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Life on transit poll: what are your best tips, tricks, and tools for transit?


For March/April 2013, we’re spotlighting Life on Transit—observing and illuminating the quirks and habits of daily transit rides around our region!

What are your best tips and tools for transit? Do you have a great mobile app that helps you get around?

What are your best tips and tools for transit? Do you have a great mobile app that helps you get around?

When you ride transit a lot, you just start figuring out ways to make your ride better. Maybe you begin aiming for a certain seat on the bus, or you use a certain transit app to buzz you when your bus is almost there. Or you start to rely on a great podcast to help pass the time!

And this is where we ask you to SPILL THE BEANS! If you’ve got any tips, tricks, or tools that help you have a better transit ride — do your fellow transit riders a solid and let us know!

I’ll go first: for me, apps on my mobile phone are a lifesaver. To wit:

  • I use TransLink’s mobile site to help me quickly see where the next bus is. And sometimes, I’ll use it for a list of a route’s bus stops when I’m not sure which stop I need to exit at.
  • I zoom into Google Maps to figure out the best walking route to the nearest bus stop in an unfamiliar part of town.
  • I use the Kindle app to read books on longer journeys!

I also take the 99 a lot, and I always board in the back: faster rider flow!

Now it’s your turn! Take the poll and tell us in the comments: what helps you out on transit?

Got any tips, tricks or tools that help make your transit ride easier?

  • Yes! I'm the tricksiest. (76%, 39 Votes)
  • Nope: I don't think that hard about it! (24%, 12 Votes)

Total Voters: 51


  • By Hockey fan, April 5, 2013 @ 4:42 pm

    I just usually read or sleep to past the time. But if I read, it’s usually done in the middle or front of the bus, as sitting in the back makes me sick when I read. I also just look through the window as well.

  • By Tim Choi, April 5, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

    The great thing about computer-controlled trains is that they stop at the exact same place on the platform, every single time. This means you know where the doors are! You can be the first to get on (after letting those inside out first, of course) and increase the chances of getting a seat.

    As well, thinking ahead, that knowledge is useful for those of us who have buses that don’t come ridiculously frequently like the 99. By knowing which end of the destination station is closest to the bus loop, you can increase the chances that you’ll catch your bus on time. For example, going from Waterfront to Surrey Central: the Surrey Central bus loop is on the “forward end” of the train when going Eastbound – thus, get on the train at Waterfront on the end farthest away from the SeaBus (assuming you have time on the platform to wait for the train). This will save you time that you otherwise would’ve spent at Surrey Central walking through all the people on the platform from one end to the other that may cause you to miss your bus.

    You can also do this with the standard SFU student trip from Surrey Central to Production Way. Since Production Way’s stairs are closest to the forward doors of the third car (Mk I trains), position yourself at Columbia just aft of the stairs, which is where that set of doors will stop.

    It’s also worth noting the location of the sun for the average of your route. The 410, for example, will experience the sun mainly on the left side of the bus when going westbound (since the sun is on the south side due to our location north of the equator). Thus, find a seat in accordance with your sun preference.

  • By Carmen, April 5, 2013 @ 4:52 pm

    One particular bus stop I frequent *can* be pretty packed if arriving at certain times of the day (it’s near a couple schools). If this is the case, I’ve found that the bus takes SO long to load that it’s actually *faster* to wait for the next one, which usually ends up leapfrogging past the first bus (because it takes a long time to unload at each stop as well) and arriving at my final destination on time, if not early.

  • By Kerry, April 5, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

    I have two young children, and transit is our usual method of getting around (we use a co-op car every now and again). My tips for easier transit riding with kids: allow plenty of time to travel so we’re not rushing around in a sweat, and instead can enjoy our day. Sit away from wires and buttons so we’re not constantly ringing the bell to stop the bus (I’ve seen this a few times!). The best seats on the bus for me are at the back, where my older son can sit by the window and look out, and the younger is away from the pull-wire and entertained by the view out the back window. In particular, keeping away from the wheelchair button at the front of the bus and the emergency button by the door seat on the older skytrains. I also use a carrier instead of a stroller; then my youngest son doesn’t take up any space, we can sit where we like, and I can even stand for seniors or wheelchair users.
    Other tips: sing songs (not loudly!) – this has gotten me out of trouble on longer journeys soooo many times. And being polite and friendly to the bus driver/transit staff/other passengers is fun! We have made lots of friends on transit over the years. My boys have collected pins, pushed the button to sound the horn on the skytrain at Waterfront (so awesome!), gotten a free “ticket” on the bus (the driver prints a blank). I feel confident that in the years to come, my kids will be able to navigate transit in Vancouver safely and effectively on their own.

