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Translink Buzzer Blog

Bill and TransLink’s excellent adventure: A brief history of 35 years in transit

Bill with the 2010 Vancouver Olympic mascots

When Bill started as a farebox attendant in 1980, no one could have known it would be the start of a 35 year career at TransLink! Over the years, he’s seen more than a few changes to our system. From the early years of the SeaBus and the opening of Expo Line in 1986 to the expansion of our system for the 2010 Winter Olympics with the Canada Line, Bill’s been around for it all.

Now TransLink’s Community Relations Officer for Government and Community Engagement, Bill is the contact between our organization and other agencies who are interested in learning what TransLink does. Giving tours to interested parties from all around the world, he not only fills agencies in on how transit works in Metro Vancouver, he’s a wealth of information on everything TransLink.

With Bill’s history at TransLink, I’d be nuts not to chat with him about his experience. I checked in with Bill for a brief historical tour of his career and a rundown of where TransLink’s been and where we might be headed.

What do you feel has been the best addition to our system over the last 35 years?

I guess, that’s a toss-up between advances in customer information and the SkyTrain System. On the customer information side of things, what we can provide for customers to let them know when their bus is coming to their stop has really changed. Online information through social media and what you can do at home through trip planning is a whole new package of technology that makes access to information so much easier.

I guess the other would be SkyTrain itself. We don’t realize how spoiled we are in Vancouver with the level of service that SkyTrain provides. You go to any other major city and you might have more capacity when a train arrives, but you’ll have a longer wait until it does.

Anything you miss about our transit system that is no longer around?

I miss the Brill buses. They had certain quirks and sounds to them as well as a distinctive look that was unique to Vancouver. You would find those types of buses elsewhere, but we kept them in service long after other people had retired them. They started in 1948 and they were still operating in 1984 and even as late at 1986. That’s a long time for any bus!

How has transit technology changed?

Over the years, the automation control for the SkyTrain and Canada Line has not changed much. Essentially they do the same thing or use the same or similar technology as they always have. In terms of the bus side there has really been a change in how bus service is delivered. For example, the way the buses run now, where there used to be complex wiring, it is now run on a data network which connects different parts of the bus together. You have computer controls everywhere in the vehicle, but you also have really significant changes in technology from the customer point of view that has changed people’s lives in term of how accessible the buses are now compared with when I started. There are no stairs in the buses anymore. There are on board announcement, audio announcements and visual display announcement for every stop along the line. This technology also means that we are able to track the fleet every moment of the day and share that information with the customers.

What do you like best about giving tours of our transit system?

Everyday is different and I never know what is coming at me. My favourite part about giving tours is to impart information and also listen to others to hear what their needs are and their thoughts on the system. Anytime I’ve done tours and brought people out to our properties, the one thing that comes across to me is how proud people are about where they work and what they do.

What is your most memorable moment so far at TransLink?

I have a lot of unique opportunities. I’ve met two Prime Ministers (Paul Martin and Stephen Harper) and helped plan the opening of the Millenium Line and the Canada Line. I also got to do some really neat things like helping to plan for the christen the SeaBus.

Just curious, but how do you christen a SeaBus?

The christening was a neat ceremony to plan for. The SeaBus was put up on blocks and a nice champagne bottle was wrapped up and then broken on the vessel. Senior SeaBus employee Maureen Hayes, the longest-serving female SeaBus employee, stepped up to perform the ceremony.

During our interview, Bill shared a few other memorable moments with me, including that he used to do a little bit of social media for TransLink. According to Bill, during the 2010 Olympic Gold Medal Hockey game, he was tweeting out the score for our riders!

Thanks Bill for sharing your story!

Author: Laura Tennant

Fun poll results! There’s no clear transit app champ

results graph

Last year (isn’t it weird to say that?) we asked you which transit apps you use to get around Metro Vancouver.

Well, we’ve tallied votes and the results are in!

Transit DB squeaked into top spot with 40 per cent with Transit App and Google Maps tying for a close second with 38 per cent.

City Mapper took in 13 per cent and Radar for Metro Vancouver buses followed with 10 per cent.

