Is It Time To Rethink SkyTrain Expansion?

As reported, the ongoing Covid-19 epidemic has greatly reduced transit ridership.

A 52% drop in boarding’s from March 19, 2019 to March 19, 2020 is greatly affecting TransLink’s bottom line. With over 80% of SkyTrain’s ridership first take a bus, the collapse of ridership must be dealing a vast economic blow to TransLink!

The SkyTrain light metro network, because it is driverless, is expensive to operate as the system needs the same amount of employees whether operating at capacity or at minimal service. LRT is different, as it does not need the large technical staff  that the automatic light-metro needs, to keep operating. That’s why LRT operating in major cities can offer all night service on select routes, where demand warrants.

Subways are especially expensive to operate and maintain and they spread disease rapidly because of the piston like action in subway tunnel;s caused by trains pulsing air up and down the line.

Something to think about in the post pandemic world.

Currently, there is $4.6 billion in public spending approved for building a mere 12.8 km of SkyTrain light-metro, including the 5.8 km Broadway subway.

For the same about of money we could build a BCIT to UBC/Stanley park LRT (European tramway style) for under $1.5 billion; an hourly downtown Vancouver to Chilliwack light DMU/TramTrain service for under $1 billion; Rehab the E&N From Victoria to Port Alberni and Courtney using light DMU/TramTrain for under $1 billion and still leave $1 billion and change for improving public transport elsewhere around the province.

With tens of billions of dollars being spent supporting the social fabric furring the current crisis, there will be little or no money for transit projects for the foreseeable future and it is time for all levels of government to rethink transit planning and invest in good transit instead of hugely expensive politically prestigious light metro and subways so favoured as “vote getters” at election time.

Time to think out of the box!


LRT will make a far better investment for regional transit for the future.

COVID-19: TransLink reducing service as ridership declines

Author of the article:

Scott Brown

Publishing date:

March 23, 2020

A significant drop in ridership caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has led TransLink to reduce its bus, SeaBus and SkyTrain service.

SeaBus, which has been running between downtown and North Vancouver every 10 minutes during weekday rush hours, will now run every 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, certain bus routes which have excess capacity, including those with empty buses, will see frequencies reduced.

Expo and Millennium Lines will also see slight frequency reductions, with first and last train schedules remaining in place.

“Passenger levels will be carefully monitored in order to balance lower ridership with the need to maintain social distancing,” TransLinks said.

The transit authority advises customers to check its online Trip Planner or Transit Alerts before travelling to ensure their route is not impacted by service reductions.

According to the latest figures from TransLink, ridership is down significantly from this time last year, and the worst plunge took place last past week.

On Thursday, March 12, the boardings were down seven per cent from Thursday, March 14, 2019, but on Tuesday, boardings were down 52 per cent compared to Tuesday, March 19, 2019.

Time To Rethink Transit – Tramways Instead Of Light-Metro?

Montpelier, France

What the following article is talking about is not light rail, rather a tramway or streetcar. Light rail is a streetcar operating on a reserved or dedicated rights-of-way and by doing so, offers a service superior to that of a light metro and close to that of a heavy-rail metro.

Building a tramway is far cheaper than building a light-metro on a grade separated rights-of-way; up to ten times cheaper!

Thus for the cost of 1 km of our elevated SkyTrain light-metro, we can build up to twenty km of a tramway.

Capacity for both modes are about the same and commercial speed is conditional on the amount of stations or stops and priority signalling.

And if capacity needs to increase, the tramway can be upgraded to light rail by converting  the route to a reserved or dedicated R-o-W standard.

Also, capacity can be increased by building new tramways! For one km of the SkyTrain Broadway subway, we could build three 20 km tramways, with a combined capacity at least three times higher than the Broadway SkyTrain subway!

Time to a rethink on transit, isn’t that so TransLink and the Mayor’s council on Transit?

Caen, France, Tramway on a reserved R-o-W.

Attractis : integrated solutions for tramways

Attractis at a glance

  • Simple and smooth introduction in the city
  • Proven technology and experience
  • Cost benefits compared to lot-by-lot delivery
  • Reduced time to commercial service

The obvious choice

For growing cities in search of a clean, comfortable long-term solution to mobility problems, the tramway is part of the natural solutions. Alstom is an ideal partner capable of providing them within a fully operational turnkey system: Attractis. Our expertise in all areas of tramway technology combines to deliver an efficient, cost-effective and attractive transport solution that reshapes cities and enchants their inhabitants.

