TransLink Podcast: What’s the T on Bike + Bus = Bike Bus

TransLink Podcast: What’s the T on Bike + Bus = Bike Bus

A customer disembarks from the Bike Bus at Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal

Come behind the scenes with us as What’s the T: the TransLink Podcast with Jawn Jang reveals the voices and stories that drive Metro Vancouver’s transit system forward. Subscribe and listen everywhere you get your podcasts, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts, and Google Podcasts!

On this episode, we chat with Patricia Lucy, TransLink’s director of brand, marketing and ridership development, on the many ways we’re putting you — our customers — at the heart of everything we do. Plus, we chat about Bike Bus and share tips on where to go with your bike on it.


HOST JAWN JANG: Hey, welcome to What’s the T, the TransLink podcast. I’m your host, Jawn Jang, and on this episode we are bringing two modes of transportation together.

[An excerpt of Bicycle Race by Queen plays]: I want to ride my bicycle. I want to ride my bike.

JAWN: So what is a Bike Bus? Let’s tap in to What’s the T?


VOICEOVER 1: The next station is…

VOICEOVER 2: Welcome to What’s the T, the TransLink Podcast.

JAWN: Here’s the least shocking thing you’re going to hear all day. Metro Vancouver is one of the most livable places in the world. Not only do we have gorgeous natural landscapes surrounding us with mountains to our north, the ocean at our west and gorgeous valleys in our east, we have a lot of different ways to get out and explore what is around us. Naturally, a big part of that is using public transit. But for many in this part of the world, getting out and exploring means riding a bike.

[An excerpt of a bicycle song plays, then fades out]: …20th century biking through the city.

VOICE 1: The paths are great, infrastructure is fantastic between the bus and your bike. Electric kit? You’re rolling.

VOICE 2: It’s good. It’s good. Cause definitely, yeah, you can do some maintenance, but don’t think it needs any major infrastructure.

VOICE 3: Cycling has now become the fastest growing mode of transport in metro Vancouver, with the region seeing a 65% increase in ridership.

JAWN: So what happens when these two worlds collide? What happens when bike meets bus?

[An audio excerpt from the movie, Zoolander plays]: There it is. Magnum! Holy moly. Yeah, baby. That’s What I’ve been waiting for! Oh my god, it’s beautiful!

PATRICIA LUCY: How do we make sure that people can integrate a bike ride and a transit trip?

JAWN: This is Patricia Lucy, Director of Brand, Marketing and Ridership Development at TransLink. Patricia’s staff includes our customer experience team who are hard at work trying to introduce new ways to improve our system for you.

PATRICIA: Basically, my team is the team that attracts and retains our riders. So how do they find out about what we do? How do we bring them into the system? How do we make sure they’re having a great experience so that they stay? I have the marketing team, the transportation demand management team and the customer experience team, all comes under my mandate.

JAWN: And when I hear the words “director of brand”, I feel like that has got to be a fun but challenging job because we think of brands as, you know, the Nike’s, the McDonald’s of the world, if you will, like the internationally renowned brands. Here, if you lived and grew up in Metro Vancouver, you know what TransLink is. But, what is that like when you’re trying to grow the brand a little bit and make it become something bigger than just Metro Vancouver?

PATRICIA: The brand of transit is really important. When we’re talking about Nike or we’re talking about Starbucks, you’re talking about consumption, but we’re talking about climate and we’re talking about climate emergency and we’re talking about sustainable choices. So, when we talk about our brand, we talk about the TransLink brand, the T, what is the transit brand in Metro Vancouver? And for us, we have a lot of choice riders. We don’t just move people who can’t afford a car. We have people who choose to take transit because it’s a great experience, it fits with their lifestyle, it’s the right decision. So, growing that brand and keeping transit top of mind and the, the way to travel in Metro Vancouver is really important.

JAWN: You know, one of the things I hear so often from people who visit from out of town, whether it’s in a different city in Canada or more commonly from people that are from different countries, they come to Vancouver, they’re impressed with the public transit system because it does get you to where you need to go. They come from maybe areas of the world where the public transportation system is more like, it feels rural and it feels like you’re stretched out, whereas you come here, the accessibility is really seems like a big emphasis and kind of building into what that brand is like.

