Remember, Remember The 13th Of December

The next Mayor’s Council on Transit meeting is on December 13 and a very important meeting indeed.

At this meeting the Mayor’s Council on Transit will decide on the fate of Surrey’s LRT project.

The SkyTrain Lobby is worried (the number of spam emails has increased tremendously) that common sense may reign and the decision to build with LRT will stand.

Here are thirteen questions the regional mayors should answer before any decision is made.

  1. The Expo and Millennium Lines are a proprietary railway, which technical patents are owned by Bombardier Inc. and the engineering patents owned by SNC Lavalin. Are not employees of Bombardier Inc and SNC Lavalin in conflict of interest being involved in regional planning, especially rapid transit planning?
  2. The Expo and Millennium lines is an unconventional, proprietary railway now called Innovia ART. As only seven (7) of these proprietary railways have been built in almost 40 years. Why is Vancouver the only city in the world that continues to build with SkyTrain?
  3. Vancouver is the now the only city in the world planning for the proprietary Innova ART system (SkyTrain). How secure is TransLink getting replacement parts and new vehicles for the aging transit system, which no other company builds?
  4. Surrey’s new mayor and council have rejected a $1.65 fully funded LRT system, in favour of an unfunded $2.95 billion SkyTrain line to Langley. Where is the additional $1.3 billion in funding coming from?
  5. Both the IBI and ART studies done for the Toronto Transit Commission in the early 1980’s found that ICTS SkyTrain (an earlier name for Vancouver’s SkyTrain) that the proprietary metro cost up to ten times more to install for about the same capacity than LRT. Why then does Translink’s costs for LRT much higher than other city’s costs for LRT?
  6. Innovia ART (SkyTrain) capacity is limited to 15,000 pphpd as per Transport Canada’s Operating Certificate, until an extensive and expensive rehab of the Expo and Millennium lines takes place. This is said to cost around $3 billion and must be done before any increase in capacity can be achieved. Has TransLink planned for this $3 billion rehab and if so, how will be the funding be sourced?
  7. TransLink now claims that the Surrey LRT is not being planned as a “fully dedicated system”. What is and isn’t a “fully dedicated LRT system?
  8. TransLink’s planners seem to think that grade separation equals greater capacity, yet it is well known that simple at-grade light rail can handle traffic flows up to and over 20,000 pphpd. The Expo and Millennium Lines currently have a maximum capacity of only 15,000 pphpd and the Canada line with platforms have half the length of the Expo & Millennium Lines, effectively gives the Canada line slightly more than half the capacity of the ART Innovia lines. Has TransLink deliberately reduce the capacity of LRT in order to not cause embarrassing comparisons with the SkyTrain light-metro lines?
  9. Much is said about the speed of SkyTrain, but this is because SkyTrain has many fewer stations than LRT. Though SkyTrain may offer a higher commercial speed, because the much greater distances transit customers must travel to reach a SkyTrain stations, means door to door travel times tend to favour light rail. Why does TransLink persist using this unprofessional statement with their transit planning?
  10. In North America, the industry standard for building a subway, is a transit line with traffic flows that surpass 15,000 pphpd, yet traffic flows on Broadway, in the peak hour, are less than 4,000 pphpd. Why is TransLink even considering a subway under Broadway, when traffic flows are so weak?
  11. In 2015, TransLink fired their two top planners, Tamin Raad and Brian Mills, rumored because of their opposition to the Broadway subway. Who ordered the firings and why were the planners fired?
  12. The city of Ottawa sent a delegation to Vancouver to inspect SkyTrain as there was pressure by the federal government for Ottawa to build with SkyTrain. The delegation found that SkyTrain was not only much more expensive to build than light rail, SkyTrain cost more to operate and maintain, had less capacity and lacked the operational flexibility than LRT. Ottawa’s new LRT system is now nearing completion. Has the findings of the Ottawa delegation ever been conveyed to Metro mayor’s and councils or the Mayors Council on Transit?
  13. In 1993, a report from the GVRD’s Costs of Transporting People in the BC Lower Mainland, found that the subsidy in 1991,  for just the Expo Line from Waterfront Stn. to New Westminster was $157.6 million or put another way, the subsidy for SkyTrain was more than the diesel and electric buses combined! What is the current annual subsidy for the entire SkyTrain light metro system?
Thirteen questions and now waiting for thirteen straight answers.
I am not holding my breathe.
Who is in charge of the clattering SkyTrain?
The axles creak and the couplings strain,
and the pace is hot and the points are near,
and costs hath deadened the Metro Vancouver’s ear,
and the signals flash through the night in vain,
for TransLink is in charge of the clattering train.