The apps with the least votes were Live Transit and Bus Tracker with six and three per cent respectively.

Funny that in a best app poll, the one listed mobile site (Transit DB), took home the most votes!

Thanks to everyone who participated and for all your app suggestions in the comments section!

**NOTE: Results are based on multiple votes per person**

Author: Laura Tennant

Farewell FareSavers, Hello Compass

Ending in January (or until FareDealers supplies last), FareSaver tickets will no longer be sold.

But fear not! FareSavers will still be accepted on our transit system.

Customers can keep using FareSavers on buses, SkyTrain, SeaBus and HandyDART until all gates are closed. After gates close, customers can continue using FareSavers on buses.

Loading Stored Value on your Compass Card is the new way to get the FareSaver rate!

No more scrambling for change or running out in the rain to buy FareSavers—with Compass, you can load Stored Value at any time, from almost anywhere.

When you load Stored Value it’s like loading cash to your Compass Card so you can pay-as-you-go.

No matter how far you’re going, or what time of day, Compass automatically calculates the correct fare and you still have that 90-minute transfer window that you had with FareSavers.

This means Stored Value on your Compass Card gives you the flexibility to travel through as many zones as you like without having to stop to upgrade your fare.

Once you start tapping with you Compass Card, remember to tap in and out at rail and SeaBus stations to ensure you are charged the correct fare!

Here’s a few easy ways to load Stored Value on your Compass Card:

  • Compass Vending Machines located at SeaBus, West Coast Express and SkyTrain Stations and select London Drugs locations
  • Online at
  • By phone at 604.398.2042
  • In person at the Compass Customer Service Centre at Stadium-Chinatown station or the West Coast Express Office

You can learn more about Compass on our website or you can check out our Compass 101 videos for tips on the Compass basics.

Have Compass questions? Ask away at!

Author: Laura Tennant

Here’s lookin’ at you, 2015!

2015 2
As 2015 comes to a close we thought an end of year wrap up was in order!

After all, the past 12 months had more than a handful of memorable transit moments.

From the plebiscite and transit anniversaries to the Compass Card roll-out and fare structure changes, this year had it all!

So, in no particular order, let’s take a look at some of what made 2015 a year to remember:

Transportation and Transit Plebiscite

plebiscite-vector- smMarch 16, 2015 marked the beginning of the Transportation and Transit plebiscite.

Voting packages were mailed out and voters were asked to decide if they supported the 0.5% Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax (in the form of a provincial sales tax). The tax would support improvements for better transit and transportation in the region.

On July 2nd, the results were announced— Metro Vancouver voted against the 0.5% tax.

Compass Card roll-out

In 2015 more people started tapping their Compass Cards on the system than ever before.
Compass Vending Machines were installed at all SkyTrain, SeaBus and West Coast Express stations with U-Pass BC holders and West Coast Express customers kicking off the transition in June.
Since then, even more customers have made the switch to Compass!
Starting January 1, 2016 traditional Monthly Pass FareCards are no longer valid and Monthly Passes are on Compass only so there will be a surge of users in the New Year.
We’ve also been closing more and more faregates across the system in order to help remind riders to tap in and out on SkyTrain, SeaBus, Canada Line and West Coast Express.
To help this transition go as smoothly as possible, we produced many Compass 101 videos to help our riders learn the Compass basics!

Fare Structure Changes — Bus Anywhere with 1-Zone Fare

2015 also brought with it changes to our fare structure.afs_bus_anywhere_1200x628

As of October 5th, all travel by bus became a 1-zone fare.

With the new 1-zone bus fare riders can now bus across Metro Vancouver with just a one-zone bus fare.

In November, we asked in a Buzzer blog poll how the 1-zone bus fare has changed your travel — about half of you said your commute became less expensive!

I Love Transit Week 2015

And who could forget I Love Transit Week 2015?buzzer_header_ilovetransit

We took adult campers and kid campers to our transit facilities, held contests and had special blog content dedicated to transit love!

We even did a special I Love Transit print Buzzer!

If those brilliantly coloured print Buzzers aren’t a 2015 highlight, then I don’t know what is!

