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Friday fun poll: which type of train do you like best? (Now includes new SkyTrains and Canada Line cars!)

If you like, skip to the end of this post to answer the favourite train poll.

Last week’s survey: what do you read when you ride transit?

Last week the New York Times asked people what they read on the subway, so I thought it would be fun to run the same survey here.

So, see the full Times results here; the full Buzzer results are in this Excel spreadsheet.

Here’s a summary though!

While 8,000 people answered the Times survey, a modest 48 put their answers into the Buzzer poll :)

In the comments it seemed that some didn’t really read on transit: Steven caught up with news on his BlackBerry/iPhone, and some couldn’t read on the bus without feeling sick (Sally, I feel for you)!

Just like the Times, I asked about the last book, magazine, and newspaper everyone read — however I didn’t analyze by bus routes/train lines since there was such a wide variety.

The only category with some clear results were the newspapers:

New York Times survey Buzzer survey
1. New York Times (3,143 readers)
2. AM New York (a free paper – 1,117 readers)
3. Metro (524)
4. Wall Street Journal (337)
5. New York Post (226)
1. 24 Hours (18 readers)
2. Metro (10)
3. Vancouver Sun (3)
4. The Province (2)
5. Surrey Leader/The Peak (SFU) (1)

(Seems likely that the Times would come out tops in its own poll, no? Free papers did definitely dominate in both surveys though. And four kind people listed the Buzzer as their newspaper reading.)

Books and magazines were much harder to report on, since every single person surveyed was reading something different. The Times survey seemed to show this too: while 8,000 did the survey, the top books have just 58 readers each (there was a tie for first).

Our survey reported 31 different books, and here’s some commonalities:
– Three books were sci-fi (Traitor’s Sun, Lord of the Rings, Handmaid’s Tale)
– One person was reading Pride and Prejudice, and another was reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
– Two books were by Margaret Atwood (Negotiating with the Dead, Handmaid’s Tale)
– Several were nonfiction or educational (Shock Doctrine, Post America World, Bottom Billion, or training manuals or textbooks)
– The rest were a wide range of novels!

We also had 20 different magazines. Observations:
– A lot had to do with hobbies, arts and/or crafts (Photo Life, What’s Cooking, Somerset Studio and Altered Arts, MARK Magazine, Room Magazine)
– Sports and cycling had fans (Runner’s World, Sports Illustrated, Canucks Yearbook)
– General interest popped up (Time, The Walrus, Economist)
– And someone was reading the H&M Magazine!

Last notes here. Devin, I didn’t include your answers because you mostly ride in L.A. :) And Cliff had a reading experiment to conduct:

I’m awfully tempted to bring a hidden camera and record people’s reactions to my reading the Kama Sutra on transit.

This week: which type of train do you like best?

Last time I asked about your favourite train car, the new Mark IIs and the Canada Line trains weren’t on the system. So now let’s throw them into the mix!

The Mark I photo is courtesy ms_cwang at Flickr btw. OK, let’s hear your thoughts in the comments!


  • By cree, September 11, 2009 @ 5:23 pm

    with all incarnations of trainns translink has in operation my heart still goes out to the Mk I trains for the same reasons I chose the last time this question was asked:
    best seating layout (bench seating)
    handlebar placement is great. (still could use some drop handles)
    the classic accel/decel whining sound.
    the one thing that would’ve been perfect was to add gangways (a la mk II & canada line) to allow walking through all 4 (or 6 *hint hint*) cars.

    both mk 2 trains have terrible interior placement/standing room/handles

    canada line trains are too cold and sterile – missed the mark with not adding Lcd maps above doors.

  • By Derrick, September 11, 2009 @ 7:04 pm

    Yep, Mark I for me too, for a lot of the same reasons. Most importantly, there is a greater variety of seating options than any other car. I have long legs and want to be able to sit comfortably. If the train is full, I’d rather stand than sit and there is always somewhere to hold on. I like the sound, and I really like the red wall panels – the light is warm and comfortable. These cars have aged well and I hope they stay in service for many more years.

    I agree that the Mark II trains are awful for standing passengers – the bars that are there are all in the wrong place, and the poles in the middle of the doorways only cause major congestion on a busy train. The new Mark IIs are better.

    The light on the Canada Line cars is too bright and harsh to read comfortably. I don’t commute on the line so it is hard to know how they are for sitting/standing.

  • By Tsushima Masaki, September 11, 2009 @ 7:04 pm

    Canada Line’s Hyundai ROTEM cars are my favourite these days, but I still have a soft spot for the 3-part acceleration/deceleration sound the Mk I cars make.

