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Notes and Questions & Answers from TransLink’s 2013 AGM at Surrey City Hall

Notes and Questions & Answers from TransLink’s 2013 AGM at Surrey City Hall

It was a packed house at TransLink’s 2013 Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the new Surrey City Hall on Wednesday, May 28 as hundreds joined us to hear more about our accomplishments and financial highlights of the past year.

TransLink’s achievements in efficiency and customer service were shared by TransLink Board Chair Marcella Szel, TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis and TransLink CFO Cathy McLay.

In 2013, TransLink achieved $16.3 million in efficiencies and reduced costs while maintaining strong customer service ratings. Other achievements shared at the AGM include:

  • $248 million invested in infrastructure and transit fleet upgrades to keep the transit system in good repair today, and for years to come.
  • 58,600 new bus service hours for the new 555 bus route between Langley to New Westminster over the Port Mann Bridge, and for the new King George 96 B-line.
  • Transit customer satisfaction ratings of 7.6 out of 10.
  • 1,760 fewer tonnes of CO2 emitted by reducing bus idling by 161,000 hours since 2009.
  • 10,000 customers participated in Compass Card Beta test, and 80,000 Compass cards are now in circulation.
  • Moved an estimated 233.9 million transit passengers in 2013.
2013 TransLink Annual Report
2013 TransLink Annual Report

2013 Annual Report

TransLink’s Annual Reports highlight the accomplishments of each fiscal period. The Reports are prepared under the direction of the Board of Directors. Each report contains performance measures, selected by the Board, as well as a consolidated Financial Report.

» Read the 2013 Annual Report

Questions and Answers

Due to time constraints, we were unable to get to many of the online questions, but fear not! We have gotten you the answers!

Please note: questions may have been edited for clarity.

Why aren’t there power outlets on the buses and SkyTrain? There are power outlets on the SeaBus and West Coast Express, so why can’t they be on the buses and SkyTrain as well? In the US, there are power outlets on every single bus, so why can’t that happen here? Richard via email

Convenient outlets on SkyTrain cars and buses are not considered necessary most passenger trips are short – the typical passenger trip is about 17 minutes. The cost of putting in the wiring and outlets in an already crowded space would likely be significant. Furthermore, electronic devices plugged into power outlets are likely to be an obstacle for the smooth flow of the heavy traffic in and out of SkyTrain cars.

I would like to know if you [TransLink executives] regularly use public transit in the Metro Vancouver area? This will tell me if you are aware firsthand what issues us transit commuters are faced with. –Chris via email

All executives at TransLink do frequently use transit, particularly when traveling to meetings around the region.

How do you justify increasing transit prices (as you have done in recent years) while the quality of service declines? I have seen numerous cuts to different bus routes, and I have firsthand experienced the hassles of the ongoing track maintenance which has cost me countless hours in added travel time due to missing bus connections, and has cost me a lot of money when having to seek alternative travel methods to avoid being late for key appointments. I also want to mention that in each of these instances I had allowed myself additional time for my trip; however, ended up delayed due to numerous additional delays with your transit service. Chris via email

TransLink’s fare increase in January 2013 was a scheduled increase to reflect the cost of inflation between 2008 and 2013. This increase was part of our 2010 Funding Stabilization work plan approved by the Mayors’ Council and TransLink’s board in 2009. We know fare increases can be tough for our customers, and we want to assure you that we are doing our best to keep transit affordable while keeping pace with rising costs. When compared to large cities in Canada, such as Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, and Ottawa, our prices are in the middle of the pack.

Service hours have not been reduced; in fact they have expanded since 2007 with introductions such as the new 555 Port Mann Express and the 96 B-Line.

We have made every effort to minimize the disruptions to customers during the length of the Power Rail Replacement Project by limiting the work to overnight, Sunday through Thursday, starting at 8 p.m. and finishing before the start of service the next morning. This project underscores TransLink’s commitment to maintaining a state of good repair on the transit system. We are simply replacing some of the original power rails that need to be replaced after more than 25 years of good service.

Have you done any research with successful transit networks outside of North America?  I have seen how transit is operated in Europe, which include transit systems that are much more comprehensive.  I have experienced fewer inconveniences due to “problem trains”, “track maintenance”, or other unexplained delays that appear to be a frequent occurrence on any given week in Vancouver. Chris via email

As an organization that strives for excellence, TransLink is always researching best practices from around the world.

We recognize how frustrating it can be when there are service disruptions and we apologize for the inconvenience they may cause. When they do happen, staff work as quickly as possible to restore regular service. Delays happen from time to time on large transit systems, but on the whole we link our customers with reliable service. In 2013, 99.4 per cent of scheduled bus and SkyTrain service was delivered, 95 per cent of all trips on the Expo and Millennium lines were delivered on time within two minutes, and the West Coast Express had a 98 per cent on-time performance.

