Translink Buzzer Blog

Category: Profiles

Goodbye and Thank You: Transit Police Sergeant Wendy Hawthorne to retire

Transit Police Sergeant Wendy Hawthorne started with the Metro Transit Security Service in early 1984 as a Transit Security Officer

On November 21, at the Canadian Urban Transit Association Conference in Toronto, Metro Vancouver Transit Police Sergeant Wendy Hawthorne will receive the 2018 Leadership Award in Excellence to acknowledge the benefits our transit system has gained thanks to her specialized expertise in graffiti on transit. We caught up with Wendy for an interview before she heads off into retirement at the end of this year.

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Transit Supervisor saves a life on the Knight Street bridge

“I’m not a hero by any means,” says Surinder.

As a Transit Supervisor, Surinder Sahdra hears it all the time – police close off a bridge or traffic  because someone’s about to jump. But for Surinder, who has been with the Coast Mountain Bus Company since 2000, he’s never had to pull someone back from the edge.

On a Thursday morning with rush hour traffic at its peak, Surinder responded to an incident near the Knight Street bridge where police had blocked off part of Marine Drive. The Transit Supervisor was helping police navigate traffic and buses through the road block when passing drivers on the opposite side of traffic began to honk at Surinder.

“Hey you, there’s a jumper on the bridge,” a woman yelled out her car window.

Stuck at his post, Surinder hoped someone would call for help. However, as the next few minutes passed, more drivers began yelling to Surinder, hoping to catch his attention. Surinder searched for another Transit Supervisor in the area who would be available to help, but the other Supervisor was tied up with another incident.

“I was fairly close and I was going in the same direction, so I thought I should check it out, just in case,” says Surinder.

As he drove over the Knight Street bridge, he spotted a man close to the Mitchell Island exit, straddling the railing of the bridge. Quickly, Surinder updated TComm, who let him know that 911 was now buzzing with numerous reports of someone about to jump.

“Nobody was stopping to help him, everyone was calling 911,” noted Surinder.

As Surinder drove over the Knight Street bridge, he spotted a man close to the Mitchell Island exit.

Surinder pulled up to the middle of the bridge and began talking to the man. He noticed there was a bottle of alcohol in the man’s back pocket that was almost empty. When asked if everything was okay, he told Surinder to go away.

“My instinct was, if I don’t grab him, he’s going to jump, and then I’ll regret it for the rest of my life,” remembers Surinder.

In a split-second decision, Surinder jumped over the concrete barrier and grabbed the man’s arm to hold him down, keeping TComm updated throughout. Another Transit Supervisor, Frank Liptak, was on the other side of the bridge. He heard what was happening and ran over to assist Surinder. Both supervisors were able to hold down the man and talk to him as he struggled, waiting for police to arrive.

“I’m not a hero by any means,” says Surinder. “I’m just trying to do my best while I’m on the road helping people.”

The Vancouver Police Department later informed TComm that Surinder’s actions – pulling the man off the railing – was the right thing to do. As a critical defuser and having recently received Mental Health First Aid Training, Surinder was able to apply some of this experience to help not only the man he assisted, but himself.

“I think some of those tools did come in handy when I was sitting with the man,” says Surinder, who admits he was a bit shaken. “Afterwards, you start thinking about what could’ve happened and who knows, he may not have jumped.”

Author: Priscilla Leung

This 4-year-old had the best transit-themed birthday party!

Isaac’s parents decided to celebrate his love for all things transit

It’s just another day for 4-year-old Isaac. He goes to preschool three days per week and loves his classmates, and teachers. He takes transit with his mom wherever he goes. And just like any other 4-year-old, Isaac is a huge transit fan. He loves watching videos of trains, buses, and cartoons.

Isaac started riding buses when he was 3-weeks-old, and it helps with his communication skills, says his mom, Pamela Carvajal, who sent The Buzzer blog pictures of Isaac’s transit-themed birthday party!

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Q&A: In conversation with a transit planner—TransLink and transit in Canada

Prior to joining TransLink as a senior planner, David Cooper worked for Calgary Transit and the City of Toronto, where he supported the Toronto Transit Commission’s subway expansion projects.

