Nov 162016

I know, I know… leave TransLink alone! But I can’t, I just can’t. I have been taking transit since well before there was a TransLink, back when it was just BC Transit. (I made sure, though, when they changed the name that I got on board quick… because I remember my mother dating herself by slipping up and calling BC Transit “BC Electric” a few times when I was growing up. LOL) As shocking as it may be to today’s apparently freaked-out parents, I was taking transit on my own (well, without any adult supervision—just with a friend of the same age) in Grade 2. Yes, age 7. In SURREY!!!12

On top of that, when I’m visiting San Francisco, people ask me for transit directions. When a bunch of my grad school friends and I went to New York in 2010 before there was ubiquitous cell phone data coverage (or at least for visiting Canadians), guess who was enlisted as the transit navigator? And I know more about Toronto’s (completely fucked up looney tunes batshit crazy) transit landscape than most people who have lived there their entire lives. One of my favourite places in London the first time I went was the (super-cool) London Transport Museum. One of the worst places I ever visited when first travelling alone as an adult? Orlando. Why? (I mean, why other than the fact it’s a swampy, festering, fake as shit, everyone drives, there’s no vegetarian food options but Mexican hell hole?) Because there’s practically no public transit.

I don’t have a license, I’ve never owned a car, etc. etc. etc. Anyway, you get it: I heart transit.

Which means when the local transit authority screws something up (and again, despite not being the TTC, they tend to do this with alarming regularity), it hurts me to my core. And I don’t mean “screw up” like not be able to spin themselves well enough to win last year’s transit funding plebiscite. No, I mean it kills me when they fuck up the very fundamentals of their operations.

Case in point: recent exhibit A—the pedestrian overpass from Metrotown SkyTrain station to the country’s second-biggest shopping mall.3 Metrotown Station, as one of the busiest yet most-cramped stations in the SkyTrain system, is currently undergoing major renovations to expand its size and allow for the installation of Compass fare gates.4 Part of those renovations involve removing the pedestrian bridge that keeps thousands of passengers a day safely away from vehicular traffic when they head for the mall.

Just recently, we were treated to the announcement that, contrary to what the public had been led to believe, there is no concrete (ha!) plan as to when that “passerelle5 will be replaced.

Yep, I’m not even close to kidding: starting tomorrow, November 16, 2016, all gazillion of the mall’s customers who already have to cram themselves onto a bridge that was too small over 30 years ago when the station first opened will now be expected to walk down stairs6 to the street and cross to the mall through traffic. As one would expect, there’s a fair amount of traffic happening around the country’s 2nd biggest shopping mall, situated as it is in a suburb.

Seriously: not kidding! Take a look:

While TransLink attempts to insist a new bridge will be built (most clearly in the comments, because in the articles themselves, it’s a lot less clear), let me assure you that I have no such certainty. Why? Well because before this most recent announcement, TransLink claimed a new bridge was being built, and I even asked about it to make sure they realized they needed to make it about double the width of the current bridge. While they did indicate that the existing bridge would be closed and torn down before the new bridge was complete (which, I thought at the time, was crazy enough in its own right for all the reasons above), at least then we were thinking there was a plan in place to build the new bridge. It turns out that there is no existing agreement between the three pertinent parties, all of whom need to agree to make it happen, about when the bridge will be built, how it will be built, and who will pay for it.

Those three parties are TransLink, the City of Burnaby, and the mall owners, all of whom need to stop fucking around and start caring about their riders’ and patrons’ safety. Instead, when pushed on the issue, TransLink points the finger at the other two parties, conveniently ignoring the fact that the renovations at Metrotown Station should NEVER have even started until this issue was cleared up.

Even if the new bridge is a certainty, the mind boggles at what TransLink might consider a “reasonable” timeline. Before the renovations are fully complete in winter 2017/18? A year after that? 3 years? 5 years? It sounds crazy… but then, it’s already crazy they started renovations without figuring out the whole bridge thing to start with!

I’ll close with an official response to my customer service complaint about this should-have-been-completely-avoidable situation:7

Thank you for your feedback.

Metrotown Station is one of the oldest and busiest stations on the Expo Line and has long been in need of upgrades to improve accessibility, capacity, safety, and security. The overhead pedestrian walkway is owned and maintained by the mall developer. TransLink is currently working with the City and Ivanhoe Cambridge to sign a formal agreement for design, construction and funding of the new walkway, but no decisions have been made at this time. Once an agreement is in place and construction dates have been determined we will provide the information to the public..  We recognize that this is a major impact to our customers and we thank everyone for their patience while we improve Metrotown Station. Original plans had the station closing down during construction. This option allows us to keep the station open for the thousands of customers who use it every day.  We have conducted an analysis of pedestrian volumes during busy holiday periods, and we know that there is enough room to safely move all passengers. To accommodate the increase in pedestrian traffic, the crosswalks have been widened and the new bus lane will be used as a pedestrian walkway.

The new station upgrades are expected to be complete by spring 2017, at which time, three new elevators will be operating.   We apologize for the inconvenience.

Customer Information Services

Or TL;DR: Here is our canned response telling you everything will be totally fine and if it’s not, it’s not our fault!

Like truly, it didn’t occur to them to maybe sort this out before they started the renovations? Cart before horse much?

If it didn’t mean someone would get hurt and/or killed, I would LOVE for them (and the City of Burnaby and Ivanhoe Cambridge) to face some kind of class action suit for criminal negligence. If anything, they should be investing in more safety measures, not removing the ones that already exist.

At least this time around (often I find myself railing against things other people don’t seem to feel are important—I’m sure you are shocked to hear this ?), there are a whole lot of other people who join me in thinking TransLink is making a serious mistake in how it’s handling this whole situation (judging from the comments left at the two articles, at least).

Bravo, TransLink—bravo!

(PS why the hell does Evergreen mean GO?! Gods I hate marketing garbage!)

  1. I was going to say that Surrey in the 1980s wasn’t as bad as Surrey now… but let’s face it: Surrey is just eternally awful and nothing but a nuclear bomb wiping it off the face of the planet will ever change that. []
  2. Have I mentioned how much I hate my hometown? Basically, Surrey is pretty much the antithesis of everything I stand for. []
  3. Imagine for a second that you had the utmost honour of being second to something from EDMONTON! LOL LOL []
  4. Fare gates: don’t get me started!! []
  5. which is apparently how you refer to a pedestrian bridge if you are as pretentious as all fuck, which TransLink really likes to be []
  6. TransLink’s “fun” ideas of accessibility are a whole ’nother blog post []
  7. yes, I’m totally the guy who actually fills in feedback forms for organizations like TransLink []