Baffling decisions regarding transportation


The September 8, article "Baffling' light rail not considered needed", says Delta MLA", is indeed baffling, that light rail has not been considered by TransLink, Metro Vancouver, and present and past provincial governments, has been baffling for decades.

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Instead of using what is considered the best transit mode to alleviate congestion, reducing 'greenhouse' emissions and provide affordable quality transit, our politicians and bureaucrats insist on using a darted and very expensive proprietary railway, in which only seven examples have been built in the past 40 years, with only three seriously used urban transit.

TransLink operates two railways on its SkyTrain light-metro network, the Canada Line which is a conventional railway and the Expo and Millennium Lines operate a proprietary railway, operating the now called Movia Automatic Light Metro (MALM). This is the sixth name that this proprietary railway has been marketed by.

MALM, which uses Linear Induction Motors is not compatible with any other railway except its family of six other MALM railways. There is only one supplier, Alstom, which has purchased Bombardier's rail division.

Today, MALM is an orphan system because it costs a lot more than light rail to build and operate, it also lacks flexibility, very important in the 21st century world of public transport.

Using LIM's, needing a fourth rail makes MALM about 45% more to operate than a conventional light rail operation, but that is peanuts compared to the vast amount of spending being spent on the now obsolete light metro system.

The Millennium Line subway ($2.83) Billion, assuming no cost overruns, is now official, as per the recent photo-op. However, stage 2 to U.B.C. is unfunded and estimated to cost $3.8 – $4.2 Billion. Both the original Expo Line Segment and the Canada Line need upgrades to expand capacity or in the Expo Line’s case, just continue operating at its current capacity and capabilities. That’s $3 Billion for the Expo Line, and another $2 Billion for the Canada Line upgrades.

Another 6 km extension from the North Shore to downtown that will either be in a very, very deep tunnel or built on a new bridge.

How much?

$4.45 Billion is funded for two “stage 1″ Skytrain projects, the Broadway subway and the Fleetwood extension. TransLink needs $11 billion more for unfunded MALM projects. Add another $5 billion or more to cross Burrard inlet.

That’s an unfunded MALM project total of over $16 Billion, not including any major Commuter Rail improvements, a new and much needed MALM Automated Train Control System and assuming new Skytrain vehicles come in on their expected budget.

There are now no guarantees anymore because Bombardier Transportation (their train making division) was officially purchased today by Alstom for $8.4 billion.

Modern LRT, with benefits of much cheaper maintenance and operational costs and the all important flexibility of operation could be built for well under $40 million/km or put another way $16 billion for a few short MALM lines could easily build 400 km of LRT!

Rail for the Valley, want to reinstate the former Vancouver to Chilliwack passenger service, using existing tracks, connecting Vancouver to North Delta, Central Surrey, Cloverdale, Langley, Abbotsford, Sardis and Chilliwack for an updated cost from the original Leewood Study (Leewood Projects, UK) of under $1.5 billion. Over 130km of modern LRT/TramTrain for less than the cost of one short MALM project.

It is baffling, why the region insists on a dated and orphan light-metro, with its huge costs, lack of capacity, and lack of flexibility, for regional transit. Metro Vancouver is alone with this very expensive approach for regional rail projects.

Malcolm Johnston

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