ALERT! : More info
Translink Buzzer Blog

I Love Transit Week: share your system secrets

First off: thanks to everyone who sent an RSVP for I Love Transit Night! If you’re planning on coming, please send me an RSVP too: it’s the Buzzer’s first live meetup and will be on Thursday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m.

System secrets: let’s share

Anyway, for the first I Love Transit Week post, let’s talk about system secrets.

What do I mean by system secrets? Well, during your travels on transit, you’ve undoubtedly come across some tricks and secrets to make your trip better in some way.

For example, prewalking a SkyTrain platform can really makes your trip go faster. Urban Dictionary defines prewalking as:

To position oneself on a subway platform such that, when the passenger steps off the train at his destination, he’ll be as close as possible to the exit or stairs to his transfer.

TransitFan has a similarly themed post from last Friday over at Regarding Place, discussing many tips that expert riders use to get around the system better. His tips include:

Getting a seat can be as easy as waiting at the last stop before a major intersection. When everyone disembarks at the major stop, you’ve scored a seat. If you’re headed from Vancouver to Surrey on the SkyTrain, take the trains headed for VCC-Clark, then transfer at Columbia Station to head over the Skybridge. There’s a much better chance you’ll get a seat for most of the ride, since most people don’t want to change trains.

And as for my own shining insights, I’ve noticed that when riding the B-Line in non-peak hours, if no one is boarding/exiting who requires the ramp, sometimes it can be faster to board the bus through the front door. While other passengers are waiting for riders to pour out of the back and middle doors, few are leaving via the front. You can sometimes make it on the bus before everybody else does!

So: what are your system secrets? Let’s share—maybe you can make someone else’s trip better! (But please, no tips encouraging fare evasion or other no-nos!)


  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, February 23, 2009 @ 11:21 am

    Wow, I’m commenting on my own post first — lame. But here’s why: I just discovered the TTC Subway Rider Efficiency Guide, which lists all of the exit locations at every stop, so you know exactly how to prewalk every station! Also awesome: unorthodox tips for riding the TTC.

  • By David Zeibin, February 23, 2009 @ 2:46 pm

    Depending on the length of my trip, the strategy changes. For example, if it’s a longer trip but the bus is medium-full, I’ll try to scope out an aisle seat next to someone who I think will be getting off soon. If I’m right, it means needing to stand up to let the off, but it gives me first dibs on the window seat.

    Another strategy I use, is to walk to a stop earlier in the route. This works especially well during morning rush hour, for example, on buses headed downtown, since the bus only gets more full as it does the route.

  • By Reva, February 23, 2009 @ 3:33 pm

    I live near the Clark drive stop on the 99 b-line, but to get to UBC I walk down to vcc Clark station. Not only am I guaranteed a seat, but I don’t have to deal with the fare-evading riff raff that board on the back doors of the b-line, not to mention the broadway traffic.

  • By ;-), February 23, 2009 @ 4:15 pm

    Ok here goes….

    My number 1 strategy is my Blackberry….
    1. Reconfirm arrival times before showing up at the stop. If route A is congested, how does Route B look on the transit planner.
    2. Paper time tables and SMS are too slow…. Blackberry bookmark my favourite bus stops from to get transit schedules within 6 seconds.
    3. Use the next bus service to decide if I have time to walk one stop earlier to bypass congestion at a popular stop to get seating
    4. Once onboard, run trip planner to plan alternative routes if the bus is delayed or off schedule for connections
    5. set up blackberry to receive News1130 and AM730 news alerts when there are traffic issues that may impact my route
    6. set up bookmark on current translink operating conditions in the winter to monitor for service delays
    7. use Google maps to get a better idea where an unfamilar stop is located at an intersection
    8. use texting and emails to avoid loud conversations on the phone to annoy passengers
    9. look up the Doppler radar to decide if I really need to bring that umbrella for my trip

