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Nurse coasts her way to work aboard the West Coast Express

Cara Muller

Cara Muller is a dialysis nurse.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our world, challenging us to improvise, adapt and overcome.

We’re now throwing surprise birthday parties for each other on Zoom, participating in new, viral dance challenges and many people have transitioned to working from home.

On transit, we’ve implemented different measures to promote physical distancing for customers and bus operators like Bryan Stebbings, and SkyTrain Attendants like Ryan Mendoza have had to change up how they help customers who are visually impaired navigate the system.

But no group has been challenged and risen to the occasion more than healthcare and workers like Cara Muller. She’s a nurse that trains patients on how to perform dialysis at home.

Kidneys act as filters, removing wastes and extra fluid from our bodies. When our kidneys no longer work properly, dialysis is needed. It often involves diverting blood to a machine to be cleaned. Dialysis can be done both at hospitals and at home, depending on the patient.

Her role is all about supporting patients who are taking care of their own medical needs, whether that’s through in-person training or chatting with them over the phone.

These days it has become a lot of phone calls and the training list has become quite full with patients preferring to do their training sooner rather than later.

Like many others in our communities, she’s dependent on transit to get to work. Every day, along with at least a dozen others on her floor at work, she takes the West Coast Express into downtown Vancouver.

“I do it because it’s faster than driving and less stressful,” says Cara.

A West Coast Express train at Waterfront Station

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 treat, offering an unparalleled transit experience where one can enjoy the serene Burrard Inlet against the backdrop of North Vancouver’s sweeping mountains.

In the mornings, trains start departing Mission at 5:25 a.m., stopping in Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam and Port Moody along the way, and start arriving at Waterfront Station at 6:40 a.m. The trains then make the reverse trip in the afternoon, starting at 3:50 p.m.

Even though there’s now free parking at hospitals and there’s considerably less drivers on the road, she’s still choosing to take the West Coast Express because its feeling of community is so attractive to her.

She’s been taking the West Coast Express for about ten years now, so she’s gotten to really know the attendants and conductors — many of whom are long-time employees.

“I like the time of being on the train getting ready for work or de-escalating from work on my way home,” she says. Cara admits these days her commute home is a lot of watching Dr. Bonnie Henry deliver her daily updates to British Columbians.

Cara has this message for all us: “I think if everybody just keep doing what they’re doing, I think we’re gonna get out of this okay.”

And asked what she’s looking forward to most when the pandemic’s over, Cara responds, “Probably just seeing everybody and hanging out in groups again.

“Our neighbourhood is pretty social, so it’s been kind of hard just waving at people and not stopping and really chatting like we usually do.”

Us too.

How to find and give support during the COVID-19 pandemic

A COVID-19 sign at YVR-Airport station

A COVID-19 sign at YVR-Airport station

During these challenging times, we want to make sure that all TransLink customers feel informed and can access the resources they need.

Below you’ll find a list of services and resources available to you and your family here in Metro Vancouver:

COVID-19 Information

Social & Community Services

Financial Support

  • Access support for individuals, businesses, and industries through the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit.
  • Learn about the BC Emergency Benefit for Workers, which provides a one-time $1,000 payment for people who lost income.
  • Discuss options to refund Compass Card monthly pass by calling 1-888-207-4055, or refund West Coast Express monthly parking pass by emailing or calling 604-488-8906.

Getting Around

Giving Back

 

If you have any other helpful links or ideas, add it to the comment section below or send us an email!

Author: Rebecca Abel

Dispatching the frontlines: a look at “air traffic control” for Metro Vancouver Transit Police

Allison Hansell (front) and Jully Tmana (back) are police communications operators with Metro Vancouver Transit Police.

When you travel on transit, Police Communications Operators in the Operations Communications Centre (OCC) at Metro Vancouver Transit Police play a key role in making sure that you arrive at your destination safely. Often referred to as dispatchers, the team that works in the OCC does far more than dispatch Transit Police officers to where they’re needed.

“Aside from answering calls and text messages that come in from the public while they’re using transit, we also take calls from other police departments such as E-Comm (911), transit frontline staff, and many others,” says Allison Hansell, who has worked in dispatch for 10 years, five of them with Transit Police. “But taking calls is just one of our responsibilities.”

