Category Archives: Transportation

Time Lapse to Bowen Island

Hey Blog, long time no see. It been about two years since I wrote a post. A lot has changed in my life and I didn’t have a whole lot of time for blogging. But I met up with Rebecca Coleman who I hadn’t seen since August of 2020 (The last time I had a social outing outside the Sunshine Coast)

Bex had suggested we go to Bowen Island for the day. While living on the Sunshine Coast and passing Bowen Island via the ferry and flying over Bowen via Float Plane. I have never set foot on Bowen.

I also just got a GOPRO Hero 9 from London Drugs and wanted to try out the time lapse feature! So we boarded the boat and hit the sun deck and I got a pretty nice video.

The Compass Card Snafu

Compass Card and Faresavers
One of these things is not like the other.

Update: While I still found the entire experience frustrating Translink has updated there website to mention the Sea Island Add a Fare on the Compass Card page.

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I had a frustrating experience with the Compass Card recently.

Translink promotes and markets the card just to be like FareSaver tickets. Which I have used for years. So when I set up my card I was told by Translink Staff that yes putting an amount on the card would be just the same as a FareSaver ticket.

But there is one place this isn’t true: Sea Island and YVR and to be fair to Translink they do mention this on there Canada Line YVR AddFare page. But these passes are not FareSaver tickets then. Which is horrible marketing on the part of translink. Other then the specific AddFare page on Translink’s website there is little to no mention of this change on any other page.  I brought this to the attention of Translink and when I checked the website on December 15th, 2015 Translink has changed the verbiage to read and I quote:

Compass Cards can be loaded with the fare product of your choice including Monthly Passes, DayPasses and Stored Value. Travelling with Stored Value gives you the same rate as FareSavers and allows you to pay-as-you-go. Please note, the $5 Canada Line YVR AddFare is applied to Stored Value trips departing Sea Island and continuing to Bridgeport and beyond.

~ Translink 

The AddFare Zone is not new either. It’s been around since the opening of the line in 2009. But those who used the FareSavers were exempt from the extra fare and you still are if you use the paper ticket.

I went to a movie with my friend Rebecca and she asked me if she could drop me off at the Templeton station beside the McArthurGlen Vancouver Outlet mall. I said sure.

On our way we passed the Bridgeport Station and drove the extra 1.5km to the Templeton Station. In doing that we crossed into the AddFare Zone and I added $5 to my fair. Which came to a total of $7.10 from Richmond to Downtown Vancouver.

I was shocked, very annoyed and felt Translink had wronged me because “hey my FareSaver tickets never did this to me. They told me this was the same. It’s not.”

I understand that Translink wants to charge more to the Airport. Cities all over  do the same thing. I have no problem paying more to go to the Airport, it’s very convenient. But I wasn’t going to or coming from the Airport. I wasn’t going out of my way to use this station.

So if you don’t have a monthly pass or a UPass and want to go to the new McArthurGlen Vancouver Outlet mall, Iona Beach Regional Park get ready to pay $5 more for leaving the island.

Only those with:

  • Monthly Pass holders
  • Program pass holders
  • Customers travelling with FareSaver tickets
  • Customers using DayPasses not purchased on Sea Island
  • Customers using single-use Compass Tickets not purchased on Sea Island
  • Customers travelling between Sea Island stations

Anyone else is completely out of luck and as Translink phases out the paper FareSaver tickets in 2016 you’ll be charge a lot more to go anywhere on Sea Island.

The warm yellow glow of a taxi cab sign look welcoming but rarely is.

A failing public service

(last updated August 25th, 2014)

Taxi Cab are drivers for hire. But an opening market can lead to saturation which is why Taxi Commission were introduced in cities to limit the number of cabs in a market place.

In some Northern Communities people don’t own cars and taxi’s are a flat fare from A – B. The community is only so big.

But in the major centres people are getting rid of their cars in droves relying on bikes, car sharing services like car2go and modo and mass transit.

