Vancouver Icons: The Buzzer

Masthead of the Buzzer from July 8, 1938A city’s story is often told through its icons.  Usually these are buildings or structures—such as Toronto’s CN Tower.  Sometimes they are parks, such as Central Park in New York city.

Icons can also be cultural.  While culture icons are not as legible to outsiders and tourists, they are important part of the urban fabric for residents.  Indeed, they can often contribute more to a city’s sense of place that architecture or nature

One such cultural icon is Vancouver’s “Buzzer” published by Translink, Metro Vancouver’s regional transportation authority.

The Buzzer: Oldest Transit Publication in the World?

“To my knowledge the Buzzer is the oldest continuously printed transit publication in the world. Ninety-five is an incredible run.”

Jim McGraw, Executive of the Vancouver Historical Society and regular transit user

The First edition of The Buzzer, published on June 2, 1916.

The Buzzer made its début on June 2, 1916.  It was the brainchild of George Kidd, general manager of B.C. Electric Railway—the private electric company that ran public transit at the time.

The newsletter was initially intended as a volley against  ‘jitney’ operators—private citizens who patrolled streetcar routes and offered rides in their cars for five cents (jitney was slang for a nickel). Kidd thought the Buzzer would keep people informed about service and foster rider loyalty to the streetcars. While jitney service was abolished in July 1918, the newsletter kept being published.

Fast forward 95 years and the Buzzer has become a mainstay of public transit in the Lower Mainland.  It provides riders with updates on community events and transit news.  In a city with over 22% of trips to and within the city being taken on transit, that is a pretty big audience!

The Buzzer has remained a constant source of information for riders, despite the massive change transit has undergone While the newsletter was initially distributed on streetcars, today it is available on a multitude of transit options.  These include busses, all SkyTrain lines and SeaBus.  PDF’s are available online.  There is also a Buzzer blog.

 

Yuri Artibise

Yuri Artibise is an experienced policy analyst, community engagement practitioner and social media specialist. I have a Master of Public Administration degree with over 10 years of public policy research, analysis, and advocacy experience.

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