Fast implementation, reduced costs

A turnkey Attractis solution offers shorter lead times throughout the project compared to lot-by-lot delivery. Not only does the client only have one tender to manage instead of several, but our integrated system approach means optimized interfaces and smoother coordination. Building work is phased to keep disruption to a minimum for city centre and businesses, while tram drivers can be initially trained on 3D simulators and require less time in the cab before operations start-up. The overall result is that an average 10-km line can take as little as 30 months to build and commission!

At Alstom we additionally design tramways in a perspective of optimized total cost of ownership. Investment costs are 20% lower than a typical lot-by-lot line of similar capacity, and our system maintenance costs are among the lowest on the market.

Accompanying cities as they grow

Our tram systems are easily expandable as demand for city centre transport grows. Our Citadis trams can be extended by adding modules in the depot without any further modification to infrastructure, as successfully achieved in cities such as Bordeaux, Nice and Dublin. Trams can also run in double formation for maximum capacity, without the need to recruit extra drivers. Our fluid-boarding trams keep dwell time to a minimum thanks to their wide doors, and our operating system offers headway’s down to three minutes. The capacity of a tram system can therefore vary from under 4,000 pphpd to 14,000.

Interoperability and flexibility

Alstom has also adopted ITxPT (Information Technology for Public Transport) “open architecture” standard in IT systems, which facilitates the provision of improved services in areas such as automatic fare collection, passenger information and multi-modal connections.

Upgraded  tramway operating as LRT on a reserved rights-of-way.

Kuala Lumpor SkyTrain Revisted – The Legacy Of Corruption Continues


More interesting insight on how Bombardier does business selling it proprietary rapid transit system abroad and please remember both BC Transit and TransLink were in partnership with bombardier to sell the now called Movia Automatic Light Metro Abroad!

The Kelana Jaya line operates with the now called Movia Automatic Light metro system is is one of the three rapid transit lines operating in Kuala Lumpur. The other two rapid transit lines are a conventional light metro system and a monorail.

The whistle-blower said he worked on the Kelana Jaya bid and knows firsthand that a “success fee” was paid on that contract, too.

We see again, Bombardier’s murky business dealings are involved with another MALM light metro system.

Tan Sri Datuk, Mohamed Khatib Abdul Hamid, who earned the title as a long-time senior Malaysian diplomat and adviser to Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Former Prime Minister Najib Razak is involved in a massive multi billion dollar scandal, which includes Bombardier and SNC Lavalin.

Read here

Read here

Read here

Again, where SkyTrain is built, scandal follows. With such a pedigree, one would think the RCMP would be investigating the province’s and metro Vancouver’s continued building with a obsolete proprietary light metro system, which only seven have been built in the past 40 years and only three seriously used for urban transport.

Like the Casino scandal, local politicians remain largely blind, deaf and dumb.


Since the late 1990s, the Bombardier brand has been ubiquitous in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital. But there has been no local investigation of how the company won its lucrative Malaysian contracts.
Since the late 1990s, the Bombardier brand has been ubiquitous in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital. But there has been no local investigation of how the company won its lucrative Malaysian contracts. 

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The whistle-blower who spoke to The Globe says that he never heard the name Youssef Zarrouk while he was working for Bombardier. He says he never knew who received the success fees that he was told had to be fit within the overall cost of the bid.

He certainly doesn’t know who Mr. Zarrouk’s equivalent in Asia might be, although he does remember a colleague being told in the early 2000s that they had to fly to Taiwan to hand-deliver an envelope to someone there. The colleague described the recipient as someone who was “extremely wealthy, and obviously moved in influential circles.”

Shortly after that trip, Bombardier landed both the EverLine deal in South Korea and a 2006 deal to deliver new rail cars for the Kelana Jaya light-rail line in Malaysia’s bustling capital, Kuala Lumpur. The whistle-blower said he worked on the Kelana Jaya bid and knows firsthand that a “success fee” was paid on that contract, too.

