A Letter To South Fraser Mayors And Councils

A letter sent this week to South Fraser mayors and councils and to the media.
One wonders how TransLink and its surrogates will respond?
The following email was sent out to South Fraser mayors and councils, warning of Translink hyperbole in overstating the success of SkyTrain and the Canada Line.
This letter contains a graphic, courtesy of Ottawa’s transit agency, which should forever correct the notion that SkyTrain has a higher capacity than light rail. In 2013, it is modern light rail that has proven to have a higher capacity at a far less cost than SkyTrain, a fact not lost on transit agencies around the world, which have rejected SkyTrain since the 1980’s. Only with the Canadian government underwriting loans for foreign sales of SkyTrain, has the mode been able to be sold, but today, a total only seven SkyTrain type systems have been built.
The Canada Line is a Pandora’s box of future financial ills, as the truncated heavy-rail metro is notable for only one thing, that it is the only heavy-rail metro in the world that has less capacity than a simple streetcar or tram line.
The following is self explanatory, TransLink has not been a honest broker.
Mayor and Council;

May I introduce myself. My name is Malcolm Johnston and I have been advocating for affordable Transit in Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley since the mid 1980’s and I am now associated with the Rail for the Valley group. It was because of my knowledge of modern public transit and transit mode, I secured David Cockle and Leewood Projects (UK), to do a study (released three years ago) to see if reinstating the the Vancouver to Chilliwack Interurban was a viable option.

The Leewood Study not only showed that reinstating the Vancouver to Chilliwack interurban service was viable, the full build, 138 km. Vancouver and Richmond, to Chilliwack interurban/tramtrain service could be had for just under one billion dollars; not bad when one considers that the 11.4 km. Evergreen Line has an estimated cost of $1.4 billion in ‘yesterday’s‘ dollars.

Since its inception, TransLink has been less than honest with South Fraser politicians and taxpayers. TransLink’s recent disregard for South Fraser transit customer, by forcing those South of the Fraser transit customers who pay cash fares, to pay twice, when they are forced onto SkyTrain and Canada Line mini-metro systems to complete a paid for three zone journey, clearly demonstrates TransLink is not interested in a resolution to the problem. There is an affordable solution.

To deter fare evasion, fare-gates must be manned, and if fare-gates are manned, then the person watching the fare-gates, can easily operate a gate for non conforming tickets, such as cash fares, as is done on most major metro systems in the world that use fare-gates. It is both simple and effective.

Can TransLink be trusted to tell the truth? Probably not. TransLink’s, senior management and Board think that they are a law unto themselves and have an utter contempt for such issues as double charging fares or just about anything else. Honesty is not in TransLink’s lexicon.

Accompanying this email is a stunning graphic from Ottawa, comparing their under construction light rail system, with Vancouver’s SkyTrain. The Canada line is not mentioned because the Canada Line is not a SkyTrain at all, rather a truncated heavy-rail metro, not compatible in operation with the rest of the SkyTrain mini-metro system. There will be more about the Canada line later.

At first glance, it is easy to discern that Ottawa’s LRT will be able to operate longer trains than SkyTrain, thus will be able to provide much higher capacities than SkyTrain. As the present 80 metre SkyTrain station platforms are much shorter than Ottawa’s 120/150 metre LRT platforms, Ottawa’s LRT will obtain much higher capacities than our SkyTrain, just by using three car trains. With the majority of SkyTrain stations being elevated (with a few underground), it could cost over one billion dollars to retro-fit all the SkyTrain stations with longer platforms, to accept longer trains to increase SkyTrain capacity.

The same expenditure for extending SkyTrain station platforms, could build the Leewood Vancouver/Richmond to Chilliwack Interurban/TramTrain.

The Canada Line is a White Elephant‘ gift from the TransLink and the BC Liberals. The Canada Line’s station platforms are a mere 40 to 50 metres long, depending on the station and today is offering capacities much less than the simplest streetcar line. So bad is the capacity of the Canada Line, it has suffered chronic over crowding almost from the beginning and today, the mini-metro can barely handle the bus customers from South of the Fraser and Richmond that are forced to transfer on to the mini-metro. Claims that the Canada Line carried an average of 288,000 a day during the 2012 Winter Olympics are very doubtful as the small stations and platforms just could not handle such traffic flows.

The scope of the $2.5 billion Canada Line was so reduced to lower spiraling construction costs, it will cost several billions of dollars more to both up grade and extend the Canada Line in the future so it could match the capacity and functionality of light rail.

