their poles.

    Here’s a more detailed explanation from Derek Zabel, CMBC’s awesome media relations guy:

    They look identical to what is out there. The cutter resembles a scraping tool over a wire.

    To power the trolleys, we use carbon, which is malleable and conducts the electricity. These carbons are located in the “shoe” which runs along the wire.

    In the winter mechanics will take out the carbon and install a “cutter” (an in house term) which is made of a stronger metal that can scrape the wire.

    The reason we don’t use the cutter all the time is because if used often it can severely damage the overhead wires.

Other Links to this Post

  1. Taking plans into your own hands « In Trouble Again — February 22, 2009 @ 12:19 pm

  2. Taking plans into your own hands « Short Turns Redux — February 23, 2009 @ 11:16 am

  3. The Buzzer blog » Eep: chance of snow as early as tomorrow — December 10, 2009 @ 6:03 pm

  4. The Buzzer blog » Brrr! Tips for riding transit in snowy weather — November 25, 2010 @ 2:35 pm

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