Evergreen Line is Go!

With two new boys in my life, I wasn’t able to step away from home to experience the opening of the Evergreen Extension of the Millennium Line. Besides, it was a miserable, rainy day. Plus, I’m almost a week after the opening day releasing this post. Life happens.

The stickers are off and the Evergreen Line is Go!

In lieu of my own photos and video, I thought you could partake in some videos yourself scattered across YouTube.

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Transportation and Transit Plan 15 – Broadway SkyTrain Extension

Next to the Surrey LRT project, this is the next largest of the planned transit projects in the Mayor’s Council plan. This is also the planned project with the most profound effect on how I personally travel in my daily life and it will have a huge effect on my workplace in Kitsilano.

Broadway SkyTrain Extension

broadway skytrain extension
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Vancouver Civic Elections – November 15, 2014

Here’s a break from my currently scheduled travel blogging. I just wanted to put my two cents out there regarding tomorrow’s civic elections for the City of Vancouver. The whole province is undergoing civic elections in each city, township, district, and village, but I’m going to talk about Vancouver since that’s where I live.

Civic elections are the most personal election because it affects my daily life in the city from parking to parks and from public spaces to property taxes. Most people unwisely skip out on civic elections because they don’t think they are as important as provincial or federal elections. Simply not true. Civic elections have the biggest effect on how your city/town feels.

When I watch these elections, my big issue is always transportation. Those who’ve read my non-travel posts know that I’m a total transit nut. So naturally, my vote goes to where I feel transportation policies are best. I’m only going to talk about the 3 main parties in the running for mayor and city council.

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SkyTrain Station Upgrades

If you travel along the Expo Line in Metro Vancouver, you may have noticed some major station upgrades underway.  The most obvious upgrade at this moment is happening at Main Street Station.  However, big changes are also afoot at Metrotown Station.

Main Street Station has been under renovation for the past few months. The whole east end of the station has been cut off under the cover of renovation and upgrade for a few months now. I currently pass through Main Street Station every morning.  The whole east end of the station looks like it’s been extended out.  I can’t tell if they are adding escalators or not, though. However, something that has been missing since the opening of the Expo Line way back in the 80’s is now being added to the station.  An enclosure.  For the first time ever, there will be a semi-enclosed structure around Main Street Station. Originally, the station was left to be totally open to allow for drivers along Main Street to have a view of the North Shore mountains (heaven knows why we still cater to drivers’ views when they are busy trying to navigate the street at eye-level).

The big disruption will come later in 2014 when they close the west side of the station for renovations. Service will only be single-track in the station itself.  Expect some hefty delays at that time, especially if you are trying to access Main Street Station itself.  This will be a good test of how TransLink deals with wayfinding for passengers trying to figure out this temporary set up.  Good luck.

At Metrotown Station, the changes have not quite started yet, but major plans and renderings were discussed by Vancity Buzz. The station looks to increase its footprint by a fair margin.  There are 3 planned entrances to the station – east, centre, and west entrances are all to be added to or upgraded.  One other rendering shows a set of four escalators.  That will be a relief since there is currently only one up escalator serving the whole station at the moment.

One of the major changes that travellers in and out of the station will miss, though, is the removal of the pedestrian overpass.  TransLink plans to move the bus exchange off the shopping mall property of Metropolis At Metrotown and onto street level along Central Boulevard and Beresford Street. So the overpass is no longer necessary to access the buses.  However, the pedestrian overpass was also key for getting into the shopping mall itself.  It’s not as going to be as easy to get to the mall from the station without the overpass.  Imagine all those shoppers crossing Central Boulevard just to get in the mall.  I’m not sure what traffic is going to look after that overpass is removed.

Joyce and Commercial-Broadway Stations are also slated to undergo major renovations.  Some of these are still in the planning phase at the moment.  For now, Main Street Station’s changes are well under way.  Metrotown’s changes should start to take place soon in 2014.

