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The Buzzer is now back online, bringing you the best in TransLink news, commentary and behind-the-scenes stories. Visit for the latest and you can read some of our earlier stories below.

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In Memory of Roger Swan: Metro Vancouver’s first Black SkyTrain attendant on conquering life’s challenges
Posted: March 2, 2021

Roger Swan posing in a cafe with a cup of tea

“I wanted to tell this story all my life.”

Those were some of the last words that Roger Swan mentioned in his phone interview with TransLink’s social media team in January 2021 before he passed away.

Roger achieved many firsts in his life. He was the first Black SkyTrain Attendant in Metro Vancouver and one of the first Black Transit Operators in the region. He was also a husband, a father and a grandfather, an avid basketball player for many years, as well as a gifted photographer and lover of music, especially Motown.

Although his last few years were spent in Maple Ridge, Roger lived in various locations in both Canada and USA. His was a life full of adventures and challenges, which he overcame with dignity and determination.

Roger was born in 1940 in Raeford, North Carolina. Growing up with five other siblings, he was an inquisitive child. Racial segregation was prominent in the South at that time: Jim Crows laws ruled towns and cities with an iron first. The laws legitimized racism, preventing Black people from sharing public transportation and all other public facilities, from schools to theatres, and restaurants with white people. Little Roger was perceptive to the injustices and asked his parents questions only a child could.

Upon noticing how Black people were prohibited from entering stores through the same door as white people, he asked his mom, “Why are there signs on the store that say ‘White’ and ‘Coloured’?” Roger remembered how when walking downtown, he would need to stand aside if there were white people coming towards him. He recalled, “One day I was walking downtown with mom, and I looked in the yard, and there were people in the yard suntanning.” He asked his mother, “Mom, if they hate us so much, why do they want to look like us?”

Once, Roger’s father suddenly instructed Roger’s siblings and him to lay down on the floor in his family home and be quiet. “The Ku Klux Klan is marching,” he would later explain. The presence of the KKK was vivid in Roger’s other memories, from the sight of burning crosses to seeing three Black men hanging from the trees: “The worst thing [he] had ever seen in [his] life.”

When Roger was just twelve, both his parents passed away. His siblings and he had to move around frequently and lived in different places until they found their home with foster parents: Sister Georgia and Brother Jackson.

They were able to go back to school and were kindly taken care of by their new family. “Every night, Sister Georgia would made sure we were covered. Every morning, she made sure we had hot breakfast. And she made sure we had 20 cents in our pockets to pay for lunch at school.”

A portrait of Roger Swan

Roger often used to sit down and talk with his foster father, who was a minister, about God. “I couldn’t understand why God would take our mom and dad from us.” Brother Jackson would respond with reassurance, “God don’t put things on you that you cannot handle.” This belief guided Roger throughout his life.

In high school, Roger played basketball, baseball, and was part of the band. He graduated with honors and went on to serve in the United States Air Force in 1961.

A talented photographer stationed at McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Washington, he was almost assigned to work as a frontline photographer in Vietnam. It was a highly risky job, and Roger recalled how stressful the situation was. In the end, the job was filled by someone else and he stayed back.

Roger was able to utilize his professional photography skills later, taking photos of an iconic site in Seattle, the Space Needle. The facility was built for the 1962 World’s Fair—the Century 21 Exposition whose theme was ‘The Age of Space'. When the opening ceremony took place, Roger was one of the photographers selected to capture the opening of the facility, as well as President John F. Kennedy’s visit on that day. Roger used to visit Vancouver, BC, often before he left the Air Force in Tacoma. He met his wife Carol in Vancouver, and the two were married in 1965.

In the 1970s, Roger was hired as a bus operator with BC Hydro, which ran public transit in the region at that time. He remembered being one of only two Black bus operators when he was hired. In the mid-1980s, Roger joined SkyTrain, working there for nearly 30 years before retiring in 2012. He was the first Black SkyTrain attendant in Metro Vancouver. One of his first supervisors, Mike Richard, has fond memories of Roger saying, “We had lots of fun, and he was quite a character. We lost a good one when he retired, but he would always check in once-in-a-while in the years since. He loved his job, our customers, and his co-workers.”

