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Translink Buzzer Blog

Reminder: Buzzer blog live meetup tonight

Here's what the End Cafe looks like, as you approach it from Commercial Drive Station.

Here's what the End Cafe looks like, as you approach it from Commercial Drive Station.

Just a reminder that I Love Transit Night is tonight, if you’d like to join us.

I have a space at the End Café reserved on Thursday Feb. 26, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Look for us in the back of the restaurant! (The address is 2360 Commercial Drive, Vancouver – it’s located right next to Commercial Drive Station.)

At about 7:30 p.m., we’ll start playing transit games to test everyone’s knowledge of the system. Again, I’ll also have buttons, bus and SkyTrain cutouts, and more fun transit-related items on hand. And while we can’t provide the drinks, appetizers will be supplied. All ages and levels of transit-nerdery are welcome!

As always, if you’re coming, it would be nice to have an RSVP at, so I can get a head count and plan for food and the like.

I Love Transit Week essay: Dave Olson

For I Love Transit Week, I’m happy to share a contribution from Dave Olson, who is a prolific and talented local writer, podcaster, poet, Canucks superfan, and much more. You can find all of his work on his Feasthouse blog. Find more of Dave’s podcasts, essays, presentations and documentaries at his archive:

So without further ado, here is “Rolling to the End of the Line,” an essay about transit by Dave Thorvald Olson.

P.S. Dave has also put together a related podcast here, tracking his transit trip from North Vancouver to Kitsilano (it’s not the same text as this essay, btw):


Read more »

I Love Transit Week: paper buses and trains!

Well, who are these guys? They are miniature paper versions of a TransLink bus and SkyTrain, the two transit cutouts that I’ll have at I Love Transit Night on Thursday. (I hope you can make it – here’s the details!)

Making paper transit vehicles is in fact quite a popular activity. There’s quite a few transit enthusiasts who make and share models: you can find many links from Paper Bus Connection, including Ryan’s TTC Paperbuses, which even has several models based on the TransLink vehicles.

As well, for I Love Transit Week, I have a special treat to share from transit enthusiast Jason Vanderhill: paper historical trolleys!

A detail from one of Jason Vanderhill's historical trolley papercrafts.

A detail from one of Jason Vanderhill's historical trolley papercrafts.

Jason has built foldable models of two 1908 historic trolleys, based on technical sketches by David E. Reuss from 1999. He did them for the City Reflections project, which preserved and enhanced a film done on a Vancouver streetcar in 1907.

So, download this PDF I’ve created with Jason’s images, resized for printing on letter-sized paper. (If you have it, card stock would work well for the models, giving them a bit more structure.)

And if you find the PDF doesn’t suit your purposes, you can try working with Jason’s original GIF images: here’s the red trolley, and here’s the green trolley.

If you fold these trolleys, send me a picture – I’d love to see where they end up! And if you have any paper bus tips or recommendations, please do share with us in the comments.

Thanks again to Jason for sharing your papercrafts with us!

I Love Transit Week essay: John Calimente on exploring cities via transit

For I Love Transit Week, I’m happy to present an essay from John Calimente, who writes the TransitFan column over at Regarding Place. It’s about tourism on transit — feel free to chime in via the comments with your own transit holiday experiences. And thanks so much to John for sharing this with us!

Transit is the best way to explore a city

by John Calimente

I’ve rarely rented a car when travelling. I’m an urban dweller and what I most enjoy is exploring cities by transit. Automobiles shield you from the true city experience. Adventures happen using transit.

A busy Metro train in Montreal.

A busy Metro train in Montreal. Photo by caribb via Flickr.

Montreal’s metro stations are each unique, covered in wild art from the 1960s, and made me want to go back in time to work at Expo 67. For some reason you feel like you’re travelling much faster than on the SkyTrain – probably because the train cars are on rubber wheels, increasing the noise level and the feeling of speed.

New York has a great subway system with clear maps and a logical fare system. I never tried the buses. When you’re above ground in Manhattan, you just want to walk to everything. As I was sitting in the Carnegie Deli eating a pastrami sandwich with my subway map laid out in front of me, I had no less than three people advise me on the quickest route to my destination. New Yorkers are very hospitable once you get to know them.

San Francisco has kept its streetcars, which make the city feel much more accessible. Besides the one and only cable cars, the F Line running along Market Street and the Embarcadero uses heritage streetcars, packed at most hours of the day by tourists. The BART system probably has the most complicated fare calculation system in the world. Little gatherings form around the fare machines composed of tourists who have no idea where to begin.

