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Translink Buzzer Blog

The print Buzzer turns 104 years old!

🎉The print Buzzer is turning 104 today🎉

The Buzzer turning 104

The first publication of the Buzzer was released on June 2, 1916.

Throughout the years, the print Buzzer has informed generations of readers about exciting transit news and developments in Metro Vancouver.

From the opening of the Patullo Bridge in 1937 and the launch of trolley buses 11 years later to the launch of the Expo Line in 1986, our readers were updated and entertained one fold at the time!

The first print Buzzer was published on June 2, 1916, and was originally distributed on the hydro-electric streetcars that made up public transportation in Vancouver. The publication was launched to help streetcars compete with jitneys, private citizens who patrolled streetcar routes and offered rides for five cents. By informing the riders about public transport, the hope was that people would be more encouraged to use the streetcars.

streetcar in early 1920s -1940s

Two-car streetcar “trains” ran on main Vancouver routes from 1927 to the late 1940s

An interesting fact – the first publication did not have a name! It was the riders of trams and streetcars, who coined the name by endearingly referring to the publication “our dear Buzzer”.

As one of the oldest publications in the province, the Buzzer has changed companies, themes, mastheads and editors. Its goal of the publication always stayed the same however- to deliver informative and fun transit and community related tidbits to our riders.

old versions of the Buzzer since 1910s

How the Buzzer changed since 1910s

 

Are you interested to see how the Buzzer looked like back in the day? Check out our comprehensive archive that dates back to the early 1900s. You’ll also want to checkout our 100th birthday edition of the Buzzer for a great look at how transportation and the publication has changed over the years.

As we’re facing challenges due to COVID-19 we’re looking into the future for the print Buzzer. We’d love to know you thoughts. What do you like/dislike about print Buzzer and are there changes you’d make to it? Leave a comments and tell us what you think!

National AccessAbility Week – Pamela Findling on her personal experience and things we can do about accessibility during COVID-19

 

Pamela Findling performing at the comedy show

Pamela performing at the stand-up comedy show. She often shares her personal experience of being hearing impaired in her performances.

May 31 to June 6 is the National AccessAbility Week, a week that celebrates the valuable contributions of Canadians with disabilities and recognize the efforts of individuals, communities and workplaces that are actively working to remove barriers to accessibility and inclusion.

Pamela Findling, the Director of Training, Health, and Wellness at BCRTC shares her personal experience with us and talks about things we can do about accessibility in the era of  COVID-19.

What does accessibility mean to you personally?

Pamela – I’ve been hearing impaired since I was little. Then, as an adult, I went profoundly deaf and received a cochlear implant six months later. With my implant, I hear and get by really well and people often know me for awhile before they realize I’m hearing impaired. It’s a daily effort though, and it takes work for me to make sense of the sounds I’m hearing.

For me personally, accessibility is about being able to be independent and not having to rely on others.

Part of that is also feeling safe and supported when I do need to ask for help or changes to participate as fully as possible. I recognize that people and organizations often don’t realize the impacts of their design or implementation decisions on people with disabilities, which is why I really appreciate the ones that take the time to ask questions and make adjustments as they learn more.

To me, accessibility is also about having options available and recognizing that there’s no one-size-fits all. What I need as a deaf person with a cochlear implant could be much different than what another deaf person with a cochlear implant needs.

 

What are some small things you do in your day to make everything work for you in terms of accessibility?

Pamela – So much that I don’t even realize anymore!

I don’t hear anything out of my left ear, so in meetings and groups I sit with my right ear towards the most people. I also make sure that I can see people’s faces, since I read lips a lot.

It’s actually much easier for me to follow meeting on Skype and Zoom  – I’m happy to see they’re being used more than conference calls now! The Bluetooth on my phone gives me a direct link to my implant and blocks out background noise, so I use that instead of the computer audio whenever I can.

As to other everyday activities, I use the Next Stop signs on the buses, closed captioning on TV and at the movies. I Google lyrics for new songs, turn off music and loud fans when I’m talking to people, ask strangers to repeat intercom announcements for me, and sometimes, when the noise is too much, I turn off my cochlear implant processor to have some quiet. I also ask people to repeat themselves, or to switch seats—people are always happy to help, but it’s important that I speak up.

How do your personal experiences inform your professional interests and work?

Pamela – Losing my hearing shaped so much of who I am, and I’ve always been interested in what other people’s stories are and sharing those stories. I was in communications for a lot of years. I like writing and visual elements because it’s something I’ve personally always been able to count on to stay connected to people. Now I lead the Training and Occupational Health teams, which is meaningful for me personally.

When I went profoundly deaf and was waiting for my cochlear implant, I was working as a co-op student in a new city, with no family there. I was devastated and planned to quit my job and move home, but my manager said “No. I’m not going to let you do that. You still have a lot you can do.” He set me up with the Occupational Health Nurse and she was amazing to help us figure out how I could complete my work term and contribute meaningfully.

That support and being able to keep working was so important for my mental health and recovery, and I’m still so grateful for it. Because I know how much that meant to me, I really value the work of Training and Occupational Health teams. I know they can literally save lives.

 

The pandemic has posed new challenges for our communities, potentially aggravating some of the existing accessibility barriers. How can we work together to create more accessible and inclusive working environments during these uncertain times?

Pamela – A prime example of this that people might not think of: I haven’t figured out how I’m going to navigate a mask-filled world yet where I can’t read lips!

