It Ain’t Rocket Science Folks

Really, do the math.

TransLink has 170 full time attendants (part time attendants unknown); TransLink operates 57 trains during peak hours; how hard is it to schedule an attendant to be on a train at all times?

Why doesn’t TransLink force management types to be on the trains, and act as attendants as well? Unless management can see and feel the problems first hand, they haven’t a clue!

SkyTrain executive wonai??i??t push for onboard attendants

by Carlito Pablo on Aug 6, 2014

Putting attendants onboard the SkyTrain would cost a lot of money, says a transit executive.

ai???Fares would likely increase substantially to cover that kind of cost for extra staff,ai??? Fred Cummings, president and general manager of B.C. Rapid Transit Company, which operates SkyTrain, told the Straight.

Cummings was on the line Tuesday (August 5) following a recent Straight web report about an independent safety review during the 1990s of trains stranded due to system failure.

The assessment was ordered by B.C. Transit, which ran SkyTrain at that time. In March 1993, the Toronto Transit Commission handed in a report that recommended the introduction of onboard attendants.

A new review is under way in the wake of two major disruptions last month. During a July 21 service stoppage, passengers forced their way out of cars and made their way on service walkways to nearby stations. Former Toronto GO Transit CEO Gary McNeil is expected to provide his report by the end of October.

ai???Iai??i??m not going to put words in the mouth of the reviewer, so weai??i??ll have to see what he comes out with,ai??? Cummings said when asked about the chances that the 1993 recommendation about onboard attenAi??dants will be revived. ai???But one of the advantages of having automated train operations and unattended trains is the cost of

According to Cummings, SkyTrain has 57 vehicles rolling during peak hours. If attendants were going to be hired, he said that the system would need at least 70.

ai???We got an excellent safety record without having attendants on trains, and we would certainly encourage that to continue,ai??? Cummings said.

Ron Stromberg, a transit specialist with the then Crown Corporations Secretariat, pushed for the safety review during the 1990s.

Stromberg noted in an August 5 phone interview with the Straight that onboard train attendants were meant to do more than just drive the SkyTrain to the nearest station
when the automated system fails. Based on the Toronto Transit Commissionai??i??s report, attendants can perform fare checks. Their presence also enhances a passengerai??i??s sense of safety, resulting in increased ridership and revenues.


4 Responses to “It Ain’t Rocket Science Folks”
  1. eric chris says:

    Presently, comparing apples to apples, the hypothetical driverless tram costs about $0.07 per passenger mile “to operate” in comparison with the driverless ST which costs about $0.29 per passenger mile to operate. That is, if TransLink put attendants on ST cars to curb crime and improve safety, ST operating costs soar by about 300%. Ouch.

    How is this apples to apples comparison done for operating costs? Drivers on trams account for about 86% of the operating costs. Power and maintenance costs are relatively insignificant costs.

    Although, the maintenance and power costs for the ST are known to be much more than the maintenance and power costs for the tram, let’s ignore this. From Figure 19 of the 2009 UBC comparison of transportation modes in the following link, the operating costs for the tram with the driver are $0.51 per passenger mile.

    Without the driver on the tram, therefore, the operating costs for the tram are roughly about $0.07 per passenger = (100%-86%)($0.51 per passenger mile) = $0.07 per passenger. From Figure 19 of the 2009 UBC comparison of transportation modes, the operating costs for the ST “without the driver or attendant on board” are $0.29 per passenger mile.

    In other words, on an apples to apples basis with both the ST and tram in operation without drivers – ST operating costs are about 300% greater than the operating costs of the tram: $029 – $0.07 divided by $0.07 = 300%. Obviously, this math is slightly loose but when the cost of the driver comprises almost 100% of the operating costs for the tram, it doesn’t matter. If you have the time, you can do the more rigorous calculations to arrive at essentially the same result.

    In any case, behind the scenes: all the specialized technicians, control room operators, ST police, flunkies cleaning the ST stations and others employed to keep the finicky ST lines in operation far exceed the operating costs of the drivers on trams. However, in the TransLink accounting scheme of things, only transit drivers or attendants on board the ST cars count as far as operating costs and all the other staff (550 union workers behind the scenes for the Expo and Millennium lines) don’t count. Magic, this is how ST is less expensive to operate than trams according to TransLink.

    If TransLink put staff on board the ST cars, TransLink couldn’t pretend that ST has lower operating costs than the operating costs of trams on an apples to apples comparison – only on the fictional one that TransLink presently uses to deceive the public. To save face: the safety of riders is therefore being comprised and TransLink refuses to put attendants on board the ST cars. Solution: fire Fred Cummings, Ian Jarvis… Doug Kelsey and put attendants on ST cars. Then, do the real cost comparison of transit modes and choose trams based on the true operating costs – apples to apples.

    Cancel the fake “investigation” of the ST by Ian Jarvis, too.

  2. eric chris says:

    My last comment went off on a little bit of a tangent. What I was really trying to convey is that if you compare the operating costs of the tram to the operating costs of the ST on an apple to apple basis, by looking at them both without drivers, then the ST costs about 300% more to operate than the tram. Much of this is due to the very inefficient linear induction motors on ST using three times the power of the tram, see Figure 11:

  3. Haveacow says:

    I agree with your assessment except for the article you chose as a basis. The article that costs the various operating costs of rapid transit and other vehicles. I have read this article before and I had a few issues with it. It puts many artificial constraints on what is a LRT vehicle and what is a streetcar. The Combino model which they chose to represent streetcars is also in many places a LRT vehicle. Portland’s LRT vehicle pictured in the article is identified as a streetcar although it is by their definition a LRV, high platform loading and running on a reserved right of way. Many if not all new trolley buses also have regenerative braking as a main design feature, even when this article was written. Lastly the kwh power use of the various vehicles is not really a apple to apple comparison due to the fact that most transit agencies buy their power in such large blocks that if their vehicles were even 25% less efficient than the examples in the article for the various modes, the extra cost would not be that significant in a per vehicle basis. Its the shop facilities for both buses and trains and associated infrastructure (catinery, transformers, third rails et al) station and office buildings that become the major power draws.

  4. zweisystem says:

    I have always contended that an LRV operating on-street in mixed traffic is a streetcar and a LRV operating on a reserved rights-of-way is LRT and an LRV operating on a grade separated R-o-W is a light metro. It is the quality of R-o-W that defines mode. Even Portland’s LRT operates as a streetcar in the city centre.