Stealth cut in SkyTrain frequency to Surrey slammed

Expo branch trains may run up to 90 seconds further apart at off-peak times

Waits at SkyTrain stations for Expo Line trains to Surrey will get significantly longer at off-peak times after Oct. 22.

TransLink is being accused of sneaking in a stealth cut in SkyTrain frequency that will force riders to wait longer to get to and from Surrey.

Officials had acknowledged a small cut to Expo Line frequency that will add roughly 10 seconds to waits at peak times when they unveiled their plan to reconfigure SkyTrain service on Oct. 22 in advance of the new Evergreen extension.

But updated schedules show the extra waits will be much longer – as much as 90 seconds more between trains at off-peak times like mid-day and evenings on the new branches of the Expo Line that will run from Columbia to King George and from Columbia to Production Way-University.

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SkyTrain advocate Daryl de la Cruz says it means trains that now run every six minutes between Surrey and New Westminster at those off-peak times will run about every seven and a half minutes after the change.

“It’s a substantial 20 per cent reduction in frequency,” de la Cruz said.

The Oct. 22 schedule change will result in much more frequent trains on the redrawn Millennium line route to handle more riders from Coquitlam and Port Moody once the Evergreen Line opens.

But de la Cruz said it appears TransLink tried to hide the corresponding cut in frequency in Surrey, adding that won’t help restore the organization’s credibility with the public.

TransLink rail operations planning manager Ian Fisher said an extra 90 seconds between trains actually translates into an average extra wait of 45 seconds for a typical passenger.

And while some passengers will wait longer on the platforms, he said they’ll be picked up by all long trains on the Expo Line, meaning the overall carrying capacity of the line is little changed.

“The trains are bigger so we actually think there will be less crowding on the line,” CEO Kevin Desmond said when questioned about the impacts on Expo riders.

“The service is so frequent as it is, that extra waiting time will be fairly imperceptible to be honest with you.”

De la Cruz said he will campaign for the cut in frequency to be reversed.

Desmond said that may happen quickly if Metro Vancouver mayors approve a phase one transit expansion plan at a vote coming in November because the plan calls for a rapid improvement in SkyTrain service.

“If we enact the mayors’ plan we will very quickly on the Expo and Millennium Line be able to be putting up more off-peak service on the evenings and on the weekends,” Desmond said. “So I think we’ll be able to compensate for that pretty quickly in 2017.”