BC Transit - Connections Newsletter

FEBRUARY 2020

BC Transit's new strategic plan positions public transportation as part of the solution
Feb 13, 2020

BC Transit is releasing a new strategic plan with a focus on being part of the solution for the challenges impacting communities across the province.

Public transportation has been operating in British Columbia for 130 years, and our role as a sustainable transportation solution will not change. We will strive to deliver exceptional customer service to the more than 57 million people who use our services each year to get to their destinations. However, public transportation also plays a key role in addressing the challenges facing communities today, including climate change, affordability, traffic congestion, social isolation, and the urban rural divide.

Our bold new vision statement, “Your best transportation solution” speaks to the many customers that we serve and positions us as a leader in addressing the many complex challenges that exist across the province.

Our mission statement, “Delivering transportation services you can rely on” describes how BC Transit is going to accomplish the goals set by the vision statement, especially within the context of a rapidly changing transportation landscape.

The plan has five objectives that will provide a roadmap for the organization and help it meet its goals for both customers and communities:

Always safe
Engaged people
Satisfied customers
Thriving communities
Responsible stewardship

The strategic plan is intended to drive ridership increases, reduce greenhouse gases, make life more affordable, create better social connections, and reduce congestion. The implementation of the plan will be monitored and measured on a regular basis. BC Transit is looking forward to working with our partners to improve services across the province and demonstrate why we are the best transportation solution.

The full plan is available at bctransit.com/stratplan 

Quotes
“I congratulate BC Transit for providing high quality public transport for the people of B.C. It continues to meet rising demand, to attract new users and to make public transit central to a sustainable future.”
-Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure

“The new strategic plan facilitates the continued evolution of BC Transit and the services it provides by refreshing the focus of the organization and setting performance objectives for the next five years. The future is bright for transit, and the Board, employees and partners of BC Transit look forward to ensuring that it is your best transportation solution.”
-Catherine Holt, BC Transit Board Chair

“Public transportation has an important role in supporting communities across British Columbia. Being able to provide an affordable, convenient, and reliable transportation option will help to ensure people can get to work, school, medical appointments, and other activities in their communities and region. I look forward to continuing to work with our partners to make public transportation the best transportation solution for British Columbians.”
-Erinn Pinkerton, BC Transit President and Chief Executive Officer

 

BC Transit gives back to the community
Feb 28, 2020

Thanks to the fundraising efforts throughout 2019, BC Transit presented the United Way of Victoria and Help Fill a Dream with cheques to support these important organizations. These included donations through the holiday fundraising campaign, and regular payroll deductions.

The United Way of Victoria works to support people in Greater Victoria with employment and support services.

Help Fill A Dream Foundation often comes into the life of a family when things are at their worst. When a child is diagnosed with a life-threatening condition a family’s focus becomes their child, their medical appointments and treatment; there’s no time for anything else. Since 1986 Help Fill a Dream Foundation has been supporting those families from Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands whose lives have suddenly changed due to their child’s diagnosis with a medical condition or severe health challenge.The organization was started by Victoria transit driver, Rick Thomas, who had a goal of helping a seven year old bus passenger suffering from a terminal illness. Since that time, 2,100 dreams have come true.

Thank you to BC Transit staff who contributed to these fantastic organizations.

 

Keeping on schedule
Feb 28, 2020

As we become busier and busier in our own work, the old adage ‘walk a mile in their shoes’ becomes more difficult to relate to every day. It is important to realize that it takes many people to ensure BC Transit, as an organization, can run efficiently throughout the province.

From mechanics, operators, planners and schedulers to our Local Government partners, many different individuals from departments all across the province help us connect people to communities.

Day in the Life is a monthly Q & A highlighting of one of these individuals that makes what we do possible. This month we are highlighting Central Fraser Valley’s handyDART Administrator and Dispatcher Jennifer Penner, on her day-to-day tasks and her motivations.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you ended up in your current role?
I am a 40-year-old single mother of three amazing boys (only two still at home), I enjoy spending most of my free time with my family and friends. I also enjoy going to movies and concerts, reading, cooking, travelling and when weather permits, I also enjoy spending time outdoors, camping, hiking/walking local trails and parks and going to the local rivers and lakes. I ended up being hired in early 2007 as a temporary position to cover a maternity leave in the Chilliwack location, which ended up turning into a permanent position with me coming to work out in the Abbotsford location.