125 years of Transit, SkyTrain 30th Birthday and Transit Police 10th Anniversary

Davie streetcar, 1903

Davie streetcar, 1903

What a year for transit anniversaries!

First we celebrated 125 years of transit in June with vintage trolley rides, old photos of our system and special interviews with transit historians like Angus McIntyre.

The celebration continued on December 4 when Transit Police celebrated 10 years as a police service and 30 years serving the transit system!

Finally, in honour of the SkyTrain’s 30th Birthday, we threw back to more than a few hilarious 80’s videos and photos of SkyTrain’s early years.

All in all it’s been a busy year! Anything we missed? Let us know in the comments section!

Author: Laura Tennant

Talking Transit: 5 minutes with Sarah

Sarah at Surrey Central Station!

Talking transit is a new series that features interviews with riders sharing their transit stories!

Why do you take transit?

I take transit because I got a job right along the SkyTrain Line. I take it to and from work everyday and I jump on the SkyTrain and SeaBus to see friends on the weekend.

Do you have a favourite mode of transit?

I’d say SkyTrain because it is fast and it arrives pretty often, so I don’t have to follow a bus schedule. I can just go to the train whenever I’m ready and one appears!

What makes you happy about riding our system?

For the most part it is reliable and runs pretty often. It is convenient for me and I don’t have to worry about driving or having a car. I like how I can rely purely on transit to get around and get to work.

If you had a transit wish what would it be?

I guess I would wish that the SkyTrain would extend to other locations with more tracks and more routes so I could get everywhere and never have to use a car.

You sketch when you are on transit. Can you tell me a bit about what you draw and how you got started?

I started drawing on transit because at work I do a lot of designing on a computer, but it doesn’t fill the same artistic need as drawing with pen on paper. I realized I could fill my commute time with drawing so I sketch people on the train before and after work. It can be challenging because you don’t know how long they will be on the train or if someone is going to come in and block your view. Either the person you are drawing is shifting or the train is shifting itself. It keeps it interesting and makes the daily commute a bit less mundane.

Has anyone caught you drawing them on transit?

Not yet, actually. People who have sat next to me definitely watch me draw and kind of look back and forth from what I’m drawing to the person I am drawing. Sometimes they might comment, but no one has walked up to me yet. I’ve been nervous that someone might be uncomfortable with me drawing them. I try to be discreet, but I found out that I am so not discreet! It’s hard because when you are drawing someone properly you need to look up a lot to make sure you are drawing them accurately.

You can check out more of Sarah’s sketches on her Instagram page Between Stops.

Author: Laura Tennant

Are you a transit rider and want to share your transit story? Email us with the subject line “Talking Transit” and tell us how transit is a part of your life!

*We will try our best to include all stories but we may not be able to feature everyone*

Vancouver Technical Secondary Students bring holiday cheer to bus operators (again!)

It was a bit chilly this morning, but that didn’t stop Vancouver Technical Students from getting up early to hand out goodies to our bus operators!

An annual tradition, Van Tech students have been giving hot chocolate and small gifts to bus operators on the last day of school before the holiday break for the past 19 years. (For more info on how the event got started you can check out our post from 2011. )

This year was no exception as students decked out in Santa hats greeted buses as they pulled up in front of the high school.

Handing over special Van Tech mugs and hot chocolates to surprised bus operators, the students wished our operators a Merry Christmas and thanked them for their service throughout the year.

With the holiday music in the air and students singing and dancing with homemade signs that read “HoHoHotChocolate” and “Thank You TransLink” the event was truly a heartwarming affair.

Thanks to all the Van Tech students for another wonderful event and for treating our bus operators to some holiday cheer!

You can check out previous posts of this event from 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Happy Holidays!

Author: Laura Tennant


Buzzer illustrator interview: Kalena Mackiewicz

Kalena and her illustration!

Kalena and her illustration!

Our December issue of the print Buzzer was illustrated by the talented Kalena Mackiewicz.

She not only captured the holiday spirit, she wrapped it up! Her bright and brilliant illustration perfectly embraced our winter service changes while still offering a festive seasonal feel.