Owing to TransLink’s international reputation as a progressive company in the transportation industry, our positions attract talent from across Canada and the world. Perhaps most notably, our CEO came from Seattle!

TransLink is regarded as one of the most innovative transportation companies in the world. We are unique in that we are the first North American transportation authority—and only one in Canada—to be multimodal. TransLink is responsible for the planning, financing and managing of all public transit in addition to major regional roads and bridges, transportation demand-management strategies and programs, and supporting the region’s growth strategy and regional economic development.

It was this unique challenge that spurred transit planner David Cooper to pack up and move to the Vancouver to join TransLink earlier this year as a senior planner in TransLink’s system planning department.

He came to us from Toronto where he was a senior transportation planner with the city, and prior to that, he worked for Calgary Transit.

Cooper recently sat down with The Buzzer blog to chat about working for TransLink and transit planning in Canada:

What drew you to Vancouver to work for TransLink?

I call the System Planning group the place where ideas come true at TransLink. We are advancing a vast range of projects that will forever transform our transit system.  We are advancing new fleet technologies, expanding our service, and adding new rail service.  In the transit world, you name it—we are probably doing it. Who wouldn’t want to work for an organization that is open to new ideas and is moving ahead projects that will make Metro Vancouver an even better place to live!

“Who wouldn’t want to work for an organization that is open to new ideas and is moving ahead projects that will make Metro Vancouver an even better place to live!”

—David Cooper on working for TransLink

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“Have Yourself a Merry Little Bus Ride” this holiday season!

Shantini Klassen is a woman with many hats – not only is she an Operations Manager for the Vancouver Fringe Festival, but an actor and singer too!

She says she had the “best bus driver in the world” on Sunday, December 14 at 2:30 pm. Shantini recorded her own version of the holiday classic, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” with a unique spin on it as a ‘thank you’ to the driver!

Why was he the best? She tells us:

The funny thing about this man was that he didn’t do any major gestures. There was no singing or trivia or anything goofy. That’s a lot of fun and I enjoy that too, but he was just genuine and kind. He said ‘hello’ to everyone who came on the bus. He had a lot of strollers and wheelchairs to clip in, but for every person he took his time, patiently and graciously helping them. In addition to that, the bus was very full, and at one stop a man screamed obscenities at him. He just responded with a wave and a “Sorry!” It seemed like he had a lot on his plate, but he just continued to be lovely to everyone.

Shantini shared one piece of advice, in closing:

It might sound obvious, but it’s just so important to be kind to the people we meet in every day interactions. As someone who worked in customer service for a lot of years, it can be really tough – especially when people treat you like a machine instead of a human. Everyone should receive basic respect, regardless of how long the line was or how late and grumpy we are. A little kindness can make a big difference, so kudos to Mr. Bus Driver for changing the world one passenger at a time!

NOW, if you’re tired of all this mushiness, you can watch this ridiculous Christmas baking rap video that I made:

Shantini lives in Burnaby and works on Granville Island, so she takes the SkyTrain to downtown Vancouver before catching the 50 bus to Granville Island. She says she loves to bake, make silly YouTube videos and if you’d like to know more about her, you can check out her blog!

Author: Allen Tung

TransLink Secret Santa Elves surprise Sabra on her commute with a FareCard!


‘Tis the season of giving and here, at TransLink, we wanted to take care of a deserving commuter’s transit fare for the month of January! (Yeah, we’re not WestJet or Air Canada, we couldn’t bring Christmas to the Dominican Republic or provide round-trip airfare home for the holidays.)

We put out a call for nominations in our Secret Santa contest and we heard over 40 stories about amazing people doing amazing things for their community and the people around them. Shareena Ali nominated her mother, Sabra Ali:

She is the strongest women I know. She works three jobs and is almost 60 years old yet she is still a hard worker and she never rests. She always wakes up early to cook and clean. She takes care of my father, who just had a heart attack. Then goes to work to take care of her patients. She takes care of her three grandchildren on her days off when she gets them, but always accepts work whenever her work is short staffed. She also takes care of 90 per cent of the household bills due to my father’s heart attack and my car accident which resulted in a broken neck for 6 months and off work for a year.

