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Go By Bike Week: mapping your route and the “slow” streets movement

Cyclists on Hornby Street in Vancouver

While transit ridership is down in most cities around the globe you might have noticed more people out walking, cycling and breathing in the fresh air!

In the latest in our series to support HUB Cycling’s Go By Bike Week, we take a look some of the changes to streets happening locally and around the world, as well as some trip planning tools and recommended routes to make sure you can get around Metro Vancouver actively and safely.

Is it me or have I been seeing lots of people out walking and cycling?

It’s not just you! While active commuting trips and commuting trips of all types have decreased during the pandemic, recreational cycling trips are up significantly in cities like Vancouver (an 85 per cent increase during March).

Similar increases have been seen across the globe — in Beijing, New York and London — as people look to stay active, commute to work were needed, and take important mental health and physical activity breaks.

Parks in B.C. have witnessed a 62 per cent increase in visitations in May while in the Lower Mainland, Metro Vancouver parks are seeing similar activity with a 67 per cent increase to the end of April 2020.

What’s happening to streets around Metro Vancouver and the globe?

Now you might have been hearing terms like “COVID streets,” “summer streets” or “slow streets.” Local, federal and global physical distancing regulations have sparked conversation around reallocating more road, park and sidewalk space for people to walk, cycle, roll, sit and queue safely. With traffic decreasing during the pandemic, that’s meant cities around the world have moved to turn car lanes into active transportation lanes.

Cities such as Vancouver (50km of slow streets), Oakland, California (119km of slow streets), Portland, Oregon (slow/safe streets at 160 locations), Milan (35km of Strade Aperte [open roads]) and Paris (50km converted bike streets and 30 pedestrianized streets) have reacted rapidly to re-allocate space for cars, to people.

Locally, the City of Vancouver has launched its Room to Move, Room to Queue and Room to Load initiative, installing new routes that prioritize walking, cycling and rolling to make it easier for people to exercise and access businesses in their local neighbourhood.

The city has closed the eastbound lanes on Beach Avenue to all vehicles from Stanley Park to Hornby Street, as well as closing Stanley Park to all vehicles (excluding the Stanley Park Causeway/Highway 99).

To find out more about these developing changes visit the city’s temporary road closures and changes during COVID-19 page, have a read of their FAQs on Slow Streets, or email the city directly: slowstreets@vancouver.ca

What are some things to keep in mind when planning my bike trip?

TransLink recommends using routes with dedicated cycling infrastructure separated from motor vehicles, such as bike lanes, as much as possible. To map out your cycling route, there are a few tools we recommend.

1. Visit TransLink’s Cycling Maps page to view several major TransLink-funded cycleways running parallel to SkyTrain routes.

2. Use Google Maps for trip planning and the estimated time it will take you, but please be mindful, particularly beginner cyclists, that Google Maps does not always recommend the safest cycling routes or take new and existing protected infrastructure into account. If you want to make sure you’re accessing cycling routes for all ages and abilities, please check out these other trip planning platforms:

3. Vancouver Bike Route Planner allows you to filter for “bike routes” and “safer” bike routes as well as a full list of SkyTrain stations, Mobi Bike Share stations and elevation gains.

4. Bikemaps.org is a useful mapping tool that also allows you to filter through new cycling infrastructure, collisions reports, hazards and bike thefts.

5. Bike Citizens Vancouver Did you know that nearly half of all trips under 5 km in Metro Vancouver are made by car? Many of these trips for groceries, prescriptions, and other essentials can easily be done by bicycle. In fact, running errands by bike for trips of this distance is often faster and more convenient than driving. Bicycles are one of the most efficient forms of transport so if you want to SEE how far you can go on a city bike, road bike or mountain bike over 5, 10, 15, and 30-minute increments, check out this handy mapping tool. You might be surprised!

What are other cities in Metro Vancouver doing to open streets?

For a full list of temporary streets changes during COVID please visit your municipality’s website for the most recent updates. In the meantime, here are a few that have been confirmed in the Lower Mainland:

New Westminster

  • McInnes Overpass – Closed the northbound vehicle lane to vehicles, opening it to pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Sixth Avenue – reallocated some curbside parking spaces on Sixth Street (near Sixth Avenue) to a place where pedestrians can wait for the traffic lights to change and pass one another on the sidewalk.
  • Central Valley GW – Closing a southbound curb lane on East Columbia Street / North Rd north of Hume Park to motor vehicles to improve conditions for people walking and cycling along the Central Valley Greenway.

