A Tale of Two Letters

Two letters to the Vancouver Province newspaper have found their way into Zwei’s inbox.
TransLink is broken, probably broken beyond repair and no political candidate has the moral jam to state the obvious.
Throw more money at TransLink, that’s the ticket for improving our regional transit system” is the clarion call of prospective MLA wannabees, which for most, don’t even have a basic notion about regional transit.
Elections will come and go, but TransLink will remain, bloated, inept, and disingenuous – a true follower of the ‘Peter Principle’; it has been ever thus.
Despite well over $8 billion spent on three mini-metro lines
mode share by ‘auto driver’ has remained unchanged at 57%Ai?? since 1994
Dear Susan Lazaruk, Province reporter,
Why it is so easy to get around without transit for 86% of the population in Metro Vancouver
It takes me 32 minutes to cycle 10 kilometres to work in Vancouver, and I have no trouble getting where I want to go.Ai?? When I really have to get there fast and conveniently – I drive and rarely if ever take transit.Ai?? I and many others would never live in Coquitlam or Surrey, for instance, to commute hours on transit for work or school in Vancouver.
You are being presumptuous in your assertion that it is hard to get around in Metro Vancouver and you selected two very atypical transit users to quote in your story – Ms. Julienne Cajes living in Coquitlam and taking arts at UBC and Mr. Daryl Dela Cruz living inAi?? Surrey and dreaming of attending Kwantlen College one day.
Car pooling or living near Kwantlen College doesnai??i??t appear to be an option for Mr. Daryl Dela Cruz.Ai?? Taxpayers must therefore pay for his ride on transit as far as Mr. Daryl Dela Cruz is concerned, and by the way, to employ executives making big salaries at TransLink to serve Mr. Daryl Dela Cruz, letai??i??s not forget that.Ai?? TransLink employees who are all overhead at the TransLink headquarters and who donai??i??t do any real work to make the buses and trains run – drink plenty of premium coffee and donai??i??t come cheap.
Mr. Daryl Dela Cruz in your story laments at possibly not being able to attend college because there is currently no transit [sky train] to take him to Kwantlen College – so sad, makes me want to weep listening to the melancholy song on the web radio from Munich operating high quality trams using much less electrical energy than the crappy, inefficient and costly elevated trains operated by TransLink.Ai?? Germans arenai??i??t stupid and have no use for sky train.
Sometimes the 99 B-Line lineups extend all the way up the escalators proclaims cheery faced Ms. Julienne Cajes in your story.Ai?? If TransLink operated express and articulated buses on West 4th Avenue every two minutes like it does along Broadway served by the 99 B-Line articulated buses – to provide an alternative for students, Broadway would no longer be the busiest bus route (by design) in North America.Ai?? Ms. Julienne Cajes would be able to get to UBC without the lineups giving her the (occasional) excruciatingly long five minute or slightly longer wait (what TransLink terms 2,000 pass-ups daily) for the next available 99 B-Line bus at Commercial Drive.
Both Ms. Julienne Cajes andAi?? Mr. Daryl Dela Cruz represent the insignificant faction of transit users traveling exceedingly long distances, and the median travel distance in Metro Vancouver is a mere seven kilometres.Ai?? Their travel plights on transit are self-imposed and sky train to UBC would not be sustainable – it promotes longer transit commutes while doing nothing to reduce vehicle traffic.Ai?? Both Ms. Julienne Cajes andAi?? Mr. Daryl Dela Cruz are captive riders who are stuck on transit due to personal and financial reasons and giving them long distance transit to travel farther to work or school only increases carbon emissions and transit costs.Ai?? Transit for them does not remove cars from the roads as they are unemployed students and are not potential drivers in any case.
As Jordan Bateman says in your story, we already pay far too much in taxes for transit ai??i?? over $500 annually for most residents in Metro Vancouver when you add up the property, gas, parking and other taxes paid to TransLink ai??i?? for TransLink executives doing nothing useful for their pay to live the good life.Ai?? TransLink has no incentive to cut down on waste when it can just raise taxes to continue to be inefficient.
Look at the 99 B-Line today on Sunday April 21st, for instance – all the express 99 B-Line buses have few people on board and TransLink is still operating mostly empty regular trolley buses as well along side the 99 B-Line diesel buses, anyhow.Ai?? There is lots of fat to cut at TransLink and cutting the express 99 B-Line service on weekends would be a good start in a few days when transit demand drops even further to almost nothing after UBC students stop attending UBC for the next four months.
Eric Chris, Vancouver
And letter #2
I would like to comment on yesterday’s article on transit in Sunday’s paper.

