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Category: Special Series

This is how to take public transit (bus) from Vancouver to Victoria and back

Don’t let the lack of a car stop you from exploring our beautiful capital city, Victoria, this summer because you can easily take public transit to get there! You can visit Tourism Victoria‘s website for all the city has to offer.

In total, the trip from Vancouver to Victoria will take you about four hours, so plan accordingly whether you’d like to do a day trip or spend an entire weekend there. You’ll be riding with BC Transit, BC Ferries and TransLink, so there will be three separate fares.

Check list before you go

  • A face covering for all styles of transportation
  • $5 in coins for your BC Transit fare – $2.50 in coins to pay the fare for the bus ride from the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal to downtown Victoria, and another $2.50 for the return trip. Alternatively, you can purchase a BC Transit DayPASS for $5 for unlimited travel for the entire day on any route! You can find all fare details at bctransit.com/victoria.
  • Your TransLink fare, which varies depending on how many zones you travel. You can easily estimate your fare on our website.
    • For a trip from downtown Vancouver, it’s a two zone fare, which means you’ll need a Compass Card with at least $6.90 in Stored Value, or $8.50 in cash to cover a return trip.

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National AccessAbility Week: A Conversation with Erin Windross

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

Erin Windross is the Manager of Access Transit Planning and Service Delivery (pictured on the right). Together with his team, Erin focuses on developing innovative initiatives to make transit system as inclusive and accessible as possible. 

 

Erin Windross’ eyes light up when he talks about TransLink’s Universal Fare Gate Access Program. It’s already been more than two years since the launch of the Program, but his enthusiasm and passion are palpable. As the lead on the fare policy and eligibility policy development, he’s always delighted to hear how useful customers have found the Program and how it has allowed them to travel more independently.

“One of our goals at Access Transit – and ultimately one of the overall goals at TransLink – we want our customers to be as independent and self-sufficient as possible, to allow them to travel without needing to ask for assistance,” explains Erin. “We all share in wanting to make the system better for customers.”

After three years of working at TransLink, Erin feels like he’s hit a career sweet spot. Professionally, his interests in mobility and regional planning led him to a job at TransLink. But it was his dedication to equity and inclusion that made him a natural fit on the Access Transit team.

“I want to make sure people and communities are given the same access to services and we’re not overlooking anyone,” adds Erin. “I grew up with disability. I have two siblings who have fairly profound disabilities, so it’s always been a part of my life. It’s a great mix being able to combine my educational and personal background with my professional interests.”

In his current role as Manager of Access Transit Planning and Service Delivery, Erin’s work focuses on two key areas: delivering the recommendations set out in TransLink’s Custom Transit Service Delivery Review and developing forward-thinking initiatives that can make HandyDART better for our customers.

His team is committed to creating a transit system that is as inclusive and accessible as possible: “That to me is really at the core of what we do at Access Transit. We enable self-autonomy – for seniors who might feel isolated or for people with disabilities. We want to make sure that regardless of ability, people are able to go out, do the things they want with ease, access the places and communities they need, and live as fully realized human beings.”

One project that is keeping Erin busy is a new pilot program that is testing smaller HandyDART vehicles: “Our larger shuttle vehicles have some issues in terms of navigating through narrower, urban areas, so we’re currently collecting operator and customer feedback on smaller vehicles. We’re looking at whether any adjustments are required to right-size the vehicles for our service needs and make it better for both customers and operators while entering and exiting.”

The team is also exploring additional programs and platforms that will provide an easier, more convenient and more seamless travel experience for HandyDART customers across Metro Vancouver. Erin points out that with a smaller customer base, Access Transit can focus on fostering a more personalized, impactful service:

“HandyDART plays an integral role in many people’s lives. It’s a very personal experience we bring to the transit system. Operators are very involved in our customers’ lives. They meet them at their door, escort them to the vehicle, have conversations with them – it’s this level of personal outreach that really sets us apart from the rest of the organization.”

If you’d like to learn more about the accessibility programs and initiatives at TransLink that are making transit easy to use for as many people as possible, visit Accessible Transit.

