TransLink uses hockey sticks to move the SkyTrain forward
As one of the few transit systems in North America to operate electric trolley buses, TransLink has designed its own trucks to de-ice trolley cables. He also had to deploy tire socks and work with manufacturers for a Triple Peak Mountain Snowflake (3PMSF) tire on buses that is best suited for snow in Metro Vancouver.
TransLink also uses hockey sticks to clear snow and ice buildup from SkyTrain doors.
“Everyone likes to joke around and make fun of us with our hockey sticks, but it’s super effective,” explained Art Wittich, an automotive technologist at SkyTrain.
Since the snow in Metro Vancouver is particularly wet, thick and heavy, it can accumulate between the SkyTrain doors. This can cause gates between stations to freeze, meaning customers may not be able to board or disembark at their preferred gate.
That’s why SkyTrain technicians use hockey sticks to proactively remove snow and ice buildup from the doors at Stadium–Chinatown, Commercial–Broadway, Edmonds, Gateway, Production Way–University, and Moody Center stations. .
Each station has eight hockey sticks, so at any one time there are 48 hockey sticks cleaning snow and ice. Trains may be held at stations longer than usual so staff can clear snow and ice from doors.
Wittich, who joined SkyTrain in 1991 as a worker, says he’s never seen a SkyTrain car where all the doors are closed. Hockey sticks are also effective in removing snow and ice. And that for more than 25 years now.
But Wittich remembers it wasn’t always the tool of choice.
He explains that during the early days of SkyTrain, the ice was cleared from the doors using a “piece of aluminum”. Not only did it not work well, but the aluminum also scratched the paint. Technicians then started using a piece of thin wood that broke easily. Then they switched to a thin piece of plastic and it worked fine. One caveat though: it hurt my hand, so they started wrapping duct tape around it.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if he was a little bent and someone had the brilliant idea. ‘Is not it [a hockey stick] what are we looking for?’ And of course, it’s the hockey stick. The hockey stick is perfect,” Wittich said.
This is now an item that TransLink orders and ensures it is fully stocked each winter, along with other winter essentials like snow shovels, salt and sand. The hockey sticks, which are junior-sized street hockey sticks, are cut so they can fit in the boxes and be stored at SkyTrain stations for quick deployment.
SkyTrain staff use their own store inside the operations and maintenance center near Edmonds station.
What’s available in the SkyTrain store runs the gamut. Everything from SkyTrain parts to winter boots and wet wipes. It has everything SkyTrain personnel need to provide a safe and reliable SkyTrain network, including hockey sticks.
Get customers moving
The hockey sticks are part of a series of initiatives aimed at enabling customers to move around safely and reliably during the winter months and when there is snow.
Like the way commuters swap their sneakers for winter boots during the cold months, SkyTrain cars also swap their “shoes.” Each SkyTrain car is fitted with a pair of front and rear “collector shoes”, which collect electricity from the power rail parallel to the tracks.
TransLink uses a carbon-based shoe from April to September, but during the winter months it is replaced with brass shoes. Brass shoes give better wear during winter rainy season.
De-icing trains also coat the supply rail with de-icing fluid to help melt ice and prevent it from forming. On the Canada Line, they use heat tracing, which heats the power rail with a wire to help prevent ice buildup.