  • By Ben, April 5, 2013 @ 8:39 pm

    By using the next bus feature on TransLink’s mobile website, I’ve bookmarked bus stops that I frequent. So before I leave, I would check to see when they arrive (or if they had left or if they’re delayed). That way I don’t have to enter the bus stop number.

  • By JT, April 5, 2013 @ 8:44 pm

    – I frequently travel downtown via 321 and 351 connection at the Park and Ride in South Surrey. One thing I always when I’m on the 321 is check how long it will take until the 351 is due to arrive at the Park and Ride (Thanks to the next bus GPS at the stops). If it’s due in 4 mins or less, I get off and wait there, if its 5-8 minutes, I stay on the 321 and get off somewhere along King George (Usually around 34th – 32nd Ave), cross the street, and wait for the 351 there. If its 10 mins or longer, I would get off just before 152nd Street. This way it will increase your chances of grabbing a seat on the bus, as well as less waiting at the stop and waiting in the rain/cold some days.
    – For those that frequent the Canada Line, the best door to exit at Vancouver City Centre is the first door closest to the middle on the back half of the car, its the most direct door towards the stairs/escalator in the middle of the station. For Bridgeport Station its either the last door in the back half of the train, or the middle doors for the middle stairs.
    – For those who take the 620 Tsawwassen Ferry, I always like to arrive 20-30 mins ahead of the printed departures in the schedule or website, because all too often (especially on Fridays, long and ordinary weekends, and holidays) RTC and Transit supervisors will dispatch an extra express bus that isn’t scheduled to help out with peak demands, especially with trips connecting to sailings for both Victoria and Nanaimo. An example is if you need to make the 3pm sailing to Victoria, or 3:15pm sailing to Nanaimo, the printed schedule says 2pm leaving Bridgeport, and an extra trip around 1:45pm on weekends. About 80-90% of the time, theres an unscheduled trip that leaves Bridgeport sometime just after 1:30pm, and it will be an express trip with no stops, arriving at the terminal sometime around 2:10pm, plenty of time at the terminal. However, if you don’t like a crowded bus, stick with the printed departures, those trips tend to be a much lighter load, arriving only 10 mins after the first trip, and still time to catch your ferry.
    – Fastest route between Newton Exchange and Surrey Central Stn is the 325, NOT the 321. Even though it has a more direct route, the demand is much higher and there are a few more stops along King George compared to 140 Street.
    – For North Delta/Scottsdale riders, sometimes taking the 301 Brighouse Station, transferring to the Canada Line, can be much faster than taking the 319 Scott Rd Station, transferring to the Expo Line. It does not work all the time, but in perspective, the 319 takes about 15-20 mins from Scottsdale to Scott Rd Station, and another 30 mins on the skytrain to downtown. 301 takes about 30 mins to get from Scottsdale to Brighouse (except when theres bridge traffic on the Alex Fraser), and another 24(?) minutes downtown on the Canada Line. It may be slightly longer by maybe 5 mins or so, but with a nicer highway suburban coach (except on weekends) and less time on a crowded train, it may be worth it, especially if you’re travelling to UBC and connecting to the 25, 33, 41, 43, 49, 84, 99 B-Line, or 480, it can be a great alternative depending on your time of travel.

  • By ;-), April 5, 2013 @ 10:41 pm

    using the with my Blackberry 9810! Yes Google maps works great too.

  • By Allen, April 5, 2013 @ 10:48 pm

    Route 49 users: Use the Next Bus feature and Map View. Click on the bus icons. The ones with a bus number in the 8000s is an articulated bus. Time your trip so you get on to an articulated bus for a less cramped/more enjoyable ride.

  • By Cliff, April 6, 2013 @ 11:18 am

    During the PM peak, board an inbound SkyTrain, then stay on it as it becomes an outbound one. This allows you to secure a seat. Particularly useful if your trip is going to be a long one. For example, Commercial to VCC-Clark or even Stadium to Waterfront.

    Crowded bus stop along a crowded route? Reduce your chances of being passed up by walking to the previous stop. Drivers are more likely to pick up a single person at a stop than if there were a crowd.

    Picking up or dropping someone off at the airport? Use Templeton Station to do this. Canada Line between YVR and Templeton is free. You don’t have to pay for parking (you can’t park at the station) and you don’t have to worry about timing your arrival so you get there at the exact moment as the person you’re picking up.

    If you’re going from SFU to Downtown Vancouver, consider hoping off at Inlet and sprinting one block east to Ridge and taking the 160. A well timed transfer would see you overtake the 135 you just disembarked from. For example, today, the 135 arrives at Hastings and Inlet at 10:57. This gives you 3 minutes to sprint back to Ridge to board the 160 arriving at 11:00. The 135 arrives at Burrard Station at 11:51. The 160 arrives over 20 minutes earlier at 11:28.

