Transport Action BC

2017, February 11

Canada Line and Snow

TransLink’s Canada Line experienced two major shutdowns (Feb 3 / 6, 2017). The cause was the apparent inability of trains to travel northbound between Bridgeport and Marine Drive Stations.

 
These incidents are a reminder of a similar incident in November 2010 when an early winter snow storm led to service disruptions in the same location. At that time, Transport Action BC engaged with TransLink over the incident because we felt that the Canada Line’s private operator (InTransitBC / Protrans) should have been better prepared for such storms, which are not unknown in Vancouver.

 
One of our concerns was that there were no public statements about performance penalties to the Canada Line’s private operator. We assumed penalties were in order, based on our understanding of P3 contracts, whereby the contractor receives bonuses for exceeding performance standards and is penalised for failing to meet them. TransLink indicated that performance penalties were not an option because the incident occurred during the contracted two year “learning curve” in which performance penalties would not be applied to InTransitBC / Protrans. Details are here.

 
A secondary concern was that P3 “value engineering” may have designed resiliency out of the system in order to minimise costs and/or maximise profits. This issue was never addressed by TransLink.

 
The latest incidents have received much more public attention, possibly because social media allows an immediate, more voluminous, public response forcing mainstream media and TransLink to respond in kind. The general disenchantment of TransLink as a result of the 2015 Transit Plebiscite’s No Campaign may also be a factor.

 
According to TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond, the cause of the latest delays is a steep section of track to the bridge over the North Arm of the Fraser river . TransLink’s The Buzzer blog  adds that trains require full power to get up the steep track grade and icy buildups prevent trains from reaching full power.

 
This brings us back to Transport Action BC’s secondary concern about the November 2010 incident – did P3 design considerations result in a structure that is subject to operational failure under certain weather conditions? At this point, this issue has not been publicly discussed.

 
Of immediate interest, though, has the TransLink / BC Rapid Transit Co / InTransitBC / Protrans response been acceptable or reasonable? To be fair, it must be realized that the recent snow conditions are unusual and infrequent and we can be certain that front-line staff are doing their best under trying conditions. However, heavy snow falls are not unheard of and Vancouver gets 2 – 3 of them a decade.

 
Several issues for consideration:

 
1. Where are InTransitBC and Protrans in all this? To my knowledge, no representative(s) of the Canada Line’s private operator have met the press or given any kind of a public interview (apology?) regarding serious service disruptions. Does the contract (P3) with TransLink allow its management to minimise its involvement in dealing with the affected public during delay situations? One can understand, TransLink wanting single points of contact when dealing with the media but the severity of these disruptions warrants some response from InTransitBC / Protrans.

 
2. Obviously, de-icing, sanding and other winter operations procedures were not entirely successful in keeping this section of the Canada Line in service. An internal post-mortem will be carried out but will the results be publicised to assure the public that changes will be made to operations to mitigate snow issues in future?

 
3. Performance penalties should be applied to the Canada Line operator for the recent disruptions. However, will the details be made public in order to reassure the public that their interests are met and that Canada Line management is being held accountable for its operations?

 
4. Will  InTransitBC / Protrans be required to pay the costs of operating the bus bridges that were required to get passengers around the delays? Similarly, if fare rebates to compensate riders for their inconvenience are given, will inTransitBC / Protrans cover the costs? Again, this is an issue of accountability and transparency around how taxpayers’ money is being spent.

 
5. Is the organisational structure that integrates Canada Line operations within TransLink effective for dynamic situations requiring rapid decision making (such as a snow emergency)? The Canada Line contractor reports to the BC Rapid Transit Co., the TransLink subsidiary responsible for running the Expo / Millenium lines. Bus Operations, a separate silo in TransLink’s organisation structure, manages Coast Mountain Bus Company, the provider of buses for bus bridges. Does this structure allow for effective and responsive communications between management, front line staff and the public when dealing with emergencies? For example, how far up the management chain does a Canada Line request for a bus bridge go before being passed to the Coast Mountain Bus Company? How are bus bridge set-up and operations communicated between the various transit operators and the affected customers?

2016, June 13

Federal Transit Funding – 2

Peter Fassbender, provincial Minister Responsible for TransLink, responded to The David Suzuki Foundation’s open letter to various Metro Vancouver and provincial politicians urging them to come together to ensure Metro Vancouver receives a share of available federal transit funding. Unfortunately, the letter seems more aggravating than conciliatory to the Mayors’ Council.
The Minister re-commits the province’s oft-re-committed $246,000,000 as its contribution to Phase One of the Mayors’ Plan for Metro Vancouver’s transit future. Further in the letter, he states that the province’s “increased funding” (no figures or timing given) will ensure that Metro Vancouver does not miss out on federal funding. Tellingly, he refers to negotiating “bilateral agreements” with the federal government while, separately, working with the Mayors’ Council on local funding details. This seems to be telling the mayors that they are not welcome at the federal table and to let the ‘big boys’ negotiate the major funding agreements while they gather their pennies together.