Her commute is a bit longer than before, an extra 45 minutes to an hour due to us moving farther away from King George Station. She walks and takes transit in all types of weather conditions. She doesn’t have her license, so she has been relying on transit all her life. She always cares for others before her own needs and still manages to smile and look at the brighter things in life. Her birthday is three days before Christmas, so if she gets this, it would be a two-in-one gift.

—Shareena Ali

The TransLink Secret Santa Elves agreed, she deserved a FareCard and a TravelSmart pack after receiving an 11 out of 11 on her scoresheet from the judges! We decided we would send Sabra her prize. NAH, THAT’S NO FUN!

Let’s surprise Sabra on her commute home with a film crew and Shareena! Ah, much better plan. (‘:

From all of us at TransLink and our operating companies – Coast Mountain Bus Company, British Columbia Rapid Transit Company and Transit Police, we wish the Ali family happy holidays and an early happy birthday to Sabra!

The TransLink Secret Santa Elves Allen, Robert and Jiana spread the holiday cheer!

The TransLink Secret Santa Elves Allen, Robert and Jiana spread the holiday cheer!

Author: Allen Tung

Meet Matthias – one of TransLink’s biggest fans!

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Our transit loving friend – Matthias Leduc!

We had the chance to meet of our biggest fans, Matthias Leduc—an eight-year-old with a love of the transit system!

“My son literally walks, talks, thinks and breathes transit,” says Rosemarie, Matthias’s mom. “If we dropped him off in downtown Vancouver, he could find his way home all by himself. He even puts up bus stops around the house and makes up his own stations.”

Matthias rides transit every day with his mother and enjoys travelling on the 96 B-Line—his favourite route. You’ll often find him sitting at the front of the bus or sitting in the pivoting joint of an articulated bus (his favourite spot!).

Matthias riding in his favourite spot!

Matthias riding in his favourite spot!

Recently, Matthias received an award at his daycare for being a TransLink expert and unlike your typical kid, he’ll read updates on the translink.ca website to make sure he’s in the loop. He’s also collected over 100 transfers and has big plans to border his bedroom walls with them. He’s excited for Compass and is eager to replace those transfers with his very own card so he can tap in and out of the system.

Rosemarie reached out to us looking for some help with a Halloween costume idea Matthias had – a Coast Mountain Bus Company operator! We sent her a picture of the CMBC uniform to help him started on his costume.

He tells us being a bus operator is not just a costume idea, but something he wants to be when he grows up!

Be on the lookout for our little bus driver this Halloween night trick-or-treating and don’t be alarmed if you see a second bus driver riding in the articulated joint of the 96 B-Line!

Matthias says he’s also excited at the idea of possibly attending I Love Transit Camp next year during I Love Transit Week and receiving a tour of the SkyTrain Operations and Maintenance Centre and the SeaBus docks in North Vancouver.

Author: Allen Tung

Angus McIntyre retires after 40 years behind the wheel

Longtime trolley driver Angus McIntyre will be retiring at the end of May! (We made sure to get the trolleys in the background of this picture :)

Longtime trolley driver Angus McIntyre will be retiring at the end of May! (We made sure to get the trolleys in the background of this picture :)

After driving buses for 41 years, Angus McIntyre has announced he will be retiring at the end of May!

His last official day will be Tuesday Monday May 31 (celebrations are planned!), but until then you can catch him driving the 7 Dunbar/Nanaimo or the interlined Main/Victoria routes in the evenings. Congratulate him if you see him!

I spoke with Angus last week, and asked him to share his reflections on the city and transit after 40 odd years of service. It’s a long period to think about—he notes that he actually worked through six decades, starting in the last four months of 1969 and finishing in the first half of 2010.

“Very few people in this company achieve that goal [of 40 years driving],” he said with a laugh. “You have to start quite young and be durable to make it through.”

