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Update on cause of SkyTrain disruptions

An update on SkyTrain

An update on SkyTrain

UPDATE: Besides apologizing for the recent SkyTrain disruptions, TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis says TransLink will be bringing in an outside adviser to help TransLink better prepare for future disruptions. 

Hello Buzzer readers. Below is an update about the SkyTrain disruption yesterday. We’ll try our best to answer your questions. We’re still reviewing the disruptions yesterday and last Thursday, so bear with us!

Human error led to yesterday’s Millennium and Expo Line disruptions.

An experienced electrician was installing a new circuit breaker for the Evergreen Line at a power distribution panel when he accidently tripped the main breaker feeding the critical systems at SkyTrain’s operations centre, causing a system-wide shut down of train controls.

TransLink is still reviewing the details of the incident.

The power outage halted trains and impacted TransLink’s ability to communicate with customers over SkyTrain’s PA systems.

Additional resources were quickly mobilized to ensure continued customer safety and to help people get to their destinations.

Every available bus was used, and employees from all areas were called in to help or stayed well beyond their shifts for several hours.  TransLink also relied on the news media, social media, television screens in the stations, and its website to communicate with customers.

Bus-shuttle hubs were set up at the busiest locations, with 42 buses running to keep people moving.

“Our trains are reliable 95% of the time, but we know that is little consolation for customers who are delayed for hours when we do have a significant breakdown,” said Doug Kelsey, TransLink Chief Operating Officer.

“Two major disruptions in one week is unprecedented, and the two incidents are completely unrelated.”

To show appreciation for customers, TransLink will offer a free day of transit on BC Day with details to be later announced.


59 Comments

  • By Dennis, July 22, 2014 @ 12:26 pm

    Are these critical systems not covered by UPS battery backups?

  • By Disgusted Ex-transit user, July 22, 2014 @ 12:51 pm

    So, the best you could come up with to compensate people who put up with your mediocrity, over-priced fares, sub-optimal performance and outright lies is to give them a “free” day of travel on a holiday when most of these THOUSANDS!!! of people you have grossly inconvenienced will be anywhere but on the system.

    This truly is the least you could do. Pathetic effort – major fail!

  • By Benedic, July 22, 2014 @ 12:56 pm

    Every available bus was used? That is not true because I saw a training bus on my way to Canada line. Plus, the lack of communication and your employees rude and negative attitude towards the public was unacceptable. I understand PA systems were not working but at least inform bus routes that terminates at skytrain stations that the train was not working. This would have gave us commuters the chance to change routes. I am very disappointed with the lack of employees as well to direct or inform people at the station. All we had was shut gates without any information about alternative routes. Also the fact that you guys were collecting fines was ridiculous, on a time where transit police could have helped the situation by informing the public. This is not the first time that TransLink was slow on reacting, I felt like you guys were hiding because
    there was no employees on site.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, July 22, 2014 @ 12:59 pm

    Hi Dennis: That’s a good question. As soon as I can get an answer, I’ll post it here.

    Hello Disgusted…: We at TransLink do apologize for the serious inconvenience caused yesterday. I’m not sure what you’re referring to as “lies”, but I can assure you that myself and my colleagues were working our hardest yesterday to provide our riders with the most up-to-date information on the situation as possible via as many channels of communication as possible. We’ll be updating this post and our other properties with more info as we have it.

  • By Bob, July 22, 2014 @ 1:06 pm

    This is stupid. Most people who use the transit system already have a monthly pass. This so called “free day” is useless for the majority of the riders. Translink is a joke. What a waste of our tax paying money. The experienced electrician should be fired.

  • By RB, July 22, 2014 @ 1:16 pm

    So how exactly does this benefit those of us who buy monthly passes? Are we just out of luck? How will you “show appreciation” to all of us?

  • By philip, July 22, 2014 @ 1:25 pm

    Will the Evergreen Line be built with a back up electrical system?

