How SkyTrain Zealots Want To Crush Rational Transit Thinking

The End of the Line for SkyTrain?

Recent articles, by the SkyTrain Lobby are nothing more than the old adage; “Repeat a lie often enough and the people will come around to believing it.”

What we call SkyTrain, a combination of three railways of which one is not compatible in operation with the other two, are just simply railways.

To try to give the two unconventional railways some sort of perceived advantage, they are powered by Linear Induction Motors or LIM’s and they are fully automatic (driverless). The problem is, the two railways, built as light-metro’s cost much more to build, more to operate and more to maintain than conventional railways. Sadly for the two unconventional railways, they became museum pieces because there were cheaper and just as good alternatives.

Why spend more for one railway, when the alternative was cheaper and just as good or better?

And here lies the problem for the SkyTrain Lobby, their much cherished ALRT/ART proprietary rapid transit system.

So let us examine what we call SkyTrain, again.

  • Only seven such systems built.
  • Six name changes in 40 years, starting with; Intermediate Capacity Transit System (ICTS); Advanced Light Rail Transit System (ALRT); Advanced Light Rapid Transit System (ALRT), Automatic Light Metro (ALM), Advanced Rapid Transit (ART) and now Innovia 100, 200,Ai?? 300 series.
  • No sales in the past decade.
  • Designed to be elevated to mitigate the high cost of subway construction.
  • Limited capacity.
  • Patents owned by Bombardier Inc. and SNC Lavalin.
  • Maintenance intensive.
  • hugely expensive constriction costs.
  • Higher maintenance and operation costs, due to small cars and ’4-rail’ operation.
  • In comparison, the Expo line cot about 40% more to operate than the Calgary C-Train (both having about the same length at the time), with the C-Train carrying more passengers.
  • Only one supplier.
  • Not compatible in operation with the Canada Line, which though is called SkyTrain, is not.
  • Not compatible in operation with any other transit system.
  • Most studied of the light-metro family, with unprecedented exposure during Expo 86, yet no buyers in North America, during an era of unprecedented investment in light rail. Note, both the Detroit ICTS and the JFK/Port Authority were private deals between the operator and the UTDC/Bombardier, with the former used as a single track 4.5 km ‘people mover’ and an airport ‘people mover’ at JFK and parking lots and a subway station and are not used for urban transport.

Until there is honest debate about transit, instead of their constant harangue of SkyTrain myth and wishful thinking, congestion and gridlock will continue unabated in metro Vancouver, until the region and metro mayors enter into rational transit thinking.


7 Responses to “How SkyTrain Zealots Want To Crush Rational Transit Thinking”
  1. eric chris says:

    Helsinki, Finland is one more city in the long list of cities which use trams for public transit. Helsinki, Finland doesn’t have a housing affordability crisis. Helsinki, Finland doesn’t have road congestion chaos either.

    “The reliable and extensive tram network has 11 lines, and it connects the different parts of the inner city to each other. Annually, the tram network has nearly 57 million passengers [real passengers and not fake ones recycled from feeder buses to rapid transit by bus or rail lines and recounted five, six or up to 10 times daily by TransLink in Vancouver].”


    Making Vancouver affordable can be accomplished with five story wood (environmentally sustainable) frame walk-up townhomes which don’t lead to speculative property value escalation making Vancouver unaffordable. Nobody said that increased housing density has to be with high rise concrete towers. They drive up property values along concrete subway and viaduct lines by TransLink and require sand mined from oceans. High rise concrete towers along with the concrete subway and viaduct lines by TransLink are not environmentally sustainable and ruin lives.

    Communities aren’t clamouring to be transformed by high rise concrete condo towers destroying the fabric of their communities. Planners at TransLink and City of Vancouver are the ones ruining lives and communities and are the ones buying up properties along the Broadway corridor to increase the value of real estate driving the middle class out of Vancouver. Gulp.

    Truth is; transit orientated development or TOD hasn’t made Vancouver affordable and hasn’t reduced road congestion. Rapid transit by TransLink loses more time than it saves. It adds transfers which protract commuting times and hasn’t fostered happy marriages; add this to the misery which “rapid transit” by TransLink can take credit, your lousy marriage.

    “It’s really difficult to have a productive, happy marriage when your life circumstances are so stressful and when your day-to-day life involves, say three or four bus routes in order to get to your job.”

    Trams and trolleybuses take up road space during peak hours to encourage drivers to use public transit for short trips, to and from downtown Vancouver and UBC. They mitigate road congestion the un-TransLink and non-TOD way and are the way to go.

  2. eric chris says:

    Planning by TransLink is not copacetic and diminishes the efficacy of public transit. Haveacow made an excellent comment on the Expo Line which is already too long to attract choice commuters.

    When the service frequency of public transit matches the time to travel between adjacent stops and the number of vehicles (rail and bus) corresponds to the number of stops, the capacity of the public transit system is at its maximum and is the sum of the passengers in all the vehicles.

    While Einstein was riding the bus and looking back at the distant clock, he formulated his theory of relativity. Theorem-X isn’t Einstein’s theory of relativity relating space and time. Theorem-X simply states that the operation of more buses and trains through space and time results in more passengers carried. TransLink’s theory of “rapid transit” contradicts this.

