Opinion: TransLink releases plan to deal with snow. Will it do any good?

Chris Campbell

Look, when it snows in Metro Vancouver I am just as freaked out as the next person.

The idea of a snowmageddon (snowpocalypse?) keeps me awake at night, probably because I live on Burnaby Mountain.

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The mountain gets worse snow that most Metro Vancouver places and I’ve watched buses get stuck up there too many times to feel like this winter will be any different. (Drivers don’t help matters by not having proper tires and driving too fast for the conditions.)

ransLink says it has a plan with “new initiatives and improvements to prepare for any adverse weather events this winter.”

Let’s hope so because there are hundreds of thousands of riders relying on TransLink to keep moving even in the snow.

Last month, TransLink says it also hosted a meeting between Metro Vancouver municipalities to share and discuss winter preparedness plans. 

This is what TransLink has in mind to deal with winter:

bus snow sock
A bus with a new snow sock on it. TransLink photo


  • *NEW* Station upgrades – Electronic display screens and speakers have been installed and upgraded at many station locations, providing customers with crucial information during delays or weather events. 
  • *NEW* Touchscreen transit kiosks – TransLink’s touchscreen transit kiosks being deployed around the network can provide full screen warnings when emergencies or significant delays occur.


  • *NEW* Millennium Line coupling– During heavy snowfall, trains on the Millennium Line will be coupled together (4-car trains) to maximize capacity while SkyTrain Attendants monitor guideways.
  • *NEW* Canada Line de-icing – Canada Line has upgraded de-icing products being used to keep guideway power rails free of ice.
  • SkyTrain guideway monitoring– SkyTrain Attendants will be positioned at the front of trains during heavy snowfall.  This initiative improves reliability on the system by limiting emergency braking, which can be triggered by heavy snowfall.
  • Canada Line heat tracing – Heat tracing has been installed on the power rail in sections where heavy ice buildup has previously resulted in service disruptions.
  • SkyTrain de-icing– De-icer trains will keep power rails free of ice. During times of overnight snow, some trains will run throughout the night to keep tracks clear.
  • Problem tree and branch removal– Problem trees and branches situated within 10 metres of SkyTrain tracks are being removed.


  • *NEW* Tire sock improvements – Tire sock sizing is being adjusted this year which will see the socks last for double the distance, with the same level of effectiveness.  Tire socks will again be made available for use on Burnaby Mountain and the North Shore.
  • *NEW* Snow Desk– There will be a designated Snow Desk in the Transit Communications Centre to monitor bus routes and road conditions.
  • *NEW* Snow monitoring– Contractors who plow and shovel at bus loops / exchanges and SkyTrain stations will be encouraged to upload photos for verification of snow conditions.
  • Trolley bus wires anti-icing trucks– Trucks will spray de-icing fluid around the entire 300-km electric trolley overhead system when there’s frost or ice risk.
  • Additional bus tire traction – Bus Operators can use a snow switch which gives bus tires better traction in snow.
  • Bus switch outs– Articulated buses can be switched for conventional buses.  40-foot conventional buses carry fewer passengers, but have better traction in snow, especially on steep terrain.
  • Snow routes– Work with municipalities to coordinate our service with priority corridors for snow clearing, should conditions become severe.


  • *NEW* Road condition checks– A formal process has been implemented to assess road conditions for customer pickup.
  • *NEW* Partner communication strategy– If service disruptions or schedule changes occur, there’s now a strategy in place to notify day programs and health partners of these changes.
  • Targeting difficult locations– Customers who can be difficult to access during winter are being contacted early to discuss a clearing plan.
  • Extra staffing– If there is a reduction to service, each bus will have two drivers to help customers load and unload.


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