The Bombardier logo is almost everywhere you look in Malaysia’s transportation sector. The train connecting the main terminals of Kuala Lumpur International Airport is branded “Made by Bombardier” in large black letters. The driverless light-rail cars that run along the capital city’s Kelana Jaya line are produced by Bombardier and its local partner, a company called Hartasuma. Kuala Lumpur’s second airport, SkyPark Subang, is the regional hub for the Switzerland-based VistaJet and its fleet of Bombardier-made private jets.

Bombardier signs on the shuttle train between terminals at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. MARK MacKINNON/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Bombardier’s long track record of winning deals in Malaysia dates back to when the company won the bidding to build a light-rail line in Kuala Lumpur ahead of the 1998 Commonwealth Games. The relationship continued through March of this year, when the company won a contract to deliver 27 new rail cars to the same LRT system.

The winning streak included the 2006 deal that saw Bombardier, in consortium with Hartasuma, awarded a $320-million deal to deliver another 140 rail cars for the Kelana Jaya line.

In contrast with South Africa and South Korea, there has been no local investigation into how Bombardier won its contracts in Malaysia, although there was a brief public uproar around a 2011 contract that the government reportedly considered awarding to Bombardier over the advice of its own experts.

The key to Bombardier’s success in Malaysia, local analysts say, is its partnership with Hartasuma and the company’s politically connected executive director, Tan Sri Datuk Ravindran Menon, a leading figure in the Malaysia’s ethnic Indian community. (The title “Tan Sri Datuk” is the Malaysian equivalent of a lordship or knighthood.) Mr. Menon is also the founder and executive director of the SkyPark Group, the company that manages the SkyPark Subang terminal.

Hartasuma is itself part of a conglomerate called the ARA Group, which counts among its board members another Tan Sri Datuk, Mohamed Khatib Abdul Hamid, who earned the title as a long-time senior Malaysian diplomat and adviser to Prime Minister Najib Razak.

While there was no information available on Malaysia’s company register about the ownership of ARA Group, it is frequently linked to Khairy Jamaluddin, a cabinet minister who is also the son-in-law of Abdullah Badawi, Mr. Najib’s predecessor as prime minister and finance minister.

Mr. Marcil, the vice-president at Bombardier, said that the company partnered with Hartasuma in order to fulfill local content quotas, as required under Malaysian law. “Bombardier Transportation’s bids and contracts are entered into only after a thorough and rigorous review process that includes an examination of our local partners,” he said, directing all further questions to Hartasuma.

“It’s very clear that Ravindran Menon is not your regular Joe Businessman,” said Rafizi Ramli, a prominent Opposition politician. “It’s very obvious that he’s connected to Abdullah Badawi’s clan.” Mr. Rafizi said that at the time the Kelana Jaya contract was awarded to Bombardier and Hartasuma in 2006, Mr. Khairy was the second-most powerful man in the country after his father-in-law.

Mr. Rafizi said he believed it would be impossible for a foreign company to win a large infrastructure contract in Malaysia without paying into the country’s system of corruption and patronage. To support his argument, he pointed to the scandal surrounding the massive 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the fund has seen hundreds of millions of dollars that were marked for development projects redirected into the personal accounts of top Malaysian government officials.

The man who formally awarded the 2006 Kelana Jaya contract to Bombardier and Hartasuma was Shaipudin Shah Harun, a civil servant who headed Prasarana, the government body – under the Ministry of Finance – that manages the country’s transportation assets. Mr. Shaipudin, who resigned from the job two years after the Kelana Jaya contract was awarded, told The Globe the bidding process was fair and that Bombardier and Hartasuma won the deal because “they met all the criteria.”

He said he didn’t know of any success fee or commission payment on the deal, but added that even he wasn’t privy to the entire selection process. “We tried to make it as transparent as possible,” he said, when reached on his mobile phone. “But whatever goes on behind the scenes, we’re not party to it and would not be aware.”

Mr. Shaipudin said he didn’t know how Bombardier ended up in partnership with Hartasuma. “I don’t think it’s wise for me to comment on that.”

The Bombardier-Hartasuma relationship is consummated at a factory in an industrial park on Pulau Indah, a small island off of Malaysia’s west coast. Near-complete Bombardier trains arrive by sea, and Hartasuma employees – the majority of whom appear to be migrant workers from Bangladesh – install plastic seats and other finishing touches before the trains are put into service.

