From CKWX NEWS 1130 – SkyTrain issues for morning commute

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What the SkyTrain lobby wishes us to forget is that the automatic metro is somewhat erratic in its operation. SkyTrain is a complicated proprietary light-metro and even small issues defeats the computer and the system shuts down. TransLink plays down these problems but regular riders of the metro has told Zwei that problems on SkyTrain are becoming an all to normal part of operation.

Unlike LRT, where the driver has ultimate control and can deal effectively with minor problems, SkyTrain’s computers can not and for safety the metro shuts down. As SkyTrain ages, the control system ages as well and it well may be the fare-gate issue is being used to camouflage a greater problem of a poorly aging SkyTrain, which is in desperate need of a $1 billion retrofit.

Here we have another glaring example of transit tax money being squandered on our metro system, while other transit needs go begging. Just think, $1 billion would build us a deluxe version of a Vancouver to Chilliwack interurban system. How long will it take for ‘Valley’ politicos to wake up and smell the coffee that the ‘Valley’s’ property and gas taxes are going straight into the SkyTrain black-hole?

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Big problems on Skytrain this morning. It’s only running from the ‘burbs to Stadium station. A bus bridge is being set up to get people down to Waterfront, but if you’re downtown, TransLink recommends you don’t wait at Granville for trains on the Expo and Millenium lines. The Millennium Line is only running from VCC-Clark to Columbia and then turning back.

TransLink has no idea what the problem is…and when service will be back to normal.

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6 Responses to “From CKWX NEWS 1130 – SkyTrain issues for morning commute”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I like this part… “TransLink has no idea what the problem is…and when service will be back to normal.”

  2. Jason Says:

    Where does the $1 billion refit number come from? I’ve seen some numbers for refurbishing portions of the Expo guideway, but nothing approaching $1 billion. Is it a number that you have concrete information for or are you just pulling it out of your hat as an attempt to wave the red cape in front of the pro-Skytrain crowd?

    If regular and routine maintenance and upkeep is not performed on any large infrastructure-type object, eventually it catches up with us and the bill becomes larger at the end. If our hoped-for LRT system is not properly maintained or having maintenance deferred in an effort to contain budgets, similar large bills will come home to roost. It is not a Skytrain exclusive issue.

    As for regular problems with Skytrain, I ride Skytrain on a daily basis and rarely encounter problems with the system. I was fortunate to miss this morning’s issue, but overall I find the system to be quite reliable.

    Equipment breaks down and if a LRT system doesn’t properly plan for such breakdowns, it too could come to a halt. For example, the recent derailment on the Seattle Link system caused delays and interruptions to the service. Yes, it was caused by an operator ignoring a red signal and then failing to follow procedures when reversing his train off of the main line. Just goes to show that having an operator in the cab, doesn’t mean the system isn’t going to fail once in a while.

    Zweisystem replies: The $1 billion figure includes faregates; extending station platforms to accommodate 6 MK.2 cars; a complete resignalling; etc.

    Even in the 1980’s SkyTrain was found to be less reliable than light rail and this fact was shown in many studies up to now. SkyTrain has been ‘down’ many times this year, due to various problems. The derailment in Seattle was at a switch and even SkyTrain has derailed in the past, but with LRT minor problems can be dealt with by the driver and there is little or no delay, with an automatic system, little delays become major as the automatic metro is a ‘fail-safe’ system and only will operate when someone is there to deal with the problem or tell the computer it is OK. Case in point: switch motor failures cause havoc on SkyTrain as the system is all but shut down, but with light rail, the switch can be operated manually until repaired causing little or no delay.

    Automatic metro systems cost a lot more to maintain than light rail systems; Calgary’s LRT, though carries more customers than SkyTrain on a daily basis, cost about one half to maintain per year than SkyTrain.

  3. passerby Says:

    Calgary C-train carries LESS customers than Vancouver Skytrain for some time. According to latest report , the gap is widening.

    http://www.apta.com/resources/statistics/Documents/Ridership/2009_q3_ridership_APTA.pdf

    Zweisystem Replies: It seems that during the economic crisis, Calgary’s ridership dropped from nearly 300,000 passengers a day, yet during the same period, Vancouver’s SkyTrain ridership increases…………….I think not. Calgary’s counts ridership three times a year and counts actual boardings, thus their ridership statistics are accurate. TransLink does not and I repeat does not count boardings, rather they use a secret formula which tends to be wildly inaccurate. In the past, TransLink’s ridership numbers have been estimated to be as much as 20% higher than actual ridership numbers!

