Recognized as one of BC's Top Employers (2021):
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 15, 2021)
Here are some of the reasons why TransLink (South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority) was selected as one of BC's Top Employers (2021):
- TransLink helps employees plan for the longer term with generous contributions to a defined benefit pension plan and retirement planning assistance
- TransLink offers training and development for individuals at every stage of their career, from co-op placements and apprenticeships for those just starting out, to formal mentoring and career planning for experienced employees
Coming together for a common purpose at TransLink
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and people started staying home, ridership on Metro Vancouver’s transportation system, TransLink, predictably dropped, by about 45 per cent. Where it was possible, Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) and other subsidiaries sent employees home to work remotely. But for frontline workers like Aaron Lamontagne, an employee of BC Rapid Transit Company (BCRTC), it was business as usual – despite a few adjustments.
“There are 100 people in our department, and the company split the crews up, put a couple of crews in different locations so that in the event someone got sick and had to go home, we’d still be able to provide service for the public,” explains Lamontagne, a maintenance technician. “We’ve been able to maintain our maintenance standards.”
Despite the temporary drop in ridership, the business of keeping people in the region moving actually intensified as a result of the pandemic. “We had to make sure our service was safe for customers and also for our employees,” says Dorit Mason, senior manager of emergency management.
The decision was made to coordinate the safety response of all TransLink subsidiaries -- BCRTC, CMBC, SeaBus and Transit Police -- under one Emergency Coordination Centre. The centre was used to activate enterprise-wide strategies to coordinate approaches to cleaning, signage, physical distancing, setting up employees for remote work and protecting frontline workers while maintaining its expected level of service.
“Like any enterprise, we understand hazards and risks,” says Mason. “That part is not unique. The uniqueness of the pandemic is that it’s worldwide and it’s a long event – a marathon, not a sprint.”
Still, Lamontagne says, the coordinated approach enabled communication across the entire enterprise to be a priority. “The pandemic is a big thing for the whole world – for a lot of people, it’s overwhelming,” he adds. “But the coordinated effort has enabled us to do a really good job providing information every day -- the safety stuff has been paramount.”
For Mason, the experience has just reinforced the pride she has always felt for working there and she appreciates how keeping business going through the pandemic has brought everyone working under the TransLink umbrella closer together.
“In every emergency you are operating in an environment where you don’t really know what’s coming next,” Mason explains. “And our enterprise came together for a common purpose – people just dropped everything to do what we needed to do to keep the service going.”
Recognized as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (2021):
By Richard Yerema and Chantel Watkins, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 18, 2021)
Here are some of the reasons why TransLink (South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority) was selected as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (2021):
- TransLink has a number of ongoing initiatives to reduce the transportation impacts of its operations, including testing battery-powered electric buses and fast-charging stations, adding diesel-electric hybrid and natural gas buses to its fleet -- and actively promotes all types of low-impact transportation options, including cycling, walking and car-sharing services through its TravelSmart program in the community
- TransLink has been recognized by the American Public Transportation Association Sustainability Commitment for its ongoing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- and is the first Canadian transportation agency to achieve Platinum status for its efforts
- TransLink's LEED-certifed head office features solar shading, smart metering and a solar reflecting roof -- and across its building portfolio, the transit service has introduced many energy-savings initiatives at facilities through BC Hydro's conservation and energy management programs
TransLink commits to making green easier for all
TransLink is committed to making it easy for residents and visitors in Metro Vancouver to choose sustainable ways to travel – as did the federal government’s announcement in early 2021 of an eight-year, $14.9-billion public transit plan that includes $400 million to support active transportation to and from transit.
“There is momentum, and there are a lot more people who are finding it safer and more comfortable to walk and cycle,” says Renate Sitch, a senior TravelSmart specialist for the Vancouver-based transportation authority. “And there is senior-level government support.”
While TransLink, along with its operating companies Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) and BC Rapid Transit Company (BCRTC), is responsible for all the buses, SeaBuses, SkyTrains, commuter trains, five bridges and the Major Road Network, its mandate goes beyond transit to integrate pedestrian and cycling infrastructure into its communities so that people can get to and from transit stations easily.
“We’re making sure we’re a full, complementary, multimodal transit authority,” Sitch adds.
Sitch works with municipal partners to determine what kinds of programs, resources, information or data is needed. TransLink supports cycling education for students and adults and runs educational campaigns and events such as Bike to Work Week.
“It’s more than building infrastructure or putting in a cycling lane that is a direct route to our SkyTrain stations,” she says. “If that neighbourhood isn’t aware that it’s there or they don’t feel comfortable cycling, then they’re not going to use it.”
In addition to providing secure bike parking in SkyTrain stations, TransLink and BCRTC are also rolling out new bike lockers. Bicycles can also be taken on trains and buses. “You can combine pretty much every trip with cycling,” Sitch says.
The transportation authority has also updated all the regional cycling routes and put them together in a 2021 map. “While we can say, ‘Get outside and ride your bike,’” she adds, “we have to provide really safe, comfortable cycling routes that suit the needs of all ages and abilities.”
During the pandemic, the need for more public space has intensified. As businesses have expanded outdoor patios at the expense of parking areas, for example, TransLink has created temporary pedestrian and cycling areas in response. It also supports carpooling and car-sharing programs as well as trip-reduction strategies, though Sitch acknowledges that congestion is still a problem. Supporting these initiatives contributes to TransLink’s corporate goal of prioritizing climate action.
Emissions reduction is very much part of TransLink’s culture. TransLink’s head office is located beside a SkyTrain station, and employees are given a free transit pass to encourage them to leave the cars at home. “It just makes sense for us to use that service,” says CMBC service planner Cici Chen, “and also keep an eye on what the customers are experiencing just by being customers ourselves.”
TransLink, CMBC and SkyTrain have bold goals when it comes to sustainability. As part of its Low Carbon Fleet Strategy, TransLink and CMBC are piloting four battery-electric buses on one of its routes, with an additional 15 more planned. Electrification is a critical step in achieving its bold goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and transitioning to a fleet operating entirely on renewable energy by 2050.
“This is definitely a big transformation for us,” says Chen. While electrification is complex, and requires significant funding, she adds, “it’s so exciting that electric vehicles are the future that we’re looking at.”