To learn more about what makes Kalena tick, I checked in with her for a quick interview.

Who is Kalena Mackiewicz?

I’m originally from Calgary, but now live in North Burnaby. I’m an Emily Carr University alumni and have perfected making cabbage rolls in a slow cooker.

How would you describe your illustration style?

My style stems a lot from my experience with cartooning and animation. I like my work to have humour and colour, and seem as if it’s going to come to life any second. The style of illustrations I do now are kind of like if a rainbow bouncy castle was a sophisticated art gallery.

What tools do you use?

I work entirely digital with a tablet for the final work, but the initial idea phase is all hands on. I do pen doodles on napkins or receipts using markers, crayons and hi-lighters.

Your Buzzer cover literally gave the gift of transit! What was the inspiration behind your illustration?

When you’re a kid, opening the biggest present is the most exciting! My main influence was those commercials for cars with the big red bow that are always on around Christmas. I also thought it would go well with the new Compass Card ads.

Do you ride transit? If so, do you have a favourite mode?

Since I moved here in 2005, I’ve used transit almost every day. It’s my ride! I’ve travelled by bus, SkyTrain, SeaBus and Aquabus, but still have yet to try the West Coast Express.

Any fun plans for the holidays?

Riding the West Coast Express!

Thanks Kalena!

If you haven’t got a copy of the latest Buzzer you can download it here.

Author: Laura Tennant

Fun Poll! Which transit apps do you use?

transit app

Right to left: Live Transit, Bus Tracker and City Mapper screen shots

Ever since the release of our transit data in 2012, new transit applications (apps) based on TransLink’s open API have been popping up on a regular basis.

TransLink’s mobile website,, can get you similar info as many of the new apps, but I thought I’d check in with the Buzzer blog readers to see what everyone is using these days.

Before diving into the poll, why not go over a few transit apps and maybe a mobile site, to see what they’re all about?

While it would be awesome to do an overview of every app listed on our mobile phone applications site, I thought it might be more useful to highlight just a handful and add in a few new ones for good measure.

Here we go!

Transit App

Transit AppThis app is beautiful in its simplicity. Basically, this app uses your smart phones GPS to find out where you are and displays all the available transit and their departure times. You can plan your trip, set reminders and get notification about service disruptions as well as book ride shares in case you decide not to take the bus.

If you already know where you are going, this app maybe all you need.

Available for iPhone and Android devices.

Radar for Metro Vancouver Buses

radarLike the Transit App, this app is like a simplified version of

Radar is great if you know what route you want to take, but need the schedule. Simply type in the route number, and it shows all of the buses running the route in real-time.

Available for iPhone and iPad.

Transit DB

transitdbTransitDB is a quick and offline guide to public transit in Metro Vancouver.

This mobile site has full offline schedules for all bus routes and stops, first and last departure information and helps you find nearby bus stops. Transit DB also lets you keep a list of your favourite bus stops, see route diagrams and has information on station and stop accessibility and other transportation contact numbers (i.e. Taxi).

Unfortunately, this lil’ guy does not have real time bus schedules or trip planning capabilities.

City Mapper

City MapperCity Mapper won App of the Year in 2014 and is an urban transport app that uses open data to help you get around.

Features include live departure times for buses, real-time TransLink service alerts from Twitter and multi-modal planning from departure to arrival. You can also save home and work locations and get directions to those places from anywhere.

There’s also a feature that estimates the calories you’d burn if you decide to ditch transit and opt to walk or bike instead!

Available for iPhone and Android.

Bus Tracker

bus trackerTransLink Bus Tracker is a mobile web app that lets you view bus arrival times using on-board GPS coordinates.

This free app enables multiple bus selections for each stop and has a find me feature that allows you to search for nearby bus stops. The app also lets you use Google Maps to track your next bus. Frequently used buses and stops can be saved for quick access.

Compatible with iPhone, Android and tablets.

Live Transit

Live TransitThis app lets you view the real-time GPS location of any bus in Vancouver, or look up the scheduled arrival times at any stop in the lower mainland.

