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TransLink Podcast: Answering your questions with Quick Sips

TransLink Podcast: Answering your questions with Quick Sips

A vintage photo of Stadium-Chinatown Station, showing the third platform in use

Our first installment of Quick Sips, where we deliver quick and tidy answers to your questions. We tackle why there’s a third platform at Stadium–Chinatown Station, the Expo 86 monorail, why the trolleybus routes operate where they do, what are the different buses and SkyTrain models, the NightBus, and more!

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 SpotifyApple Podcasts, and Pocket Casts!

JAWN: Hey! Welcome to What’s the T: the TransLink Podcast. I’m your host, Jawn Jang. Here’s what we’re checking out on this episode.

MALE ROBOT VOICE: You’ve got mail!

JAWN: It’s a special episode answering questions asked by you, the listener. Let’s tap in to What’s the T!


JAWN: Making a new episode for the TransLink Podcast is not as simple or as easy as just sitting down in front of a microphone and hitting record. The truth is, there are so many different topics and stories to share that we couldn’t possibly address all of them. Deciding which stories and topics to feature can be a very difficult decision. That’s why we’ve decided to shake things up for this episode, and instead of focusing on just a single topic, we’re going to try multiple. So with that said, welcome to the very first Quick Sips on What’s the T.


JAWN: A fun little trivia fact as we kick off what is going to be the first-ever episode where we have received questions from TransLink customers, fans, transit riders, and maybe most importantly, What’s the T listeners. So with that in mind, we take a step back on this episode and really just reveal what it’s like to be the The Wizard of Oz, because it’s really a team operation. It’s not just me, and even though it’s usually my voice through here, it does take a village. So it is my great honor and privilege to welcome in his own voice the man who gets a shout out every episode but has so far kind of been a, a ghost behind the scenes. The True Wizard of Oz. It is the one and only producer, Allen Tung!

PRODUCER ALLEN: Well, thank you, Jawn.


ALLEN: What an introduction, I’m excited to come out of the shadows a little bit.

JAWN: *Loudly clapping* Yes! The people have been waiting and now they finally get, what they’ve been asking for so long. So, Producer Allen, maybe just quickly, describe like what it is you do at TransLink.

ALLEN: What do I do at TransLink?

JAWN: Aside from, like, just keeping me in check because that’s a full-time job on its own sometimes.

ALLEN: So I am the assistant editor of The Buzzer. So The Buzzer is TransLink’s brand publication. You know, we tell a lot of stories in terms of transit riders, people who work here. And I think one of our favorite things that people like to read The Buzzer for is places you can go in transit. So I am now the assistant editor of the blog, and, I do you know, other things as well on social media. So I’m the Senior Advisor with social media at TransLink. So yeah.

JAWN: You’re busy.

ALLEN: *Laughing* Yes.

JAWN: You and your team are always up to like a thousand things simultaneously. So it’s been a great pleasure to have you working with me on this podcast and really helping to launch this whole darn thing. Like I said, just over a year ago, as we celebrate the anniversary of “What’s the T?” and, yeah, you know, we’ve had a lot of great learning moments and a lot of fun. And we have a practicum student here who’s been at TransLink as part of the BCIT program requirements, which, by the way, I’m a graduate of, so shoutout to BCIT, and “Producer Sophie” as her nickname has been this past season and she’s been helping a lot with behind the scenes. And, yeah, my pleasure as well to introduce Producer Sophie to the deck, everybody. *Clapping* Hello!

PRODUCER SOPHIE: Thank you, Jawn!

JAWN: Sophie, it’s been great having you, part of this as well. And, we’re excited to get you in front of the microphone here for this episode, because, you actually helped source a lot of these questions, hey?

SOPHIE: Yeah, I did. Yeah. it was it was very fun.

JAWN: We wanted to do this episode a little bit differently than how we typically record our episodes. And, you know, have interviews with certain experts. And the point of this episode is to try and answer questions that maybe we decided, well, like, we can’t devote a full episode on a topic. So we thought, you know, why don’t we just get a whole bunch of questions and see if we can essentially answer them in a in a single go? So with that in mind, Sophie, maybe you want to take us through some of these questions and you can start with whichever one you like, but there’s no real rhythm or flow. We’re just going to try and get as many questions as you can here.

SOPHIE: Yeah, absolutely. Okay. Why do some of the busses operate on the trolleys and others don’t?