Jully Tmana, another dispatcher, adds, “We also track all of the on-duty police officers’ locations at all times, to make sure they are safe and so that we know who’s available to respond when there’s an incident. We look up information in several different databases to help officers do their jobs. For example, we can let them know if the person in their custody has any warrants. And we help coordinate responses to incidents with TransLink and external agencies.”

Operating 24/7, the OCC is where information is exchanged at lightning speed to ensure that anyone traveling on transit stays safe. Through teamwork and an unparalleled ability to multitask, OCC operators make sure that when you need help on transit, it will be there.

“Teamwork is a top priority in the OCC as we rely on each other a great deal, especially during time sensitive matters where multiple calls are occurring at the same time,” says Jully, who started with Transit Police this past February. “One co-worker will often be contacting outside agencies or transit partners while another is dispatching, and is still taking the initial call.”

Allison says, “I’m proud to be working with Transit Police and TransLink, especially during such critical times where passenger health and safety is paramount. It is satisfying and helpful to be able to see all the measures being taken to ensure the safety of the public.”

It’s Emergency Services Dispatchers and 9-1-1 Awareness Week from April 5 to 11. If you find yourself contacting Transit Police, be sure to let the dispatcher who answers your call or text know how much you appreciate what they do to keep transit running.

Anyone who feels unsafe on transit, is worried about the safety of someone else, or sees anything suspicious can contact the OCC directly by phone at 604.515.8300 or by texting 87.77.77. Always call 911 in an emergency.

Connect with Transit Police Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Keeping the system open and accessible for those who need it

Ryan Mendoza is a people person. Being as hands on as possible and  interacting with customers is what he likes best as a SkyTrain Attendant.

“You want to leave passengers and customers with a positive experience when they’re done. Even with something as simple as loading their Compass Card, you want to show them how, instead of saying, ‘Hey, see that button on the left there press that,’” explains Ryan.

It’s been a been little more challenging with physical distancing these days where you have to maintain a two-metre space between yourself and everyone around you.

“It seems so simple but with what’s going on right now, you realize how you had taken for granted the way in which you go about doing things like that now.”

But that’s not stopping Ryan from working on delivering the best customer service he can for passengers.

Having worked at Commercial–Broadway Station since the Millennium Line opened in 2003, Ryan’s used to a busy environment. One that’s filled with customers and great relationships with passengers from across Metro Vancouver.

“You end up actually getting to know the customers by first name, where they’re going, where they’re coming from, what their day is like,” says Ryan, hoping they’re doing well and staying healthy. “I wonder what they are up to, now you’re not part of our days.”

Among the customers that Ryan enjoys helping the most and gotten to know the best over the years are customers who are visually impaired. Physical distancing means he’s had to update his approach to help them navigate the SkyTrain system.

“Instead of leading them with their hand, we can lead them with their walking sticks, through more verbal cues, or in another way that is comfortable for them in these unusual times,” Ryan explains.

There’s a host of other people that depend on transit to get around. That includes healthcare workers, daycare workers, restaurant workers, grocery clerks and other transit employees.

For Ryan, keeping the system running is about ensuring those without other transit options and those in essential services can still get around. “We need to maintain a system running for people who have to still go to work,” he says. “Health care workers, people that work at grocery stores, even people that work in the janitorial industry.”

“If we were shut down and – oh my gosh, how could they get from A to B, if they don’t drive, or they don’t have access to the car share program?” Ryan wonders aloud.

As for himself, Ryan is happy to be out there doing what he can.

“Personally, as long as I’m doing the best I can to stay safe – like I’m maintaining my distance, I’m watching what I’m touching, I’m okay with it, I understand that,” he says.

“We’re an essential service.”

Helping those helping us: a bus operator doing what he can

Noor Khan has been a bus operator for 13 years. He’s always seen his job as being essential to keeping the region moving but these days he’s seeing, more than ever, just how important his job is, “I will say it’s a critical service because it’s taking those people around who are doing essential services,” said Noor Khan of public transit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The other day I was driving the 375 bus which goes to a White Rock hospital and there were about 10-12 people on board, and I dropped off two or three nurses at the hospital.” He also dropped off a nurse to a care home on that drive, as well as others working at essential businesses.