Tell us a little about your role? What do your day-to-day tasks look like?
My role at BC Transit is handyDART Admin and Dispatch and I work mainly in the Central Fraser Valley handyDART office but also periodically work in the handyDART office in Chilliwack.
My tasks include:

  • Answering phone calls from handyDART clients to book and cancel trips and help with providing any information
  • Monitoring all the two-way radio and the handyDART buses/driver schedules throughout the day for any problems and make any adjustments as required
  • Preparing handyDART schedules
  • Counting and depositing the driver/bus revenue and entering stats in the database
  • Selling taxisavers to clients and preparing deposits
  • Helping customers in office with information, applications and Ticket & Taxisaver sales
  • Receiving and processing new handyDART applications
  • Compiling monthly reporting stats for both the Central Valley and Chilliwack handyDART systems

What is the most interesting aspect in your role? What excites you to come in and start your day?
The most interesting aspect of my role is doing the driver schedules, it is like working on a big puzzle and trying to make all the pieces fit and work together. I am excited each day to come to work as I work with an amazing group of people and have developed lots of lasting friendships with them. I also enjoy talking to the clients and developing relationships with them and knowing how much they appreciate the services we provide.

What is the most challenging aspect in your role? How do you overcome these challenges?
The most challenging aspect is trying to find enough time when it gets busy to get everything done in a day. However, with hard work, prioritizing and lots of multitasking, everything gets done.

What is a common misconception about your role? What is it in actuality?
One misconception of my role is that I don’t just answer the phone and talk on the two-way radio all day. There are many other things I do daily that keep me busy at work. handyDART Admin and Dispatching is a combination of many tasks, can sometimes be very fast-paced and busy, and requires a lot of multi-tasking and an attention to detail.

What was something that surprised you when you first started working in your role?
Finding out how everything worked and how much was involved with all aspects of transit was very surprising. It was not like anything I had imagined.

Lastly, what gives you a sense of accomplishment on a regular basis in your role?
It gives me a sense of accomplishment knowing that I am helping our handyDART clients daily with their transportation needs when they don’t have other options.

 

JANUARY 2020

BC Transit trainers have serious cred 
Jan 30, 2020

Imagine yourself behind the wheel of a 24-tonne double-decker going 80-km an hour on the highway, while carrying 70 passengers anxiously waiting to get to work, and having to deal with constant traffic hazards. Luckily as a BC Transit operator, you were trained by some of the best!

Driving a bus is not as easy as getting behind the wheel of your car and heading off to pick up your friends. In order to be a safe and confident driver out on the road, operators require extensive and quality training. That’s where the Transit Operator training program at BC Transit comes in.

The program aims to produce operators who can provide safe transportation for our customers on a daily basis. BC Transit’s operator training program is very comprehensive and covers a wide variety of topics such as, commercial vehicle defensive driving, air brakes, customer service, workplace violence prevention, mobility aid securement, emergency procedures and more. The program has a success rate of 90 per cent.

“The goal is to give the trainees the tools to be successful as a BC Transit Operator, in all aspects of their role and this training program goes a long way to provide that to them,” said Andrew White, Safety and Training Officer. “Having the ability to grant a Class 2 Commercial Driver’s License, not only streamlines the program, it enhances our industry leading defensive driving program, customer service training and allows trainees to spend more time with the different bus types.”

Part of the program, a nine-week long training process, requires operators to pass a Class 2 ICBC road test, which is administered by our very own Safety and Training officers, who are certified ICBC assessment officers. Safety and Training Officers are required to have 100 hours of air brake instruction and 500 hours of Class 2 training under their belt to qualify to become an assessor.

This certification means that training officers are fully recognized by ICBC and meet the sufficient requirements to administer licensing in-house at BC Transit on behalf of ICBC. Prior to this, new operators were trained by the officers and the testing was handled by ICBC.

“With the amount of trainees that our department were tasked with training, it was decided that our department would inquire about becoming an ICBC accredited assessment facility,” said White. “This would give us the ability to train our candidates to obtain a Class 2 license, which we have done for years; however, now, we would be able to issue the candidate a Class 2 or 4 license without the need to take them to ICBC to have the road examination.”