    Other strategies
    -watch this blog for online enhancements (waiting for GPS aware timetables later this year)
    -Use Skytrain to bypass any special events (parades, protests) that can impact surface transit
    -board rear 99 & 98 BLine doors to avoid slower seniors and mobility challenged riders at the front
    -consider taking the next BLine bus if a wheelchair needs to be loaded/unloaded. Often BLine buses will drive around another one that is delayed with Wheelchair operations
    -consider flipping up seats for wheelchair riders to speed loading
    -consider flipping up seats so there is more standing room when they are not used.
    -choose a seat closer to the exit doors of the seabus for faster exit
    -avoid the right side of the bus where late riders like to bang the side of the bus to get the bus driver’s attention as he’s pulling away from the stop
    -avoid a seat right underneath a speaker where the “next stop” bell can’t stop ringing
    -avoid getting trapped in an aisle (especially Skytrain) where I`m delayed in exiting my train as the doors close
    -move to another Skytrain door if a scooter or stroller passenger blocks the exit and forces people to walk around. This is where the Mark 1 trains are better because there is no divider to drive around.
    -check to see how long the approaching skytrain is, if short train, than need to move to center. If long train, position towards the end for more space
    -look for wear patterns on the skytrain platform to know where the train doors will be stopping
    -travel at the end of rush hour for better frequency, but less congestion and possibly zone discounts
    -stay away from skytrain back doors where bikes are often blocking the entrance/exits
    -leave backpack at home so I’m more mobile whenever possible
    -attend public open houses to provide constructive feedback on how service can be improved
    -avoid sitting next to people with coffee in hand that can spill their drink on you. Young children are the worst.
    -select a route option that is closer to the start of a route for more reliable service
    -Take advantage of free transit to explore the system (ie WCE) when there is no charge on New Years Eve

  • By Donald Nguyen, February 23, 2009 @ 4:50 pm

    I have no advice for getting a seat except to live near the end of the line. I don’t mind standing on transit for the most part.

    Reva, the 84 is a much better, faster way to get to UBC anyway. I would never take the 99 unless I had business in the Central Broadway area.

  • By Brooke L., February 23, 2009 @ 7:00 pm

    – Check the translink site AND the google transit site for route ideas for long trips. Google sometimes cuts ten minutes or more off a route by suggesting a walking shortcut – but this can backfire in places like New Westminster where the hills make the walks take a lot longer than google thinks! I commute from Vancouver to Burnaby to work, both on weekdays and weekends, and take 3 different routes depending on what’s fastest on the day/time I’m going.

    – Figure out in advance what the next best route is when one of your buses/trains is running late. I’ve avoided having to take a cab to work a few times by having this planned out ahead of time.

  • By Scott Clayton, February 23, 2009 @ 8:16 pm

    Some things I try to remember:
    -Despite living at Central Lonsdale, I almost never take the SeaBus to get to either Vancouver, or further out via the SkyTrain, since, at best, it is actually still 7 minutes slower for me to take the SeaBus than it would be to take the #240 for getting to the SkyTrain/Georgia St.—the same goes for coming home, and this has been amplified since the #240 is now (usually) every 15 minutes 7 days per week!

    -If a bus is going to be full, able-standees can put their bags between their legs to allow more people on.

    -Students going to Capilano University that arrive at Phibbs via North Van/Lynn Valley may find it faster to get off at Oxford st. and cross the street to wait for the next bus to the University rather than getting off at Phibbs—it sometimes saves >10 minutes. However, often the bus is filled up at Phibbs, so no one can get on at Oxford—especially since the issuance of U-Passes.

