VANCOUVER NEWS (1130) – Broken-down elevators at SkyTrain stations are a serious accessibility problem, according to an advocate for people with disabilities.
NEWS 1130 reviewed all station alerts posted by TransLink on Twitter in 2019, and found 20 SkyTrain stations had elevators out of service for at least a portion of the day for 30 days or more. Four stations had outages 60 days or longer this year.
Columbia Station tops the list with a total of 66 days out of service. Surrey Central is a close second at 64 days, followed by Commercial-Broadway and Lougheed Town Centre tied for third place, with at least 61 days this past year.
The longest outage for any station and month was Surrey Central, which saw an elevator out for 30 days in January. In June, an elevator at Olympic Village was out of service for 26 days, and another at Vancouver City Centre was out for 21 days.
@TransLink When will #Yaletown Station have an elevator? Accessibility for elderly, wheelchairs and strollers is critical. It’s been like this for many days (weeks?) now. Please take action. pic.twitter.com/TMzIkHPmVD
— Jesi Carson (@JesiCarson) December 19, 2019
Justina Loh, Executive Director at the Disability Alliance of BC, says having this many broken elevators on the public transit system is unfair for the people who rely on them.
“Honestly, it’s not acceptable and it shouldn’t be happening. TransLink has a responsibility to be maintaining the elevators and to make sure that if they are needing maintenance that they’re […] done in a timely fashion. It just makes it very difficult for people with disabilities to get around and it adds to their commute time, which is not fair,” she says.
Main St stn west elevator still not working…from broken window in October.
Still need another 3 weeks to replace a piece of glass? Why not Lexan?#elevatorcartel pic.twitter.com/kUv35xdbjf
— Warren Walker (@warrenwalker) November 22, 2019
She notes that often people with disabilities rely on public transportation because they may not be able to drive, and many have low incomes.
“Having so many elevators not working for over a month is very problematic and I think it definitely should be addressed. I think TransLink should definitely be doing more,” she says.
Technican shortage blamed for lengthy outages
TransLink would not make a spokesperson available for an interview, but Dan Mountain with the media relations team said in an email statement that elevator maintenance and repairs can be time-consuming, and points to the industry-wide shortage of certified, trained elevator technicians.
“For the older equipment, replacement parts can be difficult to find and may have to be imported or custom machined, which lengthens the period they are out of service,” Mountain writes.
He says elevators are inspected and maintained monthly and yearly to make sure they’re safe and reliable, as required by Technical Safety BC.
“We strive to give customers ample notice and can make arrangements for those needing an elevator to access the system,” Mountain writes. “Once per year, each elevator goes out of service to undergo rigorous inspection. When this happens, public notices are displayed in advance at all stations using Passenger Information Displays, TransLink’s website, and station signage.”
The service notices on Twitter reviewed by NEWS 1130 don’t tell the whole story, however. In many cases, TransLink did not update followers when elevators were fixed if they had been out for a long period of time, so it is possible other stations saw lengthy outages that were not captured in this review.
The vast majority of these outages were announced the morning of or day before maintenance was scheduled.
And Loh says TransLink should be giving people more notice.
“If they could inform them three days before, something like that, [so] people can start planning around it. I think that would make it much easier for someone with a disability, and it will just give them enough time to prepare accordingly,” she says.
“If they need to hire more technicians – because it’s a shortage of having elevator technicians – then I really think they just need to hire more. That way they can ensure that they are getting maintained and that they’re being fixed appropriately, so people can continue to use public transportation be able to get to where they need to be.”