Roger Swan posing for a photo in front of a tree

As his life story demonstrates, Roger was aware of social injustices from an early age and saw the importance in remembering the past. He commented, “History has the tendency to repeat itself. You learn from history. People should never stop talking about what happened in the past. Keep educating yourself and never stop learning.”

Roger shared his perspective on the significance of Black History Month. “We’ve had some Black leaders going back historically. Some of my most inspirational leaders were Muhammad Ali and Martin Luther King. But if you go to Black communities, there were Black leaders that never got the recognition and never got the notoriety. The reason why we are today, it’s because of the work of so many people.”

Despite all the challenges, carrying a bright smile and positive outlook wherever he went was Roger’s life mantra.

“You know, it was a bad beginning. But I would like to encourage everybody to not give up on life. Just keep on working. Things will work out.”

TransLink would like to express our condolences for the Swan family’s loss. We’d also like to thank trailblazers like Roger for sharing his story, and in turn, helping us better understand struggles Roger and so many others have undergone to work through adversity. We are honoured to be able to share his story.

Folu Odunuga

“I was never really aware of being black till I moved to Vancouver and saw very few people that looked like me”, says Folu Odunuga.

As Manager - Project Management Office at TransLink, and in her role as part of TransLink’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Task Force, Folu has worked hard to bring her lived experience to create equitable spaces for everyone.

“A report done by Lean In & McKinsey talks about how Intersectionality is something most black women face,” says Folu.

“This speaks to barriers you face as a woman, including that of race. This is something that no other race or class experiences. This is one reason I make a conscious effort to talk to women, especially women of colour, about their family, their country, and their culture, to be the example I also seek.”

Folu is also a chapter lead of the TransLink Women + Allies Employee Resource Group which provides a forum where women feel connected through shared experiences and can support each other and be supported by their allies.

Having been born and raised in Nigeria, Folu is the youngest of her five siblings. After studying real estate management for her undergraduate degree, she started working at Jumia – Africa’s biggest online store.

In 2016, she decided to go back to school to pursue an MBA and moved back to Canada, after initially landing in 2014, to go to Vancouver Island University

After graduating, she landed a temporary job at TransLink, and since then, has worked her way up the proverbial corporate ladder and is now a manager.

Folu says some of her experiences revolve around overcoming stereotypes, that stemmed from a single story.

“This is very harmful,” she says.

“A very popular Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave a TED talk on ‘The danger of a single story’ which summarizes the dangers (albeit unknown) that readers face because of a single narrative, from a single/group of like-minded individuals telling the same story over and over again.

Black History Month is the awareness of different lived experiences coming together to be talked about and celebrated.

“Suddenly, someone that has always seen things a certain way, has the opportunity to be enlightened, to have their horizons broadened and to most importantly, not suffer from the threats of a single story. Black History Month becomes successful if someone that suffers from a single story has been educated on the history/lived experiences of Black culture. It should not be a month; it should be about continuous learning of different histories and culture.”

In Folu’s opinion, “Diversity brings about uniqueness which is based on lived experiences shown through culture, style and upbringing. This helps bring diversity in ideas, decision-making and problem-solving scenarios. That is how we grow as an organization. Bringing in fresh/new ideas to solving problems ensure that we continue to grow and evolve in our pursuits for improved customer experience.”

She continues that the onus of educating oneself in the history and culture of others should not lay on those with lived experience. In order to become allies, Folu thinks it’s important to learn, read a book that talks about a culture or a belief different from yours.

“Follow pages about authors, poets, photographers that detail other cultures/lived experiences. Similar to how your social media algorithm expands/gets modified when you watch, like or follow pages with different view/culture than yours. This ensures that you do not go through life with tunnel vision/focused views. Be intentional about diversifying your knowledge base.”

For recommended reading, Folu points to Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie, Home Going by Yaa Gyasi, and Children of Blood and Bones by Tomi Adeyemi.

Sammy posing for a photo while sitting in the driver's seat of a bus

Leaving Ethiopia for the promise of a better life in Canada is what brought Samson Assefa and his family here some 26 years ago. “The choice to come here wasn’t complicated,” says Samson. “Canada has a reputation of being a mosaic of cultures and a welcoming society.”