Written by Rebecca Abel

National AccessAbility Week: A Conversation with Tamara Tedesco

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

Tamera Tedesco helps with the Access Transit Users’ Advisory Committee and a lot more to do with accessibility and transportation.

Although Tamara Tedesco jokes that the reason she’s stuck around TransLink for so long is for the five-year anniversary pin, it’s immediately clear that it’s the impact of her team’s work in Access Transit Planning that gets her out of bed and into work each morning.

“Because our transit system covers such a vast geographic area, we service a wide range of people. I think that’s something really wonderful about public transit – all different types of people rely on it,” says Tamara. “Our aim in Access Transit is to enhance the accessibility across the system and make transit inclusive to as many customers as possible.”

Tamara has been blind since birth, so public transit has played an important role throughout her life. Growing up in a small town on Vancouver Island, she always knew she’d end up in a bigger city one day. A few years after graduating, she packed up and relocated to Vancouver:

“I’ve always been unwaveringly independent. As a young teenager, I recognized that I couldn’t ask my parents to drive me everywhere. I think sometimes we can forget that there are all kinds of reasons that younger people are unable to drive. If you can’t see, that’s a big one. Having a way to get around independently has such a big impact on the quality of life, so it was important to me to find a place to live that was as accessible as it could be.”

Now, in her role as AccessTransit Coordinator, she is able to witness how the freedom of movement benefits other transit customers as well: “it means a lot to me that I’m able to help people and work towards making transit a really valuable and important aspect of their lives as well.”

Tamara’s job involves administrating the Access Transit Users’ Advisory Committee and the HandyDART Users’ Advisory Committee, coordinating their meetings, managing communications with committee members and recruitment. She also helps with the development of accessibility policies and advises departments across the TransLink enterprise on accessibility-related initiatives.

With this work comes unique challenges. As Tamara explains, “accessibility means very different things for different people depending on what their needs are. It’s always a juggling act trying to prioritize projects and determine where the biggest opportunities for improvement are. We really want to improve accessibility for as many customers as possible.”

One barrier that the team frequently confronts is trying to find a balanced solution when customers, especially customers with disabilities, have not only different needs, but often completely opposite and competing needs.

For those interested in promoting accessibility awareness, Tamara suggests a couple of ways that customers can provide feedback and get involved at TransLink:

“One way to submit feedback is through our regular channels – online or by phone. Any feedback or questions for Access Transit Planning gets sent to me. For those who are passionate about making sure accessibility issues are always considered and have a lot of transit experience, we usually have 3-5 openings for new members on the Access Transit Users’ Advisory Committee each year. Whether they are someone with a disability or represent someone with a disability, it’s a great way to be connected to the work we do. Recruitment opens in early August and ends in mid-September. Application information can be found on the Access Transit Users’ Advisory Committee page.”

For those of us at TransLink, we’re grateful for Tamara’s compassion, enthusiasm and commitment to earning that five-year anniversary pin. 😉

Written by Rebecca Abel

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

 

Pamela Findling performing at the comedy show

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

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

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

What does accessibility mean to you personally?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

New temporary barriers give bus operators peace of mind

photo of: Carmen Niculescu - Community Shuttle Operator

Carmen Niculescu – Community Shuttle Operator behind a made by CMBC temporary barrier

To further protect the health and well-being of CMBC Bus Operators during the COVID-19 pandemic, new temporary barriers were recently installed on our Community Shuttle and Orion highway coach fleet.

With many teams working hard behind the scenes to complete this project as quickly and efficiently as possible, we thought we’d share an inside look at the process and people involved in developing and installing the barriers.

Engineering

From the beginning, Maintenance Engineers had a few important considerations when developing their design. It had to be easy and safe to use, rolled out on a large scale, meet all regulations, was flame resistant, and Operators had to be able to see through it.

“An intern and I did the initial install,” explained one CMBC Maintenance Engineer. “We came up with the design and tested it on two shuttles. Once we had the preliminary design, we worked with the [Upholstery] Shop to make templates so it could be rolled out easily, and all the garages could do the installs with minimal help. We also made instructions for them on how to install it. This was all completed in about three days.”

