Letters To The Editor

On-street running on Portland’s MAX LRT.Ai??

Malcolm Johnston, erstwhile supporter for modern light rail since the mid 1980′s, again has another letter published in the Surrey Leader newspaper. The letter, which is just a rehash of the operating characteristics of modern LRT, something that most European transit planners take for granted. No wild claims, no nonsense, the letter just states facts…………….

LRT is the best transit for Surrey

Published: July 10, 2012

The column ai???Urgent need for rapid transit in Surreyai??? (The Leader, July 5) includes a mistake commonly made by those comparing SkyTrain with LRT as illustrated by the following quote: ai???However, SkyTrain is separated from road traffic and as such can offer quicker trips and not get tied up by intersection crashes.ai???

The claim that SkyTrain makes quicker trips than LRT is based on the fact that SkyTrain has much fewer stations per route kilometre than LRT. Fewer stations equals quicker times, but fewer stations also deter ridership.

The main differences between streetcars and modern LRT is the concept of the reserved rights-of-way or a rights-of-way for the exclusive use of the tram or streetcar to operate on. The reserved rights-of-way can be as simple as a HOV lane with rails or as complex as a linear park with grass, instead of ballasted or paved, track complete with shrubbery and flowers. The Arbutus corridor in Vancouver is a very good example of a ai???reserved rights-of-wayai??? as well as the former BC Electric interurban route that bisects Surrey.

A reserved rights-of-way enables a tram or streetcar to operate as fast and carry as many passengers as its much more expensive cousin, light-metro (SkyTrain). In fact, modern LRT has made SkyTrain obsolete two decades ago but no one has apparently told TransLink, which continues to squander taxpayerai??i??s money on dated SkyTrain transit planning.

The notion that LRT causes crashes at intersections is nonsense; rather it is car drivers ignoring red light signals that causes crashes at signal controlled LRT/road intersections and studies have shown that a LRT/road intersections are about 10 times as safe as a road/road intersections.

In the 21st century, modern LRT has proven to be faster, able to carry more customers at a far cheaper cost, to more destinations than SkyTrain light-metro and Mayor Dianne Watts is correct in demanding modern LRT for the City of Surrey.

Malcolm Johnston

Rail for the Valley


…………………but facts never get in the way of the SkyTrain lobby, which following letter is full of the standard nonsense that one expects of the SkyTrain lobby. Sadly, comparisons with Portland’s MAX should include that the Portland transit authority doesn’t force bus passengers onto transit, ‘en mass’ like TransLink, nor is there a universal $1 a day U-Pass for post secondary students.

Portland’s transit planners also have to contend not only with the Willamette River which bisects the city and a small mountain range, but also many rivers of concrete and pavement of the many highways and interstates that run northAi??and south and east and west through the city, necessitating many more bridges than most other new “rail’ transit systems.

Portland’s MAX LRT now has five lines and spans 85 km, with 85 stations and now carries 126,000 passengers a day; real transit customers and not recycled bus passengers forced to transfer onto MAX! Yet, the SkyTrain lobby, always mindful of facts ruining a good fairy tale, never tell the whole story, including the fact that Portland’s voters have voted in favour for the finance of each line built, a nicety never offered to Metro Vancouver voters

Transit money better spent on SkyTrain

Published: July 12, 2012

Thereai??i??s no doubt that Surrey needs rapid transit. Surrey is expected to face huge growth in next 30 years. Rapid transit will help manage, accommodate and welcome these newcomers.

We also, however, need to face a single, unchanging fact: There is no one-size-fits-all solution for rapid transit. A system that works somewhere in the world will not necessarily replicate with stunning success elsewhere.

In a 2008 survey of Surrey residents, 88 per cent agreed that ai???transit should be as convenient and attractive as driving a car on city roads.ai???

But letai??i??s look at what the City of Surrey is currently favouring: on-street LRT that cannot and will not be any faster than Surreyai??i??s drivers, with reliability and performance compromises at well.

The city is ignoring the expectations and demands of 88 per cent of Surreyai??i??s population.