A security guard at the facility said that Mr. Menon and the other directors are rarely seen at the factory. But The Globe encountered two Hartasuma executives when a reporter visited Bombardier’s local headquarters on the 25th floor of an office tower in central Kuala Lumpur.

They deflected questions about how and why the Bombardier-Hartasuma consortium had been so successful in procuring infrastructure contracts. “Why in Canada would they care about how a contract is awarded in Malaysia?” said Jayasri Menon, whose LinkedIn profile identifies her as a management consultant at Hartasuma. She added that only Mr. Menon could answer The Globe’s questions.

Mr. Menon did not reply to e-mailed questions, however.

“You are touching a very sensitive topic,” Ms. Menon said. “You are touching a very sensitive line.”

The Ever Line SkyTrain Revisited – The Legacy

One just has to shake ones head!

Except for brief mentions of our local SkyTrain Lobby, we do not hear about the now called Movia Automatic Light metro system in Youngin and for very good reason, as it has mired Bombardier into a massive local scandal.

The local prosecution office is more blunt: EverLine, a lead prosecutor says, was built after Bombardier engaged in corrupt practices to win the 2004 contract for its construction.

The evidence his office gathered showed that Bombardier supplied its South Korean representative, Henry Kim, with lobbying fees totalling $1.8-million over a five-year period. Bombardier sent gifts to the homes of local politicians, as well as to researchers tasked with creating the ridership forecasts that would underpin construction of the new light-rail line, the prosecutors found. Mr. Kim received a further $4.7-million in advanced payment incentives that were deposited into a Swiss bank, under the name of Mr. Kim’s wife, Mr. Cha said.

One wonders what gifts and lobbying fees were given or paid locally to in Metro Vancouver to continue planning for the now obsolete MALM system?

Why do local politicians still strongly support building with it, when expert opinion, in Canada and abroad, has deemed our SkyTrain light-metro system obsolete?

Why do local politicians never explain that only seven such systems have been built in the previous 40 years and only three are seriously used for urban transport?

why do local politicians sidestep any question about the light metro system with inaccurate or misleading statements?

In April 1999, a million dollars in cool cash was found by an off duty Vancouver policeman,in a duffel bag in Clinton Park around the time of the Millennium Line construction – coincidence?

In Canada, politicians and police don’t care to know!

The Bombardier-built Everline runs single cars down an 18-kilometre track in Yongin, South Korea.
The Bombardier-built EverLine, which runs along an 18-kilometre track in Yongin, South Korea, was sold to local leaders as a vision of the future, but is now derided by locals as a bus on rails.NATHAN VANDERKLIPPE/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Yongin, South Korea

Every few minutes, a single car passes by Chodang station, one of the stops on 18 kilometres of elevated track that wind through Yongin, a small city 40 kilometres south of Seoul. When the EverLine was sold to local leaders, it was a vision of the future – driverless cars that would swiftly transport tens of thousands of passengers a day.

Today, locals mockingly call it a bus on rails, slower on some routes than taking an actual bus, and, for the city that built it, far more expensive. The local prosecution office is more blunt: EverLine, a lead prosecutor says, was built after Bombardier engaged in corrupt practices to win the 2004 contract for its construction.

The project’s one-trillion-Korean-won price tag, equivalent to $940-million in today’s dollars, was based on initial expectations that some 160,000 people would ride the EverLine every day. But even three years after operations began in 2013 – a start date delayed by legal wrangling between Yongin and the Bombardier-led consortium that built the line – actual ridership was less than a fifth of that figure. The resulting financial shortfalls have saddled Yongin with so much debt that the municipal government was forced into austerity measures around the time the line entered service.

The problems have brought intense scrutiny to how a consortium led by Bombardier won the right to build the project. A special investigation by Yongin prosecutors concluded that the company operated a slush fund and bribed researchers and decision-makers with gifts and trips. For half a year, a team of six South Korean prosecutors, 14 investigators and two certified public accountants worked together. They examined the records of 52 fixed phones, analyzed 115 cellphones and computers, scoured 725 bank accounts and accumulated 285 boxes of documents. “We were aiming to hold people responsible for this wrongful private-sector investment project,” prosecutor Cha Maeng-ki told The Globe.

