Mother heartbroken after no charges in party bus death

Chelsea James

Chelsea James

Crown counsel’s decision to lay no charges in the January death of 23-year-old Chelsea James, who died in January after falling from a party bus, has devastated James’ family a second time.

No wonder: the police investigation found that the door James tumbled out of was defective and opened easily with a gentle push when it should have been locked. Worse, the limousine operator, Silver Lady Limousine Services, paid a $311 fine for operating an unsafe vehicle and $230 for driving with open liquor in the vehicle.

The safety and liquor violations — not the first for Silver Lady — underline how the “party bus” industry operates in violation of the law. Despite a provincial “crackdown” in 2015, the operation of unsafe vehicles nets only a traffic violation, even if a death occurs, as it did in this case.

The struggle to make this industry safe began with the tragic death of Shannon Raymond many years ago. It’s not over.

Clearly Transport Minister Todd Stone has more work to do to bring this industry up to proper standards.


City enforcement drive on short-term rentals focuses on safety, multiple listings

IMG_1149City enforcement operations against illegal short-term online rentals is focusing primarily on safety violations and commercial operators, says a briefing note to Vancouver City Council, with notable successes on both counts.

A memorandum circulated to council October 20 by Kaye Krishna, General Manager Development Services, reports a growing number of complaints about short-term rentals, which total more than 5,300 in the city. Virtually all of the listed rentals are illegal under city rules.

Enforcement is not a simple matter of writing a ticket, but city efforts are paying off. Enforcement actions in recent weeks include:

  • successful action to bring an “Airbnb hotel” at 2341 York Ave., where 17 of 24 units were being listed online, into compliance with the minimum 30-day stay requirement and the building code;
  • the return of two townhouses to long-term rental at 730 W. 7th Ave. after enforcement action — a court hearing may be avoided if the owner signs a consent owner to prevent future infractions; and
  • enforcement action against commercial operators with more than 10 listings each — one has 12 whole-unit listings — each identified by city data analysis. The city has asked Airbnb to provide contact information for those operators.

While the enforcement action is encouraging, it remains to be seen if online operators will co-operate to support enforcement of city rules and whether or not property owners will live up to their commitments to return to long-term rental.

Council endorses YVR’s opposition to sale of Canada’s big airports to global investors

yvr5Vancouver city council today joined Vancouver Airport Authority in opposing a proposal to sell Canada’s major airports to global investors, a move that would undoubtedly drive up the cost of travel.

The vote came in response to a presentation by YVR CEO Craig Richmond, who raised the issue during his annual update to council. (Vancouver’s representative on the YVR board is Vancity Credit Union CEO Tamara Vrooman.)

The scheme to sell major airports, including YVR, “within three years to a share-capital structure for the larger airports, with equity-based financing from large investors,” was a key and surprising recommendation of the Canadian Transportation Act Review, chaired by former Conservative cabinet minister David Emerson.

It reflects a new fad in government circles for “asset recycling,” the sale of valuable public assets to raise funds for new capital investment. (YVR’ is a non-profit corporation with a board appointed by a range of public and profeessional organizations. It pays rent and has made billions of dollars in investments in YVR.)

The asset recycling scheme, Richmond said, is under active consideration in Ottawa, It would amount to forcing Canadians to buy YVR a second time through increased fees and reduced quality of service as new investors recouped the cost of purchase.

YVR’s airport improvement fee is currently the lowest in Canada and the authority has taken other steps to reduce the cost of travel and improve the airport experience. All of those investments would be at risk if the decision-makers shifted to a distant global investor’s boardroom.

YVR management would be accountable to global shareholders, not British Columbians and there is no guarantee that Ottawa would reinvest the capital in BC or even in the airport system.

Mayor Gregor Robertson was directed to write to federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau to oppose the proposal.


Translink CEO’s breakthrough pledge: keep those escalators moving

IMG_1135 Joyce SkytrainIn all the good news that Translink CEO Kevin Desmond rolled out at yesterday’s Board of Trade lunch — more bus service soon, Compass working well, Evergreen ready to go — the pledge that leaped out at me was his commitment to keep Translink escalators moving.

It’s all part of the “customer first” priority that Desmond is seeking to instill in Translink, symbolized by his discovery that the system’s escalators are often broken down, sometimes for months on end.

“We need to do a better job of listening to customers, stakeholders and partners,” Desmond said, recalling that he got an earful about escalators from open-line show callers during his first weeks on the job.

“We have a lot of escalators out of service at any given time. We have aging infrastructure.”

Desmond pointed out that many of the escalators on the Expo line are 30 years old, at the end of their useful life. Maintenance keeps rising.

(I’ve also been told that on the Millennium Line, where escalators are about 20 years old, many are operating under shelter, but otherwise unprotected from weather even through they were intended for indoor use. They can’t take the weather.)

The service expansion coming as soon as January is great news. Even more encouraging, in my view, is leadership to make the “customer first” philosophy a reality.