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TransLink 101: Where do our transit vehicles sleep at night?

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For February 2013, we’re going back to basics with TransLink 101—explaining TransLink and its work!

Buses settled in for the night.

Buses settled in for the night, in a photo from about 2006.

You ride our buses and trains during the day, but what happens when they go home at night?

Well, just like the rest of us, our vehicles need some downtime and TLC at the end of a long day of work. Each night, our SkyTrains, buses, SeaBuses and West Coast Express trains retire to their own resting places for a well-deserved break. Read on to find out just what happens!


From 2009: two generations of SkyTrain car inside our operations and maintenance centre near Edmonds.

From 2009: two generations of SkyTrain car inside our operations and maintenance centre near Edmonds.

For most of our SkyTrains, the end of the day means heading over to our Maintenance and Storage Facility near Edmonds SkyTrain station (15 stay on the line overnight, some along the Millennium Line and near King George Station).

George Booth, vehicle supervisor, says trains start coming off the line in the evening reduced service times so cleaning can start at 7:30 p.m. and finish by 4 a.m. Crews work through the night cleaning, changing light bulbs, replacing seat covers and doing other maintenance as needed.

And, depending on the temperatures outside, some of the SkyTrains might even head over to our automated train wash (how fun is that?!?). It’s just like a car wash, but for SkyTrains!


A bus in the car wash at Surrey Transit Centre.

A bus in the car wash at Surrey Transit Centre.

There are also washing stations for the buses in our transit centres across the region, where our buses go home at night. There are seven bus transit centres all over the region, in Burnaby, Richmond, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Vancouver, Surrey, Port Coquitlam.

Wim Beuk, maintenance manager, says that the length of the nightly routine varies at locations, depending number of buses. “Surrey, for example, with 185 buses, will have approximately 13 service people each work night that work from 8 p.m. through to 5:30 a.m., fuelling and cleaning the buses,” he says. “Maintenance trades staff for afternoons and night shifts will average approximately 18 people.”

West Coast Express

From 2010: the 6 a.m. West Coast Express train parked at Mission City Station.

From 2010: the 6 a.m. West Coast Express train parked at Mission City Station.

Kyla Daman-Willems, Marketing and Customer Service Supervisor at West Coast Express, says their trains retire in Mission for the evening. There is a full yard there and a crew works on the trains over night. “They have them all clean and fueled up for 5 a.m.!” she says.


From 2010: the Burrard Pacific Breeze, sitting in one of the maintenance docks in Lonsdale Quay.

From 2010: the Burrard Pacific Breeze, sitting in one of the maintenance docks in Lonsdale Quay.

As for the SeaBuses, they head over to a couple of docks next to the Lonsdale Quay terminal for their nightly TLC.

One of the boats takes off early at 8 p.m. when the evening rush is over and gets a head start on maintenance and cleaning. Chris Bhardwaj, Supervisor, SeaBus Operations, says that head start also lets crews do major work if needed.

“Many times they even do an engine change over night,” he says, explaining that when needed, crews will take the whole engine out, replace it with a new one, and have the boat ready to go the next day.

All this means that by the time morning comes around, our vehicles are well-rested, fixed up, and ready to head out on the system to get back to work!

And that’s it! If you have any questions, please add them to the comments and we’ll track down an answer for you.


  • By Raymond, March 4, 2013 @ 8:05 am

    Hi there Buzzer Blog,

    Why do some of the skytrains stay on the line overnight when other skytrains in the maintenance centre getting cleaned etc

  • By zack, March 4, 2013 @ 9:57 am

    I think the reason may be due to space, I don’t think its possible (judging by the size of the area) to fit the entire SkyTrain fleet at the Edmonds yard.

  • By Lea, March 4, 2013 @ 11:13 am

    COOL!!! :D Hahaha! Where do the Canada Line skytrain go?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, March 4, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

    Hi Raymond: here’s the response to your question!

    Some of the trains stay on the line over night so there is space to accommodate all of them in the yard. If there are specific trains that have been flagged for repairs, cleaning or maintenance, we make sure those ones come back at night.

  • By Derek Cheung, March 4, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

    The top photo is from Labour Day, 2006 which was the first day of service operating from the Vancouver Transit Centre.