Noor works in Surrey, out of Surrey Transit Centre, but never really has the same route – “Surrey usually is interlinked; usually you’re doing different routes, even in the same day.” Even when the routes would change, the buses would be full but for the last few weeks the buses are emptying out to help maintain physical distancing to stay safe on transit amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Every job is like you’re accomplishing something,” said Noor about driving buses for TransLink. “But in this job, you come across people who are really in need of this service – whether they don’t have a car, want to commute for financial and environmental reasons, or are students.”

The safety of his bus is also something Noor is appreciative of. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, TransLink has upped it’s safety measures to keep services clean and workers safe. Buses like Noor drives, for example, are cleaned daily and disinfected weekly.

“You can smell that, driving the bus you are able to smell that it’s been cleaned and properly sanitized,” said Noor.

In addition, TransLink implemented measures such as limited seating and rear-door boarding to better enforce physical distancing.

“Everybody’s conscious enough to not go out there just for fun, when someone is getting a bus, even if you can’t tell, they have some essential work to do,” said Noor.

“When I sit in a bus and drive, I realize there are some people that have important work to do,” said Noor. Khan and the rest of the TransLink staff are there to make sure that essential workers get to where they must be.

 

From one frontline to another: restaurant worker serves up for the community

Ryu is a transit customer who takes the Canada Line to get his place of work.

Ryu Fukazawa is an frontline worker that takes transit.

He works at a Mexican restaurant that serves takeout burritos, tacos and more in the Fairview neighbourhood, which is home to Vancouver General Hospital along with other healthcare institutions. Naturally, healthcare workers form a small part of their customer base, along with walk-in customers in the community and orders through food delivery apps.

Over the past few weeks, he’s seen an small uptick in healthcare workers ordering takeout from their restaurant. Being able to serve them and others in the community has been rewarding for Ryu and as an added bonus, to be able to continue working.

“It’s rewarding to be able to provide something good to the community,” he says, “Just last shift, I had a couple regulars come in and tell me that they’re surprised we were still open. I know many places have been reduced to a drive-thru/delivery-only model, and it’s really fulfilling to be able to serve those who can’t drive, or those who can’t afford the upcharge that you might face through food delivery apps.

“Work isn’t the same when I’m not interacting with my customers, and I think it’s a positive thing for both me and my guests to have even a little bit of familiarity in times of crisis like this and I’m really grateful to still be working full time hours.”

To get to work, he takes the 406 Richmond–Brighouse Stn / Steveston from his home, then he rides the Canada Line the rest of the way to Broadway–City Hall Station. Transit is the only way for him to get from Richmond to Vancouver.

Dedicated employees like bus operator Bryan Stebbings and attendants on SkyTrain are on transit’s frontlines helping Ryu and daycare workers like Ava Jade get to work and making essential trips on transit possible. As one of these people, Ryu is appreciates physical distancing on transit.

“And at first, I thought it’d be a little challenging to physically distance because it’s usually quite crowded,” he says. “But, what I realized the last couple weeks is there’s not a lot of people on transit anymore, at least on like my route, and it’s actually quite easy to like distance yourself from others.”

Over the past few weeks, ridership has gone down on the system, which has made physical distancing easier on transit. We’ve also implemented measures to help with physical distancing on transit, including rear-door boarding for most passengers and limiting seats on buses.

“Like many grocery stores and chain restaurants, we’re staying open because were deemed an essential service,” he explains. “Thanks to not only TransLink, but everyone else that’s avoiding public transport, making the trips of those who still need to take it that much more safer.”

Pulling the curtain back on who keeps SkyTrain operating

SkyTrain staff Andrew Ferguson and Annaliese Hunt

SkyTrain’s Andrew Ferguson, a vehicle technician, and Annaliese Hunt, a control operator.

As night descends, SkyTrain’s Operations and Maintenance Centre in Burnaby becomes a hive of activity, as staff complete critical maintenance, both on the tracks and in the shop, to ensure there’s a full complement of service in the morning.

It’s a race against the clock that takes a host of characters working together to complete.