Samson settled in Surrey with his wife and two children before joining the TransLink enterprise. His career began in 2006 as a Transit Operator, later moving into the Bus Service Department. “Joining the TransLink enterprise was one of the best decisions I have made,” says Samson who notes that fellow Ethiopians who had started working here were supportive and encouraging. He enjoys both his work and the comraderies with his colleagues.

In addition to his role within the TransLink enterprise, Samson is also one of the leaders of the Ethiopian Transit Workers’ Association (ETWA), a non-profit charitable organization whose members are employed within the TransLink enterprise. Founded in 2005, ETWA is engaged in community and youth empowerment programs and believes in building a vibrant and sustainable community.

In collaboration with TransLink’s HR department, the ETWA hosted a seminar in resume writing, online applications, and interviewing skills for several community members who were seeking employment with TransLink. They also established and fund an annual scholarship to a graduate student at the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning who exhibits excellence in academic, professional and community activities and, most importantly, has a vision for sustainable public transit planning.

For Samson, the significance of honouring and recognizing Black History Month, is its importance in helping broaden the understanding of Black Canadian history and the contributions they have made in shaping our society. “Our children and future generations need to come together as Canadians while celebrating our unique diversities.” Samson stresses the importance of learning about one's history and taking pride in one’s roots.

Growing up in Ethiopia, Samson learned about the Battle of Adwa in 1896, where Ethiopia defeated the more advanced and sophisticated European military avoiding likely colonization. “Our victory over Italy sent a shockwave in Europe, upsetting the time's race hierarchy, and inspired many influential leaders like Marcus Garvey and Nelson Mandela. This unique experience has made me a confident Black Canadian who is not afraid to chase his dreams,” he says.

An impactful way to honor the spirit of Black History Month is by strengthening your allyship. Samson urges white people and other people of colour to continue to support the Black community in their ongoing quest for equity and a level playing field.

“Black Canadians are diverse with unique backgrounds, history, and challenges. Get to know your Black Canadian neighbours, classmates, and indeed your colleagues in the TransLink enterprise. Allyship is a process and starts with friendship.”

A great place to start is by reading and researching. Samson recommends picking up Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave.

While Samson recognizes that there is so much more work to do when it comes to fighting discrimination, racial injustice, and systemic inequality, he also thanks the leadership at TransLink for highlighting the need to make our organization a more diverse and inclusive workplace. “Equity, diversity, and inclusion is a long journey, but we are on the right path.”

Transit operator authors new life after escaping war
Posted: Feb 12, 2021

Jerry Gbrady

Jerry Gbardy is a Transit Operator at Coast Mountain Bus Company. Every day, he makes sure riders in Metro Vancouver can get safely to their destinations.

When he is not on the road, Jerry dedicates his time to bringing together and empowering the Liberian and African community in Canada. He is the President of the African Canadian Soccer and Culture Association (ACSCA) and a Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Liberian Association of Canada.

These community initiatives hold a personal significance to Jerry, who arrived in Canada in 1995 as a Landed Immigrant.

In 1989, the First Civil War broke out in his home country of Liberia. After hearing a top NPFL rebel commander's BBC Radio interview threatening to kill him and other members of his tribe, Jerry and his family fled their home country to escape death. They moved to neighboring Sierra Leone only to find out nine months later that the rebels crossed the border from Liberia to attack their country of asylum.

“When you leave your country under those circumstances, it’s hard. You know you are running away with tears flowing down your cheeks. You know you are going to live somewhere else and you ask yourself if you are ever going to come back.”

It is in Vancouver, British Columbia that Jerry was eventually able to settle down and start a new life with his wife and kids. Having worked at CMBC for 13 years, Jerry said that one of the aspects he enjoys the most about the enterprise is the opportunity to work alongside with co-workers of diverse backgrounds and walks of life.

“We have fun, we make jokes. These moments help to, you know, broaden your mind and make you realize that you must accept the other person that is next to you, even though the person’s skin color is not like yours. Then you will appreciate life, you will get to know the other person’s situation, where they come from and why they behave in certain ways that they do.”

The fact that being Black can be an issue has never occurred to Jerry until he first left Sierra Leone to start his graduate degree in Cairo, Egypt. After witnessing instances of racism at various points of his life, including in Canada, Jerry believes there is still work that needs to be done.

