A bird's nest, a spark, and a SkyTrain cable combined created a frustrating problem for commuters across the Lower Mainland. Translink is blaming that trio of unlikely suspects for an Expo Line shut down Thursday night and Friday morning.

The delay caused thousands of commuters to be late for work as they waited in long lines for busses to shuttle them between stations. As compensation, interim CEO of Translink, Doug Allen decided to make transit free for the day across the system and promised to reimburse pass holders.

Allen spoke to the On the Coast's Stephen Quinn about the ordeal.

How many times this year has SkyTrain had a temporary shutdown for some portion of the track?

In terms of major events like today, this is very unusual. We dealt with it in the best way possible and the customers were first rate. We're talking about a partial outage of the system, not the entire system shutting down. Since I started, we have not had a system shut down. We've had problems in certain areas and we're trying to address them as best we can.

We counted seven separate incidents where the shutdown was long enough to make the news. You're new to the position, and can't be held responsible for everything that happened before you took the job, but you are stuck with that record.

I'm responsible, full stop. I'm responsible. We responded in a terrific way, but the passengers were first rate. It is a freak incident but we have to deal with that. You may recall we were graded an 'A' as a transit system just behind Montreal. We're very proud of that but we have to respond to challenges everyday.   

Doug Allen

Interim CEO Doug Allen faced questions after partial shutdown of the SkyTrain. (Maryse Zeidler)

How does our frequency of SkyTrain shutdowns compare with other systems in the country?

I don't have that data in front of me, but I suspect if you look Toronto, you'll be surprised how good we are. We serve an area three times larger than Toronto.

How often do you at Translink headquarters expect a disruption of this scale?

We try to run a system where we have none, but we know that challenges will arise. I think what we demonstrated today was the response was very good. It still doesn't mask the fact this was very disruptive for people travelling this morning, particularly in the downtown core.

This disruption has led to people debating whether they should vote yes or no in the upcoming deadline for the transportation referendum. What should people think about spending more money for transit?

The system is growing very rapidly in the Greater Vancouver area. We need more transit in a whole host of areas and therefore we have more transit to respond to that or we'll see major congestion.

I go back to the 'A' grade we got earlier this week on our performance relative to others in the country. The real issue is how did we respond to today, and I think we responded pretty good.

Did the people standing in lineups to get into the bus this morning think their city had an 'A' grade system?

Of course they'd be frustrated. I would be if I had to wait for half an hour or more. I think most of them would say though that we had access to a bus and that's the beauty of an integrated system.

To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Translink Interim CEO reacts to partial shutdown of SkyTrain.