    Almost all of the coaches seen in this photo have been retired.

    Photo taken from the Arthur Laing Bridge.

  • By Allen, March 4, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

    @Lea: The Canada Line maintenance facility is by Bridgeport Station just before/after the North Arm Bridge.

  • By mike0123, March 4, 2013 @ 7:37 pm

    West Vancouver’s bus depot is in North Vancouver. North Vancouver’s buses are also stored in North Vancouver, but at a different depot.

    North Vancouver’s buses will apparently be stored at the Burnaby depot starting in a couple years.

  • By ;-), March 4, 2013 @ 8:31 pm

    I always thought when the big buses go home at night…. they make baby buses in the morning.

    BTW…. where will the Evergreen trains go when they are activated?

  • By dan t, March 4, 2013 @ 10:06 pm

    According to the Evergreen RFP, a Vehicle Storage facility is going to be built somewhere. I’m guessing probably along Barnet highway…

  • By tek, March 5, 2013 @ 3:42 pm

    Is there a reason why there’s always a really long time between washes for a lot of transit vehicles? I remember seeing them really really dirty back in the summer/spring, as if the budget for washing had been cut down. Doesn’t regular cleaning promote good reliability of the equipment, as well as ease of maintenance and also improved public treatment of the system? eg if it’s clean, people will respect the stuff more?

  • By Arjun, March 8, 2013 @ 9:33 am

    @Tek: If there’s a risk of frost/ice overnight, the buses typically aren’t washed. A freshly-washed bus drips lots of water at the bus depot, which can freeze and create a slip hazard for staff. So if we get a cold snap, sometimes the buses can go for a week or two without being washed, and they get pretty dirty.

    Elsewhere in Canada where they get colder winters, it isn’t a problem, because they store their buses indoors overnight, so there’s no risk of freezing.

    In the summer, I don’t know if CMBC/TransLink practices change if there’s a water shortage.

    Disclosure: I’m a CMBC employee.

  • By Raymond, March 9, 2013 @ 9:55 pm

    Dear Buzzer Blog,

    Hi there, Say a skytrain/canada line needs cleaning during the daytime like there is coffee spilled all over the floor, then what happens.

    How can i notify a canada line attendent if there is none around.

  • By Eugene Wong, March 11, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

    @ Raymond

    I have been told by Translink that we can use the phones on the platform to notify them of the spill. It seems like it isn’t an emergency, but it is important enough that they need to know about it, at the earliest convenience.

  • By Raymond, March 17, 2013 @ 10:29 am

    Eugene, when i use the phone on the platform to notify them of the spill, what information do i need to give?

  • By Ann, March 20, 2013 @ 3:10 am

    hi,I ride transit everyday. My big concern inside the bus seats are always dirty,do you have cleaners wipe the seats especially those cotton ones and windows inside are dirty too! It has to wiped down everyday including the railings people hold touching it everyday! I also see sits are all dusty because men work in the construction sat down with their pants filthy and its horrible!

  • By Eugene Wong, March 27, 2013 @ 4:05 pm

    @ Raymond

    Hi. Sorry for the late reply. I’ve been falling behind.

    You need to give them the car number, and door letter that the spill is closest to. For example, “car 123 and near doors F”.

    Telling them when you got off the train and what direction the train is going to [Waterfront? King George?] might help, if you can’t remember the car number, since they should be able to track the train.

  • By Raymond, April 1, 2013 @ 12:16 am

    Hi Eugene,

    Can i use the emergency phones on the canada line platforms to report spills on train or does this only work for skytrain?

  • By Juan, April 9, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

    K why cant we have 60 footers running on Surrey routes?

  • By raymond, December 1, 2013 @ 3:50 pm

    I saw somewhere online that there was some technical problem on a skytrain train and a translink police officer pushed some button outside the train that made it return to the yard is that true.

  • By randomgirl, September 14, 2017 @ 3:29 pm

    Do they clean the inside of the buses and skytrains too?

  • By car workshop near me, November 26, 2019 @ 6:09 pm

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Other Links to this Post

  1. The Buzzer blog » TransLink 101: welcome to our February special post series! — March 12, 2013 @ 1:02 pm

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