“Every day I get up and go to work. I don’t go to work and see myself as a Black person who must do all I can to be able to fit into the work environment. I want to work daily, knowing that I have a job to do and that I can do it to the best of my ability and treat everyone, my coworkers and customers, with respect and hope to be treated the same way.”

Reflecting on the significance of the Black History Month, he commented:

“It is very important to share with the world about the physical and intellectual struggle that Black people are leading for almost three centuries now. Black History Month should be an ongoing initiative. We shouldn’t wait until February for the issues of Black people to be highlighted. It should be in the school curriculum, it should be taught in schools and universities and discussed publicly”.

He added that an important step towards acceptance and being an ally is getting outside of your own bubble and be willing to learn about people outside of your immediate surrounding. For Black History month, he recommends reading Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. If you want to learn more about Jerry’s life journey, you can check his memoir Painful Journey: A Story of Escape and Survival.

Family and tradition.

Those are the pillars for Lunar New Year, no matter where you’re celebrating and who’s celebrating.

In North America, Thanksgiving and Christmas are by far the largest travel days as people traverse the continent to visit and celebrate with family. That’s Lunar New Year for people in places like China, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

It is also widely celebrated in Canada, the United States and countries around the world that have a large Asian diaspora.

Lunar New Year marks the beginning of a new year on the lunar calendar, which uses the phases of the moon – how long it takes to transition from one full moon to another – to tell time. It always falls between late January and early February.

In 2021, it’s the Year of the Ox and it falls on Feb. 12.


Lunar New Year, Chinese New Year, or something different?

A TransLink representative and Transit Police posing for Lunar New Years

How to celebrate varies from culture to culture, country to country, and sometimes even family to family.

As a Canadian with family ties to Hong Kong, Chris Chan celebrates Chinese New Year, which is how Chinese people mark Lunar New Year.

Chris, who works at Coast Mountain Bus Company as a travel training manager, explains that Chinese New Year is commonly referred to as the Spring Festival.

Preparation begins around the 23rd of the final month in the lunar calendar and goes through the first 15 days of first month.

“You go shopping because you have to prepare to visit family and friends,” he says. “You clean your house, usually 2-3 days before, and perform rituals to honour ancestors before the big family reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve.”

Dinner takes place at the eldest family member’s house where families eat a carefully curated dinner that aims to ring in the new year with as much good luck as possible.

“You always have to have fish because the Chinese pronunciation for fish is similar to the word for plentiful,” says Chris. “The glutinous rice balls (tang yuan in Mandarin) sound like family together. And there’s also longevity noodles for a long life and dumplings (jiaozi), which look like a gold bar symbolizing prosperity.”

For Chris, the rice balls are a must at his dinner given the Chinese word’s pronunciation sounding like “together as a family.”


Celebrating differently this year

A woman holding up a red Lunar New Years packet

Together means something differently in 2021.

For most families, it’s Chinese New Year tradition to visit with your immediate family during the first few days of the holiday, and then you spend the rest visiting with extended family and friends. The purpose is to bring them good luck, fortune and happiness to your family, and to ward off evil spirits.

If you are married, you would hand out red envelopes with cash inside to children, family and friends. You also gift oranges, pomelos, kumquats, or tangerines, which all symbolize good luck, fortune and happiness.

“I think the essence of Chinese New Year is showing that you’re polite and you care,” Chris says, noting there’s other ways to show this to your family and friends this year.

His children are the youngest in his extended family, so naturally they will be doing the ‘visiting.’

“My kids will have to phone or Zoom call everyone in the family from Vancouver to Hong Kong to China – just everywhere.”


Gung hay fat choy

A red Lunar New Years banner on the windshield of a bus

Each call will kick off with one of the many Chinese New Year greetings like sun nin fai lok, which is how Cantonese speakers say, “happy new year,” and gung hay fat choy, which is how you say, “wishing you great happiness and prosperity.” Cantonese is one of two main Chinese languages spoken in Metro Vancouver.

With these virtual visits, Chris admittedly has dialed back his decorations this year but is heartened to see decorations popping up in the community. People in New Westminster’s Sapperton neighbourhood came together to decorate their houses for Chinese New Year, while lanterns are lighting up a laneway in North Vancouver.