Berlin has both the S-Bahn, a rapid rail service similar in style to our SkyTrain, as well as the largest tram network in Europe. The trams are a subtle reminder of the wall that used to slash through the middle of the city – the East kept its trams, the West ditched them. Guess which side gets all the tourists these days? I almost had to pay a fine for buying the wrong ticket – luckily the fare inspector had been to Canada, and loved it! Fifteen minutes of talking about how beautiful the fall colours are in Ontario and I was off with a warning.

The Yamanote Line in Tokyo. Photo by <a href=>eerkmans via Flickr</a>.

The Yamanote Line in Tokyo. Photo by eerkmans via Flickr.

And Tokyo. Its transit system is rather daunting at first, but so user friendly that you’re an expert in a couple of days. Buy one stored fare card and you can sail through the system without thinking about how much from station A to station B. Ride the Yamanote Line that loops around Tokyo in 29 minutes flat. Listen to the motorman announce each of the stops. Yoyogi is my favourite for some reason. They always accentuate it a bit: Yo-yohhhhh-gi. How safe is Tokyo? My friend left a bag on the baggage rack on a Yamanote line train car. He managed to intercept the same train on the other side of the loop. The bag was untouched.

Here, I like talking with Vancouver’s bus drivers when it’s not crowded, especially the NightBuses. I hopped on the N16 late on a Wednesday to find myself one of only two passengers. The driver told me that people just don’t go out drinking in the middle of the week like they used to – 25 years ago the bus would have been packed with people. Vancouver’s habits have changed. But coyotes are still plentiful. We saw one sauntering across Nanaimo St. heading into Pandora Park. The driver said he sees one almost every night.

John Calimente is enrolled in the Master of Urban Studies Program at Simon Fraser University and writes the TransitFan column for re:place magazine.

I Love Transit Week: favourite SkyTrain stations

Here’s another reminder to come to I Love Transit Night this Thursday! Send me an RSVP if you can make it: it’s the Buzzer’s first live meetup and will be on Thursday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m.

What’s your favourite SkyTrain station?

I think a favourite SkyTrain station can really depend on the criteria. For sheer prettiness, my favourite SkyTrain station is definitely Brentwood Town Centre.

Brentwood Town Centre Station. Beautiful!

Brentwood Town Centre Station. Beautiful!

But Broadway and Commercial, however, has a hustle and bustle all its own – so many shops are located right near the transit hub, and it connects to the 99 B-Line. Convenient!

Just outside Commercial Station -- the walkway above goes to Broadway Station.

Just outside Commercial Station -- the walkway above goes to Broadway Station.

And Main Street is a sentimental favourite – it was the very first SkyTrain station built for a demonstration project in 1982, along with 1100 metres of track. During this “pre-build” SkyTrain evaluation period, over 300,000 people visited the station and rode a two-car prototype train.

The Main Street demonstration line from 1982. Note the two-car prototype train!

The Main Street demonstration line from 1982. Note the two-car prototype train!

Anybody have their own favourites? (Also, just curious: has anyone actually visited every single station on the line?)

PS: Please do note that I might put your responses in the March Buzzer, as I’ll be putting reader contributions from I Love Transit Week into the next print edition! If you don’t want your comment in the print Buzzer, just say the word :)

I Love Transit Week: share your system secrets

First off: thanks to everyone who sent an RSVP for I Love Transit Night! If you’re planning on coming, please send me an RSVP too: it’s the Buzzer’s first live meetup and will be on Thursday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m.

System secrets: let’s share

Anyway, for the first I Love Transit Week post, let’s talk about system secrets.

What do I mean by system secrets? Well, during your travels on transit, you’ve undoubtedly come across some tricks and secrets to make your trip better in some way.

For example, prewalking a SkyTrain platform can really makes your trip go faster. Urban Dictionary defines prewalking as:

To position oneself on a subway platform such that, when the passenger steps off the train at his destination, he’ll be as close as possible to the exit or stairs to his transfer.

TransitFan has a similarly themed post from last Friday over at Regarding Place, discussing many tips that expert riders use to get around the system better. His tips include:

Getting a seat can be as easy as waiting at the last stop before a major intersection. When everyone disembarks at the major stop, you’ve scored a seat. If you’re headed from Vancouver to Surrey on the SkyTrain, take the trains headed for VCC-Clark, then transfer at Columbia Station to head over the Skybridge. There’s a much better chance you’ll get a seat for most of the ride, since most people don’t want to change trains.

And as for my own shining insights, I’ve noticed that when riding the B-Line in non-peak hours, if no one is boarding/exiting who requires the ramp, sometimes it can be faster to board the bus through the front door. While other passengers are waiting for riders to pour out of the back and middle doors, few are leaving via the front. You can sometimes make it on the bus before everybody else does!