On the SkyTrain tracks, the tasks change every day. They include everything from grinding rail to smooth them out for a more comfortable ride for our customers and replacing aging tracks as part of our Expo Line Rail and Rail Pad Replacement program, to retrieving dropped cellphones and cameras for customers.

A guideway technician replaces a piece of rail on the SkyTrain tracks

A guideway technician replaces a piece of rail on the SkyTrain tracks.

And back in the shop, as we reduce service after the evening peak, every SkyTrain car starts going through the Vehicle Cleaning and Inspection Facility to receive a disinfectant wipe down of poles, seats, ceilings, handles, windows, sills and other surfaces within the cars from cleaners.

While each SkyTrain car is cleaned, vehicle technicians like Andrew Ferguson are on the lookout for seats, lights and doors that need repairs. Andrew, who has worked at SkyTrain for five years, explains how vehicle technicians are trying to clear out as many of these faults that have been registered on the onboard computer throughout the day.

Vehicles needing more extensive repairs or are due for routine maintenance are queued up outside the shop and removed from where the automatic trains can go by SkyTrain Control. One-by-one, they’re manually driven inside by vehicle technicians to be looked at. This includes things like routine maintenance for HVAC and propulsion systems, or changing out the “shoe” that the train uses to draw power from the rails.

“There’s a bigger window at night to take care of it, especially after they’ve reduced the service for the evening,” says Andrew, “so a lot of the work is done at night when we have access to more of the trains and more time to work.”

Vehicle technicians working on a SkyTrain car

Vehicle technicians working on a SkyTrain car

Even though the trains only carry passengers for about 20 hours a day, it’s a 24-hour operation at SkyTrain for both vehicle technicians and control operators, like Annaliese Hunt, who has worked for the company for about 26 years. Annaliese not only helps to keep the trains moving, but also has a very important safety role as a control operator.

“A control operator conducts safety critical work 24 hours a day, not just during revenue service,” Annaliese explains. “We ensure maintenance staff are given safe access to the track area where they’re working, otherwise they could be in danger of an automatic train.”

For example, staff who are performing nightly track maintenance, cannot enter without what’s called an “occupancy permit” from the control room, which they can only grant after the tracks have been powered down and the area where they’re working is removed from where the automatic trains go.

And during the daytime, control operators are monitoring the tracks and trains even though they’re operating automatically, responding to everything from a lost child on the system with SkyTrain Attendants, to system delays.

Photo of SkyTrain's control room

The SkyTrain Control Room, which is the nerve centre for all of its operations.

“SkyTrains are known as being automated but in actuality, they are remote controlled,” explains Annaliese. “The trains don’t move without a control operator providing commands to the computer interfaces.”

This is critical when SkyTrain has to run alternative service for example. During a system delay, like a medical emergency, a control operator would have to make on-board announcements to keep our customers informed, re-route trains so they use the same track in both directions (called “single tracking”) and help maintain system safety, powering down track sections if necessary.

Needless to say, SkyTrain’s vehicle technicians and control operators are integral to a safe and reliable service for our customers. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not lost on Andrew or Annaliese how important their work is in ensuring the region can keep moving for essential workers.

“There’s lots of important people such as the healthcare workers, grocery workers and elderly that depend on transit to get around, so our job is to keep it running and keep it safe,” says Andrew.

Annaliese adds, “The working class needs us so they can be the backbone of this crisis and of our economy. Janitors, hospital workers, CareAids, daycare workers, grocery clerks, gas station attendants, etcetera need transit. We need to be there for them.”

“I am proud to be an integral part of keeping transit moving.”

Annnaliese Hunt, a control operator at SkyTrain.

Annnaliese Hunt, a control operator at SkyTrain.

Taking care of kids of frontline workers

picture of Ava Jade, who works at a non-profit childcare facility that looks after kids of frontline workers

Ava Jade works at a nonprofit childcare facility in Kitsilano, making sure that the kids of frontline workers are taken care of. (Photo courtesy of Ava)

Ava works as an administrator at a non-profit childcare facility that looks after kids of frontline workers. She also regularly posts uplifting Instagram Stories while getting to work on public transit, sending kind words of support to all the essential workers and encouraging everyone who does not need to commute to stay home. She’s also a singer, songwriter and bunny rescuer, but our story focuses on Ava’s full-time job because it happens to be one of the essential professions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We managed to get in touch with Ava just before her morning commute to learn more about her and the important work she does.

