Transport Action BC

2011, May 26

Next Meeting Tues May 31

Filed under: Announcement — Matthew @ 9:53 pm

Transport Action BC logoDate: Tuesday May 31, 2011
Time: 18:00-19:45 PM.
The room is available at 17:45.

Place: Firehall Library
Address: 1455 W. 10th Ave. Vancouver

This will be our last meeting until after the summer.


2011, May 22

Canada Line P3 “Get Out of Jail Free” Card?

Filed under: Announcement, city transit, Rapid Transit, Regional transit — Tags: , , , — Rick @ 3:54 pm

Transport Action BC members raised concerns about Canada Line service incidents that seriously affected its passengers, with no publicised action taken against the line’s private sector operator (InTransit BC / Protrans BC) by TransLink.

The Canada Line is, possibly, the most vigorously debated of the provincial government’s Public-Private Partnerships (P3) projects. Under the P3 model, a private sector concessionaire may finance, design build, and /or operate a specific project and assumes some project risk, in return for a guaranteed investment return. However, the concessionaire contracts to provide a certain level of service.  Penalties should be considered by the project’s owner (in this case TransLink), if contractual obligations are not met. Essentially, the concessionaire does a detailed risk-analysis and decides how best to do the project while minimising its costs,  maximising its returns and avoiding penalty payments.

There are two incidents that concerned Transport Action BC. Both incidents resulted in significant and lengthy disruptions to Canada Line passengers.

Canada Line train at Templeton Station

The first was the morning-long shutdown of the line on 26 November 2010 due to snow and ice build-up on the line’s 3rd rail. Transport Action BC felt that the Canada Line operator should have been able to handle a snow storm that, while uncommon, can reasonably be expected in a Vancouver winter. The fact that TransLink’s SkyTrain lines successfully operated under similar conditions shows that it could be done. Our concern was that the concessionaire had underestimated weather-related risks in the design of Canada Line elevated structures and inclement weather operating procedures. Under our understanding of a P3 scenario, this should have resulted in a penalty to the concessionaire.

The second incident was a series of late-night, service reductions to Canada Line service for track maintenance in February, March and April. Customers had to deal with reduced rapid transit service, shuttle trains or use the parallel bus route (albeit with more frequent service). This level of maintenance was a concern because the line was barely 1 ½ years old. Was there some underlying design flaw that resulted from the concessionaire’s risk analysis?

Transport Action BC sent letters to the TransLink Board of Directors after each of these incidents and received responses each time.

The first response indicated that the November 2010 shutdown was part of the two-year “learning curve” for the new transit project and penalties were not justified.

In addition to the track maintenance issue, our second letter questioned the rationale for a “learning curve” on a P3 contract. We felt that the concessionaire had made design decisions based on its risk-analysis. It should be responsible for those decisions and held accountable for any significant passenger impacts.

TransLink’s response to this letter stated its contract with InTransit BC / Protrans BC included a moratorium on performance penalties for the first two years (until 2011 August 12). This was a revelation to Transport Action BC and, we suspect, most members of the public are unaware that such a loophole exists in the Canada Line contract.

There are several concerns with this. What is the reason for this contract concession? It certainly violates the spirit of the P3 mantra as presented by P3 supporters. Do other P3 contracts include similar conditions? And, most importantly, how would the customers affected by Canada Line service failures feel if they were told that, other than some bad publicity, the line’s operator was not penalised for its failings?

Inside a Canada Line train on opening day Aug 2009

2011, May 16

Transit planning in BC

Filed under: Buses, city transit, Regional transit — Tags: , — Matthew @ 10:13 pm

BC Transit is embarking on a number of transit studies for communities outside of Vancouver, such as Victoria, Abbotsford and Fraser Valley communities, Kelowna, and Kamloops. Transit Future as BC Transit calls it, asks for public input for these different regions.

More specifically, on the Abbotsford & Mission service area of BC Transit, the City of Abbotsford, and the City of Mission have embarked on a 25 year transit strategy. This strategy is based on the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s Fraser Valley Transit Study released in December 2010.

Many of the initiatives involved in this report such as creating a transit connection between Chilliwack and Abbotsford, the important link between Abbotsford into Langley is not being discussed at all. While presently you can take the 21 Aldergrove Connection and link to the 502 Aldergrove/Surrey Central Station service, it is ignoring a serious issue. People in Abbotsford cannot effectively access employment in Langley Township, Langley City, and Surrey unless they use a car.

Thanks to Ken Wuschke for developing this post. For more information see his Transportation Choices blog.

The relavent entries:

Transit and land use: North America’s fatal flaw

Gloucester Industrial Estates: A proposed bus route network

2011, May 9

More items on Vancouver Island Rail

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Matthew @ 6:09 am

The following piece was submitted to the Nanaimo News Bulletin by Transport Action member Ian Gartshore.  Originally published Apr 16, 2011.

The familiar whistle of the VIA Rail passenger train has become silent.

The deteriorating state of the tracks that had been neglected under the former owners has finally caught up to this now publically-owned railway. If an investment of $15 million is not initiated this spring, the railway will be gone for good.

Critics say that if the railway can’t pay its own way, then it should die. Strange thinking when all other modes of travel are heavily subsidised by various governments.

Why are railways alone not considered to be an ‘investment’ like roads, airports, and cruise ship or ferry terminals?

Perhaps this is because rail travel is seen by most to be a ‘thing of the past.’

Only in Canada. All other industrialized countries in the world (and many developing nations as well) are heavily investing in their rail infrastructure.

Not here. Ours are disappearing.

This is occurring at a time of rapidly rising fuel prices, increasing concerns about air quality and greenhouse gases, unstable economics due (in part) to rising energy costs, and the much higher costs of providing adequate infrastructure for trucks, buses and cars.

Maintaining the hundreds of kilometres of roadways in Nanaimo alone costs us property owners nearly 40 per cent of our annual tax bite. Fully half of this year’s increase in taxes is due to the widening of Bowen Road (and associated infrastructure).

The billions of dollars being spent on overpasses in the greater Victoria area to only briefly alleviate the ‘Colwood crawl’, as well as to build the new bridge and widen the Trans Canada highway east of Vancouver so that shipping companies can move goods from the port of Vancouver into the rest of North America is being paid for by you and me.

Yet improving the rail infrastructure would save us a huge chunk of this investment, reduce traffic congestion, improve road safety, reduce pollution and greenhouse gases, improve local economies and create more jobs.

Former provincial transportation minister Kevin Falcon recently indicated that he now thought our railway was worth investing in (something he blocked while being the minister in charge).

Only the province is balking at investing in this vital corridor, as the federal government has promised funds if the province would match them.

When will Canada join the 21st century?

Only when we taxpayers have said “enough”. Only when we have decided that becoming sustainable is not only better for our pocketbooks, it is simply wise.

Ian Gartshore is the President of the non-profit Energy Solutions for Vancouver Island.

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