It would be cheaper to build a new Richmond to Vancouver LRT line, than upgrade the Canada Line!

If TransLink and the City of Vancouver succeed in obtaining funds to build the proposed SkyTrain subway to UBC, they will succeed in building a subway with an inferior performance than a at-grade operating light rail line, unless TransLink rebuilds every one of the Skytrain station platforms to a 150 metres standard! The estimated cost of Broadway subway, built to an “Ottawa” standard would then be $4 billion to $5 billion or enough money to build:

  1. A BCIT to UBC and Stanley Park LRT/tram line.
  2. The full build Vancouver/Richmond to Chilliwack interurban/TramTrain
  3. A new combined road/rail bridge replacing the badly aging Patullo and the downright decrepit Fraser River Rail Bridges. The rail bridge would be replaced with a modern lifting three track span to permit both freight and passenger operation, as well keep an open channel in the river.
  4. Three or more LRT lines in Surrey/Langley.

A newly released study by the Professional Engineer, Mr. Eric ChrisAi?? TransLink Not In Service , shows that “not having transit in Metro Vancouver would most certainly not increase road congestion and would most definitely not result in increased air pollution or carbon emissions“. The Chris study also shows that customer journeys by tram or streetcar are actually faster than journeys by SkyTrain, so why does TransLink still plan for hugely expensive subways and elevated transit lines?

The Ottawa graphic, is compelling evidence that TransLink has been seriously misleading South Fraser politicians and the public about the capacity of both the SkyTrain and Canada Line mini-metros and the ability of the Vancouver centric mini-metro system to cope with ever increasing traffic loads. For added insult, TransLink has seriously mislead politicians, the media and the public about modern LRT. If TransLink has mislead regional politicians about modern light rail, SkyTrain, and the Canada Line, this begs the question; “What else has TransLink and the TransLink Board have mislead politicians and the public about?

Only seven Skytrain type systems have been built since the late 1970’s and only the ART system in Kuala Lumpor, is seriously used as a urban metro.

Except for TransLink’s Canada line, no other transit agency in the world has built a heavy-rail metro in such a way that it has less capacity than a simple streetcar line!

TransLink is wanting more taxpayer’s money to continue its aberrant mini-metro transit planning; monies that will not improve transit in the region, but retro-fit the aging SkyTrain and Canada Line mini-metro systems, North of the Fraser River. South Fraser politicians should consider their options carefully if they are not to become an open wallet for TransLink and its questionable transit planning, either by denying Translink new revenue; or secede from TransLink altogether and operate their own South Fraser Transit Authority, as the status quo is an unsustainable financial nightmare.

TransLink is leading the regional taxpayer into a financial abyss and its time to say no.

Malcolm Johnston


LRT versus Skytrain - Copy.jpg

LRT versus Skytrain – Copy.jpg 170KAi??Ai?? ViewAi??Ai?? DownloadAi??Ai??


3 Responses to “A Letter To South Fraser Mayors And Councils”
  1. C.Jordan says:

    Great letter, but for some reason I cannot open the Ottawa graphic, Is there someplace else I can find it?

    Zweisystem replies: I sent it to you via your email.

  2. Alex says:

    “The Chris study also shows that customer journeys by tram or streetcar are actually faster than journeys by SkyTrain, so why does TransLink still plan for hugely expensive subways and elevated transit lines?” Don’t take Eric seriously. He was off his bipolar meds when he wrote his report.

    Zweisystem replies: I am sure Eric will reply, but he is a professional engineer and you sir are? Oh yes, this transit we are talking about, everyone is an expert.

    Overall travel times tend to faster by tram than by metro, except for longer journeys and if the tram doesn’t have an express track to operate on. Ever notice no one builds with Skytrain? If not, then I would surmise that you too are off your meds.

  3. eric chris says:

    @Alex, you’re welcome to review the calculations in the study which has been reviewed by Surrey engineers and other engineers. The study is available for download on this site. For the median distance of five kilometres commuted in Vancouver, travel with the tram is faster “statistically for the majority of transit users” than travel with the sky train when you consider the travel time to and from the tram along with the travel time on the tram.

    TransLink has received the study and has no comment. At TransLink, the silence is deafening and no one at TransLink wants to draw any attention to the study which is very embarrassing for TransLink which has doubled the cost of transit with sky train “to save time”. TransLink talked little of the 2012 study by Shirocca Consultants, showing TransLink to be the worst performing transit organization in Canada, too, and created the diversion, fare evasion, to distract everyone.

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