PATRICIA: Absolutely. We’re spoiled. We are. And that’s great because our customers demand a great experience and we try to deliver from planning our services to and the little intricacies on how we procure our busses. But we have a great system and we look at how do we connect all of our neighborhoods, how do we connect all of the cities across Metro Vancouver together? And we’re one company which makes it a little bit different from other systems whether if you have to do bus through one company, rail through another. We have that integration, which makes it a lot easier to do the customer experience, one payment system as well.

JAWN: Taking a look at one specific customer experience project, if you will, it’s the Bike Bus and something that, you know, when you think of Vancouver, one of the things would you associate like modes of transportation, it is biking. A lot of people have bicycles in and around the City of Vancouver. So please explain what is the Bike Bus?

PATRICIA: The Bike Bus. So coming out of the pandemic, we saw our mode shift towards cycling. People were really enjoying getting out, riding their bikes, and we needed to look at, “How do we maintain that? How do we make sure that people can integrate a bike ride and a transit trip?” So the Bike Bus is our solution to allowing our cycling community to get from Bridgeport out to Tsawwassen ferries. So that is a great leisure activity for a lot of our customers. How do they bring their bike on the bus and then over and tour some of the islands? So, the Bike Bus goes from Bridgeport to Tsawwassen ferries, and it was our attempt to fit more bikes onto our transit busses. So, it carries seven additional bikes inside the vehicle and two on the outside and just allows customers to have more of a seamless integration to bring their bike on. SkyTrain onto the bus, onto the ferry.

JAWN: What is the feedback been like from people who have already taken the Bike Bus before and probably are thrilled to hear that it’s, it’s making, you know, another trip, sort of, and knowing that this convenience is going to be available yet again.

PATRICIA: So, we, we piloted this last year and the feedback was great. And the feedback that we received is, you know, how, how could we do more of this? How do we see a better integration with some of the ferry schedules, which we’ve, we’ve looked at? But overall, just really thankful that we’re looking at the cycling community, that we’re providing a new option for our customers to take their bikes and to get out and explore our beautiful, our beautiful British Columbia.

JAWN: To your point about like working with our partners at BC Ferries, certainly, you know, I think that’s such a great relationship to continue to maintain. But when we talk about maybe expanding the the future of Bike Bus, if it continues to be the success that we want it to be, could we see increased Bike Bus services to different ferry lines? Maybe different, different ferry terminals as well?

PATRICIA: Oh, that is the million-dollar question. So, the, the opportunities are, you know, there’s lots of them. But the question as we look at where do we put our investments or where sort of the best bang for our buck. So, working with our partners to see where the funding could come from, where the greatest need is, there’s a lot of feedback that they’d like to see this. Our customers would like to see this out to Horseshoe Bay. For this summer, we’re, we’re focusing on out to the Tsawwassen Ferries. But looking at how we could expand this and how we could do this better, where we could carry more bikes in the future as well. Could we provide different amenities like booking, but take some time to get those all ironed out?

JAWN: Now that we know what the Bike Bus is, let’s take a moment to hear from someone who’s actually used the program before. With that in mind, let’s introduce Erin, a self-described bike tourist and her experience with the Bike Bus from last summer.

ERIN: If you’re already somebody who likes to put your bike on the bus, it takes away the stress of not getting a spot on the front of the bus, which, if you’ve done this many times, can be a stressful moment of doing any bike trip.

JAWN: That’s fair. And I think, you know, removing that that mental obstacle sometimes is also just a big relief.

ERIN: Yes.

JAWN: Knowing that you’ve got a spot.

ERIN: Yeah.

JAWN: Alright, so then take us into what was summer like for you using the Bike Bus. Like, where were some of the places you kind of managed to go?

ERIN: Sure. Well, I’ve been an avid bike tourist since I’ve lived in this region, which is about nine years. And I was able to catch, I think it was one of the last days of the Bike Bus last summer. It was running all summer, but I caught it on the September long weekend and I think that was the last day of it.

