A news release from Rail for the Valley – Light rail groups renew call to scrap SkyTrain expansion


September 29, 2009
Media Release (for immediate release)

Rail For The Valley and the Light Rail Committee today joined forces in calling on provincial and federal governments, and Translink, to respect the wishes of local governments in the region, and start work on a modified Evergreen line.

John Buker, a spokesman with Rail For The Valley, pointed out that no new taxes would be required to be collected by Translink, if only senior levels of government would listen to the communities affected and build using at-grade light rail instead of Skytrain. Said Buker: “With Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts wanting at-grade light rail for Surrey as well, the potential now exists to rapidly and relatively inexpensively build up a large light rail network in the region, using a mixture of track-sharing with existing railroads and newly constructed light rail.”

Translink’s original proposal for the Evergreen line, supported by area mayors at the time, was as a light rail line. It would have saved about $400 million in construction costs compared to Skytrain. However, Light Rail Committee spokesman Malcolm Johnston points out that we could do much better than even that.

“The Light Rail Committee had years ago proposed a plan for light-rail in the Tri-City area, which would cost a fraction of the cost of Translink’s,” said Johnston. “The plan, which takes into account the advice of several transit consultants, would use use diesel and diesel-electric light-rail vehicles, combining track sharing with existing railways and the use of on-street operation where practical.”

Johnston explained the route of the proposed line: “The plan consisted of on-street operation from Port Moody to Coquitlam Centre, with a spur line using the Ioco freight branch to the Esso refinery line to 1st Ave. in Ioco. The line would then travel South along Lougheed highway till it connected to theAi??Ai?? CPR rail line paralleling the Lougheed highway, connecting to the BNSF/CN mainline until it reached Pacific Central Station in Vancouver. This would give very fast journeys for people living in the Tri-Cities to Vancouver and visa versa. The Light Rail Committee estimated that the cost of this line would have been in the neighbourhood of $400 million to $600 million and giving a superior and direct service to downtown Vancouver. For a fraction the cost of SkyTrain or TransLinkA?ai??i??ai???s grossly over engineered light-rail plans, we could get a much larger usable A?ai??i??E?railA?ai??i??ai??? network that would be available to far more transit customers than a truncated light-metro line.”

Questions have been raised as to why the provincial and federal governments, in such trying economic times, would continue to go against the wishes of municipalities who are themselves asking for a cheaper alternative. Many have speculated that the federal government’s interest in finding Bombardier a market for it’s Skytrain vehicles is skewing local transit plans.

Said Johnston: “It’s further proof that the regions rapid transit plans are geared for Eastern Canadian politicians using local taxpayers money to subsidize jobs in both Ontario and Quebec.”

For further inquiries, please contact

Light Rail Committee spokesman Malcolm Johnston

John Buker
Rail For The Valley


No Responses to “A news release from Rail for the Valley – Light rail groups renew call to scrap SkyTrain expansion”
  1. mezzanine says:

    I believe the original Evergreen LRT planning documents are found here:


    Planned cost = $970 million (2007)
    Length = 11.2 km
    Elevated guideway = 0.8 km
    Tunnel = 2.8 km
    *Max capacity 4800/hr/direction*
    2-car train sets of ~38 metres length.

    Of note the *maximum* capacity of Evergreen LRT as originally planned is less than a third of the Canada line maximum capacity.

    Zweisystem replies: The capacity of the Millennium Line by contract is 26,000 pphpd; the capacity of the Canada Line is between 12,000 pphpd to 15,000 pphpd; the capacity of LRT is now over 20,000 pphpd (Tune Mun in Hong Kong carries over 25,000 pphpd); if TransLink claims that LRT’s capacity is 1/3 of the Canada Line, they are guilty of professional misconduct and there should be an investigation of this claim. As Gerald Fox stated: “I found several instances where the analysis had made assumptions that were inaccurate, or had been manipulated to make the case for SkyTrain. If the underlying assumptions are inaccurate, the conclusions may be so too.”

    Sorry to say TransLink’s planning is very disingenuous and not worth the paper its printed on. As i stated before “Pixie Dust Planning’.

