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The largest event in Vancouver means the largest deployment of transit staff

The largest event in Vancouver means the largest deployment of transit staff

Transit employees wearing high-vis vests direct people aboard a bus that reads "Fireworks"

Over 400,000 spectators are expected along English Bay to catch the fireworks on event nights. This makes the Honda Celebration of Light Vancouver’s biggest event and getting those large crowds to and from the beach is no easy task.

But the teams at Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC), British Columbia Rapid Transit Company (BCRTC) and Transit Police have it dialed in after years of experience.  The planning for these events start months in advance. It includes mapping out detours around road closures for bus routes, determining how many buses and trains are needed, and how many staff need to be deployed and where.

Christian Gregg is a Mobile Duty Manager for CMBC and is on the ground to help staff manage the crowds.

“Primary role today for Transit Supervisors is to make sure we are moving thousands of people as quickly and as safely as we can, on specialty buses — just for the fireworks — down to the West End tonight. They’re going to make sure to load people in an orderly fashion as best we can with the help of Transit Security,” said Christian.

Transit Supervisors meet earlier in the day to go over their specific roles and requirements for the event and are in constant communication with the Transit Communications Centre (TCOMM), which is like air-traffic control for the transit network. Throughout the day, staff are dispatched from Transit Centres to all over the region to ensure operations runs smoothly.

The crew needs to be nimble and flexible throughout the evening. They assess what’s going on and adjust service accordingly, whether it’s adding buses or sending them to other areas.

That means adding extra service when and where the customers need it across bus, SeaBus and SkyTrain.

Special buses operate from Burrard Station and Yaletown–Roundhouse Station, bringing you closer to the show at English Bay.

While the fireworks light up the sky, there’s no slowing down for transit employees. They are busy preparing the buses and transit system for a quick and smooth return home.

To make it easier for customers to travel to and from the Celebration of Light nights, TransLink adds additional service across bus, SeaBus and SkyTrain on all three nights of the events, as well as a special West Coast Train on July 30th.

For transit crews over at BCRTC it’s also all-hands on deck as they work to get as many trains into service as possible. From Field Operations, Train Operations and Operations Planning, they all work to ensure there is a full allotment of trains needed for extra service.

“We schedule full rush-hour service until the end of the night,” said Patrick Sandi, Senior Operations Planner with BCRTC.

Field supervisors and SkyTrain Attendants help customers with tickets at the Compass Vending Machines (hot tip, load your Compass Card before going down so you can avoid line-ups), and manage crowds. Train Operations monitor the situation closely, which includes holding trains at stations longer than usual for customers to board and barricades provided by the Facilities Maintenance team help with crowd control.

BCRTC SkyTrain Supervisor stands at the SkyTrain platform as people load onto the trains“We do controlled-access to the platform. Using Burrard Station as an example, there will be a SkyTrain Attendant at the top of the escalator stopping people from going down to the platform until another SkyTrain Attendant radios to say there is space on the platform floor,” said Patrick.

They also do selective entry to stations to help manage crowds. For example, at Waterfront Station, customers will have access from Howe Street only and the Cordova entrance will be reserved for those needing access to the elevator.

Things return back to normal once the crowds have dispersed, which is usually after midnight.

But the rush of the day is always something that carries with you.

“I personally found it exciting, I enjoyed how busy it was,” said Patrick.