    The new 1300-1400 series Mk IIs provide more space to move around for standees, but the air conditioning sound is annoying.

  • By Devin, September 11, 2009 @ 7:10 pm

    Fair enough. I actually expected a few more smart-you-know-whats from out of town!

    For this poll I have to go with the Mk1 cars as my favourite train car. The Mk1 SkyTrain car was the first train I have ever been on in my life and it holds a very special place in my heart. It’s what made me the train and transit nut I am today. The electric motor acceleration and deceleration hum on the Mk1 cars is ingrained in my head and hearing it whenever I’m back in Vancouver is a little like having your favourite dish that mum cooks.

  • By chris, September 11, 2009 @ 9:23 pm

    I’m one of the smart-you-know-whats from out of town and I’m going with the MK1s. But only because the last time I rode the Skytrain was 2001, before any of the other models were in use. That makes me sad but it’s true.

  • By sewing, September 11, 2009 @ 9:52 pm

    For sentimental reasons, I *sort of like* the Mark I’s.

    Gee willikers, I rode on the very first train back in 1983 or thereabouts, when the demonstration train was running out of Main Street Station, along Terminal Avenue.

    And then there’s the one Mark I car with plaques commemorating rides by the Crown Prince and Princess of Belgium, and a Princess of Thailand. (Trivia question: can anyone guess the car number?)

    But I’m easily amused, and I really *love* the LED maps on the new 2009 Mark II cars. For that reason, I’ve gotta go with them.

  • By zack, September 11, 2009 @ 10:19 pm

    I like all the trains but my top favourite is the new Mark II car because of its sleek design of the exterior and interior. I especially like the new seats which certainly makes a comfortable ride home. But the only problem is that while its easy to spot this train its very difficult to catch it (I only rode it 4 times ever since it came in service). For the MK1s while it has a unique acceleration and deceleration sound its seats are poorly designed in terms of space,there isn’t any space my legs to breath (yikes!). And the rumbling and squeling sound it makes when its in the Dunsmuir Tunnel is horrible! I feel like my eardrums ring like crazy! The older Mark IIs look cute but they have the same space problem only this time in terms of standing. The Canada Line definitely looks much better. The trains are wider and run quieter and look more like subway trains than a SkyTrain :). But I don’t think I can handle waiting 15 minutes or so to get out of the tunnel,there’s just nothing to see underground. :)

  • By Rvie, September 11, 2009 @ 10:47 pm

    All the trains are awesome but my heart has to go out to the new Mark II trains and the Canada Line trains. Obviously they both contribute to quiet rides, yet they are both state-of-the art. I love the destination signs on both trains, which tell where the train is going. What I really like about the new Mark II trains is the LED maps and spacing in terms of standing and sitting. But my heart REALLY has to go out to the Canada Line trains–big ample space for standing, sitting, AND placing your bags. I especially love the destination signs inside, which tell you the next station and the terminus station. The ride is also very smooth and comfortable.

  • By Peter, September 11, 2009 @ 11:11 pm

    Canada line trains talk way too much and the automated announcements are way too loud. New mkII cars are my favorite. I even saw a 4car mkII 1300 series train the other day. Are they getting the hint? BTW, canada line is already packed during peak periods. And they can’t make longer trains!

  • By MaxNV, September 11, 2009 @ 11:29 pm

    Gotta go with the MKI’s for the same reasons alot of people have stated. But mostly because when I was a kid my mom and me would ride them out to Surrey and back to Waterfront just for fun and because I love trains. Also I just love the sounds they make.

  • By Cliff, September 12, 2009 @ 5:20 am

    Mark I for me as well. It’s nostalgic for me in a “the future is now” sort of way. The Mark I felt ahead of its time for some weird reason and I still get a kick out of the sounds I hear.

    Also, the audio that announces the stations sounds peppier on the Mark I. I had a friend who best described the MKII announcements as cold and vindictive. Who knew one could gather so much from just an automated station announcement?

    The Canada Line? Noisy trains. People going to Waterfront don’t need to be told over a dozen times where the train is going as it can only be going to one place. (We don’t get told on the original lines.) Going the opposite direction, the announcement differentiating the trains between YVR and Richmond only need to be made at the Downtown stations, Marine Drive, and Bridgeport. There will always be the platform displays to read.

  • By Steven, September 12, 2009 @ 8:18 am

    The Mark II 1300-1400 series are my favorite, not sure if its the line they travel on but appears to have the right amount of seating, very comfortable, good air conditioning.

