Is Vision Vancouver’s Subway Fantasy Putting City Taxpayer’s At Risk?

Courtesy Light Rail Now

Micheal Geller has an interesting item in the Vancouver Courier which indicates that Vancouver taxpayers maybe on the hook for a minimum of $500 million for demanding a SkyTrain subway under Broadway.

Predictably, Geller still follows the local line about transit and growth, while ignoring the fact that transit use mainly increases with population growth and the regional transit system has done a very poor job in attracting new customers. The U-Pass is a symptom of this failure by giving deep discounted, ride a will tickets to post secondary students, in a vain attempt to bolster ridership. Well, ridership is at or near capacity on main transit routes during peak hours but after the morning and evening rush hours, transit ridership is, at best, sparse.

The key passage in Geller’s piece…

What most of the audience did not know is that while the Mayorsai??i?? Council endorsed a tunnelled line along Broadway, it is contingent upon a partnership agreement with the City of Vancouver, which would be responsible for the incremental cost associated with tunneling ai???beyond that which was technically or functionally

Stated another way, if an underground line is preferred for aesthetic reasons, something most of us would endorse, the City of Vancouver will be responsible for the additional cost, currently estimated at $500 million.

The mayors, especially those from Burnaby, Richmond and New Westminster, adopted this position since they had to live with elevated lines in their municipalities and questioned why Vancouver should get special treatment.

….. reveals that the Vancouver taxpayer must ante up the difference between elevated and underground or subway construction!

Three thoughts come to mind.
  1. The cost of subway construction is about double that of elevated construction and if the Vancouver taxpayer were forced to pay the difference, the cost to the taxpayer would be considerably more than $500 million.
  2. The $100 million the CPR wants for the 11 km. Arbutus corridor looks better and better for transit, when compared to the massive costs of a Broadway subway.
  3. Should not municipalities who want SkyTrain and/or automated transit pay the difference of the cost of at-grade/on-street LRT and grade separated light-metro?

If the taxpayer were forced to pay the difference between elevated and subway construction, the cost to the taxpayer would be well over $1 billion. It would be a better investment to build a BCIT to UBC LRT on Broadway and a Marpole to downtown LRT, using the Arbutus Corridor, using modern LRT than building a a short 5 km. SkyTrain subway.

I think it is time Vision Vancouver have a frank discussion with the city taxpayers on the subject of LRT, SkyTrain and subways or they may find the city of Vancouver, like most other cities that rashly built subways for vanity reasons, being on the verge of bankruptcy.

Courtesy of Light Rail Now


3 Responses to “Is Vision Vancouver’s Subway Fantasy Putting City Taxpayer’s At Risk?”
  1. eric chris says:

    I’m ready to go to bed and it’s past midnight. There aren’t any cars on the roads, just some loud drunken students waiting for the bus, woops, the 99 “express” passed them and they’ll have to wait until the No. 14 trolleybus shows up in a few minutes. What good does the 99 express do by the way when it just passes people at night? Does any other city in Canada offer express service to university until 2:30 am, seven day a week?

    How is a subway going to take any cars off the roads by replacing the 99 express service? We don’t have any road congestion here near UBC, presently. I suppose if that moron mayor gets re-elected and by some fluke manages to lobby other clueless individuals to his cause, in 30 years, UBC will look like Metrotown in Burnaby. We’ll have 50 story towers as well as cars all over the place with nowhere to park, much more crime and slum condos with riff raff in wife beater t-shirts living in them. Good luck, getting support for that in affluent Point Grey by UBC.

    Statistically, subways, s-trains and express buses have done absolutely nothing to reduce road congestion in Vancouver. Zip. Zero. It we took the extra $1 billion being squandered annually on transit by TransLink to build some underpasses at major bottlenecks for cars and buses, traffic could only improve.

    Saying that s-trains and subways are going to reduce road congestion is like saying that punching two holes in the bottom of your fishing boat is going to allow water to enter one hole and leave the other hole at the same rate to keep the boat afloat. Retarded. That’s what we have here, retards dreaming of subways and s-trains and scamming idiots into funding subways and s-trains.

    “Affordable housing”
    Subways, express buses and s-trains allow minimum wagers and students to live in Surrey and work or go to school in Vancouver. If we didn’t have subways, express buses and s-trains as in the past when we had inexpensive trolleybuses for local transit, only – either they’d be living in Surrey and working or going to school in Surrey or they’d be living in Vancouver and going to work or school in Vancouver.

    Gregor Robertson and Bob Rennie would lose their real estate supply which they are using to turn into million dollar condos for zllionaires in China. There would be no Coal Harbour with empty zillion dollar condos. There would be modest homes, instead, you know, for working stiffs flipping burgers.

    Developers would have to build homes in Vancouver for people to live and work in Vancouver. Who wants that? You can’t make millions of dollars in profit from each modest home selling for $150,000 in Vancouver but you sure can make millions of dollars from penthouse condos selling for $10 million in Vancouver. That’s where Bob Rennie, the slimy developer, comes into the picture, to make sure that his friend (Gregor) has all the money that he needs to get re-elected for Gregor to “reduce road congestion” with s-trains and subways (paid by taxpayers, of course, and used to rezone housing for Bob’s penthouse suites being sold in Beijing):

  2. Haveacow says:

    I agree that tunneling any rail based transit system very greatly raises its cost of construction. The question that people in Vancouver really need to be asking is about the long term viability of the Rapid Transit system.