The engineer reinforced it was an excellent collaboration across multiple teams: “We had to make sure everyone was on the same page so this could be rolled out quickly.”

Inventory Management

An Inventory Procurement Coordinator was responsible for working with our suppliers to find and purchase the material needed to complete the project.

“It was challenging to find such large volumes of materials in a short period of time considering the current global climate,” he explained. “Fortunately, our suppliers went above and beyond to make sure we were able to get what we needed. From our Stores personnel to our Tradespeople in the [Upholstery] Shop, to the Supervisors and Managers who were involved, this was a real team effort. The safety of our Operators is important. If these barriers give peace of mind and assist in making them feel safer, then it’s well worth the effort.”

Fleet Overhaul

photo of: Extra velcro and metal parts from bus seats used to install CMBC created barriers

Extra velcro and metal parts from bus seats used to install barriers

The Upholstery Shop at CMBC repairs/rebuilds transit vehicle seats and completes custom reupholstery jobs. For this project, our Body, Paint and Trim Manager was responsible for coordinating all stakeholders, including purchasing, operations and maintenance management, engineering, body shop, and more, to ensure that the Upholstery Shop had all the materials and resources necessary to complete the work.

“This project was a team effort in every way,” they explained.

While it was challenging at times to balance the immediate requirements for both barriers and regular inventory items, the team was able to successfully equip almost 250 buses.

Environmental and Maintenance

A CMBC Environmental Officer and Inventory Management Coordinator also collaborated on an initiative that reused existing inventory and reduced costs.

They realized that they could utilize the package of Velcro and metal that comes with every bus seat in the installation of the new temporary barriers on our Community Shuttle fleet. These items almost never get used – often they are just changing out the seat which already has Velcro installed at the base – so they were able to save them from the garbage and avoid having to purchase new materials.

 

An Operators’ Perspective

Made by CMBC shuttle barrier

Carmen Niculescu, a Community Shuttle Operator based out of the Port Coquitlam Transit Centre, enjoys the community aspect of driving the shuttles: “I love being able to pick up the same people at the same time every day. I know to expect those people and enjoy creating interactions with them.”

In the early days of the pandemic however, Carmen found herself limiting interactions with customers to try and keep everyone on the bus safe. While she still picks up many regulars, there are people she doesn’t see anymore: “It makes me sad. I miss the routine and the community.”

With the new temporary barriers installed, Carmen feels much more at ease and is able to carry on with her regular, friendly interactions: “You get on the bus, you do your job, and the barrier gives 100% peace of mind. They are really well designed. Whoever did this project did an amazing job!”

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

Written by Rebecca Abel

Helping with taxes for essential workers and local businesses

head shot of Emma smiling

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

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

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

Emma, can you tell us more about your work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Working together to get through the pandemic

When you think of someone working in a hospital, what Sofie does probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Sofie is a hospital switchboard worker – she forwards calls between doctors and runs the hospital codes for entry, among other things. In her words, “We are sort of at the heart [of the hospital], where we are kind of like the phone operator.”

Fortunately for her, the pandemic caused by COVID-19 hasn’t affected Sofie’s work too much since her role is administrative, but she feels its reverberations.

“We have to take a lot more precautions and in dealing with patients and the public, it’s changed a little bit of our routines,…but we are not feeling the effects as much as nurses and doctors are,” says Sofie, alluding to the heroic frontline workers.

Sofie’s routine at work isn’t the only part of her life impacted by the pandemic. As someone who depends on transit to get to work, some of the service cuts we had to make on the heels of losing $75 million a month have made some parts of Sofie’s commute a little more challenging. Despite these limitations, TransLink is still moving over 75,000 people daily while we continue to best navigate the challenges of these trying times.

“It’s getting harder to get to and from work on certain shifts,” explains Sofie. “And with limited services… [buses are] not as predictable in terms of when they are going to be running… so that makes it harder.”

Fortunately, when Sofie does get on her bus, the travel time to the hospitals she works at are not longer than they were before.

