ALERT! : More info
Translink Buzzer Blog

Info tubes — send us your feedback!

An example of an info tube from Metrotown bus loop. Bus loop tubes are currently being maintained but others have been replaced with contact info for TransLink's scheduling services.

An example of an info tube from Metrotown bus loop. Bus loop tubes are currently being maintained but others have been replaced with contact info for TransLink

So, you may have noticed that info tubes at many stops no longer contain scheduling information — instead, there’s a notice asking you to call Customer Information or try our website.

Well, we really want to know what you think about this situation! So please send a note to Customer Relations with your feedback.

We want to know so we have a better sense of whether this change is working for you or not. Very few pieces of feedback have come in about the tubes so far, although we do know people have been grumbling about this — just not directly to our Customer Relations department.

Here’s why many of the info tubes were changed about a month ago, too.

Basically, the info tubes were changed because our customer information department no longer has the resources to keep them all updated. (The tubes are at about 1,200 of the region’s ~9,000 bus stops.)

The information in many of the tubes was also quite out of date, and given the situation, they figured that no information was better than wrong information.

However, I should mention that not all info tubes have been discontinued — there are 300 info tubes at bus loops that are still being updated.

So again, please tell us what you think about this info tube change! Tell your friends, pass this around, we want to hear from all of you.

Again, write to Customer Relations with your feedback. (Of course, you can also leave comments on this post, but I’d urge you to also submit them to Customer Relations so that it’s definitely logged in the system.)


46 Comments

  • By Eugene Wong, May 28, 2009 @ 9:12 am

    I have a slightly off-topic question.

    Why are there so many different kinds of bus stops? I’ve seen those blue wooden kinds, metal poles with no route information, and metal poles with the routes listed on them.

    It would be easier for me to comment on the tubes, if I understood the differences between the stops. I wouldn’t expect all stops to have tubes. The exchanges & loops are more than adequate for me.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, May 28, 2009 @ 9:14 am

    Well, basically TransLink only owns the pole and the sign at all stops. The rest of the amenities are the municipality’s responsibility. So that’s why it varies from city to city, or within cities.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, May 28, 2009 @ 9:15 am

    Oh — I’ll ask about which stops have tubes btw.

  • By Alexwarrior, May 28, 2009 @ 9:34 am

    While the tubes were handy, nowadays I’d be much more likely to just use SMS to find out the schedule if I’m at a stop, or use the translink website on a smartphone to plan the whole route.

  • By Rob, May 28, 2009 @ 9:43 am

    I find the SMS extremely useful. I am getting charged a “carrier fee” of 10 cents from Translink to use it however, even though I have a flat rate SMS plan from my cell phone provider. I took it up with them and they said it was a charge from the company providing the service (IE: translink) could you clarify that?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, May 28, 2009 @ 9:47 am

    That’s odd — I use the SMS service on my personal phone all the time and I’ve never been charged an extra fee. I’ll see if I can dig up some answers. Who’s your cell phone provider, btw?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, May 28, 2009 @ 9:57 am

    Rob, I just got word from our web development team:

    The statement from the carrier is absolutely false. TransLink does not charge for Next Bus SMS. Any charge that shows up for this would be from the carrier and he should definitely take this up with them.

  • By LisaB, May 28, 2009 @ 10:16 am

    I definately get that keeping the info updated is a tough task…. but I’m without cell phone so when I’m at the bus stop, I have no way to call or check the web. Fortunately I’m a patient person and most of my routes are pretty high freqency service, so I can just wait until the bus arrives. Losing the tubes does mean that all non-cell phone people are kind of shafted.

  • By Chris, May 28, 2009 @ 11:05 am

    I use the tubes at some stops, but it is frustrating when they are wrong. I’d rather have no information then misleading information.

