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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for the ‘transit’ Category

“England brings in round-the-clock trains…”

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“…DVBIA says it’s time Metro Vancouver follows”

The headline comes from News1130 and, as usual, needs clarification.

But first, some background. On Saturday evening someone from News1130 and contacted me and wanted me to comment on their story. I suggested that they would do better to find someone from Translink. It appears from the on line version that they didn’t manage to get that.

To be clear, Transport for London is going to run underground trains on two lines overnight Friday and Saturday nights.

August 2016 Night Tube Underground leaflet map

Photo by BowRoadUK on flickr

 

There will be some other lines added later. This has not been easy to achieve as the unions were critical of the impact on their members. So only in London, and only a few lines: not the Overground and by no means round the clock everywhere.

[Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association’s] Gauthier says they’ve been told there are a number of things standing in the way of 24-hour service [on SkyTrain].

“You know, track maintenance, and there’s a whole list of things that come up as reasons. But I’m not suggesting those aren’t legitimate reasons, but hey, if London can do it, why can’t we! And certainly let’s start with a Friday and Saturday night.”

I do not know what else might be in that whole list of things. But I do know that the maintenance problems on SkyTrain are not trivial. So will anyone else who has tried to use SkyTrain, as breakdowns seem to have been more of a problem recently, and there has been an admission that maintenance needed to be improved.

Mr Gauthier might also recall that Translink was unable to secure a new source of funding for the rather long list of improvements that are deemed necessary to both catch up to recent increases in demand and better meet future needs, rather than rely solely on the province’s preferred method of expanding freeways. There is a shortage of resources, and even a “state of good repair” is a tall order when revenue from gas taxes is falling, due to people making better choices than driving everywhere and better fuel efficiency in vehicles.

If Translink does come up with more money, I think that there are many other more deserving areas than “Millennials … having to live further and further away from the downtown core.” The fact that they continue to seek entertainment in downtown Vancouver is important to some of Mr Gauthier’s membership but is perhaps less important than some other regional issues. Possibly the decisions to increase the number of seats at licensed premises on Granville Street needed to have considered transportation impacts, and come up with some way of meeting that “need” before expansion was permitted. There are night buses, and due to the lack of traffic at night, they provide much faster and more reliable service than they can during the day. I did not see any those making more money off the later openings offering any of it to transportation providers.

If Translink did extend SkyTrain service overnight it would not come free. There would need to be considerably increased security and policing – and that cost is actually higher than on systems that have to pay for additional train operators. Sadly the people who have spent a lot of time in bars tend to make more demands on  police than the rest of us.

If there is money available for some service expansion then I think it must go first to the most needy and worthwhile cause: HandyDART has long been underfunded and its service is nowhere near adequate. Its objective ought to be to provide a service that provides an equivalent level of mobility to people with disabilities as the rest of the population enjoys. Anything less than that is discrimination against an identifiable minority. And compared to the needs of people with restricted mobility all day and every day, the needs of the young and fit late at night on weekends pale into insignificance.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 22, 2016 at 12:30 pm

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Southwest Area Transport Plan

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Translink bus in Steveston

Translink bus in Steveston

I had a call today from Graeme Wood who writes for the Richmond News. He wanted to talk about Translink’s Southwest Area Transport Plan. He wanted me to predict what sort of changes people in Richmond might want to see in the transport system in the future. I’m afraid I wasn’t very helpful as it does not seem to me to be very important. First of all because the way to plan for a future system is to do some really good data collection on how they travel right now, and why, and then come up with some realistic proposals on how that could change based on what we know about things like population growth, land use plans and technology changes. Just asking people what they might like is a bit pointless. Secondly holding open houses and inviting people to fill in a web based survey form means you only get the opinions of a self selected (i.e. unrepresentative) group.

But it’s worse than that here now – and here is where I went off on a rant which I somehow doubt will appear in his newspaper, but you never know. They might be desperate to fill the space.

Here’s what the Translink web page has to say

In June 2014 the Mayors’ Council developed the Transportation and Transit Plan which identified investment priorities across the Metro Vancouver region. These priorities identified the need for types of services, but not the specific routes or specific areas that would benefit. An Area Transport Plan will establish a blueprint for the unique transit and transportation needs of the Southwest sub-region. Once funding is available, we will have a solid foundation for implementing the priorities that meet the needs of the community now and in the future.

I have added the emphasis: if you think funding is going to be available, and you live in Delta or Richmond, then you might like to wander along to one of their open houses or fill in the survey. Don’t let me stop you, or the thought that it is very unlikely indeed that much is going to change any time soon. Unless the stupid bridge actually gets built, in which case, forget it and buy a car. And if that is not a practical choice for you then you might have to take Jean Chretien’s advice and consider moving.

There is no funding for more and better transit or very much for walking and cycling – which anyway gets decided by the municipality not Translink. And, given the present ineptitude of our provincial government, that is not going to change any time soon. I think the two immediate, pressing needs for transit would be to restore the annual pass for people with disabilities and – having taken handyDART back in house – make a considerable investment in making door to door trips for people who cannot drive or use conventional transit a daily possibility rather than a very rare treat. The way that a society treats its most vulnerable citizens tells you a lot about what sort of society we are and want to be. The way this segment of our population has been treated in this province is a disgrace. And that has been true for at least the last twenty years to my certain knowledge and actually much longer than that. I think that if there are to be more funds available that ought to be the first priority simply as a matter of social justice. Even Hillary Clinton has recognized that transportation is a civil rights issue.

