Putting attendants onboard the SkyTrain would cost a lot of money, says a transit executive.
“Fares would likely increase substantially to cover that kind of cost for extra staff,” Fred Cummings, president and general manager of B.C. Rapid Transit Company, which operates SkyTrain, told the Straight.
Cummings was on the line Tuesday (August 5) following a recent Straight web report about an independent safety review during the 1990s of trains stranded due to system failure.
The assessment was ordered by B.C. Transit, which ran SkyTrain at that time. In March 1993, the Toronto Transit Commission handed in a report that recommended the introduction of onboard attendants.
A new review is under way in the wake of two major disruptions last month. During a July 21 service stoppage, passengers forced their way out of cars and made their way on service walkways to nearby stations. Former Toronto GO Transit CEO Gary McNeil is expected to provide his report by the end of October.
“I’m not going to put words in the mouth of the reviewer, so we’ll have to see what he comes out with,” Cummings said when asked about the chances that the 1993 recommendation about onboard attendants will be revived. “But one of the advantages of having automated train operations and unattended trains is the cost of operations.”
According to Cummings, SkyTrain has 57 vehicles rolling during peak hours. If attendants were going to be hired, he said that the system would need at least 70.
“We got an excellent safety record without having attendants on trains, and we would certainly encourage that to continue,” Cummings said.
Ron Stromberg, a transit specialist with the then Crown Corporations Secretariat, pushed for the safety review during the 1990s.
Stromberg noted in an August 5 phone interview with the Straight that onboard train attendants were meant to do more than just drive the SkyTrain to the nearest station when the automated system fails. Based on the Toronto Transit Commission’s report, attendants can perform fare checks. Their presence also enhances a passenger’s sense of safety, resulting in increased ridership and revenues.