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Nicole Ludwig

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An Escalating Situation

I live a ways out of Vancouver proper. Specifically, I live in a rural suburb called Maple Ridge. It’s a very pleasant place to live, with housing that is still somewhat reasonably priced for what you get. We like living there, a lot. However, I work in Vancouver and every day, I take a commuter train called the West Coast Express (WCE) that takes me downtown to Waterfront Station*. From there, I hop on one of the Canada Line (similar to a subway for those not familiar) lines and take a short 10 minute ride to a station about a block away from the Employer.

The Canada Line is a skytrain line that runs from Downtown Vancouver to Richmond and Vancouver International Airport. It was built for the Olympics. There is a second, older skytrain line, the Expo Line** which runs to some of the other municipalities around Vancouver: Burnaby, New Westminster and Surrey. There’s also a Seabus (a small passenger ferry), that goes across the Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver.*** All of these lines and the WCE intersect at Waterfront station.

When I get off the train at Waterfront Station, I have to go up a somewhat long escalator, then hang a left to go out to the Canada Line. When I hang that left, I exit into an area where you can go straight to get to the main station and the Canada Line, left to go to the Seabus, and right to go to the Expo Line. Normally, to get to the Expo Line people will hang a hard right and most of them will go down the escalators. People coming in from the main station will hang a left to go either down the escalators or down the stairs; most of them go down the stairs unless they are unable to. It’s all really rather civilized and traffic flows through quite smoothly.

What it boils down to is this: the entrance/exit to the West Coast Express, the Expo Line and the Seabus are all in the same area. That means there are a LOT of people coming through that area all day long, but particularly during rush hours. It is imperative, therefore that all accesses to these lines are working.

For the last month or so, the escalators to the Expo Line have been broken down. What was happening was this: people coming up the WCEs escalators were forced to stop at the top because of the crush of people trying to get down to the Expo Line by the ONE SET OF STAIRS. There’s one, non-moving, escalator open, but that’s for people who are coming up. The result is that hundreds of people risk getting trampled, because while the people at the top of the WCE escalators are forced to stop (because they cannot move), the escalators themselves don’t stop.

I suspect some people got hurt because in the last couple of weeks or so, they’ve had smurfs**** at the bottom of the WCE escalators and the intersection area up above. The smurfs at the bottom will let some people through, then stop the crowd when they’re told it gets too crowded up top.

Now my issue is not with the safety – that’s been taken care of. My issue is this: how long does it take to fix an escalator at a major transportation hub? Did you need to order the part from Antarctica? Because whether the part is in Europe, Canada, or the US, you should be able to get it within 72 hours. I know for a fact that I can FedEx or UPS a package across the country in 24 hours. So don’t tell me you had to wait for the part.

And the real kicker? If this had happened during the Olympics, it would have been fixed within 24-48 hours.

I’m not sure who exactly is responsible for the escalators at the stations. It probably varies. In the absence of a clear person to talk to, I’m directing this at TransLink. Because all of the systems in that station are owned and operated in part or in whole by TransLink who therefore has an obligation to the service users.

Although TransLink operates much like a private company, it is still funded by public dollars (taxes) and is therefore responsible to citizens like myself. And if this had happened back in February, TransLink would have been all over it because, goodness, we cannot have The World thinking we can’t manage this. Oh no.

But when it comes to taxpayers, well, meh. They’ll put up with it because they have to.

But I’m calling you out @Translink. This took way too long. And the party that promises to do away with you gets my vote.

*called this presumably because it’s on the waterfront. Duh.

**called this because it was built for Expo 86

***where you can go shopping at Lonsdale Quay

****otherwise known as Customer Service Representatives (called smurfs because of the blue jackets they wear)

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  • http://www.strocel.com Amber

    We have a similar situation at my grocery store. Although, in their defense, they keep trying to fix the escalator. And also, in their defense, they’re only inconveniencing like 12 people. The rest of us like having strapping young men carry groceries to our cars for us. ;)

    This sucks. I hope that Translink hears your critique and snaps to. Sadly, I doubt my hope will be realized, but what I’m saying here is you have clearly dealt with enough inconvenience already.

  • http://themuffinmyth.com/ Katie

    Oh please. It would have been fixed in under an hour if it had happened during the Olympics.

  • http://resolvingtimelineissues.ca admin

    If there were strapping young men to carry my bag for me, I wouldn’t complain.

    Rumour has it the escalator will be fixed Friday. I am not holding my breath.

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