    1. Translink currently can’t afford even a one third share of funding of the capital costs on any new rapid transit line, be it Light Metro Skytrain, LRT or even Zwei’s current medium and high end Tram-Train proposals, for that matter. New funding sources are desperately needed no matter the rail transit technology choice, or whomever runs the transit agency, the form of the transit agency, regardless if said agency is publicly or privately run or a combination of the two. Translink’s capital and operating funding is actually declining relative to inflation. To afford Translink’s share of the current Skytrain extension, the agency had to seriously divert funding from operational sources to the capital program. Leaving very little money for service improvements anywhere till at least 2016. The current situation is unsustainable not only in the long term but medium term as well. Arguments can be made that yes, the Skytrain and the Canada Line are key culprits historically and currently in the high level of costs associated with the entire transit system but they exist, they are running and have to be dealt with. You could pay all transit employees near slave level wages and run them with the leanest and most efficient management people (public or private) on the planet and it won’t change the fact that, the basic transit system’s operating and capital costs are rising faster than inflation and that the current funding model is increasing revenue slowly but at levels below the rate of inflation.

    2. Taxpayers are always claim to be overtaxed but if you want a service you have to pay for it. New funding tools are needed and if you want any money for expansion of the transit system, regardless of the technology its going to increasingly have to come from local tax sources because the amount of money available as grants for rapid transit projects from the province and the federal government are going to decline in the future.

    3. Privatizing transit rarely works in the short term and has always failed in the medium and long terms for various reasons (I won’t bore you and bother repeating them again). Most private transit schemes usually end up costing more for the same or declining levels of service.

    4. It’s now too late to force a transit funding referendum question to be put on the ballot for the BC Municipal election in November 2014. Your provincial government can now waffle back and forth for at the least 2 more years, on this issue. Regardless of your opinion on whether you want to pay more transit or not, the opportunity to move the whole process forwards is now lost. So whatever direction and answers the vote would have produced regarding the future of transit in the province is delayed. This means nothing can happen and I mean nothing can happen, untill the provincial government decides on a promised referendum question and what if any answer they want to provide to it. The entire process for updating and changing the way transit is funded and delivered in the lower mainland of BC is now dead! For the next 2 years at least (or however long the province can legally wait), politicians, companies and locals, like Zwei, can endlessly promote their transit ideas and proposals all they want. Also for the next 2 years, those same people can also endlessly debate what is the best of choice transit technology secure in the knowledge, none of it means anything because the process to decide on a direction can’t move forward till there is a vote. When the public see the opening of the Evergreen Line in 2016 they will ask, what’s next? All your beloved provincial government has to say is “nothing”, because you guys wouldn’t give us any real input on a transit referendum question when we asked about funding transit 2 years ago. The province and feds can throw away any request for capital funding from any lower mainland transit agency (regardless whom it is) because we can’t give you money till you decide how you are going to pay for it!

    5. Bombardier has admitted recently that it has too much excess rail production capacity. Although it has not announced it yet, Bombardier will probably be closing many production facilities including their dedicated production facility they have for their Skytrain and Monorail systems division, the Innovia Line of products (the Skytrain and Monorail technology share many common systems and are generally grouped together). Soon after the Mark 3 Skytrain’s are delivered for the Evergreen project (2016) and the extension in Kuala Lampur (2016-17) to their Skytrain like line is complete as well as the new Monorail project in Brazil is delivered (2015-16), the division will most likely be closing down due to the need to rationalize and downsize Bombardier’s massive amount of excess rail production capacity. The Bombardier production facility, several facilities actually, that produce these products don’t have enough future orders coming in compared to other Bombardier product lines (Light Rail, Metro, as well as commuter and long distance mainline passenger railway vehicles) to keep them open as an independent production line. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to build these products anymore but it does mean that, any future orders of say Skytrain technology (Innovia products), will have to wait for a open spot in the production schedule inside the remaining Bombardier rail production facilities. This will increase the cost of future Skytrains because each time a production line changes from another rail product to say a different rail technology like the Skytrain, the effected production line that has been chosen will close down and have to be retooled before work on the new order can begin. These shutdowns can take days or weeks depending on the individual changes needed to the production equipment.

    Proposal: As a consultant I can only propose an idea. Since you have in my opinion, a considerable amount of time before the provincial government needs to respond or do anything for that matter, I suggest a summit of internet transit people and other groups like your own. The idea being that, there are many people and groups that promote urban and regional based transit (regardless of the technology choice), I suggest you group together for a common cause. Nothing overly dramatic but a simple task, to force the provincial government to move forward on transit funding by presenting a large wide ranging united front. Get together with Daryl (Skytrain for Surrey) Transport Action Canada (formerly Transport 2000) and anyone who Blogs, complains or writes about transit issues on line, in your region, for a simple but straight forward, positive proposal or series of proposals on transit funding. The local PTB’s and the province are delaying any action to move transit funding forward, I say you should force the issue. Get local papers and radio, especially talk radio involved (they are all dying for content). Have everyone involved contact local TV people and bombard them a message that whatever the transit mode it is time the provincial government act and do something. Just an idea!


  3. eric chris says:

    Well, it seems that subways are the perfect incubator for rats and the bubonic plague. Things are looking better and better for the subway to UBC all the time. Go Gregor Go.

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