So I was really excited to be able to catch it. And we, for that trip, took it, we were biking to Main Island to go camping there and got there nice and early in the morning. I think the bus is aligned with the ferry schedule, but we still got there super early to make sure we got a spot and I was glad that we did and it was super smooth and seamless. I would say one of the best parts about it as a bike tour is when you’re doing a trip like that, you’ve got your bike loaded up with all your gear and when you put your bike on the front of a regular bus, you have to take everything off. But doing it on the Bike Bus, you can just leave it fully loaded, put it into the spot. You’ve got tons of space and you sit down, chat with your friends for like 25 minutes to the ferry terminal and roll off and you’re ready to go. There’s no, like, reorganizing in there.

JAWN: So you have done that same trip in years past before the Bike Bus was a thing?

ERIN: Of course. Yeah.

JAWN: And yeah, just a little bit more tricky? A little bit more difficult? Yeah.

ERIN: Yeah, you’re like, juggling all your stuff, all your bags, all your camping stuff that you so meticulously packed that morning and have to disassemble and reassemble.

JAWN: Fair enough. And I think to your point about sitting and chatting with friends, what was it like just being in a bus full of other cyclists, other bike tourists like you, who kind of are just sharing that energy at that time? Like, we’re about to go on a trip somewhere.

ERIN: Yeah, it was pretty cool. And I’ve always said about biking, like it’s kind of a conversation opener to begin with. You just automatically have something to relate to people about, which is pretty cool. And then being on the bus and many of us experiencing the Bike Bus for the first time, there was definite a buzz. If bike touring or long-distance biking is something that you’re thinking about getting into, I always find it really comforting to know that there is the option to hop on the bus if the weather turns or if you get too tired, or if you want to bike, and I do this often, bike there one direction and take the bus home. It’s just so comforting to have that flexibility, especially if you are just getting into biking and, and you’re not used to those long distances. So, I think this is such an advantageous tool for people who like, want to maybe dip their toe in, get in a little bit more than that, but still have options.

JAWN:  See, what I’m hearing from that is it benefits newcomers.

ERIN: Yeah.

JAWN: And experience like seasoned pros who are on bikes like all the time.

ERIN: Totally, yeah.

JAWN: Which island stands out to you as maybe a destination people want to think about if they’re trying to plan a bike bus trip this summer?

ERIN: I have biked on most of the islands. They all have their advantages. One of the great things about Main Island is the, the one campground they have is very close to the ferry terminal. So, once you’re over there, it’s, it’s just a quick bike to where you’re going. I would say Salt Spring is one of my other favorites because it is the biggest of the islands, so you’ve got lots of options of where to go. Ruckle Park is about 10k from the Fulford terminal if you’re coming from that direction. So that’s like a nice distance to really feel like you’ve accomplished something to get there. And, don’t quote me on this, but I have heard that the campgrounds won’t turn away cyclists.

JAWN: Oh, that’s a good inside scoop, if true.

ERIN: [Emphasis] If true.

JAWN: You know, I guess also what I’m hearing from you is like, you know, there’s a satisfaction when you make a really good meal. It tastes even better because, you know you made it. You put in the time and you took the care.

ERIN: Totally.

JAWN: So when you get to that campsite finally after you’ve biked, you know, you didn’t use a car to drive. You’ve earned that camping spot.

ERIN: You’ve earned it.

JAWN: Blood, sweat and tears.

ERIN: Hopefully not!

JAWN: [Laughter] Okay, alright. So, would you recommend it to a friend?

ERIN: I think it’s pretty clear that I would, Jawn. Yeah, I won’t be able to use it this weekend, but hopefully soon in the summer.

JAWN: The Bike Bus is designed to unlock new summer adventures and to encourage healthy transportation that is healthy for you and also for the environment. But with that in mind, let’s go back and finish our chat with Patricia.

[Whoosh sound effect]

Taking a broader look at customer experience, there is an action plan detailing all the work in the projects that you and your team are currently involved in. Can you maybe just give us sort of like a Costco sample of what that kind of looks like for the next few years?

PATRICIA: So, this is our five-year plan where TransLink has really committed to improving customer experience and we’re a big organization. We have a lot of projects on the go. So, this is about our parameters, to how do we put customer at the heart of the decisions that we’re making. So, we have a variety of projects set in there, Bike Bus was one of them, looking at a carbon calculator, looking at a maintenance hotline. We set a launch of our volunteers, and looking at electrification of the fleet, looking at more digital advancements, potentially an app-like experience and improvements to our website. But this is really our guide to creating some standards around what our customers should be experiencing. What is the research that we need to better understand our customers? How do we make our system more fast, more seamless, more pleasant, more convenient, all of those, kind of, key pillars that our customers are coming to expect.