The City of Portland has built an 84-kilometre LRT system (MAX).Ai?? However, in spite of servicing a greater population base over a larger area of service, there are fewer weekday boardings on the MAX than on SkyTrainai??i??s Canada Line alone.


In three years of operation, a single SkyTrain line spanning 20 kilometres has attracted more riders per year than an entire LRT system operating over four times the service area, and for more than 26 years.

Portland had little to gain from LRT.Ai?? The transit commute-to-work mode-share has remained at a standstill for more than 15 years, despite $4 billion in additional LRT-related investment. The service hasn’t made the overall system any stronger though; recently, a cut in overall service came with fare increases and the removal of free downtown transit.

Conversely, TransLinkai??i??s service hours actually increased during this same period. SkyTrain as an attractive, profitable service is part of what makes our system strong. The introduction of the Canada Line has tapped new potential riders and realized operational cost-savings, allowing TransLink to boost revenue and facilitate improvements to service beyond Canada Line. As a result, TransLink maintains a much stronger regional transit network than Portlandai??i??s TriMet.

Leader columnist Frank Bucholtz is right about one thing (ai???Urgent need for rapid transit, The Leader, July 5): It would be difficult to come up with funding for rapid transit.

When we do get it, I would rather see that funding go towards SkyTrain expansion.

Itai??i??s simple: SkyTrain is a competitive rapid transit service that helps truly unlock the potential of Surrey as the regionai??i??s next business centre.Ai?? We must not waste our limited resources on an LRT system that has a poor business case in benefiting our community.

Daryl Dela Cruz

SkyTrain for Surrey Initiative

Now a question for Mr. Cruz, a question that Mr. Cruz continually fails to answer. “Why, after being on the market for over 32 years, transit planners avoid SkyTrain like a plague, with only seven SkyTrain systems built and not one has been allowed to compete against modern light rail?”

To date, there are two SkyTrain Lines built as demonstration lines, Detroit and Toronto (both soon to be abandoned); two built as airport people movers, JFK and Beijing; the Yongin EverLine, built to support a theme park, which is built, but sits dormant because no one wants to operate it, due to high operating costs; and the Vancouver and Kuala Lumpur ALRT/ART urban transit systems. It should be noted that Kuala Lumpur also operates an elevated LRT system and a monorail.

And Mr. Cruz want to continue building with SkyTrain in Surrey? As Barnum observed; “There is a sucker born every minute.”



4 Responses to “Letters To The Editor”
  1. Justin Bernard says:

    Also, Portland is much less densely built up than Vancouver, and the MAX covers a wider area than Skytrain.

  2. eric chris says:

    SkyTrain for Surrey and TransLink stooge Daryl Dela Cruz who surely is funded by TransLink either directly or indirectly is misleading uniformed and gullible readers as to the efficacy of transit by TransLink with respect to any increase in ridership. Daryl is incorrectly assuming that increased boardings with SkyTrain are primarily due to significantly more people, as a percentage of the population, on transit.

    You can operate a no frills bus network without SkyTrains and bee-lines and still get 10% of the population onto transit. Ridership sits at around 11% of the population (annual weekday and weekend average) in Metro Vancouver with TransLink operating late night and frequent bee-line and SkyTrain service every few minutes – escalating the cost of transit and destroying the air quality along bee-line and SkyTrain routes flooded with diesel buses.

    Vehicle registration growth and transit ridership growth “can’t be occurring simultaneously”. Vehicle registration growth has exploded to surpass population growth since the formation of TransLink in 1999.

    TransLink and Daryl chalk this up to more people paying thousands of dollars annually to buy and register cars, to then take transit, because riding on a crowded and smelly bus or train is so much fun! Common sense would suggest otherwise.

    In truth, transit boardings have increased on transit due to the “necessary” bus transfer to get riders to the distantly spaced bee-line and SkyTrain stops. Along Broadway, trolley buses and other buses are purposely made to shuttle riders to the 99 B-Line to bloat its ridership and then to get off Broadway.

    If the express 99 B-Line buses weren’t in service, the number of people on transit would be essentially the same and the boardings along Broadway would drop by as much as one-half. There would be virtually no loss in ridership without the “express 99 B-Line service” as the time saved with express service on Broadway is minimal.