You can read the full interview below (and see this post for more on Angus!).

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An interview with Noam Dolgin, author of Canada Line Adventures

It’s kind of turning into interview week here on the blog, but let’s just run with it!

So local environmental educator Noam Dolgin put pen to paper last year and came up with Canada Line Adventures, a slim pocket guide to help you explore the neighbourhoods near the new Canada Line stations in Vancouver and Richmond.

I thought I’d chat with him about the guide and what drove him to put it together, and just what kind of adventures are in store for you once you pick it up.

So why did you decide to write this guide?

On opening day and in my personal conversations, I saw how excited people in the city were about Canada Line, and I decided to give people the tools to take advantage of it. Rapid transit offers enormous opportunity for environmentally friendly recreation, as an environmental educator and advocate, I wanted to capitalize on that enthusiasm to help get people using the train for recreation.

In addition, I grew up near what is now Canada Line, in the Cambie corridor, and am very proud of what my neighbourhood offers. After having lived in New York for seven years, relying entirely on trains for my transportation needs, when I moved back to Vancouver, I was excited about the expansion in our train system and wanted to share my experience and expertise with the rest of Vancouver.

Author Noam Dolgin!

Author Noam Dolgin!

I remember saying to myself, ‘I want to show people what the Cambie corridor has to offer and explore Richmond and Sea Island.’ I was excited about transit, about showing off my neighbourhood and about exploring new neighbourhoods. I hope that comes across through the pocket guide.

Every station has nine categories of things to do around that station, from restaurants and bars, to children’s activities and a neighbourhood walking tour. It’s intentionally written to be small, easily fit in any pocket or bag, yet packed with information. Good for residents or tourists.

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An interview with Oliver Neubert, CMBC maintenance planner and children’s book author!

Oliver Neubert!

Oliver Neubert!

Oliver Neubert has been a maintenance planner with Coast Mountain Bus Company since 2007—but he’s also a children’s book author on the side!

Oliver’s four-book series is a fantasy adventure called Chantel’s Quest, which you can pick up at Kidsbooks, at Chapters, or your local library. (Or check the April Buzzer to see how you can win copies of the first two books!)

You may have seen a quick interview with Oliver in the April Buzzer, but since we actually had a much longer conversation, I thought I’d post the extended version on the blog. So here we go!

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An interview with Tamsin Dillon, director of London’s Art on the Underground program

Tamsin Dillon, head of the London Underground public art program.

Tamsin Dillon, head of the London Underground public art program.

Yesterday, we were honoured to have Tamsin Dillon give a presentation at TransLink!

Tamsin is the head of the London Underground’s art program, called Art on the Underground. She kindly agreed to come by our offices as she was also in town for a conference at the Vancouver Art Gallery. (Explore the Art on the Underground website here!)

During her presentation, she gave us background on the program and talked about its works. Art on the Underground is actually part of their customer experience strategy, and works to fulfill the Underground’s chief philosophy: “value our customer’s time.”

Under Tamsin’s direction, the art program has adopted the motto, “World class art for a world class Tube for a world class city,” and has presented works from high-profile artists like Cindy Sherman and Mark Titchner, as well as artists at early stages of their career.

Richard Long's artwork for the Tube map cover. Photo from <a href=http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/corporate/projectsandschemes/artmusicdesign/pfa/artists/richard-long-tubemap.asp>Art on the Underground</a>.

Richard Long's artwork for the Tube map cover. Photo from Art on the Underground.

The program has been creative in seeking out places for art of all kinds all over the system. For example, the Tube map cover is now illustrated by artists, and one project doesn’t use system space at all – it asks Piccadilly Line staff to use a booklet of selected quotations in their announcements and conversations.

And the works continue to involve front-line staff more and more — for instance there’s a portrait series of 60 Jubilee Line staff to celebrate its 30 year anniversary.

Just in case you’re wondering, we don’t currently have any concrete plans or a mandate for an ongoing public art program right now, except for smaller projects like the Main Street public art project (here’s work 1 and work 2), or the Between Spaces partnership.