    I think the ideal solution is to have schedule information available by cellphone at the smaller stops, and electronic displays at the busier stops that show when the next buses are coming.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, May 28, 2009 @ 11:08 am

    Thanks Chris. Electronic signage would be nice — although since bus stop amenities are provided by the municipalities, it would probably be something we’d have to take up with them to build. (So you should tell your city as well if you want that kind of signage!)

  • By Donald, May 28, 2009 @ 11:10 am

    I’m on Rogers Pay As You Go with the $10 – 2500 30-day message pack and I don’t get dinged extra for Translink’s SMS service – sent or received.

    While I agree that us young tech savvy types can use these great new features, Infotubes are absolutely essential for seniors, tourists and the less tech savvy. Infotubes should be retained at stops serving community centres, libraries, shopping malls, tourist attractions such as Granville Island. On a similar note, paper schedules should not be phased out!

    Whatever happened to initiative for the advanced bus stops with the reading/security light, next bus light, and integrated schedules? Like the one at Wesbrook Mall southbound a block from University Blvd and Willingdon Ave southbound at Canada Way?

  • By AD, May 28, 2009 @ 11:25 am

    The personal me says:
    Let’s take it one step further – add GPS support to the mobile app and then you save us the SMS cost and hassle. In fact, there could be a realtime bus on the way feature as well (assuming the buses are tracked)

    The social me says:
    The fact that the elderly are major users of transit makes all this high tech stuff a little superfluous. Taking away the info tubes does not help the less connected of our community.

  • By Sungsu, May 28, 2009 @ 11:57 am

    I think any route that has a frequency of 20 minutes or longer should have schedules in the infotubes, at least at the major (timing) stops.

  • By Nick, May 28, 2009 @ 12:04 pm

    The elderly will eventually be dead, so why should we as a society be slowing progress just to accommodate them?

    Electronic signage would be cool. Also, the translink app for the iphone is awesome, though it could use some improvement.

  • By CJ Stebbing, May 28, 2009 @ 12:20 pm

    I have unlimited SMS so I don’t have to worry about fees when I text 33333 (translink number for next bus texting service, for those that might not know)…lol

    I too am wondering what happened to those stops that used flashing lights when customers pressed when they say their bus coming….I know they still have one on Scott and 70th, but why did they remove them?????

  • By David, May 28, 2009 @ 12:39 pm

    Hi Jhenifer

    Translink really needs to put money into providing times at stops. Not everybody has a Iphone or blackberry and printed times are still the best way to get the information across. Translink should come over to Victoria to see how it is done there. Victoria the highest percentage of stops with printed timetables than anywhere else I’ve seen. The formatting is different (the times are listed in a single list chronologically regardless of the route), but it works really well.

    No longer having the resources is just a poor excuse. If Translink really wants to get peopel on the buses and trains, they need to provide information at the stops.

  • By ;-), May 28, 2009 @ 12:54 pm

    I used to rely on the tubes, but with SMS and the Blackberry browsers, I rarely look at them. Any updates on when the GPS aware timetables will be running? Could have used it a few times now that summer road construction causes regular delays.

    I don’t support electronic signage (eg 98 BLine). They are big, expensive, hard to maintain (why are the clocks so inaccurate) and can be easily vandalized.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, May 28, 2009 @ 1:21 pm

    David, just want to say that “no longer having the resources” isn’t intended an excuse to provide poor service. We are really committed to providing the best service we can for customers, but our resources sometimes restrict how far we can go in delivering that service.

    I’m not sure if you’re aware, but we’re in fact heading into a deficit situation for next year — this video of Tom Prendergast in the Vancouver Sun provides a really good outline of the challenges we face. So, our resources really are limited in what we can provide, but our intentions are always to provide residents with the best service we can.

  • By Andy, May 28, 2009 @ 2:16 pm

    Perhaps instead of removing the info tubes they could change the information they display. Instead of exact times the tube could say from 7am to 9am X bus comes every 10-12 minutes. (Some of the timetables do this now). If you do away with exact times and just have a time range for the different times of the day, it would not need to be updated as often as an exact time schedule. This still provides information to people without cell phones, tourists, etc. but removes the problem of needing to update the info pole every time the schedule changes except for when service frequency increases.