City of North Vancouver

  • Grand Boulevard – Converted road space west between Keith and 19th and Grand Boulevard between 19th and 23rd (these routes are also appropriate for commuting traffic to and from Lynn valley to central Lonsdale).
  • Proposed – All local neighbourhood routes with low traffic volumes (St Andrews, 17th, 4th, 27th and Sutherland)
    • Esplanade, Lonsdale with focus at the intersections of 13th, 15th, 17th streets.
    • Existing bike routes that do not facilitate passing with physical distance without taking the vehicle travel lane: 3rd and 15th streets, 1st/2nd Street west of 3rd, East and West Keith, 13th Street.

Maple Ridge

  • Proposed
    • 123 St Avenue between 203 St to Laity St
    • 227 St between Brown Avenue and Abernethy Way

Port Moody

  • Recommended Routes
    • Neighbourhood bike routes: George Street, Glenayre Drive, Glencoe Drive, Ailsa Drive, College Park Way, Washington, Princeton Ave, Harvard Drive, as well as the Shoreline Trail (some portions are one way only).

Richmond

  • Bayview Street – Established temporary walkway in Steveston Village along the south side of (No. 1 Road-Third Avenue) that provides additional space for safe distancing.
  • Garry Point Park – Implemented one-way walking routes in Garry Point Park in
  • Other recommended routes – Railway Greenway, Railway Ave (Granville Ave-Moncton St), Crabapple Ridge Neighbourhood Bike Route, Granville Ave (Railway Ave-Garden City Road), Parkside Neighbourhood Bike Route, Shell Road Trail (Hwy 99 Overpass-Steveston Hwy)
  • Perimeter Dyke Trails: South Dyke, West Dyke, Middle Arm

Surrey

  • Proposed
    • Surrey reports a 40% decrease in traffic volumes and is exploring 7-8 ‘recreational’ cycling routes around the city to connect to civic facilities, parks and close roads around parks to create loops.

UBC

  • Proposed
    • North West Marine Drive

City of Vancouver

  • Stanley Park – close to cars (some exceptions apply)
  • Beach Avenue – Eastbound lane closed to vehicles on Beach Ave (including Park Lane) from Stanley Park to Hornby St.
  • From May 22, Vancouver is added a further 12km of Slow Streets. Visit the website for more information.

Author: James Ranson

A sneak peek at the redesigned bus transfers for community shuttle buses

The new bus transfer customers will receive on community shuttle buses starting on June 1.

Starting Monday, June 1, fare collection and front-door boarding resumes on all buses, and seating restrictions will be eased. Customers who ride a bus route that’s operated by a community shuttle will also see a redesigned bus transfer if they’re paying by cash.

What’s new?

  • New transfers use a colour and icon system to show the day the transfer can be used. Our old transfers printed each date on the ticket.
  • There are five colours and five symbols that will alternate each day.
  • They are also reusable. Using symbols instead of dates allows us to reuse transfers that aren’t distributed each day, reducing waste across the system.

What’s the same?

They’ll work just like the current paper transfers on community shuttle buses.

Operators will provide customers who pay their fare with coins, bills or FareSavers, with a new transfer tickets that’s cut to indicate a time 90 minutes in the future. The ticket then becomes a “flash pass” for transfers to other shuttles and regular, conventional buses. That means you won’t need to insert the transfer into the farebox — just show it to the operator. As usual, please have an exact fare.

Just like before, customers who are planning to transfer to SkyTrain, West Coast Express or the SeaBus should consider using a Compass Card or Tap to Pay with a contactless credit card as the paper bus transfers don’t open the faregates. As well, a reminder if you’re paying by cash, we recommend you keep paying with exact change as the fare boxes don’t dispense it.

The current bus transfers issued on community shuttle buses.

Why the change?

While we continue to replace and expand our fleet, we needed a solution for our end-of-life fareboxes.

Last year, we transitioned our Community Shuttle fleet to “mechanical” fareboxes. In July, the same fareboxes will start appearing on our regular, conventional buses too, replacing the “electronic” fareboxes. Soon, our whole fleet will be rocking this back-to-the-future-style machine.

The paper transfers we currently use on our Community Shuttle fleet won’t work with our conventional fleet, so, we developed a new paper transfer ticket compatible with both fleets (pictured right/above).

The bus transfers from the 1990s before the switch to the “magnetic strip” transfers in 2001.

COVID-19 transit safety tip

Customers are reminded to consider travelling outside of busy times if they can and to stay home when unwell. We’re recommending customers to wear a face covering when riding transit. Non-medical masks, bandanas, scarves and cloth can all be used. Please maintain physical distance from other passengers and transit staff when possible and follow our physical distancing markers where outlined. To reduce the risks caused by the pandemic, we installed new temporary barriers on our bus fleet. There will be a slot in the barrier for our operators to safely hand cash paying customers their paper transfer.