  • By JL, July 22, 2014 @ 1:29 pm

    BC Day Free? What a joke. Monthly passes should be reduced by $10 for the month of August and make the first regular weekday of August free if you really take customer service seriously. Making a holiday free, a day with severely reduced Transit service and most people not using it either, is insulting. We’re not stupid and we can see this is a half-assed apology.

  • By Ben Kennedy, July 22, 2014 @ 1:37 pm

    Why were so many critical systems affected by the opening of one circuit? Furthermore, why did it then take several hours to reset this single breaker?

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, July 22, 2014 @ 1:57 pm

    Hi everyone: It’s a busy day and we’ll get answers to your questions as soon as we have them.

  • By Chris, July 22, 2014 @ 2:24 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with the majority of these posts. A “free” day on a Holiday with reduced services is a joke. As a person who takes transit and transfers multiple times daily, and as a monthly pass holder year round, I’m extremely displeased with the response from TransLink. Regardless if the disruptions were linked or not, it’s downright unacceptable. This sign “customer appreciation” clearly didn’t have any effort behind it, or TransLink thinks very little of it’s customers. It’s for reasons like this; that the rest of the world, and not these government funded operations, have competition, so that people have a choice. I know in the real world, this would’ve been enough to change my mind. But without a choice, we’re “stuck” with you. Seriously reconsider this “customer appreciation” thing, it’s a joke.

  • By Dennis, July 22, 2014 @ 3:03 pm

    Ben: A large part of the restoration time was because of passenger actions.
    1. When passengers walk the tracks (either breaking out, or being escorted), traction power needs to be cut for safety. Before any of the sections can be re-energized, staff have to walk the entire distance between substations to ensure nobody/nothing is left behind — these are long distances (e.g., walking the SkyBridge).
    2. When passengers break out of trains and damage the doors, it causes problems when staff try to get the system working again.

  • By Tracy, July 22, 2014 @ 3:15 pm

    Wow people, it could be worse. This is minor compared to what awful things are going on in the world. I am a full time transit user and commute from New West to Granville Island every day. Yes it is frustrating but in reality, is it really that bad?? Shame shame is all I can say.

  • By Ian, July 22, 2014 @ 3:24 pm

    While it is understandable that things happen the response by Translink to these outtages hasn’t been that appealing. Reading this “explanation” of Mondays outtage, I can only help but wonder how can such a large system have a single point of failure like this? Should these systems not be architected such that there are seperate redundant power sources along with UPS Power backup. How many other ticking time bombs are there in this system that can potentially bring the system down to a halt?

    As a paying customer I would like to know not only what the problem was but how does translink plan to prevent these issues in the future? Furthermore, in the event of these system wide shut downs, how does Translink propose to better respond to those who are stuck on a train for 3 hours? Stuck for 3 hours in a non air conditioned train with a couple of hundred people is unacceptable. Is there anything Translink can do to better prepare themselves and start getting people off the trains sooner?

    Considering the amount of money we pay into Translink (whether through bus passes, road taxes, property taxes, etc) the quality of service is sub par on the when things are running smoothly yet alone when there is a major failure such as this. Yet alone the compensation to the public for these major outtages doesn’t cut it as other commenters have said how does that make up to those who by a bus pass?

    As a already unsatisifed customer and in light of these recent outtages I am most likely going to be abandoning my bus pass and start driving to work. I am unwilling to spend the money I do on my bus pass to risk being stuck in a train for 3+ hours.

  • By Ian, July 22, 2014 @ 4:26 pm

    One last point, what does the 95% on time number really represent? How do you define “on time” in this case? Are you saying that if for example, among all the stations that there are 10,000 schedule stops for the trains through out the day, that 500 of them are late? That is 182,500 late trains a year. Rather then hiding behind a positive looking number like 95% how about you show the public how that 95% is calculated. Then in a years time, show us how you have improved that on time percentage.