I think the biggest thing is to ask questions and be aware that people have struggles and barriers that we don’t know about. I’m always happy to answer questions from people about my hearing, because it helps them better understand me and how we can best work together.

Be kind and patient. Know that we’re not always going to get it right at first, but be open to learning how we can do better. Don’t make assumptions: something that worked well six months ago might not work now because things have changed and could have a bigger impact than we realize (like masks!). And we need to advocate for ourselves and be honest about what we need.

Knight Street Bridge is ready to support the restart of BC’s economy

Cars and trucks crossing the Knight Street Bridge

We are excited to announce that the Knight Street Bridge’s Rehabilitation Project is now complete and the bridge is ready to support the restart of BC’s economy.

Bridges play a vital role in the movement of goods and people in our region. The movement of goods includes anything from the shipment of produce to local grocery stores and food to your doorsteps to components and materials required to manufacture finished products, such as plexiglass partitions and protective barriers.

Together with various modes like roads, waterways, rail facilities and air and sea ports, bridges form an intricate network that enables us to access essential goods and services so that we can carry on with our day-to-day lives.

The Knight Street Bridge (2020)

Everyday about 100,000 vehicles cross the Knight Street Bridge, the second busiest bridge in the Lower Mainland. The bridge acts as the main corridor from Downtown Vancouver terminals to industry in North and South Richmond North as well as the Tilbury Industrial area out to Delta Port. Many of these are trucks support the goods movement in/between the region and the rest of Canada/US.

On the regular days, you are most likely to encounter various trucks delivering containers from the ports in Vancouver, Seattle and Tacoma to destinations in British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon Territory as well as Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. Even during the pandemic, the bridge continues to play an essential role in the movement of goods.

The Knight Street Bridge was opened on January 15, 1974. To ensure safe and efficient operations for all bridge users, we conduct significant rehabilitation work of this nature approximately once every ten to 15 years, in addition to ongoing maintenance, as a part of TransLink Maintenance and Repair Program. This work also safeguards the bridge from the effects of climate change and allows for seismic preparedness and resilience.

The 2020 Knight Street Bridge Rehabilitation Project commenced in January and was conducted overnight from 10 p.m and 5 p.m to minimize the impact on bridge users. The work included:

    • Concrete pier repairs, bearing and expansion joint replacement
    • Replacement of signage, including warning signs, regulatory signs and pedestrian crosswalks signs
    • Lighting upgrades for better visibility and energy efficiency
    • Replacement of crash cushions (impact attenuators)

We have recently successfully completed the upgrades on time, just as the province announced the plan for easing COVID-19 restrictions. The Knight Street Bridge is refreshed and ready to support the gradual restart of our economy. Learn more about TransLink’s role in Metro Vancouver’s goods movement by checking out Regional Goods Movement Strategy.

How is TransLink funded?

Many of you inquired over the previous few weeks about how funding at TransLink works. One of the most common questions we received were about fares and if they comprise the main source for our revenue.

We’ve pulled together some details, graphs, and data and bring back an updated version of TransLink Funding 101 for everyone who’s curious about the subject! 

Diversified approach to funding

As the regional transportation agency, we are responsible for more than just public transport. We maintain major roads and five bridges (Knight Street Bridge, Pattullo Bridge, Golden Ears Bridge, Westham Island Bridge, The Canada Line Bike and Pedestrian bridge), work on developing multi-modal travel in the region, collaborate with our partners on the regional cycling strategy and more.

With our minds focused on spearheading an integrated system for the Greater Vancouver region, we also take a diversified approach to our funding. In short, our funding comes from more than one revenue source. This approach helps us weather changes to economy and minimize the impact of service disruptions or loss of ridership during most critical times so we can continue deliver transportation and operational services. However, with COVID-19, this has become more challenging.

SCBCTA Act has all the answers 

The discussion about TransLink’s funding would not be complete without the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Act. This is the provincial legislation that provides formal guidelines for the planning, funding, management and operation of our regional transportation system.

Any changes to the revenues TransLink can collect – or how they can be collected – require many levels of approval, typically from the Province, Mayors’ Council, or some combination of these. They also require a process of extensive consultation with the public and our customers.

Under SCBCTA Act, TransLink develops a 30-year strategy and fully funded, ten-year investment plans (updated at least triennially). While 30-year strategies like Transport 2050, which is under development, provides a bigger picture of how people will live, work, play, and move around the region today and in the future, The 10-Year Investment Plan outlines all the details that determine the funding levels, such as level of services to be provided, major capital projects, estimated revenue, expenditure and borrowing.

What are our main revenue sources?

 

We rely on three main revenue streams that help us deliver our transit and operational services.

Taxation revenue (44%). This is our largest revenue stream. Although transit revenue covers about 51 per cent of our operating costs, taxation revenue helps supplement the remainder of these costs and a lot more. Sources of taxation revenue include fuel and property tax, parking rights and the hydro levy.

Transit revenue (33%). These are all types of payments that we receive from you whenever you use our transit system or programs such as UPass BC and the BC Government Bus Pass. Revenue from other complementary sources, including transit advertising, Park and Ride and revenue from the sale of carbon tax credits also fall under this category.

Government Transfers (19%). The third largest revenue stream comes from federal and provincial government transfers and helps us to fund major capital projects. This includes funds received from the Federal Gas Tax, Canada Line funding, Building Canada Fund, Public Transit Infrastructure Fund and other miscellaneous programs such as the City of  Richmond contributions for Capstan Station.

