SkyTrain executive won’t push for onboard attendants

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      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.


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      Evil Eye

      Aug 6, 2014 at 8:22am

      This is a crock of S***.

      TransLink now has over 170 full time attendants and scores more of part timers. Put them on the trains like other automatic transit systems.

      Translink is so overstaffed by incompetent management, that I would fire them and hire more attendants.

      In EEC counties, it is law that driverless transit systems must have an attendant on board! If TransLink's management doesn't understand that, then they should all be fired. Let's get rid of TransLink altogether as this outfit couldn't even run a whorehouse!

      Jon Q. Publik

      Aug 6, 2014 at 8:39am

      Why not put those "attendants" that stand around doing nothing in the stations on the trains? Problem solved. Although I am sure the union would demand some kind of outrageous raise for having to deal with the plebs using the system.


      Aug 6, 2014 at 11:15am

      They do have attendant at every station. Seriously, how's that going to solve the problem like the last one. No electricity means train won't move regardless of having one of them on board. I don't one to pay up my nose on taxes.

      Waste of money

      Aug 6, 2014 at 12:17pm

      How many days has skytrain been down or disabled over the years? How many total hours? This is one of the more reliable systems going in the western world folks and we don't need to pay more people to ride the trains. We do need to cull management, start with 30% across the board for workers with no direct dealings with customers or maintenance. We could cut 30% of all public service bureaucrats in this province, the non-union salary drones with neither responsibility nor influence. Their numbers increase annually even as people actually delivering services lose jobs. Cull management: we will save millions every year and stop wasting money on fare gates.


      Aug 6, 2014 at 7:45pm

      "SkyTrain has 57 vehicles rolling during peak hours."

      How many of those 57 vehicles are 4 car Mark I trains that could instead be 6 car Mark I trains?

      12 7Rating: +5

      Ryan W

      Aug 7, 2014 at 12:45pm

      Not having attendants on trains is how TransLink tricks most everyone into believing that elevated trains are less expensive than regular trains. Behind the scenes, the automated train system by TransLink is incredibly labour intensive and requires about 550 staff to keep just the finicky Expo and Millennium lines in service. That’s a lot of people which TransLink wants out of sight and out of mind.

      For years, TransLink tricksters have justified the hugely expensive automated elevated trains as being less expensive to operate than other systems with drivers. If TransLink puts people on trains to improve safety and curb crime, TransLink loses face!

      It becomes obvious to all that the automated system by TransLink does not reduce labour costs and the farce of automated transit being less expensive to operate than very inexpensive at grade trains with drivers is exposed. So, what the TransLink executive is really saying is that his ego is too important and your safety is secondary, I believe. What do others think?

      18 9Rating: +9