JAWN: One thing you mentioned there is the sort of the rollout of the Transit Volunteer program. I had the fortune and the great experience of walking with TransLink and our team during the Lunar New Year parade, and I was so impressed by how many transit volunteers we actually had out on the streets walking with us, decked up in their TransLink gear and everything. I mean, that must be somewhat rewarding for you just to see like how many people are interested in doing their part to help grow our, our sort of brand, doing the work they do, but also just to see like it’s a two-way relationship. Because if you help us make this better, you’re actually also helping yourself in the long run.

PATRICIA: Absolutely. The volunteer program is one I will remember my entire career because we weren’t sure how that would go. We’re asking people out of a pandemic to volunteer their time to be on, on the system. We put out the call, we had over 200 applicants of really qualified people who just want to come and give back to their communities, who transit has meant a lot in their lives and they wanted to help others, whether they’re coming from a different country, whether they are a student, whether they’re a senior, an entire swath of different kinds of people just wanting to come out and make our system better. And we talk about, you know, your transit, your community. We are a part of our urban fabric. And it was really heartwarming to see our customers wanting to give back. And it really does make a difference in people’s day to day experience.

JAWN: I’ve worked in a lot of different radio stations before. I’ve worked with people who live in the communities that they are active participants in, voicing opinions, sharing stories on the air. But coming to TransLink, it’s very different because people are so proud of the work they do when they work here at TransLink and some of the different operating companies that maybe they’re employed by. But, it’s really interesting because maybe people need to realize more that it’s not just about helping these communities simply because it’s a part of the work we do, but it’s the same communities that we all live in. So, why wouldn’t we want to improve transit services? Why wouldn’t we want to expand where we can? Like it just feels like everyone is so passionate about making things better all the time.

PATRICIA: Absolutely. And I would say that about our customers. And as you’re saying about our employees, people care. They’re passionate about the work. There’s many places you could choose to work, and there are so many smart and dedicated people. I’m dedicated to the cause of sustainable transportation and making our world a better place. Fighting climate emergency, making it easier for everyone to get around.

JAWN: So someone listening to this right now, whether they’re on the SkyTrain or maybe on the bus, either going home or maybe coming back from work or school, if they wanted to maybe help out and maybe just get more involved and offer their perspective on things or maybe want to become a transit volunteer based on the, the quick conversation you and I had, how can they reach out to your team and how can they find out where to get more information?

PATRICIA: Well, there’s a lot of ways. I mean, we have a lot of surveys that go out. We always want to hear from our customers. We have lots of consultation. So, you can go to the TransLink website or if you have specific ideas around customer experience, you can go to We love ideas. We check the inbox all the time and look to action some of those things to make the experience better for our customers.

JAWN: Patricia, before we let you go, one final thing. We’ve talked about how important the customer experience is. It would be a mistake if I didn’t mention, of course, accessibility and making sure we really focus on that as a as a topic and a subject as well.

PATRICIA: If we can make a system, both our transit system and our walking and cycling trails accessible for all ages and all abilities, that’s better for everybody. And we, this is top of mind for us as we look at it. Our customer base is changing, our customer base is aging. And so, the more that we can look at some of those unique needs, we just improve the system for everybody.

JAWN: The Customer Experience team at TransLink is constantly working on improving your day to day commute on public transit, and programs like the Bike Bus are examples of how we listen and react to what customers like you have to say. This is why my favorite books growing up were Choose Your Own Adventures. I like being in control of what happens next, and so we turn the power over to you.

JAWN: Help us help you and let us know what you have to say online at My thanks to Patricia Lucy for a wonderful chat on this topic. Erin for sharing her Bike Bus experiences with us, the staff at Coast Mountain Bus Company who make the Bike Bus possible, producer Allen for his steady leadership on this podcast and you for listening and subscribing. Seriously, thank you so much for taking yet another ride on What’s the T the TransLink podcast. I’ve been your host Jawn Jang, until next time, have a safe trip.