  • By TRACY, July 22, 2014 @ 5:12 pm

    I have been the translink system user for over 16 years.
    seriously, it is very aweful compared with other contries.
    what we need here is a free market competivity so that we are no longer stuck with one system.
    improve it ! trankslink. dont let us down !
    we may so much money for you….. and it is not easy for most of us who moved here from our home land to earn that much money….

  • By Tone1point1, July 22, 2014 @ 5:12 pm

    In nearly thirty years of service this is the worst SkyTrain disruption we have ever had to weather. Our little first world transit hiccup is pretty minor, and whinging about it is very lame indeed. TransLink will learn and move forward and so will we all.

  • By Ben Kennedy, July 22, 2014 @ 5:20 pm

    Failures will happen from time to time in any major system; perhaps the fact that public backlash has apparently been so vociferous is a testament to the general reliability to which we have become accustomed.

    Nonetheless, it sounds as though the item of most concern in yesterday’s event is not necessarily the system shutdown itself but Translink’s failure to communicate verbosely and efficiently with the public. Steve Lus at CBC a reasonable analysis here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/translink-s-skytrain-communication-breakdown-1.2714715

    Like others, I am curious what “95% reliable” means, and how that figure compares to other similar urban light rail transit systems. That ratio means a failure rate of 1 in 20, which sounds quite poor—but maybe in context it is not.

  • By Xerxes Au, July 22, 2014 @ 5:21 pm

    @Ian

    The 95% represents how many trains arrive on schedule within 2 minutes or less.

  • By dave, July 22, 2014 @ 6:01 pm

    Faillink is at it again, but you know their high salary execs will consider this as “a job well done” and gives themselves more raises and bonuses!! YAY!! The same execs that are given CAR ALLOWANCES!! oh the irony!

    And now FAILlink is trying to pin this disaster on an electrician as its scapegoat. Why in hell is he working on the breakers DURING service hours in the first place? This was an accident waiting to happen.

    And a free day on BC day is an INSULT to all the people who use transit daily. If you are going to give out a “free” day, do it on a weekday.

  • By Selina D, July 22, 2014 @ 7:44 pm

    Politics aside here for a moment but if you look at Skytrain from a technical, mechanical point of view, it’s pretty much like a well oiled machine and having the breaker flip and cause a system wide shut down was the monkey wrench that brought it all to a grinding halt.

    What I’m baffled is why no one is demanding that the schematics for the electrical systems of skytrain be released to the public. Remember people, this system was built almost 30 years ago. How much do you want to bet that the electrical system that is currently in place for skytrain is not capable of handing the load that the new evergreen line will place on it thus causing the breaker to trip?

    Not here to defend or rip translink a new one but this is something I have been pondering on all day.

  • By Ben K, July 22, 2014 @ 7:51 pm

    @Selina: Maybe that’s why there were electricians working on the system yesterday? It’s not wholly obvious what your point is.

  • By ???, July 22, 2014 @ 8:16 pm

    When the Mark 1 cars were introduced. They were supposed to have batteries to get the train to the next station. I’m surprised train attendents could not manually drive the trains to the station to unload passengers.

    Mark 2 cars have air conditioning… Mark 1 cars do not. We don’t leave animals in hot car… why not transit riders? Good thing I did not have a full bladder.

  • By Ben K, July 22, 2014 @ 8:19 pm

    @???: What is the purpose of your comment? How does it contribute anything insightful or materially relevant to the topic being discussed? It sounds like you are upset with design decisions made 30 years ago and their bearing on your personal discomfort for a period of time yesterday. Many others also felt discomforted. But venting (pardon the pun) about your feelings does not foster a whole lot of useful dialogue.

  • By Scott, July 22, 2014 @ 9:29 pm

    An independent consultant needs to review Translink’s emergency response plan. Can any Translink staff member answer if there is a plan to have this happen and recommend changes? As in any business, reviews of incidents are important and improvements can be made.