    Before the 7th September schedule change the Canada Line trains were great however due to the amount of human traffic there is not enough seating and they are not long enough to cope with the demand, so its a stressful trip. I feel for people with prams, the elderly, anybody travelling to/from Richmond.

    I would highly recommend putting in bar’s in your trains, I think that would make the trip far more pleasant!

  • By Jay, September 12, 2009 @ 11:37 am

    Cliff, Don’t forget the audible messages on the Canada Line are there to assist those who are visually impaired.

  • By cree, September 12, 2009 @ 12:11 pm


    You have to consider that the platform and train announcements are also for people with disabilities, eg visually impared.

    If anything, in regards to announcements for all the trains, there aren’t enough. What about door exit direction? What’s another 8 more words in there?
    “The doors on the left/right side will open”
    I remember I posted a similar question on Twitter if TransLink paid Laureen Regan by the word.

  • By sewing, September 12, 2009 @ 1:10 pm

    All the subway trains in Seoul announce (in both Korean and English) which side the doors will open on; and on newer trains, the LED displays have a big flashing arrow pointing at the exit doors! It’s actually quite helpful.

    Since no one volunteered an answer, car 014 has the royal plaques inside it.

  • By Andrew S, September 12, 2009 @ 1:14 pm

    I’ll have to choose the Mark I trains as my favourite too… I think the announcements on the Mark I trains sound warmer too, but they’re mostly really loud ;) and i like the sound they make :) .
    The MK II trains seem glitchy recently because they’ve been making sort of double-announcements for the stations, and the MK II announcements are too quiet.
    Ugh! The Canada Line trains are too “cold” and the announcements are kinda too fast, so in conclusion, the original SkyTrain announcements are the best :) .
    And i wonder why the 2002 – Present trains don’t have the chime preceding the station announcement?
    Also i haven’t been on a new MK II train so i can’t say ;) !

  • By Tsushima Masaki, September 12, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

    I also want to add that I enjoy the Mk I’s for because it was my first train growing up, so lots of fond memories. Actually, the only other train I’ve ever been on besides Vancouver’s rapid transit system is West Coast Express.

    A lot of my memories consist of my mom, my sister and I walking underneath the SkyTrain guideway on Central Boulevard to get to the Bonsor Swimming Pool near Metrotown, and taking the trains to and from Metrotown (we used to live in Central Park).

    I actually phoned my mom last year when I had moved back to Metro Vancouver and asked her why we never boarded at Patterson Station. I didn’t even know the station existed until I saw it while strolling around Central Park one day.

    Another thing I like about the Canada Line trains are the smooth and quiet rides they provide. Everytime I get back onto an Expo/Millennium Line train it feels like I went from a newly paved roadway to a gravel road.

    One complaint though is that the SkyTrain chime on the Canada Line trains are too loud. Other than that, I don’t mind all of the other bells and whistles Canada Line platforms/trains provide. The “This train is for Richmond-Brighouse” announcements don’t bother me as they are good for accessibility and I usually tune them out these days.

    I think they just need to improve the “inbound/outbound” announcements, by either replacing them with more understandable wording or having supplementary directions under the destination signage on the farside of the tracks:
    <— Outbound to Richmond/YVR-Airport

    King Edward
    <— Inbound to Waterfront

    Or perhaps actually have signage with “Inbound Platform” on the LED signboards, because besides the people commenting on this blog, the majority of people don’t know have a concept of inbound and outbound.

  • By ;-), September 12, 2009 @ 1:48 pm

    If you want information overload… Go to Waikiki. It feels like there is a 2 minute announcement on what hotels can be expected at each stop….

    Personally, I think Southbound trains crossing the CLine bridge should have their announcement translated in French, Spanish, Cantonses, Mandarin, Japanese and Punjabi to advise the English challenged whether they need to switch trains for the airport. This may be ideal in the months leading up to the Olympics.

    How about a reminder to not eat on the bus, pay your two zone fare, remove your backpacks, keep your cellphone conversations down and other transit ettiqutte?

  • By Cliff, September 12, 2009 @ 6:05 pm


    While I applaud TransLink for making the effort to assist the visually impaired, how hard is it to simply board the first train that comes and disembarking at Marine Drive or Bridgeport if it’s not the train they need? In theory everyone only has a 50% chance of being on the wrong train.

    And to further add, anyone doing this would certainly not be wasting any time. Time spent disembarking and boarding at Marine Drive or Bridgeport Stations would only be wasted waiting for the appropriate train at any other station anyway.