JAWN: Solid. Yeah. Anyone who’s maybe not from Vancouver would maybe not realize that the trolley system only exists in the city of Vancouver. But I grew up everywhere, right? So I grew up in Surrey, Langley, Burnaby, New Westminster. I realized, like, trolleybuses aren’t a thing until you get within city limits. So Al, why is that exactly?

ALLEN: Well, we talk about the history of the region. What we’re really talking about is actually the history of the streetcar, the history of the interurban. So, you know why some bus routes are trolley routes is because they used to be streetcar routes. And, when they were deciding what to do with the streetcars after World War 2, you know, they saw, well, we already have the wire running down, up and down the streets. Why don’t we add a second wire and bring in trolleybusses? So that’s when they ran the trolleybusses. And that’s where the trolleybusses run. It’s where the streetcars used to run.

JAWN: Makes sense. And as to why they might not exist outside of the city.. Suburbs developed later. So I’m assuming by that point, Allen, not that I’m a history geek or expert or anything like that, but diesel busses were already pretty much fully adopted by that point.

ALLEN: Yeah. And, you know, it’s shocking us for us to think right now, but, diesel busses, they were cutting edge in the post-war period and, that’s the technology I decided to use at the time because it was cutting edge.

JAWN: Speaking of like cutting edge bus technology, of course, now we’re getting set up for battery electric busses, but I digress. Okay, we’re getting too into the weeds here! Sophie, keep us moving along.

SOPHIE: Okay! This next question is a personal query of mine.

JAWN: Okay.

SOPHIE: So a lot of the busses, like for example, I’ll use the 25 and the 130 in my example here, they’re the same size bus, but in the bus the seat layout is different. And for something like the 25 it differs from 25 to 25. Like the busses are different depending on like which one you get.

JAWN: Right.

SOPHIE: You know it’s the same line, it’s going down the same route, but each bus inside looks different. And I’m just wondering like why that variation?

JAWN: Solid question. I do know that from personal experience that people get really strange and like intimate when your knees touch in that particular setup that we have, where it’s the four seats kind of all facing each other there. Yeah, not everyone’s favorite, that one. But Allen, like, maybe there is a good explanation as to why some busses are looking a little bit different sometimes.

ALLEN: Yeah, I think, I think I do have my own favorite bus, too, and I’m sure others definitely will have their favorite bus and they want to catch their favorite bus. But, you know, we have different bus models, right? Like, you know, you know, we buy busses all the time in terms of when they need to be replaced. And, you know, with each new bus it’s different. We try to find improvements within each bus. So obviously, you know, if you’re gonna buy a car, a car from 1999, it’s going to be quite different from 2009. You’ll have a car that has a cassette player, and they have a car that has a CD player, and then eventually you get one with Bluetooth in it. So, it just this little differences over the years as we’ve brought on new busses as they needed to be replaced.

JAWN: And if you are a long time What’s the T listener, you’ll recall we had a conversation with Angus MacIntyre and John Strachan who kind of implied, that as companies like TransLink, Coast Mountain Bus Company are looking to purchase busses like, the manufacturers want to make sure that their bus models are kind of tailored as much as possible to the region or city that you’re going to. So a bus in Vancouver is going to need different things, and a bus in Edmonton or a bus in Montreal, etc., etc.. So I kind of thought that was neat too, Al, like there’s no cut and dry, you know, cookie cutter bus, so to speak.

ALLEN: Yeah. Like there was no bus dealership, like there’s no bus dealership over at the Richmond Auto Mall where we could just go buy some bus like every one of them. it’s custom built to each, public transit agency because they all have different needs.

JAWN: I like that. All right. Maybe we should open a bus dealership.

SOPHIE: Yeah, I like that idea!

JAWN: That’s my $15 billion idea that I got, hanging in the back pocket here. What do we got next here, Sophie?

SOPHIE: Okay. This is a really quick one. How does the NightBus work?

JAWN: Oooh! The NightBus. Right. Well, you know, we explained on the podcast in season one, episode one, the SkyTrain doesn’t run 24 hours, which means when the Skytrain quote unquote goes to sleep, the NightBus kind of enters from stage, right, if you will, and Al, maybe you can do a better job of sort of describing how the NightBus emulates what the SkyTrain service is supposed to be.

