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Translink Buzzer Blog

Latest ridership numbers: your questions on service reductions answered

Over the last several days, we received a high volume of questions about TransLink’s recent cost-saving measures to preserve Metro Vancouver’s transit system.

Reducing our services was a difficult decision. TransLink is losing $75 million per month with ridership down by 83%, while still providing transit services for +75,000 customers, many of which are essential workers. We continue working with our stakeholders and government authorities on a plan to address the longer-term fiscal sustainability of TransLink so that we can continue delivering our services and reintroduce our suspended services in the future.

In this post, we’ve pulled together additional numbers and details to address some of your questions.

 

Reductions on SkyTrain, Canada Line, WCE

Our most recent measures were introduced in the context of significant decrease in ridership across all transit modes over the last several weeks. Here is the latest data on the weekday boardings before and after the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions.

Expo-Millennium Line

82% reduction in Weekday Boardings

Early March (pre-COVID-19): 359,000

Early April (after COVID-19): 65,000

Canada Line

86% reduction in Weekday Boardings

Early March (pre-COVID-19): 143,000

Early April (after COVID-19): 20,000

SeaBus

90% reduction in Weekday Boardings

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 17,300

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 1,800

 West Coast Express

94% reduction in Weekday Boardings

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 10,600

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 620

 

Bus Routes

TransLink’s priority was to maintain the routes that serve health facilities and hospitals, while making sure that the suspended routes have alternative service. For the 18 route suspensions that were introduced on Friday April 24:

  • Over 75% of these customers would have alternate routes in the same corridor (customers using the 15, 50, 480 and R3).
  • Of the remaining 25% (~800 people on weekdays), over half are on the 68 (UBC shuttle). Many of these people are in walkable distance to another bus route.
  • Almost all of the other routes that will be temporarily cancelled have less than 50 boardings per weekday.

The ridership on our bus routes have decreased significantly, according to the latest published data.

Here are the details for some of our bus routes (boardings are rounded to nearest 10):

 

50 – Waterfront Station/False Creek South

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 3,650

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 790

Alternative routes: Use other downtown routes (e.g. 4, 7, 23), 84, or alternate modes

 

 32 – Dunbar/Downtown Express

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 490

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 0

Alternative routes: Use routes 2 and 7

 

 143 – SFU/Burquitlam Station

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 3,390

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 0

Alternative routes: Use Millennium Line and 145

 

R3 – Lougheed Hwy RapidBus Coquitlam Central Stn/Haney Pl

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 1,820

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 600

Alternative routes: Use 701

 

N15 – Cambie/Downtown NightBus

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 20

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 0

Alternative routes: Close proximity to N10 or use alternate modes of transportation

 

N17 – UBC/Downtown NightBus

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 50

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 10

Alternative routes: Use alternate modes of transportation

 

N22 – Macdonald/Downtown NightBus

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 10

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 0

Alternative routes: Use alternate modes of transportation

 

N24 – Lynn Valley/Downtown NightBus

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 40

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 20

Alternative routes: Use alternate modes of transportation

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.

Say hello to @TransLink’s sibling, @TransLinkNews on Twitter

There’s a new kid on the block and it’s @TransLinkNews! This new Twitter account will be your one-stop-shop to stay up-to-date on news from TransLink.

This includes media releases, stories published by TransLink and news media, as well as the livestream for media events, TransLink Board Meetings and Mayor’s Council Meetings.

For a taste of what’s to come, check out our profile at twitter.com/translinknews and make sure you follow us so it comes right into your feeds. You can also hit the bell icon to opt into receiving push notifications for when we tweet.​

@TransLink will focus on providing up-to-the-minute service updates and customer service like it always has for more than a decade. The account began as a pilot during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. It laid the foundation for how we connect with more than 200,000 followers each day today.

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 Mallory, 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TransLink implements cost saving measures

Provincial support to restore service by September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Details of Service Changes

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

Service reductions by mode are:

SkyTrain Service

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

Bus Service

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

SeaBus Service

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

West Coast Express Service

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

Essential Services and Physical Distancing

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

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

Checking in on our HandyDART customers

A HandyDART operator helps a customer.

A HandyDART operator helps a customer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Albert encourages his team to go off script if necessary.

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

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

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

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

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

Physical distancing decals and signs: where to find them

There are around 75,000 – 100,000 of our customers in Metro Vancouver who still rely on public transit everyday. During this uncertain time, we want to make sure that we can get you to your essential destinations safely, whether it’s your work, pharmacy, grocery store, or home.