  • By Alisha, May 28, 2009 @ 2:40 pm

    I think Andy’s suggestion is a good one. I also agree with David, I like Victoria’s format for listing all the buses that come by the stop.

  • By Dan, May 28, 2009 @ 2:54 pm

    Jhenifer:

    I have noticed ever since they took out the times at the tubes and relying on the “Next Bus” info as well as the new Tmac system went into place. The Times have changed. I have the printed schedule for all the routes and noticed many times have changed and is really frustration in the middle of a sheet. As well i now many people who don’t have a cell phone and who don’t have an “up to date PC” to view the new TransLink website. The tubes need to stay as it has frustrated customers as well as myself with “middle of the sheet changes” And this has happened many times over the past 3 years so it’s nothing new.

  • By Reva, May 28, 2009 @ 4:12 pm

    I sent a complaint to Translink about this last week. Convenient, free information was taken away, replaced by a note saying effectively that we’ve taken it away, so you’ll now have to pay your cell phone carrier to get the same information, and if you don’t have a cell phone, well then it sucks to be you doesn’t it.

    I was angry because I feel that Translink did not consider that there is a large segment of the bus-riding population that cannot afford a cell phone. Plus, even those who do have cell phones don’t always carry them, they get lost and batteries die, etc. And what about tourists or those who only take the bus occasionally? The Translink operator’s solution was to offer to mail me a paper timetable. I was insulted that she did not even begin to address my concerns about Translink sticking it to its population of low-income bus riders who have no choice but to take the bus because they can’t afford a car — most of these people can’t afford cell phones, many as it is can barely afford to pay the fare. My concern was for them, not for myself.

    The customer service operator also said that yes, they were having problems keeping up with schedule changes and it was costing too much to replace all the timetables so often — which makes me wonder, why are the schedules being tinkered with so often now? They used to put out service changes 4 times a year, and most of the time there were not a lot of adjustments. What is so wrong with the schedule planning now that they have to change things so often?

    I like Andy’s suggestion of putting up something indicating service frequency of routes at that stop for the duration of that service day. That would help a lot, and wouldn’t need to be replaced nearly as often.

    I think it is good that Translink still wants to connect customers with schedule information by putting up the customer service phone & text numbers, but the way they went about it left me with a bad taste in my mouth. If they took away the schedule tubes altogether instead of putting notes in them to blatantly tell customers that they have removed something that was previously convenient and free, and instead perhaps put permanent information phone/text #’s at the top of every bus stop sign (where the stop number is), I would have found the situation easier to take.

    I know I’m not the only one who feels this way — at several bus stops in North Vancouver, I’ve noticed someone has written under Translink’s notes in the schedule tubes “What if I don’t have a cell phone, you [*bleep*]s!” I think that person voices the frustration felt by just about everyone who wanted to see when the next bus was, but got this instead.

    /End rant :)

  • By Eugene Wong, May 28, 2009 @ 4:19 pm

    @Reva

    Your email address showed up here. I advise everybody to use a fictitious email address. If you use the same fictitious email address each time, then it should be just as good as a real address.

    I claim asdf@asdf.asdf! :^) :^D

    re: seniors

    I don’t think that seniors can read the schedules. I don’t think that they are going to bother.

    I like Andy’s idea of mentioning every few minutes how often the bus comes. This idea is strongest when the bus comes every 5 minutes.

    @Jhenifer

    Maybe this is an opportunity for volunteers to chip in. Many people would like scheduling information, and many people already have access to it. If people printed out the schedules on a computer, and then inserted the schedules into the tubes, then at least some tubes would have that information. Maybe the cub scouts could do this? If they did it by bike, then they’d get their exercise. If companies could rely on children to deliever newspapers, then I assume that Translink could rely on kids to deliver scheduling to bus stops. With my luck, I’ll probably eat my words, though. ;^P

    Considering the upcoming deficit, I really think that volunteers should be allowed to step in.

