Driving around with car2go

About a month ago, I signed up for a car2go account.  So far I’ve used it twice already and I’ve been pretty happy with the experience.

Why car2go?

  1. In the case I miss the last SkyTrain home, the car2go would be a cheaper option than taking a taxi, and more time-efficient than waiting for the Night Bus.  (It’s roughly $10 for a 20-minute car2go trip from downtown to Richmond, versus a $35 taxi ride.  The earliest Night Bus gets me home around 3am).
  2. I share cars with my parents, so in the rare case that they need the cars, I wanted to have a backup just in case.  Since there’s no significant monthly fee, it would not hurt to keep the account just for the times that I need to use it. (There is a $2 annual fee though, but that’s pretty reasonable).
  3. It’s the only car-sharing service to service Richmond (albeit only at Kwantlen University, but I live close by).
  4. car2go does not require you to return the car to its original location—it’s a one-way service, which is perfect for my night-time trips.

Coming from driving 20+ year old minivans, the Smart car was comparatively very zippy, and reminded me of driving a go-kart.  The accelerating and braking were quite sensitive, but that was not too difficult to get used to.

In case you’re interested in joining, if you get a referral code from someone you know, you can signup for free.  (Send me a direct message on Twitter @DennisTT if you don’t know anyone with car2go).

Post-summer update

I can’t believe it’s September already.  The weather is starting to become cool and wet, days are becoming shorter, marking the end of what has been an incredible summer (and year to date).  It’s been a while since I’ve written here, so with the changing season I thought I’d share a bit of an update of 2016 so far.

Some of these warrant their own blog posts, but until I have time to write the full thing here is a summary. Continue reading “Post-summer update”

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!

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.