Both Ms. Julienne Cajes and Mr. Daryl Dela Cruz are typical of today’s transit customer, students who use or will use, deep discounted fares on a very expensive transit system, thus depriving the transit system the full fare revenue it needs to maintain service. If one has not slept through their school maths classes, it is easy to see why, buses and the mini-metro full of students traveling with deep discounted fares, deter full fare paying passengers, who generally drive instead.

The real problem with regional transit is, of course, our SkyTrain mini-metro system and the massive costs associated with the now obsolete mode.

SkyTrain, first conceived in the mid 70′s, was supposed to bridge the gap between what a Toronto PCC streetcar could carry and that requiring a metro. During the same period, the streetcar was evolving into light rail by using articulated vehicles and operating the ‘new’ streetcars on reserved rights-of-ways or R-o-W’s reserved for the exclusive use of the tram or streetcar. Almost instantly, the new light rail or LRT made SkyTrain obsolete because LRT could carry more people at a far cheaper cost. This is why only 7 SkyTrain type systems have been built since the late 70′s (only two are seriously used for regional transit, Vancouver and Kuala Lumpur), which compares very badly with the over 160 new LRT systems built and over 30 more under construction. It also explains why SkyTrain has never been allowed to compete against LRT.

Today, LRT can be built much cheaper than SkyTrain ($7 mil/km for TramTrain or a streetcar that can operate on the mainline railway) or $15 mil/km for on-street operation or $25 mil to $35 mil/km for LRT operating on a reserved R-o-W.

Contrary to what many people would have us think, modern LRT, operating as a streetcar or LRT can obtain very high capacities if needed. The simple streetcar or tram line on Kaiserstrasse, in Karlsruhe Germany, is seeing trams catering to traffic flows in excess of 40,000 persons per hour per direction during peak hours, which is almost double what SkyTrain can carry without spending billions of dollars more for station and track upgrades.

This also puts a lie to the BC Auditor General’s Department claims that “SkyTrain and not light rail was the best option because of its greater capacity at similar costai??i??.ai???.


I sent the AG’s comment to several transit experts overseas for their feedback and the replies I got were blunt and to the point and can be summed up as The Auditor General’s findings were contrary to established facts and findings.

The reply from a German transit specialist was striking.Two embarrassing factual errors (mistakes or lies) in one sentence.

As anyone whoai??i??s not dyslexic can find out in just a few minutes.

Wow. Corporate communications spokesdroids in action.

1. Greater capacity:



ai???4.9.5 Operating Capacity
The system will be capable of delivering a peak hour capacity of 10,400
passengers in 2021.ai???

Calgary C-train has a capacity of 12,000 *seats* phpd *today*. Which can
easily be upgraded to 15,000 *seats* phpd by additional rolling stock.
Capacity including standees is in excess of 30,000 pphpd.

Try to match that capacity with any system that requires grade-free
stations (with stairwells, escalators, etc.) and you will see that
the stations are *the* major chokepoint of such systems. As can be seen
from the requirement for expensive reconstruction of certain stations
at Vancouver. Low-floor light rail rolling stock allows for side
platforms at level with sidewalks etc., so there is *no* such

2. Similar cost:



ai???Estimated Cost: $1.4 billionai???

for a line of 11km in length. Thatai??i??s $127 mio per km.

Calgaryai??i??s South Line extension to 210 Avenue is projected at $180 mio
for 3.5 km. Thatai??i??s $51 mio per km. Which I would still consider as
outrageously expensive, but itai??i??s still just a fraction of ART.