Other (4%). Other revenue sources include income from investment (interest on sinking funds, capital contributions, debt reserve funds and cash balances) and amortization of deferred concessionaire credit – both of which are not currently available to fund operations.

Figures taken from the 2019 Year-End Financial and Performance Report.

 

What do property taxes have to do with a transportation agency? And other tax details you might be wondering about.

For those who are not aware, the fact that tax revenues, and not fare revenues, comprise the largest revenue source for TransLink may come as a surprise.

TransLink relies on tax revenues, such as fuel tax and property tax, to continue to create transportation and infrastructure improvements. These initiatives, in turn, positively affect property values, increase travelling options for other modes of transportation and contribute to other complimentary benefits that don’t necessarily fall neatly under “transportation” category.

a pie chart showing the breakdown if transit revenue numbers

Transit Revenue Breakdown based on 2019 figures

a pie chart showing the breakdown of tax revenue numbers

Tax Revenue Breakdown based on 2019 figures

Fuel Tax. When people fill up their cars in TransLink’s service region, 18.5 cents of every litre sold goes to TransLink.

Property Tax. A portion of property taxes collected in the region is used to support transit, roads and bridges, walking and cycling infrastructure. The majority of property taxes goes to the Province and local municipalities.

Parking Rights Tax. TransLink currently administers parking sales tax for all off-street parking (hourly, monthly, and annually) within TransLink’s service area in Metro Vancouver.

Hydro Levy. This is a levy that is added to the hydro bill of residences in Metro Vancouver.

DCCs. A fee is collected from new developments to help pay for new transit and transportation investments required to support growth.

What are TransLink’s expenditures?

As you can guess, our expenditures are mainly spent on various transit operations and infrastructure maintenance. Below is the expenditure breakdown for 2019:

  1. Transit Operations. 62 per cent of our budget is spent on transit operations, including rail and bus.
  2. Amortization of tangible capital assets and interest – amortization is a non-cash expense that allocates the cost of our capital assets over the period the assets are expected to be in use. The cost of capital assets is funded through debt and government funding. Interest expense is incurred to service the debt.
  3. Corporate operations. about six per cent of our budget goes to corporate operations, such as information technology costs, planning, finance and human resources
  4. Road and bridges – we spend around six per cent of the annual budget on maintaining roads and five bridges.
  5. Transit police – part of our expenditure goes to maintaining Transit Police operations. This includes police equipment purchases, as well as vehicle and facility maintenance costs.
  6. Corporate one time costs – one per cent.

How has COVID-19 impacted TransLink’s revenues?

The outbreak of the pandemic has significantly impacted our operations over the last two months. With most of us staying in, the transit ridership has declined across all the modes in tandem with lower utilization of parking spaces and decreased consumption of fuel. In turn, those changes have also contributed to considerable reductions to our transit, parking tax and fuel tax revenues.

The announcement made by the provincial government and TransLink on May 8th was therefore highly important in giving reassurance to our customers.  As the province is gradually unrolling the BC’s Restart Plan, TransLink will resume fare collection on buses on June 1. We will be working on a comprehensive solution to address the major financial impacts to the work TransLink does and will continue to call on the federal government for a national solution to the challenges facing transit systems.

 

Public art installation comes to the Stadium–Chinatown Station

Davey's two photographs featuring a fowl and equines at the Stadium-Chinatown Station

Installation by Moyra Davey, Plymouth Rock, 2020 at Stadium-Chinatown SkyTrain Station. Courtesy of the Artist, Courtesy the artist; greengrassi, London; and Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne/New York.

TransLink has been a part of Capture Photography Festival for the last three years. In the past, we partnered up with local artists to bring public art installations to our SkyTrain stations, including Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation Basketball  in 2019, Qimash in 2018,  and Precession of the Feminine in 2017.

This year was not an exception, despite the unforeseen circumstances. The Stadium–Chinatown SkyTrain Station now features Plymouth Rock, a series by New York–based Canadian artist Moyra Davey. A set of black-and-white photographs stands out prominently against the urban backdrop of the station.

The pictures were captured during Davey’s visit to the country home of Dalie Giroux, a political theorist in La Pêche, Quebec, during the making of her film i confess (2019).  “I’d been planning to photograph the political theorist Dalie Giroux, but ended up taking pictures of her animals instead,” Davey recollects in her interview with Capture. 

Photo Credit: Capture Photography Festival

If you pay a closer attention to the photographs, you’d notice that the artist focuses her lens on fowl and equines; while providing little indication of her subjects’ context. This technique emphasizes how certain animals stand “outside of history” – “free and wild and untrammeled by the weight of human concerns”.

Photo Credit: Capture Photography Festival

This series is indebted partly to a candid identification with the work of Peter Hujar (1934–87), known for his black-and-white portraits, including those of animals.

Plymouth Rock will be on display at the station until March 2, 2021. Visit Capture Photography Festival website to learn more about the other exhibitions.

 

Helping with taxes for essential workers and local businesses

head shot of Emma smiling

With tax deadlines being extended for individuals and businesses till June and September, you’d imagine things would slow down for organizations providing tax services. As we found out, that’s not exactly the case. On the contrary, many of us require professional advice more than ever to make some important decisions in the light of new COVID-19 -related government programs and initiatives .

