From the Tri City News – Olympic transit wasn’t as good as the hype


An interesting letter that appeared in the Tri-City news, reflecting that transit service during the Olympics wasn’t all what TransLink claimed. The reason for reproducing the letter is that Zwei has heard from several people that the regional transit system wasn’t working as advertised and many just took the car instead.

Olympic transit wasn’t as good as the hype

The Editor,

Re. “Olympics proved ready to roll (with more cash), says CEO” (The Tri-City News, March 12).

I guess TransLink’s CEO did not bother to actually ride any part of the region’s transit system himself during the Olympics.

My family and I thought we would take the West Coast Express downtown one Saturday during the Games. The earliest train was 1 p.m. and we arrived an hour early just in case. We were told the train was standing-room-only in Mission and officials weren’t sure if there was going to be room when it got to our station. We were then informed that no one got on or off in Port Coquitlam and that they were going to order buses (they hadn’t done so yet?). I heard a least 50 people were left on the platform in PoCo. I saw the parking lot at Coquitlam fill up and then empty as people were turned away, not even allowed to buy a ticket.

We were then informed a bus would be coming and I thought that wasn’t so bad — a bus ride down town. But I was then told that bus would not take us downtown but to a SkyTrain station. I reminded officials I paid extra for the West Coast Express to be taken downtown, not to an already overloaded SkyTrain system.

At that point, we decided to drive, despite all the warnings not to. There was no traffic and parking was a breeze — and cost us only $7, not the almost $30 I had paid to TransLink. To top it off, we beat the train downtown. We enjoyed the festivities especially knowing we weren’t stuck to a train schedule going home. Again, on the drive home, there were no traffic issues. In the meantime, people I know who took the train said the first one home was a gong show.

I let everyone I knew not to take transit but to drive instead and heard similar stories of no traffic and easy, cheap parking with no hassles.

So while TransLink can claim it was running double the system’s normal capacity, it likely didn’t count the hundreds (thousands?) who gave up and either didn’t go or drove instead, or the frustrations and long line-ups as buses or trains went by full.

The Tri-Cities were definitely not well-served during the Olympics and spending over a billion dollars on the planned Evergreen Line to funnel everyone from this area into an already overcrowded system will not help.

I used to take one bus downtown and it would take an hour door to door. The billion-plus investment into the Evergreen Line will mean it would cost me more money to ride, take me longer and more transfers then the bus did. That is progress?


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16 Responses to “From the Tri City News – Olympic transit wasn’t as good as the hype”

  1. peet Says:

    lol you’d search high and low for obsecure (deleted for legal reasons) to support your cause. thank goodness most people had a positive memory of the transit system and realized how badly the skytrain extension is needed. and here you are trying to frantically and desparately bash the success. what a joke!

    Zweisystem replies: The mainstream media ignored problems with transit during the Olympics. There were no long waits, but tremendous overcrowding on certain services. Transit worked – AS IT SHOULD! Mind you, if it had snowed, then it would have been a different story.

  2. Paul Says:

    Just remember snow doesn’t exist in Vancouver 🙂 LOL

    Sure some people might have gotten pissed off and just decided to drive. But what they found was how easy it was to drive because there wasn’t as many vehicles on the road.

    What those people may come to realize is that if they put more money into transit. While they may not use it themselves. It could get less people off the road which would help those who still decide to drive indirectly.

  3. mezzanine Says:

    Paul has a good point. The writer had an exceptionally easy drive because so many other people decided to take transit into DT. Hopefully with the advent of the evergreen line, we will improve transit in the tricities.

    Also, a nice bit of post-olympic news from Jeff Nagel:

    “Higher fare revenue during the Olympics should ensure TransLink at least breaks even on the extra service it added to carry huge numbers of passengers to free concerts, pavilions and street parties…

    Canada Line carried an average of 228,000 people per Olympic weekday..