What sort of planning went into the development of the faregates at each SkyTrain station?  From what I can see, there will be numerous problems relating to bottlenecks, particularly during morning and afternoon rush-hour.  At some stations there are only 3 or 4 fare gates.  When you consider that at least one or two will be going in the opposite direction, that doesn’t leave much room for people to pass through.  The whole tapping in-tapping out system may seem like a good idea in theory; however, in practice all it will do is cause massive bottle neck lineups at each SkyTrain station, and further delay buses from being on schedule when they have to wait for several people to tap on and tap off at each stop. Chris via email

We can assure you that the number of fare gates at each SkyTrain station, SeaBus terminal, and West Coast Express station was a key consideration during the planning process. We’re confident that no large lineups will occur due to fare gates. Because Compass is designed after similar transit systems around the world, the fare gates are equipped to handle large volumes of riders during peak rush hours and large-scale events. The gate doors will remain open as riders tap in and tap out one after the other, only closing when a rider without the required fare product attempts to pass through or after the steady stream of riders slows to a trickle. Each fare gate is designed to handle up to 40 people a minute.

I am still baffled as to why TransLink does not offer a “night train” service for skytrain, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights.  These are prime nights where people are often downtown or at bars which do not close until 3 a.m.  As a society we are pushing people to find alternative ways to get home to prevent drinking and driving; however, I do not think it is feasible nor responsible to shift this burden on to taxi cab services to ensure people get a safe ride home.  I feel that if TransLink could offer skytrain service on these nights until, perhaps, 3:30 a.m., it would definitely go a long way to ensuring the safety of the citizens of Metro Vancouver.  Chris via email

Will you consider having SkyTrain stay open later than 1:15 a.m on weekends? Let’s have SkyTrains open late on weekends for club goers to get home safely and not drink and drive. Katrina on Twitter

We often get asked about why TransLink doesn’t have 24-hour service, as other customers share your concerns. The system has to be shut down each night so important maintenance can be performed along the track and guideway. TransLink has a commitment to run 365 days a year, and we still need to find time to perform various inspections, maintenance, and upgrades. We have a NightBus service that takes over after SkyTrain shuts down each evening to get people home safely. TransLink runs 12 NightBus routes that cover more than three SkyTrain lines put together.

TransLink continually monitors how people use the transit network and uses this information to help plan and deliver transit options that meet the needs of the greatest number of people across the region. Based on our analysis of demand, increasing late night service beyond its current level is not an efficient or effective use of TransLink’s resources – especially when our heaviest demand is at other times of the day. Until new funding is available, TransLink remains committed to managing the transportation system responsibly, delivering more with the resources we have.

Will Canada Line be able to meet ridership demand into the future? Ron via email

While it is well used in its rush hour, Canada Line bears the demand well, and has ample capacity at other times of the day. The current capacity offered by the Canada Line is about 6,100 people per hour per direction (pphpd) during peak periods. Recent measurements show that at the busiest point, the line currently carries around 5,500 pphpd. This means that current ridership does not exceed maximum capacity. In the near future, Canada Line capacity could be easily raised by increasing the frequency of the 2-car trains. Over the long term, the Canada Line is designed to accommodate up to 15,000 pphpd, which is almost triple the current capacity.

In a recent assessment for the City of Vancouver, ridership forecasts for 2045 indicate that the peak hour demand for Canada Line could reach 9,000 to 10,000 pphpd. This demand is well within the system design capacity and can be accommodated by increasing train frequency and length.

TransLink is currently conducting a review of the Canada Line to determine the current and future service and infrastructure needs of the system. The outcome of the review will be used to identify a strategy and implementation plan for future investment in Canada Line.

How will the new #503 Aldergrove/Surrey  Central Station Express going to operate and what kind of buses will you be using? Shane via Twitter

The 503 is a new express service for limited stops between Surrey and Langley and local travel between Langley and Aldergrove. It will offer pick-up service only at key stops eastbound between Surrey Central Station and Langley Centre. It will offer drop-off service only at key stops, westbound between Langley Centre and Surrey Central Station. For more information, please visit The route will be operated using Orion V buses out of Surrey Transit Centre.

I’d like to see the West Coast Express run on a special on Canada Day. One train departing Mission at 9:00 a.m. and another train departing at midnight. Kelly via Facebook

Trains are very expensive to run and they have to be full to be cost-effective. We tried a West Coast Express special service on Canada Day a number of years ago and we found response to be relatively low. We are in a cost-contained environment, so some of the discretionary choices like that are on hold. That’s not to say it’s not something we can’t look at in the future.