    Even Stephen Rees, who once worked for TransLink, says the same thing: ” Besides it has always been the practice at TransLink to make up the ridership stats: much more fun and less work.”

    http://stephenrees.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/the-faregate-fraud/

  4. David Says:

    What’s most frustrating about the APTA figures is that many transit passengers in Vancouver get counted more than once. While I’m sure that happens elsewhere too, TransLink has admitted that prior to the opening of the Canada Line 80% of SkyTrain passengers arrived by bus. Today that figure likely exceeds 85% because almost all Canada Line passengers transfer from a bus. Some passengers are being triple counted because they take a bus to Lonsdale, ride SeaBus and then transfer to SkyTrain.

    If we dig deeper we see that AG (SkyTrain) figures for July were down year over year and by an amount greater than the drop in bus passengers. That suggests lower tourist numbers and the FB (SeaBus) figures, the only part of TransLink where actual passenger counts are done, agree with that.

    In August bus figures were down again while SeaBus saw a healthy increase. This suggests a rebound in tourist numbers which could explain a small increase in AG. The rest of the increase in AG was from Canada Line sightseers.

    September saw yet another year over year drop in bus passengers. On its own that should have pushed SkyTrain numbers down, but the forced transfer of close to 40,000 bus passengers per day at Bridgeport drove the AG number up significantly.

    While that obviously looks impressive virtually none of the increase came from new transit riders. Instead it was passengers who were formerly being counted once (MB) and are now being counted twice (MB and AG).

    In the end, however, it’s hard to believe any of the numbers coming out of TransLink. They don’t count passengers on wheeled transit vehicles and they don’t let anyone audit their guesses so who’s to say the figures they release to the APTA are even in the right ball park?

    Zweisystem replies: Just a note, SeaBus ridership statistics are extremely accurate as Transport Canada rules must be obeyed with ferry loadings – you can’t have more passengers than life jackets. SeaBus is the only TransLink operation that passengers must cross through turnstiles – the sole purpose of the turnstiles is to count ridership to ensure that there is no ferry overloading.

  5. BCPhil Says:

    @David, that’s what a boarding is. Each time someone boards something, it counts. But people aren’t being “triple” counted for getting on Skytrain because they ride a bus and seabus. If you get on a bus, that counts as a bus boarding, if you then get on seabus, that counts as a seabus boarding, and if you get on the Skytrain, that counts as a Skytrain boarding (1! not 3 Skytrain Boardings). They aren’t just adding the bus numbers together to get Skytrain numbers (as the bus numbers are a lot higher), so I don’t see what you are getting at.

    It’s not a bad thing that 85% of people take the bus to Skytrain, it still means that 100% of the people on Skytrain, are actually on Skytrain and using it.

    The entire system might be counting the same rider multiple times, but that counts as boardings. Until everyone carries an RFID tag on their person, it will be very difficult to accurately count individuals (and a bit Orwellian), thus we count boardings.

    Zweisystem replies: TransLink just doesn’t count boardings, though they report it as such, but they count loadings at strategic spots. Thus a person traveling from the North Shore to Lougheed, taking the long route, maybe counted up to 4 or 5 times! Some years ago a chap counting loadings at Naniamo Station told Zwei that he was told to count 100 passengers on a fully loaded MK 1 car or 25 more passengers than its maximum capacity!

    TransLink doesn’t state how it actually ascertains its ridership numbers and there is a growing thought that they are just invented to please politicians. Inside info from the RAV/Canada Line also indicate the laser passenger counters do not work well in crowded conditions and again, the ridership figures are an invention from TransLink brass.

    Until TransLink counts actual boardings at all stations in a given period, like Calgary, SkyTrain’s ridership numbers and the number customers using the public transit system will be severely suspect.

  6. David Says:

    My point was that an increase in boarding numbers does not indicate an increase in the number of passengers using transit. In September 2009 almost all the increase in boardings came from the forced transfer of Richmond, Delta and Surrey bus passengers to metro.

    I’ve ridden SkyTrain every week day for the past 3.5 years. There’s no way a Mark I car can hold any where close to 100 people.

    The white Mark II cars always have lots of empty floor space away from the doors, even when they’re otherwise so full that people cannot get aboard. The only time they actually hit an average of 4 passengers per square metre throughout the train is following concerts and sporting events when few people have bags and passengers are far more likely to push each other to get aboard.

    We need independent, audited counts and a smart card system based on proximity sensors rather than magnetic strips. We do not need to compromise the safety of the system with fare gates that will displace real people.

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