As for what she can control, Sofie is doing her best to take safety precautions when she takes transit. “I try to limit in person contact as much as possible and try to keep a little extra distance,” she says, “but as long as I am dependent on taking transit there is only so much I can do.”

Sofie understands that while there is only so much that can be done to tackle the unique challenges of a pandemic, as long as everyone comes together, we can get through it. “I think it’s important to stress that everyone’s doing their part and especially healthcare workers,” says Sofie. “They are taking extra precautions, they’re doing the absolute, utmost [they can].”

“They’re risking their family’s lives and their own lives every single day and fortunately for me I’m not in that sort of front line in the same way. I’m protected, sort of, by working in an office, but the public has done a lot to take extra precautions, especially TransLink – it is appreciated.”

In order to help promote physical distancing and allow riders the opportunity to take proper safety precautions, TransLink limited seats on the bus and introduced rear-door boarding, measures which Sofie thinks are effective.

“In general, people are a little bit more careful; they’re not taking the seats closest to each other anymore, which is obviously a huge help,” explains Sofie. “And limiting the number of passengers per bus… I think it’s effective.”

Due to reduced revenue caused by COVID-19, TransLink has had to make some difficult decisions resulting in temporary staff layoffs, voluntary cuts in pay and reduction to service. We are actively working with senior government to secure more funding to reverse these decisions. Public transit is an essential service, and we know +75 000 people are still reliant on transit, including frontline workers. Sofie’s story is another in our series about the people who are keeping our region operating during this unprecedented time. We at TransLink applaud all that frontline workers are doing, and we’re working hard to get them to their important work – Together all the way.

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

Transit triathlon: a multi-modal commute from Langley to Vancouver

Arthur Orsini makes the daily “triathlon” by bus, SkyTrain and bike to get from Walnut Grove in Langley to the Fairview neighbourhood in Vancouver where he works.

As Metro Vancouver’s transportation authority, we’re here to support you whether you’re taking transit, walking, cycling or even driving.

When it comes to cycling, our program is vast and varied. It covers everything from the BC Parkway and Central Valley Greenway multi-use paths, cost-sharing with municipalities to fund improvements, to end-of-trip facilities like bike parkades and lockers. At our Bike Parkades, you can lock up your bike for $1 a day (fees capped at $8 a month) and connect with SkyTrain or bus to continue the rest of your journey.

Arthur Orsini is an essential worker. He’s also a multi-modal commuter — that means he uses more than one kind of transportation to get to where he needs to go. In his words, he does a daily “triathlon” to get from his home in Langley’s Walnut Grove to work in Vancouver’s Fairview neighbourhood.

That’s a very fun and interesting way to describe your commute! What do you mean by “triathlon?” 

I take the 555 Port Mann Express bus to Lougheed Town Centre Station, then the SkyTrain to VCC–Clark Station where I pickup my bike from a locker that I rent $10 a month, and then I bike the last portion to work. Each segment is about 20 minutes.

Where are you headed to? 

I work as a Healthy Transportation Lead at Vancouver Coastal Health. My role is to deliver projects, events and facilities that support our staff in more healthy, active and sustainable commuting.

Interesting stuff! We’re asking customers to only travel on transit if necessary and outside of peak hours, so space remains available for our essential service workers. What would it mean if you weren’t able to get to work? 

My job is to help nurses, doctors and other hospital and clinic staff navigate the changes in their commuting options. The pandemic has brought on a lot of new stresses for health-care workers, so we are trying to make the commute safer and more comfortable. Although I usually try to steer our staff towards cycling, transit and carpooling; at present I’m working on parking solutions and finding vehicles for staff dealing with a lengthy or crowded commute.

TransLink’s losing more than $75 million a month, but we remain committed to providing transit services for essential workers. We are continuing to push for funding from senior levels of government. In your words, why is it important transit keeps running?

I rely on transit and I know that many of my colleagues do too. We depend on SkyTrains and buses to get us to work on time, and home again after a long work shift.

Now let’s talk about you. What’s one little known fact about yourself that most of your colleagues or acquaintances wouldn’t know?