    The staff member who was suspended over this should fight for his lost wages. It was not the poor guys fault that he did what his employer told him to do. Shame on management for this.

    As for the free transit on BC Day, this is an embarrassment. As a monthly pass holder, this will not save me a dime. This day was chosen as ridership is much lower and it will cost Translink less lost revenues than other days. Between these latest debacles, the compass card failures and wasted resources, heads need to roll in management.

  • By Xerxes, July 22, 2014 @ 9:55 pm

    @scott

    On the flip side: you can argue that giving people free transit will encourage more ridership!

  • By Friendly Internet Person, July 22, 2014 @ 10:15 pm

    @Selina
    Politics aside- the technology of Vancouver’s skytrains are out there on the internet for the world to see. Nobody is going to ask for the actual schematics because people don’t care until something has gone wrong.

    @Scott
    Your response interests me because surely Translink is able to compensate more than a free day. Not sure anybody is going to bother answering back to you as you are an unknown random person on the internet.

  • By Ric, July 22, 2014 @ 11:10 pm

    Wouldn’t adding an automatic back up generator that starts up automatically when the power fails to continue feeding power to the critical systems at SkyTrain’s operations centre prevent something like this from happening?

  • By Voony, July 23, 2014 @ 10:26 am

    I think Ian raises good points…

    things break, we can still question why, but more pressing question should be asked on how translink is handle Skytrain crisis.

    See also http://voony.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/some-questions-on-a-skytrain-meltdown/

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, July 23, 2014 @ 11:00 am

    Hi Ian and Ben: As noted in the 2013 Annual Report – http://www.translink.ca/~/media/documents/about_translink/corporate_overview/annual_reports/annual_report_2013.ashx Expo/Millennium Line were on time within 2 minutes of scheduled times 95% of the time in 2013. As for how our system compares to other system when it comes to performance and shut downs, there’s an interesting article written in Vancity Buzz addressing this. I haven’t been able to validate all the numbers yet. Here’s a link – http://www.vancitybuzz.com/2014/07/vancouverites-spoiled-skytrain/

  • By Djewan, July 23, 2014 @ 11:31 am

    I have to say the Translink service is extremely bad lately. I use it full time, and have been getting to work late almost every day for the past few weeks. Free day on a Holiday doesn’t help us who buy monthly passes, and to give fines to people who’s tickets expired while being stuck is just a shame. I go from New Westminster to Main, and there are days that it takes me three hours to get to work/home. I get it when some people say ohh come on look what’s going on in the world we are okay, but what about people we work for??? some of us have bosses who understand the situation but for how long??? and most people don’t have that. People are at risk of losing their jobs because of the Translik
    issues. It’s really frustrating to pay that much money, and get such a bad service. Even buss drivers are getting worse, their attitude, behavior and communication skills toward passengers are really bad.

  • By David M, July 23, 2014 @ 1:08 pm

    Wow – The reaction to this outage says volumes about how reliable SkyTrain has been over the past 30 years.

    I do agree that it appears Translink was not prepared for a major shutdown like this and I hope that this is a wake-up call to the transit agency. It needs to have a contingency. The big failure was communication – there was none. Shutting a station with no information does not work. Seems to me that at the very least retrofitting the trains to have a redundant communication system to at least advice passengers is a must – something using a separate network – such as the cell system.

    As far as refunds – in London when there is a major shutdown, as people exit the stations, staff hand out vouchers that can be submitted for a refund.

    Trains breakdown everywhere. Systems go down and human error happens. Be happy that the failsafes work. The breaker tripped for a reason and when the trains lost communication with the central computers, they all came to a stop (I don’t believe power to the train motors was ever lost, just communication). Over-riding a breaker with a backup generator would just undermine the failsafes.

    In London right now as I write – there are no trains between London Liverpool Street and Hackney Downs and to Standstead Airport (a busy commuter route) due to overhead wires being down. Out of London Victoria a signalling problem is causing a 20 minute delay to all trains, including trains to Gatwick Airport. A suburban line outside of Clapham Junction in London is closed due to a signalling problem. There are other disruptions around the network and they happen every single day.