Ava moved to Vancouver in 2011 after leaving school in Southern Ontario to look for a life that would be purposeful and enjoyable. She found these things in her work at Hudson Out of School Care Society based in Kitsilano. Ava’s office shares the same building with a preschool, which is a small yellow schoolhouse located on the grounds of Hudson Elementary School. She has been working there for five years.

“I find it really fulfilling because you really get to be a part of these children’s lives. One of the favourite parts of my day is when I get to interact with all the children. They just bring you so much joy.”

Hudson Out of School Care Society was founded in the 1970s with the support of government funding and help from parents who wanted affordable childcare before and after school. While the childcare facility usually takes in kids from the local community, beginning this week (March 30,2020), the facility started accepting only the children of essential workers with the guidance of Vancouver Coastal Health, the Ministry, and the Vancouver School Board.

“We have children of nurses, people who work in pharmaceutical industry, infrastructure… You know, when we are thinking of essential workers, we tend to think of doctors and nurses, but there are so many more people who are crucial during these times.”

Ava and the whole team are working on getting the ball rolling and keeping the channels of communication open with families who require childcare. She explains, “If you’re a nurse, for instance, you can tell other nurses at the hospital that we’re open, and we’ll take in new children at this time.”

With the events quickly unfolding, the childcare staff is making sure that all the kids know how to protect themselves. “We’re communicating things like washing your hands every hour and not touching your face to children through stories and books. We’re trying to make it fun and informative.”

She also added, “I have to give [my appreciation] to childcare staff, who are still coming to work and taking care of kids. They’re amazing.”

These days Ava uses public transit to get around. “I’m definitely a huge transit user. I take two different buses in the morning to go to work and then at night to get back. I also use the bus to get my groceries.” Before the pandemic Ava used car share sometimes but thinks that now it’s especially important to only go to essential places to keep ourselves and everyone else safe.

When asked if she feels safe commuting and going to work these days, Ava responded:

“For us essential workers, every day you get up, and you have to make a choice. It’s a really hard choice no matter what work you’re doing right now because there is a risk involved. But as long as everyone is doing their part, people are staying at home, keeping everything clean for frontline workers, everything should be fine.”

She wants to thank everyone, whether they are a frontline worker or working from home or not working, for making those hard decisions. “We all are doing our part here, and the choices we make affect everyone else.”

For those who are staying at home and wonder how they might help, Ava suggested that they can reach out to local initiatives and communities. “Around my building, we have elderly residents. So, I’ve been sanitizing and bleaching the door handles in my building. There are things that we can all do to keep each other healthy and safe.”

We, at TransLink, applaud Ava and all the frontline workers who are doing so much during this difficult time. Do you have a story like Ava’s or know someone doing good these days? If so, we’d love to hear from you via our social channels or email.

 

Bus operator embraces helping the community out

Bryan Stebbings has been a bus operator with Coast Mountain Bus Company for nearly four years. (Photo: Josh Neufeld Photography)

“I’m just so thankful that I get to, first, help out my community as much as I can, but also for my family, I get to continue to come to work.”

Those are the words of Bryan Stebbings, a bus operator with Coast Mountain Bus Company. He’s one of myriad dedicated transit staff on the frontlines ensuring the region can keep moving during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bryan operates the 7 Nanaimo Stn / Dunbar and 9 Boundary / Commercial–Broadway / Granville / Alma / UBC routes. The 9 route travels along Broadway, passing by the Fairview neighbourhood that’s home to Vancouver General Hospital and a cluster of healthcare institutions, so it’s no surprise many of his customers are healthcare workers.

He’s embracing this important role transporting these frontline workers and others such as grocery clerks, janitors and other transit staff who depend on transit to get to work. There’s also those who need transit for essential travel to pick up groceries and medication.

“Well, it makes you feel good,” says Bryan, who has been an operator for nearly four years. “There’s a purpose behind my work. It makes you want to get up, go out there, serve my community and get these people to the places they need to be to help us out.”

Transit staff like Bryan are also among the people on the frontlines and we’ve taken steps to protect them.