    -The doors of the NEW Novas (with the non-fabric seats) are not touch-activated, despite what the stickers instruct. The doors are actually motion activated. You can fool other passengers into thinking you have Jedi abilities by waving your hand ≈4 inches in front of the door to open it.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, February 24, 2009 @ 10:46 am

    Thanks, guys! I’d like to run your tips in the March Buzzer — just let me know if you have any qualms or if it’s ok :)

  • By Dave, February 24, 2009 @ 2:32 pm

    There is a secret for those that do not know if you want to get a seat on Skytrain on the Expo Line. If you board the train at Surrey Central Station and go to King George Station and return, you will get a seat for sure.

  • By Eugene Wong, February 26, 2009 @ 10:17 am

    For my suggestions, you’ll have to look around, to make sure that there aren’t any cops…just kidding! :^D ;^p

    1. Sometimes I walk to another bus stop along the route, where there are people already, so that the bus won’t have to slow down & stop just for me.

    2. Trust the regular riders when boarding SkyTrain. Most of the time, they seem to know exactly where to line up.

    3. Get off before arriving at the station or exchange, and then transfer there. For example, you can take the #340 from Surrey, and then get off before the Queensborough Bridge, to transfer to the other buses, instead of going all the way there, then transferring, and then coming all the way back. A while ago, you could have saved around 15 minutes or more. This is also true of the #312 & #640. Instead of riding either of those buses to Scott Road Station, and then transferring, you’d get off around 92 Ave, walk the short distance and then transfer. It doesn’t work very often, but when it does, it pays off wonderfully.

    4. When going from downtown Vancouver to Ladner Exchange, consider taking the SkyTrain to Scott Rd Station, and then transferring to the #640. A while ago, it used to save you about 4 minutes, compared to taking the #601. Since the schedules change, you’ll have to be careful.

    5. Consider taking a longer bus route to your destination. It might have less passengers, and you’d get a seat. This is especially great, if you’re going to wait for a transfer anyways.

  • By Gennifer, March 2, 2009 @ 2:20 pm

    Thank you so much for the tip for those new nova buses! I’ve been on one of those buses several times and once even had to walk to the front because pushing on the door just wasn’t working for me. Now I’ll try waving at the door and see if I can get anywhere with it.

  • By ;-), March 2, 2009 @ 7:44 pm

    I too noticed the sensors above the door and guessed it was motion activated. Instead of pressing the doors, my favourite technique to wave my hand top to bottom so the detector really senses motion.

    What’s not clear is whether the detectors is based on “thermal motion”. For example, I once saw a kid repeatly “kick the door” over the over again at the stripe, but the door would not open. He left by the front door in frustration…..

    On another note, do people notice the new buses have more problems turning on the “green light” above the doors. Often the front door opens to load, but people are screaming at the driver to engage the rear doors.

    Perhaps we should go back to the spring paddle of the 70’s. Using the paddle today would discourage people from blocking the exit doors if they are not getting off the bus. Otherwise re-aim the motion sensor to include a greater area where people should not be standing. It would also minimize people from sneaking on the back of the bus if it is not the BLine.

  • By Masaki, March 3, 2009 @ 1:42 am

    The only real tip I have is for the 98 B-Line heading back to Richmond. If you want a seat and you’re downtown, wait at the Granville Station stop because most of the people on the 98 coming from Richmond are using it to get to the nearest SkyTrain station, and that would be Granville. The 98 B-Line loops around and doesn’t have a rest stop until coming back to Richmond so the only time the bus is virtually empty is at Seymour and West Georgia.

    Another major unloading point for the 98 is Broadway and Granville.

    Oh, and a friendly tip for people using Suburban express coaches… avoid using these buses for local (same-city) travel because they are usually pick-up only until it leaves the suburb it originated from.

    For an example I’ll use the 601 South Delta/Vancouver bus. Coming from Vancouver, the bus is only supposed to stop to pick up new passengers until it leaves Vancouver, then it becomes mostly an unload only bus. Unless your bus driver is accommodating or someone is waiting to be picked up at a stop you want to get off at, don’t expect to be leaving the bus.

Other Links to this Post

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Please read our Participation Guidelines before you comment.