    The situations that bug me are the situations that are inconsistent. For example, the #319 comes every half hour at night, with an anomaly at 11:00pm, then 11:40pm, then every half hour. It really bothers me, because the more anomalies, the harder it is to remember. If I recall correctly, the #340 had different timings based on the time & day, which meant having to remember 6 completely different times.

    Frankly, I’d rather have no information, than incorrect information.

    re: Victoria

    If I understand you all, then I find that technique counter intuitive. I think that that is only useful for certain corridors. I think that on 4th Ave, in Vancouver, you have several buses going several blocks. If we knew where these routes overlapped, then the “Victorian” ;^p style of listing the information would be very helpful. I think that volunteers would be very helpful here. We could digest the information for our fellow transit users, then post it in a much more applicable format.

    I used to carry with me a copy of every schedule, except the Vancouver schedules. I would underline things, add footnotes, and draw on the maps. I was surprised by how much I could get out of it. I really felt that if I could find a way of getting the information out to people, then they’d be willing to use it.

    Maybe we could create an open source type of group that would create documentation.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, May 28, 2009 @ 4:25 pm

    Hey Reva,

    Schedules still only switch 4x a year, so I’m not sure what that person was talking about there — it’s still only 4x, and hasn’t changed at all!

    I totally feel your concern about the switch though. And for what it’s worth, it wasn’t intended to be such a blunt transition — the customer information staff put the numbers & website there because they didn’t want to just leave a blank sheet and leave people completely stranded with no alternatives.

    Also, from what I understand, it wasn’t a decision made lightly — the customer information staff just doesn’t have the people to update the tubes anymore, and they faced a real problem in knowing the tube information was out there getting stale and possibly misleading people.

    So, this is what they’ve come up with for now — and I’m glad you’ve submitted your feedback, because they really wanted to know that people were missing the tubes! Thanks so much!

  • By David, May 28, 2009 @ 4:30 pm

    Thanks Jhenifer

    Victoria also uses advertising on the schedules to off-set the cost. A small add at the bottom of the bus schedule. Just saying that I think it can still be done in a way that is cost effective.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, May 28, 2009 @ 4:34 pm

    PS. I hope all of you have submitted your comments to Customer Relations via the web form!

  • By Eugene Wong, May 28, 2009 @ 4:44 pm

    It is unfortunate that people are poor, and that they can’t afford this or that, but we can’t give out things for free just because they don’t carry schedules around with them.

    If they desperately need the information, then they should carry the paper schedules around.

    We can’t keep blaming companies and government for lack of funding. Poor people have to pitch in to cost saving measures too.

    @David M.

    I saw your email address here.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, May 28, 2009 @ 4:46 pm

    RE: the ongoing email issue.
    I have been told that we could possibly move the blog to another server and that could solve the issue. Stay tuned!

  • By Eugene Wong, May 28, 2009 @ 6:09 pm

    I don’t want to turn this into a huge debate. It’s just that I’m passionate about saving money, & finding innovative ways of doing things at lower costs.

    Regarding tourists, I agree that posting information on poles is helpful. However, I really wonder how many tourists use transit. Many people believe that transit is unusable at 30 minute frequencies, so if they won’t use transit in the comfort of their own transit systems, then I doubt that they’ll prefer to use transit here. I’m quite confident that many tourists use taxis, and that they already have mobile phones.

    I’m sure that there are many budget travellers out there, but I’m sure that most travellers can afford to spend money on taxis, rather than wait for a bus. Tourists have time constraints, because holiday time is very limited. How many tourists would willingly go to an unfamiliar city, and not bother to look up transit information until they get to the busstop? If you were a tourist, then wouldn’t you consider the frequency of the route, transfers, and how crowded the bus will be? Remember, if you save 1 hour on a 1 way trip, then that means more site seeing time.