 
Fassbender also commits the province to work with the mayors, through his Deputy Minister, to investigate how to capture some of the land development benefits (increased property values) that result from transit investments. It should be noted that property value increases are largest along rapid transit lines, which is only one component of the Mayors’ Plan, which includes major increases in bus service and several new B-Line (express) services. Rapid transit construction is long term so any benefits from increased property values are far in the future. How these values can be ‘taxed’ in the near term to support the Mayors’ Plan is not addressed? And in the Lower Mainland’s housing market, how would it be possible to differentiate, for taxation purposes, between increased property values due to transit investment and those caused by market demand.

 
After dictating to the Mayors that the province will handle federal negotiations, that they must deal with a Deputy Minister on taxing future, transit-related property value increases, and that they “confirm details of [their] respective funding commitments.” with him, Fassbender categorically states the province will not change the TransLink governance structure to give the mayors more control over how the agency spends the tax dollars the mayors are mandated to raise.

 
Rather insultingly, he states they can attend TransLink board meetings, as individuals with no voting rights, to “share their views”. Apparently, this could lead to greater confidence that the board is spending tax dollars to benefit the region.

 
None of this augurs well for an early agreement between the province and the Mayors’ Council on the transit funding issue.

 
Minister Fassbender’s letter is attached here – Minister Fassbender Letter to Mayors-2016-05-30.

2016, May 23

Federal Transit Funding

The David Suzuki Foundation  is urging BC and Metro Vancouver’s political leaders to put aside their differences and create a common front to negotiate transit funding with the federal government. The Foundation sent an open letter to various politicians on May 18, 2016. Transport Action BC is a signatory to this letter.
The federal government has started providing funding ($840 million to Toronto; $900,000 to Whitehorse) to other centres so it is urgent for BC’s politicians to work together and put forward a unified stance when dealing Ottawa on the transit funding issue.

The text of the letter follows.

=====================================================================

5/18/2016

The Hon. Christy Clark
Premier of British Columbia
Office of the Premier

Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council

Cc: Hon. Todd Stone; Hon. Peter Fassbender

Re: A call for leadership to invest in transit and transportation in Metro Vancouver

Dear Premier Clark and Members of the Mayors’ Council,

We the undersigned are a diverse group of organizations from business, labour, health, environment and student associations working together to advocate for investment in Metro Vancouver’s transportation system.

We are writing to urge you to act quickly and take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the recent federal budget to improve transit and transportation in our region. As you know, in its budget, the federal government made a commitment to a $370 million “down payment” toward the 10-year Metro Vancouver Transit and Transportation Plan. The federal government has also shown tremendous leadership by agreeing to pay 50 per cent of all capital transit costs provided agreements can be struck with the province and local mayors.

These commitments have changed the landscape for transit funding in our region, but with this opportunity comes a challenge: we need to be ready with regional and provincial funding, or else these federal dollars, collected from local taxpayers, will go to other cities and provinces that are ready. For the good of our economy and the health and livelihood of citizens, this cannot happen. We are calling on the province and the Mayors’ Council to work together to ensure that we are ready to get Metro Vancouver moving again.

Expansion of transit services — especially when they’re electrified — is crucial for Metro Vancouver to improve air quality and health, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote economic development and job growth.

A growing number of studies confirm that congestion costs our region more than $1 billion each year due to lost productivity, increased operating costs and lost business revenue and regional GDP. It has been estimated that investment in transit could save the health care system at least $115 million annually, and likely considerably more if the benefits of increased physical activity were also included as part of the cost-savings analysis.

We ask you show leadership by putting history and political differences aside to work together and ensure we are ready to take full advantage of federal support and start improving transit and transportation. Adding new federal dollars is an essential prerequisite for moving ahead with stalled transit improvements so badly needed for the Metro Vancouver region, and for B.C. as a whole.

Lastly, we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the importance of using newly available federal funds to implement the full set of regional transportation improvements outlined in the Mayors’ Council Transportation and Transit Plan rather than a few projects here and there. A regional approach to transportation investments will ensure that Metro Vancouver residents and businesses throughout the region will benefit. Local and provincial governments have the power to help us make history in B.C. and Metro Vancouver through implementation of a world-class provincial and regional transportation plan.