Emma Nguyen is one of the essential workers who help individuals and businesses to navigate through various financial bumps along this uncertain road. She’s an accountant for a tax consulting and accounting company in North Vancouver.

Emma, as well as many other essential workers in Metro Vancouver, relies on public transit to get to work. During the pandemic, Emma switched to a multi-modal commuting to accommodate for her personal circumstances. She carpools with her friend in the morning to get to North Vancouver and in the evening uses bus and a SkyTrain to go back home.

Emma, can you tell us more about your work?

Our organization provides services to individuals, as well as small to medium-sized businesses, in different fields ranging from hospitality and commercial sectors to law and professional services. Some of our clients are frontline and essential workers, such as doctors, dentists and people who are operating local businesses and stores. We help individuals and businesses stay compliant with government and industry standards – so we help them with tax returns and GST returns in addition to tax consulting and accounting services.

We know that the tax returns have been postponed till June, but it seems that it’s still a quite busy time for companies likes yours?  

Yes, that’s right. The tax returns have been delayed until June 1st and payment deadlines until September. You know, these days people are worried about their finances. If they file the returns or payments earlier, they can receive refunds or just plan for the cash flow. Also, the requirements for some of the government relief programs are based on tax returns. So if you have this information early on, you can decide if you qualify. This is really important for our clients and their long-term planning.

Busy time! So I imagine most of people would need to come and work in the office?

Yes, my colleagues and I still come to the office to work. For tax consulting firms that really depends on their culture and IT systems in place. A lot of our tasks involve physical documents, since our company is not entirely paperless. Also, since we are in consulting, our work involves a lot of communication. For junior staff, like me, we work closely with our managers and senior staff.

How have things changed for your company during COVID-19?

Because we are handling physical documents, we make sure to follow some safety measures, such as not touching documents for at least 24 hours and washing hands before and after. Our company is relatively small, but we are also make sure to maintain physical distancing. There are about 10 people right now working on one floor.

What would your message be for other essential workers and just everyone who is going through this challenging time?

I think COVID-19 has made us conscious about every little thing that we took for granted before. I really appreciate everyone’s efforts these days, whether they’re staying at home or going to work. It’s a challenging time for all of us. If you are an essential or frontline worker, I hope you’re staying safe!

A lot of people are feeling worried and anxious about the current situation. I felt the same way (my family lives outside of Canada), and I guess one advice that I have for everyone is to try to maintain some kind of schedule or routine. In my situation, my work helped me to do that (smiles).

In the light of recent service reductions, we’re asking all of our customers to use transit for essential trips only – especially at peaks hours and busy times – so space remains available for those, like Emma and Laura, who need it most. You can find more information about peak hours on transit here.

 

Take a virtual transit music break: Fridays at noon on our Facebook page

Musicians have been providing SkyTrain customers with music and entertainment since Expo ’86, performing at 11 stations along Expo and Canada Lines. The start of COVID-19 pandemic has put a stop to performances, so we’re bringing some of your favourites from your commute into your home. This month, give yourself a break and tune in to TransLink’s Facebook page every Friday at 12:00 pm to enjoy an online edition of TransLink’s Musicians Program.

Each musician will perform a 10-to-15-minute set during the stream. In lieu of tips, please consider a donation to the local initiative of your choice to support the COVID-19 pandemic response.

Here is the lineup for this month’s performances:

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Week 1 (May 8) 

Stephen Thakkar

Genre: Indie Folk 

Hailing from Oakville, Ontario, this young singer songwriter is just beginning to launch his career. His smooth vocals and high energy compliment his authenticity, creating a heartfelt and inviting experience. 

Follow on Instagram

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Week 2 (May 15)

Luifox Gutierrez & Alma Chevere World Latin Band 

Genre: latin pop, romantic ballads, rumbas, rock, salsa, reggae, zouk and flamenco Chill

LuiFox from Alma Chevere World Latin Band is a singer-songwriter and a multi-talented artist with experience in the performing arts as a Salsa dancer. Born in Venezuela with a musical family background, playing professionally over 20 years, creating compositions that are lyrical masterpieces of romance, passions, travels and the powerful emotions every immigrant feels when settling into a new life. The diversity of topics makes it easy for the audiences to connect with the music. Since 2009 LuiFox has been performing with his band “Alma Chevere” as well as as a solo artist.

Visit the band’s website

 

 

 

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Week 3 (May 22)

Caroline Olsen 

Genre: Classical and folk music

Classically-trained violist Caroline Olsen is equally at home performing with a symphony orchestra in a concert hall or a cover band at the local pub. Join her for an uplifting programme of classical and folk music adapted for solo viola. 

 

 

 

 

Apply to become TransLink Musician

You can find performing musician in almost every major city around the world. They animate corners of our streets and through their performances help us discover different genres, styles and instruments. These performers are like urban conductors, setting the tempo and mood for our city lives. Whether we are hurrying to catch a bus or get to our end destinations, catchy beats or familiar melodies encourage us to slow down and spend more time in our public spaces.

Are you a musician interested to showcase your talent and gain more practice? Apply to TransLink’s Musicians Program – sometimes referred to our busker program. It provides the opportunity for registered musicians to perform at approved SkyTrain stations, playing a variety of instruments and styles.