You can select your preferred routes from a filterable list and check out real time bus locations, arrival time predictions and static schedule arrival times.

Only available for Android devices.

Google Maps

Google MapsWhile not specifically a transit app, good ol’ Google Maps app is a useful way to track Vancouver transit.

This app offers real-time transit information like predicted departure times, transit directions and maps, live traffic conditions and offers automatic rerouting to find the best route. Google Maps also features voice-guided GPA navigation for driving, biking and walking, so you can see how far your destination is from your stop!

Google Maps is available on iPhone, tablets and Android devices.

Poll time!

Do you use any of the above apps? Take the poll and let us know which is your favourite!

If your app of choice is not listed, tell us in the comments section what  you use to get around the city!

Which transit apps do you use?

  • Transit DB (27%, 50 Votes)
  • Transit App (26%, 48 Votes)
  • Google Maps (25%, 47 Votes)
  • City Mapper (9%, 16 Votes)
  • Radar for Metro Vancouver buses (6%, 12 Votes)
  • Live Transit (4%, 8 Votes)
  • Bus Tracker (2%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 125

More BC Parkway renovations are complete!

new wayfinding sign 1 crop

New wayfinding signs along BC Parkway show the distance to your destination!

It’s update time!

More BC Parkway renovations have been completed!

Here’s a quick look at what’s been improved:

  • Wayfinding signs along the whole 26 kilometre length that include destinations and distances
  • Lighting, crossing safety and accessibility improvements in key areas
  • Pavement rehabilitation of approximately 2.6 kilometres in particularly rough segments

BC Parkway is an important facility for pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair users in the region.

The path connects Surrey City Centre, New Westminster, South Burnaby and Vancouver and provides a facility for walking and wheeling around the area.

Continual improvements to the facility help keep the parkway in good condition and increase the safety and accessibility of the path while allowing users to get around with greater ease.

Make sure to read our past BC Parkway posts to see the progress with these improvements. See you on the parkway!

Author: Laura Tennant

TransLink awarded Platinum level status for sustainability commitment!

APTA PlatinumWe’ve gone Platinum!

TransLink has become the first Canadian transit organization to achieve Platinum level status for sustainability from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

Moving from our initial Gold status awarded in 2012, achieving Platinum places us at the top of transit organizations in Canada and one in four in North America!

APTA reviewed TransLink’s comprehensive program to improve the management of energy, air pollutants, water, waste and greenhouse gas emissions.

Many of the initiatives that improved TransLink’s sustainability record were at Coast Mountain Bus Company. Since 2010, 58 separate projects:

  • reduced waste by nine per cent
  • reduced water use by 10 per cent
  • reduced green house gases by 17 per cent in its facilities (bus fleet alone has had a 17 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions!)
  • reduced energy consumption by more than seven per cent

TransLink’s commitment to social well-being and long-time support of United Way also helped us achieve the Platinum level status.

In 2014, our employee-driven campaign raised $275,000 for United Way sponsored programs to help those in need across Metro Vancouver!

For more information on our sustainability efforts check out our sustainability policy and see our 2012 Sustainability Report.

Author: Laura Tennant

Compass brochures now available online!


If you are looking for informational brochures on the ins-and-outs of Compass, look no further than our website.

Now you can download the Learn about Compass Brochure and the Compass Customer Guide Brochure for tips on the Compass basics.

The brochures cover everything from how to load, tap and register your card to info on fares and fare products, registration benefits and privacy information.

These brochures are jammed packed full of all you need to know about Compass.

But, don’t take my word for it, download the brochures and check them out!

Here’s a few more ways to learn more about Compass and get tapping!
Order cards: or 604.398.2042 or toll-free at 1-888-207-4055
View our Compass 101 video playlist:
Have questions? Ask away at!

Author: Laura Tennant



Evergreen project tunnel boring is complete!

Tunnel boring from Coquitlam to Port Moody was completed today, marking an important milestone in the Evergreen Line project.

The completion the two-kilometre tunnel means TransLink is one step closer to operating an expanded transit system that will give the people who live here a new and fast option for getting around.

