Costs – A Repost From January 2020

Well, things have changed in a year and a half. The Trudeau Liberals have promised that they will fund 40% of the Expo Line Extension to Langley, but premier Horgan and TransLink have not, as yet, anted up the money to pay for their portion.

With a cost, now around $3.95 billion, the 16 km extension of the Expo Line to Langley, remains about $800 million unfunded and that was with earlier cost estimates!

But Trudeau’s announcement made a fine photo-op for the now soon to be called federal election.

As the real cost for the 16 km extension of the Expo line to Langley, now needing a serious updating, combined with the wildfire fiasco and the ongoing Covid waves, again I ask:

Where is this funding coming from?


The chap who uses the avatar Haveacow is a transit and transportation expert and it is a must, reading his comments; I certainly do!

I have been in this game for almost 35 years and the song sung by the SkyTrain lobby never changes.

Those defending light metro in Metro Vancouver never deal with costs.

Current politicians defend the Broadway subway because they say all infrastructure investment is good, while ignoring the costs. Using Toronto Transit Commissions numbers, the annual cost to operate and maintain a 5.8 km subway is around $40 million annually. That is $40 million added to the current operating costs of the light metro system.

Where is the money coming from?

From fares?

I doubt it as the subway is right on the main transit route to UBC where the deep discounted U-Pass is used by students and anyone else working at UBC.

So where is this funding coming from?

Higher taxes, higher fares and a diminished bus service south of the Fraser.

But the local taxpayer is on or near his/hers breaking point paying ever higher taxes, with many older pensioners fleeing the TransLink tax zone, creating even more congestion throughout the Fraser Valley. Zwei is soon to do this as well.

So it is important to consider tempering TransLink’s claims and start worrying about costs.

We build with a light metro system that costs up to ten times more to install than LRT (TTC ART Study)

We operate a light metro system that costs more to operate and maintain than LRT

We operate a light metro system that desperately needs refurbishing, yet TransLink remains mute on the subject.

Cost is a dirty word in TransLink’s lexicon.


Graph prepared by Metrolinx to inform the debate on choice of modes

In its entirety.


The figure is 15,000 not 1500 passengers per hour per direction for the maximum theoretical capacity of the Skytran network. .


The actual figure given to C.U.T.A. by Translink for 2018 is 14200. I have no doubt that it can vary quite widely day to day (most systems do have a wide variation in daily traffic) up to14800 or even higher, however your the power system and existing track turnouts (switches) and track configuration make operations consistently above that level problematic. New higher speed turnouts need to be installed because the ones used now require the trains to slow down dramatically. Higher speed turnouts are longer with frogs (turnout points) that are at a longer angle, which means all your track geometry has to change as well as having to relocate signalling and power equipment.

Yes, you can even operate for short periods above 15,000 p/h/d but it is not recommended. Any changes to that will also require new signaling and communication equipment and signal processors. The current communication equipment can’t react fast enough if you are operating at or beyond its limit. Legally, 1 train every 109 seconds is the operational limit.. This limit is set by Transport Canada and the Transportation Safety Agency. If you want to lower the operating frequency a new proving test and schedule has to be approved. This can take 2 years as long as Translink has the improvements in place so that the testing can begin. One major problem, the existing electrical power system for the entire network is at its limits. More trains increases the electrical resistance on the system that ,lowers the electrical current level, its the electrical current or flow that actually moves the trains.

Most of the cabling that attaches all this track and signaling infrastructure to the power system and the operating system is old and also in desperate need of replacement. The fires you have along the tracks are because animals and birds are building nests on top of or traveling along the cables. Their claws, talons and beaks have cut into the now aging and probably non-pliable overly rigid cable sheaths and are causing shorts. Many of the cable connectors and brackets are also in need replacement.

Can you increase the capacity of each train by increasing the size of the trains (which is exactly what they are doing) yes but again, there are conditions to this. The more you go over the limit of 15,000 p/h/d you severely tax the Citiflo 650 operating system. Bombardier is now no longer updating the Citiflo 650 and Bombardier is switching to a new automation operating system, which means knowing Bombardier, all new equipment will need to be purchased. Bigger trains increase the electrical resistance on the power system, which lowers the current available. Drop the current too low and everything stops. Can you fix this sure, but that requires more new electrical infrastructure, that costs big money!

Much of the existing infrastructure on the core part of the Expo Line is 33-36 years old depending on the construction date, remember it opened in 1986, much of the bridges and concrete could be at least 36 or even 37 years old now. Concrete ages geometrically, the longer you put off refurnishing said concrete, the more the costs grow above just inflationary pressure. I saw much concrete patch work on the underside of the viaducts during my last visit but no rebuilt new concrete sections. The concrete base plate that the track actually sits on needs work and isn’t getting it..