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Post Compass Beta Test Update – Keep on Tapping, Tapping, Tapping

So I still had $100 of “play cash” on my orange concession Compass Card.  The monthly pass expired on October 1st.  So I’ve been slowly using up the “cash.”  A few more observations from this past week.

  • The bus card readers and the SkyTrain gate card readers are different.  The SkyTrain gates seem to read the cards quite easily and robustly.  I can hold my card at an angle at the SkyTrain gate and get the tap in easily.  The bus readers seem more finicky.  I have to hold the card flat to the reader for at least a full second or so before it reads.
  • These finicky bus card readers may be a huge problem with the 99 B-Line.  The giant crush of the B-Line queue will prove problematic.  I already feel the pressure to get on and off the back doors without tapping a card.  With the need to tap cards will be really tricky.  Yesterday, I was tapping out and I think I tapped out, but I couldn’t hold up everyone behind me trying to get off the bus.  Again, I think we need Compass Validator machines at 99 B-Line stops to speed the queue up.
  • I’m a bit concerned about my cash balance being correct.  I wonder if TransLink will have a way for card users to access their transactions in order to track the card balance.  There was once or twice that I think I should have more money on my balance.

Compass Gates and Bus Transfer Tickets

8033912646_c1e2f8042eIt looks like the blogosphere and twittersphere are happily talking about today’s article in the 24 Hours Vancouver about the bus tickets not being accepted at SkyTrain stations once the Compass Card is fully implemented.

It looks that may be the case.  The bus drivers union is definitely afraid of the backlash that their members may face as cash-paying transit riders will be complaining about paying once at the bus fare box and again at the SkyTrain station to get through the Compass card gates.

Stephen Rees makes an interesting point on his blog.

Why was there no magdip reader on the new faregates? There are probably fewer faregates than buses. Or no magdip reader on the machines that sell the Compass cards? All made by Cubic, of course. And when the electronic bus fareboxes were specified the idea of adding other media was supposed to be a bolt on extra that would be easy to install.

So why weren’t magnetic card readers installed in the gates to allow the bus tickets to be used?  Good question.  I’m not sure there’s an answer to that.

Another possible solution to this problem may be to have an attendant at the gate in the transition period to allow passengers with valid paper fares to get through.  And TransLink thought they might save on somebody’s salary by not needing manned gates?  Good luck.  Most of other transit jurisdictions with gates still need a person there to monitor things.

In the newspaper version of the 24 Hours article, there’s a highlighted quote about how some people who pay cash for the bus cannot string together $40-80 at anytime during a month.  This may be true.  However, if the Compass is going to be like a cash card, I would imagine you can put whatever amount you’d like on the card.  I think a minimum of $5 is reasonable and then any multiple of $5 from there on up.  I’m not sure why that quote is there because it doesn’t sound like an informed quote.  It seems like a quote meant to stir things.

Hopefully, when the Compass beta test starts rolling, we will see what other issues affect the new smartcard.  Now, we only need TransLink to actually listen to its beta testers no matter how critical the comments may be.  And not just make a new executive decision like they did in the card-naming contest that was scrubbed in favour for new names.

Streetfilms – Vancouver transit and cycling integration

I haven’t visited Streetfilms in a long time.  The Buzzer Blog posted one of their recent films about Vancouver transit and cycling integration.  I wonder what a person from outside of the region thinks when they see this film.  It certainly gives the impression of wonderful freedom and integration.  However, the system is far from perfect, but we should toot our horn as a region when appropriate.

TransLink on My Mind – Provincial decisions that have affected TransLink

I still have TransLink on my mind.  So it almost seems like a sport for Metro Vancouverites to bash TransLink recently.  It seems to be losing a PR battle that I’m not sure they realize they are in.  It hasn’t helped that over the past couple of decades, decisions have been made by the BC government that have a direct affect on what TransLink can provide.  There are a few that come to mind.

