McCallum’s $2.9 Billion Question

From the 2017 Steer Davis Gleave – HATCH report, the total cost for SkyTrain, including fifty-Five new cars is $2,914,798,721.00. As 2019 nears, the cost is rising.

Memo to Doug McCallum: we are not building SkyTrain to 1980′s cost of construction.

Memo to Gord Lovegrove: I think you need to join the Light Rail Transit Association and learn about LRT.

Memo to Steer Davis Gleave – HATCH: What we call SkyTrain is now known as ART or Advanced Rapid Transit, which patents are owned by SNC Lavalin and Bombardier Inc.. ALRT was repackaged as ALM the early 1990′s, when the UTDC patents for ALRT were sold to Lavalin, which promptly changed the name to Automated Light Metro. When Lavalin amalgamated with SNC to form SNC Lavalin, they retained the engineering patents and sold the technical patents to Bombardier Inc.

Question for Doug McCallum, how do you calculate that the ART Line to Langley will only cost $165 million?

Let’s see your math sunshine or has that envelope been thrown in the incinerator?

Experts weigh in on the costs of SkyTrain vs. LRT in Surrey

Studies and past projects don’t seem to support mayor-elect’s SkyTrain cost estimates

 October 29, 2018

A decision to ditch light rail transit plans in Surrey in favour of a SkyTrain extension would give up on a vision to grow the city and come with a price tag that is ‘magnitudes higher,’ experts say.

Doug McCallum, that city’s mayor-elect, told Postmedia News this weekend that a SkyTrain extension from King George station to Langley City could be completed for $1.65 billion — the same price as a planned LRT system that would connect Surrey City Centre to Guildford and Newton.

But that figure is far lower than a $2.9 billion estimate engineering firm Steer Davies Gleave & Hatch provided to TransLink in a July 2017 study. That estimate, in 2022 dollars, covered an eight-station, grade-separated, 16-kilometre rail line that would run cars consistent with those designed for the Expo and Millennium Lines.

McCallum has previously stated the project could be done for far less than that $2.9 billion if about half the SkyTrain line was at grade. It is unclear if McCallum’s $1.65 billion SkyTrain figure is supported by any reports, but he cited the roughly $1.4 billion spent on the 11-kilometre Evergreen Line in reaching that number. McCallum did not return a request for comment Monday.

Gord Lovegrove, an associate professor at the University of B.C.’s School of Engineering, said the last time he checked, each kilometre of SkyTrain line could be expected to cost around $150 million to build.

His per-kilometre estimate is not far off the 2011 dollar costs of the Evergreen line once they are adjusted for inflation. It is also consistent with an estimate in 2016 dollars that Steer Davies Gleave & Hatch provided for the Surrey to Langley SkyTrain extension.

“You have order of magnitude differences in costs” between LRT and SkyTrain systems, Lovegrove said.

He said the problem North Americans tend to have with light rail, which is relatively new on the continent, is that “we want to have our own exclusive right-of-way. We’re not willing to take the risk safety-wise, timetable-wise or schedule-wise to have it run with traffic.”

But Lovegrove said exclusive right-of-ways need not be the case any longer, citing Hamburg’s system as proving you can run at grade in traffic.

“I would just recommend maybe take a second longer look. Otherwise, if you’re spending an order of magnitude more, then you’re just not able to do as much with that same taxpayer dollar.”

Anthony Perl, a professor of urban studies and political science at Simon Fraser University with a focus on transportation, said that in every category he could think of, SkyTrain “costs more and does less.” Among other things, the automated system demands separated infrastructure, he said.

For Perl, part of the problem with SkyTrain is that it creates “development deserts” between stations. In contrast, the LRT system would have encouraged more density, he said.

“If the City of Surrey goes ahead and cancels the LRT plan, it’s going to set public transit back by 20 years south of the Fraser River,” Perl said.

Peter Hall, an associate professor in SFU’s Urban Studies Program, said swapping LRT through Surrey for SkyTrain to Langley was not just a change in transportation technology.

“It seemed to me that light rail was an attempt to give something to Newton as a node and give something to Guildford as a node, while at the same time building up the central area,” he said.

“You’re giving up on a vision on how you want to build Surrey as a place with a strong core and a set of well-developed successful sub-centres. I don’t get it. I don’t get why they’re so keen to turn their back on this.”



6 Responses to “McCallum’s $2.9 Billion Question”
  1. Haveacow says:

    First the $2.9 Billion estimate assumes only a inflation rate of 2.5-3%. According to Stats Canada we should expect an inflation rate range of 3-3.5% between now and 2022. Using their formula from the report the new Total cost is between $3.1-$3.2 Billion for a Skytrain Line to Langley.

    According to the report the new Skytrain operations maintenance and storage centre is a full service center not a light centre, like I originally assumed. I think that will increase the cost even more. Again I assume they will design it to be expandable to a certain extent. Since most of the individual costs in the report are redacted, we can’t now exactly what their costs were and if they were low balling the total costs for it.

