British Columbia

5 things that could come to TransLink you might not know about

So much of the focus on TransLink's future plans are centred around the large bridge and rapid transit lines the organization hopes to build in the next decade.

Smartphone payments, double decker buses and even a gondola to SFU are still on the table

A gondola to Simon Fraser University is a priority under TransLink's 10-year vision for Metro Vancouver Transit & Transportation. (TransLink)

So much of the focus on TransLink's future plans are centred around the large bridge and rapid transit lines the organization hopes to build in the next decade.

But TransLink is also pursuing or exploring a number of other projects that could have an impact in the years to come. 

Here are five of them you might find interesting.

1. Payment by smartphone or credit card

TransLink is hoping to allow mobile payments on buses or at fare gates early next year. 

While available for anyone, they say it would be marketed for tourists and infrequent riders who don't have a Compass Card.

CEO Kevin Desmond said the technology is already embedded within the tap-in system, so they can get moving pretty quickly.

"We don't have the dates yet, because we still have to pin things down. Once we have a sense of when we can launch, we'll make a big announcement and start marketing it, but I'm hopeful in the first quarter of next year."

Compass Cards can be bought online at vending machines and at London Drugs stores for a $6 deposit. (Lisa Johnson/CBC)

2. Double decker buses

While they're found in many transit systems throughout the world — including Victoria — TransLink is only now exploring two-deck buses for longer distance commuter roads. 

A pilot project for double-decker buses will take place later this year, with routes in Delta and Surrey (routes 351 and 354) being used for two months. 

The new buses will have 80 seats, compared to 47 for the current highway coaches. If the project is a success, TransLink will purchase more double-deckers. 

"It gives our customers a chance to experience them and get some feedback from them," said Desmond. 

"We think that's going to be a nice advancement for the system going forward."

Double decker buses are used in several areas of the country, including highways in the Toronto area.

3. Environmentally-friendly buses

TransLink is exploring the idea of shifting to a "low-carbon fleet" and is expecting to purchase more battery, hyrbrid and natural gas-fuelled buses in the years ahead. 

"We've come to the conclusion that diesel buses are probably going the way of the dodo for us," said Geoff Cross, TransLink's vice president of planning. 

They estimate it will cost about $300 million more in capital costs to make the shift — a figure Derek Corrigan suggested was too high for the benefits it would provide. 

"It seems to slip off the tongue with very little difficulty. Well, transit's already an environmental solution. The idea of paying more for the technologies that we have ... isn't necessarily the best use of our funds. Rather than paying $300 million for the same amount of buses, I'd rather see more buses," he said. 

4. A gondola to SFU 

An overhead cable-car link to the top of Burnaby Mountain has long been a dream for people who study or work at Simon Fraser University, who can find themselves trapped if the buses they rely on can't get up the hill in snowy weather.

The idea was shelved by TransLink in 2012 but was reinserted into the 10-year plan in 2016 — and preliminary studies have been encouraging, according to Michael Buda, executive director of the Mayors' Council.

5. WiFi on rapid transit

Using too much data on your commute?

"We're making really good progress on providing WiFi throughout the SkyTrain system," said Desmond to the mayors on Thursday, though he didn't have an exact timeline available.

"I'm just hoping Telus or Rogers just puts cell service in the tunnel for the Evergreen Line, like they did on the Canada Line," said Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore. 

Desmond said a solution to both issues was being worked on by staff. 


Justin McElroy


Justin is the Municipal Affairs Reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering local political stories throughout British Columbia.