An Essay on TransLink, SkyTrain and Carbon Emissions

A new player in Vancouver politics,Ai??Vancouver Green Citizensai??i?? Group, is emerging and is taking critical aim atAi?? Metro Vancouver and TransLink.

I have always said that Translink’s ridership numbers are inflated and the recent news releases; re releases and re re releases are indicative of TransLink’s desperate attempt to coax the public to accept Metro Vancouver’s 10 year plan and the implementation of road pricing.

I think TransLink is failing to find anything but a small base to support their two hugely expensive transit projects, both of which are tantamount to be two major fast ferry style fiascos, which will do nothing to reduce auto use and pollution, but will greatly increase Translink’s operational subsidies and property taxes.

The Broadway subway is the biggest threat to public transit in Vancouver as the huge costs involved, the huge annual subsidies will mire TransLink into a muddy quicksand of debt and pollution.

From the KPMG, Pete Marwick, Stevenson & Kellog - 1992 GVRD Cost of transporting people in Greater Vancouver. Source BC Transit. Inflation adjusted $250 million!


Either the housing crisis tied to rapid transit or climate change exacerbated by rapid transit is enough to scuttle the Broadwaysubway.Ai?? When Steer Davies Gleave did its ai???studyai??? in 2012 to award the Broadway subway to the World Bank barred engineering firm ai???selectedai??? to build it, electric vehicles and bikes werenai??i??t ubiquitous.Ai?? This makes the GHG intensity of users whoai??i??d take the Broadway subway untenable in 2018.

In the table, the carbon footprint for the rail lines is based upon the CO2 which Shoshanna (professional engineer) from McGill andAi??MIT (see below) determined for the Sheppard line subway in Toronto (30,545 tonnes of CO2 per km of subway). Carbon footprint is approximate for the above ground portions of the rail lines (horizontal guideways, vertical supports and stations).Ai?? Whatever the carbon footprint turns out to be, TransLink dropped the ball, and the carbon footprint of public transit here is the highest in Canada because the rapid transit lines here really donai??i??t carry many people (small trains) and the GHG emissions from the concrete poured for the lines are incredible.

ai???Shoshanna Saxe, an associate professor at the universityai??i??s department of civil engineering… Building even a relatively small subway like the 5.5-km Sheppard line is a massive, pollution-intensive project. Using data provided by the TTC, Saxe estimated the line required 358,851 cubic metres of concrete and 40,000 tons of rebar to build.
Producing the construction materials generated significant pollution, including at the mineral extraction, mining and processing stages. Emissions were also generated by the energy consumed at the subway construction sites and the movement of people and materials to and from construction locations. In total, Saxe estimated that Lineai??i?? generated almost 168,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalentai??? [30,545 tonnes of CO2 per km of subway].

The average number of people taking public transit for the bus system from 2017 to 2018 and rail lines from 1985 to 2018 is calculated from the annual passenger-trips published by metrovancouver from 1989 to 2015 with the annual passenger-trips for missing years extrapolated.Ai?? TransLink stopped reporting the passenger-trips after 2015 when the passenger-trips went down and the boardings went up for public transit (contradiction whichAi??exposed the spurious method used by TransLink to count riders).Ai?? This indicates that TransLink has used rapid transit to force transfers and inflate ridership.Ai?? When TransLink could no longer expand the U-Pass program further after 2015 to inflate ridership with more double counting, presumably, TransLink stopped giving metrovancouver the data on passenger-trips.

From 2002 to the present, TransLink does not break-out passenger-trips for the Expo Line and combines passenger-trips for the Expo Line and Millennium Line (listed as SkyTrain).Ai?? To arrive at the number of people using the Expo Line from 2002 to 2018, 58% of the passenger-trips for SkyTrain are apportioned to the Expo Line (58% of the SkyTrain length is used as the approximate factor for the passenger-trips on the Expo Line).Ai??Ai??Annual passenger-trips are divided by two (two trips to and from home daily by people using public transit) and 365 days to arrive at the number of people using public transit on any given day for the Expo Line and other rail lines.Ai?? About 882,764 tonnes of CO2 (approximate) were generated when the Expo Line was built.Ai?? On average, roughly 31,000 people (representing about 100,000 boardings or 60,000 passenger trips on average for weekdays and weekends) on any given day have commuted on the Expo Line over the last 32 years (0.9 tonne of CO2 per person per year).
Only 28.9 kmAi??with 20 stations was used as the Expo Line length.Ai?? This is fromAi??the hardcopy inAi??the report which was referenced in 2013, TransLink Not in Service.Ai?? Apparently, the length of the Expo Line listed (after the Evergreen Line went into operation) on the internetAi??now hasAi??theAi??greaterAi??length of 36.4 kmAi??with 24 stations.Ai?? Carbon footprint for the Expo Line is greater with the 36.4 km length.

ai??i??Only 10% of the 2.5 million people (250,000 people) on average (weekends and weekdays) in Metro Vancouver use public transit, and the table shows about 300,000 people using all modes of public transit.Ai?? Even though the distribution of people by mode of public transit might be off, the average number of people using public transit in the table canai??i??t be too far off.Ai?? Incidentally,Ai??the maximum number of people using public transit during the peak hour is the average number of people using public transit for the dayAi??multiplied by roughly three.
ai??i??Another way of looking atAi??the carbon footprint for the Expo LineAi??is that 31,000 people driving cars with the GHG intensity of 0.9 tonne of CO2 per car per year over 32 years produces the same amount of CO2 as the concrete poured for the Expo Line when it was built in 1985 (882,764 tonne of CO2 or whatever it is with the actual amount of concrete used and the number of people carried).Ai?? Carbon emissions by mode are additive in the table for the number of modes used by the public transit commuter.Ai?? It is wrong for TransLink to use passenger trips or boardings by people on public transit to calculate GHG intensity and compare it to the annual GHGAi??intensity by drivers in cars.
If UBC could do the research to determine the actual carbon footprint of commuters taking public transit in Metro Vancouver, it could be presented to MLA Andrew Weaver to go to bat for the tram line.Ai?? Also, Steve Brown whoai??i??s the COV engineer for the Broadway subway could be requested to provide his calculations of the carbon footprint of the Broadway subway for peer review whichAi??could be sent to Shoshanna SaxeAi??toAi??vet.
ai??i??Vancouver Green Citizensai??i?? Group

British Columbia, Canada


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