Yesterday was the first day the Burrard Chinook (TransLink’s newest SeaBus) was put into revenue service.
The Chinook has a unique livery consisting of art from the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations communities and showcases the Chinook salmon within the ecosystem as well as First Nations cultures.
TransLink now has four SeaBuses in operation: The Burrard Beaver is the remaining original SeaBus of the pair built in 1976 (the retired sibling being the Burrard Otter). The Burrard Pacific Breeze began its service in 2009 and allowed TransLink to run 10-minute service with all three vessels during the 2010 Olympics. In 2014, the Burrard Otter II entered service, replacing the Burrard Otter. And finally we have the Burrard Chinook, which will allow TransLink to re-start operate 10-minute peak service with three vessels in operation and one spare.
The Valley trails in Whistler, B.C. provide over 40km of maintained multi-use trails connecting Whistler Village to Green Lake to the north, and Function Junction to the south.
The trails are a mixed of gravel and paved paths which make cycling on them easy for anyone. The trails run through different settings such as within forested areas, alongside a road or lake, or in a meadow like along the hydro cut. The shade provided by the trees along most of the trails make the bike ride reasonably comfortable especially on a warm summer day.
Here are a couple time lapsed videos of my ride on a couple of the main trails.
About a month ago, TransLink launched its first four electric battery buses on a trial program on the #100 Marpole-22nd Street Station route. There are currently two bus models being trialed: New Flyer XE40, and the Novabus LFSe.
These are actually not the first electric battery buses to be run on Vancouver roads. In 2017, TransLink had one demonstration bus from Build Your Dreams (BYD). I never got a chance to ride it though.
Whereas the BYD had slow charging (overnight at the depot), the New Flyer and Novabus models here have fast charging at the termini. Two fast charging stations have been built at Marpole Loop and 22nd Street Station to support this trial.
I found the ride on the New Flyer smooth and quiet. This model has a much larger battery capacity. One trip on the #100 takes reportedly about 8%.
There isn’t anything much special about the interior; it’s about the same as the other New Flyer buses we’ve had recently.
The ride on the Novabus was a lot rougher (suspension-wise, not the propulsion, and possibly the driver…). It actually sounds quite similar to how our current hybrids sound, minus the diesel engine. This model has a smaller battery in comparison to the New Flyer, but Novabus is working on models with larger capacity. One trip on the #100 uses about 40% of the battery.
There also isn’t much special about the interior, which resembles the 2018 Novabuses we have.
The trial period
These buses are currently being run on peak hour “trippers”, but are expected to be assigned to full day blocks by November. As the two charging stations are only built at Marpole Loop and 22nd Street Station, the electric buses will be limited to the #100 route during the pilot project. The pilot project is planned to last around 2.5 years. It will be interesting to see how these perform in the snow, if we get any this year.
This past Wednesday I had an opportunity to tour the SkyTrain Operations and Maintenance Centre (OMC). I have been there once before back in 2010, and a lot has changed since then.
First place we visited on the tour was the Control Room. The Control Room is in a restricted area on the top floor of the OMC overlooking the yard. At least eight people staff this room 24 hours a day, monitoring, responding to and resolving problems across the system. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take any photos inside the room. But since the last time, most (not all) of the CRT monitors have been replaced with modern flat screens. Despite the modernizations so far, current control room is planned to be replaced in the next several years.
Next, we went through the office areas. One relatively new room is the Visual Management Centre, a room which has flat screens all the way around.
Apparently executives and other management come in here to discuss KPIs. Each department can be displayed on its own screen, or for vehicle maintenance purposes, the details of each and every train car can be shown across all the screens.
The smart screens are also in use in other offices I was able to tour, one of which was the engineering duty manager’s (EDM) office adjacent to the main Control Room. Through different application interfaces, the EDM is able to pull up operational status and history of different components of the system such as track switches and facilities such as escalators and elevators.
However, not everything is modern and electronic. We walked through the Library, which contains document archives from maintenance (each train car has its own folder), manuals for training and other literature.
Afterwards, we prepared ourselves to walk through the maintenance area and yard. Safety standards have apparently increased since last time, and I was required to put on steel toe caps, a safety vest and safety glasses.
We walked through the two maintenance shops, where trains get worked on.
And the obligatory walk under a train, this time a Mark II. The peachy metallic thing in the middle is the linear induction motor, which reacts with the flat middle rail to propel the train forward.
Then we explored some other parts of the yard on foot. We visited the only level crossing on the entire SkyTrain system.
I’m grateful for the HR team at A Thinking Ape where I work for putting this together for me (this experience was a reward for winning what we call a “Golden Banana” award, which is our quarterly employee recognition program). It was nice to see the modernization of the Control Room and be able to explore some different parts of the yard I had not had an opportunity to see last time.
Since picking up skiing last year, I’ve taken some interest in how chairlifts and gondolas work. (For anyone else interested, sites like LiftBlog and Skilifts.org detail lift installation history, specifications and other technical details on lift operations).
According to various news reports, early yesterday morning around 4-5am, staff at the Sea to Sky Gondola heard a loud bang and later discovered the deropement of the system with the haul rope snapped and many cabins fallen to the ground.
Although the Sea to Sky Gondola isn’t a ski hill and I haven’t personally ridden on this gondola, this particular incident hits home because the same type of Doppelmayr gondola system is also used at Whistler Blackcomb where I have skied (and plenty of other ski resorts around the world). So I went out in the afternoon to check out the aftermath, as a catastrophic failure of a gondola haul rope is very rare.