The Evergreen extension is a significant expansion of our integrated transit network. In fact, the full 79 km of SkyTrain means that TransLink will soon operate the world’s longest fully-automated rapid transit system.

We’re hard at work readying our system to ensure that customers have an easy transition when we integrate the Evergreen extension into the SkyTrain network. We’re:

  • Determining how to integrate bus services with the expanded SkyTrain network;
  • Testing train control software and new tracks;
  • Readying staff to support our customers when Evergreen opens; and
  • Developing operating plans, schedules and information for customers.

The Evergreen project is an example of all levels of government coming together to invest in much needed transportation infrastructure to support and shape growth in the region.

We applaud the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia for all the hard work that has been put into this project to date.

Thank you to our passengers and neighbours for their continued patience and support throughout the construction of the Evergreen extension.

We look forward to having you ride with us in the near future!

Author: Laura Tennant



Poll Results: one-zone bus fare has made travel less expensive for some


The numbers are in and New Poll: How has the one-zone bus fare changed the way you travel?! The results are split. Here’s the break down:

43 per cent voted that the one-zone bus fare has saved them money per trip, while 40 per cent voted that the change in fare structure did not affect them one bit.

12 per cent voted they are trying to avoid the bus altogether because they feel the one-zone bus fare has made their commute too busy.

And a handful of voters (5 per cent) are a bit confused as to what one-zone bus fare is all about!

Those of you who cast their vote in the last category, feel free to ask away about the one-zone bus fare in the comments section. You can also check out videos and one-zone bus fare information on our website.



Running rail replacement continues this Sunday, November 15 2015

This next and final round of rail replacement is a continuation of the work we did this summer.

The final phase of running rail replacement work will begin this Sunday, November 15 and continue until early 2016.

Work has been underway since August to replace 4,550 linear metres of 30-year-old SkyTrain track on the Expo Line.

This work is critical to keeping the system safe and reliable for our riders now and in the years to come.

After months of work, the last 1,450 linear metres of track are set to be completed.

To make this rail replacement less of a headache for our riders we are keeping trains and tracks in service while crews work during non-peak hours.

However, beginning Sunday, November 15 and continuing for several months, customers should expect delays on the Millennium and Expo lines from Sunday through Thursday starting at 9 p.m. and continuing until end of service.

Here’s a quick rundown:

Where is the rail being replaced?

  • In-bound Commercial-Broadway curve


  • Nov.15 to early 2016 – Sunday to Thursday, 9 p.m. to end of service

How will service be impacted?

  • Expo Line service will single track at Commercial-Broadway and Main Street-Science World stations while crews replace rail west of Commercial-Broadway Station.
  • Millennium Line will operate between VCC Clark and Columbia stations only
  • Customers travelling with bicycles should try to travel before 9 p.m. or after 10 p.m. when trains are busiest.
  • Customers should plan for at least 20 minutes of extra travel time while crews are working.
  • Crews will not be working between Dec. 12 and Jan. 2.

Author: Laura Tennant

Remembrance Day 2015 holiday service

15733137616_3c6d768494_z                                                                                                                     Photo credit Tjololo Photo

This year, Remembrance Day is Wednesday, November 11.

Remember, on a holiday, you only need a single-zone fare to travel in all zones all day!

Service returns to regular weekday schedules for all modes on Thursday, November 12.

Veterans, Armed Forces and Coast Guard members ride free!

TransLink and our operating companies will provide free transit to veterans and members of the Armed Forces and Coast Guard in honour of the day. Veterans include Ordinary and Life Members of the Royal Canadian Legion, Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans and Korean Veterans Association.

  • Free transit is available to veterans and members on all services, including conventional travel, HandyDART and Canada Line YVR Add-Fare
  • Veterans and members of the Armed Forces will not need to tap their Compass Cards
  • Please have veteran membership card ready to display or appear in uniform

Paying respect

We will be observing a moment of silence at 11:00am, with all SkyTrain, SeaBus, and buses observing this moment at the stop reached closest to the hour. All TransLink and operating company properties will also fly their flags at half-mast.

Author: Laura Tennant