Should you require more information, we would be happy to meet with you or your staff.

Thank you for considering this request.

 BC Federation of Labour
 BC Healthy Living Alliance
 BC Teachers’ Federation
 British Columbia Golf
 Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
 Clean Energy Canada
 Connecting Environmental Professionals – Vancouver Chapter
 The David Suzuki Foundation
 Dialog Design
 Disability Alliance BC
 Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association
 Downtown Vancouver Association
 Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association
 Dr. Lisa J. Jing Mu, Medical Health Officer, Fraser Region
 ForestEthics
 Gordon Price, Director of the SFU City Program
 Graduate Student Society at SFU
 Greenpeace Canada
 HandyDART Riders Alliance
 HASTe BC
 Heart and Stroke Foundation
 HUB Cycling
 Offsetters
 Perkins+Will Architects
 Peter Ladner, Columnist, Business in Vancouver Media Group
 Public Health Association of BC
 Renewal Funds Company
Transport Action – British Columbia
 Vanterre Projects Corp
 Victoria Lee MD MPH MBA CCFP FRCPC, Chief Medical Health Officer, Fraser Health Authority

2013, April 22

Annual General Meeting April 29th in Vancouver

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Matthew @ 9:43 pm

Transport Action BC

Annual General Meeting 2013

http://bc.transport-action.ca/

18:30 – 18:45 PM (Room Available at 18:15)
Terry Salman Library, 4575 Clancy Loranger Way (Route 33 eastbound from King Ed Station)

Terry Salman Branch of the Vancouver Public Library
http://www.vpl.ca/branches/details/terry_salman_branch

TransLink Bus #33
http://infomaps.translink.ca/Public_Timetables/89/tt033.pdf

Open Public Transport Lines Map
http://openptmap.org/?zoom=15&lat=49.24564&lon=-123.11279&layers=0B000TFTT

 

2012, May 31

Public Transit Boosts Local Economies

Filed under: city transit, Rapid Transit, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Rick @ 8:52 pm

Some intriguing numbers surfaced in media reports on the recent disruptions of Montréal’s Métro. The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montréal  and the Montréal Economic Institute  provided estimates of the economic impact (lost productivity) of the disruptions.  The Board of Trade estimated the 90 minutes of disruption cost the city’s economy $11,000,000 while the more conservative MEC estimated $9,300,000. Put positively, the Métro generates significant productivity benefits to Montréal’s economy.

Unfortunately, details on the methodology used to derive these numbers are not available. However, the number can be used to calculate an order of magnitude estimate of the value of public transit to a local economy.

Operating conservatively, I‘ll assume the productivity impact [PI] is a high estimate, given the political situation under which it was released.  Therefore, I’ve reduced it by approximately 50% to $5,000,000 per 90 minute time period [MTP]. Also, I’ll assume that most of the productivity impact of the Métro is provided during the peak hours when the system is at its busiest. Peak hours are generally considered as 06:00 – 09:00 and 16:00 – 19:00 or 6 hours / business day which equals four, 90 minute time periods:

  • 4 (90 MTP) X $5,000,000 (PI / 90 MTP) = $20,000,000 PI for 1 business day.
  • 20 (business days / month) X 12 (months / year) X $20,000,000 (PI /business day) = $4.8 billion PI / year.

Thus, Montréal’s transit system has a positive, $4.8 billion productivity impact on the city’s economy each year.

The Société de transport de Montréal [STM], which operates the transit system, has a 2012 operating budget of $1.23 billion. I’ve used the total budget number because the Métro and bus system operates as a network of interdependent modes – customers have to reach the subway somehow. Using the PI / year calculated above, we find that the public investment in Montréal’s transit system, through fares and taxes, generates an annual return of almost 400% in productivity impacts:

  • {($4.8 billion PI / year) ÷ ($1.23 billion STM 2012 operations budget)} X 100 = 400%
  • Eliminating the percentage gives a constant of 4, which I’ll call the TPI [Transit Productivity Impact]

Assuming, and remember we’re dealing with orders of magnitude in this discussion, that TransLink’s transit operations provide a similar boost to Metro Vancouver’s economic productivity, we can estimate the impact of transit using TransLink’s 2012 budget. TransLink forecasts that transit operations will cost $871 million and transit police $29.6 million for a total of about $900 million. I’ve included policing costs in the calculation because their presence adds safety, security and comfort to the transit system, thus encouraging ridership.

  • $900,000,000 (TransLink 2012 transit operations budget) X 4 (TPI Factor) = $3.6 billion PI / year.