  • By Bob, July 23, 2014 @ 2:22 pm

    Does the 95% account for the 4 hours straight of delayed trains that occured this morning? Delays were upwards of 7 to 15 mins. This isn’t a random occurance either, trains are delayed all of the time by this much. I wonder what the breakdown of this 95% is. Do they just assume if the first train is late then they just assume all other trains after that is “on time” even though they are one train behind?

    Maybe the translink officials should be stuck in a train in the middle of summer for hours and see what they think about it.

    Wonder what issues Translink will have tomorrow and what excuse they will come up with this time?

  • By Ian, July 23, 2014 @ 2:36 pm

    @Voony Interesting point in your blog about a decentralized system. The biggest concern with that is the additional costs in maintenance and implementation for such a system. Hence the reason why a lot of systems have gone to a centralized topology in the first place. Although it does seem like with the canada line, they have isolated that system isolating it from similar problems. Hopefully they continue this with the evergreen line isolating the problem to the individual lines.

    Probably the bigger issue is that the Expo/Millenium was designed in the 80′s. Has the technology/topology of this system been updated since? Is the current implementation of the system deisgned with high availability/resiliency in mind?

    Taking thursdays outtage as an example, the claim of a failed computer component causing that outtage – specifically if I recall correctly train communication past Metrotown. I am assuming this means that there is only a single line of network communication along so when there is a single break in this network that communication is lost. As the system ages and usage rises there could be more of these single point’s of failure waiting to cause similar outtages.

    Looking at Monday’s outtage, here again is another single point of failure in such if that one breaker is flipped all of the train communication goes down hard. I haven’t read or seen the details of what this specific panel was for, but based on the fact again train communication was down I am assuming it was to power the computer systems managing the cetralized system. This again could be evaluated and looked at how to add resiliency, at least with UPS power supply and a backup generator. Although what happens if there is a more disasterous event causing physical damage to these systems? Perhaps a backup control center is a worth while investment, where is the primary control center goes offline for any reason a backup control center can be architected to resume control quickly. Hopefully reducing a 5 hour outtage down to minutes if designed correctly.

    All of this though will cost money which then brings up questions in how Translink will fund this and where is their current revenue going now. Where either they will need to bring in more money or make better use of how they are spending their money today (ie executive bonuses)

  • By Ian, July 23, 2014 @ 2:49 pm

    @Robert Willis – while that is a nice overview report, it still only displays that 95% number. Is there anything published which talks about how those metrics are captured? Maybe a further in depth analysis of the on time metric? Even the raw dataset that is used to generated the 95% number. I would be curious to see a) the trending of that metric over time b)the distribution of “lateness” in that 5% as such that by chance is 4% of trains less then a minute late, over a minute late etc? c) How do other factors affect this metric. For example the work being done at the street sky train, how has this affected trains being on time with the introduction of the Train2Main? d) has the expected time of arrival been adjusted while the power raile upgrades are being performed?

  • By Raymond, July 23, 2014 @ 3:35 pm

    Hi there, i dont know why the train to waterfront didnt stop at main street science world station today. It wasnt until 5 skytrain cars later, that the two on duty skytrain attendants got the doors opened to check the train out then let people get on. They dont even know why the trains originally didnt stop.

  • By dave, July 23, 2014 @ 4:06 pm

    Faillink is at it again this morning, with more delays due to a “switch problem”. Yup, still 95% reliable. LOL

    so 3 delays in 1 week. Actually, there was another incident on Jul 12 (oh boy that was a fun experience), so that makes 4 system wide delays in 11 days. “4 incidents don’t make a trend”

    They can sugarcoat this all the want, but the system is aging and Translink has proven they are ill-prepared to do anything right.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, July 23, 2014 @ 4:29 pm

    Hi Ian: I do not have that info. It is interesting to think about. The simple fact is that in 2013 SkyTrain was on time 95% of the time. This of course doesn’t speak to 2014 numbers. We are in the middle of the year, so we won’t have those until 2015. I’ll get you all those numbers from previous years very soon.

