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'Tires aren't a silver bullet': TransLink braces for Metro Vancouver snowstorm

"Buses are only as good as the roads they drive."
The Metro Vancouver weather forecast includes a snowfall warning and TransLink has prepared for poor conditions. Photo: @BCMikeMcD / Twitter

TransLink says it has planned for a potential snowstorm in Metro Vancouver but its buses must contend with current road conditions.

"Tires aren't a silver bullet," spokesperson Tina Lovgreen told V.I.A. in a phone interview late Tuesday afternoon.

"Buses are only as good as the roads they drive."

While the transportation agency has prepared for the inclement weather, any places where cars struggle will also be challenging for buses.

"Crews are already preparing to mitigate impact but we encourage customers to prepare for their commute," she said.

On steep, slippery routes, articulated buses will be replaced with conventional 40-foot buses because they are more agile. They will also be equipped with tire socks on parts of sleeper routes with heavy snowfall.  

Crews have been spreading anti-icing solution on overhead trolley wires. If needed, they will use brass cutters on trolley buses to cut through ice on the wires.

Extra staff has also been brought in to help deal with the extreme weather conditions. 

Lovgreen advises people to "check your route before you head out," noting that buses may face more difficulty navigating terrain with steep inclines, such as on the North Shore, Upper Lynn Valley, Burnaby Mountain, and the British Properties.

On the SkyTrain, crews will de-ice trains to prevent ice from building up on the power rail. Trains will also run overnight to prevent snow from building up on the gateway. 

Why did customers face significant waits during the last snowstorm in Metro Vancouver?

Last week, a blast of bone-chilling air and snowfall across Metro Vancouver slowed traffic to a halt in many places, including several major highways. 

A local woman said her commute from Vancouver was over three times what it typically is during the week due to snowy conditions and poor communication by TransLink.

"I wasn't expecting anything to happen," she told V.I.A., noting that there was no communication online from TransLink. While a winter weather message was shared, she didn't see any cancellations on her route.

Last week's winter storm produced modest amounts of snowfall (under 2 cm in most places) but buses faced icy conditions that made conditions dangerous, Lovgreen explained. 

"That day we did deliver the majority of our service across the region," she said, adding that crews worked hard and kept the "majority of the system running smoothly." 

Customers can plan their commute by using Trip Planner and stay up to date by signing up for Transit Alerts, following TransLink on X (Twitter) @TransLink, or calling customer service at 604-953-3333.