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Masters student seeks feedback on transit volunteer program

Silas is a student interning with the TransLink planning department, and he’d love your feedback on a project he’s working on for his masters degree. Here’s the summary he’s given me:

Silas Archambault, a masters student at the School of Community and Regional Planning (UBC) is exploring the concept of a transit volunteer program. The program would see pairs of experienced transit users assist customers at stops, stations, and on vehicles with wayfinding and questions about the system. It would be designed to increase customer understanding and appreciation of the transit system, and facilitate communication between TransLink and users. The project is still in conceptual stages, and Silas would like feedback on program design and ways to engage potential volunteers. If you are interested in the project or have ideas, please email

Please be aware that this volunteer program is not yet approved or implemented! It’s just an idea he’s exploring for his schoolwork at the moment, and he’d like to get some feedback if possible :)


  • By ;-), December 22, 2009 @ 10:11 am

    Sometimes I feel like I’m already doing this when I see lost souls in front of a transit map or reading Skytrain/Canada Line door maps.

    Then again wearing some sort of uniform wouldn’t “creep” people (especially tourists) out so much.

    Would this be like YVR’s successful Green Coat Ambassador program? I understand the Olympics will also be deploying volunteers near Canada Line stations. This may be another great way to keep seniors active. Also having more eyes will make transit and neighbourhoods around stops/stations safer.

    How do people feel about the Downtown Ambassidor program? You know the ones with the Red Uniforms.

    Then again would we be taking work away from “union staff”? How does the unions feel about this? As Translink funding is limited, a volunteer force would supplement staff needs, but would it reduce Translink staff moral.

  • By daniel, December 22, 2009 @ 11:29 am

    if that were to be impldemented i would totally volunteer to do that! sounds like a great idea!

  • By Allan Kuan, December 22, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

    I find the union question to be interesting. I think the SkyTrain workers atm probably wouldn’t mind the extra voluntary help that they can get (and it doesn’t seem like if all the stations are fully staffed) but on the other hand they probably won’t feel good being replaced completely either.
    There’s a similar situation when I try suggesting that my school’s Service Club can clean up the hallways on Fridays; apparently we can’t do that because it’d take away from the jobs of the engineers and custodians.

  • By Brandon, December 22, 2009 @ 4:43 pm

    I think this is a great idea. Something like this would be helpful at major transit exchanges and throughout downtown. I constantly get questions when driving through downtown about which bus to take and where to catch it etc. While I am more than happy to answer their questions, it would be more efficient for someone to answer these questions at the stop.

  • By ;-), December 22, 2009 @ 9:32 pm

    I brought up the union issue because of the firestorm when the Community Shuttles were introduced.

    From what I remembered in the media, Translink drivers wanted to drive the community shuttle routes. However, Translink wanted their drivers to fill the understaffed high-usage routes instead.

    Having volunteers for the rare special event is OK. Once it becomes regular, it’s important to set guidelines to keep everyone happy.

  • By Eugene T.S. Wong, December 23, 2009 @ 1:34 pm

    Union workers take our jobs and volunteer opportunities, too, so it’s not a particular problem. I hope that the unions don’t claim that all jobs belong to them.

  • By Silas, December 23, 2009 @ 1:57 pm

    Obviously wayfinding is striking a chord with people, but are there other things volunteers would be able to help customers with?

    One possible way to avoid the whole union issue would be to have another organization (not TransLink) manage the program. This would make it more of a moving downtown ambassador feel. Do you think that would work, or would it be too disconnected to be worthwhile?

  • By Cliff, December 24, 2009 @ 2:34 am

    This is something I feel I would have fun with, at least as a part time job.

    I rather enjoy telling people the quickest way to get somewhere. Someone like this would be fantastic at the major exchanges and even some of the tourist areas in the summer (Grouse Mountain, Granville Island, etc…)

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