No one wants to be driving with Louie from TAXI
No one wants to be driving with Louie from the show TAXI.

But when you need to get from Akward point A to Akward point B or you have a suitcase or two the good old taxi cab is one of very few options other than walking. In my opinion Taxis are a public service as they are the only one who can provide this specialized service. Unlike web development I can’t just one day start working for myself as a cab driver.

A tale of two cities

I have two stories… one about Vancouver area and one in Seattle, about how the taxi industry is fail us and how technology can improving a failing public service.

Vancouver proper and the Greater Vancouver area is different. Every community in the Vancouver area is served by a different cab company. Depending on the municipality you could be dealing with 15 different cab companies all of which are a little different.

Outside Vancouver’s city core they mostly hang around the malls and skyTrain stations.

A number of times I have had the “pleasure” of taking Bonnie’s taxi a total of five minutes from a SkyTrain station to my brother’s house. It is usually late at night. I usually  just missed the bus and I have a bunch of bags.

Gone are the days when a cabbie actually knew where you were going. He hits the meter and then starts typing the address into his GPS. Yes your paying for him to look up the address you just gave him… No mater the address if five minutes away in his “local” area. No matter he drives in this area of the city for a living. He doesn’t know where he is going. On the rare occasion (one in five btw) I actually get a taxi that knows the local neighborhood they rarely WANT to accept credit or debit cards. My reply “If you don’t want to accept it why is it on the side of your car”

For this five-minute ride I’m charged nine dollars and suppose to tip the driver.

This is not what I call a good customer experience.

Yet they can get away with this as they are the only game in the town of Burnaby… Can you say Monopoly? Yet you ask a cab company if they are usually busy and they will say no. I will be dammed to give them any more when only absolutely required because I don’t like the service and in fact I have had better in the middle of Colombia.

~

In Seattle the old style taxi is still around but they seem to have embraced change more than then there Canadian counter part.

I was in West Seattle on the corner of Fauntleroy Way and California Avenue in West Seattle. If your not familiar with the area, these are two main streets in West Seattle that cross only once. Fairly well-known streets. I had picked up dinner at the local grocery store and just wanted a cab to my relatives house some five minutes away.

I decided to go to Starbucks on the corner to call me a cab. They got me the number to Yellow Cab. The first time I called I was on hold for 15 minutes and then cut off. 2nd time I called I got through and gave them the cross streets. The Starbucks on the Fauntleroy Way and California Avenue in West Seattle. The Response

I don’t know those streets and you could be at any Starbucks in the city call back with a street address… click…

I got the real street address from the Starbucks and called Yellow Cab back. They asked where I was going. So I called back with the exact address. They didn’t know where I was going. I told them it was about five – ten blocks away. Fifteen minutes I was told…

Half an hour later I called back yup still waiting. They will be there shortly… Forty minutes go by and I call again… He is on his way…

Just shy of an hour from the first time I called the cab finally arrives. He takes me to my destination. The driveway starts out dark and narrow but fits any normal size car.

Driver: Is this a dead-end?
Me: No it’s a driveway what does your GPS say.

Driver: Can I just drop you off here.
Me: No, I promise you there is a turn around I am paying for you to drive me to the house.

Driver: Do you have cash?
Me: No Dispatch said you accept Visa.

Driver: But do you have cash?
Me: You get Visa or get nothing your choice.

Driver: alright…

Time it took to get the cab explain he wasn’t driving into a wilderness (we haven’t left West Seattle), get him to accept the credit card etc… I was completely frustrated. The only reason I took the cab was the two travel bags and three bags of shopping or else I could have walked faster. Also I had been up for 16 hours by this point. I just wanted to get home.

There has to be a better system regardless of the company.

“Transportation Network Companies” or on demand style cab companies.

You call the service with a savvy phone app. Your given an estimated wait time and when a driver has accepted your job. You can see where the driver is and watch him drive up to you.