    The car culture is so ingrained into our lives, that even joyriding is done in cars. Even when we have no time constraints or anywhere to go, we *still* use the car! Argh-gh-gh!!!!!!!!

    /me slams head against wall and pulls hair out. ;^P

    I think that what I’m trying to say is that if we do this for ourselves and then the tourists benefit, then great. However, let’s not do it for the tourists.

    @Jhenifer

    I followed the link & left a comment with customer service.

    @Jhenifer

    Is it common for the printed Buzzer to mention midschedule changes? I ask because I stopped reading the printed Buzzer. I don’t usually find any information in there that is applicable to me. If you normally mention midschedule changes, then I’ll start reading again.


    Sincerely, and with thanks,
    Eugene T.S. Wong

  • By Joseph Bilac, June 1, 2009 @ 8:33 am

    I found the messages to be very insulting as if you didn’t own an expensive electronic device you don’t deserve to know when your bus is coming.

  • By Eugene Wong, June 1, 2009 @ 8:53 am

    @Joseph Bilac

    I assume that you are referring to what I said.

    I didn’t say anything about “expensive” or “deserve”. I did say that carrying a paper schedule around is just as good as the infotube. After all, in most cases the infotubes & paper schedules are updated at the same time. Therefore, if you rely on infotubes, because you are too poor to rely on “expensive” alternatives, then you will be able to afford *free* paper schedules.

    In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the electronic versions get updated around the same time or later than the infotubes.

    1 benefit of paper schedules is that you can make impromptu adjustments before your upcoming transfer point.

    In short, infotubes don’t bring poor people much return on investment, but *free* paper schedules do.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, June 1, 2009 @ 11:15 am

    Eugene: hmmm… well, there shouldn’t be any midschedule service changes — we really only do change the schedules 4x a year. If there are, we would definitely mention them in the print Buzzer.

  • By Dora, June 1, 2009 @ 5:09 pm

    Just on the subject of being a tourist on transit, I always take public transit when I’m visiting places, and I don’t always have a cell phone that I am able (or willing, considering the price of roaming service) to use. Printed schedules and online trip planning only go so far if you’re not sure where to get print schedules or maps, and you have to pay to get internet access. Even when a visitor or infrequent transit traveller is able to look up schedules online for a planned trip within their day, changes in plans can leave you waiting at the stop at a different time than you may have originally planned. Having at least basic information at stops, maybe at ones where the bus doesn’t come very frequently and there are several different routes stopping there (off the top of my head those would be good options), would be helpful!

  • By Lusha, June 1, 2009 @ 6:49 pm

    I found it frustrating when I first discovered any tube I approached would only have the same message directing me to a phone/text number. I don’t really think the tubes were misleading, because if you’re at the bus stop anyways, the tubes gave more a peace of mind than anything else. Or for me, I tend to walk to the next stop if I know I have the time.

    The info tubes should stay for now, since our society goes on a need-to-know basis. Or at least don’t aggravate people with the same message :p

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, June 2, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

    Here’s a question — what would you rather have the infotubes say? I see that some people might want to see a range of times rather than specific scheduling — anything else?

  • By ???, June 2, 2009 @ 3:12 pm

    Perhaps a map and directions to the nearest Blackberry or cellphone dealer would be helpful? How about a URL to the mobile translink website?

    I think what was provided in the past was perfect. Perhaps a route map would be helpful if space permits.

  • By Sean, June 2, 2009 @ 3:52 pm

    Well, if the bus runs say every 15 minutes or better, then THAT is all that it needs to say… BUT if it’s less frequent, the specific times is best…
    If it does a “unique” routing might be good to note that too…
    The name and number that will be displayed?
    The Effective date of the posted schedule?
    I’ve noticed, and been confused by some notations such as: “X Friday Extn” which I know means Friday night only, but that notation is confusing…

  • By ?, June 2, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

    I wonder if Bell Wireless wants to sponsor the info tubes, if they can put the 2010 rings on there. It would be a great legacy item, especially for tourists.