But we were happy to hear Tamsin’s insight on how art has worked for her system, and her experience will absolutely help inform our work as we move forward!

Tamsin was also kind enough to do an interview with me about her work – so for more detail on Tamsin and Art on the Underground, please continue reading below.

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TransitDB: a prizewinning Vancouver transit website

Carson Lam, all dressed up for the Microsoft FTW Ultimate App Throwdown.

Carson Lam, all dressed up for the Microsoft FTW Ultimate App Throwdown.

At the end of June, UBC computer science student Carson Lam emerged victorious in Microsoft’s FTW Ultimate App Throwdown, a programming contest pitting a student project against a professional one.

What was Carson’s winning project? TransitDB, a super handy implementation of TransLink’s transit data!

Check out the site: you can see bus routes mapped onto Google Maps, the next buses leaving from each stop at a bus loop on a single page, and an RSS feed of current system alerts.

The site is quite prescient—many of its features are actually already being put together for the TransLink website! But we’re still absolutely thrilled to see great developers building great tools to help our customers out, and we’re working to make our data accessible to all developers so they can do even more (really!).

For more, here’s a Q&A with Carson, explaining bit more about TransitDB, the Microsoft contest, and where he and the site might end up next.

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Profile: Tafyrn & Seamora Palecloud, Canada Line construction photographers

A double rainbow over the Operations and Maintenance Centre --- one of the many fabulous photos found at Canada Line Photography.

A double rainbow over the Canada Line's Operations and Maintenance Centre --- one of the many fabulous photos found at Canada Line Photography.

For Friday, here’s the second profile in a series on Lower Mainland transit enthusiasts — our first was on the Trans Vancouver bus photo archive.

Look up “Canada Line photos” in Google, and the first hit you’ll get is Canada Line Photography, an enormous repository of terrific photographs chronicling the train line’s construction.

There are two people behind the site, Tafyrn and Seamora Palecloud, who were kind enough to do an interview with me for the Buzzer blog. (And I did ask about their unusual names: Tafyrn just laughed, saying, “As you probably know, it’s good practice not to use our real names on the internet.”)

So, here’s the interview, and sprinkled throughout you’ll find some of the Canada Line photos that Tafyrn and Seamora consider favourites—they link back to related pages from the Canada Line photo blog, too.

Tafyrn, Seamora — thanks again so much for helping me put this together!

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Profile: the transit fans behind the Trans-Vancouver bus photo archive

Chris Cassidy, George Prior, and David Lam, the photographers behind Trans-Vancouver. (They\'re wearing safety vests because the docks made us all wear them.)

Chris Cassidy, George Prior, and David Lam, the photographers behind Trans-Vancouver. (They're wearing orange vests because the docks made us all wear them for safety reasons.)

For your Friday Buzzer fix, here’s the first in a series of profiles I hope to do with transit enthusiasts from the Lower Mainland.

Poke around the web in search of Vancouver transit info, and you’re bound to come across Trans-Vancouver, an insanely comprehensive bus photo site.

Online since 2004, the site’s neatly organized galleries boast over 1,400 photos of every single bus in the Lower Mainland. That includes almost every ad wrap, heritage bus, and even one-offs like TransLink’s alternative energy test buses, or the time we tried out a double decker bus.

You can’t go through the site without wondering who’s behind it, so I got in touch and did an interview with David Lam, George Prior, and Chris Cassidy, the photographers behind the gallery. (David started the site and has taken about two-thirds of the 1,400 photos—the rest are from George and Chris, who began contributing their photos to the site a few years after its start.)

As you’ll find out, they’re all very young guys who just happen to love buses. I got to meet them in person at the send-off for the retired trolleys in October, and managed to grab some photos of them in action. (Fun fact: at the send-off, the guys told me that they had previously located the retired buses at the Fraser-Surrey docks, sleuthing out the location from just one photo they saw on Flickr. They’d already been down to photograph the buses at the docks, albeit from outside the fences.)

My full interview with David, George, and Chris is below!

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