A new batch of New Flyer XDE60 articulated buses

This past Wednesday, TransLink started to put the newest batch of buses out onto the streets, in particular, Surrey streets. The transit enthusiast in me could not resist seeking out that new bus smell.

S15003 front left
S15003 taking recovery at Newton Exchange
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The previous batch had a light grey front

These buses are the same model as the previous set of articulated buses back in 2013. However, this new batch has the “charcoal top” livery instead of the light grey which I think looks much better and fitting with the rest of the fleet.  Like the last batch, these buses are fully air-conditioned.  (Recently, TransLink announced that all future bus orders will have air conditioning standard.)  These will be great to ride in the summer!

Surrey hasn’t seen a new bus delivery in ages (better transit enthusiasts can quote the exact date); they’ve always been getting “hand-me-down” buses from other depots in the area.  I guess it is a show of good faith for further development of transit in the South of Fraser area and the #96 B-Line corridor.  Twelve of these new buses will serve the #96 B-Line while the remaining eleven in the order will be distributed to other articulated bus routes in the region.

Have you had a chance to ride the new buses?  Leave your impressions in the comments!

Using Multidex to solve INSTALL_FAILED_DEXOPT errors on Android

At work, we have been receiving reports of people, particularly on Android 2, not being able to install from the Google Play Store citing an error message “Package file is invalid“. At the same time, I was trying to test one of the features I was developing on a couple of Android 2 test devices we have in the office, but I was repeatedly getting an INSTALL_FAILED_DEXOPT error from adb. It seemed that both of these issues could be related.
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Ride on an old Brill trolley bus

TransLink is celebrating 125 years of transit in the Metro Vancouver region this year.  Tomorrow, Sunday June 28th, 2015 between 11am-3pm, there will be an opportunity for the public to ride on one of the first-generation Brill trolley buses which operated in Vancouver between 1948 and 1984.

First generation trolley buses served Vancouver between 1948 and 1984
First-generation (Brill) trolley buses served Vancouver between 1948 and 1984.
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Second-generation (Flyer) trolley buses served from 1982 to 2008
A third-generation New Flyer E40LFR, serving from 2005 to present day.
Third-generation (New Flyer) trolley buses serving from 2005 to present day

This particular bus entered service in 1954 and was retired in 1984 when the second-generation Flyer trolleys entered into service.  It has been restored and preserved by the Transit Museum Society (TRAMS).

The bus will be making a loop around Downtown Vancouver via:

  • Southbound Cambie (stopping at Hastings – Victory Square)
  • Westbound on Pender (no stops)
  • Southbound Burrard (stopping at SkyTrain station and Robson)
  • Eastbound Davie (stopping at Howe)
  • Northbound Seymour (stopping at Dunsmuir)
  • Eastbound Cordova (stopping at Waterfront Station)
  • And looping back to Victory Square

For further details and a map see the event page on the Buzzer Blog.  Rides are free!

Finally tapping in using the Compass Card

Almost two years after the Beta Test, the Compass Card is finally starting to become within reach of the general public.

The Compass Card was first rolled out for BC Bus Pass, TransLink employees and CNIB passengers in January 2014.  The U-Pass BC started transitioning to Compass early this year.  This past week, the Compass Card was made available for West Coast Express customers.

TransLink staff were handing out Compass Cards at the Waterfront West Coast Express station this week, so I went to get one on my lunch break.

For the past week, I’ve been tapping in and out. For the most part I can’t really see anything significantly different from the beta test. The readers on the buses emit a louder beeping sound, which is great.  I’ve still run into the occasional frozen faregate. And the transition on the readers from “Tap In” To “Proceed” is still green to green (one of the complaints was that it was difficult to see the change to “Proceed”).

All in all, it’s great to see that after two years we finally may see the Compass Card fully in use.

The Compass Card Website

This is one part of the Compass Card project that wasn’t ready during the Beta Test.

Compass Card Website
The main page on the Compass Card website where you can check your card balances.

The Compass Card website is very easy to use and mobile friendly.  I was able to register the card and purchase a monthly pass through my mobile browser with no issues.

Side note: If any of you use a three-zone monthly bus pass for $170, did you know you can actually save almost $20 by purchasing the cheapest West Coast Express monthly pass for $151.75, which includes unlimited bus/SkyTrain/SeaBus travel.

Compass Card History
My adventure home last night.

The website also shows when you tapped in and tapped out.  This means that information is inherently logged and identifiable by each Compass Card.

From TransLink’s perspective, this information is great as it is much more specific than the passenger counters that it currently employs.  Also it provides TransLink information as to the actual start and destinations of trips instead of just boardings.  This can definitely aid in planning routes and services that better cater to the actual demand.

However on the other hand, this raises privacy concerns.  If you have registered your Compass Card with TransLink (which they recommend for extra benefits like auto-loading of funds and balance protection if you lose your card), this means that TransLink has the data to track all of your movements on public transportation. We can take a look at the Compass Card privacy policy for some reassurance though.  Here are some quotations from the document.

On anonymity if you don’t register your card:

Unless you choose to share personal information with us, you’ll be anonymous. You don’t have to register your card, but if you decide to, we’ll require some information, so we can provide assistance and services.

Usage of travel data for planning purposes:

Anonymous and aggregated travel data (i.e., amassed data stripped of personal information) will be studied by TransLink to better understand, plan and forecast ridership volumes and transit service. This data will help shape better transportation for the region and provide new and better products and services in the future.

How long travel data is associated with your Compass Card:

We’ll keep your Compass Card transactions for 15 months so that, if you’ve registered your card, you can easily access 15-months’ worth of transactions online. After 15 months, your personal information is stripped from your travel details.

That should ease the minds of most people who may be concerned about privacy; giving the privacy policy a complete read is probably a good idea anyway. And of course if you don’t register your card, you will remain anonymous.

Fun ways to get from Richmond to Downtown Vancouver on transit

I commute from Richmond to Downtown Vancouver every day for work.  Normally I take the Canada Line, which is a quick and reliable way to and from work.  As much as I like trains, some days it just seems boring; after all, the majority of the ride is underground.

So I tasked myself to find five different ways to get to work (potentially one for each day of the week), if I wanted to take a break from the Canada Line.  Let’s assume we’re commuting from Richmond Centre to Waterfront.  Obviously we’re not optimizing for travel time.

Option 1: 403, 480, 44

A nice ride to UBC then along 4th Avenue, Burrard Street Bridge downtown.  If you’re lucky, you can complete this entire route on articulated buses.

Option 2: 407, 22

I’d probably consider this one the most unscenic one, but it only involves one transfer and is a bus-only route.  Probably a good one for napping.

Option 3: 430, Expo/Millennium Line

An express bus to Metrotown, then a ride on the SkyTrain downtown.  If you’re extremely lucky, you may find a seat at the front of the SkyTrain.

Option 4: 410, Expo/Millennium Line

Kind of the same as the previous option except this one includes a highway run along Highway 91, but no express through the city.  This has a longer SkyTrain ride too, which also includes passing the SkyTrain yard.

Option 5: 407, 480, 17, 50

And finally the crazy bus-only route.  Almost guaranteed to ride four different types of buses – a New Flyer 40 footer on the 407, an articulated bus on the 480, a trolley bus on the 17 and most likely a Novabus on the 50.

Of course these options aren’t exhaustive; there are many other combinations that can loop through all parts of town.  But these are the ones off the top of my head that balance being interesting and getting to work in a reasonable amount of time.