Buses have temporarily moved to rear-door boarding for most passengers, while customers who need mobility assistance can still use the front doors if needed. The red line, which customers have to stay behind, has been moved further back from its usual spot to allow greater physical distancing.

“Loading from the back door has really helped us out,” says Bryan. “I think that was so important to implement, and then obviously getting that six feet from the red line being moved back another few feet so the general public doesn’t really enter your space too much.”

The bus company has also accelerated the installation of operator protection barriers, which was already underway after a successful two-year pilot in 2017. In addition to daily cleaning schedules, we’re spraying all buses with a disinfectant weekly. This week, we began limiting seating on buses to allow for extra space between customers.

Bryan operates the 7 Nanaimo Stn / Dunbar and 9 Boundary / Commercial–Broadway / Granville / Alma / UBC routes.

While Bryan embraces helping the community out during this time, it’s being reciprocated by the community. SPARKMOUTH, a local tonic and sparkling water producer, reached out to TransLink to donate their beverage to transit staff.

“We at SPARKMOUTH want to sincerely call out and thank all of you at TransLink that are not able to stay at home because you are out supporting essential services for the rest of us,” says Jackie Fox, vice president of sales and marketing at the company, in a letter to transit staff.

“We recognize that you, on the frontlines, are keeping this region moving, and we appreciate and salute the work you do to help all of us during this challenging time.”

The sparkling water beverages will be distributed to transit staff like Bryan in the coming days.

Donated SPARKMOUTH sparkling water beverages will be distributed to transit staff like Bryan in the coming days. Thank you to SPARKMOUTH!

Special thanks to Josh Neufeld Photography

“It’s a lifetime of freedom to travel”: Overcoming the fear of SkyTrain

Read the story of how Jon, a teen with autism, overcame the fear of boarding the SkyTrain with some help from Mo Hassabou from BCRTC (SkyTrain) and Jon’s teachers.

 

We all have our own unique phobias and some of them are pretty common – claustrophobia or arachnophobia for example are often listed as fears that large numbers of us share. But for some people, their phobias can intrinsically impact their day to day life and present a number of challenges in navigating the world.

For high school student Jon, the SkyTrain presents this very challenge. As a teen with autism, Jon often finds himself unable to enjoy the same hobbies and interests as his classmates, and in some cases, cannot participate in school field trips as he is too scared of our transit system to board the train and join his classmates on activities downtown. Jon gets frustrated with this and it is a problem that both the student and his teachers find upsetting.

Trying to bridge this impasse, some of Jon’s teachers got in touch with SkyTrain to see if anything could be done to help encourage their student onto transit and overcome this hindering fear. Fortunately, Mo Hassabou, a Field Operations Duty Manager, was excited to answer that call and invite young Jon to the Operations and Maintenance Centre (OMC) facilities to coach him through this particular obstacle.

“I worked with children with special needs in my previous career as a teacher and I worked with autistic children then and I thought it would be nice to do that again,” recalls Mo, who was not daunted by the challenge at hand.

Mo had to use all his previous teaching expertise and knowledge of the SkyTrain to make sure Jon felt as comfortable as possible during his visit to the OMC. It wasn’t an easy task as Jon has a fear of confined spaces, crowds and vehicles moving without being in control – the SkyTrain is a perfect mix of these triggers and quite a stressful environment for him.

Despite Jon’s hesitation, Mo could see how interested and determined his student was to board the train. He kept watching all the things Mo was showing him from a distance and was always listening.

“I got him used to what to expect from the train. He saw us all walking in and out, we opened the doors and closed the doors, and I even honked the horn. I asked him if he wanted to come and push buttons. He would come to the door and look but then back away again.”

Mo and Jon’s teachers weren’t beyond a few bribes to get some success.

“The teachers said he liked Michael Jackson songs so I hooked up my phone to the speaker in the train and put Michael Jackson on to get him closer to the train to listen to the song. I played Michael Jackson and we all sang a little,” laughs Mo.

Of course, the way to any teenager’s heart is food and the final trick that encouraged Jon to step onto the train was an offer of raspberries around midday, just when he started to want some lunch. “I think by the end he was a little hungry so the raspberries helped, he wanted some of the snacks so food for sure got him on,” says Mo.

