SkyTrain shutdown brings second bout of transit chaos
For the second time in less than a week, a shutdown of the SkyTrain system led passengers to pry open train doors Monday afternoon and walk away along the tracks.
The complete halt of trains on the Expo and Millennium Lines started around 12:30 and the shutdown lasted nearly five hours until service was restarted on both lines.
Canada Line service was unaffected.
It followed last Thursday's rush hour service shutdown after a computer malfunction that also stranded thousands of passengers for hours.
Monday's incident raised fresh questions about the rapid transit system's reliability and prompted another round of apologies from TransLink officials.
Despite pleas from TransLink to stay in SkyTrain cars due to electrocution and safety risks, numerous riders once again made their own exit, sometimes stopping to take photos and share them on social media.
Transit Police spokesperson Anne Drennan said "dozens" of riders left trains and walked along guideways unescorted Monday – many more than last Thursday – while others were escorted out by attendants.
She said the presence of passengers on guideways again caused the shutdown to last longer than if passengers had followed instructions, stayed on board and enabled the trains to resume movement sooner.
Drennan admitted there's little that can be done to block illegal exits – she said issuing tickets would "add insult to injury" – so the focus will be educating people about the danger.
"The electrical charge on the line can be there for quite some time after a shutdown such as this and people do risk being electrocuted if they touch the wrong part of the track," she said.
"We completely understand the high level of frustration and the fear and panic people are experiencing but we ask people to recognize the danger and be as patient as they can be."
Prying doors open in several trains meant they wouldn't close later and then attendants couldn't manually drive them back to stations, Drennan added.
"Staff and equipment had to go out and repair the doors to the point they could actually close and the trains could be moved. That created further delays."
TransLink advised SkyTrain commuters early in the afternoon shutdown to make other transportation arrangements during rush hour.
But the challenges were compounded because the electrical failure that halted trains also prevented audio communication with passengers in SkyTrain cars and platforms.
"I think that frightened a lot of people," said Drennan, who advised passengers in future shutdowns without announcements to seek updates via smartphone and then relay them to other passengers in the same train.
Unlike Monday, last Thursday's system delay was blamed on a computer glitch.
TransLink is not yet committing to providing refunds to riders or perhaps a free transit day as compensation for the shutdowns.
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said she wants to know whether TransLink will pursue a backup system of SkyTrain control.
"The last couple of shutdowns have really impacted the residents South of the Fraser," Watts said. "When you are dealing with that number of people on the system who cannot get to their work or cannot get to their children, it's very problematic."
– with files from Kolby Solinsky
Photos below by Evan Seal, Surrey Leader
@TransitPolice: SKYTRAIN STATUS GREEN......Expo and Millennium back and running at full service— Neil Dubord (@ChiefNeilDubord) July 22, 2014
#SkyTrain UPDATE The M-Line is now running between VCC-Clark and Sapperton. E- line is expected to open within the next hour. ^jkd— TransLink BC (@TransLink) July 21, 2014
We are experiencing high volumes on Twitter, we are responding and sending updates as fast as we can, we thank you for your patience^LA— TransLink BC (@TransLink) July 21, 2014
#SkyTrain Due to the current problem, please make other transportation arrangements. ^ts— TransLink BC (@TransLink) July 21, 2014
#SkyTrain Due to the current problem, staff are guiding people from cars back to the nearest station. Please wait for assistance from staff.— TransLink BC (@TransLink) July 21, 2014
#SkyTrain Due to the technical issues we cannot communicate with the cars in the system or on the platforms. Thank you for your patience.^ts— TransLink BC (@TransLink) July 21, 2014