    Going to Waterfront, the mere absence of any train announcement should imply that it’s a train bound for Waterfront.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This would be much easier if the Canada Line was actually branded as two separate lines running on on the same tracks like the other lines are. An Airport Line and a Richmond Line. Functionally I can’t see how this would be any different than how the other lines are run.

  • By Cliff, September 12, 2009 @ 6:17 pm

    @ cree

    About which side the doors will open on. A chime next to the doors that open would be a fantastic idea. Left and right don’t have much meaning to people as I don’t think people will take into account which way the train was moving. A quick “ding-ding” 5 seconds before the doors open would do the trick.

  • By David, September 12, 2009 @ 9:32 pm

    On a packed train a 5 second warning is nothing. If you’re going to give advance warning it needs to be far enough in advance to be truly useful. A light next to the door that came on a minute before arrival would give plenty of advance warning to both people looking to get off and those in their path. Actually I’d love a strip that lit up around the entire doorway ;)

    I like the space inside the Rotem cars and the pocket doors are fantastic for keeping out the noise and tunnel air. When you’re outside the train it’s obvious they make a lot of noise, but inside is quiet. I do think the lighting is a bit harsh and I’m not fond of all the announcements.

    The fundamental problem with all models of SkyTrain is the doors. Being on the outside of the cars lets in a lot of noise and, in winter, cold air. It’s truly mind boggling that a train designed for Toronto weather has such a flaw. That rush of air makes the Mark I doors vibrate.

    The newest Mark IIs have the best arrangement of places to hold on and enough space between seats for people to move around. I prefer their interior signage too so that makes it a virtual tie with the Rotem cars.

  • By Cliff, September 12, 2009 @ 10:32 pm

    Well, I figured 5 seconds because once the station name has been announced, those exiting should generally be making their way to where the doors are.

    Functionally speaking, the cardinal directions make sense to me because on the Canada Line, the trains are only going in two directions. But how many people do you know could immediately tell you what direction is east on a southbound train without thinking about it for a moment?

    I guess when it comes down to it, we can’t spoon feed everyone. It would just cost too much.

  • By JC, September 13, 2009 @ 8:56 pm

    2009 MK2 trains and the extra vertical/overhead overstanchions great (lose the yellow covering, it’s ugly — how often do you see a passenger crashing into a pole), now if the MK2 only mirrored the MK1 seating layout, it would be awesome.

    Why we never started out with standard width trains is beyond me… what were those penny pinching politicians thinking? Now we have cramped trains for commuting. :S Extra frequency doesn’t work well, as we also have short platforms… 2nd train is always waiting in-between stations, accelerating/braking needlessly… extra wear and tear on the trains, consuming extra Hydro power accel/decelerating etc… and not to mention uncomfortable ride for passengers standing in a sardine can. Kudos for the Skytrain Control for trying to keep the trains rolling at a slow speed (i.e. between Stadium-Granville, doesn’t work well with MK1 trains though) to alleviate this… but I don’t recall any other city that runs their system like us. :P

  • By ;-), September 13, 2009 @ 10:18 pm

    Light Rail (or Skytrain) is purposely narrow to yield a smaller footprint being retrofitted into existing neighbourhoods. The narrower trains also allows for tighter curves. To make up for the narrower width, they can always make the trains longer. The Mk1 can be deployed as 2, 4 or 6 car configurations depending on demand. I wonder if 8 Mk1 cars may be possible if the ends are hanging outside the platform.

    Otherwise imagine something like the West Coast Express coming through your neighbourhood. I wonder if Canada Line or Toronto’s subway use “standard width” vehicles.

    Yes, I too love the Mk1 bench seats! Being able to open the windows for fresh air is also a great option.

  • By Cliff, September 13, 2009 @ 11:37 pm


    Eight car trains should be possible when the platforms are expanded. I’ve always wondered why they couldn’t just run two MKII train sets with a middle C car with the ends sticking off the platform to add more capacity. The end cars would be used by people going longer distances and the lights could even be dimmed in the areas where the doors don’t open. With the gangways between cars, it seems like it would work wonderfully without having to pay through the nose to expand all the platforms. Better yet, at stations like Lougheed, New Westminster, Surrey Central, Metrotown, Broadway, Commercial, Production Way, and all the downtown stations, the platforms could be expanded to allow for all door boarding there!

    What ever happened to the MKII middle c car? I’m not sure, but I think I remember seeing one in service a long while back. I’m sure they were around. It’s as if they’re some kind of legend, tucked away in some garage at the Edmonds garage, waiting for TransLink to come out and say, “Aha! We have found it!”, like some long lost treasure.