6 Responses to “Remember, Remember The 13th Of December”
  1. Rob Sutherland says:

    These are all reasonable questions needing reasoned and evidence based responses. Whether pro or con “boosterism” is not a reasonable response when the costs and long term impacts are this significant.

  2. Ray says:

    The mayors council have already decided on the future of LRT. It is not going to happen. There will be no LRT. Skytrain will be extended to Langley with the same number of stations. Both Vancouver and Surrey support this and have the required votes to make it happen.

    Zwei replies: Your ignorance is only surpassed by your arrogance. No decision has been made and the funding is not soured. If anything, they will build SkyTrain to Fleetwood.

  3. Haveacow says:

    Remember they only received the money for the first LRT line. They haven’t got the cash yet for what would have been the LRT line to Langley. The provincial and federal governments have yet to put in their cash for that extension. The cost for the Skytrain extension to Langley is almost $3 Billion and rising by $100 Million per year beyond 2022. They don’t have enough money yet!

    They have to do an environmental assessment update snowing the change in operating technology, change in right of way locations and building/station property envelope. I had also forgotten that, a new Skytrain Yard will be needed as well.

    This new and maintenance facility is going to have to be much larger than the original LRT Yard facility (including higher property costs) because of the maintenance differences between Light Rail Vehicles and the Innovia Automated Light Metro Vehicles (Skytrains). The existing maintenance facility is at its limit and is too far away from most of the Langley extension to efficiently service the line. The extreme distance most of The trains would have to travel from the existing yard or service equipment for that matter, would dangerously raise the line’s maintenance/operational costs!

  4. Haveacow says:

    The last mayor’s committee meeting only “suspended” the LRT Project it didn’t cancel it. There is a big legal difference here. If you cancel a project, the cancellation factors in the contract come into play. Paying the contract cancellation fees with the providers of the engineering and planning contracts as well as any outstanding money owned on their work. The pre-construction work will also have outstanding project fees (I haven’t seen one yet that doesn’t). If you just suspend work, you legally have time to pay outstanding bills and contract cancellation fees.

    Zwei maybe right about a chance at project resurrection here. A little birdie told me that, Bombardier has been mostly silent about the LRT contract, they were part of one of the consortiums bidding for it. There seems to be internal debate between the LRT and the Innovia divisions. Plus several other companies like Alstom, Vossloh, CAF, Kinki Sharyo, Breda (now Hitachi Rail Italy), Brookville Equipment and Stadler were all interested in providing well priced LRV’s for the project. It doesn’t look good, when you are turning down multiple interested international vehicle providers and building contractors, all trying to put out the lowest bids and you dump all of them for a single sourced contractor and vehicle bid that, you have no choice but to accept the price they charge and product they offer.

  5. Haveacow says:

    Well we just found out that it won’t go to Langley before 2025! Expansion to Langley will occur sometime after the original $1.65 Billion runs out.

    Let’s do the math, you had 1 possibly 2 LRT lines depending on funding, paid for. Had the LRT to Langley gone through with upper level funding from the Fed’s and the province, 27 km would have been built by 2028, at the latest. A B-Line bus route covering the Fraser Highwsy route to Langley between the opening of the 2 LRT lines again, paid for! Improved local bus service in other places throughout Surrey and Langley, PAID FOR

    Now you have maybe a much shorter Skytrain line actually being built and opened by 2025 with the extension to Langley maybe happening around or most likely, after 2030. There is no B-Line bus on the Fraser Highway to Langley because now that money needs to be rerouted so an existing B-Line service can be inproved, due to the cancellation of the LRT line. The Fraser Highway service won’t get a B-Line bus but improvements to the existing routes, no money for anything else. Increased local bus service will be cut back to pay for the ever increasing Langley extension costs because the new line costs so much more.

    Translink just stated that funding commitments may change to cover the projects known costs. Mainly because all the planning isn’t complete yet and won’t be for 13 months. I hope you make time for public meetings, some people might be quite surprised when Translink comes to buy their land for the bigger station properties. There was a reason, the LRT project stuck to the median of the Fraser Highway!

  6. zweisystem says:

    I was told tonight that Translink is already making inquiries for property acquisition and in Fleetwood.

    What surprises me is that TransLink has a plan already and they know what properties they want.

    Surrey is delaying or stopping a lot of approved community amenities and the people concerned are very vocal about the flip flop because it seems the new mayor and Council just did not have a clue about costs for SkyTrain and are scrambling to get monies for SkyTrain development..

    There is also a rumor that several property developers in Newton are planning a lawsuit against the city and TransLink because they bought and improved properties because of light rail. Evidently there is some signed contracts with city officials that indeed light rail is to be built.

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