More Wisdom From Ottawa

Haveacow is a transit professional from Ottawa and his most recent post in the comments section is again worthy of a post of its own. The information contained within this post should give insight to the real transit issues that face TransLink, employee’s costs and the main reason why LRT is built. One modern tram (1 driver) is as efficient as 6 to 8 buses (6 to 8 drivers) and as wages account for about 70% to 80% of operating costs, the savings using LRT over a 25 year business cycle of a transit line may pay for the transit line itself.

Zwei was told that the reason that SkyTrain technology was not included in the Canada Line proposal was because Premier Gordon Campbell wanted a “showcase” transit P-3 and with SkyTrain, no other consortium would have bid on the project. The Canada Line P-3 would be a template for P-3 operation of the transit system if the BC Liberals privatized TransLink. Evidently Campbell did not understand that SkyTrain was a proprietary railway.

I should be noted that both Alstom and Siemens recommended LRT for the Canada Line but LRT was rejected outright by Translink, who were ordered to do so by then Minister of Transportation, Kevin Falcon, under orders from former Premier Gordon Campbell.

The Canada Line was not a true P-3 as the winning consortium never assumed risk for the project.

In the end, SkyTrain proved more expensive to build than a ‘cut-down’ heavy-rail metro, which costs were further reduced by cut-and-cover subway construction; truncated stations; and not paying compensation to businesses who were disrupted by prolonged cut-and-cover construction. The judge overseeing the Susan Heyes lawsuit called the Canada line bidding process a “charade”!

Oh Daryl, hereai??i??s a little information for you to think about. SNC Lavlin. used to own all the vehicle technology and engineering patents for the Skytrain. They bought it from the real creators of it The Urban Transit Development Corporation of Ontario or UTDC (these guys were the ones who also created the bilevel commuter coaches that Bombardier sold to the West Coast Express and many others). SNC LAVLIN then sold the vehicle but not the engineering patents to Bombardier 5 years later because they couldnai??i??t get anyone to buy it. So even if Bombardierai??i??s consortium had won the Canada Line contract and used Skytrain technology, they would have been involved, so either way they were going to make a lot of money.

You are correct the P3 agreement is really about government not wanting to pay the whole deal and spreading the risk, so to speak. It is becoming quite common to do this in North America because it spreads the cost when someone tries to sue you and they win. The lie that this giving better value to taxpayers is something the financial conservatives have been screaming since the 1980ai???s and really is pure bunk! It does not give better value or help taxpayers and often does quite the opposite.

If Skytrain technology was so good and saved so much money, Translink should have included it specifically in the call for proposals process regarding the Canada Line contract. Montreal did that for their new Metro Trains, they had to use the rubber tire technology already in use no other options please. The fact that this was not the case shows that someone along the line when the call for proposals went out really doesnai??i??t have full confidence in the technology. Toronto had to issue the call for proposals twice regarding the new legacy streetcar replacement program when only 2 companies answered the original call (The head of Siemens Transportation Division in North America got fired over it back in 2008 because he did not want to alter a design specification for a mere 204 vehicle contract, while Siemens worldwide was just beginning to recover from their massive restructuring to prevent bankruptcy). So why was the technology not enshrined in the contract proposals by Translink, no was one pointing a gun at their collective heads? They really had many options so whatai??i??s the Deal?

Regarding the manpower issue over route inspectors and their high numbers compared to other options transit operations. This is a huge issue because when it comes to buses and operations manpower requirements are the majority of operating budget. There is a remarkably consistent fact across the whole of the first wordai??i??s transit operations, between 70-80% of the cost of surface transit is the driver. One of the biggest reasons, Ottawa is changing to LRT from BRT is because the manpower costs for moving 10500 people per hour per direction by bus is slowly crushing OC Transpoai??i??s operational budget (between 185-200 buses per hour per during peak periods). Ironically, the Skytrainai??i??s driverless technology should reduce this cost but it doesnai??i??t. The advantages are negated by high maintenance costs and for paying a small army attendants in-case the system breakdown. Not to mention one of the most manpower heavy rail transit operations control room I have ever seen, anywhere.

Daryl its cheaper in the long run to buy more trolley buses for the UBC routes than buying more diesel buses. Trolley buses have a higher purchase cost but a lower system operating and maintenance cost because you already have a huge trolley bus network. The old saying of being, penny wise but pound foolish applies here.


One Response to “More Wisdom From Ottawa”
  1. eric chris says:

    I listened to the radio talk show this morning on the ongoing debate of LRT or sky train for Surrey. Malcolm Johnston did a marvelous job of shredding the notion of sky train being the only choice for Surrey. Both the existing sky train network and LRT in Surrey can coexist.

    …set the date for 9 am on Dec. 5

    In fact, only having sky train is poor urban design and sacrifices local transit for the vast majority of transit users making short trips to provide long distance transit by sky train to the very few individuals who are willing to commute three to five hours daily (door to door) from Surrey to Vancouver for work or school.

    Transit is the slowest way to travel (door to door) and even cycling is faster than transit here. So, if Daryl is concerned about “fast” travel, he might find a job and buy a car. If he is only willing to work along transit routes, he’ll lock himself into dead end government employment. Most good paying jobs require initiative and a car to reach.

    Laughable was the comment by Daryl that sky train reduces road construction requirements. Really? Did the City of Vancouver tear up Cambie Street after the subway under Cambie Street? When the Evergreen Line gets built and more people move to the sticks in condos with garages for cars, won’t we see more freeways along the sky train line? Doesn’t sky train run parallel to the Lougheed Highway?

    More sky train for Surrey endangers to turn Surrey into a slum for Surrey to grow further into a low income enclave where low income workers are forced to live to commute into Vancouver for their low income service jobs. This is destructive for Metro Vancouver, socially, and threatens to solidify the ghetto image which Surrey holds.

    Mayor Dianne Watts and her engineers want nothing to do with sky train. Surrey does not support sky train. To combat the ghetto effect of sky train, Surrey must promote LRT or trams to encourage big business to locate in Surrey for workers to work and live in Surrey. This is sustainable. Sky train is not sustainable.

    Daryl like a foolish parrot just keeps repeating the same inane thing over and over that sky train is best, sky train is best…. sky train is best, when the evidence says otherwise – Metro Vancouver urban sprawl requiring more roads and bridges, greatest road congestion in Canada and zero change in the percentage of trips by drivers. It is tiresome to listen to Daryl and his inane mutterings only strengthen the case for LRT in Surrey. Thanks, Daryl, keep up the good work.