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The host command centre: supporting our transit hosts out on the street

The host command centre at Commercial-Broadway Station

The host command centre at Commercial-Broadway Station

The door to the host command centre in Commercial-Broadway Station.

The door to the host command centre in Commercial-Broadway Station.

Tucked away in a tiny room at Commercial-Broadway Station is our host command centre!

The host command centre is our central support system for our 200 transit hosts. They are the brain trust that organizes shifts and keeps everyone informed about key issues happening during the day.

From the other end, our transit hosts can also call the centre if they need help with anything—whether that’s information or to get in touch with the authorities or more. And they also keep the host command centre informed about what they’re seeing on the street.

I visited them this week to see how things were going, and learn a bit more about what they do!

The host command centre discussing pressing issues of the day.

The host command centre discussing pressing issues of the day.

The host command centre is open from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m., and at least five people are in the host command centre at any one time: a director, an assistant, two deployment specialists, and a queue management person.

Many staff are assigned to take on each of these roles in shifts throughout the Games. I happened to be there as a shift change was happening, so that’s why there’s lots of extra people in the photo above!

The host command centre, hard at work!

The host command centre, hard at work!

The centre’s director is responsible for the overall coordination of efforts in the centre. The assistant is responsible for capturing and logging everything that happens in the centre, so those taking over the next shifts know what issues have been noted and addressed (and what is ongoing).

It’s often very loud in there, as phone calls come in and everyone responds to the issues of the day!

Amelia, the director at the time I visited, said, “It’s pretty noisy but we always know what’s going on. At one point in time we thought we needed dividers between our desks, but we found it doesn’t work. We need to listen to each other so we can deploy the information that comes in immediately.”

Harmeet and Adrianna, deployment specialists!

Harmeet and Adrianna, deployment specialists!

Two deployment specialists stay in touch with the transit host coordinators, who are each in charge of groups of transit hosts. Deployment specialists call the coordinators regularly, keeping them informed about key issues, listening to what’s happening on the street, and making sure both coordinators and hosts are doing OK. (The queue management person in the centre does the same thing for queue management volunteers.)

As I’ve mentioned, hosts and coordinators can also call the deployment specialists if something is happening and they need answers. While I was there, a host from Waterfront called a deployment specialist with customer reports that police were blocking part of the station off. But after some quick investigating, it turned out that the West Coast Express was just coming in, and police were forming a human chain to help guide traffic through the station. (Read about how we help get WCE riders through Waterfront Station!)

It was neat to see the centre in action when the call came in though. While Adrianna the deployment specialist was speaking to the coordinator on the phone, Charlene the assistant summarized the call in a report, and Amelia the director got on the phone to our police contacts to see what was going on. They had the answer in about a minute and could let the host coordinator know what was happening!

Harmeet!

Harmeet!

Deployment specialist Harmeet was just coming on shift when I arrived. She said the first thing she does is check in with her coordinators, letting them know she’s on and sharing any updates.

“We let them know things like street closures, crowds building up, technical problems on the system, WCE coming in with 4800 people,” she said. “I also will look at websites that might be valuable: TransLink, VANOC, any updates from them. And they often want to know events taking place at houses and pavilions, and who’s playing at concerts.”

SkyTrain CEO Doug Kelsey arrives with donuts!

SkyTrain CEO Doug Kelsey arrives with donuts!

So far, every day has been different at the host command centre. “It’s been really interesting and very fun,” said Amelia.

And being located at Commercial-Broadway helps the command centre staff get out on the system and check in with hosts when needed. “It’s nice for us to go out and see people,” Amelia said. “Because they’re having so much fun and we’re a bit insulated here. We hear of issues, but we don’t always hear when things are going well!”

Although while I was there, BCRTC CEO Doug Kelsey dropped by with donuts! So there was some fun in the host command centre for a little bit :)

And that was it for my quick visit! Thanks to everyone at the host command centre for all the work you do!


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