Chris explains Chinese New Year decorations include lanterns to ward off bad luck and evil spirits, as well as red banners with well wishing Chinese words and phrases like “instant success,” “may your work go smoothly” and “peace and safety when travelling.”

Another important decoration is the Chinese character “fortune” on a red diamond-shaped paper, hung upside down. Why upside down? It’s believed that doing so would cause good fortune to literally descend down on their house.


Join in

Chris encourages you to find your own way to join the Lunar New Year celebrations this year.

In years past, TransLink and its staff participated in Lunar New Year festivities by marching in the annual Lunar New Year Parade in Vancouver’s Chinatown. Thousands would take the SkyTrain to Stadium–Chinatown Station to take in the sights and sounds. This year’s events have moved online, including LunarFest Vancouver.

A TransLink representative handing out red packets to people on the street

“One way we can all celebrate Lunar New Year this year is perhaps include a phrase or greeting in your communication on Feb. 12,” says Chris.

“Maybe on that day say, gung hay fat choy or gong xi fa cai, which is wishing you great happiness and prosperity in Cantonese and Mandarin respectively. You can also say, xin nian kuai le (pronounced shin nee-an kwai le in Mandarin), which is happy new year.”


CEO Kevin Desmond

On his final day as TransLink's CEO, Kevin Desmond shared his fondest memories of the five transformative years he spent at the helm of Metro Vancouver's transportation authority.

I’ve arrived at the last stop in my five-year journey leading this exceptional organization. As we say in the transit business, it’s the end of the line.

As I’ve been packing up boxes at our Sapperton office in New Westminster, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on this chapter of my life and what a privilege it has been to serve this region.

Metro Vancouver is a remarkable community and one of the greatest places in the world to live. That much has been clear to me since I first moved here in 2016, having previously helped lead public transit systems in Seattle, Tacoma, and New York City.

When I arrived, TransLink was admittedly experiencing a rough patch and its reputation was a little bruised. Yet despite that, not once did I doubt the potential of this organization. I knew that together we were going to achieve great things and improve the lives of Metro Vancouverites if we stayed focused on one single word: connections.

After all, that’s really what public transit is all about. Our goal is to connect communities through mobility and help build a better place to live. Across Metro Vancouver, there are more than 8,000 TransLink employees committed to public service who are driven by this mission, which was expressed so well in our Customer Promise:

To always put you first — your safety, your time, and your connection to the people and places that matter the most.

Since 2016, we’ve had many accomplishments, rolled out more and better services, and improved the customer journey experience from departure to arrival – making more connections than ever before. We’ve also announced several major expansion projects, which will strengthen connections between some of Metro Vancouver’s fastest-growing communities.

These projects and improvements wouldn’t have been possible without the collaboration, support, and historic investments we’ve received from all levels of government, including the Mayors’ Council, the province, and the federal government. These partnerships enabled us to get stuff done and deliver for our region.

I’m also thankful that I had the chance to make a personal connection with many of you, our customers, over the past five years. Whether it’s student unions, disability advocates, senior groups, business leaders, elected officials, or the ELMTOTs on Facebook, TransLink has so many supporters in the community who are cheering us on from the sidelines. That is something I have cherished during my time as CEO – and something I will truly miss.

As the saying goes, always leave the campground better than how you found it. I believe I am.

Thank you for the opportunity.

Black History Month in Canada

In 1995, the House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month. The month invites us to honour the legacy of Black Canadians, past and present.

The Government of Canada announced the theme for 2021 as “The Future is Now,” calling it a chance to celebrate and acknowledge the transformative work that Black Canadians and their communities are doing now.

We also recognize, that for far too long, members of our Black communities have faced unjust discrimination, including systemic, insidious racism that pervades into the very core of our society. Black History Month is part of our discussions around inclusion that will continue throughout the year.

Over the course of this month, we’ll share stories of Black Canadians who have a connection to Metro Vancouver transit and have uniquely contributed to our communities.

