Pixie Dust Reporting – The New SkyTrain Cars Arrive.

One has to give it to the SkyTrain Lobby, they repeat inaccuracies so often they become truth.

The new SkyTrain cars being delivered are not articulated (the LIMs are not powerful enough enough for this), rather all Bombardier did was make a few cars ‘coaches’ adding gangways at both ends.

As predicted they will operate in four car train-sets not offering much of a capacity increase when compared to 4-car train-sets made up of two married pairs. The claim that the new 4-car train-sets will offer a capacity of almost 200 people more, is delusional.

The 700 person figure probably comes from the proposal to operate 5 car trains, which would be longer than the present station platforms, necessitating ‘Selective Door Opening’ technology or SDO to be implemented at all stations, which in turn would increase dwell times, reducing overall capacity.

What capacity increases that will come is from reduced seating, which in North America, tends to discourage transit ridership and this is especially true in the USA.

As Bombardier Inc. is actively selling its rail divisions, and the lack of ART being sold, these cars may very well be the last Innovia LIM propelled cars built.

One section of a new SkyTrain arrives in Vancouver – Date unknown Anonymous Photographer.
27 October 2015
First New Generation SkyTrains
Begin Arriving in Vancouver

Vancouver British Columbia – The first cars from TransLink’s $90.7 million order of Bombardier Innovia Metro 300 trains for the SkyTrain system have begun to arrive at the Edmonds Operations and Maintenance Centre in Burnaby.

A total of seven trains, totalling 28 cars, were ordered in 2012 to expand the fleet’s capacity ahead of the fall 2016 opening of the Evergreen extension of the Millennium Line.

According to TransLink, the cars were built on the East Coast, with four trains built at the Bombardier plant in Kingston, Ontario, and the remaining six trains at another plant in Plattsburgh, New York.

All of the cars are being shipped across the continent on flatbed trucks.

Upon arrival, the cars will be assembled into four-car trains with the addition of accordion-style gangways to connect the cars, allowing passengers to walk from one end of the train to other while also providing a greater capacity.

But at this time, there is no estimated date for when the first trains could go into service as rigorous testing needs to be completed.

“Once assembled, these trains need to complete a comprehensive testing program before being placed into service,” Cheryl Ziola, TransLink media relations manager, told Vancity Buzz.

“This typically takes several months. When testing is done, we can confirm when trains will be in service.”

The new trains also offer substantial aesthetic and experiential design improvements to SkyTrain’s older train models.

These new trains will be much more spacious with more larger open spaces available for bikes, strollers, and wheelchairs, and the interior will be more brightly lit due to an improved LED lighting system.

But the most noticeable design improvement that passengers will likely notice will be the sizeable windows.

Windows on the sides of the trains will extend down to waist height while the windows at the front of the trains will be full width, similar to the Canada Line’s cars.

The trains also boast a lightweight, longer lasting, battery system that is expected to last 25 years.

In comparison, the batteries on the existing fleet last 10 years.

TransLink was unable to comment on the overall capacity of the vehicles, but the new trains will likely be able to hold nearly 700 passengers per train given the increased floor space from the gangways of the four-car articulated configuration and the improvement in interior space usage.

In contrast, a four-car Mark II train holds anywhere between 520 to 580 passengers per train, depending on the year of purchase, while a four-car Mark I train can pack in 480 passengers per train.

The Canada Line’s two-car trains built by South Korea’s Hyundai can only accommodate 334 passengers per train.

Meanwhile, the original 114 SkyTrain cars, the Mark I cars, are currently being refurbished at a cost of $37.9 million to extend their operational life by 15 years.

The cars have already already exceeded their operational lifespan of 25 years.

The refit includes top-down upgrades to the electrical system, entry doors, and interior passenger comfort designs.

The train exteriors are also being repainted with TransLink’s new black, grey, blue, and yellow livery.

Kenneth Chan.


10 Responses to “Pixie Dust Reporting – The New SkyTrain Cars Arrive.”
  1. Haveacow says:

    The new capacity number is probably a misprint, they have confirmed on the Vancity site that the length of a Mark 3 4 car set is the same as a Mark 2 4 car set. Therefore their capacity will be similar as well.