  • By cree, September 14, 2009 @ 12:57 am


    Depending on the direction in which the train is heading (Waterfront or Richmond), noting left and right is fairly simple (regardless of seating arrangements). For example, boarding a train to Waterfront, approaching Broadway-City Hall, the announcement should read as “The doors on the right side will open” (which actually works the same way heading outbound)

    with something different like the stacked stations @ King Edward, outbound will announce as “right side” and inbound will announce as “left side”


    The MK II.5 trains do use the old skool chime before the stations; however name changes like Broadway-Commercial, Stadium-Chinatown, and Joyce-Collingwood haven’t been implemented in the announcements yet.

    Off topic, but open suggestion which actually should be implemented on the entire SkyTrain system is a minor yet, useful addition.

    In regards to the station signage, In addition to the name of the station you’re at (eg. Bridgeport) add the next and previous station to the right and left of it.


    Would also work for Columbia Station:

    <<Scott Road

    Sapperton would be in yellow while Scott Road being in Blue

  • By cree, September 14, 2009 @ 1:07 am


    rudimentary image of my example at the end of my last post:

  • By Donald, September 14, 2009 @ 9:48 am

    I love the MKIs dearly but over the summer time they were always at least 10C hotter than the already unbearable outside temperatures that I would just wait however long it took to get onto a MKII rather than suffer. It’s unfortunate that Translink doesn’t see it worthwhile to retrofit the trains with A/C.

  • By David, September 14, 2009 @ 11:57 am

    The Toronto Subway uses broad gauge trains. They use wider tracks than even the double decker Go Trains and West Coast Express do. Toronto can’t simply buy a standard subway car from any of a dozen manufacturers, they have to get them custom made. I believe the car bodies are extra wide too meaning they have to dig larger diameter tunnels than other cities do.

    SkyTrain and Canada Line both use standard gauge track, but Canada Line trains have a more traditional width body on top of the wheels to accommodate more people. The obvious side effects are wider overhead guideways and tunnels than are needed for the narrow body SkyTrain cars.

  • By Cliff, September 14, 2009 @ 4:23 pm


    Are you able to dig up any dirt about what’s happened to the middle c cars? I’m really curious now.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, September 14, 2009 @ 4:51 pm


    I’ve answered this for others before who have asked about us using C cars – so hope you all don’t mind if I’m repeating some info here.

    As far as I know a C car has never been actually used on the system. It is definitely something that theoretically could be done though, as many have noted.

    I was also told that a study is currently exploring the possibility of using them, among other ideas to expand capacity on SkyTrain (I don’t know what those other ideas are though — sorry :)

  • By zack, September 14, 2009 @ 7:17 pm

    We’ve got some competition from Toronto, the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) is expected to have its first brand new subway train this November. I wonder how that would compare to the Canada Line trains. ;-)

  • By C car, September 14, 2009 @ 10:03 pm

    Back in January ’09 there was a report on the C-cars at

    but it seems to have disapeared

  • By KC, September 17, 2009 @ 11:23 pm

    The rediculously narrow width of the mk I and II cars, 2.4 m vs a typical 3.0 m car and narrower than a city bus, would not give them an advantage on tight corners but the short length of 12 meters vs 20-23 for a true subway car would. The tunnel was built to move 18 m long passenger cars so the turning radius was never a reason for such short cars. Vancouver started mass transit with four cars of 75 riders each vs the 6-12 cars of 200 riders each on a true subway. Thats less than 25% of the capacity on more expensive track! Vancouver has never led anyone in transportation smarts.


  • By ;-), September 23, 2009 @ 9:27 pm

    Slightly off topic, but may be a potential future poll…

    Do people have a preference on what you hold onto for each train type when you are standing?

    More specifically…. I notice what appears to be polished stainless steel grab poles on the Canada Line appear to be extremely “slimy” from excessive use (click on my name link for a picture). I don’t notice this issue with the satin poles on other trains, nor the yellow painted or coated surfaces on the Canada Line yellow poles.

    Has anyone else noticed this?

    Unlike other pole surfaces, I can see finger prints from the previous users. It’s really gross wondering what I’m looking at is from someone sneezing, Norwalk, or H1N1.

  • By Romase, October 3, 2009 @ 9:08 pm

    site best

Other Links to this Post

  1. The Buzzer blog » Friday fun poll: do you pull the cord or push the button to request a stop? — September 24, 2009 @ 9:20 am

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