  2. kstar35 says:

    “‘Although the Evergreen Line’s ALRT [SkyTrain] technology has higher construction costs than LRT, it has significantly lower annual operating costs’… Bond said in a statement.”

    What are the differences in operating costs? Would they be more or less than the subsidy needed for Skytrain?

    Zweisystem replies: Absolute nonsense, SkyTrain has much higher operating costs than LRT. Just the Expo line cost about 60% more to operate than the Calgary C-Train LRT (both lines about same length). Automatic metro systems cost more to operate than non automatic transit systems until ridership on the metro line exceeds about 20,000 to 25,000 pphpd. This is one of the major reasons that skyTrain has failed to find a market, it costs more to operate than light rail. Bond hasn’t a clue what she is talking about and maybe why she was chosen to be Transportation Minister.

  3. mezzanine says:

    @kstar35 = More analysis from Evergreen LRT planning documents:


    Annualized capital cost+maintenance per passenger: Skytrain= $4.30, LRT = $6.95

    -this is assuming projected ridership on Skytrain and LRT is correct on this analysis.
    -major savings with skytrain are made with the assumption that the burnaby train yard will be used for skytrain (ie they do not have to build a new one.

    Zweisystem replies: Fact is the Burnaby yard may not big enough for the Evergreen Line, what is more TransLink greatly inflated the costs for a LRT yard. Don’t you guys read, don’t you listen, American Transit expert Gerald Fox shredded the SkyTrain Evergreen Line Business Case, is short he claims that the analysis between SkyTrain and LRT are as phony as a three dollar bill. TransLink has also underplayed the real cost of SkyTrain and still pretend its cheaper to operate than light rail. One wonders why with such dramatic savings in operating costs, only four Bombardier ART systems have been sold out of a total of only seven SkyTrain systems in the past 30 years? TransLink is pulling a fast one on the taxpayer and with no fear of oversight, know they can get away with it.

  4. Jason says:

    Zweisystem replies: ….. There is only one taxpayer, it doesn’t matter if TransLink or the province pays, it comes out of one pocket.

    That’s not quite true. Funding from different levels of government means that the burden for a given project or agency is spread out over a larger tax base. A $1 billion project paid by the federal government results in a smaller tax burden for each individual taxpayer than if the same project was funded by the provincial government. Which in turn would be a smaller per taxpayer burden than the $1 billion being paid for by Metro Vancouver taxpayers.

    That’s not to say cost should be ignored or stupid technology choices don’t matter because the federal or provincial is picking up the tab. Governments at all levels need to be more responsible with our money.

    Not quite related to this post, but relevant – it always annoys the hell out of me when the provincial or federal government offer money for a capital project while expecting the local government to pay a portion of the capital costs AND pay for 100% of the operating costs. This is part of what had contributed to Translink’s financial problems. For example, the federal and/or provincial government offer up $200 million for new buses, but the money is contingent on Translink paying a portion of the capital cost and 100% of the operating cost. If Translink says no because we can’t afford the capital cost, the money from the higher levels of government is gone.

    Either the senior governments need to start providing stable annual operating funding or remove the requirement that the local government pays a portion of the capital cost. And they also need to stop meddling in the region’s transit policies and stop forcing Skytrain-technology as a condition of receiving funding.

    Zweisystem replies: Isn’t it interesting that in Europe and the USA, the taxpayer (public) know the real cost of a transit project over its fiscal lifetime; I would be hard pressed to find anyone in BC outside of TransLink and the provincial government, that would know the real cost of the Expo Line, Millennium Line and the RAV/Canada Line over their fiscal lifetimes.


Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] committee, March 19th, 2003, City of Richmond, Minutes [4] Evergreen Line Facts [5] a-news-release-from-rail-for-the-valley see also: “SkyTrain extension not an astute investment”, John Malcom, VancouverSun, […]

    Zweisystem replies: Who Voony is, one does not know, but an avowed SkyTrain supporter he is. Lesson number one Voony: There is only one taxpayer, it doesn’t matter if TransLink or the province pays, it comes out of one pocket.