    The Expo and Millennium Lines racked up 394,000 trips per weekday, up 64 per cent…”

    Zweisystem replies: Sadly for Translink, they invent their ridership numbers and they are anywhere from 10% to 20% higher than they should be. The revenue for Translink is not coming from fare paying passengers, rather a side agreement with Vanoc and may indicate a good reason for TransLink’s high numbers!

    TransLink reminds me of the “Little Boy Who Cried Wolf”

  4. David Says:

    228,000 people riding for free isn’t good for the bottom line.

    Seriously people there were no fare checks made on the metro lines during the Olympics. Staff were there to herd the crowds and direct people to venues. Making transit free for event ticket holders, having people line up outside far from ticket machines and then herding them efficiently onto trains probably led many visitors to think transit was free during the Olympics.

    On a per capita basis TransLink likely took in less money during the Olympics than they do the rest of the year.

  5. Paul Says:

    Those people who had an event ticket. Actually did pay for transit. The price of transit was added onto price of the event ticket.

    You have no proof that 228,000 people were on the system for free. Just as I have no proof that everyone paid.

    Logically for the two weeks. It was worth it to not worry about fare checks. The main concern was to move people as quickly and as efficiently has possible.

  6. Richard Says:

    Transit was not “free” for event ticket holder. Rather, the cost of the transit was included in the price of the tickets so they paid for it when they bought the tickets. Big difference.

  7. zweisystem Says:

    The question remains, who checked the tickets for validity.

    Also one should ask, what extra cost was applied to the tickets to cover the fare? I understand form sources that Event ticket holders believed that their tickets provided free transit throughout the Olympic event. If this is true, the ridership figures are indeed skewed and TransLink is out a lot of money.

  8. zweisystem Says:

    The main problem with Trans Link is that we don’t have any hard proof that whatever Trans Link claims is true! a HELL OF A WAY TO RUN A TRANSIT SYSTEM.

  9. anonymous Says:

    David should apologize for stating that 228,000 people riding for free. Have you even seen the lineups to use fare machine in YVR, Yaletown, Richmond-Brighouse, and pretty much every station.
    Or at least you should apologize to me, I bought two sets of faresavers books (=20 tickets) and used almost all of them during the olympics. Lots of people who walked straight into stations probably have monthly passes, employee passes, U-passes, senior annual passes, etc.

  10. anonymous Says:

    Another way to see it … As the blog author here always says 80% of skytrain riders coming from bus transfers. It is not that easy to avoid riding the buses without paying. Though how to allocate fare payments to different modes of transit is another topic.

  11. Paul Says:


    I have a monthly pass. So David would just assume that I never paid. Since I would just be walking straight on.

  12. David Says:

    So few people have any sense of humour or ability to cope with intentional exaggeration to make a point.

    Event ticket holders were a small minority of the people on transit during the Olympics. Two venues with a capacity of only 5000 people is hardly enough to boost Canada Line ridership from TransLink’s stated 100,000 pre-games to 228,000. Thus the majority of new passengers must have been commuters who chose not to drive and the thousands who went to all the pavilions, cultural olympiad, etc.

    Unlike events like hockey games where police have to manage the crowds lining up at the ticket machines, I saw no such lineups at the machines during the Olympics.

    I think the windfall of cash that the media believes TransLink got during the Olympics simply doesn’t exist. The extra 200,000 people on transit quickly learned there was no enforcement (and none really possible) and thus no need to buy a ticket.

    For the record I have an employer pass; nobody ever asks to see it.

  13. Kenny Wu Says:

    skewing transit numbers is possible for the Skytrain, but not so much for the Canada Line because the number of people passing through the stations is automatically counted to fulfil the private payments, which are partly based on ridership.

    There is no proof that the riders you saw got on for free.

    Ticketholders pay through their tickets – this is presumably part of the VANOC side agreement.

    Transit in Greater Vancouver was definitely not perfect during the Olympics. However, considering the amount of demand that they had produced through advertising, they had done pretty well, and noting the funding they get, it’s hard to expect too much more.

