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Translink Buzzer Blog

Category: Chicago 2009

Buzzer in Chicago no more: plus a transit soap opera

DEEP DISH PIZZA. Thank you, Chicago.

DEEP DISH PIZZA. Thank you, Chicago.

The APTA conference was over yesterday, so I’m headed home now. By this time on Monday, I’ll be writing from TransLink HQ in Burnaby again. Goodbye Chicago — it’s been a blast!

Also, while this has nothing to do with Chicago, David Lam sent me a video that just needs to be shared for some Friday fun.

SBS Transit, one of Singapore’s transit operators, partnered with a TV company to produce a wacky soap about bus drivers in 2003 or so.

Here it is: “She Drives Me Crazy”!

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Buzzer in Chicago: Six hours, 10 trains, 11 trips—looping the loop in Chicago!

The map of our 6h train tour around Chicago. Click to see it in detail.

The map of our 6h train tour around Chicago. Click to see it in detail.

What do transportation professionals do for fun? A six-hour train trip on all the region’s rail services, around Chicago and back to our hotel again!

Tours like this have been held at the last two APTA rail conferences – they’re the brainchild of Tom Hickey, from the Houston transit authority. (You might see him in my photos: he’s wearing a hat.)

And for the past 10 years, Tom’s held these tours at APTA operations planning workshops, too. Those versions can be more intense – one tour around Oregon took two and a half days! (People drop in and out of the tour as it goes on: Tom describes the tours as a “transit death march.”)

But this tour was for lightweights — it was called Looping the Loop, and employees from all the services joined us for the trip (or parts of it). We heard system history and stories, and enjoyed a great tour of the Chicago area.

Here’s an illustrated rundown of the tour – I’ll keep it as concise as possible!

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Buzzer in Chicago: Train simulators!

We got to try out Metra’s train simulators on a technical tour yesterday! (I’m in Chicago for the APTA rail conference this week, if you didn’t know.)

Metra is Chicago’s commuter rail service, similar to WestCoast Express. They have five simulators that replicate each of their different train types, to teach new engineers how to drive.

And man, these things are awesomely real. Check out the video and watch how the views in the front and side windows all move seamlessly together. There’s even a rearview mirror, replicating exactly what you’d see behind you! (Tom, an instructor from Metra is the one talking.)

If you’re curious, SkyTrain has simulators for both MK I and MK II cars – I haven’t been down to try them yet, so I don’t know how similar they are to the Metra ones.

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Buzzer in Chicago: TransLink presents at the conference, plus updates on other light rail lines

Cloud Gate in Millennium Park (also known as the bean).

Cloud Gate in Millennium Park (also known as the bean).

Just thought I’d kick this post off with a picture of something that isn’t a train or in a hotel this time!

Chicago’s Millennium Park is very near the hotel, and the Cloud Gate sculpture is enormously popular. As you can tell, people were all over it.

To recap, for those who don’t know: I’m at the APTA rail conference in Chicago this week, and I’m promoting the 2010 rail conference in Vancouver to our colleagues.

Yesterday the conference officially opened, and here’s what the TransLink and SkyTrain staff were up to at the sessions. (Nope, they’re not at Cloud Gate above!)

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Buzzer in Chicago: tidbits about the conference and Chicago transit

The APTA rail conference registration sign in the Chicago Hilton. I’m currently in the registration room, promoting Vancouver’s 2010 conference to other transit agencies and industry folks!

The APTA rail conference registration sign in the Chicago Hilton. I’m currently in the registration room, promoting Vancouver’s 2010 conference to other transit agencies and industry folks!

Hi everyone! I see you all had a busy weekend what with the Golden Ears celebration and all. As for yours truly, I’m writing from the APTA rail conference in Chicago this week!

Me at the booth!

Me at the booth!

TransLink is hosting next year’s rail conference, so I’m sitting at a table promoting it to our colleagues in the registration room.

This is the first time I’ve been to an APTA conference, and the response from transit professionals about TransLink and our city is pretty amazing. (Also amazing: the number of different American accents here. Wow!)

Things I’ve heard from other delegates so far, spanning from Toronto to Texas to Taipei (and this is all true, I swear):

  • “You guys got a really good guy in Mike Shiffer.” (Mike’s our new Vice-President of Planning, and originally from Chicago.)
  • “TransLink? That’s Tom Prendergast, right? He’s a great guy.” (Tom’s our CEO!)
  • “We love your trolley system!”
  • “TransLink? That’s great—we’re really looking to your system as we develop our transit system.”
  • “Vancouver! That’s my favourite city!”

(By the way, we brought the transit buttons from I Love Transit Week, and people are super into them! Although some do ask “What’s MKI and MK II”?)

Panoramic of the registration room from my table. The Chicago Transit Authority is across from me, giving delegates info about the city and system, and at right is the APTA registration booth.

Panoramic of the registration room from my table. The Chicago Transit Authority is across from me, giving delegates info about the city and system, and at right is the APTA registration booth.

There are so many people are here from an astonishing array of places. Virtually every transit system in Canada and America is represented, plus people from France’s national railway, South Korea, Tokyo, and more.

The conference really lets everyone come together to share knowledge, and connect with others about all different aspects of running a rail system—technical, customer service, leadership, and much more. Here’s the full session list if you’re curious. (PS: there are also APTA conferences for buses and other specialties too.)

There are also going to be some great behind-the-scenes tours put on by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and others. I’m going on three tours and these will make up the bulk of my posts from Chicago – I’m pretty excited about them!

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