In Yongin, lawyer Hyun Geun-taek is surrounded by more than
10,000 pages of paper, the accumulated record of legal challenges
to the Bombardier-backed Everline.

The evidence his office gathered showed that Bombardier supplied its South Korean representative, Henry Kim, with lobbying fees totalling $1.8-million over a five-year period. Bombardier sent gifts to the homes of local politicians, as well as to researchers tasked with creating the ridership forecasts that would underpin construction of the new light-rail line, the prosecutors found. Mr. Kim received a further $4.7-million in advanced payment incentives that were deposited into a Swiss bank, under the name of Mr. Kim’s wife, Mr. Cha said. Some of that money, Mr. Cha said, was used to buy real estate in South Korea.

The company also flew 37 people, including 18 city councillors, to Canada, where it “paid their full expenses, put them up in luxury hotels, and provided them with golfing trips, a trip to Niagara Falls and other luxuries,” he said. “These trips took place at the time during which Yongin city and Bombardier were going through negotiations for their business conditions.”

Mr. Cha said, “Providing gifts or funding trips to civil servants in the line of duty constitutes bribery.”

The results of Mr. Cha’s investigation were made public in 2012 and, in the years that followed, local courts found Lee Jeong-moon, the former mayor of Yongin, guilty of corruption on charges related to the EverLine construction. He was sentenced to prison for bribery related to the selection of subcontractors, including his younger brother and friends, for the rail-construction project.

Mr. Kim was found guilty of embezzling funds from the Bombardier-led consortium, where he had served as CEO. But the Bombardier representative did not face trial on charges of corrupting officials nor was the company itself charged with wrongdoing. By the time prosecutors began digging into the company’s South Korean project, it was too late for charges. “The statute of limitations at the time was five years,” Mr. Cha explained.

Canada’s toughened anti-corruption law contains no such statute of limitations.

(Mr. Kim’s phone number in South Korea has been disconnected, and The Globe was unable to reach him for comment.)

Bombardier’s Mr. Marcil, however, contested Mr. Cha’s interpretation of events. “We reject the insinuation that we, in any way, acted wrongfully in the Yongin project, or that we unduly influenced either the choice of technology or the decision to build the transit system,” Mr. Marcil said. “After our full cooperation in their investigation, South Korean investigators determined that there was no cause for charges against Bombardier.”

Mr. Lee, the former mayor sentenced to jail on corruption charges, also defends the EverLine – and the company that built it. He is “completely in favour of them,” he said in an interview. “Bombardier didn’t hurt Yongin City the tiniest bit. Not one bit.”

Bombardier had been given preferential status in bidding for the Yongin project, and was the sole company to submit a bid, according to a local lawmaker.

But the company has since gained many detractors in a city where the EverLine has grown into a symbol of extravagance and waste. The lower-than-forecast number of riders has meant less revenue than initially expected and has sparked a dizzying number of efforts to assign blame. Prosecutors charged 10 people, accusing them of bribery and violating construction safety laws. A citizens group has sued Yongin for damage compensation.

The city and the Bombardier-backed consortium faced off twice before the International Court of Arbitration, or ICA, after Yongin accused the consortium of safety flaws and noise issues. The consortium then sued over delays in opening the line, and won. In two judgments, the ICA awarded the consortium a total of 778.6 billion Korean won, an amount roughly 22-per-cent greater than the consortium’s share of construction costs. Because the city could not afford to pay the entire sum at once, it agreed to continue payments until 2043. After a contractual change, Bombardier no longer operates the rail project that it helped bring to Yongin, where the project continues to raise local passions.

Lee Sang-cheol, one of the 18 councillors who travelled to Canada with Bombardier, acknowledged that the company gave him gifts, although he down-played them as “nothing out of the ordinary.” He also defended the trip he took to Canada on Bombardier’s dime. “If they want to sell us machines, they have to show us those things,” he said. And he added that “stopping by some tourist attractions shouldn’t be such a big deal. How can we just see light rail and nothing else?”

Still, he has come to regret the company’s involvement. “Bombardier made zero losses in this transaction. Bombardier lost absolutely nothing. It took everything it wanted to take,” he said. And he resents the financial duress that the EverLine project inflicted on his city. “Honestly, what Bombardier did, it caused massive harm to Yongin city.”

Sourcing Parts For An Edsel

I think the senior management at TransLink are worried, very worried.