Whatever detail Translink puts on top of its 2014 Plan matters naught, if it cannot get any more funds to match the needs for an increase in its operations and maintenance budget – let alone the very desirable and lengthy list of transit improvements listed in that plan. The Mayors identified very real problems in the present funding model, not the least of which is the decline in revenues from the gas tax and the pressures of population growth. Of course we are in a stare down over the potential for increases in property tax: don’t expect that to end either.

Already Kirk LaPointe has decided that the Broadway Subway is not going to happen.

Our viability and livability depend on better public transit – not in a decade, but today, because we have waited a decade. Trouble is, the line has taken only one teensy step forward and some significant steps back since it was identified as one of several core projects in the Mayors’ Council report on transportation in 2014.

Yup, he got that right. Oddly he also seems to think that streetcars might be the solution as though they could be implemented faster than the subway. Actually any transit solution is going to be very expensive, very unpopular with at least one loud and influential segment of the population  and will take far too long to implement to satisfy the existing users of the 99 B Line. It is about as likely as the Massey Bridge – or the Port Mann – will see LRT running across it in my lifetime: or along the Arbutus Corridor come to that. While the province always likes to say that their new bridges could carry more transit in the future, that is simply the old “jam tomorrow, never jam today” promise.  There has never been a real intention to implement those plans.

People in Richmond or Delta who go to these open houses and outline the sorts of improvements they would like to see in the bus routes of their area are simply demonstrating the triumph of hope over experience. Good luck with that, folks. Let me know how that works out for you.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 13, 2016 at 4:06 pm

The Cambie Street Saga’s Final Chapter

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There is a story today in the Vancouver Observer which brings to an end the sorry tale of the many small businesses that failed due to the cut and cover construction of the Canada Line under Cambie Street.  Some of these merchants will be able to recover a little of the money they lost as compensation is limited to “injury to their leases”. Not nearly enough, and far too late, but mostly due to the intransigence of the constructors. And, of course, the province of BC though they were not named in the suit but they are in my blog post. I did try to document what was happening and some of the outcome. But you might find the Siskinds Law Firm a bit more authoritative on the Canadian law.

To claim compensation, former merchants and landlords affected by the Canada Line construction are urged to contact the Cambie Village Business Association before May 1, 2016, as the deadline for filing with the Court is May 31, 2016.

And, as most people know, winning a legal case is not the same thing as getting justice. My impression is that there are other places who deal with such cases in a more generous fashion, but perhaps that is going to require more historic research, as the world has steadily become less concerned about the people in general as opposed to the very few People Who Matter.

I thought I wrote more about this – as I also thought it would be easy to find better examples. But then maybe I am using the wrong search terms or the wrong search engine.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 4, 2016 at 3:21 pm

Starting April 4, They’re Closing All Fare Gates

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compass_circle

So I have a Compass card, and used up my last FareSaver, so I cannot say I am directly impacted. And, since I can afford to not only buy a Compass card but also keep it loaded against possible future needs I will now enjoy a more convenient system. But that doesn’t mean that the decisions that have been taken up to this point are not acknowledgements of failure. When a transit system adopts new fare technologies there do have to be some adjustments – but mostly that ought to be adjustments of the technology to meet the system’s needs and not the other way around. When the transit agency invites bidders to tender for their system’s requirements one of the things that both sides have to look at is how well the proffered technology meets the specification. In the case of the Compass card, Cubic have not been able to meet that test, yet it is Translink that is taking both the criticism and adapting to suit the shortcomings of what it has bought.

They have already abandoned one of the pillars of the fare system: three zones during daytime on weekdays. Yes, in some distant future they may be able to switch to fare by distance, but not with the existing equipment on buses. Now three zones have often been challenged, as arbitrary and based on a region centered around Vancouver (Zone 1) where fares rise based on distance to that centre which is not exactly what this region is now like. A short ride across the harbour costs more than the ride from Langley to Ladner. And since the bus route network has been designed and adapted over the years to feed passengers into the SkyTrain there are not that many opportunities to get a cheaper ride by staying on the bus: though I do wonder if the #19 has seen an increase in use recently. But the reason that the bus is a one zone fare no matter how many zone boundaries it crosses is simply because the tap out reader on the bus doesn’t respond quickly enough. A very basic system requirement, and an equipment failure. In other word’s Cubic’s fault, not Translink’s.

But that one ticket ride – which is so admired in places where multiple transit agencies serve the functional economic region – will no longer be available to the casual – cash paying – user. Who could be a visitor, or someone who either doesn’t need or cannot afford to use transit frequently. If you use the bus to get to SeaBus or the SkyTrain and pay on board you will have to pay again – as there will no longer be a usable transfer between bus and “rapid transit”. And will impact people travelling within one zone quite significantly: their fare has been doubled, just because Translink decided NOT to install a magnetic swipe reader on some gates. Or buy machines that could issue Compass tickets on board buses. I am sure that Translink has talking points about how that is not financially worthwhile, but then the whole Compass system is a financial disaster. It is supposed to improve revenue collection and deter fare evasion, but will never be able to pay for itself that way and the province has had to accept some responsibility for that.