We invite you to join us in recognizing the many achievements and contributions of Black Canadians. To get started and for more information about Black History Month:

Information from the Government of Canada:

Learn about Hogan’s Alley, a Vancouver Black community that was demolished in the 1970s for the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts:

A mobile phone laying flat on a desk with a keyboard and headphones in view

One of the best things about taking transit – aside from having somebody else do the driving for you! – is you can do something else en route to your destination.

Podcasts have become a go-to for many customers while riding transit. That’s why the writers at The Buzzer have compiled a list of their favourite podcasts for you to listen to!

Psst… don’t forget! We have a few audio recordings out that are like podcasts for you to check out. There’s one with TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond on why he loves transit, as well as interviews with a person that collects bus transfers and another who helps collect buses.

For the news junkie

CBC’s Front Burner is a daily news podcast that explores the big stories of the day with curiosity and an open mind. Every weekday, award-winning investigative journalist Jayme Poisson leads you deep into the narratives shaping Canada and the world. Through original reporting and smart conversations, Front Burner will leave you feeling more informed, connected and eager to share what you've learned.

Do you ever wake up worried that something has happened and you don’t know about it? Or find yourself hungry for more about the story that’s buzzing on social media, but without the time to sort through all the noise? The Big Story is an in-depth look at the issues, culture and personalities shaping Canada and the world today.

Today, Explained is Vox's daily explainer podcast. Host Sean Rameswaram will guide you through the most important stories at the end of each day.

For the transit enthusiast

Talking Headways is a podcast hosted by Streetsblog USA and Jeff Wood of The Overhead Wire. They explore the intersection of transportation, urban planning, city living, and anything else that piques our interest.

Transit Unplugged shares the stories, challenges, and successes of the top transit professionals. Transit mobility is really the driving factor within the industry. Hear from the top transit professionals around the world, sharing their personal stories about becoming transit leaders, and their thoughts on the future of transit.

For the Vancouverite

This is VANCOLOUR is self-described as Vancouver’s bona fide culture and politics podcast. Hosted by Mo Amir, parse through the relevant issues with the city's most colourful personalities.

The Cambie Report is Vancouver's local politics podcast that’s hosted by Tessa Vikander, Matthew Naylor and Ian Bushfield.

For the curious

The Kwik Brain podcast is a fun, fast-paced show designed to help busy people learn and achieve anything in a fraction of the time!

If you've ever wanted to know about champagne, satanism, the Stonewall Uprising, chaos theory, LSD, El Nino, true crime and Rosa Parks, then look no further. Josh and Chuck have you covered on the Stuff You Should Know podcast.

We know that our relationship with food isn’t always simple or one-dimensional. Each week, Cookable founder Grace Choi enlists the help of an expert to delve into the messy and wonderful complexities of food in our everyday lives in The Psyche Eats.

In Hardcore History, journalist and broadcaster Dan Carlin takes his "Martian", unorthodox way of thinking and applies it to the past. Was Alexander the Great as bad a person as Adolf Hitler? What would Apaches with modern weapons be like? Will our modern civilization ever fall like civilizations from past eras? This isn't academic history (and Carlin isn't a historian) but the podcast's unique blend of high drama, masterful narration and Twilight Zone-style twists has entertained millions of listeners.

For the pop culture fan

On History of the 90’s you’ll travel back in time through the stories that defined a decade. The last 10 years of the 20th century was a time like no other, from Columbine to Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Seinfeld, Air Jordan, and the Spice Girls …if it happened in the 90’s you’ll hear about it on this podcast. Join Kathy Kenzora for a journey through the History of the 90’s.

On Being is a groundbreaking Peabody Award-winning conversation about the big questions of meaning, hosted by Krista Tippett. Every Thursday a new discovery about the immensity of our lives — and frequent special features like poetry, music and Q + A with Krista.

Elamin Abdelmahmoud and the Pop Chat round-table invite you in to the group chat to help make sense of the cultural drama blowing up the internet. Bringing their hottest takes to the table, join them every week as they debate, discuss and work through the pop culture discourse. The Pop Chat panel consists of: Shireen Ahmed, Angelina Chapin, Kevin Fallon, Sarah Hagi, Hussein Kesvani, Stacy Lee Kong, Kathleen Newman-Bremang, Amil Niazi and Andrea Warner.