Your taken to your exact destination via GPS and then your credit card is charged… The App works pretty flawlessly and so is the transportation. Pretty Stress Free actually and there is no debate on payment, no pressure on a tip…

And that’s what people want. They couldn’t care if the service was called Uber, Smoober… Bonnie’s Taxi for all the name matters. If Bonnie’s Taxi in Burnaby operated via Uber’s smart savvy iPhone app? Would it reduce the absolutely horrible rating they have online?

I have been afraid to mention Uber directly as the company hasn’t been without its controversy.

While I have used the company and quite enjoyed the trips I have taken. It’s not them that I truly love about the transportation. It’s their savvy savvy app.

But what I wanted to point out is that the digital hiring and payment model that Uber (and others) use works quite well from a users perspective and it’s why hundreds of thousands of people want a similar service.

While I was doing some research for the blog post. I heard about Curb and will give that a try next time I am in need of cab. I’ll post here a how well it works.

The Queen of Surrey a vessel of BC Ferries

The Beauty and the Beast ~ The Coast and BC Ferries

There is a beast on the coast, it haunts all residents, it is a necessary evil but yet to most it is our livelihood. It is big and white and travels Howe Sound and it doesn’t like to be messed with.

If you haven’t already guessed I am talking about the Queen of Surrey and our tragic relationship with BC Ferries.

First the Facts

Queen of Surrey using a C-Class ferry which can carry some 362 cars and over 1,500 passengers. The Surrey is Cowichan Class and was put into service in 1981 It and the Queen of Oak Bay were the last two of the C-Class build in North Vancouver. Other then some help over the summer from the Queen of Coquitlam it is the only boat the runs on route 3 which travels between Langdale and Horseshoe Bay. The ship provides bi-hourly service, with a route of 9.7 nautical miles taking approximately 40 minutes to making the crossing.

Some History

The Sunshine Coast has been serviced by ferries since it’s inception as a community. With a number of vessels making the route. One vessel of particular note was the Sunshine Coast Queen nicknamed Suzy Q. After the Suzy Q was retired in 1976 the coast was serviced by two double-ended Ferries that would travel back and forth. A decision was made in the early 80’s to switch to one larger C-Class ferry that was larger faster and could handle all of the traffic. But the trade-off was it would only run every two hours.

And from what I can recall (I was quite young at the time) There was a lot of grumbling and discontent that the frequency of ferry service was decreasing. But BC Ferries vowed that this would be cheaper to operate with the same amount of traffic.

Langdale Ferry Terminal
Langdale Ferry Terminal

Other improvements were included a new ramp for loading the 3rd car deck at the Langdale terminal and a new gantry at Horseshoe Bay to allow walk-on passengers to board directly on to the passenger area of the vessel. Both of these decreased the loading time of the vessel.

The Langdale Terminal also got a new parking lot, drop off area, coffee shop and bus stop, along with a new layout at the Langdale Terminal to adjust for increasing capacity.

The Black sheep of the Mainland Routes

There were always trade-offs in this smaller route. For example, we don’t have traffic that the island routes do. But we also don’t have the weather storm delays or volume delays of the island routes either. The Howe Sound route is claimer then crossing the Strait of Georgia and when other sailings were cancelled the Langdale route was still running. So when I was a kid I would always see these huge lineups for the Nanaimo route and be glad it wasn’t our route.

But and it is a big but… like a little brother or sister we always got the discards from the larger route. When the ferry was refit we were the last to get it, They would take our boat give it a refit and then it would sail the Nanaimo route. We always grumbled about this but other than a nicer boat for better for worse it still relatively decent service.

Coast, not the secret it use to be

Queen of Surrey
Queen of Surrey

Once I was a teenager the coast had its own transit bus and there was something called the commuter who would work in Vancouver and travel by ferry to the Coast. A lot of people said it was more enjoyable than being stuck in a traffic jam. But with that came added traffic to the coast and the ferry. These commuters would leave for the 6:20am ferry arriving for work at 8:30am in Vancouver and then return on the 5:30pm ferry getting you back into Sechelt around 7:00pm. And a lot of people start to do this. Living in Gibsons was a lot easier then further up the coast. But I knew people in Halfmoon Bay who would do this 4 to 5 days a week. Again this only worked when the ferry ran on time and for a time it did. But commuting via ferry was never for me. I don’t think it ever will be.