Each year TransLink holds annual auditions to select new musicians. Aspiring performers participate in “So You Think You Can Busk?”, an American Idol-style audition. Both single and duo performers are welcomed. Successful musicians are issued a license valid for two years. This year auditions will take place in the online format. Learn more here.

 

Latest ridership numbers: your questions on service reductions answered

Over the last several days, we received a high volume of questions about TransLink’s recent cost-saving measures to preserve Metro Vancouver’s transit system.

Reducing our services was a difficult decision. TransLink is losing $75 million per month with ridership down by 83%, while still providing transit services for +75,000 customers, many of which are essential workers. We continue working with our stakeholders and government authorities on a plan to address the longer-term fiscal sustainability of TransLink so that we can continue delivering our services and reintroduce our suspended services in the future.

In this post, we’ve pulled together additional numbers and details to address some of your questions.

 

Reductions on SkyTrain, Canada Line, WCE

Our most recent measures were introduced in the context of significant decrease in ridership across all transit modes over the last several weeks. Here is the latest data on the weekday boardings before and after the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions.

Expo-Millennium Line

82% reduction in Weekday Boardings

Early March (pre-COVID-19): 359,000

Early April (after COVID-19): 65,000

Canada Line

86% reduction in Weekday Boardings

Early March (pre-COVID-19): 143,000

Early April (after COVID-19): 20,000

SeaBus

90% reduction in Weekday Boardings

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 17,300

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 1,800

 West Coast Express

94% reduction in Weekday Boardings

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 10,600

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 620

 

Bus Routes

TransLink’s priority was to maintain the routes that serve health facilities and hospitals, while making sure that the suspended routes have alternative service. For the 18 route suspensions that were introduced on Friday April 24:

  • Over 75% of these customers would have alternate routes in the same corridor (customers using the 15, 50, 480 and R3).
  • Of the remaining 25% (~800 people on weekdays), over half are on the 68 (UBC shuttle). Many of these people are in walkable distance to another bus route.
  • Almost all of the other routes that will be temporarily cancelled have less than 50 boardings per weekday.

The ridership on our bus routes have decreased significantly, according to the latest published data.

Here are the details for some of our bus routes (boardings are rounded to nearest 10):

 

50 – Waterfront Station/False Creek South

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 3,650

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 790

Alternative routes: Use other downtown routes (e.g. 4, 7, 23), 84, or alternate modes

 

 32 – Dunbar/Downtown Express

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 490

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 0

Alternative routes: Use routes 2 and 7

 

 143 – SFU/Burquitlam Station

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 3,390

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 0

Alternative routes: Use Millennium Line and 145

 

R3 – Lougheed Hwy RapidBus Coquitlam Central Stn/Haney Pl

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 1,820

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 600

Alternative routes: Use 701

 

N15 – Cambie/Downtown NightBus

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 20

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 0

Alternative routes: Close proximity to N10 or use alternate modes of transportation

 

N17 – UBC/Downtown NightBus

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 50

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 10

Alternative routes: Use alternate modes of transportation

 

N22 – Macdonald/Downtown NightBus

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 10

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 0

Alternative routes: Use alternate modes of transportation

 

N24 – Lynn Valley/Downtown NightBus

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 40

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 20

Alternative routes: Use alternate modes of transportation

Delivering essential banking services

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, our lifestyles have drastically changed, as we found new ways to readjust to the new reality. We attend birthdays, family reunions and work meetings with a click of the video call button. Store pickups and home deliveries have become a new norm for shopping for household necessities.

Essential workers, who are behind all the services and infrastructures, play a crucial role in our communities, enabling us to carry on with our daily lives. Sandy Yang is one of them. She works at the local branch of a bank based in Richmond and ensures that day-to-day banking activities of her customers happen without major interruptions.

Sandy is new to Vancouver. In fact, she has moved to Canada from Taiwan in December and started her job just a few weeks before the global pandemic was announced. When asked about her impression of the last few weeks, she said “I just got to Canada, so I haven’t been around long enough to compare. But it’s unusual to see how everything is closed and everyone is staying at home during the pandemic.”

For Sandy, her work duties as a bank accountant require her to be physically present in the office. “Even though most of our services are carried out online, we have security measures in place, so we need to be at work to access all the information and make sure that our customers are served,” she explained.

Sandy works three days a week in the office with her supervisor. She doesn’t hold a driver license in Canada and has been commuting by public transport. These days she uses West Coast Express and SkyTrain to get to her work .

Social life is something Sandy misses the most about her life before the pandemic. She told us that catching up with all her friends will be the very first thing she’ll do when restrictions will be lifted. She would also like to see her family, who are now living in Taiwan.

Sandy shared a note of appreciation to everyone working on the front line:

“Thank you to all the front-line workers for being there and fighting for us. I have a friend who is currently working at the St Paul Hospital. We all know it’s very intense to work under this circumstance but again thank you!”

Public transit is an essential service, and we know +75 000 people are still reliant on transit, including frontline workers. Sandy’s story is another in our series about the people who are keeping our region operating during this unprecedented time. We at TransLink applaud all that frontline and essential workers are doing, and we’re working hard to get them to their important work – Together all the way.

Do you have a story like Sandy’s or know someone doing good these days? If so, we’d love to hear from you via our social channels or email. Together we can get through the challenges that COVID-19 has brought. Telling stories of the effects on each other’s lives can help.

