Thursday, January 24, 2008

Stupid decision-making in Translink?

While I was traveling in Mexico this past December and early January, I felt guilt-ridden because I drove a couple of times a single-occupant vehicle (SOV). Admittedly, most of the time I drove my Mom and my friend ML, in addition to a couple of my nieces, so really it was a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) for the few weeks I was there. Nevertheless, whenever I am in another country (e.g. France, Germany, Canada), I make a conscious choice to commute by transit (bus, train and metro). Thus, as a frequent transit user, it frustrates me to no end that (apparently) stupid decisions are made which affect my daily commute.

Recently, a few of these decisions were put in place: the stops at Main at 10th Avenue (on both the east and west sides) were removed, and the Main and 15th (northbound) was moved to Main and 14th (right across from Zigz). Furthermore, I don't know whose "bright idea" was it to only have a couple of routes on Broadway (9 and 99 B-Line) and one on King Edward (25) but none on 16th Avenue, basically from Macdonald to Fraser. We need a route along 16th Avenue, even if it's only a Commuter Bus (like the ones that Translink provided for short trips within UBC, or the C21 and C23 from Main Street Skytrain station to the West End and back). Why hasn't this happened?

I could cite the other dozens of stupid transportation policy decisions that have been made in the Metro Vancouver area, but there is a point I've been thinking about bringing across. When we complain about transportation policy, we often say "Translink should do this" or "Translink should do that" as though Translink is a homogeneous body. This is not the case.

The truth is that organizations are composed of individuals, each one with a different view of the world. Unless we recognize this heterogeneity in organizational composition, we are bound to be frustrated by the decision-making processes of an organization that doesn't really make decisions itself. When we speak about "Translink's decisions", are we referring to the decisions of its Board of Directors, or their planning staff, or the CEO. Who *decides* within Translink? I am very curious to find out, quite frankly. Translink's new governance model is quite puzzling, admittedly (and this comes from someone who actually has read the academic literature on governance!)

And yes, I recognize that I'm guilty of what I am pointing out (e.g. assuming Translink is a homogeneous entity).
There are two reasons why I pointed this out. The first one, is that the decision-making in Translink (and the rest of this region's governmental agencies) is much more complex than one would think. The second one is that I believe that transportation policy in the Metro Vancouver area should have much more citizen involvement than it has right now. Who was consulted about moving the Main and 15th Avenue bus stop? Has nobody in this city pointed out to the lack of a bus along 16th Avenue? Is there evidence that consultation took place, and is there any degree of accountability for these decisions? How did "Translink" decide? (e.g. who at Translink made this decision and how was it made?)... inquiring minds want to know...


Stephen Rees said...

Decisions about bus stop locations are not made by Translink. They do not "own" the streets - that is a municipal responsibility. The Coast Mountain Bus Company will negotiate with the City of Vancouver Engineering Department on stop locations. It is my impression that historically the City was more concerned with traffic flow than bus passenger convenience but this was not an area I actually worked in.

Similarly bus routes are planned by Translink staff but they have to consult with the City. Again this is not an area I had close contact with - I was involved in broader, strategic questions. I note that on Google maps, 16th does not show up in yellow, which suggests to me that it is regarded as a local distributor rather than an arterial route. Again you could probably find out by talking to the City Engineers. It could also be that residents would have objected to a bus route on their street. Smaller, Community Shuttle buses were introduced in part to meet the objections of residents on bus routes to "big, noisy, smelly" buses

Raul said...

Thanks Stephen, very informative!

Erika Rathje said...

In thinking about a route from Main & 18th to Commercial & 16th, I realised I'd have to go north, east, then south again in order to get there and correctly assumed there was no bus on 16th. Unfortunately I can't seem to get the trip planner to show me a route to that location. The stop is on Victoria Division (huh?) at Commercial Drive but the trip planner won't accept that or anything near it so I'm gonna have to wing it.

Passengers on the #3 heading south yelled at the driver one morning that he missed their stop. "It was removed," he said, "unless I'm mistaken." The passengers referred to the last several months where they've disembarked there, and finally last week I noticed that, in fact, I'm not crazy... the stop is gone. Or moved further north. At any rate, I feel sorry for people who, seemingly without notice, now have longer walks to work.

Raul said...

That's the problem with planning for stops... I still hold we need a Community Shuttle bus on 16th Avenue. Erika, what were you doing at Main and 18th?