The latest breakdown of SkyTrain service, delaying thousands of passengers, highlights the need for the regional transit authority to get ahead of technical issues before the snafus seriously impact Vancouver's economy, Mayor Gregor Robertson says.
"As we've seen a number of these breakdowns in a row, I think we can't inconvenience Vancouver, our economy, all our transit riders like this," Mr. Robertson told reporters at City Hall on Wednesday, a day after the system again broke down. "We have to understand what the problem is and get it fixed."
Tuesday's incident was caused by a faulty modem. It knocked out switches between two stations on the 29-year-old Expo Line, part of one of Canada's largest light-rail systems, just after 6 p.m. This led to trains being backed-up along the line from Vancouver to suburban Surrey – the technical issues took about three hours to correct.
While not as severe as a pair of unprecedented shutdowns this summer, also due to technical glitches, Tuesday's situation left thousands of passengers scrambling. TransLink, the regional transit authority, used buses to bridge the gap between the problem stations.
In a statement, TransLink said that the modem is a "more robust and commercial version" of a regular consumer modem. "As the modem is still under warranty, the supplier will do some analysis of the premature failure."
Events Wednesday provided more fodder for the ongoing independent review of the summer's SkyTrain failures.
At 1:30 p.m., switches that were affected the previous night went awry, disrupting service for 15 minutes in the same area of the Expo Line.
Regional transit police, meanwhile, said an attendant was assaulted by a frustrated passenger, who grabbed her arm as he demanded information Tuesday night on what had gone wrong. No charges were recommended.
Transit police also said there were no cases – as in last summer – of passengers prying open doors to escape from trains stalled between stations.
Mr. Robertson, seeking re-election this fall, noted that he had called for the independent review after the summer breakdowns.
"TransLink has to respond and make sure that these kind of breakdowns are not happening," said Mr. Robertson, calling such breakdowns "a huge imposition" to transit riders.
"Obviously, they've got to go back to the drawing board with the results from the review and do whatever they can to prevent these breakdowns."
Gary McNeil, a former GO Transit executive, is conducting the review and is expected to hand down his report later this month.
In an e-mail exchange, Mr. McNeil wrote Wednesday that he was aware of recent issues. "I will be reviewing the impacts and findings from that incident so I can confirm and reinforce my observations/recommendations.
"Although [Tuesday's] incident was regretful, it is not uncommon for major transit systems to have incidents such as this, which impact many commuters."
Mr. McNeil made reference to a seven-hour delay on Toronto's subway service Tuesday – TransLink spokesperson Cheryl Ziola also cited the Toronto delay Wednesday in defending TransLink. In the Toronto incident, groundwater and silt leaked onto subway tracks due to construction, causing the problems.
Ms. Ziola said the record shows that trains are on time at a rate of 95 per cent and that breakdowns are routine on transit services elsewhere. "We're really not alone," she said.
She added that things went relatively well handling thousands of passengers who had to take buses between stations to get home. "We were encouraged that, by and large, people were very calm and reasonable."
With files from Andrea Woo