    How much does Translink save in labour cost per quarter by eliminating the tubes?

  • By Eugene Wong, June 3, 2009 @ 6:03 pm

    Assuming that there is no cost to them, perhaps a map of the route, and suggested alternate routes.

    Perhaps a hybrid schedule, of our schedules & Victoria’s. In Victoria, they list all the buses at the stop, combined into 1 schedule. However, maybe we should do that only with buses that depart “here”, and arrive “there”. For example, a hybrid schedule at Guildford might show only buses departing Guildford Exchange and arriving at Surrey Central Station. Another hybrid schedule at Guildford might only show buses departing Guildford Exchange and arriving at Langley Exchange.

    This type of a hybrid schedule is actually meaningful to me, because I could be trapped in a certain place, and I would want any bus to take me to the next transfer point.

    Another bit of infotube information that is useful might be taxi phone numbers. Maybe the taxi companies can pay for the costs.

    Any bit of information that presents opportunities & doesn’t make us feel trapped at a location is welcome information.

    On a slightly unrelated note, why aren’t system maps available on the SkyTrain platforms? Is it because of cost and/or to encourage us to look at the ads instead? I believe that system maps should be placed at every waiting location, assuming that we have the budget for it, of course. The idea is that we could be studying up on the system, while we wait, where we wait.

    On another slightly unrelated note, at 1 time, Greyhound used to send buses near my home, and it would have stops at the public transit bus stops. I sent a few letters each to Greyhound & BC Transit [there was no Translink at the time, if I recall correctly], suggesting that Greyhound be able to post metal flags on the BC Transit poles. When I last checked, Pacific Coach Lines was able to do it. If it wasn’t Pacific Coach Lines, then it was a different company. I know for sure that a company was able to do it. I got polite, but unflexible replies from BC Transit. Why wouldn’t any bus company want not be able to place their information on Translink’s poles?

  • By ;-), June 12, 2009 @ 6:18 am

    fyi…. there was a Global article about the info tubes yesterday ( http://www.globaltv.com/globaltv/bc/TransLink+phase+printed+schedules+Metro+Vancouver+stops/1687073/story.html ).

    With recent videos on the Greenway, perhaps Translink can put together a 20 or 60 second video on how easy it is to use SMS timetables on put it on the website. Current posters and print media don’t really demonstrate how easy SMS can be.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, June 17, 2009 @ 9:45 am

    Yep, I did see that article.

    In fact we do have an SMS video! Here it is:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJ0jyOinoGc

    You’re right that we should maybe promote it more now, considering the loss of the info tubes. I’ll let our marketing dept know.

  • By ;-), June 18, 2009 @ 7:55 am

    Love the video. If there are future changes….
    -perhaps move the SMS section prior to the mobile website. I think more people use the SMS than the browser site at this time.
    -You might also want to suggest bookmarking the m.tranlink.ca site with your favourite stop number for ultimate speed in seeing the next buses coming to your stop. This is my favourite way to use my Blackberry.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, June 18, 2009 @ 8:18 am

    PS. Just double checked and the info tubes will NOT be taken out of all stops. That must have been a miscommunication in the Global article.

    So again, info tubes will NOT be taken down out of all stops. More tubes will in fact be added to the Canada Line bus loops!

  • By ;-), June 22, 2009 @ 7:51 am

    For those that haven’t heard. News1130 reports Translink will be using the info tubes again.

  • By ;-), August 6, 2009 @ 9:10 am

    Hey Jhenifer,

    Someone found this new bus stop modification. What is the new horizontal bar for? Real Estate sign? Advertisement? Bigger print for the timetable?

    Click on my name link to review.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, August 6, 2009 @ 9:24 am

    It’s for the public information displays at the Main Street stops, like at the 98 B-Line! I will be writing a post about it soon—planning is working to get me more info.

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