    Oh yes, Bombardier is not selling the rail division they are spinning it off into a separate operation, wholly owned by Bombardier the parent company. Why would they sell the part of the company that is normally making money? Most of Bombardier’s problems are from the Aerospace Division that has burned a $9 Billion hole into the company. As it turns out the province of Quebec is giving them money, smart idea because they do not want to loose 12,000 aerospace jobs from the province. They just announced Bombardier is closing their Mexican Aerospace Plant with the loss of 6000 jobs.

  2. eric chris says:

    @Haveacow, thanks for the comment on the LRT in Ottawa. In Ottawa, LRT starting at 10,700 pph (with the potential to go to 24,000 pph) is still far more than the 4,080 pph which TransLink purports to be the maximum passenger capacity of the tram (LRT) line in the business case used to go with s-train moving 10,400 pph (peak hour) for the Millennium Line extension to Coquitlam.


    In simple terms, moving capacity of passengers for LRT (tram) or s-train vehicles, is constrained in large part due to the platform length which can be economically constructed. For s-train having elevated platforms, cost is prohibitively expensive for platform lengths anywhere near what the length of LRT platforms can be. In other words, LRT always has the potential for more moving capacity than s-train. Always.

    This is truly the Achilles’ heel of s-train design which TransLink has kept under wraps. Competent engineers in Edmonton and Ottawa, for instance, have avoided the s-train blunder committed by TransLink in Vancouver (Metro). Most engineers are careful to not be too critical of each other and have not chastised TransLink publicly but I can tell you that in private, engineers who I know ridicule the feckless TransLink and COV engineers espousing the supposed virtues of “s-train”. They fume and want them thrown out of the profession.

    Eventually the s-train scandal will break when the money dries up after the false claims that s-train is inexpensive to build and operate are realized. Bombardier, SNC Lavalin and TransLink are business “amigos”.

    TransLink building s-train lines is $3.6B in debt and spends about $200 million annually on interest payments. TransLink has maxed out its credit and is trying to raise new taxes to increase its credit. Ian Jarvis (TransLink PIG-EO) and others pouring concrete for s-train lines have gotten rich while taxpayers have been paying gas taxes to finance floundering TransLink paying huge carrying costs to keep building s-train lines which it cannot afford:

    “TransLink’s net debt in the 2014 calendar year was $3.58 billion — its interest payments make up 12.4% of revenues… Moody’s noted governance uncertainties within TransLink, with controversy over executive pay and the lack of a current CEO, adding that “strong management leadership” and a good relationship with the Mayors’ Council will be crucial to restore public confidence. 2015 and 2016 are critical years for TransLink’s operations.”

    TransLink is swimming in money from taxpayers. TransLink doesn’t need more money, TransLink needs to be dissolved.

    “TransLink has one of the highest debt and interest burdens among similar rated global peers, but benefits from more diverse revenue sources …” [gas taxes].


    TransLink’s s-train supplier, Bombardier is a joke costing Canadians billions of dollars to pacify Quebec firms selling their inferior transit technology to Vancouver and other cities with dumb engineers suckered into buying s-train, garbage. Ottawa made the right choice going with Alstom’s Citadis trams rather than Bombardier’s crappy s-train.

    “Bombardier’s failings are mounting. The City of Toronto said last week it will sue the company over its incomprehensible failure to deliver new streetcars on time. A day later, the company announced a $4.9-billion third-quarter loss (all figures in U.S. dollars)”


    What can you say about TransLink’s engineering firm, SNC Lavalin which is banned by the World Bank? It hires engineers off the street and fires them after the job is done. Who calculated the passenger capacity and selected s-train for the Millennium Line extension to Coquitlam? You guessed it: SNC Lavalin engineers.

    Engineers who I know won’t work for SNC Lavalin. Sociopaths at SNC Lavalin are scum – make that total scum. They cut corners, bend the rules and get sued – they meet the standards set by TransLink – no standards.