Fare collection and front-door boarding to resume, bus seating restrictions eased

On Monday, June 1, Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) will resume fare collection and front-door boarding on buses throughout the region. Bus seating restrictions will also be eased, and buses will be able to accommodate approximately two-thirds capacity before being deemed full.

The increase in passenger capacity on buses will allow CMBC to accommodate the growing number of customers who are returning to the transit system, in alignment with British Columbia’s Restart Plan. CMBC has restored bus schedules to what they were before the COVID-19 pandemic to add as much capacity as possible. However, with bus ridership increasing by more than 30% over the past month, demand cannot be met with the current seating arrangements.

These necessary steps are being taken following the installation of temporary plexiglass extension barriers or vinyl barriers on all buses to protect transit operators.

Physical distancing will not always be possible on transit and that’s why TransLink is encouraging customers to take the following steps to protect themselves and their fellow passengers:

  • Do not take transit when sick.
  • Travel at off-peak times whenever possible.
  • Wear a non-medical mask or face covering while waiting for or taking transit if you’re able to do so.
  • Use bus seating when possible so operators can best estimate the number of customers on board.
  • Allow more time for your commute.

As part of the Safe Operating Action Plan announced last week, CMBC has doubled bus disinfecting sprays to twice per week in addition to daily cleaning schedules. Customers will also notice changes at transit hubs designed to create space where possible, including installing two-metre spaced decals at some bus stops and station entranceways to help guide customers.

More low-floor community shuttles rolled out

49 new, low-floor community shuttles are now in service!

Exciting news for customers who take the bus on routes that are operated with community shuttles! Our roll out of 49 new “low floor” community shuttles, which began last October, is now complete. This means more customers will benefit from a sloped ramp — instead of stairs — making it easier for all our passengers to board the bus.

What’s new?

  • Low-floor access through the front door using a deployable ramp (no more stairs!)
  • Winch (electric motor with a cable/rope/strap) to help operators guide customers who are using mobility devices into the bus, if necessary
  • Initial field-testing surveys suggest these shuttles are quieter and vibrate less than their predecessors, leading to an improved customer experience
  • New shuttles are ~305mm from the ground while older shuttles (2014 Eldorado’s) are close to 1 foot higher at ~323mm from the ground
  • Higher ceilings in the new shuttles (2.16m in the front, 2.01m in the rear) compared to approximately 1.94m in the front and rear of the Eldorado’s
  • A redesigned interior layout which allows for easier access for mobility customers to enter and move around the shuttle
  • A dedicated HVAC unit (combined heating and air conditioning) which runs quieter and is more powerful than anything currently installed on any CMBC Community Shuttle
  • Larger windows and upgraded emergency exits
  • Improved seat covers that are more comfortable and easier to clean (identical to conventional buses)
  • Interior and exterior LED lights
  • A Vortec 6.0-litre fuel efficient, low-emission gas engine

TransLink first tested out low-floor community shuttles in 2017 when West Vancouver Blue Bus piloted five of them on North Shore routes, including the former C12 Lions Bay/Caulfield and the 251 Queens/Park Royal. After receiving positive feedback from customers, as well as the operations and maintenance teams at Coast Mountain Bus Company, we decided to expand our community shuttle fleet to include more low-floor community shuttles.

Forty-five of the new shuttles are based at Hamilton Transit Centre bus depot and are replacements for buses that have reached end-of-life. Four shuttles from the new order will also be going to West Vancouver Blue Bus, completing their full transition to low-floor shuttles.

COVID-19 transit safety tip

Customers are reminded to consider travelling outside of busy times if they can and to stay home when unwell. We’re recommending customers to wear a face covering when riding transit. Non-medical masks, bandanas, scarves and cloth can all be used. Please maintain physical distance from other passengers and transit staff when possible and follow our physical distancing markers where outlined.

TransLink implements Safe Operating Action Plan

Enhanced cleaning, restored service, masks recommended on public transit

In order to support British Columbia’s Restart Plan, TransLink is introducing new and enhanced measures to make transit service safer and keep it available for those who need it.

Over the next several weeks, customers will notice changes at transit stations and on vehicles designed to improve sanitization, create space where possible, and enhance personal safety.

TransLink’s initiatives, many of which have been taken since the beginning of the pandemic, are now part of a Safe Operating Action Plan. This plan will be implemented in phases to meet the needs of our customers as B.C.’s economy re-starts. Below are the steps customers will see, as well as the actions we are asking them to take.

What we are doing to make transit safer:

Increased Cleaning and Sanitizing

  • Deploying cleaning “pit crews” to disinfect SkyTrain cars at high traffic stations.
  • Increasing bus and SeaBus disinfecting sprays to twice per week in addition to daily cleaning schedules.
  • Maintaining daily cleaning and disinfecting schedules on SkyTrain and West Coast Express cars, as well as HandyDART vehicles.

