Translink CEO Ian Jarvis, in his first public comments since the double Skytrain shutdowns, is now proposing a more robust internal review supplemented by outside specialists. This is a good first step to respond to the calls Mayor Gregor Robertson and I have made for an independent review.
There is no doubt many follow-up consultations and inquiries will be needed, not least on how to assure the public address system works and travellers are kept safe in the event of a shutdown, big or small. In my view, a fully independent review is still warranted and the results, of course, of any review should be made public.
Skytrain Chief Operating Officer Doug Kelsey took just hours today to reject a call for an independent investigation of this week’s double Skytrain shutdown — “we know it was human error” — but he’s missing the point.
The tens of thousands of Translink system riders who had their day disrupted, or were exposed to serious safety risks while walking along elevated guideways, are entitled to a full explanation of what happened and what steps will be taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
So far, Translink has said only that “it is reviewing the details of the incident.” Will they be made public?
Human errors can be avoided. Basic problems that were highlighted by the second shutdown, including the risk to public safety resulting from the loss of the public address system, need to be confronted. This is true, as well, of the first shutdown, which has been attributed to a computer “glitch” of some description. Has it been fixed?
Saying the second shutdown was triggered by an improper switch installation, and suspending the electrician involved, hardly explains why such an error could shut down everything, including the public address system, leaving hundreds of riders to wander down elevated guideways to escape.
Nor does it clarify who, precisely, ordered the electrician to undertake the task. The Canadian Union of Public Employees has charged that the panel in question was substandard, that the task was ordered by a supervisor who knew the risks, and that the entire job should have been done after operating hours.
An independent investigation need not be lengthy, cumbersome or expensive. The Stanley Cup Riot review, for example, took about 90 days, required no special powers for the two people in charge and cost a few hundred thousand dollars.
Its 53 recommendations resulted in fundamental changes in the way various governments and agencies, including the City of Vancouver and Translink, handle major events.
After two massive transit system shutdowns in less than a week — one of which saw hundreds of passengers risk injury or death by fleeing cars along elevated guideways — it’s time to hear from Translink CEO Ian Jarvis what happened, why and what will be done.
If Translink doesn’t quickly organize an inquiry, someone else should — perhaps the Translink Mayor’s Council, which now has slightly expanded powers to direct Translink’s affairs.
So far, only public relations officers have been thrown out to the media pack, which is demanding answers on behalf of hundreds of thousands of stranded riders. The message box: it’s a “glitch” or a “short circuit” and “we’re 95 percent reliable.” Oh, and “we apologize,” and there won’t be any refunds. It’s neither fair nor appropriate to make these staffers the human shield. (Skytrain president Fred Cumming was quoted in some news reports last week.)
Both internal and arms-length investigations are warranted into these extraordinary events, which caused massive disruption and exposed many to risk of injury or death.
Contrast what happened in December in New York, when the derailment of a Long Island commuter train left four death and scores injured. More serious, certainly, but who knows what factors helped avert casualties here?
Within hours, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo visited the scene, MTA chairman Tom Prendergast had announced an internal investigation and the National Transportation Safety Board began its own review. Investigators quickly concluded the train driver had fallen asleep. [Read more →]
A key case in the barrage of lawsuits filed by political opponents against Mayor Gregor Robertson, Vision Vancouver and the City of Vancouver was tossed out of court today, leaving would-be mayoral candidate Glen Chernen holding the bag for costs.
This was not surprising to those who had reviewed the facts, but some of Justice Chris Hinkson’s comments bear repeating:
“I am satisfied that the petition in this case is an abuse of the Court’s process on the basis that it is without foundation and can serve no useful purpose. I therefore order that the petition herein is dismissed.”