Bombardier is in serious finical trouble and is wanting to sell its rail division.

With Covid-19, all deals are off, as transportation conglomerates cut operations to suit their immediate financial needs.

Bombardier has now ceased all production and it is doubtful that Bombardier continue producing transit designed for niche markets, such a Movia Automatic Light Metro.

The immediate effects are that delivery dates for new MK III cars will be pushed back and spare parts will become even more scarce.

If the covid-19 scare lasts several months, the SkyTrain lobby had better be prepared for some sobering news as other transit companies may not want to produce vehicles and parts for a niche railway system that no one wants.

Ever try sourcing spare parts for an Edsel today?


Bombardier temporarily ceases work at its Canadian facilities
Posted on March 24, 2020
Employees impacted by these temporary shutdowns will be placed on furlough, as will corporate office employees whose support functions are
less critical in the short-term. Bombardier Bombardier announced that in support of the recent mandates from the Governments of Quebec and Ontario to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will suspend all non-essential work at most of its Canadian-based operations starting this evening at 11:59 pm until April 26, 2020, inclusively. The suspension includes Bombardier’s aircraft and rail production activities in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario.
Employees impacted by these temporary shutdowns will be placed on furlough, as will corporate office employees whose support functions are
less critical in the short-term. During this furlough period, Bombardier’s CEO and senior leadership team will forgo their pay, and the chairman and members of the board have agreed to forgo board compensation for the remainder of 2020.
Bombardier is also suspending its 2020 financial outlook as it evaluates the impact of temporarily closing its Canadian operations, as well as other actions being taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Since the corona virus outbreak, the company has been focused on keeping our employees safe, serving our customers to the best of our ability during these difficult times and taking the necessary actions to protect our business for the long term,” said Pierre Beaudoin, chairman of the board of directors at Bombardier Inc. “In addition to the actions announced today, Bombardier has cut all discretionary
spending, is continuing the work on closing the previously announced transactions, and is pursuing additional measures to enhance liquidity.”

Roundabout? No doubt!

It seems European tram planning is inching its way into the USA.

A tram through a round about is an interesting concept and one hopes that the auto drivers are skilled enough to negotiate it safely.

Large-roundabout on Marszalkowska Street near Central tram station in Warsaw

Roundabout for Light Rail Is One of First in the U.S.


Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority
In late May, the Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority of the Phoenix metropolitan area opened a $1.9-million extension to the area’s light rail transit line.PHOTO COURTESY WSP


June 17, 2019

Roundabout for Light Rail Is One of First in the U.S.

In late May, the Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority of the Phoenix metropolitan area opened a $1.9-million extension to the area’s light rail transit line. The new line extends service along Main Street from Mesa Drive to Gilbert Road in downtown Mesa. The project created the second roundabout in the U.S. to be incorporated into a light rail system at East Main Street and South Horne, says the construction manager, a joint venture of  WSP USA and PGH Wong. A joint venture between Stacy & Witbeck and Sundt is the contractor. As a train approaches the roundabout, crossing gates with flashing lights and bells will come down to block vehicles in the left lane of the roundabout. Drivers wishing to cross the light rail tracks queue in the lane. Vehicles traveling east or westbound on Main Street can continue their travel while the train is crossing through the intersection.


RTC Southern Nevada Goes All In on Infrastructure Week

The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada celebrated National Infrastructure Week by hosting three events with a focus on engaging and educating stakeholders, policymakers and community members. With a theme of “Technology and Innovation: The New Infrastructure of Tomorrow,” the RTC-hosted Las Vegas events were one of only four national summits. On May 15, RTC hosted a Careers in Motion event at Texas Station Hotel and Casino that attracted more than 120 attendees and 50 vendors.  “Careers in Motion is one of the building blocks, I believe, to solving the workforce issue that the construction industry has,” says Guy Martin, president of Martin-Harris Construction. “This is bringing our needs directly to the community.

Covid-19 – Time To Rethink Translink’s Metro Plans?

Something to think about.

As ridership plummets on TransLink, it will be ever harder to implement the $4.6 billion extensions to the SkyTrain light-metro network as monies will be needed to shore up a collapsing transit network. Remember, the SkyTrain light-metro network is very expensive to maintain and operate.