    There are traffic lights every few blocks on Broadway and the regular No.9 bus can get to UBC almost as fast as the 99 B-Line if the No. 9 is operated every two minutes like the 99 B-Line. TransLink is mainly using the 99 B-Line to increase boardings which are only achieved by recycling riders from buses and not by removing cars from the roads. TransLink then lies and says that is taking cars off the roads.

    Similarly, many taking SkyTrain could make it to their destinations quicker on buses – riders from Delta diverted to Richmond to take the SkyTrain, for example.

    TransLink is a sham.

  3. Richard says:

    Seriously Eric?

    I’m not a big fan of diesel buses but the 99 is much much faster than the trolleys due to fewer stops. I remember before the b-line it used to take forever to get across town on the 9.

    And regarding mode share commuting by transit has increased dramatically especially in Burnaby and New West since the SkyTrain. In 2006 it was 25% for both New West and Burnaby essentially the same as Vancouver. I suspect it will even be higher in 2011. Stats Can should be releasing the numbers soon.

    Zweisystem replies: Yet the region has more congestion then ever, worst in Canada and second only to LA! Sorry, I just don’t believe Statscan when it comes to transit.

  4. eric chris says:

    @Richard, the No. 9 operates every eight minutes from 6 am to 9 am during rush hours and has a very long recovery time built in to its schedule. If the No. 9 operated every 90 seconds to two minutes during the morning rush hours, there would be no noticeable difference in the travel time on the No. 9 to UBC from Commercial Drive.

    In fact, TransLink suspends the No. 9 over the summer and after 6:30 pm (all the time) because the No. 9 with nearly nobody to pick up at night would be passing the express No. 99 in the evenings. It would be terribly embarrassing for the No. 9 to be passing the express No. 99 and TransLink avoids it.

    As far as the “average” modal transit use for transit goes, in 2006 it was 16.5% for Metro Vancouver and it might have been 25% for only Vancouver, Burnaby or New West as you say:


    “Vehicles on the roads during the rush hours” (from 6 am to 9 am and from 3 pm to 6 pm) “matter more” than modal transit use. What difference does it make how many people take transit at 2 am? There isn’t any traffic congestion, then, and TransLink is just wasting money and degrading the air quality unnecessarily with late night diesel bus service carrying almost no one (85% of all transit trips occur by 6 pm). Let them (transit users) drive or wait for the bus at 6 am as far as I’m concerned.

    About 50% of the transit users and 50% of the drivers travel during the rush hours. Currently, for the 300,000 transit users and 1.5 million drivers, the modal use for transit during the “rush hours” is about 17%, notwithstanding cyclists and others (150,000 transit users divided by the sum of the 150,000 transit users and 750,000 drivers = 17%).

    Transit use is increasing by 9,000 new riders annually due to the rising population (TransLink), and vehicle use is increasing by 30,000 new drivers annually due to the rising population (ICBC). In 10 years, there will be an additional 150,000 new drivers during the “rush hours” (one-half of the 300,000 new drivers in 10 years) and an additional 45,000 new transit riders making zillions of boardings (one-half of the 90,000 new transit riders in 10 years).

    Unless there is switch to more extensive and popular LRT, tram and trolley bus routes, the average modal use for transit will increase marginally to about 18% in 10 years, notwithstanding cyclists and others (195,000 transit users divided by the sum of the 195,000 transit users and 900,000 drivers = 18%). TransLink will proclaim victory!

    Fine, modal transit use will increase by 1% in 10 years. What will TransLink really accomplish with more traffic congestion and 300,000 more cars on the roads in 10 years? Not enough in my opinion when it would cost about one-third as much to achieve more transit ridership with LRT, tram and trolley bus routes. Increased modal use for transit is the only lame statistic that TransLink can brag about, so it does.

    At the end of the day, TransLink isn’t making people “give up driving”. TransLink is merely recycling many “existing” transit users on the No. 99 and SkyTrains to give the illusion that it is taking cars off the roads. It isn’t.