TransLink's winter preparedness plans include use of new 'Tire Socks'

Nov 3 2017, 12:59 am

From “Tire Socks” to de-icing spray, TransLink said that when it comes to this winter, it’s “preparing for the worst.”

That was the message from transit officials at recent press conference held at the Skytrain Operations and Maintenance Centre in Burnaby.

A key focus of the event was a rundown of the plans and procedures officials have put in place this year to combat some of the issues that both Skytrain and buses faced during the snowy winter in Metro Vancouver.

And while spokesperson Chris Bryan said the TransLink did a good job of keeping things moving overall last winter, “there’s always room for improvement.”

Bryan said the company continues to have “great practices and procedures” in place that it has used for many years, “but this year, we’re adding some new features to help address winter challenges.”

SkyTrain working on a ‘number of items’

When it comes to those who take the SkyTrain in snowy weather, VP of Operations Mike Richard said winter weather can cause conditions to change on the rail system “section-by-section” and that these varying conditions mean reacting in different ways.

Richard admitted that “a few lessons were learned last year” and that the company has done its best to address them.

On the Expo and Millennium Lines this winter, he said, “we’ve developed special train schedules that will allow us to maximize the longer trains in certain areas of the track, depending on the conditions being experienced.”

In addition, heat tracing is being installed on the power rail in sections where “heavy ice buildup led to service disruptions in February.

Cover-boards are also being installed, to protect the power rail from snow buildup. Both, he said, will reduce risk of ice.

De-icer spray trains will also  used to keep the power rail free of ice. De-icing stations are set up in covered areas and tunnels to prevent ice and snow compacts on the trains. During times of overnight snow, some SkyTrain cars will run throughout the night to keep tracks clear.

‘Tire Socks’ for buses

Recognizing that the bus is often “the first leg of the journey” for many people, Don Palmer VP of Operations for Coast Mountain Bus Company, said there are a number of plans and procedures being implemented on that end as well.

The most notable new addition to the bus fleet will be a trial of Tire Socks for Translink’s SFU Burnaby Mountain route, “if conditions reach a certain point.”

The Tire Socks would be installed at Production Way/ University station on “four buses that will serve as shuttles up the mountain.”

Asked about simply just using snow tires instead of the tire socks, Maintenance and Engineering manager Jonathan Leskewich said the tires currently on TransLink’s bus fleet are “actually snow-rated, all-weather tire and carries the mountain snowflake symbol that is  recommended by the province of BC.”

The Tire Sock, he furthered, “is a traction device.”

Simon Agnew, the engineer in charge of the tire sock program, said the Tire Socks are a “lightweight, portable, easy-to-install, blanket device that gets wrapped over the tire.”

The sock itself is made up of kevlar treads that “run along – and around – the tire.”

With the weight of the bus pushing down on the socks, he explained, “they basically increase the contact surface area between the blanket and the snow, or the ice that you’re running on.”

The socks would be used “whenever conditions become severe enough that buses are having a hard time going up and down the SFU hill.

Other plans in place this year include:

  • Trolley bus wires anti-icing trucks – These trucks spray anti-icing agent to the entire 300-km electric trolley overhead system if there is risk of frost or ice.
  • Additional bus tire traction – Operators have a snow/ice switch which gives the bus tires better traction in snow.
  • Bus switch outs – If needed, we switch out articulated buses for traditional buses. Articulated buses are great for carrying large numbers of passengers, but 40-foot conventional buses have better traction on hills in snow.
  • Snow routes – Work with municipalities to coordinate our service with priority corridors for snow clearing, should conditions become severe.
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