Although Jon didn’t stay on board the train for too long, it was a huge step for the teenager who had never managed to get onto a train before and his teachers were ecstatic with the development, saying that they hoped it would allow him to participate in more school activities and help him integrate all the more with his classmates.

“For me, it’s just three hours of my life; for him, this is the step towards the freedom to travel anywhere at any time.” adds Mo.

Mo hopes that in the future, BCRTC will have more education and interactive elements fall under their scope as they continue to serve Metro Vancouver. Mo sees an opportunity to teach school children (and some adults alike) the importance of train safety and encouraging transit usage from a young age.

“I like to imagine that soon we could have our own ‘Science World’ for SkyTrain, where school trips can come in and classes can learn. That’s what I would like to see in the future. In 10 or 20 years, we would have our own interactive museum where we can have MKIs that aren’t running anymore and kids can come and learn about our system, our history, what makes the train special. They can drive simulators and see what it takes to keep us running. That’s how I see the future, because those kids are our future,” finishes Mo.

Written by Alex Jackson

 

A 7 p.m. thank you for frontline workers, plus share your transit story and appreciation with us

Over the past week, every night at 7 p.m., a cheer has been ringing out across Metro Vancouver for healthcare workers and all frontline staff, and we’ve been telling you about it on our social media channels.

We want to give thanks to those on the front lines too — including our transit staff! That’s why for the next little while, you’ll hear a voice announcement onboard all Expo, Millennium and Canada Line trains at 7 p.m., thanking frontline staff and asking customers to cheer for them.

The announcement played for the first time on March 27 and you can watch below. Thanks to the customer that gave a “woo!” I think we can do better, so tonight, let’s hear you cheer even louder!

For us at TransLink and its family of companies, not only are we thankful for the healthcare workers and grocery clerks on the frontlines, we’re also thankful for transit’s frontline staff and all those who work behind the scenes to keep the region moving for essential workers and essential trips like grocery runs.

That’s your bus operators, SkyTrain Attendants, SeaBus Attendants, West Coast Express Attendants, Transit Security officers and Transit Police officers, staff at Customer Information and Compass Customer Service, as well as the operations and maintenance staff — to name a few — for ensuring a reliable transit system for those essential trips.

Are you a customer that’s using transit because you’re an essential worker or need it for essential trips? We want to tell your story about who you are and where you’re taking transit to. Email us at thebuzzer@translink.ca!

Or perhaps you’re just super thankful for transit staff and want to send us your appreciation for them. Snap a photo, write a Haiku, draw a picture, perform a song or whatever you can dream up to show your appreciation! We’ll make sure it share it with our transit staff.

Here’s a selection of what we’ve spotted on social media from you!

View this post on Instagram

Thank you to all the TransLink operaters, workers and maintenance staff. You are making sure us #essentialworkers get to where we need to be. You're essential at @translink and I appreciate all of you. Thank you to all the grocery store workers, pharmacy staff, government workers and child care workers for doing your part. Thank you to those that are staying home. And to those of you who are still out and about for leisure, STOP. GO HOME. #STAYHOME The government needs to do something about all the people still out and about. They are putting us all at risk and belittling the efforts the rest of us are making. #coronaviruscanada is here and if the government needs to step up fines for individuals, I would totally agree with that @justinpjtrudeau @ndpcanada @bcliberals @greenpartybc @conservativebc

A post shared by AVA JADE 2020 (@avajadevibes) on

TransLink limits bus seating to promote physical distancing

Beginning from next week, TransLink will be limiting seating on buses in Metro Vancouver to enhance physical distancing measures.

  • Roughly half the seats on board buses will have signage installed to indicate that those seats are to be left vacant, which will allow for extra space between customers.
  • If the new seated capacity is reached, bus operators will not make any further stops to collect passengers, who will have to wait for the next bus.

Given declining ridership is resulting in far fewer passengers on the system, we don’t expect these changes will impact travel times on the majority of bus routes. That being said, commuters who use busier routes should consider building in additional travel time and consider their need to travel, particularly during rush hours.