    TransLink purports to move 418,000 “people” daily with rapid transit (one in five people in Metro Vancouver). It is probably between 250,000 to 300,000 people boarding buses and trains 1.5 times on each journey or “trip” (one-way). Likely, each “person” taking rapid transit boards a bus or train three to four times, daily, on average. This is probably much closer to reality. According to the “planners” at TransLink, cutting the number of trains or buses in operation with “rapid transit” increases the capacity of the public transit system. No, it most certainly doesn’t.

    For example, in Vancouver, the subway line (“rapid transit”) as planned from Commercial Drive to Arbutus Street along Broadway with six stops and six trains with each train carrying about 500 passengers is the public transit system (in each direction of travel). The capacity of the subway line by Theorem-X is 3,000 passengers.

    On the other hand, the tram line from Commercial Drive to Arbutus Street along Broadway with 12 stops and 12 trams with each tram carrying at least 450 passengers is the public transit system (in each direction of travel). The capacity of the tram line by Theorem-X is 5,400 passengers and is 80% greater than the capacity of the subway line. By Theorem-X, trams trounce “rapid transit”.

  3. tensorflow says:

    Don’t fully agree, Innovia 300 made a sale to Yongin’s Everline in 2013 and Beiing’s ABC in 2008.

    Besides, C-Train is actually much longer than Innovia. C-train had a length of 92m and newer generations of the Innovia had a length of 68m. This is critical since SkyTrain had much more underground section and they are inevitable.

    One supplier was indeed a major problem I agree. I am not sure if Bombardier’s LIM is compatible with Kawasaki’s LIM however. My guess is that they can be designed to be compatible since the only thing LIM required is a inductive material. If they are the government could bring more competition in.

    Zwei replies: Beijing and Yongin are two of the four cities that purchased the proprietary Innovia mini-metro system. Beijing is an airport people mover and was purchased to purchase technology and Yongin built theirs to servcie a theme park. Currently the city of Yongin is suing Bombardier for misrepresentation, due to the fact it can only operate 1 car trains!

  4. Onesystem says:

    It is too late to switch to another system.

    If you start building a subway it makes sense to keep extending it. You don’t understand the concept of transfer free travel. A perfect system as designed in 1980s was a single subway from Vancouver to Langley. One subway from ubc to Coquitlam. One from Vancouver to Richmond and airport.

    Translink is almost there. Only two more extensions needed to Langley and UBC.

    Fraser valley should get LRT from Langley to Chiliwack built by BC transit. Not part of translink.

    In Calgary they started building LRT so it makes sense to keep extending LRT. One system is better.

    Calgary is smaller regional city. Vancouver is major city.

    Zwei replies: I am sorry, you don’t make much sense. One factor you omit is that Innovia SkyTrain is a proprietary railway and if production ceases, we are SOL. Another problem is that subways do not reduce congestion and are built to provide transit on heavily used routes. The North American standard for a subway is average traffic flows of 15,000 pphpd.

    If you have read Mr. Cow’s replies, you would also see building SkyTrain to Langley would be non productive.

    - Broadway subway $3 billion
    - Innovia light-metro refurbishment and capacity upgrade – $3 billion
    - Extension to Langley – $3 billion

    So, where is the funding for this?

  5. Onesystem says:

    Calgary has many accidents with LRT and it has high cost.

    Zwei replies: Just the Expo line costs about 40% more to operate than the C-Train (both at the time were about the same length). The death rate on the C-Train is one third of that on SkyTrain. Accidents happen, but they are not the fault of the tram, but the car driver and it is better to compare tram/car accidents with car/car collisions. The car/tram accident claim is rather a man of straw argument and the solution is simple; “a years ban from driving inf a car driver is found at fault colliding with a tram”.

    You also forget that our grade separated SkyTrain has bankrupted TransLink and has not created the much desired modal shift from car to transit – only 7 built in 40 years, only 3 seriously used for regional transit -think about it.

    The fact is, if Calgary did not operate with LRT, it would not have a “rail” system at all.

  6. eric chris says:

    TransLink has taken aim at “vandalizing” pigeons, referred to as lazy slugs. Pigeons are the problem, not TransLink which created the problem with the roosts for pigeons. TransLink is studying how children watching falcons tear pigeons to bits in front of the traumatized children will go over with mothers and animal rights groups; it is costing $18,000.

    “The cooing convicts leave droppings and make passengers nervous. They also wander onto tracks and set off intrusion alarms, bringing the trains to a halt. In 2015, a nest fire caused hours-long delays on the Expo Line. “They’re very frustrating,” TransLink spokesperson Chris Bryan said.”

    Elsewhere, pigeons aren’t used as scapegoats for the failings of the public transit system. TransLink has stooped to blaming pigeons for the inefficacy of LIM trains which are poorly suited for public transit (LIM trains are too finicky and costly).

    Cool trams in the following videos operate fine without the added expense of falcons. When pigeons are taking down public transit, you switch to trams. It’s what you do.

  7. Fraser says:

    - Extension to Langley – $3 billion

    Really? where did you get that number.

    Extenstion to Coquitlam cost $1.4 million for 6 stations and a tunnel. Extension to Langley cost about same or little bit more but less than $2 billion. Extension to Langley require no tunnel, elevated all the way and 8-10 stations.

    Zwei replies: Actually it will be $6 billion, before any extension to Langley, $3 billion must be pent upgrading the Innovia SkyTrain Lines, then due to soil conditions in the Serpintine Valley, massive foundations must be made to support the elevated guideway. The last estimate from a qualified local engineer, was $3 billion. Concrete and steel cost a lot of money.

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