Transit control centre in Newton gets you there on time

It’s easy for Derek Zabel to describe his job.

It’s like being an air traffic controller – only with buses.

"You have to be a great multitasker," he said between answering my questions and answering his phone at his desk covered with five computer screens.

Zabel is one of four duty managers at TransLink Communications Control, based at Surrey Transit Centre.

Not many people know that behind the walls of this unassuming building on 132nd Street in Newton is a transit communications hub that manages and tracks all of the Lower Mainland’s approximately 1,500 buses – in real time.

He gave the Now a tour of the facility on Friday morning.

With more than 800,000 boardings a day, the Lower Mainland is one of North

America’s largest transit service areas. And with construction, traffic jams, car accidents and SkyTrain shutdowns to contend with, getting transit users around quickly and efficiently is no small task.

But in this small room in Newton, a handful of people make it all happen.

How do they do it? The Transit Management and Communications System (TMAC) makes it all possible. Installed in 2008, it uses GPS, to supply realtime data about every bus and support vehicle in the fleet.

It identifies bus locations and statuses – open doors, passing a stop – you name it. TMAC also uses a colour code to keep track of each bus’s status. Red means the bus is ahead of schedule 30 seconds or more, green means it’s on time, yellow means it’s five minutes behind schedule, purple is 10 minutes behind and blue is 15 minutes behind.

Like a proud papa, Zabel pointed to one of his screens to illustrate how it works.

"Here’s a bus that’s coming towards 152nd," he said, as he zoomed in to a graphic indicating a bus driving westbound on 64th Avenue in Surrey. "Let’s say we had a medical emergency on this bus – maybe an elderly passenger who’s become unresponsive. We have the ability here to send resources directly to this bus right away."

And with that, one click of the mouse brought up two more graphics on the screen – one was a mobile supervisor who was nearby and the other was a security unit at Newton exchange.

It’s just one part of the job that makes Zabel love what he does.

"We run an important service," he said at the end of our tour. "We’re helping people get to doctor’s appointments, we’re helping people get to school and job interviews.

"At the end of the day, we’re helping people. That’s what keeps us going."

bsimpson@thenownewspaper.com

Just Posted

Setting the stage for emerging performers

Variety fundraiser and ongoing open-mics showcase local talent

Four Surrey students head to New Brunswick for Canada-wide science fair

Three projects move to nationals following regional fair at KPU

Surrey resident says proposed apartment building is a ‘monstrosity’ in Whalley neighbourhood

Philip Galbraith says he voted for Safe Surrey Coalition to ‘slow down development’

Man ‘seriously’ injured in crash after driving wrong way on Highway 17: Surrey RCMP

Police say the sedan hit a transport truck, then another car

Easter ‘eggstravaganza’ event planned for South Surrey

Event is to run from 12-3 p.m. at Dufferin Park (17355 2 Ave.).

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

Multiple people injured after deck collapses during celebration

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

B.C. RCMP receive application for Police Cat Services

RCMP announced the launch of the Police Cat Services unit as an April fools joke

Rats available for adoption in Vancouver

In a social media post the City of Vancouver says you can adopt a rat for $5.

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Chaos at the ferry terminal for people heading from Vancouver to the Island

Easter crowds create backlog at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

Parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

Crews battle Burnaby blaze; 2 people sent to hospital

Emergency Support Services helping residents displaced by fire

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Most Read