Physical distancing decals and signs: where to find them

There are around 75,000 – 100,000 of our customers in Metro Vancouver who still rely on public transit everyday. During this uncertain time, we want to make sure that we can get you to your essential destinations safely, whether it’s your work, pharmacy, grocery store, or home.

If you were using public transit in the past few weeks, you might have spotted TransLink’s outdoor distancing decals, yellow circles with the footprints, indicating the distance of 2m, at various bus loops and exchanges, SkyTrain stations, embarkation areas of the SeaBus and West Coast Express. These decals provide our customers with the guidance on how far they should stand from other passengers while boarding our transit vehicles and have so far been installed at over 40 locations.

In addition, we have also introduced multilingual pole signs (English, Punjabi, simplified Chinese) with health and safety tips at over 40 bus loops and stations ads and have distributed over 5000 Physical Distancing Pins to our frontline employees across the enterprise to wear as a friendly reminder for everyone to keep two metres apart.

We all could use a bit of fun these days! To sprinkle some engagement into campaign, we invited our followers and transit friends, including Washington Metro and Los Angeles Metro, to participate in our Instagram challenge and share what two metres means for them in GIFs. We were delighted to receive some great great examples! Did you know that two metres equals to roughly one Chewbacca, three 3BB8s, 20 tacos placed end to end, and 31 Venti ice coffees from Starbucks?

Please let us know about your experience with TransLink’s decals and signs so far by leaving a comment. You can also send us your feedback via thebuzzer@translink.ca.

A local business provides protective gear for frontline workers

Taylor Gatenby is one of the 75,000+ people who rely on public transit to get to work everyday. She is a cashier at a small local store that provides essential equipment to various government and public organizations, including transit workers and transit police, Vancouver Police Department and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, military, emergency medical service workers and fire fighters. In addition, the local business also serves the general public offering a wider range of outdoor tools and clothing.

When the pandemic broke out, many businesses have diversified their products to join the battle against COVID-19. Taylor’s company is not an exception. These days it stays open to supply much-needed equipment and protective gear, from masks to specialized apparel for those working on the frontline. They are also trying to source other essential products, including face shields and get them out to various destinations.

The security gear store also supplies large volume of sanitizers. “The amount really varies depending on the requirements of different organizations and departments,” Taylor explains. “Sometimes we’d supply them in drums. Just to give you an idea, you would need a wrench and a hose pump to get those out of the containers. Some other departments would buy four litre bottles in mass quantities.”

It has been a challenging time for Taylor and her colleagues, since they also want to make sure they can serve the general public when they can. For safety reasons, the store has encouraged its customers to order products online and has made in-store pick up and home delivery options available to those who need them.

“We still have customers, especially frontline workers, who drop by our store for essentials like uniforms.” Taylor mentions. As a cashier, she regularly manages one-on-one interactions. To stay safe, she makes sure she always wears gloves, disinfects high touch surfaces, such as the debit machine, and works behind the plexiglass partition that the store has set up for their employees.

Everyday Taylor takes SkyTrain and a bus to commute to work from Downtown Vancouver.

“I’m just so proud to be part of a community that is working hard to keep the front liners and the rest of us safe. I’m proud of every other worker who shows up at work to make sure we’re all okay.”

When asked about the first thing she would do after the quarantine ends, Taylor replied “I will take a plane and visit my grandmother in Kelowna. It’s really hard because I can’t be there for her right now.”

We, at TransLink, are deeply grateful for all the hard work that frontline workers are doing during this difficult time, while also dealing with all the personal challenges that the pandemic poses. Do you have a story like Taylor’s or know someone doing good these days? If so, we’d love to hear from you via our social channels or email.

 

Taking care of kids of frontline workers

picture of Ava Jade, who works at a non-profit childcare facility that looks after kids of frontline workers

Ava Jade works at a nonprofit childcare facility in Kitsilano, making sure that the kids of frontline workers are taken care of. (Photo courtesy of Ava)

Ava works as an administrator at a non-profit childcare facility that looks after kids of frontline workers. She also regularly posts uplifting Instagram Stories while getting to work on public transit, sending kind words of support to all the essential workers and encouraging everyone who does not need to commute to stay home. She’s also a singer, songwriter and bunny rescuer, but our story focuses on Ava’s full-time job because it happens to be one of the essential professions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We managed to get in touch with Ava just before her morning commute to learn more about her and the important work she does.

Ava moved to Vancouver in 2011 after leaving school in Southern Ontario to look for a life that would be purposeful and enjoyable. She found these things in her work at Hudson Out of School Care Society based in Kitsilano. Ava’s office shares the same building with a preschool, which is a small yellow schoolhouse located on the grounds of Hudson Elementary School. She has been working there for five years.

“I find it really fulfilling because you really get to be a part of these children’s lives. One of the favourite parts of my day is when I get to interact with all the children. They just bring you so much joy.”

Hudson Out of School Care Society was founded in the 1970s with the support of government funding and help from parents who wanted affordable childcare before and after school. While the childcare facility usually takes in kids from the local community, beginning this week (March 30,2020), the facility started accepting only the children of essential workers with the guidance of Vancouver Coastal Health, the Ministry, and the Vancouver School Board.

“We have children of nurses, people who work in pharmaceutical industry, infrastructure… You know, when we are thinking of essential workers, we tend to think of doctors and nurses, but there are so many more people who are crucial during these times.”

Ava and the whole team are working on getting the ball rolling and keeping the channels of communication open with families who require childcare. She explains, “If you’re a nurse, for instance, you can tell other nurses at the hospital that we’re open, and we’ll take in new children at this time.”