Managing Physical Space

  • Limiting fare gate access at busy stations to help manage the number of customers on SkyTrain.
  • Installing two-metre spaced decals at some bus stops and station entranceways to help guide customers.

Adding Service to Create More Space

  • Restoring service across all modes to add more capacity, including to routes which were previously reduced. Service will be operating at nearly the same levels as before the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Monitoring passenger loads in order to deploy additional service at times and on routes where physical distancing is more difficult.

What customers can do to enhance their own personal safety and that of fellow passengers:

  • Stay off the system if you are sick.
  • Wear a non-medical mask or face covering while waiting or on-board our vehicles.
  • Travel outside of peak times when possible. This is especially recommended for vulnerable people.
  • Allow more time for your commute.

Quotes

Kevin Desmond, CEO, TransLink –
“Thousands of essential workers have relied on transit every day during the pandemic and many of our customers will return over the coming weeks and months. We’re committed to keep our system running and making it widely available to the people of Metro Vancouver as they go back to work, to school, and to moving around the region. Our Safe Operating Action Plan is meant to make transit as safe as possible and asks our customers to help out by keeping themselves and their fellow passengers safer.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s Provincial Health Officer –
“Public Health and WorkSafeBC are working with transit agencies to ensure all reasonable steps are being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, however, it’s clear that maintaining a safe physical distance may not be possible in every situation. We recommend all passengers consider wearing a face covering while using public transit, especially during those instances where physical distancing may not be possible. We also ask the public to be patient during this challenging transition period and we are grateful to British Columbia’s transit agencies for doing everything possible to protect the public during these changing times.”

Province and TransLink to ensure transit service in place to support B.C.’s Restart Plan

TransLink to suspend planned service reductions, rescind employee layoffs

People in Metro Vancouver can rest assured that they will be able to get back to work as the Province of B.C. and TransLink announced their commitment to ensure transit service is available as British Columbians safely restart the province and its economy in the coming weeks and months.

The Province and TransLink are working on a comprehensive solution to address the major financial impacts that TransLink, like many transit agencies across the country, has incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given the progress in these discussions, TransLink and its operating companies will suspend the service reductions planned to begin on May 18 and rescind layoff notices issued to approximately 1,500 employees. The Province and TransLink will also continue to call on the federal government for a national solution to the challenges facing transit systems.

With the release of British Columbia’s Restart Plan, TransLink will review all transit service levels to ensure it is balancing the need to help people get around the region, with the need to maintain and respect enhanced safety protocols. Further service and safety-related announcements will be made in due course.

Quotes

“As we begin to restore the economy through BC’s Restart Plan, services like TransLink will be key to British Columbia’s transition and recovery success.  We remain committed to working with and supporting TransLink through this difficult time and into recovery to find solutions that will benefit Metro Vancouver and British Columbia as a whole and continue to call on the federal government to join us in this support.”
Selina Robinson, Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing

“Today’s commitment by the Province of B.C. to help TransLink keep transit service running on Day 1 of the BC Restart Plan is an important first step towards returning TransLink to financial sustainability in the long-term. I look forward to working with Minister Robinson and her team through the summer to address the pandemic’s impacts on TransLink finances so that TransLink is equipped to help rebuild our region’s sustainable, innovative economy.”
Jonathan X. Coté, Chair of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation

“This is another important step forward for re-starting British Columbia and Metro Vancouver’s economy. The transit service provided by TransLink is essential to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in our region. We will be ready to provide safe, reliable transit service as people return to work. We are proud to be partnering with the Province of B.C. to ensure transit service is there as the economy recovers.”
Kevin Desmond, TransLink CEO

Learn More

Bus fare collection set to resume June 1

Bus operator barrier with a temporary plexiglass extension installed.

Upgrades and installation of barriers allow for safe fare collection

Beginning June 1, front-door boarding and fare collection will resume on all buses. Temporary plexiglass extension barriers are being added to conventional buses currently equipped with traditional operator barriers. Vinyl barriers will be installed on the remainder of the fleet.

“We’ve managed to find an innovative solution which ensures the safety of our bus operators, while also allowing for safe fare collection,” says TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond. “We’ve already started to procure materials and install the barriers on our fleet, with an expectation that this process will be complete by June.”

Given current ridership levels, it is estimated that approximately $2 million per month will be collected by resuming fare collection on the bus system. TransLink is losing around $75 million each month due to several factors, including significant reductions in ridership and fuel tax revenue.