  • By Bobo, July 23, 2014 @ 5:29 pm

    I will join the chorus of people angered by the lack of preparedness for this sort of incident. Sure, major outages are infrequent (not exactly rare), but there should be contingency plans for when they do happen. I’m always amazed at how disorganized things become when things go wrong. I recognize that the systems works very well most of the time. But that’s not a good excuse to be completely unprepared for an event that falls well within the realm of possibility. (It wasn’t a meteor strike!)

    Lovely how Translink threw an electrician under the bus for this one. Who is held accountable for the fact that the system could be brought down twice due to single points of failure? Why did it take so long to identify and fix what seems to be a straightforward problem? Who is accountable for the lack of or inadequacy of contingency plans? Ok, the electrician tripped a breaker and if he didn’t follow proper procedure, fine, punish him. But any number of things could have caused the system to go down. Everything that happened after that point is not the electrician’s fault. The responsibility for these larger issues most likely belongs at the executive level, which is why I have no faith that anyone will truly be held responsible.

    @Robert Willis – Can you give us some sense of what sort of disaster plans Translink currently has in place? I’m not asking for specifics, but I am wondering about things like: What sorts of plans exist? What scenarios do they cover? How often are they reviewed and updated? Does Translink practise implementing the plans in a simulated event?

  • By Sheba, July 23, 2014 @ 6:33 pm

    Yet again I’m going to bring up that TransLink’s PR is abysmal. There was a Skytrain breakdown on Thursday and again on Monday, and there was nothing on here about it until Tuesday afternoon??? If you want people to be on your side (or at least willing to not shoot you) then you have to *communicate* with them. That’s something that TransLink hasn’t been willing to do. Hiding your head in the sand and hoping people forget doesn’t work.

    I’ve been reading about this in other places online (non-TransLink places – go figure) and the problem on Thursday was due to a VCC dying. “There are 4 VCCs for the system, each one a cluster of 3 CPUs. These 3 CPUs all perform the same calculations, and 2 of them must agree before any command goes out to the system. This is sometimes called redundancy, but it’s more accurately ‘error checking’.”
    https://plus.google.com/photos/113879629835241365016/albums/5480626455479428241/5480626587195831218?pid=5480626587195831218&oid=113879629835241365016

    So it’s not as simple as ‘get a back-up’ like many people are calling for. Electronics die sometimes, usually at the worst possible moment. Does this equipment need to be replaced – I would say yes, but who’s going to pay for it? People want upgrades but no one wants to pay for it.

    That brings us to Monday. This time it was a (lack of) power issue. “…an electrical failure caused (at the minimum) the control room workstations to lose power. This prevented the use of the on-train and in-station announcement system and all trains were held system-wide.” This happened because of work that was being done at TransLink’s orders. Why was it being done during service hours when it really should have been done after 2am, when a failure wouldn’t have affected anyone.

    Considering the chaos that happened both times, I’d guess that TransLink doesn’t have any emergency plans in place.

  • By why the helll, July 23, 2014 @ 6:58 pm

    What if this was not a free day an i lost my money for waiting what can u do just act like its free money

  • By mike0123, July 23, 2014 @ 7:41 pm

    TransLink has spent the past several months training its riders to ignore its announcements. It shouldn’t be surprised that people have stopped listening.

    When the buzzer asked how it should communicate, blog commenters agreed that “the over-use of audio announcements, most of them pedantic, convey the wrong message: that there’s no need to pay any attention to audio announcements on trains and in stations.”

