Opinion Editorial

THE DUEL

Oversight needed to fix TransLink 0

By Laila Yuile, The Duel

TransLink needs independent oversight. (FILE PHOTO/24 HOURS)

TransLink needs independent oversight. (FILE PHOTO/24 HOURS)

Topics

This week's topic: Do recent SkyTrain failures show TransLink is failing riders?

With two massive SkyTrain failures and a couple of smaller system incidents creating commuter chaos in Metro Vancouver recently, it’s been a rough couple of weeks for TransLink officials.

The first major breakdown occurred during afternoon rush-hour passenger traffic and was ultimately found to have been caused by a card failure in the system’s main communications computer — a once-in-a-blue moon failure that wasn’t anticipated, nor planned for. With passengers stranded in between stations on elevated tracks, the problem was exacerbated by frustrated riders breaking open SkyTrain car doors and walking along the tracks back to stations. The entire system had to be powered down to avoid any injury or death from a passenger inadvertently coming into contact with the track.

Just a few days later, the system once again came to a grinding halt for hours and the chaos began all over again. Incredibly, the second outage even shut down the public announcement systems and TransLink wasn’t able to communicate with stranded passengers. Again, in frustration and panic, passengers took matters into their own hands and walked back along tracks to stations – a situation that by any perspective is a recipe for disaster.

One would expect that after two major outages, TransLink would have had things quickly whipped into shape, but yet another “minor systems delay” impacted the morning commute between stations in Vancouver just two days later.

To be accurate and fair, SkyTrain is a pretty reliable form of transportation overall. But as any regular rider will tell you, minor “glitches” happen often that never make the news, and questions are being asked whether or not maintenance for the 30-year-old system is being funded properly. Last year, a major failure was blamed on aging parts and a major project was undertaken to replace aging power rails.

While TransLink officials initially said a review wasn’t needed, its CEO Ian Jarvis subsequently came forth in the media and acknowledged several points he personally considered failures to be addressed.

Read Brent Stafford's column here

While I applaud his acknowledgement of failures and commitment to bring in outside experts for a review, concerns about maintenance plans, funding and inadequate emergency response were reason enough for local mayors to call for more governance and accountability – and I agree.

The recent SkyTrain incidents show that TransLink is, indeed, failing riders in more ways than just safety, and only a full review and outside oversight will show why.

Laila Yuile is an independent writer, blogger and political commentator. You can read her blog at lailayuile.com.

 

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