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Translink Buzzer Blog

Accessible transit – part 1

Derrick Bayer, training instructor with the Coast Mountain Bus Company

One of our goals at TransLink is to get more people in Metro Vancouver to do most of their trips by transit, walking and cycling. In fact, this is Goal 2 of Transport 2040, our 2010 10-year plan! Now, it’s one thing to have a goal; it’s another to actually reach it. Well, luckily we have a department at TransLink called Access Transit.

As the name suggests, the aim of Access Transit is to make the public transit system more accessible for people with disabilities, seniors and new user groups like immigrants. TransLink has focused on people with disabilities in the past (and still does), and recently, the focus has been on seniors. Helping new users, immigrants and refugees become more confident with our transit system is a new initiative, and last week, along with a Vancouver chapter of Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia, a pilot project was held to assess their needs.

It was a nice and sunny day for a change in Vancouver, so I thought I go a check out the event. Part of the pilot included having an out-of-service bus and two Coast Mountain Bus Company training instructors guide the nearly 200 people who showed up for the day of learning. Participants learned the ins and outs (literally) of boarding the bus including confirming the correct bus and desired stop as well as how to convey that to the driver and how to use bike rack. They also learned about seating priorities and standing on the bus, locating your stop and disembarking.

If you think about it, we take a lot for granted when we take transit. If you’re new to our transit system, don’t speak English or simple see the transit system as an unknown questions like, “How do I let drivers know I’m waiting for the bus?” or “How do the bus doors work?” can be a real barrier for new users of the system.

Nick Sandu, training instructor with the Coast Mountain Bus Company

Nick Sandu, one of the trainers, says it has been a learning experience for both TransLink and the participants, “The language… it’s trying to make sure that they understand what we’re trying to say that’s a challenge.” When something wasn’t understood the instructors changed the way they said it or used body language to drive the point home. When the language barrier proved difficult, other participants helped out.

Inside in the classroom, Sarah Chung, Community Relations Coordinator for Access Transit, guided participants through the intricacies of what transit options are available to them as well as transit fares, language services (special translator phones at SkyTrains and fare machines, etc.), safety and security, SkyTrain and Canada Line staff and trip planning. Sarah said the day was a resounding success. Here’s a bit of what she told me about the event:

“The majority of the participants took both the classroom and bus workshops. Even the students who had the very low English skills were excited and smiling after their bus training. It was a very busy day but extremely rewarding.

Most of the questions we were asked were about fares, how prices and fare zones work, and what options would work best depending on the situation.

A lot of the information we provided during the presentations was information our current customers may not be aware of because they do not necessarily have the need. For example, many of the students and staff were surprised to find out that we could provide a phone-based translator service at SkyTrain stations for people who are more comfortable asking their questions in other languages. This kind of information can help people be more confident when they first try out the system. We want to help new immigrants access the public transit system, but I think that this first event in our pilot project helped our core understanding of their needs as well. The students we worked with may not jump on the SkyTrain or bus the very next day, but we have at least made accessing public transit more approachable.”

Sarah Chung, Community Relations Coordinator with Access Transit


6 Comments

  • By Elfren Ordanza, May 2, 2011 @ 10:54 am

    Wow this is great! This is an opportunity for people to learn the accessibilities passengers would have on public transit. Now public transit is more accessible, especially for passengers with strollers, wheel chairs, and bicycles too. It’s great that we have this post so we can all learn the accessibilities on our public transit.

  • By ;-), May 2, 2011 @ 6:12 pm

    I think this is an important topic. However, we have failed to reach non-English groups. Our courtesy seat signage needs to be
    with written languages besides English. Many cultures have “first-come, first-serve”. I am a tour guide for visitors from many countries. When we travel on transit, I often correct them.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, May 3, 2011 @ 2:33 pm

    Hi ;-): I have a response to you about why more of our signage isn’t in other languages:

    “We have made a decision early on in the Access Transit process not to have signage in other languages because of two things; the cost of providing many different languages is very prohibitive to use, and we are such a diverse community and it would be difficult to limit the amount of languages we would be “required” to post. Space is also an issue on our vehicles. We have a policy that we cannot obstruct someone’s sight lines in the windows for security reasons.

    Saying that, we do have information in 5 different languages in all of our timetables that speak to “rules of the road” in our transit vehicles, including courtesy.”

  • By Sheba, May 4, 2011 @ 3:53 pm

    I second that – the line has to be drawn somewhere. No matter how many languages are included, someone will be mad that theirs isn’t.

    About accessibility: I was just at one of the Skytrain safety displays and was told that construction is supposed to start this June on a (much overdue) second elevator at Scott Road station, on the bus side of the station. Why is there no news anywhere on the site about it?

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, May 4, 2011 @ 4:43 pm

    Sheba: You’re right. There is some work scheduled at Scott Road Station. I’ll be posting about it very soon! Stay tuned…

  • By Eugene T.S. Wong, May 9, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

    You said that you hope that they “do most of their trips by transit, walking and cycling”. Robert, would you get an official explanation on how they intend to do that, while spending more on roads than transit?

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