TransLink to explore new Compass system, public washrooms, and bus shelters

Mar 24 2022, 7:32 pm

Metro Vancouver’s public transit authority announced today that it is doubling down on improving its passenger amenities over the next five years.

TransLink will pursue several new initiatives and projects based on the public feedback received during a consultation held in Summer 2021 on improving and introducing new amenities.

TransLink states it is now planning for the next generation of the Compass system to “allow for more personalization” and the introduction of more contactless payment options to make using public transit easier.

This is expected to entail a major programming change, given that the current Compass system, designed by San Diego-based Cubic Transportation Systems, is based on an older version from the early 2010s. This could potentially enable distance-travelled fares for SkyTrain and SeaBus, which have been planned for years but are currently not possible due to a need for a Compass technology upgrade.

It will also explore options for more public washrooms, which was the top request from respondents in last year’s public consultation. This builds on TransLink’s board of directors’ approved 2018 strategy of introducing more public washrooms across the system, but the strategy has yet to be funded by the Mayors’ Council.

Other forthcoming improvements entail improving passenger facilities, such as the installation of more all-weather bus shelters. Shelter structures for bus stops are under the jurisdiction of municipal governments, which are responsible for funding and installing the shelters, as well as their maintenance. For example, in 2021, the City of Burnaby estimated it would cost $22 million to ensure every bus stop within its borders has a shelter; 76% of nearly 1,000 bus stops in Burnaby currently do not have bus shelters.

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City of Burnaby standardized shelter for a TransLink bus stop. (Google Maps)

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New LCD screens at UBC bus exchange. (TransLink)

More real-time information digital displays — such as the recently installed LCD screens at UBC bus exchange — and multi-lingual signage will also be installed.

As well, TransLink states it will continue to invest in RapidBus routes, improvements to bus speed and reliability, and more comfortable SkyTrain cars.

In 2023, a new RapidBus route serving Surrey and Delta will go into service, running from SkyTrain Scott Road Station to Newton bus exchange via Scott Road and 72 Avenue. There are also plans to launch a new RapidBus from SkyTrain Metrotown Station to SkyTrain Richmond-Brighouse Station, which recently saw the completion of a new bus exchange intended to handle a future RapidBus service.

As for more comfortable SkyTrain cars, TransLink has ordered 205 new train cars (41 five-car trains) for the Expo and Millennium lines, arriving between 2023 and 2027 at a cost of $723 million.

These trains from Alstom (formerly Bombardier’s rail division) will be of the new generation Mark V model — an update of the existing Mark IV model of train, with improved interior space features such as dynamic LCD screens that show the train location, and flex space capacity. The new trains will replace all of the original Mark I cars from the 1980s and early 1990s, provide additional capacity for the Millennium Line Broadway Extension, and increase overall capacity on the Expo and Millennium lines.

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Mark V SkyTrain mockup (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

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Mark V SkyTrain mockup (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

“Our customers are at the heart of everything we do. We’ve taken a deep look at who our customers are, how their travel patterns have changed, and how to best elevate the transit experience,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn.

“These actions will make sure customers have a phenomenal experience on transit, which will help us welcome back more customers and attract new customers to the system.”

The public transit authority also states it will create a new permanent “Customer Ideas” inbox and more opportunities for in-person customer service — an expansion and continuation of their Summer 2021 engagement on new and improved amenities and “creature comforts.” Over 1,200 ideas were submitted by the public and frontline transit workers last year.

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