1. Fare Gates

The BC Ministry of Transport decides to install fare gates at SkyTrain station even though TransLink thought it wasn’t worth the cost.  I talked enough about this in my last post.

2. Evergreen Line – from LRT to SkyTrain

In 2008, the BC government decides that the Evergreen Line from Lougheed Town Centre in Burnaby to Coquitlam Town Centre should use SkyTrain technology (Bombardier’s proprietary linear induction motor).  From a logistic point of view, I can see that the government wanted the Millennium Line and Evergreen Line to use the same technology so that trains could run on both lines and that SkyTrain is more cost-effective from an operating standpoint.  Fair enough.

However, early documents in 2006 showed that TransLink was leaning towards light rail transit (LRT) in the early planning.  Again, the province did not commit any funding at the beginning.  Once the province was willing to give money, they expressed a preference for SkyTrain technology.  However, the BC government was only going to foot part of the bill and wanted TransLink to come up with their “fair share” of the pie for the more expensive SkyTrain technology.  But isn’t it the province who controls the financial tools for TransLink?  And wasn’t it the province who wanted SkyTrain technology instead?  Funny that.

3. No Fare Increases – Commissioner’s ruling

To every decision, there is a double-edged sword.  The TransLink Commissioner is a provinically appointed position within TransLink.  He is not even a councilor or mayor like the municipal board of TransLink. He’s just appointed.  Currently, the commissioner is Martin Crilly.  He decided that TransLink’s call for increased fares to pay for new services was unwarranted because TransLink could not demonstrate that they could provide a level of service worthy of the fare increase.  But isn’t that what the fare increase was supposed to help with – improve transit service?

4. Major Roads Network – Yes, TransLink does roads and bridges too

In a somewhat funny decision when TransLink was made, the province decided to give TransLink the authority (you could read that responsibility and liability if you were really jaded) over many roads and bridges.  The two best known examples are the Golden Ears Bridge that connect Langley to Maple Ridge and the really aged Patullo Bridge connecting Surrey and New Westminster.  The Golden Ears Bridge has become a little bit of a financial burden at this point and time for TransLink.  Way lower than expected traffic over the toll bridge means lost revenue and digging into savings to pay the tolling company the shortfall. Ouch. The Patullo Bridge is also a messy situation on its own.  TransLink is looking to replace the aging span somehow.  However, nobody knows what the new Port Mann toll bridge will mean for the tiny untolled Patullo Bridge.  More traffic?  Less traffic?  Do we even need the Patullo?

5. Millennium Line – the precendent for the LRT to SkyTrain change

The Millennium Line was built during the last New Democratic Party (NDP) government in BC at the turn of the millennium.  However, the NDP government of the time also declared that the new rapid transit line from Lougheed Town Centre to Broadway and Commercial should be SkyTrain and not LRT.  Many folks probably don’t know that early plans for the Broadway-Lougheed rapid transit corridor envisioned a surface light rail train running from Lougheed Mall all the way to UBC.  However, we ended up with SkyTrain starting from Columbia Station in New Westminster looping back around to Broadway and Commercial via Lougheed Town Centre with no service to UBC.

I think the gist of this whole list is that transit and TransLink’s role in Metro Vancouver has been largely shaped by the BC government’s actions.  Transit is such a political hot potato in this region.  TransLink is not totally without fault, but people have to understand some of the history of transit decisions in this region before simply scapegoating one agency or the other.

Expo 86 Videos – reposted

Expo 86 videos. Oh the heady days of the summer of 86. We’re still not the great city of transport we wanted to be.

These are videos that I found in my Tyee news feed.

The first video is of the original Mark I SkyTrain racing through the eastern end of the Expo 86 grounds.  There are also clips of the temporary gondola and monorail that were set up on the world exposition grounds.

The second video is a photo slideshow of Expo 86 in all it’s 1980’s glory. It still looks cool after all these years.  Of course, it’s all different along the north shore of False Creek now.