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Dear Translink: get a plan!

December 27, 2008

Alright, I know Vancouver isn’t used to the amount of snow its seeing this winter.  And I know the hills in this town are steep and its a lot to expect that contingencies be made to deal with snowfall that happens rarely.  Well, then I guess I expect a lot.

I just returned from Boxing Day shopping (doing my bit to reverse the recession!) and when our bus arrived at the bottom of the large hill on the west side of town the bus stopped and it soon became clear it wasn’t going to be going any further.  I say it became clear because the driver did not announce it.  News of the end of the line trickled back slowly as people in the front consulted the driver, looks confused and then got off.  The driver did not attempt to make an announcement.  It turns out that his PA system was not working and “his voice is not very loud any more”.  Well, that happens, though one could ask if a public bus without a public address system is really safe, what happens in an emergency when directions need to be given by your quiet bus driver with larengites?

But I digress.  We got off the bus and stood in the falling snow with about 50 others who had vacated the bus just behind us. After two more buses also emptied their human cargo to turn around back along the flat part of town some of began to worry.  Perhaps no bus will attempt to go up the hill.  Surely someone from Translink would tell us if this were so.  Surely the drivers would not encourage us to wait for the next bus, or at worst the 99, and throw up their hands in powerless acquiescence.

Surely.

They had been rerouted, they could do nothing else.  Surely someone will save this burgeoning crowd from the long, cold walk up the hill.  Well it turns out someone is thinking of a solution, but its not Translink or the city.  Its the taxi drivers.  Quite a few cabs are whizzing by and the cab driver we spoke to (we jumped in a cab after the fourth bus refused the climb) told us they knew and were sending more.  Ofcourse, the $10 ride to UBC the remainder of the buses route is a bit more than the original $2.50 busfare.

But I don’t mind paying extra.  What I mind is the lack of information and coordination.  It seems that Translink is not overly concerned with stranding dozens of people at the bottom of a hill on a wet, cold, snowy night.  On the busiest shopping day of the year, when a sign downtown had informed us that they were running extra buses along the main thoroughfares to handle the boxing day rush.  But just to the bottom of the hill mind you, isn’t that obvious?

Obviously once we arrive at the bottom of this impassable mountain we will need to arrange our own mode of transportation the remaining 3 km to our home.  Surely everyone knows that ahead of time and plans accordingly, without even a  need for the driver to explain this during their journey.

Surely.

Well, I think Translink needs some plows of its own if it doesn’t have any.  And I think the city and the bus company need to decide what they will do in weather like this and make it a policy.  They need to station a plow on the hill at UBC and one at SFU to plow continuously to ensure that buses can make it up eventually.  Broadway is very well maintained and plowed, yet it would often be fine with normal traffic melting the snow.  Yet the hill on the west side of town with a large residential community and a university which receives more snow due to its elevation has not been plowed and is impassible to public transit.  Surely someone can come up with a simple plan to avoid this unnacceptable collapse of the public transportation system in part of Canada’s third largest system due to a a few feet of snow.

Surely.

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