The Summer hit the coast and all hands are on deck for the busy season, And much like the rest of the coast you can feel the increased traffic and give BC Ferries some credit service has certainly increased during the summer months adding another C-class vessel.

But it is here that lies the problem in my opinion

With every two hour service and a crossing time of forty minutes. You only have 10 minutes on either side to load/unload and leave for the other side. But this only works when the boat is 2/3rds full. The time it takes to stuff the boat will always leave the boat running late. (You can usually see this on the Saturday 8:20 ferry) But the boat can usually catch up on the next run. (As of 2016 if there is only one boat on the route it is usually running late.)

Problem number one: We have enough traffic to constantly make only one ferry late and but not enough to need a second ferry of duplicate size and capacity. (eg. Queen of Coquitlam or variation of that)

Problem number two: We only have one big boat, there is no robustness or scalability to any issue we might have. So, for example, a dock problem = delays, 50 extra cars? = delays, Anything out of the ordinary traffic = Delays.  And unlike years gone past it is getting increasing hard to keep this demanding schedule.

Problem number three: Regardless of the boat on the langdale route. If there is more then half the boat full it’s most likely running late.  When the Queen of Surrey was in dry dock for most of the summer as it had broken down a number of time in the early summer the Queen of Coquitlam took over and it couldn’t keep pace with the schedule and yet is the same class and size of boat with a slightly different layout and been put into service 5 years previous. The only thing I can see from this is that if the Queen of Surrey can barely keep up with the demanding schedule it is beyond the scope of a boat five years older.

Problem number four: Except for the MV Skeena Queen and MV Island Sky who have dedicated routes.  Every other mid-sized ferry was built before the 1980’s with high maintenance cost and antiquated technology on the boats. (This was originally written 2010 btw)

I don’t doubt BC Ferries has known this for years and I don’t doubt the complexity of the problem with a route that has reached traffic capacity. But the current setup just isn’t working and it is troubling.

But that is the biggest concern I have, is that this little route isn’t little anymore and makes quite the profit for the ferries and yet I constantly feel like a second-class citizen who’s opinions don’t matter in the eyes of the Ferry Corp. I now try to avoid any conversation with BC Ferries employees as they aren’t in the customer service business.

Picture of West Coast Express Train

Mass Transit

Back in my newspaper journalism days all my transportation was done via car, even in Yellowknife where I lived without a personal vehicle for almost three years. If I wanted to get anywhere it was via car.

Since leaving the profession. Selling the car and purchasing the best commuting bike in the entire world. I have always tried to find different and alternative means of transportation that provide less stress and more enjoyment to my day.

This summer I took my nephew to Stanley Park and in the process we rode the SkyTrain, a trolley bus, a diesel bus and for the first time The West Coast Express (WCE).

Photo of the seats on the West Coast Express Train
Typical seats found on the West Coast Express

For my four year old nephew transit is more a special treat then anything else.  But for me it wasn’t anything more then the status quo of Vancouver living.

After a fun filled day we jumped on board the WCE. Experiencing every avenue of transit except the SeaBus that day. I can certainly say the WCE was by far the most civilized relaxing and enjoyable mode of transportation I have ridden. It was quiet comfortable and efficient.

Why aren’t we doing more of this?

I have taken the Greyhound to Chilliwack, BC on a number occasions and found, comparatively speaking, the Greyhound was about as enjoyable as fingernails on a chalkboard. It’s noisy, confined by traffic and the depots are off the beaten path of the highway.

I am sure the daily train travel would have it’s drawbacks, but with the wide seats, air conditioning, power plugs and tables for the laptop I have been left with one lasting feeling from the experience.

It just felt civilized.