Wednesday, 25 June 2008

How To Use "Translink" Public Transport

Around the greater Vancouver area (including Richmond) the buses and “sky train” are operated by Translink. Prior to arriving in January, I had only used the buses once – last summer with Thea and Brad to UBC (University of British Colombia) – and it had been a pretty good experience; quick, scenic and easy.

When deciding fine details about moving to Canada, in December, I assumed that I’d be fine to either bus or cycle every morning (at 6:00am) to work on the other side of Richmond. Once I realised that cycling was out of the question (since I was hoping to conserve my energy for work and because the weather was poor*) I decided upon public transport.

For a few weeks I took the bus to and from work, on a 30 minute journey across town. The route was simple and though it cost me $5 a day, it seemed like a better option than cycling – at least until the summer. However, public transport is never perfect and after a few times of the buses being late, slow or nonexistent I was getting fed up with relying on it. When Danny (my co-worker) offered to drive me every day, I was thrilled.

During February through May, I probably used the bus fewer than 10 times – instead relying upon walking, cycling or other people's cars to get about. This was brilliant because there was no worry about connections, times or fares and I didn't miss buses at all.

However in the middle of June, when I started dating Jill, I decided that it would be unrealistic and unfair to rely on people for transport to/from her house and since I was unsure of the route I decided to bus around until I was confident enough to cycle the same distance - especially at night!

Instead of buying a pass, I started using up my loose change that had been collecting in my "VW camper van" moneybox - since my wallet had nowhere for loose change - being "manly" and leather! Using my youthful looks to my advantage, I began buying concession fares (a roundtrip saving of $1.50!) and decided against getting myself a monthly pass since it was already halfway through June!

The journeys went well, with my "University of Huddersfield" student card on hand if I was questioned when buying the concession ticket - students also being included in the money saving fare - and I had few problems, especially when I was with Jill who at least seemed to know the Vancouver buses well enough for us to get about.

A few times we decided to go further into Vancouver - her house being on the East edge of the city - and I had the joy of experiencing the "sky train", which I had otherwise only heard about because of the new stations and tracks being built in Richmond in preparation for the Winter Olympic Games. As well as being clean, quick and frequent it was not usually too crowded.

The only problems we experienced with the buses as the month went on were our fault - the most annoying being waiting on the Northbound side of the street as the bus sailed past going South - that particular route being different to the usual that we had been taking!

As well as the website, the system also has a text system where you can see the next 6 buses in one message as a response to texting your bus stop's 5 digit number to the Tranlink text system - which has worked 4 out of the 5 times that I have tried it, which is still pretty good!

As the months visiting Jill go on, I imagine I will probably purchase a bus pass to save change-hunting and having to worry about being 10 cents short or losing the printed tickets. At least when winter arrives and I can't be bothered to cycle every time and then shower at her house!

When the Richmond skytrain is built the journey will change completely but will cut from 40-80 minutes to about 30-50 minutes - I eagerly await another of the major changes in anticipation of the Winter Olympics 2010!

* With hindsight – having since been hit whilst cycling! – I would add “Richmond’s notoriously terrible drivers”!

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