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, July 24, 2014 @ 9:38 am

    Hello again Ian:

    As promised, here’s the break down of SkyTrain performance over the past 10 odd years. The percentages on the left are “Average of Trips delivered” and percentages on the right are the “Average of Trips On-Time”. The difference is that if a trip isn’t delivered it is cancelled like what happened on Monday and last Thursday. Trips on time are trips which are delivered, but may be off time or on time.

    2004 99.41% 94.47%
    2005 99.60% 94.61%
    2006 99.45% 94.12%
    2007 99.33% 94.00%
    2008 99.32% 94.70%
    2009 99.54% 95.27%
    2010 99.61% 95.30%
    2011 99.54% 95.12%
    2012 99.63% 95.65%
    2013 99.42% 94.69%

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, July 24, 2014 @ 9:44 am

    Bobo: You ask great questions. As noted, both Thursday and Monday were unique situations which I haven’t experienced before in the three years I’ve been here. Do we have protocols? We do. Do we need to review them? !00% yes. There’s a lot for TransLink to learn from here. It’s my personal opinion that things could have been done better. Do we have the people to improve our communications on these issues if they happen in the future? We most certainly do. I for one am reviewing what I did in this situation and the larger Communications group at TransLink and the operating companies are doing the same thing.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, July 24, 2014 @ 9:57 am

    Why the…: TransLink is offering this on a holiday and not a regular weekday so as to not inconvenience our regular customers who are trying to get to work by adding additional volume to the trains at peak travel times. Some people will be working on BC Day and they can use the system to get them there. The organization is offering a free day of transit on August 4th to show our appreciation for customers because of these recent situations on SkyTrain. This is a system-wide “fare holiday” for everyone, whether they travel by bus, SkyTrain, SeaBus or West Coast Express.

    I know this doesn’t “help” people with monthly passes. However, it does mean you can bring friends and family who don’t have monthly passes on transit along with you on Monday.

  • By Ben Kennedy, July 24, 2014 @ 10:00 am

    @Robert: In the context of that chart, what is a “trip”? Is that an entire cycle of a trainset from one terminus to another, or is it an interval between stations? If a delay causes one station to be reached late, and by consequence every N subsequent station is reached late, is that logged as one or N late “trips”? What is the margin of tolerance within which a trip is considered delivered “on time”?

    More broadly, is the source of that data published somewhere (no doubt including explanations for all of the preceding questions)?

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, July 24, 2014 @ 10:01 am

    Sheba: I would echo to you what I wrote to Bobo. I do hear you loud and clear. It’s great you’ve done some research on Thursday. I’m afraid that I honestly haven’t had the time to blog about Thursday in light of what happened Monday. Thursday’s problem was indeed a failed card in the I/O rack of the main control computer. It has been replaced. You are right in that once the system is completely down, it does take a while (roughly two hours minimum in many cases) to get back online. If people are on the tracks that delays things further.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, July 24, 2014 @ 1:04 pm

    Hi all: Here’s a good Globe and Mail article about Monday’s disruption with quotes from TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis – http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/in-wake-of-shutdowns-translink-ceo-talks-future-plans/article19735516/

  • By Dennis, July 24, 2014 @ 6:38 pm

    Any explanation to the Canada Line disruption this morning? I was under the impression that track power is redundantly supplied by two adjacent substations, and I find it hard to believe that 5 substations failed simultaneously…

  • By dave, July 24, 2014 @ 8:40 pm

    3 straight days of major delays on the skytrain. What’s next? West Cost Express tomorrow?

    And Brighouse Station this morning was pretty chaotic. There was not a single attendent at the station to inform people what’s going on. Where are your staff? Chilling in the staff room underneath the station?

  • By Sheba, July 24, 2014 @ 11:29 pm

    To be fair, TransLink doesn’t run the Canada Line – InTransitBC does, so it would their staff you couldn’t find.

  • By Imgonnadrive, July 25, 2014 @ 7:25 am

    Translink really needs to get it’s act together. I can’t fathom why every train doesn’t have at least one employee. These trains can be manually piloted, and while the latest train failure was due to a problem with it’s power source, the others were due to software based issues.

