Why is Metro Vancouver only region in world that continues to build with SkyTrain?


The next Mayor's Council on Transit meeting is on Dec. 13 and a very important meeting indeed.

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At this meeting the Mayor's Council on Transit will decide on the fate of Surrey's LRT project.

The SkyTrain lobby has been demonstrating a disturbing tendency in releasing misleading information to both the public and politicians about the proprietary light-metro system.  A litany of man-of-straw arguments and Trumpian-style fake news and alternative claims have been about light rail, while at the same time no hard questions have been asked of SkyTrain and/or light metro and Metro Vancouver's use of light-metro.

This has led to a dichotomy with the rest of the world, where LRT has become the preferred (almost 600 systems in use) method of urban transport in cities of all sizes and populations, while Vancouver now remains the only city in the world planning to extend the outdated proprietary SkyTrain light metro system.

The following are 15 questions the regional mayors should ask and have answer before any SkyTrain/light rail decision is made:

  1. The Expo and Millennium Lines are a proprietary railway, which the technical patents are owned by Bombardier Inc. and the engineering patents owned by SNC Lavalin. Are not employees of Bombardier Inc and SNC Lavalin in conflict of interest being involved in regional planning, especially rapid transit planning?
  2. The Expo and Millennium lines are unconventional, proprietary railways, now called Innovia ART, which patents are owned by Bombardier Inc. and SNC Lavalin. Only seven lines have been built in almost 40 years, with only three seriously used for urban transport. Why is Metro Vancouver now the only region in the world that continues to build with SkyTrain?
  3.  Metro Vancouver, now the only region in the world continuing to plan for the proprietary Innova ART system (SkyTrain) for future transit projects. How secure is TransLink getting affordable replacement parts and new vehicles, etc. for the aging rapid transit system?
  4. Surrey's new mayor and council have rejected a $1.65 fully funded LRT system, in favour of an unfunded $2.95 billion SkyTrain line to Langley. Where is the additional $1.3 billion in funding coming from?
  5. Both the IBI and ART studies done for the Toronto Transit Commission in the early 1980s found that ICTS SkyTrain (an earlier name for Vancouver's SkyTrain) cost up to 10 times more to install for about the same capacity than LRT. Why then does TransLink's costs for LRT much higher than other city's costs for LRT and at the same time claims that SkyTrain has a higher capacity?
  6. Innovia ART (SkyTrain) capacity is legally limited to 15,000 pphpd as per Transport Canada's Operating Certificate, until an extensive and expensive rehab of the Expo and Millennium lines takes place. This is said to cost around $3 billion and must be done before any increase in capacity can be achieved. Has TransLink planned for this $3 billion rehab and if so, how will be the funding be sourced?
  7. Still on the subject of the $3 billion rehab of the existing Innovia ART lines. As capacity on the Expo Line is now near SkyTrain's legal maximum limit, will not extending SkyTrain to Langley cause major operational issues in Burnaby and Vancouver transit customers, as full trains will cause major inconvenience and congestion at stations, as they pass customers by?
  8. TransLink now claims that the Surrey LRT is not being planned as a "fully dedicated system". What is and isn't a "fully dedicated LRT system?
  9. TransLink's planners seem to think that grade separation equals greater capacity, yet it is well known that simple at-grade light rail can handle traffic flows up to and over 20,000 pphpd. The Expo and Millennium Lines currently have a maximum legal capacity of only 15,000 pphpd and the Canada line with platforms have half the length of the Expo & Millennium Lines, effectively gives the Canada line slightly more than half the capacity of the ART Innovia lines.Has TransLink deliberately reduced the planning capacity of LRT in order to not cause embarrassing comparisons with the SkyTrain light-metro lines?
  10. Much is said about the speed of SkyTrain, but this is because SkyTrain has many fewer stations than LRT. Though SkyTrain may offer a higher commercial speed, because the much greater distances transit customers must travel to reach a SkyTrain stations, means door to door travel times tend to favour light rail. Why does TransLink persist using this unprofessional "speed question" with their transit planning?
  11. Still on the subject of light rail, TransLink only planned for 40 metre long platforms for trams 40 metres or under. Today most modern trams are longer than 40 metres and have station or tram stop platforms of 60 metres or more. Has TransLink deliberately reduced the capacity of LRT to make it look like a second rate transit system?
  12. In North America, the industry standard for building a subway, is a transit line with traffic flows that surpass 15,000 pphpd, yet traffic flows on Broadway in the peak hour, are less than 5,000 pphpd. Why is TransLink and the City of Vancouver even considering a subway under Broadway, when traffic flows are so weak?
  13. In 2015, TransLink fired their two top planners, Tamin Raad and Brian Mills, rumoured because of their opposition to the Broadway subway. Who ordered the firings and why?
  14. The city of Ottawa sent a delegation to Vancouver to inspect SkyTrain as there was pressure by the federal government for Ottawa to build with Innovia ART (SkyTrain). The delegation found that SkyTrain was not only much more expensive to build than light rail, SkyTrain cost more to operate and maintain, had less capacity and lacked the operational flexibility. Ottawa's new LRT system is now nearing completion. Has the findings of the Ottawa delegation ever been conveyed to Metro mayors and councils or the Mayors’ Council on Transit?
  15. In 1993, a report from the GVRD's Costs of Transporting People in the BC Lower Mainland, found that the subsidy in 1991, for just the Expo Line from Waterfront Station  to New Westminster was $157.6 million or put another way, the subsidy for SkyTrain was more than the diesel and electric buses combined. What is the current annual subsidy for the entire SkyTrain light metro system and how is it funded?

Malcolm Johnston

Rail for the Valley

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