    “Passengers carried by transit”

    Anyways, I’m going to change the topic. From what I’ve gleaned reading posts on RFTV, passenger capacity for transit (p) depends upon three factors:

    x = passengers carried per metre of transit vehicle length
    y= transit vehicle length
    z = transit service frequency

    From the posted service frequency of s-train, TransLink operates s-train every two to three minutes, at best. This implies that the quickest service frequency for s-train is 2.5 minutes on average.


    Maybe the crappy 386 floppy drive computer keeping the s-trains from smashing into each other can’t manage s-trains running quicker than 2.5 minutes on average. Maybe the infrastructure supplying electrical power to the power pig s-trains consuming 50% more power than LRT can’t manage the power draw.

    Possibly, the logistics of getting passengers to the centralized hub to hub s-train stations limits the service frequency of s-train to about 2.5 minutes or greater. Whatever the reason, TransLink isn’t running s-trains every two minutes – like LRT can. If TransLink could, it surely would, to move more passengers but TransLink isn’t. Claims by the planners and engineers at TransLink of s-train moving 40,000 pph are pie in the sky s-train fantasy – theoretical and virtually impossible to achieve.

    Based on 80 metre s-train vehicle lengths, s-train service frequency of 2.5 minutes and seven passengers carried per metre of s-train vehicle length, which is typical, the passenger capacity of s-train at best is only ~13,440 pph:

    x = 7 passengers/metre
    y = 80 metres
    z = 2.5 minutes

    p = (7 passengers/metre * 80 metres) / (2.5 min) = 224 passengers per minute = 13,440 pph

    This is bad. It is far less than what LRT with 115 metre long vehicles can achieve (24,150 pph):

    x = 7 passengers/metre
    y = 115 metres
    z = 2 minutes

    p = (7 passengers/metre * 115 metres) / (2 min) = 403 passengers per minute = 24,150 pph

    It sure looks to me as if LRT (tram) can move about 11,000 pph more passengers than s-train. How did the “engineers” and planners at TransLink get it so wrong?

    In Sydney, Australia, the tram line is traveling on the roads and is moving 13,500 pph (maximum practical capacity of s-train). According to the planners and engineers at TransLink, trams can’t move as many people as s-trains which are the “best”. I’m puzzled.

    (Historical note: The Bloor-Danforth streetcar line in Toronto, using pairs of PCC cars managed carrying 12,000 pphpd with no priority what so ever.! Modern Tramway December 1983)



    Who in his or her right mind at TransLink is going to elevate s-trains onto concrete viaducts which are going to topple in an earthquake: at a tremendous cost to move fewer passengers than trams at grade where longer platforms can be built for longer vehicles? How about slimy individuals who have connections to people pouring concrete and skimming money from taxpayers paying for it?

    Adios TransLink dirtbags – good bye. See you in court and have the cheque for $2 million in hand to cover court fees after you lose – Cambie Street merchants will be applauding.

    Zwei replies: Actually SkyTrain (Expo Line) achieves 90 second headways during peak hours, but one has to remember this is the combined service of the Expo and Millennium Lines.

  3. Haveacow says:

    Hey, Zwei I thought the combined service was 109 seconds when did it drop to 90?

    Zwei replies: I was told by a TransLink type last year that during peak hours, they were running at 90 second headway’s. Whether his claim was true or not, I have not taken a stopwatch and timed them of late. SkyTrain could operate at 60 second headways or less if need be and I have personally witnessed trains no more than 30 seconds apart, which was probably due to a problem elsewhere along the line. There are problems when headways getting too close between too many trains and the computer tends to have a nervous breakdown.

  4. Rico says:

    Pretty sure it is still 108 seconds, I think they need more trains before they can do 90 seconds on a consistent basis.

    Zwei replies: If you have done “train spotting” as I have done on numerous occasions, one sees all sorts of interesting operations. The 30 second headway was observed at Main street station where three trains slowly followed each other very closely down the Terminal Avenue stretch of track. I would guess there was an incident further up the line causing the trains to bunch. I did not see close headway’s on outbound trains and I watched for over an hour.