So: what are your system secrets? Let’s share—maybe you can make someone else’s trip better! (But please, no tips encouraging fare evasion or other no-nos!)

Friday fun poll: have you given up your seat in the past month?

(Looking for the surprise post advertised in the February print Buzzer? Please click here — it’s about I Love Transit Week and our first live meetup to be held next week!)

So, in last Friday’s poll, I asked which direction you liked to face when sitting on the SkyTrain.

I thought it would be an even split between each direction, but “facing forward” swept most of the votes. Out of 119 votes, 93 preferred facing forward (78%), 14 liked facing sideways (12%) and 12 liked facing backward (10%).

I’m guessing that facing forward was most popular because people generally like facing the direction they’re travelling in. In the comments, exceptions were explained again. Bill Kinkaid offered his strategy for boarding, if he’s not travelling too far:

My commuting trip is just two stops, from one station with a centre platform to another with a centre platform, and a station with side platforms in between. So for only two stops, I try to be the last one to get on and just stand by the door!

Sideways seating also had its proponents and detractors: :-| and Mike liked the sideways benches for leg room, plus not having to get up for other people to exit the car, but Dan hated the lack of elbow room, and Bill Kinkaid said “I hate sitting sideways on any form of transportation.”

And I asked about how people liked the captain’s chair on the Mark II trains — turns out there is quite a bit of affection for that seat, although most leave it for the kids. Cow also mentioned that it was good for those new to the region:

I really like the captain’s chair, honestly. When I first moved to the region, I sat in it a few times and just rode the train around; it’s an amazingly good way to get the lay of the land in the Lower Mainland. Now that I’ve seen both routes the whole way, I’ll leave it for others, unless the train’s totally empty.


So, for this week, here’s a new poll:

Feel free to be honest, as there’s no judgment here: I’m just wondering whether people do find themselves ever giving up their seats to other passengers. If you do, who do you generally offer your seat to? If you don’t, why do you think that is?

Next week is I Love Transit Week – and the Buzzer’s first live meetup!

Here’s the surprise I warned you about in the February Buzzer: from Feb 23-27, it’s going to be I Love Transit Week on the blog!

Why? Because while there are things we don’t like about transit, I know there are many things that we do like about the system. And there just hasn’t been an official opportunity to celebrate what we like – until now!

So next week, I’ll have essays, discussion posts, and more, encouraging you to share what you enjoy about transit and what the system means to you. Plus I’ll cram the March print Buzzer as full as I can with your contributions from this week.

(If you want to write an essay, photo essay or put together any other transit tribute, please email me your contribution and I’ll put it up during the week!)

The Buzzer’s first live meetup!

A sampling of the I Love Transit buttons that will be available! Four of these have been designed by the kind and super talented <a href=>Jason Vanderhill</a>.

A sampling of the I Love Transit buttons that will be available, thanks to the Mustache Press! Four of these have been designed by the kind and super talented Jason Vanderhill.

I Love Transit Week will also include the Buzzer blog’s first live meetup: I Love Transit Night!

Come down to the End Café on Thursday Feb. 26, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.! (2360 Commercial Drive – it’s located right next to Commercial Drive Station.)

We’re going to play transit games and test everyone’s knowledge of the system. I’ll also have buttons, bus and SkyTrain cutouts, and more fun transit-related items on hand. And while we can’t provide the drinks, appetizers will be supplied. All ages and levels of transit-nerdery are welcome!

If you’re coming, please RSVP to – I’d like to get a head count so I can plan for food and such.

And let’s get this week started early — feel free to share what you like (or even love!) about transit in the comments below!

A few notes for the SkyTrain silent dance party on Saturday

SkyTrain will play host to a silent dance party on Saturday.

SkyTrain will play host to a silent dance party on Saturday.

So, it looks like thousands have signed up via Facebook for a silent SkyTrain dance party on Saturday, Feb. 21.

A few articles on the dance party have also been run in the media, which likely means many more have now heard of the event. Hey, and Toronto’s doing the same thing on the same day, too!

Well. My first response is: cool! I also know SkyTrain is totally all right with being the site for some old fashioned fun on Saturday. (Also: does me talking about this mean the event isn’t cool anymore? Uh… sorry about that.)

