BART’s Problems Today Are TransLink’s Problems Tomorrow

Aging metro systems are a big problem in North America and the more complicated the transit system, the more costly it is to maintain.

Unlike TransLink, BART’s (Bay Area Rapid Transit) bureaucrats are far more forthcoming with system ills and for that they must be congratulated for their candor.

We see none of this with TransLink where costly infrastructure such as subways and grade separated R-o-W’s are all the rage, yet silence on the massive maintenance costs to keep the system running.

The last CEO to tried to be honest, Tom Penderghast, was sent to Coventry by senior staff and was ultimately forced out.

Last years failed TransLink plebiscite was another pointed message for honesty at TransLink, yet even a resounding defeat by the taxpayer fell on deaf ears and except for cosmetic changes (enough to fool the mainstream media), nothing has changed.

We must demand honesty from TransLink, the Mayors council, Metro Vancouver, and the Ministry of Transportation, yet all seem to deathly afraid to be honest, especially about future maintenance costs.

This Is Our Reality: Why I Couldn’t Hold Back About the Bay Area’s Real Transit Problem

Faced with a flood of complaints during a messy commute last week, the officialAi??Twitter account of BART got frank about the system’s woes. Taylor Huckaby, who manned the account that day, explains why he started tweeting truth bombs, and why public transportation in America must be saved.


Major delays system-wide. Rising anger. Endless frustration. That was the all-too-familiar theme of last Wednesday evening’s commute on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), the sprawling regional rail system here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Since mid-morning, BART had been suffering anomalous electrical problems that were burning out thyristors on our train cars, one by one, at the end of one of our lines. By the time the evening finished, 50 damaged cars had to be taken out of service.Ai??A busy weekday couldn’t have been worse timing for a mess of this magnitude. Providing roughly 430,000 weekday trips on a system that initially served a mere 100,000 people per week, BART simply doesn’t have any extra bandwidth to absorb losses.

For the rest of the story………..


5 Responses to “BART’s Problems Today Are TransLink’s Problems Tomorrow”
  1. eric chris says:

    Wonderful post. Thanks.

  2. Haveacow says:

    Many years ago I was having a mild debate about the BART system with some planning school friends of mine that was being “lubricated” by/with several pitchers of Ricard’s Red. Someone in our group had pointed out that in terms of its linear mileage, the system was “too large” given the actual budget the people at BART had to maintain the system. The only “she” in our group had been really lucky and had worked with them as a unpaid intern for the summer. She said it was common knowledge at the time (early 90’s) that, the system was quickly aging and no one in government wanted to increase their operating budget but always desperately wanted to expand the system. In fact, BART was expanded several times during the 1990’s and 2000’s but evidently the maintenance part of the operating budget never kept pace with that growth.

    BART was always an interesting development as a form of operating technology. It’s a true Light Metro System in terms of its operating technology but, operates as a hybrid Commuter Rail/Regional Rail/ Regional Metro System. Its stations and trains are technically the longest of any rapid transit system in North America both, always exceed 200+ metres, in length, along with its operating frequency, both matching a commuter rail system. However, BART’s station spacing in certain urban areas as well as the, all day and most of the night operating schedule, is very operationally metro like. Its station spacing in rural and suburban areas is a complex mix between commuter rail and a metro like distances but the amazing geographic, temporal and operational coverage of the system, qualifies it as a true Regional Rail System. It was an idea way ahead of its time unfortunately, politicians found it too easy to expand but were never that interested in proper infrastructure and operating system maintenance. Sounds exactly like Vancouver to me. Good call Zwei!

  3. eric chris says:

    Absolutely, the parallelism betwixt BART and TransLink expanding transit and ignoring prudence is undeniable. Their transit systems even have about the same number of stations (around 50).

    You know, transportation in Metro Vancouver suffers from too many toadies who aren’t going to tell the truth and risk their jobs. Lafarge making big bucks pouring concrete for TransLink to have its bureaucracy paying fools big salaries to run driverless induction rail transit (DIRT) being sold by Bombardier in subways being built by SNC Lavalin are the ones benefiting from public transit. Users of public transit are merely the pawns.

    So called engineers at the City of Vancouver (COV) are all too happy to sit on their asses to have SNC Lavalin bore the tunnel while the COV engineers twiddle their thumbs and pretend to be engineers. They are a pitiful bunch of underachievers (make that non-achievers) who don’t have the technical insight and capability to do the engineering design for the tram or LRT line to UBC. They’d all lose their jobs if they ever had to show us their “stuff” and what they are capable of doing.

    There has to be the complete overhaul of the engineering department in Vancouver. Crap where TransLink comes in to build concrete viaducts over cars and pedestrians has to stop. How is this safe in earthquake prone Vancouver and who did the hazard analysis? Nobody, that’s who.

    Transit belongs at grade in Vancouver – not in subways and not on viaducts. We’re going to have many more fatalities when the earthquake hits, simply because the engineers at the COV are negligent in exercising their duty of care to the public and too gutless to say what has to be said.

  4. Reedman says:

    BART has unique problems because it is uses unique hardware in ill-considered ways. It is India Broad Gage (5’6″), not the worldwide standard 4’8.5″. The ticketing system is complex (it has zone pricing, in which you have to be “scanned” on exit to determine how far you have gone). It implemented the dumbest track configuration in transit history when extended to SFO (San Francisco Airport) [it implemented a dead-end wye configuration that had trains sitting doing nothing more than rolling). It has no passing tracks, so it cannot have express trains or “skip stop” services. It uses 1000VDC third rail power because of the long distances it goes, compared to 625 VDC for the New York Subway or the 750VDC of the Silicon Valley light rail system. The good news is that it is (finally, after 50 years) going to connect to the largest city in Northern California, San Jose, in about two years. If BART is smart (a losing bet many times) it will continue its San Jose extension to the main train depot in downtown San Jose, and connect there with the also-forthcoming California High Speed Rail. .

  5. Haveacow says:

    Did you know that 5’6″ gage, which was that standard gage in Canada during the mid to late 19th century was known as “Provincial Gage”. The actual conversion to the Stevenson or Standard Gage was done by agreement in both Great Britain and the USA. It was one of the early controversial decisions made by the Lincoln Administration and very unpopular at the time. The 1000V DC voltage was going to be the standard railway voltage of the future, used in both Mainline Electric Railways and Rapid Transit Systems in the 1950’s and 60’s when most of the BART system was designed. Many transit agency subway systems including, Toronto, New York, Cleveland and Chicago as well as the Electric Inter-city Passenger & Commuter Trains of the US’s North East Corridor, were going to switch to that voltage as well but never did. Keep in mind people treat BART as a Light Metro or Regional Subway when it was really only designed to Commuter Rail standards, think West Coast Express or GO Transit Trains in terms of passenger usage and frequency. It is truly a odd duck hybrid system. Its original designers built one hell of a system considering the levels its used at versus what it was really supposed to be.