Repeating The Subway Lie And The Broadway SkyTrain Subway

TransLink and the City of Vancouver have trundled out their end game for the Broadway subway and it is nothing more than a grifter’s delight of fake news and alternative facts.

To remind everyone, subways are only built on transit routes when passenger flows exceed 15,000 pphpd (20,000 pphpd in Europe).

Current traffic flows on Broadway are less than 4,000 pphpd.

So it is time for TransLink and the City of Vancouver  to sell the Subway lie.

“If you tell a subway lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The subway lie can be maintained only for such time as the City of Vancouver and TransLink can shield the people from the political, economic and/or tax consequences of the subway lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the City of Vancouver and TransLink to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the subway lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the City of Vancouver and TransLink.”

Joseph Goebbels

In the East London vernacular; “the porkies are flying”.

So let’s look at TransLink’s big selling points for the Broadway subway; the $3 billion plus option!

Claim #1

More Volume.

A tunneled SkyTrain extension allows for the highest number of travelers and ensures the system retains the  capacity needed for the regions growing needs.

There is so much wrong and misleading with this statement that the only conclusion available is to mislead the public.

  • The SkyTrain Innovia Line’s Operating Certificate with Transport Canada limits capacity at 15,000 pphpd, unless an estimated $3 billion is spent to enlarge stations and station platforms to allow longer trains; renew the electrical system to operate more trains; a new automatic train control system; new switches to allow faster operation; the possible replacing some guideway beams on the Expo Line and more.
  • If subway stations are built with only 80 metre long platforms, maximum capacity will be restricted to 15,000 pphpd, close to what the mini-metro system is carrying at peak hours (according to TransLink claims).
  • It is interesting to note that coupled sets of PCC trams in Toronto were carrying 12,000 pphpd on the old Bloor/Danforth route and that modern LRT carries over 20,000 pphpd on on-street routes in many cities in Europe. Karlsruhe Germany recently operated coupled sets of trams, operating at 40 second headway’s, on one of the cities main thoroughfares, offering a capacity well in excess of 30,000 pphpd.! Karlsruhe is now building a subway on that route and gives good indication at the threshold considered to build a subway in Germany.

Claim #2

Less Transfers

A tunneled SkyTrain extension reduces the need for transfers at Commercial Broadway Station – the region’s biggest transit bottleneck.

This is so dishonest, it is more than laughable.

Question: “Did TransLink and CoV spin doctors sleep through their arithmetic classes?”

  • Present, Millennium Line and Expo Line customers need only to take one transfer from train to B-Line bus.
  • With the subway, Millennium Line and Expo Line customers will still only have to make one transfer, unless…
  • If the B-line bus service terminates at Arbutus, then Expo Line customers will have to make two transfers: to the Millennium Line then transfer again to a B-Line bus.
  • All the subway will do is move the bottleneck to the Arbutus terminus.

Claim #3

Lower Operating costs.

SkyTrain technology has the lowest operating costs per km. and per passenger than other technologies like light rail and bus rapid transit.

This is blatantly untrue and demonstrates how dishonest TransLink and the CoV are.

  • Just the Expo Line was found to cost 40% more to operate than Calgary’s C-Train (both lines, then, being about the same length), with the C-Train carrying more customers.
  • In 1992, the GVRD found that just SkyTrain Expo Line was subsidized by $157.63 million annually, more than bus and trolley bus systems combined!
  • SkyTrain has been on the market, under various names since the late 1970′s and only seven have been built. Not one Innovia SkyTrain system has been allowed to compete against LRT! No LIM powered Innovia SkyTrain system has been sold in the past decade.
  • The Toronto Transit Commission, estimates that 5 km of subway will add $40 million to operating costs!

Question: “If SkyTrain is so cheap to operate, why does no one want it?”

Claim #4 More flexible

Because SkyTrain technology is driverless, TransLink can easily add or remove cars to accommodate demand.

This old saw has been around so long, that I guess the CoV and TransLink spin doctors resurrected it, from the dead pile.

  • Light rail, can increase capacity on demand, by adding more vehicles to form coupled sets, without added staff.
  • Larger light rail vehicles, which today have a capacity three or four times as much as an Innovia SkyTrain cars, have ample spare capacity, that there is seldom any need to diagram more cars in operation.
  • Light rail can operate on-street in mixed traffic; on a reserved or dedicated rights-of-way; elevated, in a subway and can also track-share with mainline railways. It is LRT which is truly flexible, not SkyTrain which can only operate on its extremely expensive guide way.

Claim #5

More efficient goods movement

Underground transit will free up road space for more efficient goods movement and vehicle transportation.

Desperation is shown by this claim.

  • As subway stations will be inconveniently located and are generally user unfriendly, subways have proven poor in attracting new customers, thus car traffic on Broadway will not be reduced, but congestion, may increase, creating more, not less gridlock along Broadway.
  • Emergency vehicles operators like dedicated tram routes because they can use them in an emergency, navigating around traffic jams.
  • Several European cities now deliver freight by tram, as pioneered in Dresden and Amsterdam.

The epitome of modern light rail's flexibility and adaptability, a freight tram on lawned R-o-W.

Claim #6

Faster Commutes

The SkyTrain extension will cut travel time from Commercial Broadway to Arbutus by half. People commuting from Coquitlam Centre could reach central Broadway in 40 minutes – as fast as the car.

The benefits of faster commute times to central Broadway are overstated and in fact not relevant, as commute times for people other than Coquitlam will remain the same or increased.

