Some Metro Vancouver mayors say yesterday's SkyTrain meltdown is proof elected politicians should control TransLink.
On Monday afternoon a short circuit in an electrical panel shutdown the Expo and Millennium lines around 12:30 pm PT, forcing the regional transit authority to halt trains and close stations, throwing the travel plans of thousands of commuters into chaos.
TransLink says further delays were caused when passengers pried open the train doors, damaging the trains, and then began walking along the tracks to nearby stations, forcing TransLink to further cut power to cars still moving through the system.
Spokesperson Colleen Brennan says the Millennium Line was down for just under four hours, the Expo Line was down for almost five hours, but all the trains were running by the early evening.
It was the second system-wide shutdown of the system in less than a week. On Thursday a computer glitch also shut down both lines for several hours during the afternoon commute.
Nevertheless, Brennan insists problems like those that occurred this week and last are rare.
"It doesn't make news when your trains run on time, but certainly we feel very confident that they are reliable."
Questions remain for mayors
While TransLink has apologized for the inconvenience, Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts still has many questions about the shutdown that stranded thousands of her constituents.
"We need to hold TransLink's feet to the fire in terms of ensuring that the proper infrastructure is in place, that if something like this should happen, what the backup plan is, how are people being communicated to?" asks Watts.
But she says even though the province recently gave Lower Mainland mayors more power over TransLink, they still don't control the billion-dollar budget, or even have a clear way to get answers to their questions.
"There's several issues that have to be addressed. We have no opportunity and nor are we in charge of the operations, or have an avenue where those questions can be asked."
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan echoes her concerns.
"We're really in a difficult position as far as making inquiries or even making any changes," says Corrigan.
No referendum question yet
While control of TransLink remains with an appointed board of directors, the region's mayors remain locked in a battle with the provincial government over how to fund the region's transportation infrastructure.
Premier Christy Clark promised during the 2013 provincial election the government would hold a referendum on any new transit funding in Metro Vancouver, but the idea has never gained the support of the mayors.
Last month B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone gave Metro Vancouver mayors until July 15 to officially notify the province if they want a fall referendum on funding.
The mayors asked for a reallocation of the existing carbon tax, an estimated $250 million a year, but Stone said there is no way the province will hand over that money.
Another critic of TransLink is Jordan Bateman, the B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, who says TransLink's problems are symptomatic of a much bigger issue.
"It all comes back to TransLink's misplaced priorities. While they're busy shining up stations and putting money into executive's pockets and big deficits, they've neglected some of the core nuts and bolts - frankly boring things - like SkyTrain maintenance."
"So the system is aging, starting to break down and really TransLink has no one to blame but themselves," said Bateman.