  5. Haveacow says:

    I checked the official Translink schedule and they claim 2-3 minutes frequency at peak on the combined sections of line between Columbia and Waterfront Stations. Wow, 30 seconds apart is a failure of something when you have a computer controlled system. When you have drivers and a crowded system with a single choke point, I can see that happening but not with a automated system, or at the least to that degree anyway. That kind of headway violates several safety laws because you officially need 20-30 seconds between trains to allow just for the time lost during standard acceleration and deceleration of trains at stations, that’s not including the time when the train is actually stopped at the station. I know for a fact that, the standard operating acceleration and deceleration rate on your Skytrian consists is the same or lower than Toronto’s or Montreal’s Subway/Metro trains.

    I remember when the subway trains on the northbound Yonge Line during afternoon peak, around 5 PM, would always be bunching like that and the trains would have to slowly creep behind each other at very slow speeds, until the trains would clear Yonge-Bloor Station (a classic choke point scenario). Again, the TTC and STM operate their trains on a spacing or headway basis, there is no schedule, Skytrain does have a schedule and that’s kind of scary when I here this type of story. If this type of continual operation of the Skytrain network is because of systemic and operating choke points then, that’s okay, it just makes the need to increase system and station capacity more acute and its not necessarily, a safety violation. But, if there doing this because they are trying to prove they can do it then wow, BIG,BIG,BIG violation of their own operating safety certificate.

    Zwei replies: If you have done “train spotting” as I have done on numerous occasions, one sees all sorts of interesting operations. The 30 second headway was observed at Main street station where three trains slowly followed each other very closely down the Terminal Avenue stretch of track. I would guess there was an incident further up the line causing the trains to bunch. I did not see close headway’s on outbound trains and I watched for over an hour.

  6. zweisystem says:

    With the Setrac movable bloc signalling trains can follow as close as they can safely brake, thus 30 second headway’s when trains are moving at 30 kph are perfectly safe. The whole concept of the movable bloc signalling was to create more pathways for trains than was practicable with the standard block signalling system. Trams using line of sight can operate at 30 second headway’s with no problem. We allow drivers to drive at speeds of 100 kph or more with no signalling system what so ever except for line of sight and cars on highways maintain 2 second headway’s.

  7. Haveacow says:

    Its not whether they can do it or not, its illegal for them because their operating certificate says they can’t, unless its a capacity or operational issue.

  8. Haveacow says:

    On a side note,

    Chris, one of the reasons I don’t like using the passenger/ unit length measure for capacity, and I’m not the only planner who does, is because it makes very large assumptions about the interior of the train. Most of these passenger/unit length measurements assume that the internal seating arrangement is 2 rows of parallel bench seating, each placed against the long wall of the vehicle, with a maximum of standing space in between. Very few systems use this, passengers the world over universally hate it. More conventional standard seating arrangements by them selves can lower the measurement value by a average 1 to 1.5 passengers/ metre length.

    Not all trains are the same width. These measures assume a standard width of around 3 metres, which can vastly over estimate the capacity for nearly all the world’s LRV’s and the Skytrain because they average around 2.6 to 2.86 metres in width. Where as Subway and Metro trains can easily exceed this measure, Toronto Subway Trains are 3.2 -3.3 Metres wide. It may not seem like much but a 0.1 metre difference over the length of vehicle can equal a large number of people per consist.

    Not all empty space in a given seating arrangement can be considered standing space. Transit Vehicle Manufactures are terrible for this. They use to be quite conservative about their useable amount of standing area but since the competition between manufacturers is so intense now all bets are off. I have seen some well, just hilarious claims of passenger standing area. My favorite, using the passenger per square metre of standing space measure is quite telling. The TTC for example, as an example of a mature rapid transit operator would never claim more than 4 people per sq. Metre of standing space. They are also very stingy in what they actually call standing space as well. I have seen politicians and transit fans quote up to 6. I have seen vehicle manufacturers use 6 to 8 passengers per sq. metre of standing space. This one is usually meant for mass measurements in vehicle frame and operating system tolerances. But they still will state it and people foolishly quote it and may make claims with them. I have caught Daryl, (Skytrain Daryl) using this in the past when describing the capacity for standing room on Skytrains. Unfortunately, he is not the only one. Never mind that, travelling for more than 5 minutes at 5 passengers/ sq. metre cause most north American passengers to be extremely uncomfortable and most will avoid transit at this passenger concentration to find another way of travel, if they have the option.