How can TransLink defend a $4.6 billion investment in an obsolete light-metro system, while the transit system itself shrinks due to lack of funding.

The taxpayer will have absolutely no time for tax increases and civic of provincial politicians who defend tax increases will find themselves out of office.

Mayor “Dithers” of Vancouver and the Mayor’s Council on Transit will face a rather nasty choice about continuing with Translink’s future planning.

After the Corvid-19 epidemic, the taxpayer may want to question TransLink’s gold plated, yet dated planning and if the politicians object, chances are they feel it at the ballot boxes.

Coronavirus May Have a Lasting Impact on Public Transit Funding

Ridership is likely going to plummet, which will make it harder on local transit agencies

Mar 10 2020

Coronavirus is beginning to upend American life. The stock market is crashing, universities are cancelling classes or moving them online, conferences are being canceled, and airlines are struggling. Unsurprisingly, public transportation is also going to be greatly impacted. It’s still early to know exactly how this will unfold, but without proper mitigation efforts from local governments, we could be feeling the effects of coronavirus on public transportation service for years to come.

In the short term, we can expect fewer people to use public transportation as part of a broader policy of avoiding public gatherings. We don’t have a great idea how most transit systems have been affected yet, because most report ridership numbers monthly and, believe it or not, we’re still really early into the US’s exposure.

But we do know this is already happening in San Francisco, where BART lost eight percent of ridership between the last week of February and the first week of March, a massive drop by public transportation standards. And it certainly stands to reason other transit systems will experience something similar, given that universities are cancelling classes and many workplaces are instituting work-from-home policies (not to mention some transit agencies themselves like New York’s MTA are encouraging people to avoid it if possible).

Taking these precautions, such as limiting public gatherings, in the name of public health is obviously worth doing. But not only must we prepare for coronavirus itself, so too must we prepare for the effect those precautions will have. And for public transportation, which is always in a financially precarious position, those precautions could really screw things up if other measures aren’t taken.

We’re talking about money here. Transit agencies are going to lose a lot of money. They get most of their money from two sources: fares and government subsidies, and both could be impacted by coronavirus. Some agencies depend on fare revenue more than others. On average, fares fund 32 percent of transit operations in the US, according to the Department of Transportation, and it is almost unheard of for an agency to get more than 50 percent of its operating budget through fares alone.

To just ballpark some figures for a moment, let’s consider New York’s MTA, which estimated it will receive $6.5 billion in fares this year out of a total budget of $17 billion. An eight percent reduction in fares would result in a $520 million shortfall, which is no joke for a transit agency already struggling to balance its budget. (I know that an eight percent reduction in ridership, to use BART’s figure, is not equal to an eight percent reduction in fares, especially for the MTA where fares vary wildly between commuter rail and the subway and bus system, but we don’t have any better figures at this stage.) The story is similar around the country, where even small revenue drops of a percentage point or two often force transit agencies to make tough decisions about whether to cut service or amenities.

Transit agencies are also spending more money during the coronavirus outbreak cleaning their trains, buses, and facilities more often, which is not tremendously expensive for a few weeks, but if they have to do it for months it could add to the financial pressure.

Not only will people be taking fewer transit trips because they have fewer places they need to go, but also because the alternatives are getting cheaper. Oil prices, and therefore gas prices, are tanking. Outside of New York, where most people own cars, this will make driving even more attractive. So too will the fact that most people drive in their cars alone or with friends and family they’re regularly exposed to anyway, which has its benefits during a virus outbreak.

Of course, it’s too early to tell the magnitude of any of these shifts. But it’s likely transit agencies and their advocates will have tougher cases to make when budget season rolls around.

On average, 56 percent of a transit agency’s budget comes from state or local subsidies, according to that same Department of Transportation report—the rest comes from the federal government or is directly generated by the agency through advertising or other initiatives—and a big part of convincing politicians those subsidies are worthwhile is by demonstrating people use the system with, you guessed it, ridership figures.

So, if ridership plummets, that argument becomes harder, especially if government budgets become stressed bailing out all the other at-risk businesses and populations that need more money. When it comes to governments at all levels, transit has a long history of taking the back seat during crunch time. And if people abandon it in droves due to coronavirus, history may repeat itself once again.