Timing for service reductions

TransLink is also advising customers that previously announced bus route suspensions and frequency reductions will come into effect on May 18th. This will see 41 routes suspended, in addition to the 18 routes which were suspended in April, and six suspended in early May. Frequency will be reduced on most remaining bus routes.

We ask customers to only travel on transit during peak hours if necessary, so space is available for essential service workers. For more information, visit translink.ca/servicechanges.

Vinyl barrier for buses.

 

TransLink implements cost saving measures

Provincial support to restore service by September

Lincoln Station along the Millennium Line
TransLink today announced a series of cost-saving measures to preserve Metro Vancouver’s transit system along with a commitment from the Province to ensure near-regular service can be restored by September. TransLink is losing $75 million per month with ridership down by 83% while still providing transit services for essential workers. This rate of financial loss is not sustainable.

Given the significant financial challenges facing the regional transportation authority, TransLink and its operating companies today announced the following cost-saving measures:

  • Implement further suspension of transit services on Bus, SkyTrain, SeaBus, and West Coast Express, beginning this week.
  • Issue temporary layoff notices to 1,492 employees. These employees work in various positions at TransLink, Coast Mountain Bus Company, and British Columbia Rapid Transit Company.
  • Reduce senior executive salaries and Board remuneration by 10%.
  • Reduce organizational costs and program expenditures, including:
    • Deferral of the 2020 Major Road Network operations, maintenance and rehabilitation program funding to municipalities.
    • Deferral of 2020 service expansions.
  • Spend cash reserves to sustain current essential service operations through to the end of 2020.

“This has been an incredibly tough decision and one we do not take lightly,” says TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond. “We’ve done our best to try and reduce costs through other means, but TransLink is losing $75 million per month, and we’re left with no other options. It’s not lost on me what an impact this decision will have on the lives of our employees and their families. I fully expect those affected will be recalled once TransLink returns to regular operations, which we are now planning for back-to-school in September, if consistent with provincial guidelines.”

TransLink and the Province of BC have been working closely to ensure that funding is available to allow TransLink to reverse layoffs and return to near-regular operations in time for back-to-school in September. TransLink and the Province are also working on a plan to address the longer-term fiscal sustainability of TransLink in order to ensure the transportation authority can continue delivering transit services and key projects in 2021 and beyond.

TransLink’s revenue has declined since mid-March due to reduced ridership levels, falling fuel tax revenue, and fare removal on the bus system to promote physical distancing. Since the beginning of the pandemic, TransLink has:

  • Reduced Bus, SkyTrain, SeaBus and West Coast Express services.
  • Reduced the seating capacity on buses to promote physical distancing.
  • Introduced rear-door only boarding and suspended fare collection on buses to protect bus operators.
  • Introduced widespread and intensive cleaning and sanitization measures on bus, HandyDART, SkyTrain, SeaBus and West Coast Express.
  • Deferred the scheduled July 1, 2020 fare increase.

Details of Service Changes

TransLink is focused on maintaining as much service as possible for the approximately 75,000 people using the system each weekday. Many of these are essential and front-line workers. However, considering the current financial trajectory, service reductions across all modes will begin this week on routes with low ridership. Capacity will continue to be focused on the routes and times with continued high demand.

Service reductions by mode are:

SkyTrain Service

  • Beginning Wednesday (April 22), Expo and Millennium Line capacity will be further reduced.
    • Expo Line capacity will be reduced by 20% during peak hours. During middays, early evenings, and weekends, capacity will be reduced by 20% to 40%, depending on the time of day.
      • These capacity reductions are in addition to a 17% reduction during peak hours and a 20% reduction on Friday and Saturday evenings, which were implemented last month.
    • Millennium Line capacity will be reduced by 15% during peak hours. During middays, early evenings, and weekends, capacity will be reduced by 20% to 40%, depending on the time of day.
      • These capacity reductions are in addition to a 17% reduction during peak hours and a 20% reduction on Friday and Saturday evenings, which were implemented last month.
    • Canada Line capacity has been reduced by 18% during peak hours.

Bus Service

  • Beginning Friday (April 24), 18 bus routes will be suspended.
    • Suspended routes: 15, 32, 50, 68, 105, 131, 132, 143, 222, 480, 414, R3.
      • Most of these routes have other transit as alternatives
    • Suspended NightBus routes: N8, N15, N17, N22, N24, N35.
  • Beginning in early May, we expect another 47 routes will be suspended, and frequency reduced on many remaining routes.
    • Expected route suspensions: 251, 252, 262, 280, 281, 282, 370, 563, 564, 044, 170, 181, 182, 231, 241, 247, 258, 345, 352, 354, 391, 393, 394, 395, 416, 509, 602, 603, 604, 606, 608, 614, 616, 617, 618, 619, 719, 722, 733, 741, 744, 748, 749, 791, 042, 150, 179.
    • Precise timing for these suspensions and reductions will be released in due course.
  • TransLink is prioritizing service to routes serving hospitals and other health facilities.
  • Routes selected for suspension either duplicate other routes or are in low ridership areas.
  • The number of people TransLink can move on buses was reduced to around 30% of normal levels due to physical distancing measures. Once all planned service reductions are implemented, the number of people TransLink can move will decrease further, to around 20% of normal levels.