Under the Influence with Terry O'Reilly gives listeners a rare backstage pass into the hallways, boardrooms and recording studios of the ad industry. Join host and adman Terry O’Reilly for fascinating (and humorous) stories that connect the dots between pop culture, marketing and human nature.

Reply All is described by The Guardian as, “A podcast about the internet’ that is actually an unfailingly original exploration of modern life and how to survive it.”

Hosted by Brian Baumgartner (Kevin Malone) and produced by Propagate Content, An Oral History of The Office features interviews with the cast and creators from The Office and reveals some never-before-heard stories from the people who were there from the very beginning.

The inside of a bus full of wrapped toys

Have you recently spotted one of our Reindeer Buses on Metro Vancouver’s streets? If so, you might have caught a glimpse of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Bus and our dedicated volunteer team – Sparky the Elf, Mr. Claus, and Mrs. Claus – en route to delivering some holiday cheer!

Every December, the Reindeer Bus and its helpers travel around Metro Vancouver over a four-day period the week before Christmas to collect unwrapped toys from bus depots, offices and other transit facilities. These toys are donated by TransLink enterprise employees (and sometimes customers too!) as part of our annual Toys for Tots campaign, which has become a holiday tradition that is inseparable from all others in Metro Vancouver for our employees.

The team also has special appointments such as visits to Canuck Place Children’s Hospice and Ronald McDonald House. While 2020 brought new uncertainty and challenges, it didn’t stop Sparky the Elf and Mr. and Mrs. Claus from fulfilling their mission. That’s why they arranged a Zoom call to talk with the kids and their families at Canuck Place.

“As much as we would love to be there in person, safety is of the utmost importance. We were really glad we were still able to do it virtually,” says Mrs. Claus, a Coast Mountain Bus Company operator.

This year, the Toys for Tots team delivered more than 2,100 toys, and more than $2,000 in cash and gift certificates to the Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau. This was made possible thanks to the generosity of employees in the TransLink enterprise, as well as the selfless dedication and hard work of the volunteer team, who spent additional hours to make this wonderful event happen.

Countless smiles were delivered too.

“The best part about volunteering on this campaign is to be able to bring smiles on people’s faces and see their joy and laughter. It doesn't matter how old someone is. You get the same reaction from a five-year-old and 55-year-old,” says Sparky the Elf, an instructor with Coast Mountain Bus Company’s operator training department.

Over the 35-year history of Toys for Tots, nearly 87,000 toys and more than $50,000 dollars have now been delivered.

The tradition’s origins can be traced to 1985 when a group of bus operators at the Surrey Transit Centre decided to do something special for the community by collecting toys for families and children who need help putting one underneath the Christmas tree. The initiative exceeded expectations and quickly became popular with bus operators. Soon, employees from across the enterprise joined the effort and Toys for Tots was born.

The Toys for Tots campaign is just one of the many ways the TransLink enterprise and its employees contributed to its communities in 2020. 

We continued our long-standing support for the United Way of the Lower Mainland, including participating in the annual workplace fundraising and Period Promise campaigns. Donation bins at SkyTrain stations collected unregistered Compass Cards from customers. Balances on these cards are distributed to those in need in partnership with the United Way.

Our staff also volunteered their time to make 625 masks for local charities and non-profits using fabric donated to TransLink by Fabricana.

As well, the TransLink Musicians Program went virtual for a few sessions in 2020 as we hosted online performances featuring our buskers – the musicians performing at SkyTrain stations. 

Through our Access to Transit Program, we partnered with BC Housing, Transit Police, Homeless Services Society of BC to support those in shelters with access to transportation. 

And as we look forward to 2021, we will continue to support our community through various initiatives. Learn more at

A TransLink reindeer bus with antlers and a bright red nose


Winter travel can be challenging – but if you stay warm, bright, and properly prepared, you can strut with confidence.

Many thanks to all of our amazing partners for helping create these stylish (and safe!) looks: Herschel, Native Shoes, Stormtech, Mark’s, DUER, Vessi, Obsession Bikes, and Hub Cycling.

Winter Safety Tips

  • Dress warm. Staying warm is so hot right now. Check out Stormtech’s range of quilted and insulated jackets, as well as a selection from Mark’s – including the popular Helly Hansen’s Chelsea Evolution Jacket with PrimaLoft® insulation.