If the referendum fails and the investment plan is not implemented, how will TransLink manage decline? –Claire via Twitter

TransLink will work with the funding we currently have and continue to provide the services we have in place today. We are committed to supporting the mayors in their dialogue around their Vision for Regional Transportation, which they just recently released.

The cost of a one zone FareSaver ticket is currently $2.10, but when the Compass Card rolls out, it will increase to $2.35. Why is there a fare increase tied into the Compass Card? Why not maintain the current price of the FareSaver? –Mike via Twitter

Fares across the system were increased by 2% to cover inflationary costs on January 1, 2013 as part of our scheduled transit fare increase as outlined in our 2010 Funding Stabilization work plan, aimed at maintaining our existing system. The price of FareSavers did not increase at the time and has not since 2010. TransLink has to keep pace with rising costs while also doing our best to keep transit affordable.

Stored Value on the Compass Card will continue to offer savings to customers—a 14 per cent discount over cash fares. This Stored Value price is more in line with our traditional levels of discounts. The Compass Card will have the additional benefit of having balance protection when registered as well as security and greater flexibility, such as the convenience of not having to buy ten tickets at once and the ability to start enjoying savings immediately.

How come I can ride the SkyTrain for free always, but constantly see other people paying to ride it? –M. Pah via Twitter

All Transit Vehicles are Fare Paid Zones. All customers must pay the fare required by the TransLink tariff and must carry proof of payment (a valid ticket, pass or FareSaver) whenever they are aboard a transit vehicle or within any station area that is designated as a Fare Paid Zone. Fare enforcement is conducted by Transit Police officers and Transit Security members. If you fail to produce proof of payment upon request, you will be asked to leave the vehicle and risk facing a fare infraction ticket with a fine of $173.

Why is transit service so awful anywhere outside of Downtown? TransLink should aim for equality of service times everywhere. Jonathon on Twitter

We’re committed to providing the best possible service to our customers in Metro Vancouver with the resources available. As part of TransLink’s service optimization program, TransLink monitors the transit system and shifts services to better match customer demand. Since 2010, we have re-allocated 340,000 annual hours to better meet customer demand, providing about 7 million new rides across the region without added investment. In particular, south of the Fraser has seen service increase by 11 per cent since 2010.

What are your thoughts on putting Wi-Fi at bus stops and funding service through advertising? “ET” on Twitter

Wi-Fi on the system is something that has been considered and researched. It is a potential future feature, but right now, we’re focused on other projects and we don’t have any immediate plans to implement it.

What is the main purpose of turnstiles and the Compass Card? Safety? Fare evasion? A more efficient pay system?  Bonnie on Twitter

Increasing safety, reducing fare evasion, and a more efficient payment system are just some of the reasons why TransLink decided to adopt the Compass Card. It offers new benefits for our customers: flexibility, convenience, ease-of-use, security. Compass will also allow us to analyze customer travel trends, which helps us make more informed decisions about service changes that make the most sense for our customers.

Why can’t I use cash at the Scott Road Park and Ride? Not all have credit cards. ­–Dirk via Twitter

Cash payment is available at all park and rides, but it has been temporarily unavailable at Scott Road because the machine was damaged. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Will you ask Victoria to match the Federal tax credit on bus passes? “The Burb Guy” via Twitter

This is not currently something TransLink is considering.

Do you not agree if the price of monthly passes were lower, more folks would buy and therefore more money will be brought in? “The Burb Guy” via Twitter

We aim to keep transit affordable while keeping pace with rising costs. When setting fares we must balance this concern with maintaining the service hours our riders demand, and also keeping our transit system running in state of good repair.

Service optimization has been part of the system for a number of years—much to the detriment of service in the outer suburbs. Short of new funding for service hours, what can TransLink do to improve service in the suburbs? –Eric via video

The Service Optimization program was initiated in 2010 to review service and determine how to continue to move more people more efficiently with the resources available.

Contrary to popular belief, service levels in outer suburbs have stayed relatively the same, or in the case of the South of Fraser actually increased. Early indication from our upcoming 2013 Bus Service Performance Review is that service optimization has not had a detrimental impact on communities outside of Vancouver. Most areas have seen a service increase – in particular the South of Fraser where service has increased 11% since 2010 including new expansion services like the 555 and 96 B-Line.

TransLink continues to monitor and analyze routes across the region through a variety of methods, including the technical analysis in the annual Bus Service Performance Review Decisions and public consultation. TransLink uses this information to help plan and deliver transit options that meet the needs of the greatest number of people across the region. Until new funding is available, TransLink remains committed to managing the transportation system responsibly, delivering more with the resources we have.

The 2014 Service Optimization report was released this spring and the Bus Service Performance Review will be available on our website this summer.

Author: Allen Tung


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