If you were using public transit in the past few weeks, you might have spotted TransLink’s outdoor distancing decals, yellow circles with the footprints, indicating the distance of 2m, at various bus loops and exchanges, SkyTrain stations, embarkation areas of the SeaBus and West Coast Express. These decals provide our customers with the guidance on how far they should stand from other passengers while boarding our transit vehicles and have so far been installed at over 40 locations.

In addition, we have also introduced multilingual pole signs (English, Punjabi, simplified Chinese) with health and safety tips at over 40 bus loops and stations ads and have distributed over 5000 Physical Distancing Pins to our frontline employees across the enterprise to wear as a friendly reminder for everyone to keep two metres apart.

We all could use a bit of fun these days! To sprinkle some engagement into campaign, we invited our followers and transit friends, including Washington Metro and Los Angeles Metro, to participate in our Instagram challenge and share what two metres means for them in GIFs. We were delighted to receive some great great examples! Did you know that two metres equals to roughly one Chewbacca, three 3BB8s, 20 tacos placed end to end, and 31 Venti ice coffees from Starbucks?

Please let us know about your experience with TransLink’s decals and signs so far by leaving a comment. You can also send us your feedback via thebuzzer@translink.ca.

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.

 

The spring 2020 edition of The Buzzer is now online

Perhaps a little known fact is your community managers on TransLink’s social media channels also write for the print edition of The Buzzer that you find onboard buses, SkyTrain, SeaBus, West Coast Express, HandyDART and more!

We proudly carry on this legacy that spans more than 100 years.

Cover of the first issue of The Buzzer

The very first issue of The Buzzer, ever.

The Buzzer was the brainchild of George Kidd, general manager of British Columbia Electric Railway, which operated Metro Vancouver’s streetcar network.

It was designed as a strategic weapon in a long-forgotten battle between streetcars and “jitney” operators — private citizens who patrolled streetcar routes and offered rides for five cents. The newsletter would promote the use of streetcars by keeping people informed about service and fostering rider loyalty.

The first issue was published on June 2, 1916 and distributed on the streetcars that made up public transportation in Metro Vancouver at the time. It was titled, “Wanted – A Name” and offered to pay $15 for the best suggestion, $10 for the second best and $5 for the third best. Big money in the days when a streetcar ride was five cents.

Of course, the next issue announced the winning name: The Buzzer! In total, 11 people submitted the winning name. The second place name was “Current Comments” and in third was “Between The Lines.”

Jitney service was abolished about two years later in July 1918, but The Buzzer continued. It has become a mainstay of public transit in Metro Vancouver, remaining a constant no matter how much transit itself has changed, to keep customers informed about quarterly service changes.

Cover of the spring 2020 issue of The Buzzer

The spring 2020 issue of The Buzzer

There’s about a month’s lead time for The Buzzer, so it was complete before physical distancing measures were implemented on transit and most people transitioned to working from home.

That’s why we’ve decided to bring you the spring issue of The Buzzer this month, online only, and there’s no Monthly Pass contest.

This issue’s front cover illustration is from artist Chris von Szombathy of the new 222 Willingdon Express and R2 Marine Dr RapidBus.

Inside, we cover off Spring Service Changes — which started on April 6, cellular connectivity in the SkyTrain tunnels, how you can send your online orders to SkyTrain stations, the third platform at Stadium–Chinatown Station, the voice of SkyTrain announcements and an update on the SkyTrain Customer Communications Upgrades project.

Read it here!

Google Doodle thanks public transportation workers

The April 14 "doodle" on Google thanks public transportation workers.

The April 14 “doodle” on Google thanks public transportation workers.

If you’ve logged on to Google today, April 14, you will have noticed there’s a new “doodle” today thanking public transportation workers! It shows the letter “g” in Google tossing a heart to the letter “e” that’s operating the bus, who catches it, before exploding into more hearts.

As an organization, we too would like to thank all of our employees for keeping essential workers moving and making essential trips possible. While ridership has declined dramatically as people have transitioned to working from home, there’s still more than 75,000 people who are still depending on transit. This includes daycare workers like Ava Jade, restaurant workers like Ryu Fukazawa and nurses like Cara Muller.

The doodle part of their “thank you coronavirus helpers” series that launched on April 6 to honour essential frontline workers, including healthcare workers, first responders and the many people keeping services like sanitation, food service, public transit, schools, and more up and running.

Google explains, “Doodles are the fun, surprising and sometimes spontaneous changes that are made to the Google logo to celebrate holidays, anniversaries and the lives of famous artists, pioneers and scientists.”

TransLink seeking emergency funding

New figures show TransLink is losing $75 million per month

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

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

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

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

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

Since the beginning of the pandemic, TransLink has:

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