If you are going to attend, we just want to remind you of some basic rules so the event stays fun and safe for everybody. I’ll just quote them from the Facebook group page, so it’s all clear:

  1. No alcohol or drugs on the train. There is a zero tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol on the trains. It is against the law. That law will be enforced. Plus, trust me, drugs and or alcohol and dancing for an hour on a packed train do not mix.
  2. Pay your fare. It’s the law and it will be enforced.
  3. Do not hold the doors open. Another train is just minutes away. Plus holding doors open will delay all passengers including you.
  4. Consider boarding at a station other than Granville. A two-car Mark II train holds about 260 people. If everyone boards at Granville Station there is going to be a long wait.
  5. No jumping. Lots of deep knee bending moves, but no jumping. It’s not safe for the dancer or other passengers.
  6. Take your garbage with you. Organizers should consider bringing garbage bags. Recyclables can be sorted later.
  7. Safety. Remember, these are moving trains. Walk, don’t run when on platforms and at stations especially when travelling in large groups of people. We want this event to be a happy one. Plus, review safety features on trains and station platforms BEFORE the event.
  8. Respect. Remember not everyone on the trains and platforms will know about your event or want to be a part of it. If a train is full of “partiers” move to another train…it will be just minutes away.

Authorities including Transit Police are aware of the party, so they’ll be on hand in case they’re needed.

And in general: dance, have fun, and stay safe on Saturday! And let me know if you get any photo/video from the event — I’d love to put it up on the blog here.

Passenger house of third SeaBus arrives at Victoria Shipyards

The SeaBus passenger shell arrives at Victoria Shipyards last week.

The SeaBus passenger shell arrives at Victoria Shipyards last week.

Thanks to the Victoria Shipyards, here is a photo of the aluminum SeaBus passenger house that was floated out to their yards last week. (It was the subject of the SeaBus photo opp from last Tuesday, if you managed to catch it.)

This is the main passenger house of the third SeaBus, the Burrard Pacific Breeze, which is being built out at Victoria Shipyards and should be finished by this fall. If you click the photo for a larger version, you can actually see the words “Burrard Pacific Breeze” written on the middle of the passenger house.

The passenger house actually arrived at the shipyards last Wednesday morning (Feb. 11, as the photo date indicates). The picture shows the house after being offloaded from the barge. From here, the passenger house will be moved into an indoor shop, the wheelhouse/HVAC modules will be mounted above the passenger house, and they’ll start outfitting the interior of the vessel.

Just thought you’d like the update!

Open houses for Canada Line bus changes – Feb. 21 & 23, Surrey and YVR

We’re holding open houses in Surrey and at YVR this upcoming weekend to discuss Canada Line bus route changes. Come on out: we want your feedback on what changes should be made!

The first event will be on Saturday, Feb. 21 • 9:30am – 5pm, at Semiahmoo Mall, 152 Street and 16th Avenue, Surrey.

The second event will be on Monday, Feb. 23 • 2pm – 8pm, at the Vancouver International Airport (in front of Haida Gwaii).

These are the last two open houses in February, so please try to drop by if you haven’t been to one yet!

Note: Just wanted to mention that this is the second round of consultations on Canada Line bus changes — the first round was held in March 2008. (You can see the schedule for the first consultation round in the March 28, 2008 Buzzer, btw.)

For more info, send an e-mail to John Timms, or give John a call at 604-953-3251.

Second open house for Burnaby Mountain Transit Hub on Wednesday

SFU staff, students, residents of UniverCity and other interested parties: come to an open house on Wednesday to see the developing plans for the Burnaby Mountain Transit Hub!

Wednesday, February 18
9:00am – 4:00pm
ASSC 1 Atrium Space – AQ NE (adjacent to Renaissance Coffee)
6:30pm – 8:30pm
Cornerstone Building, 8982 University High Street

This is the second open house to be held regarding this transit exchange, following up on an initial consultation held in November 2008.

At this open house, you’ll see background information and a conceptual design for the Burnaby Mountain Transit Hub and surrounding area, based on the concept that resulted from the November 2008 Community Open House. Feel free to attend and share your comments and ideas!

TransLink, SFU and the SFU Community Trust are engaged in this study to consider the redevelopment of the exchange. With the introduction of the Vancity U-Pass in 2002 and the SFU Community Pass in 2006, transit use has increased significantly and the current exchange at the top of Burnaby Mountain needs to be expanded. And with projects like UniverCity and the SFU Town Centre redevelopment, the SFU area has seen increased growth and more diverse land use.

We’re hoping to create an exceptional urban environment that supports the community’s commitment to sustainable planning, and encourages commuters to choose transit as the preferred mode of travel. We want the hub to be attractive, safe and functional, respecting the campus’ inherent character as well as the urban context of the area, and meeting the needs of the people now and in the future.

For more information, please contact Colleen Sondermann at 604 453 4687 or at

Friday fun poll: where do you like sitting on SkyTrain?