This comes in addition to the physical distancing measures currently in place across our system:

  • Customers are being asked to board buses using the rear doors where possible as part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers needing mobility assistance can still use the front doors if required.
  • Given we are not able to collect all fares at the rear doors, including cash fares, TransLink is suspending fare collection on the bus system and HandyDART.
  • We have launched an education campaign promoting hygiene and asking customers to allow extra space for fellow passengers when on board transit.
  • Customers will not be able to use seats close to crew on SeaBus vessels.
  • Coast Mountain Bus company is accelerating installation of operator protection barriers on all of its buses.  Nearly 700 buses currently have barriers installed.
  • Due to the physical distancing required by health authorities in BC, bus operators will not be able to assist our wheelchair customers with being strapped in a front-facing position on our conventional buses. Those with mobility devices on buses that have a rear facing accessible seat will be able to park in the designated area themselves and secure their device. This is the case for most buses. For buses that do not have this area (e.g. highway coaches, Community Shuttle) customers with mobility devices will need to travel with someone who can assist them or find an alternate mode of travel.

Public transit remains crucial for thousands of essential service workers in the region, including those in the healthcare sector. We would like to make sure that those who rely on transit are able to use our system and get to their destinations safely.

HandyDART fare collection suspended to protect operators and promote physical distancing

Beginning March 25, we are suspending fare collection on the HandyDART system. Because HandyDART fare payment can often require close interaction between operators and customers, we’re taking this step to protect operators and promote physical distancing.

Fare collection is already suspended for conventional bus to reduce close contact between operators and customers. Regular fares still apply on SkyTrain, West Coast Express and SeaBus as payment doesn’t involve any person-to-person interaction.

This comes in addition to several other operational changes we’ve made to improve cleanliness and allow for more social distancing on HandyDART:

  • HandyDART vehicles are being cleaned and disinfected every day.
  • HandyDART operators are spacing customers out in vehicles wherever possible, to promote social distancing.
  • Every HandyDART operator is being supplied with a sanitizing kit which includes gloves, as well as hand sanitizer bottles or sanitizing wipes.

Customers are cancelling around 70% of HandyDART trips daily, resulting in significantly fewer customers travelling on each bus, and therefore greater social distancing.

Minor service reductions and in-person customer service centre closures

 

City scene with bus and SkyTrain in the background

Given significant ridership declines on transit due to social distancing measures in Metro Vancouver, TransLink will be making minor service reductions to SeaBus, bus, and SkyTrain services.

  • SeaBus will transition to sailings every 15-minutes during weekday rush hours, instead of every 10-minutes.
  • Bus routes which have excess capacity, including those with empty buses, will have some frequencies reduced.
  • Expo and Millennium Lines will see slight frequency reductions, with first and last train schedules remaining in place.

Passenger levels will be carefully monitored in order to balance lower ridership with the need to maintain social distancing.  Customers should check Trip Planner or Transit Alerts before travelling, to ensure their route is not impacted by service reductions.

TransLink has also enhanced social distancing initiatives with the temporary closure of the Customer Service Centre at Stadium-Chinatown Station and the West Coast Express Customer Service Centre at Waterfront Station.

Customers requiring assistance are still able to use any of the below contact details:

TransLink moves to rear-door boarding on buses to promote social distancing

Beginning March 20, customers will be asked to board buses using the rear doors only where possible. Given TransLink cannot collect cash fares at the rear doors, we are also suspending fare collection on the bus system.

We are taking this step to allow greater social distancing to protect our Coast Mountain Bus Company operators at this time. Customers requiring mobility assistance can continue to use the front doors if needed. Regular fares still apply on other TransLink modes.

TransLink has also implemented the following changes:

  • Customers will not be able to use seats close to operators on certain buses.
  • Accelerating the installation of operator protection barriers on buses.
  • Customers will not be able to use seats close to crew on SeaBus vessels.
  • Launching an education campaign promoting hygiene and asking customers to allow extra space for fellow passengers and transit staff.
  • Increasing cleaning and disinfecting on all modes of transit.

As extraordinary social distancing measures are being put into place across the region, TransLink has also seen a commensurate and significant decline in ridership.  This means there are far fewer passengers using the system, which allows for greater social distancing.

We will keep customers up to date using social media channels, TransLink customer information (604.953.3333) and our website.