    I’m not sure about visitors, but even though the people may have realized there was no need to buy the ticket, it is likely that they are still honest.

    Zweisystem replies: There is no evidence that TransLink actually uses this counters nor any indication that they are accurate. I say this because source’s have told me that the ridership counters accuracy is poor in crowded conditions. As well, they do not check if the customer is actually carrying a fare. One doubts the Canada Lines ridership is accurate.

  14. Paul Says:

    @ David.

    One thing to remember those event tickets were good all day. So even though 1 person had a ticket to curling. They might have used the Canada Line a few times that day to see other things. So 1 person may have caused 3-4 boardings. So 5000 tickets could become 15,000 – 20,000 boardings.

    Also I’m not saying that no one jumped on without paying. Hell I’m sure it happend on the 99 B-Line as well.

    But to say all 200,000 extra people did not pay is also pushing it a little too far.

    I will say though under the circumstances and with the crowds on the system. It was better for them to not worry about checking for fares. If they were to do that it would of created a bigger mess.

    Either way when the fare gates come up. Most of this problem will be solved. I’m sure some people will still try and sneak in. As you are never going to catch every person.

  15. David Says:

    Paul obviously didn’t read my memo about intentional exaggeration.

    I’m sure a lot of people paid their fare and maybe more money did come in during the Olympics, but they were no financial windfall for TransLink. Remember that service and staffing levels were higher than normal so costs were higher. At the same time there were zero fare checks on the metro system and a lot of inebriated young people. I’m glad they were taking transit, even if it was for free, because that kept them from getting behind the wheel.

    My only argument is with the statement that the Olympics were this amazing source of money for TransLink. I believe they covered costs and no more.

    Fare gates are a political decision being sold to a public that believes they will make the system safer. The public also believes fare evasion is much higher than it really is.

    Fare gates will cost a small fortune, reduce fare evasion by a negligible amount and make the system less safe because the machines will replace real people in the stations.

    Long term, non-event users are generally honest and pay their fare if for no other reason than most of them depend on a bus to get them to SkyTrain in the first place and fare evasion on the buses is very low. Fare evasion is a small problem caused by a small group of people who will always find ways of beating the fare gates so the actual evasion rate will hardly change.

    Safety inside stations is actually quite good. There have been some high profile attacks perpetrated by people who don’t care that they’re being filmed and certainly won’t care about being seen jumping over a fare gate to get their victim. However, most violence takes place away from the staff, cameras and bright lights on transit property.

    The neighbourhood around my stations (Nanaimo and 29th Avenue) went through a really rough period a while back. A man was following women a couple blocks from the bus loops and then striking from behind. Things got so bad that neighbourhood volunteers started handing out bright pink plastic whistles and forming patrol groups to help people get home safely. The only part transit played was concentrating potential victims in two spots where they could be observed and selected.

  16. Paul Says:


    “Paul obviously didn’t read my memo about intentional exaggeration.”

    I did get the memo. Just wanted to make sure other people who might read your numbers realize they were a bit out of wack.

    “My only argument is with the statement that the Olympics were this amazing source of money for TransLink. I believe they covered costs and no more.”

    I do agree with that. Even if Translink had possibly lost a bit of money. It was still good as a lot of people took transit that would have just driven. Especially for those that were drinking.

    “Fare gates are a political decision being sold to a public that believes they will make the system safer. The public also believes fare evasion is much higher than it really is.

    Fare gates will cost a small fortune, reduce fare evasion by a negligible amount and make the system less safe because the machines will replace real people in the stations.”

    I actually feel the same way. In that the fare gate is just a political decision to make people feel safer. Also to make people feel like no more cheats are on the system. All public perception as. In the case of people jumping over. They need to make sure the gate is low enough that people can’t get under and high enough that they can’t get over.

    But the biggest added benefit I feel with the fare gate is the implementation of the smart card. Unfortunately you need a fare gate system running for the smart card to work.

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