In last Friday’s poll, I asked what you would do when the passenger beside you vacates the window seat, on a full bus.

Out of 116 votes, three-fourths were in favour of moving over and sitting in the window seat (75.86%), while a tiny 6.9 percent thought it was okay to stay sitting in the aisle seat. A further 17 percent thought either option were just fine.

This result might have been obvious though — on a full bus, people generally move over so it’s not difficult for another passenger to get to a seat, which speeds up loading and departure since it doesn’t create any weird passenger traffic issues in the aisle.

And of course these aren’t the only choices. In the comments, Stephan Alexander Scharnberg highlighted the strategy he takes based on proximity to his stop:

If I am relatively close to my stop, I say that I’m getting off soon and offer the window seat (they might be riding further than myself). If they decline, then I take it. If the bus is coming to a terminus (such as Metrotown) and we both are travelling the same distance, I still offer the window seat. If they decline, then I take the window seat. In fact, if I am nearing my stop, once I get up to let the previous window sitter by, I often remain standing, offering both seats to others.

And Eugene Wong has again provided some interesting thoughts:

I chose “always move over”, with the idea that all situations are equal. That being said, each situation is unique, and talking about it with other passengers is always the best way to go. Talking with others with a genuine concern for them will help us to be as polite as possible.

It’s true: talking with your fellow passengers about the options can really help and avoids needless misunderstandings. Which echoes Steve’s comment that there “probably isn’t a right or wrong answer here anyway, as long as people are considerate of others.”


Anyway, I thought we’d switch modes from buses to SkyTrain for this week’s poll. And it’s a preference rather than behaviour one, so who knows what the winner might be?

Feel free to discuss your choice in the comments. (Anybody a big fan of the captain’s chair, btw?) And vote away until next Friday!

The February Buzzer is out today!

The February 2009 Buzzer is now on all our buses, SeaBus, SkyTrain, and West Coast Express!

The issue celebrates a huge SkyTrain milestone: 1 billion riders! There’s an article about the origins of SkyTrain, a little SkyTrain fill-in-the-station-name game, some astronomical stats about the SkyTrain system, and more.

We’ve also put out a call for loose issues of the Buzzer from 1916-1974: we’d like to scan them to create a digital Buzzer archive. (Our collection is in little bound books, and we’re hesitant to unbind them for fear of destroying the actual issues.) And there’s info about two new TrainBus trips, a reminder of the Canada Line open house dates, and reroutes scheduled for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in March.

The Back Issues history item is also possibly my favourite so far — it’s from 1936, quoting transit rules from 1836, and you’d be surprised at how many of them still apply today.

And again, we are pleased to feature the work of a Canadian illustrator on the cover, by illustrator Nickelas Johnson, who also heads the lo-fi rock band Field and Stream.

As always, if you can’t get the Buzzer on the system, you can always read it in PDF form on our website. Visit our Buzzer PDF archives, which stretch back to the heady days of June 2006. (Here’s the direct link to the February issue PDF.)

Don’t forget to enter the FareCard contest too: you can win a free FareCard in every issue of the Buzzer. Read the issue, then answer the question right by Monday, Mar. 2 at 9 a.m. to win!

Enjoy the latest Buzzer: comments are welcome below!

Don’t be alarmed, SeaBussers — it’s just Exercise Silver out on the water

SeaBus, going about its business on a regular day.

SeaBus, going about its business on a regular day.

Just a warning that the SeaBus will be part of an Olympics security exercise this evening — so don’t worry if you see more marine security vessels in Burrard Inlet at about 7:45 p.m.

The SeaBus should be empty for this exercise, so passengers shouldn’t be inadvertently involved!

The details from the release I was given:

The V2010 Integrated Security Unit is conducting Exercise Silver this week in the Vancouver and Whistler areas. Exercise Silver is a functional, integrated command and coordination exercise developed to test security, safety and emergency management frameworks from local to the National levels.

The exercise will provide a believable and realistic environment and will test relationships and organizational limits.

Exercise Silver will continue this evening with a ‘live action’ event in the Burrard Inlet. At approximately 7:45pm, the Integrated Security Unit will coordinate a marine based exercise. The public should be advised that there will be an increase in marine security vessel activity during this time. The exercise will involve a response to an emergent criminal incident on a TransLink SeaBus. The exercise will be highly controlled, and access to the area will be restricted.

The exercise is expected to take place over a two hour period. Public Affairs staff from the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit and Joint Task Force Games will be available on the promenade at Canada Place. Please be advised that the scenario will occur in darkness and at a significant distance from shore.