SeaBus Service

  • Beginning Wednesday (April 22), SeaBus will end service earlier.
    • The last SeaBus sailing of the day will happen at 7:30 p.m. from Lonsdale Quay and 7:45 p.m. from Waterfront.
  • SeaBus will continue sailings every 30-minutes.

West Coast Express Service

  • Beginning Wednesday (April 22), West Coast Express trains One, Three, and Five will continue to operate on existing schedules but will have fewer cars.
  • Trains Two and Four remain suspended.

Essential Services and Physical Distancing

With ridership down over 80% across the system, analysis suggests physical distancing will still be possible for most trips. TransLink has limited seating on buses and operators will not make any stops once capacity is reached. On SkyTrain, customers are asked to try a different car or wait for the next train if they feel there is not enough space to remain physically distant from other passengers.

Customers are also asked to only travel on transit if necessary, so space is available for essential service workers.

Checking in on our HandyDART customers

A HandyDART operator helps a customer.

A HandyDART operator helps a customer.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged many of us to adapt to new ways of working in order to continue serving our customers. This includes the Access Transit Customer Care team at Coast Mountain Bus Company, the TransLink subsidiary that looks after bus service in the region.

“At a team brainstorm, we tried to think outside the box and see if there were any ways we could go above and beyond for our customers during these difficult times,” explains Albert Lau, manager at Access Transit Customer Care. His team is the main point of contact for client services such as HandyDART and HandyCard registration and administering the TaxiSaver program.

That’s when the idea of wellness checks for Access Transit customers was suggested.

“Our services are for people with permanent or temporary disabilities. A lot of our clients have compromised immune systems. As we are moving through this pandemic, a lot of their services and programs are closing for safety measures. Some have support systems, some do not. Some may have people to talk to, some may not,” shares YF, a customer care representative at Access Transit.

YF suggests that doing a check-in with our customers and providing an ear to listen would reassure them that we’re are all in this together: “We want to make sure that everyone feels supported in this uneasy time.”

The team started the wellness checks with their oldest customers first.

After asking customers how they’re doing, and if they have any questions or concerns, our representatives provide them with information on the resources and services available to them. This includes the 2-1-1 phone line (a connection to government and community-based health and social services), food banks, BC Centre for Disease Control, Health Canada, the COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool and non-medical lines. They also let their customers know about the cleaning measures on HandyDART vehicles to help alleviate concerns about travelling, if they absolutely must.

Albert encourages his team to go off script if necessary.

“If we can help someone out, let’s help them out. If they need us to do something or look something up on the computer for them, let’s do it. There have been a few challenging calls as well. We’ve talked to a few people whose partners are in care homes or isolation and they are unable to see them, or they’re just lonely. They want someone to talk to and we’re happy to provide that for them.”

In addition to managing their regular workload, the team has made over 600 wellness check call attempts and spoken to over 400 people so far. They’re now working through the 90-99 age group.

Some customers have been surprised to receive a call, and overall, everyone has been overwhelmingly grateful to hear from our representatives. For the team, hearing how many family members have stepped up to be there for their loved ones has been particularly inspiring.

“Our staff are truly amazing and empathetic people and they’re making some really great connections on these phone calls,” concludes Albert.

Well done to the Access Transit Customer Care team for going the extra mile to help our customers!

On the frontlines policing a moving city

Constable Mike Yake with Metro Vancouver Transit Police

Constable Mike Yake with Metro Vancouver Transit Police

Metro Vancouver Transit Police Constable Mike Yake expected that he would be working in the Transit Police Recruiting Unit this spring while also training for his new role as a Media Relations Officer for the department. But that’s not the way things went.

Instead, he’s found himself on the frontlines in the Patrol Division, playing an important role in ensuring the safety of the people who rely on transit.

“We’ve all had to adjust,” says Cst. Yake, who’s been a Transit Police officer for 5 years after working as a Deputy Sheriff prior.

“As a department and as individuals, we continually have to adapt and overcome obstacles to ensure we are not only operating safely, but are on the road enhancing public safety and assisting those in crisis. It’s challenging to help someone while maintaining physical distance, or making sure that PPE is donned before responding to certain situations. But safety is always our first consideration.”