ALLEN: So, yeah, there’s many routes, but maybe I’ll talk about the three main ones. These three main ones, they essentially mimic the SkyTrain service. So you have the N10. So that runs along, you know, Cambie Street and where the Canada Line is. And it does provide some service to the Vancouver International Airport. We have the N19. So that roughly parallels the Expo Line. And we have the N9 that roughly parallels the Millennium Line. So it gives people an option, you know, to get home after the SkyTrain shuts down and we’re able to do some critical maintenance. And, you know, the great thing about the NightBus is you can find it in the same central location. They all go through West Georgia and Granville. So that’s where you can easily catch your NightBus. And, you know, if you want to plan your NightBus route, you can go to and if you’re planning a trip, use

JAWN: When I used to live out in the ‘burbs, I’ve definitely caught myself being like, oh, I did not catch the final SkyTrain home in time. However, will I get home? I don’t want to spend $100 on a cab. The NightBus. It’s there. It’ll take you home!

SOPHIE: Can we quickly run through all of the different, versions of the SkyTrain train cars? So the Mark family?

JAWN: Yes, of course, the Marks!


JAWN: The lovely Marks! Well, I know Mark I started for, Expo 86, so it was like the OG model. Allen has, like, VIP status right now these days in the office, because he’s one of the very few people who have actually been inside the very new SkyTrain. But before we get to the fives, Allen, take us through the rest of the models.

ALLEN: Yeah. So as you alluded to, we had the Mark Is which came along in Expo, for Expo 86 when the SkyTrain first opened. And then when the Millennium Line opened, we brought on the Mark IIs. So those are the ones that are, you know, they’re a little bit rounder and you’ll notice that the cars are, you know, primarily in two cars. You can walk from one to the other. And then we have the Mark IIIs. So those were our first cars that were, you know, four cars, the first trains that are four cars. So you can walk and then again and then the Mark V, our first five car train like you walk from end to end. You’ll notice it’s really large windows. And then at the front you notice it’s a bit flat funnel. It’s angled down a little bit. And you might even notice that the lights look like hockey sticks. *Laughs*

JAWN: Which is so Canadiana, but it’s absolutely true. And I was curious, Allen, since you’ve actually been inside the Mark V — By the way, there’s a cool little video you can check out on the TransLink YouTube channel, and all of our social medias where we show you some of the new features inside the Mark V …. Is it similar to getting a new car, you got that new car smell going on in there?

ALLEN: It’s definitely got that new car smell.

JAWN: Nice.

ALLEN: And I think what people will notice the most about, or what I noticed the most, was just how spacious it is. And, you know, we talked about busses, how they kind of iterate and continue to improve. Like, this is definitely the best train we have so far with, these are just how spacious it is. There’s more flex space. So, you know, it’s a train that works for, you know, more people for sure.

JAWN: Right, yeah. And many more people moving into the region each and every year, so we got to kind of plan for that. So, really excited to see what the Mark vibes will, will be like once they’re fully in operation. But yeah, interesting question there.

SOPHIE: Thank you. The Mark Is are kind of like, you know, Father Mark. And then the Mark Vs are like… Baby Marks. *Laughs*

JAWN: *Laughs* There you go. Yeah. The family generation keeps going.

SOPHIE: The lineage!


JAWN: Now now here’s a question that we get asked on a pretty regular basis. That question being what is the purpose of the third unused platform at the Stadium-Chinatown SkyTrain station? Why does it even exist? It’s such a mystery! To answer this, we’ll reintroduce a friend of the show, Ian Fisher, the manager of operations planning at BC Rapid Transit Company, aka SkyTrain.

IAN FISHER: Yeah, fortunately I was around for Expo 86, so I went there pretty much every day when I was in town back then.

JAWN: Okay!

IAN: And that third platform is an artifact of Expo 86. So that was part of the Expo 86 site. You had to have a expo ticket to be on that platform. And there were dedicated trains that ran from that third platform through nonstop, so they they skipped Granville and Burrard, to one of the two platforms at Waterfront.

JAWN: Oh, okay.

IAN: And the Waterfront platform was split down the middle. Half of it was within the Expo site to give access to the Canada Place Pavillion, which was obviously, we now call Canada Place.

JAWN: Right!

IAN: Through the Howe Street entrance. So that was not originally public entrance, that was just there for expo access. And then the other side of the Waterfront platform was for trains going out to New Westminster at the time. So that’s why we have the third platform there. And it offered a nice cross platform connection to the Expo monorail, which at some point we’ll have another cross platform connection for our rapid transit system if we’re really lucky.

JAWN: Right.