The nationally accredited program, which BC Transit earned in September of 2017, is one of the first of its kind in Canada. John Palmer, Director of Safety and Emergency Management, explains the process to receive the accreditation was not an easy one.
“The process to receive accreditation was strenuous and rigid,” he said. “It involved an ICBC rep shadowing our trainers on buses and in class, as well as testing their driving abilities and passing a written knowledge test. Overall, the process took two months.”
The program also undergoes a review intermittently by ICBC to ensure BC Transit is maintaining and meeting the accreditation standards.

So why go through this process? Palmer explained the overall benefits of the program and streamlining of the training process — a great benefit to new operators.
“Foremost we don’t have to book appointments at ICBC,” said Palmer. “They are so busy for road tests in Victoria that we would have to book tests one month out. It also provides consistency for our students. They are being tested by a subject matter expert on buses that represents ICBC, so they get the best of both worlds.”

As the success of the program continues to grow, the plan is to expand it across the province. The program will be especially beneficial to other communities.
“Eventually, we will be offering this service to our regional partners,” said Palmer. “Road test appointments in smaller communities are even more scarce than in Victoria. Some locations don’t offer commercial licenses. This program will allow our partners to hire people with customer service and not just a commercial license.”

For more information on the program, you can reach out to training@bctransit.com

 

Day in the Life: Best Laid Plans
Jan 22, 2020

As we become busier and busier in our own work, the old adage ‘walk a mile in their shoes’ becomes more difficult to relate to every day. It is important to realize that it takes many people to ensure BC Transit, as an organization, can run efficiently.
From mechanics, operators, planners and schedulers to our Local Government partners, many different individuals from departments all across the province help us connect people to communities.

Day in the Life is a monthly Q & A highlighting of one of these individuals that makes what we do possible here at BC Transit. This month we are highlighting Senior Transit Planner – Work Lead Levi Megenbir, on his day-to-day tasks and his motivations.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you ended up in your current role at BC Transit?
I first became passionate about planning because I saw a lack of alignment in the way our cities were developing and how they were being served from a transportation perspective. To this day, I still feel that one of the best ways to improve the sustainability of our society is to better integrate our land use and transportation systems.

This passion led me to complete my Master’s of Planning degree on the East Coast where I specialized in sustainable transportation planning, and the rest is history!

Tell us a little about your role here at BC Transit? What do your day-to-day tasks look like?
As planners, our work includes both technical and creative elements, so every project is different and interesting. Although there is a significant amount of deskwork, meetings across both departments and organizations are a regular and important part of our role. We also get the opportunity to travel for work in order to lead public engagement processes and to present transit plans to local governments throughout B.C.


What is the most interesting aspect in your role? What excites you to come in and start your day?
I can literally say that I am never bored at work, and every day presents a new challenge. One of my favourite aspects of transit planning is the process of restructuring transit networks, as it is an extremely complex process, involving both a technical and creative skillset. Presenting to municipal councils and regional districts for approvals of transit plans can be exhilarating, and is an opportunity to participate in an arena where real social change happens.

What is the most challenging aspect in your role? How do you overcome these challenges?
Although there are general transit planning best practices, transit planning can also be very political. Managing transit planning projects with a complex diversity of stakeholders can be both a very challenging but also rewarding process.

What is a common misconception about your role? What is it in actuality?
Beyond planning, I think there is often significant confusion about the complexity, challenge, and time required to make changes to a transit system. A transit network is a complex web of interactions, and making changes to one element can create ripple effects throughout other aspects of the transit system.

Specific to planning, the role of planner and scheduler is often not understood outside the transit industry. Planners are responsible for shaping service and infrastructure priorities for a transit system, and then for developing the routing (where the bus goes), service spans (when service starts and ends on any given day), and service frequencies (how regularly the bus comes) for the transit network in order to implement those service priorities.

Once these planning-level details are confirmed, schedulers have the equally challenging job of turning our planning fantasies into an actual transit schedule, by linking individual transit trips together with actual buses and then assigning drivers to those buses.

What was something that surprised you when you first started working in your role at BC Transit?
The passion and commitment of the staff here at BC Transit across the organization. BC Transit has a dedicated and diligent group of individuals working together to make things better for communities across BC.

Lastly, what gives you a sense of accomplishment on a regular basis in your role?
I feel that the work I do actually makes a positive difference in communities and individual lives across our province. Particularly when we implement service expansions, we often receive positive and thankful feedback from communities across B.C.

Although it was a weird experience, I was once hugged by an ecstatic passenger when they realized I was the one responsible for planning a new route that saved them an hour of walking in their commute every day.