In this time of uncertainty, tensions can run high and Transit Police officers find themselves responding to a variety of volatile situations that can include weapons and sometimes put officers in harm’s way. But Cst. Yake is quick to point out that the job is still very rewarding.

He recalls one recent file as an example.  “While on patrol, I came across a man that was in possession of a bike valued at nearly $8,000. I was able to confirm that the bike didn’t belong to him and thanks to Project 529, I was able to find the rightful owner. When I brought the bike to her, she was ecstatic as she’d thought that her prized possession was gone forever.”

Transit Police is the only police agency in Canada that is focused on a public transportation system. Transit Police officers have full police powers within the province of British Columbia, both on and off duty, the same as municipal police officers. They investigate crime, enforce laws and statutes (including the Criminal Code), and help provide seamless policing across Metro Vancouver in partnership with local police agencies.

They are a key factor in keeping transit safe, a role that Cst. Yake doesn’t take lightly.

“In unprecedented times like these, I am incredibly proud to have the ability to play my part in supporting those in need and enhancing public safety,” he says.

Anyone who feels unsafe on transit, is worried about the safety of someone else, or sees anything suspicious, can contact Transit Police directly by phone at 604.515.8300 or by texting 87.77.77. Always call 911 in an emergency.

Follow Cst. Yake on Twitter. Connect with Transit Police Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

 

TransLink seeking emergency funding

New figures show TransLink is losing $75 million per month

TransLink is seeking emergency relief funding from the Federal and Provincial Governments to offset losses incurred for providing essential transit services during the pandemic.  Without emergency funding, Metro Vancouver commuters are set to see unprecedented cuts to transit services.

“We’ve done the best we can to keep essential services operating for those workers who need it, to get to their workplaces, but we are losing $75 million per month and on our current trajectory, we will face cashflow issues within weeks,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond. “It’s a dire situation which will force us to cancel entire routes and significantly reduce service levels on all transit modes, meaning far longer wait times and much more crowding for customers.”

TransLink has been deemed an essential service by the Provincial Government during the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, since mid-March, TransLink’s operating revenue has been cut in half.  Emergency funding is necessary to ensure a reasonable level of essential service can be maintained while respecting safe physical distancing requirements.  It is also necessary to ensure a rapid transition to full service can occur once the recovery phase begins.

“We need an emergency funding package from the Provincial or Federal Government if reliable transit services are to continue for more than 75,000 people, who will otherwise be left stranded,” said Mayors’ Council Chair Jonathan Coté. “Essential workers have been relying on transit to get to work every day – that’s health care workers, childcare workers, service workers.  Our transit system will also be critical during the COVID-19 recovery phase and we must ensure that it’s able to quickly shift back to full-service capacity when people start returning to work.”

TransLink’s revenue has declined due to reduced ridership levels, falling fuel tax revenue, and fare removal on the bus system to promote physical distancing.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, TransLink has:

  • Reduced Bus service by 15-20%, while also reducing SkyTrain, SeaBus and West Coast Express services.
  • Reduced the seating capacity on buses to promote physical distancing.
  • Introduced rear-door only boarding and suspended fare collection on buses to protect bus operators.
  • Introduced widespread and intensive cleaning and sanitization measures on bus, HandyDART, SkyTrain, SeaBus and West Coast Express.
  • Deferred the scheduled July 1, 2020 fare increase.

How to find and give support during the COVID-19 pandemic

A COVID-19 sign at YVR-Airport station

A COVID-19 sign at YVR-Airport station

During these challenging times, we want to make sure that all TransLink customers feel informed and can access the resources they need.

Below you’ll find a list of services and resources available to you and your family here in Metro Vancouver:

COVID-19 Information

Social & Community Services

Financial Support

  • Access support for individuals, businesses, and industries through the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit.
  • Learn about the BC Emergency Benefit for Workers, which provides a one-time $1,000 payment for people who lost income.
  • Discuss options to refund Compass Card monthly pass by calling 1-888-207-4055, or refund West Coast Express monthly parking pass by emailing or calling 604-488-8906.

Getting Around

Giving Back

 

If you have any other helpful links or ideas, add it to the comment section below or send us an email!

Author: Rebecca Abel

Dispatching the frontlines: a look at “air traffic control” for Metro Vancouver Transit Police

Allison Hansell (front) and Jully Tmana (back) are police communications operators with Metro Vancouver Transit Police.

When you travel on transit, Police Communications Operators in the Operations Communications Centre (OCC) at Metro Vancouver Transit Police play a key role in making sure that you arrive at your destination safely. Often referred to as dispatchers, the team that works in the OCC does far more than dispatch Transit Police officers to where they’re needed.