Hats Off to Sandor Gyarmati – While In Other News……

Hats off to Optimist reporter, Sandor Gyarmati as he correctly states:

A Boarding represents each time a passenger enters a fare paid zone using Compass fare media or other proof of payment. Transfers are counted as additional boarding’s.

This is the first time in the print or electronic media that a reporter has stated this. This is important because with over 80% of SkyTrain’s ridership first taking a bus, means boarding numbers do not relate to the actual number of people taking transit.

This translates to over 80% of SkyTrain’s ridership effectively counts as a minimum of four boarding’s a day per customer!

Something to think about!

Coronavirus: Here’s how many fewer are taking transit

Sandor Gyarmati / Delta Optimist March 20


Thousands of people have avoided taking transit amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The province, for now, has exempted buses and SeaBus from the 50-person gathering limit with TransLink saying there’s “no indication that shutting down public transit in Metro Vancouver would be an appropriate course of action at this stage.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry has called on TransLink to impose regulations to limit the amount of people on buses.

The transit authority has hit social media with advertisements with the message it is closely monitoring the situation and remains in contact with regional health authorities and other transit agencies in order to determine best practices and ensure the response is appropriate.

“At this time, we have not been directed to make any operational changes, however, we are all taking steps to ensure a high standard of cleanliness is maintained in order to reduce any potential risk of viral spread,” TransLink states.

Starting today, bus passengers are asked to board buses using rear doors only.

TransLink also says bus riders won’t have to pay fares until further notice, but fares still apply to other modes of transit including SeaBus.


Here’s recent system-wide numbers provided by TransLink:


Tuesday, March 17

-52% below the same day in 2019

Total boardings on Tuesday, March 17: 684,000


Monday, March 16

-38% below the same day in 2019

Total boardings on Monday, March 16: 843,000


Sunday, March 15

-29% below the same day in 2019

Total boardings on Sunday, March 15: 552,000


Saturday, March 14

-23% below the same day in 2019

Total boardings on Saturday, March 14: 726,000


Friday, March 13

-17% below the same day in 2019

Total boardings on Friday, March 13: 1,213,000


Thursday, March 12

-7% below the same day in 2019

Total boardings on Thursday, March 12: 1,312,000


Specifically for Tuesday, March 17:

Total Boardings were -52% below the same day in 2019

Total Bus Boardings were -48% below same day in 2019

Total Expo/Millennium Line Boardings were -54% below the same day in 2019

Total Canada Line Boardings were -59% below the same day in 2019

Total SeaBus Boardings were -69% below the same day in 2019

Total WCE Boardings were -70% below the same day in 2019


PLEASE NOTE: A Boarding represents each time a passenger enters a fare paid zone using Compass fare media or other proof of payment. Transfers are counted as additional boardings.

Boardings are available as a system total and by transit mode. This does not represent an amount of people, given that most riders have more than one boarding per journey and more than one journey per day.

On-Street Trams Around The World

During these dangerous times a small photo essay on on-street tram or LRT operation to brighten up the day.

Luxembourg’s new tramway, classic modern light rial


Edinburgh’s newer tramway. Lot’s of teething problems but now a solid performer.


Melbourne’s streetcar/tram system, now being slowly upgraded to light rail status.

Trams have now returned to Paris, modern light rail at its best!

 Brussels’ famous tramways, slowly upgrading to light rail status with new cars and dedicated rights-of-ways.

Musings From A Funeral


Sadly, I have been attending several funerals this year, but just few weeks back at a funeral for an acquaintance I bumped in to an old BC Transit type, who I dueled with back in the 80′s and early 90′s.

Having a coffee after the service, he said something quite astounding;

You know, you were right all along“.

He went on;

We were so bedazzled by all the modern kit, flashing lights and gadgets, we forgot about the cost“.

Then he added the bombshell:

TransLink was created to keep building with SkyTrain because BC Transit wanted to wash their hands of it.”

He smiled and said;

The predictions of the high cost of the system, when compared to other modes, is just staggering and we were ready to ‘draw a line in the sand’, but the SkyTrain boys and girls did an end run, by getting the government to create TransLink

Then came the punch line;

You know that TransLink is the City of Vancouver’s baby and they control it and the rest of you pay for it, that’s the NDP’s legacy on transit

With my jaw firmly on floor, the conversation meandered with valley rail and other niceties one observes at a funeral.