Vancouver City Councillor

Category — Transit

Translink too quick to reject calls for independent investigation into double Skytrain shutdown

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.


July 22, 2014

Translink riders need to hear from the top about system shutdowns, what will be done about them

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 →]

July 22, 2014

Expert ULI panel confirms Broadway subway best option to handle congestion, future transit demand

A subway is the best solution to congestion and transit demand along the Broadway Corridor, says an expert panel of American planners.

That conclusion by a visiting group of experts, assembled by the Urban Land Institute, supports the City of Vancouver’s view that an extension of Skytrain from VCC Clark to UBC in  a bored tunnel is the best option for a route that includes BC’s second-largest business district.

The bored tunnel option is a key element of the recent Mayors’ Council investment plan for Translink investment in the next 10 years, extending to Arbutus as a first phase.

Existing transit along the Broadway corridor “is a failure under current conditions,” said the ULI panel, and “the city (of Vancouver) makes a plausible case for the subway alternative” to solve the problem.

The ULI team challenges Translink’s view that light-rail transit might work, citing “construction impacts, and long-term impacts on streetscapes, parking and traffic flow.”

The ULI group visited Vancouver in February for a round of briefings and issued an interim report at the end of the visit. Now the full report has been released.

The ULI team recommends that the planning processes along the corridor treat each section of the route differently, increasing density and height in the Central Broadway area, but limit height and density increases in more residential stretches.


July 10, 2014

Transportation investment plan gets over first hurdles as Stone seeks decision on referendum date

Despite fretful news coverage suggesting Transportation Minister Todd Stone is hard-timing the Translink Mayor’s Council investment plan,  the 10-year, $7.5 billion proposal seems to have surmounted the early hurdles on the way to a referendum vote.

The first big hurdle was its adoption by the entire Mayor’s Council with only Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan opposed. Now the province is getting engaged.

The second hurdle was Stone’s willingness to see an incremental carbon tax put to a regional referendum. His rejection of reallocation of existing carbon tax, although favoured by the mayors, was widely expected. That’s why the mayors put the incremental option right in their report.

Stone’s lengthy formal response, issued yesterday, was generally appreciative in tone, but posed some valid and practical questions. When, for example, should the referendum be held? If the Mayors want it to coincide with the November municipal elections, Stone wants to know by July 15.

This was seen as hardball by some reporters, but it seems like a fair question to me and pretty easy to answer. None of the Mayors want a referendum at all, but if Victoria is determined to have one, then holding it on Nov. 15 is unlikely.

Mayors seeking re-election will be working on that project, not the “yes” campaign, and those moving on, like Surrey’s Diane Watts, will be out of the debate.

That leaves sometime next spring, well within the province’s time frame.


June 25, 2014