Ride on an old Brill trolley bus

TransLink is celebrating 125 years of transit in the Metro Vancouver region this year.  Tomorrow, Sunday June 28th, 2015 between 11am-3pm, there will be an opportunity for the public to ride on one of the first-generation Brill trolley buses which operated in Vancouver between 1948 and 1984.

First generation trolley buses served Vancouver between 1948 and 1984
First-generation (Brill) trolley buses served Vancouver between 1948 and 1984.
Second-generation (Flyer) trolley buses served from 1982 to 2008
A third-generation New Flyer E40LFR, serving from 2005 to present day.
Third-generation (New Flyer) trolley buses serving from 2005 to present day

This particular bus entered service in 1954 and was retired in 1984 when the second-generation Flyer trolleys entered into service.  It has been restored and preserved by the Transit Museum Society (TRAMS).

The bus will be making a loop around Downtown Vancouver via:

  • Southbound Cambie (stopping at Hastings – Victory Square)
  • Westbound on Pender (no stops)
  • Southbound Burrard (stopping at SkyTrain station and Robson)
  • Eastbound Davie (stopping at Howe)
  • Northbound Seymour (stopping at Dunsmuir)
  • Eastbound Cordova (stopping at Waterfront Station)
  • And looping back to Victory Square

For further details and a map see the event page on the Buzzer Blog.  Rides are free!

Finally tapping in using the Compass Card

Almost two years after the Beta Test, the Compass Card is finally starting to become within reach of the general public.

The Compass Card was first rolled out for BC Bus Pass, TransLink employees and CNIB passengers in January 2014.  The U-Pass BC started transitioning to Compass early this year.  This past week, the Compass Card was made available for West Coast Express customers.

TransLink staff were handing out Compass Cards at the Waterfront West Coast Express station this week, so I went to get one on my lunch break.

For the past week, I’ve been tapping in and out. For the most part I can’t really see anything significantly different from the beta test. The readers on the buses emit a louder beeping sound, which is great.  I’ve still run into the occasional frozen faregate. And the transition on the readers from “Tap In” To “Proceed” is still green to green (one of the complaints was that it was difficult to see the change to “Proceed”).

All in all, it’s great to see that after two years we finally may see the Compass Card fully in use.

The Compass Card Website

This is one part of the Compass Card project that wasn’t ready during the Beta Test.

Compass Card Website
The main page on the Compass Card website where you can check your card balances.

The Compass Card website is very easy to use and mobile friendly.  I was able to register the card and purchase a monthly pass through my mobile browser with no issues.

Side note: If any of you use a three-zone monthly bus pass for $170, did you know you can actually save almost $20 by purchasing the cheapest West Coast Express monthly pass for $151.75, which includes unlimited bus/SkyTrain/SeaBus travel.

Compass Card History
My adventure home last night.

The website also shows when you tapped in and tapped out.  This means that information is inherently logged and identifiable by each Compass Card.

From TransLink’s perspective, this information is great as it is much more specific than the passenger counters that it currently employs.  Also it provides TransLink information as to the actual start and destinations of trips instead of just boardings.  This can definitely aid in planning routes and services that better cater to the actual demand.

However on the other hand, this raises privacy concerns.  If you have registered your Compass Card with TransLink (which they recommend for extra benefits like auto-loading of funds and balance protection if you lose your card), this means that TransLink has the data to track all of your movements on public transportation. We can take a look at the Compass Card privacy policy for some reassurance though.  Here are some quotations from the document.

On anonymity if you don’t register your card:

Unless you choose to share personal information with us, you’ll be anonymous. You don’t have to register your card, but if you decide to, we’ll require some information, so we can provide assistance and services.

Usage of travel data for planning purposes:

Anonymous and aggregated travel data (i.e., amassed data stripped of personal information) will be studied by TransLink to better understand, plan and forecast ridership volumes and transit service. This data will help shape better transportation for the region and provide new and better products and services in the future.

How long travel data is associated with your Compass Card:

We’ll keep your Compass Card transactions for 15 months so that, if you’ve registered your card, you can easily access 15-months’ worth of transactions online. After 15 months, your personal information is stripped from your travel details.

That should ease the minds of most people who may be concerned about privacy; giving the privacy policy a complete read is probably a good idea anyway. And of course if you don’t register your card, you will remain anonymous.

Fun ways to get from Richmond to Downtown Vancouver on transit

I commute from Richmond to Downtown Vancouver every day for work.  Normally I take the Canada Line, which is a quick and reliable way to and from work.  As much as I like trains, some days it just seems boring; after all, the majority of the ride is underground.

So I tasked myself to find five different ways to get to work (potentially one for each day of the week), if I wanted to take a break from the Canada Line.  Let’s assume we’re commuting from Richmond Centre to Waterfront.  Obviously we’re not optimizing for travel time.

Option 1: 403, 480, 44

A nice ride to UBC then along 4th Avenue, Burrard Street Bridge downtown.  If you’re lucky, you can complete this entire route on articulated buses.

Option 2: 407, 22

I’d probably consider this one the most unscenic one, but it only involves one transfer and is a bus-only route.  Probably a good one for napping.

Option 3: 430, Expo/Millennium Line

An express bus to Metrotown, then a ride on the SkyTrain downtown.  If you’re extremely lucky, you may find a seat at the front of the SkyTrain.

Option 4: 410, Expo/Millennium Line

Kind of the same as the previous option except this one includes a highway run along Highway 91, but no express through the city.  This has a longer SkyTrain ride too, which also includes passing the SkyTrain yard.

Option 5: 407, 480, 17, 50

And finally the crazy bus-only route.  Almost guaranteed to ride four different types of buses – a New Flyer 40 footer on the 407, an articulated bus on the 480, a trolley bus on the 17 and most likely a Novabus on the 50.

Of course these options aren’t exhaustive; there are many other combinations that can loop through all parts of town.  But these are the ones off the top of my head that balance being interesting and getting to work in a reasonable amount of time.

Basic ‘ZFS on Linux’ setup on CentOS 7

Here is a quick guide to getting a plain ZFS partition working on a Linux machine using the “ZFS on Linux” project.  I was playing around on a CentOS 7 virtual machine trying to set it up as a replication target for my home FreeNAS box as a backup.  If you are unfamiliar with ZFS, it is a filesystem for a storage environment, having features such as data integrity protection and snapshots; I came across it as it is used in FreeNAS.

Here is the procedure I used:

Continue reading Basic ‘ZFS on Linux’ setup on CentOS 7

VMware ESXi Scratch Space

If you installed VMware ESXi on a USB stick like I did, the “scratch space” (used for storing logs and debug information) is stored on a RAM disk.  This takes up 512MB of memory that could otherwise be provisioned to virtual machines.  In addition, it does not persist across reboots, which explains why I was never able to find any logs after a crash. Also I was seeing random “No space left on device” errors when I was trying to run the munin monitoring script for ESXi.

The solution to this is to simply create a folder on a disk, and configure ESXi to use it.

  1. Login to the console or SSH to the host.
  2. Go into one of your datastores in /vmfs/volumes/
  3. Create a directory for the scratch space.
  4. Login to the vSphere Client.
  5. In the Host device, go to the Configuration tab, then find the Software category on the left menu and click Advanced Settings
  6. In the Configuration parameters window, find ScratchConfig on the left.
  7. For the “ScratchConfig.ConfiguredScratchLocation” box, enter the path to the folder you created in step 3.
    ESXi Advanced Settings Window
  8. Reboot the host.

It’s as simple as that!


Software developer (mobile/web). Public transportation enthusiast. Catholic.