    A standard comfort measure used by the industry for the metre length of most transit vehicles confirmed by the APTA is as follows. I have added Toronto’s TTC comfort overcapacity limit. as well. This doesn’t mean that the vehicles are limited to this number its a prescribed a desired comfort level for maximum passenger output in the North American market.

    12-18 Metre Standard and Articulated Buses: 4.5-5 passengers, TTC: 4.1-4.4
    18-120 Metre single and multiple vehicle Streetcar, LRV and Light Metro Consists: 4.7-5.2 passengers, TTC: 4.5
    25-227 Metre single and multiple vehicle Metro/Subway consists: 6.5-7.8, TTC: 7.4-7.6

    Zwei replies: I have been severely taken to task by an American transit consultant and engineer over the “capacity issue” and he very strongly told me that in the USA capacity was measured at 5 persons metre metre length of vehicle because: 1) Americans demand seats, no seats, no use, so the calculation assumes seats not longitudinal seating. 2) A transit vehicle becomes a living organism and people are constantly getting up, sitting down, entering and exiting a vehicle and this is taken as part of the capacity calculation.

    On the other side of the pond, generally capacity is calculated at all seats filled and standees at: (1) 4 persons per metre/2 (generally real capacity); (2) 6 persons per metre/2 (crush loading and may have been true until the 70′s but no more and (3) 8 persons per metre/2, a theoretical calculation used to test braking, stop/start on steep grades etc.

    BC Transit used the 8 standee per metre/2 for years calculating capacity and insisted until the mid 90′s that a MK1 car could carry 125 people! The same car is rated at 60 people in Toronto.

    Personally I believe the capacity debate is a man of straw debate, used to deflect people from the real issues.

  9. Haveacow says:

    Zwei, I think you might be confused, most seating in transit, is considered bench seating. It doesn’t matter if its an actual bench or individual seats. Bench seating is called that because it has no seats with separate arm rests for passengers, and all rests on single arm structure or base referred to in the industry as a bench. Unlike individual or double seating in longer range coach buses or commuter/intercity rail vehicles, which can be individually adjusted. Bench type seating if you prefer, whether its a actual bench or individual seats, is just really easy and cheap to install.

    You are correct 5 passengers/sq. metre when people are standing does scare away many passengers.

    Calculating capacity per unit length does assume longitudinal seating. The practice started in North America (not Europe) and was used as a standard measure for a large class of then brand new New York Subway Trains. The class was to be part of a new continental wide standard design similar to the PCC for streetcars. Unfortunately, the project was cancelled. The actual name of the train class escapes me right now but it was used for standard measurement in New York in the late 60′s and early 70′s and spread out from there.

  10. Haveacow says:

    To further clarify yes most mature transit systems like the TTC never include more than 4 passengers/ sq. metre for standing room capacity. The per unit length capacity measurement is also not universally liked by many in organizations like CUTA, APTA & the UITP. But I will admit there is a wide variety of feelings on this issue. Zwei, you do have a point that yes, the capacity debate is used to deflect many away from other arguments. Especially the obvious, what is the actual passenger level carried versus how much can our system theoretically carry.

    The table of numbers I gave below for transit passenger comfort standards are in passengers per unit length not per sq. metre. Again the TTC, is quite stingy for comfort and capacity calculation, compared to most of the industry. These aren’t absolute limits because everyone has seen transit vehicles exceed this.

    For example,

    When the TTC for example says 4.1 passengers per metre length its assuming for this particular class of 12 metre bus, that seats 36 passengers, reaches capacity when all seats are filled and 13 people are standing. On a busy afternoon I have seen that same class of bus have every seat filled plus 36 or more standing and no extra bus in sight!