A realization about Skytrain.

27 12 2008

First, I have to credit Lainey with an assist on this, because it was something she just said to me in MSN Messenger that made me realize this.

Background: In Metro Vancouver tonight, if you hadn’t noticed, it’s been STILL snowing.  A bit of rain has fallen in Richmond and downtown, but otherwise it’s been mostly snow or frozen rain.  Now, we already have over a foot of the bloody stuff as it is.  Anyways, I had to go downtown for a bit to see some friends, and while the trip there wasn’t TOO bad (an hour on the train alone), the trip BACK from downtown to Surrey took over two hours tonight.  Why, you ask?  Well, on the way into town, they had attendants at the controls at the front of each train, watching for ice or fallen trees, and also in case they had to manually control the trains. And they had a power outage in Surrey tonight (which doesn’t affect the system THAT much, because they draw power from all over, so they just rerouted power from another area…a few mins delay), and they were having problems with the electronic switching systems on the tracks.

In case you don’t know what I mean by switches, they’re the things that direct the train to either go straight or veer off to a side (or middle) holding track that you see outside of stations, or to switch trains between going over the bridge or through the tunnel and down the Millennium line.  Normally these things are automatic, but they were screwing up due to the snow buildup, the water runoff, and the cold.

Anyways, on the way in, that wasn’t that bad.  On the way home though, the switches at Columbia were hooped, the switches at Scott Road were hooped, and at King George.  So basically, we’d leave a station (say broadway), go normally to the next one (say, Nanaimo), then WAIT.  For an average of 10 mins, with the doors open.  Then move on to the next one.  Then when we got to Columbia, the attendants had to actually manually control the trains from Columbia, over the bridge, and all the way to King George.  It was nuts.

Anyways, the point of all this was, I was explaining to Lainey why I took 2 hours on the train alone (which normally takes me 35 mins or so), and she was commenting about the ice on the tracks the other day, which closed the train going over the bridge, and they had to shuttle people via bus from King George to New West.  And I mentioned they’ve been running the trains over the tracks nonstop all night since the snow got bad, so they don’t get buildup in the mornings (which would wreck the morning commute easily.) 

She then commented “they should run the trains all night for all the drinkers..”

And then I suddenly realized.  Remember a few months back when people were going on about bugging Translink to keep Skytrain open all night (there’s a facebook group about it with like 30,000+ members when i looked a second ago to get the link right there), and Translink’s response was that they couldn’t do that, because they have to perform maintenance on the tracks at night, and they’re cutting it close leaving it open until 1:15am (from Waterfront…so almost 2am at Surrey central) as it is.

Well, they said they’ve been running the trains nonstop to clear the ice 24/7 for like a few weeks now.  So, either:

1) They haven’t been doing all this apparently critical maintenance on the tracks all that time, cuz they’d have to get out of the way every 10 mins for a train


2) They’re full of crap and they’re just too cheap to run the trains later, and figure they can get by on the ‘Nightbus’ they have at 2, 2:30 and 3am going to a few select locations (but only to surrey central out this way…Langley doesn’t get anything past 12:30 at night at the best of times, even though we pay a TON of money to Translink.)

I wonder which one it is, because I can’t see any other explanation.  Either one is pretty bad, though.

PS: Happy Holidays, everyone.