    Spend some money and employ some people, maybe this way your trains will have a little more order.

    One more thing, clean your trains once in a white, I don’t appreciate the bird feces all over the windows.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, July 25, 2014 @ 9:31 am

    Hi Dennis and dave: Sheba is correct, Canada Line is run by InTransitBC. However, I did find an answer about the delay. Here it is – The Canada Line delay was caused by the failure of an electrical breaker at one of the Canada Line substations. Rectification of the problem required power to be taken down from Bridgeport to Richmond and the Airport. Additional trains were operated when the power was restored to assist with crowding.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, July 25, 2014 @ 9:37 am

    Imgonnadrive: Thanks for the comment. As you may know, SkyTrain is an automated system. Costs are always a factor when you talk about hiring staff to man trains. As for the cleanliness issue of the SkyTrain, every car is cleaned nightly. I’m afraid cleaning them more often would mean pulling them out of service. As updated above, TransLink is going through a review of these recent and very unfortunate delays on the system. I hope to report on the outcome of those reviews in the future.

  • By Big Ed, July 25, 2014 @ 9:20 pm

    I’m not sure we will ever know the entire story, and most electrical laypersons won’t understand anyway, but I’m curious as to whether the cause of the trip was the electrician replacing a breaker on a live panel. Thirty years ago, when the system was put in service (has it really been that long?!)nobody worried about this, but now WorkSafe BC takes a very dim view of live work if there is a reasonable alternative. Considering the system does not run 24/7, it would appear that there was an alternative.

    And: Translink seems to be making much of how irresponsible passengers were to open the doors to escape the train. I wasn’t there, but I imagine that when the trains stopped it wouldn’t take long on a hot day for a packed train to become pretty uninhabitable. Given that the trapped people had no information, walking to a nearby platform would be darn tempting. Yeah, the live rails are 600 volts, but they are well marked and look pretty easy to avoid.

  • By Eugene Wong, August 8, 2014 @ 1:52 pm

    What we have here is an attitude problem. Tranlink didn’t communicate, because it didn’t want to. It has a Twitter account, which can be used for only important messages, but it refuses to do that. It could use the speaker system, but they cast redundant messages.

    They forced a [probably helpless] employee to do something dangerous, which was viewed as bad by other employees, and then they suspended him without pay, and then they probably paid a fellow rich guy to comment.

    Daryl is right, when he says that we are spoiled, but we deserve nothing less, considering how seriously we take transit.

  • By Eugene Wong, August 8, 2014 @ 2:16 pm

    Regarding the 95% rate, when you factor in the trips that were cancelled, and then treat them as if they were late, since you might have missed your appointment, then you probably get a more realistic number of 90% on-time performance. Other transit systems probably have worse number, too. It’s just the way that the math works. The number of on-time trips is important, but the number of successful trips is even more important to you.

    It makes sense to compare this to other rail systems around the world, but it doesn’t make sense to only compare to only them. Compare this to bus systems, which are a totally different ball of wax, with the only similarity of getting customers to their destinations. During the last strike, SkyTrain kept running, because only a few people at SkyTrain Control were needed. Translink sent a message out that indicated that buses would not run and that SkyTrain would run. This factors well with SkyTrain, when we compare successful trips to the “as advertised schedule”.

    This does not show up in the 90% and 95% rates, because those trips only show up when the companies try to send a vehicle out. During a strike, they’d never send a bus out, so they have less opportunities for failure, but they also have less opportunities for success, which means that they don’t take you to your appointment.

    The take home message: it’s useless to call for more man power in a system that runs better than man power systems. Translink’s problem is 100% people related. You’d never call for operators of elevators. It’s the same with SkyTrain.

    Doug Kelsey is correct, when he says that it was a human error. However, Translink will let itself off the hook by blaming the wrong person.

    This time around, I side with the union, but I’m surprised that they can’t do anything about it.

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