  • Waterproof yourself. Who better to design waterproof fashions than companies from Vancouver? Dress your winter best with DUER All-Weather Denim and Vessi’s patented knit technology waterproof shoes.

  • Be Bright. Boost your mood and visibility with bright accessories. Hershel’s colourful backpacks, cult-classic beanies, and bum bags create the perfect accent.

  • Strut with style and safety. This season, make sure your shoes and boots have proper tread to keep you safe. Native’s Johnny Treklites are stylish and functional and the Windriver Peak II Ice FX Winter Boots from Mark’s offer maximum protection on icy terrain

  • Layer, Layer and Layer. Stormtech’s range of base layers, such as the Andorra Jacket and Logan snap front plaid shirts, will allow you to easily adjust your wardrobe and your temperature as you move from outside to inside.

  • Be Cycling & Walking Savvy. Be a bright light in your commute with fashion and accessories from Obsession Bikes in North Vancouver. They have Sugoi jackets and pants with ZAP technology so you’re visible at night and a Gore-tex line featuring bright colours.

Winter Travel Tips

  • Go slow and step carefully, the floors may be slippery

  • Hang on while the bus or train is in motion

  • Walk, don’t rush for your train or bus

  • Allow for extra commuting time. Transit may be busier than usual, and there may be longer waits for certain services.

  • Watch for your bus. Drivers may not be able to pull into a bus stop, and instead will stop in an area that is safe and accessible nearby.

  • Be courteous and give your fellow passengers space

  • Wear your mask, they’re mandatory

  • Avoid touching your face and sanitize often

Reindeer Bus driving on the Dunsmuir Viaduct

Like the Vancouver Christmas Market, Bright Nights at Stanley Park, and VanDusen Festival of Lights — the Reindeer Bus is a Metro Vancouver holiday tradition.

Since 1985, transit staff – Santa’s elves – have dressed up a bus during the holiday season as the Reindeer Bus complete with antlers, eyes, a nose and a tail!

It brings a bus filled with more than 3,000 unwrapped toys to the Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau where it’s distributed to families who need help putting a toy underneath their Christmas tree.

The toys are generously donated by transit staff through the Toys for Tots donation drive during the first two weeks of December. It has raised more than 85,000 toys and raised more than $48,000 in donations.

As well, the elves work hard each year to amp up the Reindeer Bus.

In 2020, one Reindeer Bus became a fleet of nine Reindeer Buses to spread some much-needed cheer during the COVID-19 pandemic. The year prior to that, a singing Christmas tree was added.

Fleet of the Reindeer Bus

But what hasn’t changed is the elves’ unwavering commitment to spreading holiday cheer and sustainability.

Much of the bus is made from recycled materials. We use scrap metal and insulation to create the antlers.

The antlers are made using aluminum that’s plasma cut from an antler pattern created in-house. Then, structural polyurethane foam (Styrofoam) to give it the antler texture and then painted brown.

Reindeer Bus antlers
How the nose is attached to the Reindeer Bus

The nose is a red, polyform mooring buoy that’s attached to half of a 45-gallon drum, which previously held liquids like engine oil and washer fluid.

Powering all the twinkling lights and Christmas music is an inverter that converts that bus’s standard 24-volt power (two 12-volt batteries) into 110 volts, which is what you get from the outlets in your home.

Lights are attached to the windows and fed into the overhang above the seats on each side of the bus. The lights are plugged into a long extension cord that runs from one end of the bus to the other.

Installing lights on the Reindeer Bus
Running the wires for the lights on the Reindeer Bus

“It brings people so much cheer – it really does,” says Neil Pepper, body shop supervisor at Coast Mountain Bus Company, who’s been involved since 2005.

“You can be having the worst possible day waiting for your bus in a cold and miserable Vancouver. And as soon as you see those antlers that nose flashing you hear the Christmas tunes going onboard the bus. You're in a better mood, you can't help it.”

That’s what makes it a labour of love for the Reindeer Bus team at Coast Mountain Bus Company’s Vancouver Transit Centre.

Remember, every holiday season, if you spot the Reindeer Bus, share it to social media using the hashtag #ReindeerBus. We’d love to see your pictures!

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