@Rico and @Fredinno,

Passenger flows of 25,700 are possible but will require 5 car trains, an updated and new automation operating system, major overhauls of electrical and signaling infrastructure. Track work will also have to be done, base plate and viaducts will require refurbishment to the steel reinforcement and concrete. This sounds simple but it is very expensive and time consuming. Very, very time consuming on an operating line. The existing infrastructure just can’t do the passenger flows you want . The vast majority of this work hasn’t even been budgeted yet by Translink.

$860 million in brand new signaling infrastructure as well as some tunnel reinforcement and track upgrades have been happening on Subway Line #1 in Toronto. This is the 66 year old, Yonge-University-Spadina-York subway line which is the busiest in the country. The TTC has been shutting down sections of the line on weekends for 7 and half years now to do all the work required. This was the preferred choice compared to shutting the whole line down for 1.5-2 years. It appears they will still be doing work on it well into 2020.After that, they have to do line #2, the Bloor-Danforth Subway Line.

Lastly, more new and larger trains mean a new yard for. You guys are out of yard space. A new maintenance and storage yard for Skytrains was planned in the follow on extension of the Expo Line to Langley. However, a spy of mine just told me that, due to ever increasing land costs in the Lower Mainland of B.C., the yard may have to be built as part of an interim extension because the cost of going all the way to Langley and building a new maintenance and storage yard at the same time is not affordable, unless senior levels of government pay for the whole line. Translation, Translink can’t afford its 33% and in this case, even 20% of the expected cost of the line is to high to get to Langley as well as build any other extensions at the same time. Like the extension of the Millennium Line to UBC from Arbutus.


5 Responses to “Costs – A Repost From January 2020”
  1. Bill Burgess says:

    Equally important with capital cost is ridership, level of service provided (time, comfort, etc.) and operating revenue/costs. A Netpis Foundation report corrects the one-sidedness of the Metrolinx graph with one exhibiting the net cost of different modes:

  2. Haveacow says:

    The problem of using BCA’s is that they are:

    1. BCA’s are totally dependent on the time, the length of the period of time you choose to measure severely effects the outcome of the analysis.

    2. BCA’s work on a case by case basis network or holistic effects can’t be effectively measured.

    3. BCA’s have an extremely short shelf life due to the overly subjective choices of inputs. This is a business tool originally used to determine whether investments in a product should be made. Transportation especially public transportation is about access not financial gain. Most road warriors always want BCA’s used when transit projects need analysis but scream like hell when used on a road project. This is because the choice is binary yes or no, usually no. Complex engineered transit projects are built for many reasons not just returns on investment.

    I made a lot of money teaching road and highway engineers how to design projects that do well on BCA’s, 94% of road projects fail their BCA’s. However, a good BCA number doesn’t necessarily make a great or even useable road or public transportation project.

  3. Haveacow says:

    Capital cost is by far the most important measure especially, in the case of many Skytrain extension projects. The simple reason, you don’t have enough capital. AGAIN, YOU GUYS DON’T HAVE ENOUGH CASH to build with the Skytrain! The large amount of capital needed vs. the amount of service in km’s you get compared to other rapid transit modes is a paramount issue. Yes, certain rapid transit modes won’t move as many people on a single line by line basis compared to a Skytrain but if the capital cost difference is so high that multiple, physically segregated, real BRT lines, can be sent to a specific area instead of just one much shorter Skytrain line for the same amount of money, which is the better deal?

    I was involved with the original planning of the VIVA Rapidway Program in York Region, just north of the City of Toronto. These 2 lane, physically segregated busways are relatively inexpensive, have easily expandable stations and can be with little engineering difficulty, converted to even higher capacity LRT rights of way. For $1.8 Billion York Region built 36 km of surface Rapidway. LRT wasn’t initially considered because of the need to build up York Region’s anemic transit passenger numbers first.

    Vancouver is spending $4.42 Billion to build 12.7 km of Skytrain, unfortunately maybe less. This includes 2 projects, a 5.7 km Skytrain extension to Arbutus, most of it tunnel and an extension of the Skytrain to Fleetwood, the first 7 km of a 16 km extension to Langley. As it turns out, the $1.63 Billion to build the first 7 km of the Langley extension may not be enough to build those first 7 km let alone go all the way to Langley. You wait for even more cash from the province because the cost of the line has drastically increased and the local component of the funding maybe valued much less than originally thought. I wonder what $4.42 Billion of tunnelled LRT, above grade LRT, surface LRT or even VIVA BRT Rapidway, would look like and how much more you would get?

    There’s no point worrying about how much ridership, level of service, relative passenger travel comfort and how long or short the trip time of a Skytrain extension is versus some other rapid transit mode, if you can’t even afford to build the planned Skytrain extension. At some point, someone has to ask, “why are you getting so little Skytrain for such a massive cost, everytime?” Every extension forces Translink to do increasing numbers of financial somersaults to pay for it’s ever shrinking proportion of the Skytrain bill.

    Zwei replies: Correct, yet our politicians never, ever deal with costs, leaving future generations to bear the burden of their excesses.

  4. Bunnyman says:

    The federal government has plenty of cash.

    Zwei replies: Er, no. it is your tax money sunshine!

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