“Aside from answering calls and text messages that come in from the public while they’re using transit, we also take calls from other police departments such as E-Comm (911), transit frontline staff, and many others,” says Allison Hansell, who has worked in dispatch for 10 years, five of them with Transit Police. “But taking calls is just one of our responsibilities.”

Jully Tmana, another dispatcher, adds, “We also track all of the on-duty police officers’ locations at all times, to make sure they are safe and so that we know who’s available to respond when there’s an incident. We look up information in several different databases to help officers do their jobs. For example, we can let them know if the person in their custody has any warrants. And we help coordinate responses to incidents with TransLink and external agencies.”

Operating 24/7, the OCC is where information is exchanged at lightning speed to ensure that anyone traveling on transit stays safe. Through teamwork and an unparalleled ability to multitask, OCC operators make sure that when you need help on transit, it will be there.

“Teamwork is a top priority in the OCC as we rely on each other a great deal, especially during time sensitive matters where multiple calls are occurring at the same time,” says Jully, who started with Transit Police this past February. “One co-worker will often be contacting outside agencies or transit partners while another is dispatching, and is still taking the initial call.”

Allison says, “I’m proud to be working with Transit Police and TransLink, especially during such critical times where passenger health and safety is paramount. It is satisfying and helpful to be able to see all the measures being taken to ensure the safety of the public.”

It’s Emergency Services Dispatchers and 9-1-1 Awareness Week from April 5 to 11. If you find yourself contacting Transit Police, be sure to let the dispatcher who answers your call or text know how much you appreciate what they do to keep transit running.

Anyone who feels unsafe on transit, is worried about the safety of someone else, or sees anything suspicious can contact the OCC directly by phone at 604.515.8300 or by texting 87.77.77. Always call 911 in an emergency.

Connect with Transit Police Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

TransLink limits bus seating to promote physical distancing

Beginning from next week, TransLink will be limiting seating on buses in Metro Vancouver to enhance physical distancing measures.

  • Roughly half the seats on board buses will have signage installed to indicate that those seats are to be left vacant, which will allow for extra space between customers.
  • If the new seated capacity is reached, bus operators will not make any further stops to collect passengers, who will have to wait for the next bus.

Given declining ridership is resulting in far fewer passengers on the system, we don’t expect these changes will impact travel times on the majority of bus routes. That being said, commuters who use busier routes should consider building in additional travel time and consider their need to travel, particularly during rush hours.

This comes in addition to the physical distancing measures currently in place across our system:

  • Customers are being asked to board buses using the rear doors where possible as part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers needing mobility assistance can still use the front doors if required.
  • Given we are not able to collect all fares at the rear doors, including cash fares, TransLink is suspending fare collection on the bus system and HandyDART.
  • We have launched an education campaign promoting hygiene and asking customers to allow extra space for fellow passengers when on board transit.
  • Customers will not be able to use seats close to crew on SeaBus vessels.
  • Coast Mountain Bus company is accelerating installation of operator protection barriers on all of its buses.  Nearly 700 buses currently have barriers installed.
  • Due to the physical distancing required by health authorities in BC, bus operators will not be able to assist our wheelchair customers with being strapped in a front-facing position on our conventional buses. Those with mobility devices on buses that have a rear facing accessible seat will be able to park in the designated area themselves and secure their device. This is the case for most buses. For buses that do not have this area (e.g. highway coaches, Community Shuttle) customers with mobility devices will need to travel with someone who can assist them or find an alternate mode of travel.

Public transit remains crucial for thousands of essential service workers in the region, including those in the healthcare sector. We would like to make sure that those who rely on transit are able to use our system and get to their destinations safely.

HandyDART fare collection suspended to protect operators and promote physical distancing

Beginning March 25, we are suspending fare collection on the HandyDART system. Because HandyDART fare payment can often require close interaction between operators and customers, we’re taking this step to protect operators and promote physical distancing.

Fare collection is already suspended for conventional bus to reduce close contact between operators and customers. Regular fares still apply on SkyTrain, West Coast Express and SeaBus as payment doesn’t involve any person-to-person interaction.

This comes in addition to several other operational changes we’ve made to improve cleanliness and allow for more social distancing on HandyDART:

  • HandyDART vehicles are being cleaned and disinfected every day.
  • HandyDART operators are spacing customers out in vehicles wherever possible, to promote social distancing.
  • Every HandyDART operator is being supplied with a sanitizing kit which includes gloves, as well as hand sanitizer bottles or sanitizing wipes.

Customers are cancelling around 70% of HandyDART trips daily, resulting in significantly fewer customers travelling on each bus, and therefore greater social distancing.