Here’s a VanCity Buzz piece by Kenneth Chan, dated July 2013. Yup, a year ago:
REALITY CHECK: Why is SkyTrain breaking down so frequently?
There is no question that SkyTrain breakdowns have been happening far more frequently over the last few weeks and months, particularly with the Expo Line. Yesterday morning’s failure was the second time this month a malfunction led to major delays across the SkyTrain network. …
However, there is only so much that can be done on a system that is clearly wearing down with age and restrained from undergoing the improvements necessary with its severe lack in funding. …
Prior to the recent strings of power rail service disruption incidents, TransLink already recognized that a major replacement of the Expo Line’s aging power rails was needed. In November 2012, TransLink began a $33-million project to replace 34-kms of power rails on the Expo Line between Nanaimo and Scott Road Stations.
The replacement project is well underway and occurs during off-peak and weekend service hours. It is scheduled for a late-2014 completion given the limited timeframe available for construction to be done. When complete, power rail related service disruptions should disappear along this route. …
For a system of the Expo Line’s size and ridership, its high frequencies (made possible by automation) of every 2-3 minutes during most operating hours are rare. And when there is higher usage, there is more wear and tear. Plainly explained, Vancouverites are spoiled when it comes to frequency, whereas many American and Australian rapid transit rail systems run manually driven trains that come every 10-30 minutes during the day (with longer trains to compensate, of course). This would be unacceptable in Vancouver.
But wait, on that note of trains and the issue of wear and tear, do we not have almost 30-year old trains running on SkyTrain? Why have those not broken down? Well actually, the original SkyTrain vehicles from 1984 and 1986 are nearing their life expectancy. More importantly, TransLink acknowledged this and announced last year that $36.6-million would be spent on refurbishing these 114 original SkyTrain vehicles to allow for another 15 years of reliable service before expensive replacement. The process to refit the original “Mark I” vehicles began earlier this spring.
There’s lots more here – maybe too much. In a media world of sound bites and blog posts (guilty!), this long-form signal gets lost in the noise.
I’d emphasize a point, though, that has stuck with me every time I listen to the traffic reports on radio during rush hour: System failure on our roads is the normal state of affairs. There are helicopters in the air to give you live images of the accidents, back-ups and delays. The political response is typically to call for more money to be spent on more and wider roads.
But a system failure on SkyTrain may well justify the call to give it less resources unless and until it performs flawlessly.
It may not be fair, but it’s the way it is. The more reliable the technology, the less tolerant we are of its failure.Read more »