Friday, June 20, 2008

Current thoughts about TransLink

(From my initial post about TransLink’s Clean Air Day promotion, now comes a follow-up post that touches on it, plus more, with BONUS: it may be difficult to follow with my scatter brain thoughts!)

I became a regular user of TransLink when I started uni at SFU. As an everyday user, I have made observations, kept up on most news, and discussed casually with friends about TransLink services. Lately, the thing that has ticked me off about TransLink are their poor choices.

But before I do list my negative opinions, I must first commend TransLink for its service as a whole. As a public service that runs and serves the greater population of Greater Vancouver (I don't care much for the new "Metro Vancouver" thing) it has done just that. I can't imagine how difficult the logistics is to manage everything, as well as managing employees, then managing customers, and then managing toolshed customers who try to abuse other customers and/or employees, etc. It must be increasingly frustrating, as rider ship increases, as the population increases, yadda yadda… So kudos for that.

Also, more recently, I must commend the fact that on most buses, they've updated the dinging light thingy where it says "Next Stop" or "Stop Requested" when you pull the cord for your stop. It'll now show the name of the street you're on (or the street you've passed, or nearby - its not perfect yet) and it will say the name of the stop/street too over the bus speakers, which is very handy. This is a cool and beneficial feature for bus riders.

However, there are some serious negativities that I must address.

To start off, the SkyTrain stations are missing key important elements. The first things I noticed are maps and relevant signs. There should be SkyTrain maps, something similar to that link, but with every stop clearly labeled, with what area of town its in. Also, the signs at all Millennium Line stations should have "Westbound" and Eastbound" signs just as the Expo Line stations do. It is extremely confusing for new riders to figure out which train goes which way when you don't know which platform you're on in the first place. To be blunt, it is plain stupidity, because it's not consistent with its predecessors (the Expo Line stations).

A more important and controversial (as shown on recent newscasts because of swarmings/beatings) element missing is personnel/security person(s) at EVERY station. You would think that at a terminal where at times hundreds of people flow through simultaneously, there would be at least one employee at hand in case of emergency or even to answer a question, but no. Most of the time, there are none to be found. Sometimes (I repeat, sometimes) there are a few in one place. But where there is variability, some stations being more busier than others, the former is what I have observed and heard to be true. I have tried to think it through, and my conclusions is that the problem comes down to money.

There are 33 SkyTrain stations. Multiply that by 18 hours of work (I’m averaging SkyTrain hours run 18 out of 24 hours) at a pay rate of $15/hour (I chose that number as an estimate). The pay would be hourly assuming no one would want to do this fulltime, and therefore there would be three 6-hour shifts to attend a SkyTrain station each day. Now multiply that by the days of the year and we’re at about $3.2 million. This is a good starting estimate to work with because firstly, I’m just estimating with random numbers, and secondly, I have not taken into account unions, holiday pay, overtime, benefits, etc and thirdly, I’m not a math/finance expert (up yours BUS 312, I passed but barely!). Then if this were to happen, I think it can be assumed that the public would probably push to have attendants at all bus loops as well so they can feel even safer there as well and of course, the dollar amount just skyrockets.

Now, this leads me into a new area, a more “fun” area – poor choices related to money. Money is a big problem because of poor choices such as the TransLink Board pay raise groin-kick, and from my initial post, useless Clean Air Day buttons. I call the pay raise a groin-kick (I could have used more vulgar language) because this new TransLink board recently gave themselves a pay raise behind closed door meetings, after it recently decided they would from then on hold meetings behind closed doors, barring public accountability. (In case you’re wondering, my thought process is this: Hold meetings behind closed doors = lets knock people over. Give yourself a gigantic pay raise behind your closed door meeting = lets kick the knocked down people in the groin). Maybe if we took the boards pay raise money, and used it to pay for new signs and security personnel at SkyTrain stations… No, too unrealistic…

I wonder how often the TransLink board members, Dale Parker, James Bruce, Cindy Chan Piper, R. W. (Bob) Garnett, Sarah Goodman, Nancy Olewiler, Robert Tribe, Leslie (Skip) Triplett, and David Unruh use public transit everyday anyways. It’s stated “Ms. Chan Piper is a long-time transit user,” but she’s 1 out of 9 people, and you have to wonder how often/long does she ride now, and how valid that statement is too.

Wow I’ve rambled/ranted a lot.

Time to get into the real meat: Clean Air Day buttons.
This was a waste of TransLink money because it is a tacky idea. I’m sorry to whoever it was who thought this up, but it’s tacky. The design of the button is tacky. The message, noble, but tacky. As a shallow human being, the last thing I want to do on an early Wednesday morning (when I’m not fully awake), is to get handed a button, wear it, and then have my fellow bus riders laugh at me for wearing a tacky button like a toolshed (thanks for the free coffee though McDonalds). I didn’t see one person put it on, or wear it the remaining Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Except me. I wore it those days… to prove a point. I reluctantly put it on Wednesday afternoon when I was returning home from school, and Thursday, and Friday. I didn’t win anything. Bus drivers ignored me. I took it off Friday afternoon and now it sits on my desk, waiting to be recycled. Interestingly enough, I saw a guy on Tuesday, June 17 (and this ended 10 days ago) wearing the button. I secretly laughed inside at him, like the shallow little human being I am.

TransLink should have just handed out their prizes randomly (randomly to ME [giggle]), without the buttons, and then used the money that was intended to make the buttons, to buy some trees, and then plant them. Or to buy some Super Soakers (Lonnie Johnson, you brilliant man) to spray toolshed smokers at bus stops).

Ugh, I’ve had enough. I started this post more than 2 hours ago…

Seacrest out.
(Lame, I know, but still somewhat funny!)


paulman said...

I lol'd at how you laughed at that guy for wearing the same button that you made yourself wear for three days.

Hee hee....

Johnson said...

i think i can see another side of Tim from this post :)

pretty cool!