I’ve never owned a car.

What are you looking forward to the most when the COVID-19 pandemic is over?

I’m not going to miss my role as the recipient of a long list of emails from staff describing parking tickets, frustrations and over-crowded parkades.

If you could offer words of hope, what would it be?

My bike ride is the best part of my commute, so I’d encourage more people to get on a bike …even if just for the duration of a coffee break. And, with Mobi bike share offering VCH staff free 90-day Essential Worker memberships, a bit of cycling is even easier.

One final question. I hear people wondering about this a lot, how does one cycle in Raincouver without getting wet? 

Rain is really no barrier to cycling. I would rather just ride in my ‘ordinary clothes’ and find them insufficient about three or four times a year rather than fully outfit myself with typhoon gear. A rain jacket and gloves is usually enough for most cloudy/rainy days.

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

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

Delivering essential banking services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nurse thankful for the community support and transit

Laura is a nurse who depends on transit for all aspects of her life, including work.

There is no playbook for the COVID-19 pandemic — something none of us have experienced in our lifetime. In many respects, we’re all making it up as we go, adapting as each curve ball comes our way. But the more things change, the more they stay the same.

We’re social beings. We value our connections. In a curious way, although we’re apart, we’re closer than ever.

This rings true for nurse Laura Mills, who says the biggest change COVID-19 hasn’t been in the work, but how it’s brought the healthcare and wider communities together.

“As health care teams we have such a sense of unity and purpose, and a renewed drive for delivering the best care we can for our patients,” she says. “And bringing community together as a whole; we are in such awe and so grateful for how our community has gathered together to offer support and kindness in so many ways.”

Every evening at 7 p.m. since the the middle of March, we’ve made our way to outside — or if you’re on transit, you would have heard an announcement — to make some noise for our essential workers. Our West Coast Express trains are sounding their horns at 7 p.m. as it pulls into Pitt Meadow Stations to drop off essential workers like Cara, returning home after a day on the front lines.

Laura’s heard the appreciation loud and clear: “It made me cry. Like that was really significant for us, so thank you for that.”

She, however, is quick to point out she cannot thank the respiratory therapists enough because they are the true front lines of this pandemic. Respiratory therapists initiate and manage life support for people in intensive care units and emergency departments.

As a neonatal intensive care unit nurse, Laura works with premature and critically ill infants.

“These infants are at a particularly high risk of getting sick, especially with respiratory illnesses, as they have underdeveloped lungs and almost no immune system,” she explains. “As nurses, 12 hours at a time, we help these tiny, vulnerable babies to heal and grow, and to help families learn how to care for their tiny new babies and walk through the fearful and unknown times of having a critically ill child.”

To get to her 12-hour shifts, which are either 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., four days a week, Laura relies on transit, which she says is usually accommodating.

Most days, she’s able to make the hour-and-20-minute commute by taking the bus and SkyTrain, but when she’s scheduled to start at 7 a.m. on weekends, she depends on the NightBus. That’s because on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, the first train from Waterfront Station isn’t until 6:44 a.m. and 7:44 a.m., so SkyTrain crews have a larger overnight window to complete critical maintenance to keep the system running for years to come.

With TransLink losing $75 million per month with ridership down by 83 per cent, we made the extremely difficult decision earlier this week to reduce service in order to preserve our transit system. We remain focused on maintaining as much service as possible for the over 75,000 people using the system each weekday.

We’re prioritizing service to routes serving hospitals and other health facilities to ensure essential workers, like Laura, can continue to serve our community — all while actively working with senior government to secure more funding to reverse these decisions.

Her weekend 7 a.m. shifts have been affected by minor service modifications to the NightBus and her manager has been accommodating in changing her schedule around. It’s clear she’d be in a pickle if there’s more widespread changes to transit schedules.

“I have to take transit — not just to commute to work — but for everything,” says Laura, who sold her car as a cost-saving measure when she moved to Vancouver. “I don’t really know what would happen to me with that. I maybe have to stay in a hotel, which would be very expensive or I just wouldn’t be able to get to work at all.”