    By the way, my costs don’t cover the above inflation rate assent of the concrete because I can only guess at the full amount (in square metres) of it being used. My estimate and it’s a rough one but add another $125-$185 Million to the costs. So $3.21-$3.38 Billion is the estimate including the rise in the cost of concrete of 6%-7.5% per year up until 2022.

  2. Haveacow says:

    Oh yes, the Mayor is full of it. He has no idea what the cost of the Skytrain to Langley is and it’s pretty obvious! You are losing LRT and you might not get much Skytrain either!

  3. Dan says:

    It is worth spending more to extend skytrain to Langley. The people in Langley want to get downtown in the fastest time possible. They do want a transfer in the dump of Surrey. A skytrain can do Langley to downtown in under 1 hour. Only the the car can just barely beat that. If you want to get them out of cars then build the skytrain at any cost. Doug McCullum understands this.

    Zwei replies: Where is the funding? Easy to say “just build it” but where is the funding coming from?

    There is absolutely no evidence that SkyTrain has attracted the motorist from the car, in fact is, light metro tends to force people off transit because it is so user unfriendly.

  4. Dan says:

    The BC government was willing to spend $3 billion on port man bridge and highway upgrades. They almost spent another $3 billion on a new bridge to replace the tunnel on highway 99.

    $3 billion for skytrain is cheap and the federal government is part of it.

    Zwei replies: Good one, all were built/planned strictly for political prestige and not to improve transit.

  5. Causa Causans says:

    Interesting and now having read the HATCH report, why is so much blanked out? How can the public have faith in the report when valuable information is not released.

    Why only 40m long stations for trams? Here in Germany the standard tram is 45 to 50 metres long.

    So many people want SkyTrain but the same people will complain of higher taxes to pay for it, interesting is it not.

    Why such negativity about light rail and trams, they are much cheaper and universally used around the world. many German trams 40 years old are now operating in other cities and with good maintenance practice, they will operate for another 40 years.

    snip* Adelaide comes to mind.

    We are watching SNC’s court case in Canada as there maybe other indiscretions that they have made elsewhere; a Pandora’s box – no?

    Canada brings no end of jokes here, is it rue that money grows on trees and the roads are paved with gold?

  6. Haveacow says:

    @ Dan, even Skytrain supporter Daryl Dela Cruz admits that a trip to Langley is just over an hour from downtown Vancouver by Skytrain assuming the same number of station stops as planned. That being said as a planner, if you are trying to get choice transit riders (commuters whom can use their personal vehicles if they choose to do so) to use transit, when the journey time is an hour or more your chances of getting choice riders is very low. Even with heavy vehicular road traffic, given the journey time, the shear number of stops, the Expo Line’s penchant for being over crowded at peak and people’s general dislike for having to stand instead of sitting for most of their trip means, the further you have to travel by Skytrain the lower the chances of getting choice riders. When the journey time is an hour or more, the likelihood of getting choice riders is below 10%. This why when dealing with these kinds of distances, planners go with cheaper Commuter Rail or something like a LRT based Tram-Train set up with stops 3-5 km apart, instead of a suburban to urban ranged full scaled Metros and Light Metros like Skytrain, with stops every 0.8-2 km.

    LRT as a operating technology is more adaptable then Skytrain because it can do both types of operations well. It costs much less to adapt LRT to different operations types. You can use the same LRV to do different operational types of lines. Ideally a line which starts out as a urban-suburban ranged LRT operation can, theoretically, on the same line, do a long distance Tram-Train operation as well. One type of vehicle two entirely different types of rail transit operations.

    Skytrain by it’s nature can’t physically run on tracks of the national railway network without spending massively to alter the right of way. Light Rail Vehicles can and have been cheaply altered to run on different or multiple power systems. They can also combine electric and diesel to run on rail rights of way without electric supply. Technically, LRT can’t yet run on tracks of the national railway system but that’s for regulatory reasons, which can be changed and are slowly being changed here in Canada.

    So something that starts as a LRT operation in Surrey can go much further out traveling to far off communities by tracks of the national railway network, then leave that network and go on to a local private LRT, right of way, run through say a main Street, then go back to the national railway network and continue on to the next town. Skytrain can’t do that affordably at all! LRT’s much lower passenger threshold at the low end and it’s ability to handle passenger levels as high or higher than the Skytrain’s affordably without it’s bazarlly configured track infrastructure and rail profiles, makes continually deploying Skytrain further and further out from the central area of Vancouver nearly impossible. Skytrain has higher cost to build than LRT in town because of the greater variations of right of way that LRT can legally use compared to Skytrain. This why so many experts agree that a Skytrain Line to Langley is a bad and far more costly idea than LRT operating technology.

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