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Shuttle buses during snow days, explained

Shuttle buses during snow days, explained

People cross Granville Street at Robson Street, past a bus, in downtown Vancouver on a snow day

The form of shuttle bus that you’re likely most familiar with are bus bridges where we “shuttle” passengers between SkyTrain stations that do not have service to “bridge” that gap in the network.

But essentially, shuttle buses (not to be confused with community shuttle buses!) replace the missed portion of a transit route — whether it’s bus, SeaBus, SkyTrain, or West Coast Express.

Shuttle buses are an important tool in our toolbox during snow days when challenging conditions affect our ability to maintain and deliver reliable service.

Let us explain.

Where can I expect to ride shuttle buses on snow days?

Anywhere and anytime! Shuttle buses help us continue moving customers between stops that have been identified as challenging for our buses to navigate.

For example, the R5 Hastings St RapidBus to SFU and 144 SFU/Metrotown Station buses may travel as far as the base of Burnaby Mountain when conditions becoming too challenging — especially for our longer, 60-foot buses.

Shuttle buses, which are better equipped to make the rest of the trek up to SFU, provide service from Hastings and Duthie Street to SFU, replacing the portion of the route skipped by the R5 and 144 buses.

We may also operate shuttle buses on the hilly areas of the North Shore and from UBC to Blanca Loop, as well as to 10th Avenue and Alma Street in Vancouver.

These are just some examples. Sign up for Transit Alerts at to be notified if your route has been affected and shuttle buses are operating.

Look for buses that say “Special” on the destination sign. This will help you identify which are the shuttles as opposed to regular service.

Why shuttle buses during snow?

Shuttle buses allow us to deliver more reliable service for our customers. They help us maintain service to bus stops that might otherwise be suspended. The shuttles operated using the shorter, 40-foot buses are more agile on steep and slippery areas.

Select buses may also be equipped with tire socks, which are a helpful tool for travel in hilly areas with snow buildup.

These tire socks limit the speed of buses, need a safe location to install, and are only useful on roads with snow on the ground, so they are not used on all routes. That’s why we only use them on shuttle buses serving Burnaby Mountain, hilly areas of the North Shore, and UBC.

Shuttle buses are also an important tool in maintaining reliable service throughout the entirety of the route, helping to ensure buses are evenly spaced out along a route and not “bunched” together.

Bus bunching happens when a bus or several busses get stuck along their route due to conditions on the road. As the next scheduled buses move along the same route, they eventually meet the blockage, and the other delayed bus or buses and become bunched.

During a snow day, operating shuttle buses reduces the likelihood of buses getting stuck in challenging road conditions, and allows the rest of the buses to continue operating according to schedule.

Shuttle buses are just another way we work to keep transit operating as safely and reliably as possible on a snow day. Visit our Winter Readiness page to find out what else we are doing.


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