With the events quickly unfolding, the childcare staff is making sure that all the kids know how to protect themselves. “We’re communicating things like washing your hands every hour and not touching your face to children through stories and books. We’re trying to make it fun and informative.”

She also added, “I have to give [my appreciation] to childcare staff, who are still coming to work and taking care of kids. They’re amazing.”

These days Ava uses public transit to get around. “I’m definitely a huge transit user. I take two different buses in the morning to go to work and then at night to get back. I also use the bus to get my groceries.” Before the pandemic Ava used car share sometimes but thinks that now it’s especially important to only go to essential places to keep ourselves and everyone else safe.

When asked if she feels safe commuting and going to work these days, Ava responded:

“For us essential workers, every day you get up, and you have to make a choice. It’s a really hard choice no matter what work you’re doing right now because there is a risk involved. But as long as everyone is doing their part, people are staying at home, keeping everything clean for frontline workers, everything should be fine.”

She wants to thank everyone, whether they are a frontline worker or working from home or not working, for making those hard decisions. “We all are doing our part here, and the choices we make affect everyone else.”

For those who are staying at home and wonder how they might help, Ava suggested that they can reach out to local initiatives and communities. “Around my building, we have elderly residents. So, I’ve been sanitizing and bleaching the door handles in my building. There are things that we can all do to keep each other healthy and safe.”

We, at TransLink, applaud Ava and all the frontline workers who are doing so much during this difficult time. Do you have a story like Ava’s or know someone doing good these days? If so, we’d love to hear from you via our social channels or email.

 

“It’s a lifetime of freedom to travel”: Overcoming the fear of SkyTrain

Read the story of how Jon, a teen with autism, overcame the fear of boarding the SkyTrain with some help from Mo Hassabou from BCRTC (SkyTrain) and Jon’s teachers.

 

We all have our own unique phobias and some of them are pretty common – claustrophobia or arachnophobia for example are often listed as fears that large numbers of us share. But for some people, their phobias can intrinsically impact their day to day life and present a number of challenges in navigating the world.

For high school student Jon, the SkyTrain presents this very challenge. As a teen with autism, Jon often finds himself unable to enjoy the same hobbies and interests as his classmates, and in some cases, cannot participate in school field trips as he is too scared of our transit system to board the train and join his classmates on activities downtown. Jon gets frustrated with this and it is a problem that both the student and his teachers find upsetting.

Trying to bridge this impasse, some of Jon’s teachers got in touch with SkyTrain to see if anything could be done to help encourage their student onto transit and overcome this hindering fear. Fortunately, Mo Hassabou, a Field Operations Duty Manager, was excited to answer that call and invite young Jon to the Operations and Maintenance Centre (OMC) facilities to coach him through this particular obstacle.

“I worked with children with special needs in my previous career as a teacher and I worked with autistic children then and I thought it would be nice to do that again,” recalls Mo, who was not daunted by the challenge at hand.

Mo had to use all his previous teaching expertise and knowledge of the SkyTrain to make sure Jon felt as comfortable as possible during his visit to the OMC. It wasn’t an easy task as Jon has a fear of confined spaces, crowds and vehicles moving without being in control – the SkyTrain is a perfect mix of these triggers and quite a stressful environment for him.

Despite Jon’s hesitation, Mo could see how interested and determined his student was to board the train. He kept watching all the things Mo was showing him from a distance and was always listening.

“I got him used to what to expect from the train. He saw us all walking in and out, we opened the doors and closed the doors, and I even honked the horn. I asked him if he wanted to come and push buttons. He would come to the door and look but then back away again.”

Mo and Jon’s teachers weren’t beyond a few bribes to get some success.

“The teachers said he liked Michael Jackson songs so I hooked up my phone to the speaker in the train and put Michael Jackson on to get him closer to the train to listen to the song. I played Michael Jackson and we all sang a little,” laughs Mo.

Of course, the way to any teenager’s heart is food and the final trick that encouraged Jon to step onto the train was an offer of raspberries around midday, just when he started to want some lunch. “I think by the end he was a little hungry so the raspberries helped, he wanted some of the snacks so food for sure got him on,” says Mo.

Although Jon didn’t stay on board the train for too long, it was a huge step for the teenager who had never managed to get onto a train before and his teachers were ecstatic with the development, saying that they hoped it would allow him to participate in more school activities and help him integrate all the more with his classmates.

“For me, it’s just three hours of my life; for him, this is the step towards the freedom to travel anywhere at any time.” adds Mo.

Mo hopes that in the future, BCRTC will have more education and interactive elements fall under their scope as they continue to serve Metro Vancouver. Mo sees an opportunity to teach school children (and some adults alike) the importance of train safety and encouraging transit usage from a young age.

“I like to imagine that soon we could have our own ‘Science World’ for SkyTrain, where school trips can come in and classes can learn. That’s what I would like to see in the future. In 10 or 20 years, we would have our own interactive museum where we can have MKIs that aren’t running anymore and kids can come and learn about our system, our history, what makes the train special. They can drive simulators and see what it takes to keep us running. That’s how I see the future, because those kids are our future,” finishes Mo.

Written by Alex Jackson

 

Take part in the international survey and help us improve bus and SkyTrain

We need your help so we can make our services even better! 