That’s why Laura’s so thankful for transit staff and other essential workers, and TransLink for operating essential transit service.

“I can’t say it enough, thank you to everyone at TransLink and the public transportation sector for the sacrifices you’ve made for supporting our communities. And for continuing to provide service for hospital access — for that, I am so, so thankful.”

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

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

Being a frontline worker means keeping groceries on shelves

Due to reduced revenue caused by COVID-19, TransLink has had to make some difficult decisions resulting in temporary staff layoffs, voluntary cuts in pay and reduction to service. We are actively working with senior government to secure more funding to reverse these decisions. Public transit is an essential service, and we know +75 000 people are still reliant on transit, including frontline workers. Dave’s story is another in our series about the people who are keeping our region operating during this unprecedented time. We at TransLink applaud all that frontline workers are doing, and we’re working hard to get them to their important work – Together all the way.

Dave Carbiero is used to working hard. He once worked two full-time jobs before he and his wife had their child. But with COVID-19, his life has become a challenge.

Waking up shortly after 5 a.m. to make sure he gets to work on time as an Assistant Produce Manager at a Vancouver grocery store, Dave takes two different buses and the SkyTrain five or six days a week. He’s had to start his day earlier since we started reducing service and number of seats on the bus due to COVID-19 over a month ago. Despite the longer commute, he says he needs transit to keep running to make everything work for his family.

“Don’t shut down transit [more] because it’s going to be a chain reaction. If the workers like us who provide supplies for the home, can’t come to work, where will people go to buy their food?”

Going home from work on the bus, Dave needs to pick up his child from the babysitter. His wife works nights as a care worker, so his family’s days are very busy with little time to spend together.

Added to this is the need to keep up with food deliveries so his customers have food to buy. “It’s a bit scary because a few people have left the job. We’re actually understaffed, so we need to work more and multitask… Every time I get home, I’m as tired as a dog, but I still have to take my child out for a walk or a bike ride around the neighbourhood because he has too much energy.”

Dave has worked at his grocery store since 2015 and enjoys helping his community. He’s not unlike Laura, Ava or Cara who are also frontline workers putting in time so we have the food, childcare and the medical attention we need these days.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

West Coast Express attendant misses her passengers

It’s been a few weeks since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and physical distancing measures were implemented to slow the virus’s spread.

This has changed the transit experience for both our customers and staff with total boardings across the system down by 83 per cent.

For West Coast Express Station Attendant Fiona Trumper, that means she’s not seeing all her passengers on a regular basis anymore.

“All of the station attendants and the conductors are really missing our passengers because we do really have a good relationship with them,” says Fiona, “so I think that’s the hardest part for all of us, is we’re used to seeing the same people every day and we’re actually missing our passengers.”

The West Coast Express is our commuter rail service that operates during peak morning and evening periods between downtown Vancouver and Mission.

For those who take it, it’s a uniquely community-focussed service that’s always filled with joyful chatter between long-time staff and passengers — everyone knows one another. Physical distancing means Fiona hasn’t been able to talk to her passengers as much.

It has also meant a game of musical chairs onboard the trains for passengers. Everyone has their self-assigned seat onboard the West Coast Express train because they get on and off at the same station, on same train and same time everyday. However, passengers have had to switch it up to ensure there’s adequate physical distancing between themselves and others.

“Everybody on our trains – it’s really weird, they like their own space, their own spots; they have an actual seat that they will sit in every day and I think that they’re having to change a little,” says Fiona. “It’s quite funny to see people using different parts of the train now.”

Thankfully, Fiona’s husband is a bus operator with Coast Mountain Bus Company, so she has someone to share her day with and can understand the unique challenges of being on transit’s frontlines during this time.

It also helps to be someone that prefers to stay home.

“I’ll go into work in the morning to my four hours and then come back and I’m a real homebody, so it’s not really affected me in a huge way, being home after work,” says Fiona.

Although a self-professed homebody, Fiona admits she also enjoys the outdoors and does miss things like hiking and skiing, but she finds comfort in still being able to walk her dog.

A local business provides protective gear for frontline workers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.