Why TransLink Can’t Be Honest
Why can’t TransLink be honest with its customers and the taxpayer?
Like B.C. Transit before, honesty is not in TransLink’s lexicon, why and why can’t TransLink be honest about SkyTrain?
The answer lies with he fact each SkyTrain Line has been a political decision, with the final decision made by the Premier of the day. Thus SkyTrain has become a political transit system and not a customer oriented transit system.
This continues today with SkyTrain being built to the needs of the government’s friends, including concrete manufacturers, land developers and land speculators.
The federal government loves ALRT/ART SkyTrain because it financially helps two political friends, Bombardier Inc. and the SNC Lavalin as they hold the patents to the proprietary ART system.
By being a political transit system, it is imperative that the public sees it as good investment, as the SkyTrain Lobby tries to do with “man of straw” arguments, “alternate facts”, and pure “fake” news.
Funny then, no one builds with ART (ALRT has been made redundant) and only seven ICTS; ALRT; ALM; ART proprietary light metro’s have been built, with one, the Toronto ICTS Line to be soon torn down because it is “life expired”.
Mr. Haveavow, who is a transportation professional from Ottawa, has been upfront and honest commenting on our transit scene. We may not see eye to eye on some subjects, he he is a professional and deserves to be listened to.
SkyTrain has some very expensive issues to rectify before it can increase its capacity, something that TransLink is keeping very quiet about. So much so, that I call it dishonest because what renovations needs to be done to the ALRT/ART system, needs to be done before a Broadway SkyTrain subway is built!
As TransLink’s utterly dishonest planning process continues, abetted by Vision Vancouver and the SkyTrain Lobby, the truth is leaking out and it is very bad news for the taxpayer, which in turn, is very bad news for the sitting Premier.
From Mr. Haveacow, with some slight editing.
I hate to be the s*** disturber here but many of the needed upgrades are just not going to happen for the Skytrain Network. Currently according to Translink the Expo Line maxes out at around 15,000 passengers/hour/direction. A 75 Second headway is possible but Transport Canada would have to sign off on quite a few improvements before that can happen. The report you mentioned, although sounds exhaustive, is really meant for public or political consumption. Its not a real professional upgrade plan in any serious form. I know after talking with the head of operations during our little tour of the SkyTrain a few years ago, he outlined possibly hundreds of individual upgrades that would be needed. The reality he argued is that, the people who run TransLink really don’t want to implement these upgrades unless a massive wholesale tear-out and tear down from the bottom up is approved and considering the state of transit funding in BC right now, its not likely to occur. Here is a few things off the top of my head that Transport Canada said must be done before any service improvements occur on the Skytrain network from their current operating regime of 109 second headway’s.
1. Translink has to upgrade the electrical carrying capacity of the system, by either adding many new electrical transformers and or improving the others that are already there dramatically. The current handling capacity of the system is the prime limiter right now in regards to increasing passenger capacity. The cost is around $500-800 million, that also includes upgrading the existing 3rd rail power cable connections and adding new ones. Major upgrades are needed to the electrical panel control system in many stations and work is only slowly occurring on this front. At current rate work is progressing, it will take 12-15 years before they are complete. There also has to be a major master electrical panel upgrade so that it can be accessed in many places, right now there is only 2 master panel access points. By the way, it was the short circuiting of the master electrical access panel located at the commercial drive station by a worker using a non insulated screw driver when doing work for connecting the Evergreen Extension in the summer of 2015, that caused one of the large system wide, day long service interruptions on the Expo and Millennium Lines.
2. The Expo Line’s signaling system needs upgrading and many km’s of cabling needs replacement and or wholesale upgrades. Much of this cabling is 30+ years old and is desperate need of replacement. Many of the signal units are not working up to specs anymore. They are safe, but they need to be replaced entirely before a 75 second headway is possible.
3. Many of the turnouts (switches) on the main parts of the Expo Line need to be replaced with high speed models not the low to medium speed turnouts that are presently there. The turnout control units will also most likely be needing replacement as well before higher service frequencies are possible. The replacement costs can be excessive if they are not done in a pre planned way. Each turnout conversion can take 3-6 hours per turnout per crew. It is also required to switch out the existing turnout tower and control unit. Keep in mind just one double crossover track area has 4 turnouts. Then the double crossover track centre module (the place where all the tracks cross) will need replacement as well. These can take 5-6 hours by themselves and are very expensive and tricky to switch out. One of the reasons many new LRT and Rail rapid transit systems are reluctant to use double crossovers is the high cost of maintenance and their sensitivity to damage when heavily used.
4. As per an earlier post, the track grinding regime at Translink needs to improve especially on high traffic parts of the system. Translink used to have an asymmetrical grinding profile needed to stop the excessive wheel damage and squeal that is common with the Skytrain system. It was abandoned because it was too troublesome to maintain and continue implementing. Your maintenance staff didn’t like the extra work and Translink’s management didn’t like the bother of having to schedule and pay for the time consuming work. However, when you stopped doing it your maintenance costs went up and stayed there. I know this because the company that created the rail grinding regime is staffed by some school friends of mine and they were going to sue Translink at one point over this issue. They decided not to due to cost but if frequency of service is going to increase something better be done or maintenance costs will get even higher.
5. Many platform and station capacity upgrades are needed because the existing system just doesn’t have enough capacity, especially at certain key stations. There is very little money for this work but they appeared to be ready to start on one or two stations. They were the last time I was there anyway. I don’t believe any of this work has started yet though. (Zwei replies: Evidently a few stations, including Main Street and Metrotown have been renovated or are being renovated with longer platforms and more entrance/exits)
6. The last Transport Canada Report that was issued when Translink was allowed to operate at 109 second frequency of service, noted that, Translink did not have enough operating funding to increase peak hour service without having to cut weekend and late evening service. This was a great concern to them. They were essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul. They also noted that without an overall increase in maintenance and operational spending as well as other non sexy operational upgrades, any future service upgrades would not be possible to be considered. The age of the Expo Line was also concerning in that, the line could as it ages, suffer from “block-obsolescence” in many operational areas and operating components, unless major funding increases for maintenance and equipment upgrades was allowed.
7. As Zwei mentioned before there is no budget to upgrade the Skytrain’s aging concrete above grade right of way between the stations. The current track network configuration is really outmoded and needs upgrades, which is also expensive and extremely time consuming. This will require weekend and or weekday closures for extended periods of time to implement these improvements.
In fact, many of these upgrades I mentioned will require large portions of their respective lines to be temporarily closed during weekday or weekend regular operating hours.