TransLink inviting the public to pitch ideas for new and improved amenities

Jul 15 2021, 12:40 pm

What kind of creature comforts do you want to see added or improved on Metro Vancouver’s public transit system? What facilities should be improved, and how should the latest technology be adopted?

A new online platform has been created by TransLink to allow the public to submit their ideas for passenger-related amenities and experiences they would like to see introduced.

Submissions by the public will be used to help create TransLink’s next Customer Experience Action Plan, which will be released later this year. This will be a five-year plan — a list of priority projects and initiatives focused on improving the experience of passengers.

“We want to hear what ideas our customers have for new kinds of transit service. No idea is too big or too small,” said Steve Vanagas, the vice president of customer communications for TransLink, in a statement.

So what has TransLink recently finished, and what major amenities are currently underway or already planned?

Over the last few years, there has been a great emphasis on improving the customer experience on public transit with new and improved amenities and features.

Guided by the previous five-year Customer Experience Action Plan’s 62 projects and initiatives, TransLink has recently introduced tap-to-pay on the Compass system for credit cards, real-time train arrival digital signage on the platforms of all SkyTrain stations, improved voice announcement systems at SkyTrain stations, touch-screen dynamic information screens at 50 transit hubs, and double-decker buses for added comfort on long-haul suburban routes.

SkyTrain signage

New real-time next train countdown signage at SkyTrain’s Edmonds Station. (TransLink)

The double-decker buses include USB plug-ins to allow passengers to charge their phones. An additional 25 double-decker buses will arrive this year, growing the fleet of double-decker buses to 57 vehicles.

Major retrofits of the Expo Line stations and SeaBus terminals offer improved features and accessibility, including following the new standard of building both up and down escalators to all levels for future new and renovated station projects.

The inclusion of air conditioning is also a relatively recent standard for all future bus orders.

For last year’s rollout of the new RapidBus services, TransLink installed real-time digital displays at every RapidBus stop, including the former B-Line routes rebranded as RapidBus, except for the 99 B-Line.

However, it was unable to coordinate with municipalities to install special bus shelters for the RapidBus stops.

translink rapidbus sign

TransLink RapidBus real-time digital sign. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

Bus shelters are the responsibility of the municipal government. At least one jurisdiction has indicated it is making a big move in progressing with this amenity; earlier this week, the City of Burnaby indicated it will install at least 370 additional bus shelters or bus benches by 2030 to increase the comfort of passengers.

Burnaby is not alone in not providing shelters for all bus stops, but within the municipality, 737 of the 968 stops only have a bench or no enhancements. Just 231 stops have a shelter structure, which means 76% of all stops do not have shelters. With a $30,000 cost to design, fabricate, and install each unit, it would cost $22 million to ensure every stop in Burnaby is outfitted with a shelter.

But TransLink replaced all bus stop signs with new designs that include route number and destination information. Not long ago, most signs at stops simply had “Bus Stop” text.

It also has plans to install new tactile walking surface indicators, and braille and tactile signage for bus stops across the region to improve the safety of passengers with vision loss.

TransLink is currently in the process of installing real-time, digital displays for bus departure times at UBC exchange, which is expected to reach completion in time for the start of the new school year.

Systemwide free WiFi on all trains and vehicles is already a planned feature in partnership with Shaw, at no cost to TransLink. The start of the gradual rollout of this digital amenity was delayed due to the pandemic, but the public transit authority has indicated several buses will see WiFi connectivity starting later this year.

kevin desmond Translink

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond announcing free WiFi in partnership with Shaw in 2018. (TransLink)

One very frequently suggested amenity is public washrooms. While TransLink in 2018 approved a broad strategy to build public washrooms at key locations across the network, there is no timeline or funding at this time.

The SkyTrain Millennium Line Broadway Extension’s new Arbutus Station and the expansion of Broadway-City Hall Station sets aside space for universally accessible public washrooms, but there are no plans to have the facilities ready in time for the subway’s 2025 opening as funding has not been made available for their construction and operation. Vancouver City Council recently made a request to TransLink to have these two public washrooms ready for the subway’s opening day.

Earlier this week, Burnaby City Council also approved a motion requesting TransLink to complete the planned public washroom space at Metrotown Station.

Other improvements recently made include a new TransLink website with improved trip planning features, the expansion of secure bike parkades and smart bike lockers, implementation of a NightBus district in downtown Vancouver, and measures to elevate cleanliness (separate from COVID-19 enhanced sanitization).

By 2027, all of the original Mark I SkyTrain cars from the 1980s and early 1990s will be replaced with a new modernized expansion fleet.

The public consultation for the new Customer Experience Action Plan runs until August 13, 2021. In addition to the online platform, the public can also submit their ideas as a video recording on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #mycustomeridea.

translink bike lockers skytrain moody centre station

Bike lockers outside SkyTrain and West Coast Express’ Moody Centre Station. (TransLink)

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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