Thus, in spite of all the negative publicity TransLink has received lately, the organisation still provides significant economic benefits to the region it serves. Admittedly, this is a very basic analysis based on an unsubstantiated number from a media release in a highly charged environment. However, it should help us move away from the image that public transit is simply a costly drain on taxpayers which only benefits a few (the “loser cruiser” attitude). Public transit must be treated as a valuable, respected, public investment tool that, in addition to social and environmental benefits, also has significant economic ones.

 

2011, November 4

Canada’s HSR Study “Industry”

Filed under: high speed rail, Uncategorized — Tags: , — Rick @ 9:39 pm

Canada’s latest High Speed Rail Study  – The EcoTrain – was spoofed by the CBC’s, Rick Mercer . He skewers Canada’s penchant for producing HSR studies, as opposed to actually building an HSR system. According to Mercer, Canada has become the “world leader” in HSR reports, which can be judged by the quality of their paper stock and binding style. Unfortunately, there is more than a grain of truth in Mercer’s commentary. Even with the latest HSR study, there doesn’t seem to be much chance of Canada joining the growing list of countries actually building and operating HSR systems.

2011, October 2

I’ll Take the Train by Ken Liddell – Book Review

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Matthew @ 7:27 pm

I’ll Take the Train by Ken Liddell
Western Producer Prairie Books,
Saskatoon, SK
1971 (3rd printing)
196 pages;
ISBN 0-919306-06-3

I'll Take the Train

Ken Liddell was a newspaper reporter who worked for several newspapers in the Prairie provinces. This book is a collection of 33 short stories about railroads, their workers, their customers and their role in Canadians’ lives from the late 19th to the mid-20th centuries. The stories are based on Liddell’s personal experience – he started his career as a teen-aged news agent working a two car, passenger local out of Regina – and tales, gossip, anecdotes and railroad folklore gathered on his many trips as a roving reporter for The Calgary Herald.
The stories are humorous – “The Runaway Caboose” tells of an uncoupled caboose rolling back and forth across a road-rail bridge on a cold winter’s day in Peace River; sombre -“The Funeral Train” is about 21 RCAF pilots final trip in the baggage car after they are killed in a plane crash as they returned home from their last war-time flights; historical -“Radio Rides the Rails” details Sir Henry Thornton’s efforts to bring radio to the CNR, forming the basis of the CBC; and poignant – “The Last Run” describes the last runs of retiring steam locomotive engineers, one of whom helped build the road he ran over on his last trip, 41 years later.
Liddell writes with a light, but descriptive and evocative, style. In “The Boat Train”, the Minto, a CPR stern-wheeler, working south on the Arrow Lakes is described as “hustl[ing] her bustle down the lake like a fussy old lady with a tall white feather in her hat.” The above mentioned runaway caboose “incident would have drifted into the passing track of memories” except for some innocent questions raised at a business dinner.
British Columbia’s PGE passenger service – pre-RDC – is delightfully described in “The Pacific Great Eastern”. How can one not relish Liddell’s picture of a porter in his moccasin slippers waking passengers to view the Fraser Canyon or the dining car steward valiantly trying to serve passengers iced tea with only two tall glasses assigned to his car?
This book was a pleasure to read. As one who came of age well after steam locomotives and mixed trains to everywhere, Liddell’s stories provide a view, possibly rose-coloured, into a different era of railroading and life. In many instances, the railroad side of the story is incidental to the human interest side but this only serves to emphasise how deeply embedded into Canadians’ lives the railroads once were. This book will interest rail fans, armchair historians or those simply looking for a good chuckle over people’s foibles.
Unfortunately, the book is long out-of-print so those interested in reading it will have to check local libraries or thrift stores to locate a copy.
Review by Rick Jelfs, Secretary – Transport Action BC

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.

http://www.bclocalnews.com/vancouver_island_central/nanaimonewsbulletin/opinion/119934164.html

http://www.timescolonist.com/technology/Rail+sustainable+transport+option/4664864/story.html

2011, April 17

Another reason to keep Vancouver Island Railway

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Matthew @ 9:25 pm

Interesting that the Malahat was closed for much of today due to an accident with a tanker truck.
CBC News story: Tanker spill closes Hwy 1 at Goldstream

A fuel tanker crashed and overturned near Goldstream Provincial Park Saturday evening, spilling 30,000 litres of fuel and closing the Trans-Canada Highway into Sunday.

There is no other viable road linking Greater Victoria with the rest of Vancouver Island, so the parallel railway gives another option to travellers if the highway is closed for an extended period.

2011, March 31

Yesterday’s speeds, today!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Matthew @ 9:00 pm

A funny, but sadly very true, video from the Rick Mercer report.

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