Did you know that TransLink is a member of two international benchmarking communities, the International Bus Benchmarking Group (IBBG) and CoMET and NOVA Metro Benchmarking Group?

Both organizations were founded to create an international network for transit agencies to learn best practices, share knowledge and innovate. Each year they also measure the performance of transit systems across the world in their annual surveys.

Join the conversation and share you experience with TransLink’s bus and SkyTrain services in the 2-5 minutes surveys before April 5, 2020.

Share your experience with SkyTrain  service here

Share your experience with bus services here

Vancouver’s SkyTrain (BCRTC) is a part of CoMET and Nova Metro Benchmarking Groups, a global metro benchmarking community comprising of 42 metro systems in 39 international cities. Current members are some of the world’s largest metro systems, including Beijing Subway, Tokyo Metro, and Moscow Metro, as well as medium to small-sized ones, such as Tyne & Wear Metro (Newcastle) and Singapore SMRT.

IBBG features 15 medium and large international bus organizations, including London Buses, MTA New York City Transit (New York), and Vancouver’s Coast Mountain Bus Company.

Check out our interview from 2015 with IBBG associate director Mark Trompet to learn more about their organization:

 

 

#IWD2020: “I wear a duty belt of tools. But the most important tool is my voice.”

Sergeant Cheryl Simpkin looks after the Community Engagement Unit at Transit Police. Her team works with with clients of the vulnerable sector and persons dealing with mental health problems.

International Women’s Day on March 8 is a dedicated day to acknowledge the work that needs to be done for gender equality around the world. This year’s theme is #EachforEqual. It highlights that working towards equality is something that is the responsibility of every individual.

Part of this work is recognizing and celebrating the achievements of women in our workplaces. We’re proud to share the stories of those that work at TransLink and its family of companies.

Sergeant Cheryl Simpkin has worked in law enforcement and community policing for over 18 years. Under her leadership, the Community Engagement Team at the Metro Vancouver Transit Police connects with diverse communities across six Community Service Areas within Metro Vancouver, and works with clients from vulnerable backgrounds.

A member of the Vuntut Gwitchen First Nation, Cheryl grew up in the Lower Mainland and, as an Indigenous woman, faced life experiences and challenges that helped her develop a life philosophy which she confidently brings into her current job.

“I am a strong Indigenous woman. When various difficult things happen in your life, you need to learn how to cope with that. And as a young person, I became a leader very quickly. I learned how to take a leadership role, how to manage crisis, and how to deal with difficult situations.”

The inspiration to join the police force came when Cheryl was only seven years old. While attending a Remembrance Day Ceremony with her parents, she saw a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. “I had no idea who he was, so I asked my mum. I knew instantly that’s what I’m going to do when I get older.”

Fast forward several years, Cheryl was studying criminology at the Native Education Center at Douglas College. She applied to the Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police, the only Tribal Police Service in British Columbia, to work with them as a part of her first year practicum. She appreciated their philosophy of community policing and accepted a permanent full-time position.

Despite the need to relocate to the rural area based in Mount Currie and Lillooet, Cheryl was pleased to be a female police officer working for the community.

The job was very challenging and extremely rewarding. She worked closely with the community and admired the cultural awareness and their focus on addressing challenges in the community.

The time in Mount Currie also taught her about the power of her voice. It also shaped her approach in meeting people at their point of need, while staying firm in her beliefs. As Cheryl explains:

“It’s all about understanding someone’s situation and treating people with respect and dignity, whether it’s a small child or a family that is dealing with crisis. Sometimes it’s also about telling the difficult truth. Back then I used to wear a duty belt full of tools, but I realized that my most important tool is my voice.”


Cheryl brings this cultural sensitivity to her current role at Transit Police.

Sergeant Simpkin supports her team of eight strong independent members, whom she describes as “absolute shining stars,” as they engage with boots on the ground to tackle issues of homelessness, addiction and mental health, and Indigenous relations. Their goal is to break barriers to address decriminalization and stigma. This enables the team to reach out to clients on a more personal level and take time to understand their needs:

“I had situations when I called up a client’s physicians to make sure they are taken care of, whether it was appropriate medication changes or just a simple appointment.”

What it means to be a woman in law-enforcement?

When asked about this year’s International Women’s Day celebration, Cheryl shared some of her thoughts:

Women have a huge part to play in policing. We need to be the leaders in our fields and bring our unique abilities and strengths to the job we do. For me, at least, it was always about finding ways in which we can all work together to build resources and focus on engagement rather than criminalization. It’s important we create a foundation for trust that helps people to see the police beyond our uniform and allows us to meet each other at the point of our needs.”

Cheryl is appreciative of the support she receives from Transit Police and the diversity that her department offers. If you are ever interested in meeting the amazing women that work in policing, give Cheryl a shout!

Cheryl’s team is also active on social media and documents their everyday work with the community.You can follow them here:

Sergeant Cheryl Simpkin https://twitter.com/SgtCSimpkin

Constable Gwen Ranquist https://twitter.com/CstGRanquist

Constable Julien Ponsioen https://twitter.com/CstJPonsioen

Constable Kirk Rattray https://twitter.com/CstKRattray

Constable Bruce Shipley https://twitter.com/CstBShipley

Constable Justin Biggs https://twitter.com/CstJBiggs

Constable Nicole Dennis https://twitter.com/CstNDennis

Constable Darren Chua https://www.instagram.com/cstdchua/?hl=en