Is The Canada Line A Classic White Elephant?
From Wiki: A white elephant is an idiom for a valuable but burdensome possession of which its owner cannot dispose and whose cost (particularly cost of upkeep) is out of proportion to its usefulness or worth. The term derives from the story that the kings of Siam (now Thailand) were accustomed to make a present of one of these animals to courtiers who had rendered themselves obnoxious, in order to ruin the recipient by the cost of its maintenance. In modern usage, it is an object, scheme, business venture, facility, etc., considered to be without use or value.
The Gordon Campbell Liberal government in eager haste to reward their political friends in Richmond, Vancouver, and the Vancouver International Airport, cobbled together an expensive SkyTrain subway plan to provide both quick service to YVR and not using the former BC Electric Vancouver to Richmond interurban Arbutus Line, which bisects the more posh west side of Vancouver. To pretend that the subway portion of the Canada Line was viable a P-3 charade was hatched to hide real costs of the project.
It should be noted at this point that the judge overseeing the Susan Heyes/TransLink lawsuit called the Canada Line P-3 process a charade!
To TransLink’s chagrin, a conventional metro was chosen, built as a mini-metro through the charade P-3 process, which was incompatible with the rest of the proprietary SkyTrain mini-metro system. As costs for the mini-metro began to escalate from the original cost of $1.3 billion, the scope of the project was greatly reduced, including cheaper cut & cover construction instead of a bored tunnel; not paying compensation to people badly affected by cut & cover subway construction; omitting some stations; single track operation in Richmond and YVR; and build smaller stations with 40 metre to 50 metre platforms, which could accommodate only 2 car trains.
As built the Canada Line cost about $2.5 billion to build, yet was near capacity soon after it opened. All Vancouver bound South Surrey, South Delta and Richmond bus routes were cascaded onto the Canada Line and forcing transit customers to transfer from bus to mini-metro. Despite dubious claims of record high ridership, the Canada line, as built, has the capacity of a heritage streetcar line such as those operating in Toronto. The Canada line, with 41 metre long trains and 40m to 5om long station platforms, compares very poorly other LRT lines such as Calgary’s C-Train soon to be operating 99.3 long trains, with stations having 110m long platforms.
TransLink has not released figures for how many new transit customers the Canada line has attracted, nor do they mention anything more about the often repeated claim that the Canada line would take 200,000 car journeys off the road each day. Except from a few boasts in the media by Translink or their surrogates who work in the media, there is very little said.
The hugely expensive Canada Line, almost at capacity today and is ruinously expensive to both extend and to increase its capacity!
There has been absolutely no mention by the provincial government of extending the Canada Line across the Fraser into South Delta and South Surrey with the Massey tunnel bridge proposal. The provincial government has seen to have forgotten all about their Canada Line, which they forced upon TransLink. No mention of the Canada Line at all. It has become clear that “rubber on asphalt” is the future for transit in the lower mainland.
This begs the question: “Is the $2.5 billion Canada Line a white elephant, ruining TransLink with large maintenance costs and too expensive to extend and too expensive to increase capacity?“
Postscript: TransLink’s official capacity for a 41 metre, 2-car ROTEM metro-set used on the Canada line is 400 persons. Wikipedia gives a full load of 334 per 2 car set (167 per car) and a crush load of 400. The industry definition of a crush load is all seats taken and standees at 6 persons per square metre, impossible to obtain in North America. In comparison, the 49 metre long Spirit Class trams being built for Ottawa have a capacity of 300 persons per car and one wonders if the real capacity for a 41m long ROTEM train-set is much less and capacity figures have been greatly exaggerated to misinform the public.