TransLink 2018 - Part 2: Kevin Desmond on new transit passenger amenities

Dec 31 2018, 1:51 am

‘TransLink 2018’ is a four-part Daily Hive end-of-year series on the state and future of Metro Vancouver’s public transit system, based on our recent extensive interview with TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond.

Part 2 discusses Desmond’s thoughts on the introduction of new ‘creature comforts’ onto TransLink services.

Although it takes years to plan for changes, 2018 was a year of renewed emphasis for creature comforts — amenities and designs that improve the passenger experience — on Metro Vancouver’s public transit system.

Under TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond’s leadership, the public transit authority has been zeroing in on upping its offerings on how passengers access and experience the system. And it has certainly been quite the year for creature comforts.

Credit card payment capability on the Compass fare system was launched, and Compass Card wristbands were also introduced.

In the last few weeks, there have been official announcements or decisions on the eventual rollout of free Wi-Fi systemwide, customer washrooms at transit hubs, and new real-time countdown electronic signs at all Expo Line and Millennium Line stations.

“We need to be working as comprehensively as we can on all of the elements of the customer journey,” said Desmond. “We’re always asking ourselves, ‘how do we make information more available to our customers? How do we make the ride more comfortable?'”

To make transit information even more accessible, he said a redesign of the online Trip Planner and TransLink website are planned for the new year. Eventually, there could even be an app associated to the website — beyond what can be offered with the current mobile version of the website.

Over the longer term, Desmond wants to explore launching a new app that enables customers to plan and pay for a trip and get information about the trip, in a coherent, single platform. This could potentially be as extensive as transit, bike share, car share, and even taxi and rideshare services under the umbrella of one app.

“That is something we remain keenly interested in exploring and finding the right product to be a part of or maybe even take the lead in developing a product like that,” he explained.

Over the interim, transit riders can expect new and improved vehicle designs.

The new fleet of 32 double-decker buses running on long-haul suburban routes will be introduced starting in the middle of next year.

Some of the new 40-ft suburban buses have overhead luggage racks, adding to a number of 60-ft articulated buses that have luggage racks for routes that serve BC Ferries’ terminals.

And of course, 56 new Mark III train cars will be arriving throughout 2019 for the Expo Line and Millennium Line. The Mark III train cars have proven to be immensely popular amongst passengers, given their design features of large windows, improved air conditioning, improved seating layout, and a quieter interior when the vehicle is in motion.

Desmond noted that another major procurement will begin in 2019 to phase out the old Expo-era Mark I cars.

“The Mark I cars are not air conditioned and they’re loud compared to the most recent Mark III cars. By the latter part of the next decade, all of the Mark I cars will be replaced. It’s going to take a period of time to replace them all, but eventually we do need to retire all of the cars,” he said.

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