IAN: Very efficient for customers. So that’s what it was there for. It was just built for those expo special trains. And that’s one reason why the track layout there is kind of optimized for that. And the viaducts crossovers, so that those trains could leave that third platform at east a little bit, then reverse and then head towards Waterfront. Currently it’s really useful for storing trains. So, so again, we it’s right next to the stadium.

JAWN: Right.

IAN: So we’ll stash a train there ready to go. So when the crowd starts to come out of the stadium, you have one ready to insert. And we’ll have other trains at a few other locations like Waterfront, we can have one, and near Nanaimo, but it’s a great way to just have a train ready to go. Also, if there’s, a failed problem with the train or whatever, we can either put a fail train in that track and get it out of the way, or we can have a spare train there ready to fill the gap in service. So even though it doesn’t have a regular everyday customer service use these days, it’s still a very useful facility for us for keeping the system running.

JAWN: Makes sense. Yeah, it’s original purpose, you know, is no longer relevant. But now it kind of serves as that flex option, which I think is really great to have, especially like in downtown Vancouver. Downtown Vancouver is not known for having a lot of space, period. So I think having that is actually a great factor, for you and your team. But basically what you’re saying is we need Expo 2036 to come back and maybe we can relive that glorious days all over again. Is that what you’re saying?

IAN: I don’t know if we needed to come back, but, it’s a good remnant of that. The whole system was, of course, built in time for Expo 86, so if we didn’t have Expo 86, we might not have SkyTrain at all.

JAWN: That’s a very good point.

IAN: Thank Expo for that.

JAWN: Do you remember the theme song?

IAN: Vaguely. I went to the fireworks at as often as I could, but I can’t remember.

JAWN: I believe… Something special is happening and something along those lines.


JAWN: One of the things you you kind of touched on, of course, was Expo and one of the most iconic sights and experiences during Expo 86.. Not that I was around back then, but I was just reading about it and I’ve seen it on YouTube.. It’s the monorail. You were at Expo! Did you take the monorail?

IAN: I definitely took the monorail. Yeah, I remember the interesting thing was you could wait for a very long time to get on the monorail.

JAWN: What’s that mean, what’s the headway there?

IAN: It must have been a few minutes. I don’t think it was super frequent.

JAWN: But young Ian was, you know, excited, wanted to get on the monorail!

IAN: Yeah, yeah, everyone wanted to get on the monorail. It was provided by a Swiss manufacturer. They also provided monorails to some other places that people might have seen very similar cars like Sydney, which also dismantled theirs. There are rumours that our cars ended up in the UK. I remember hearing that. And sorry, not OUR cars.. It wasn’t really a SkyTrain operation, neither a TransLink operation. Capacity isn’t very high and there are huge queues to get on the system because it’s.. Everyone wants to try it.

JAWN: Where did it run beteween, if you can describe that, if you recall.

IAN: It was kind of the two ends of the site, I think it went almost all the way to what’s now, George Wainborn Park at the end of Richards Street and all the way to Science World at the other end.

JAWN: Gotcha.

IAN: Yeah. The secret actually, at Expo was to take the ferries because they weren’t very busy. And if you wanted to go from the end of the site to the other end, that was the fastest way to go, generally. The monorail was fun, but not fast. There are not many memories of the monorail left visibly, but I think at the old BC pavilion at the Plaza of Nations, you can still see where the monorail passed through the building where the platform was, because on the side facing northwest of that building, you can see a cut out, and then where the platform was, but that’s obviously up for redevelopment. So those of you wanting to get your Expo monorail memories, go down there and get photos.

JAWN: And did the monorail get shut down as soon as the Expo 86 wrapped up, or did it kind of stick around for a little bit more?

IAN: Oh, it was shut down right away because it was all within the site.

JAWN: Fair.

IAN: I heard there were some discussion about repurposing it at first, a downtown circulator of some kind where it would go down Robson or what have you. But that didn’t really get very far.

JAWN: Well, there you have it. Our very first Quick Sips on What’s the T– Where we take a bunch of questions asked by listeners and try to provide quick and tidy answers. A quick sip! Here’s a good time to remind you that you can always reach out and interact with us. You can email us at any time at, and that’s whether you have a question or a concern or just a comment. We’re always happy to get your feedback and who knows, maybe we’ll answer your question the next time we do this. My thanks, as always to our in-house experts, from Ian Fisher to everyone who’s been able to provide answers. My thanks to Producer Allen Tung making his long-awaited debut on this podcast. And of course, our thanks to you for listening and subscribing.

I’ve been your host, Jawn Jang, and until next time, have a safe trip!


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