    All North Vancouver and West Vancouver buses except the 257 provide local service along their entire route. This along with the fact there is an HOV lane along nearly the entire length of Georgia means they can provide very convenient service near Robson where the 5 route would see a lot of stopping and traffic.

    Want to go to Bellingham or even further on local transit only? Take the 321 to King George Highway at 8th avenue and walk south to US customs, then walk south to H street and board the 70X to Bellingham. You can go further south too. In Bellingham, you can transfer to the 80X to go to Mount Vernon. Here, you can transfer to the 90X to take you to Everett and then onto the 510/512/513 into Seattle!

  • By Chris M., April 6, 2013 @ 2:31 pm

    I try to stick to using routes on the Frequent Transit Network even if it’s a much longer walk or bike ride to access. The higher frequencies make up for the occasional bus that doesn’t show up.

  • By Nick, April 6, 2013 @ 5:38 pm

    I take the Canada Line from Brighouse during the morning peak hours and most people know where to stand on the platform so we can help form nice, organised queues for other passengers. I find that the train loads up very quickly with these queues, after letting other passengers off of course.

    We’re not sticklers for neatness here, but it’s a hassle when a stranger starts a lineup between two lines and blocks the doors when the train eventually arrives. :)

  • By Ric, April 6, 2013 @ 10:04 pm

    I use the buscouver app on my iPhone to check when the next bus is coming. When i’m taking the bus i listen to music or play a game to let the time pass by.

    When I take the Canada Line which I do a lot, I try to sit at the front of the train and look out the front window of the train seeing all the action of the train travelling along the tracks.

    Listening to music or playing a game is something I always do when I’m taking transit.

    What I don’t like is when I’m taking the bus at night and the driver doesn’t turn on the interior lights on the bus.

    Why do some drivers turn on the interior lights while others don’t?

  • By Tane Daxter, April 6, 2013 @ 10:10 pm

    The 2, 22, and 32 always clump up on Burrard northbound and southbound. Often, the first bus in the clump is close to capacity and the drivers always try to pack on as many passengers as possible. So, when more than one bus arrives at a stop at the same time, I’ll take the second bus in the clump.

  • By Dennis, April 6, 2013 @ 11:36 pm

    How to open the bar-less rear doors on relatively new buses

    The bar-less rear doors are probably one of the most confusing devices riders interact with. You could touch the door, and it won’t open, or it will sound a frightening alarm.

    First of all, you have to understand that the “Touch here” is a lie. You don’t need to touch the door for it to open.

    The door is activated by two beams of ultrasonic pulses where the yellow strips are. All you need to do is *break the beam*. I find that making a fist and swiping it a couple of cm from the door works perfectly each time.

    Also, don’t try to activate the door before the light is green, or you’ll end up confusing the sensors and you won’t get the door open.

  • By ???, April 7, 2013 @ 12:06 am

    I thought the door activations were thermal, not ultrasonic. I’ve seen a lot of people having problems opening the door with gloves in winter. Once the gloves come off, the doors open when you put your hand at the door.

  • By Donald, from Surrey, April 7, 2013 @ 5:38 am

    Google Maps is a good way to find some recommended routes, but the pros will be glued to the real time bus tracker to make the absolute best times.

  • By Cliff, April 7, 2013 @ 7:17 am


    As I understand it, the rear lights always stay illuminated to reduce any crime that could take place on the bus that could be out of sight of the bus driver.

  • By ???, April 7, 2013 @ 8:40 am

    Some drivers may be affected by interior windshield glare and prefer minimal lighting for safety, especially near the front.

    Lights in the back allow people to enjoy reading.

  • By ???, April 7, 2013 @ 11:10 am

    Just found this video on how to get a seat in Asia.

  • By Juan, April 14, 2013 @ 11:15 pm

    Surrey to guildford? Not many highschoolers know about the 501, 509, 590, C74, 332, or 335. They only know the 320.

    Guildford to Fraser Highway past fleetwood? I take a 375 and transfer to a 502 instead of waiting for a 320 Langley center.

    If you happen to get hungry on a train heading outbound, and your destination is past Columbia, Take a freshslice at New west. Take the “opposite” train to New west, and order a pizza. By the time you order one, your “correct” train should arrive.

Other Links to this Post

  1. The Buzzer blog » Life on transit: fantastic tips and tricks for transit from riders like you! — April 12, 2013 @ 3:16 pm

  2. 7 Vancouver transit tips and tricks for ‘Back to School’ week | Vancity Buzz | Vancouver Events, News, Food, Lifestyle and More — September 4, 2013 @ 10:57 am

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