For the “choice” rider – those who decide to stop driving for every trip and try transit – this is going to look like a deterrent. If Translink was able to stick to the idea of increasing transit mode share, that might be an issue. But the reality now is that Translink cannot cope with current demand – let alone increases even if they only come from a growth in population and transit share stays static – or even falls!

When the current generation of electronic fare boxes was bought for buses, adaptation to future needs was one of Cubic’s selling points. The decision to only go to magnetic swipe cards and not  smart cards reflected what was then available – but with the knowledge that the technology would change and the electronic farebox was specified to be adaptable to meet that possibility. In other systems, magnetic stripe cards are still in use alongside newer card readers. I have seen that for myself in a number of cities in North America and Europe, including ones using Cubic equipment and many more than three fare zones. Indeed the choice of Cubic as supplier for the new Compass system was influenced by compatibility of the new and old systems.

The issue over the accessibility of the system to people with disabilities ought to have been settled much earlier, and is a profound failure of a transit system which at one time was trying very hard indeed to improve accessibility. There seems to have been a significant unwillingness to listen to what was being said – or a willingness to ignore a small number of users over the need to install and get working a fare system bedevilled by delays and other failures. That is a failure of Translink, not Cubic.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 18, 2016 at 2:27 pm

Groups Call on Feds to Fund Transit, not Massey Bridge

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MasseyBridge_protest_Jan2016

Press Release from The Wilderness Committee and Fraser Voices

FV LOGO colour

Open letter urges government to review project and consider alternatives

RICHMOND, BC – Community and national organizations are calling on the federal government to launch an environmental review of the proposed Massey Tunnel Replacement Project and to withhold federal infrastructure funding from the project.

Resident group Fraser Voices, the Wilderness Committee, Council of Canadians and five other organizations representing over 160,000 members and supporters have sent an open letter urging the federal government to use the money it has promised for infrastructure to fund transit projects in Metro Vancouver instead of the new 10-lane highway bridge.

“This federal money gives Canadians an opportunity to correct the mistakes of the past and build a greener future,” said De Whalen, one of the founding members of Fraser Voices. “But the Massey Bridge is imposing the same old car culture from the 1950s.”

The federal government has said it will fund environmental and social infrastructure with its $10 billion per year stimulus money. Extra vehicles resulting from the Massey Bridge and will add about seven million tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere over 50 years.

“It is irresponsible to be building new highways during a climate crisis, especially when they do nothing to ease congestion,” said Peter McCartney, Climate Campaigner for the Wilderness Committee. “Even the mayor of Houston, Texas – with its 26-lane freeway – agrees it’s time to stop building highways and build transit instead.”

Community groups are hoping the federal budget next week will include funding for the Broadway Skytrain project and Surrey LRT instead. Along Highway 99, rapid bus service could ease congestion for a fraction of the $3.5 billion price tag of the proposed Massey Bridge.

application/pdf iconOpen letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mar. 17, 2016

 

Written by Stephen Rees

March 17, 2016 at 10:16 am

BC’s Next Transit Referendum (& One You’ve Likely Never Heard Of)

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gertie

Lawn sign on Gabriola Island

 

We all know what happened with that rather unfortunate (insert additional adjectives of your choice here) transit referendum that occurred last spring in Metro Vancouver.

What you may not be aware of is that there’s another transit referendum happening right now on Gabriola Island, BC, a 20 minute ferry ride from downtown Nanaimo in BC’s Gulf Islands archipelago. Between now and general voting day next Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, islanders are set to head to the polls to say whether they support establishing an ongoing contribution from property taxes to fund transit in their community.

Read more on Connecting Dots the personal blog of Tania Wegwitz, who also happens to be the Manager of Planning for BC Transit. I have only just become aware of her blog and, from the quick glance through it so far, I am very happy to add it to my blogroll.

UPDATE “40% of eligible voters came out today to vote for GERTIE! 66.9% in favour”

Written by Stephen Rees

February 12, 2016 at 8:07 am

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TransLink wanted your input

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IMG_1860 IMG_2074 Sydney L1 at Central StationI’m back. Actually got in Wednesday morning four hours before we left Sydney: the flight back crossed over the intersection of the equator and the international date line. Jet lag and the lingering colds we picked up at the end of the cruise have been combining to limit our activities but the laundry got done and I fixed the toilet and the sliding patio door that wouldn’t close properly. Pictures from the last four weeks are going up on flickr. More will be added steadily over the next few weeks.

I really liked Sydney: arriving in a new city the other side of the world without jetlag was a very pleasant experience. Great buses, nice new LRT but new downtown development is massive and seems to me to be very tightly squeezed in.

[The original post had a press release here about a Translink consultation process that has now closed.]

Written by Stephen Rees

October 23, 2015 at 4:56 pm

Posted in transit

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