Sincerely, Wolfgang

Here we have the real problems of TransLink’s continued financial chaos:

  1. Deep discounted student tickets (over 110,000 U-passes have been issued), chasing away full fare customers.
  2. A reliance on the now obsolete, yet very expensive SkyTrain mini-metro for regional transit.
  3. Lysenkoism. Lysenkoism: describes the manipulation or distortion of the scientific process as a way to reach a predetermined conclusion as dictated by an ideological bias, often related to social or political objectives. In local terms, Lysenkoism is the manipulation and distortion of transit planning to favour SkyTrain over modern light rail. So successful has been SkyTrain Lysenkoism, that it has even fooled the Auditor Generals Department!

Until we deal with the real problems with TransLink, the bureaucratic edifice will always remain a financial sinkhole, sucking in vast amounts of the taxpayer’s monies, yet providing little in the way of improved service.


Malcolm Johnston


The term Lysenkoism was used by a German transit specialist, when I asked him to give a succinct answer to TransLink’s transit planning.



3 Responses to “A Tale of Two Letters”
  1. I. K. Brunel says:

    If the the above graphic is correct and the regional mode share has remained at 57%, then it must be taken that your SkyTrain metro system is a failure. The real success of a new transit system is modal shift, or the shift of car drivers to transit and in Vancouver there is none.

    It seems that the 3% increase in transit comes from car passengers and makes me wonder if your U-Pass student cheap fare transit passes account for this. If it is, it indicates that the U-Pass has increased transit use, but at what cost?

    What I do not see in your part of the world is accurate cost accounting of transit, even your Auditor General seems to have done his sums on the back of envelopes.

    What really astound myself and my associates is that you want to build more, despite clear and loud signals that what you are doing is not working. This reminds me of an old adage: “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result, is a sign of lunacy”.

  2. eric chris says:

    In the second letter by Malcolm, John Doyle did not do an adequate financial and technical analysis of the Evergreen Line (EGL) and it was a whitewash. If the provincial government really wanted the truth, it would have hired an arms length engineering firm to evaluate the EGL based on its overall speed, electrical efficiency, easy of maintenance, equipment quality… cost. This was not done and it seems that John Doyle had to swallow his pride to keep his job as “watch dog”.

    In the EGL link, it starts off badly with sloppy grammar “an LRT” rather than “a LRT” – to set the tone for what follows with numbers pulled out of the air without any real basis:


    First, along the EGL in the link – you have six stations with a separation of 2,200 metres on average. To walk to these stations along the line is going to take up to 8.25 minutes (2,200 m / 2 / 8 kph = 8.25 minutes). Total potential trip time for sky drain = 11 km / 40 kph on the sky train plus 8.25 minutes walking = 16.5 minutes + 8.25 minutes = 24.75 minutes.

    Coquitlam is very sparsely populated and even if you have stops every 400 m, the tram does not have to stop every 400 metres. This speeds up the average trip time on the tram especially during off peak hours.
    For the tram along the EGL with a separation of 400 m, the walking time is up to 1.5 minutes (400 m / 2 / 8 kph = 1.5 minutes).

    Total potential trip time for tram = 11 km / 30 kph on the tram for sparsely populated Coquitlam plus 1.5 minutes walking = 22 minutes + 1.5 minute = 23.5 minutes. So, in fact, for most people taking transit, trams for the EGL are slightly faster than sky train, when you do the math.

    Moreover, trams cost about $500 million for high quality German trains; whereas, sky train costs $2.5 billion for low quality sky trains ($1.4 billion for the EGL and the additional $1.1 billion for upgrades to the Millennium Line) – if cost matters. Neither speed on transit nor cost of transit appears to be an issue for John Doyle who likes sky train because it is slower and more expensive than trams! It is the best choice because TransLink says so! Thank you watch dog!

    Second, driving is still twice as fast as sky train door to door, and besides, townhouses along the EGL are coming with double garages for most of the people moving to Coquitlam to drive, so you just know that the modal share is not going to waiver from 57% drivers in Metro Vancouver and might increase thanks to the EGL:


    Finally, my neighbour has a son who is attending UBC. To obtain a decent paying job this summer, in northern Alberta, he must obtain his class 3 driver’s licence – of course, if he did not have any ambition, he could just take a minimum wage paying job in Vancouver and ride sky train, instead.

  3. Kenji Tanaka says:

    Rail for the valley is no-brainer, thank you Eric Chris! Where are all the people moving to? The valley!