  • One can lose upwards of 70% of potential customers per transfer.
  • It is longer to travel by subway if one’s trip is 7 km or less.

Question: “Is the expenditure of $3 billion or more for a SkyTrain subway to Arbutus worth a few minutes in time savings for so few people?”

Claim #7

Meets Regional Vision

The mayor’s Council vision for Transportation outlines the need for the Broadway subway to help meet our collective transportation needs.

The Mayor’s Council’s 10 year vision, was doing what Vancouver wanted, to build a subway to both make Vancouver a world Class city (all cities are world class if they have a subway, didn’t ya know) and to appease land speculators and land developers who donated big money to Vision Vancouver for wholesale destruction of affordable apartments and the  construction of high rise condo’s for overseas money launderers and speculators.

The mayor’s Council on Transit, was once described as a bunch of children playing with their toy trains that Father Christmas left them on Christmas morning.

  • A $3 billion plus subway will rob much needed transit monies in other regions.
  • A $3 billion plus subway will not reduce congestion.
  • A $3 billion plus subway will increase transit costs and transit fares.
  • A $3 billion plus Broadway subway will benefit no one except land developers and land speculators.

It is clear that the proposed Broadway subway is all about moving money and not transit customers.


16 Responses to “Repeating The Subway Lie And The Broadway SkyTrain Subway”
  1. With great respect, I’ve been following this blog for a while. I don’t see why you have this insatiable appetite to slag SkyTrain instead of promote your rail idea. I just can’t make the connection between the two.

    Zwei replies: You can’t? It is called money and for transit it is finite. SkyTrain costs more money, money that could be spent on transit elsewhere.

    SkyTrain has be built on a foundation of deception and deflection. There has never been an honest assessment of SkyTrain in metro Vancouver because if the truth be known, it would not be built.

    SkyTrain has caused great damage to our transit development in Metro Vancouver and a Broadway SkyTrain subway will destroy any chance of rail for the valley.

    Money = connection.

  2. Zwei , then maybe instead of vehemently slagging SkyTrain you should be saying, “A Broadway SkyTrain subway will destroy any chance of rail for the valley” which will serve far more people – most of whom at a lower income level. “SkyTrain costs more money, money that could be spent on transit elsewhere” for those whom might support a certain political party at the next election if there was a guarantee of high quality, reliable transit for the middle class.

    Also I do like riding SkyTrain when in the Vancouver metro area, but I sure wish there was a rail option out to Abbotsford… and where my friend Kris lives in Hope.

    Just a suggestion or two.

    Zwei replies: Sadly, as long as we keep building with SkyTrain, there will be no rail for the valley.

    I would not be slagging SkyTrain, if the mainstream media would get off their collective asses and do real investigative reporting on the light metro system. I would not be slagging SkyTrain if TransLink and the City of Vancouver were telling the truth.

    TransLink and the City of Vancouver are deathly afraid of the truth, scared to death of it.

  3. KEK says:

    The way you have formatted your blog post makes it look like that quote is attributed to Joseph Goebbels is pretty careless. I get the connection you’re trying to make to the original quote, but even the fact that you’re trying to link this transportation issue to a Nazi propagandist is pretty messed up.

    Zwei replies: If TransLink is repeating untruths and doing so with the intent of creating false information about SkyTrain, the same way propagandists have done in the past, I see no difference.

    Sleep with dogs, you get fleas!

  4. Haveacow says:

    I know Zwei can go over the edge sometimes but you need guys like him. I work in the industry and as an independent transport planning consultant, I can say things that the good folks whom work at your TransLink can’t.

    Here in Ottawa where I generally work out of, we had our Bus Transitways. For years anything other than these high end BRT rights of way were actively discouraged by officials at both O.C. Transpo and the City of Ottawa (also the old Ottawa-Carelton Regional Government). People who suggested any other type of transit operating technology were publicly criticized in the press and by the transit experts. Professionals like me were threatened with being essentially banned from working with the City, O.C. Transpo, and any of the big local consultancies that dealt with transit. This was done to protect the technology and the individuals who specialise in Transitways (BRT) from other operating technology they couldn’t really manage very well.

    This is what I see happening around Skytrain and it’s very specialized operations culture. You really need more people calling out Skytrain officials when appropriate, that they are spouting bull. They do it often, especially when it involves the Skytrain technology. Just like officials use to in Ottawa, desperate that nothing but Transitways ever get built. Eventually something will happen that the so called experts can’t deny any longer. At that point people start screaming and new ideas shine on in.

    I’m not saying that the people at TransLink are evil or there is something deadly wrong with the Skytrain technology. Many of its claims just aren’t true or were once true and no longer are or even apply well today’s operations environment. The real issue for me is that, the planning and engineering staff at TransLink are not the big Skytrain supporters the politicians who represent them. I know I was talking to a few of them here in Ottawa last week.

    One gentleman I spoke to, got a tour of the Belfast Yard Operations/Maintenance and Storage Facility done by RTG and O.C. Transpo. He admitted that, he had never seen or even knew that Light Rail Vehicles could be that big. When we spoke, he didn’t know that there were individual LRV’s operating in Europe that were working day after day in mixed traffic on essentially tram/streetcar lines that were even longer. When he saw the longest, a 9 section monster built by the Spanish company CAF operating in Budapest. He commented, “if you took the wheels off one of our Mark 3′s you could park it inside that god damned thing!”

    Funny comments aside, one of the people who really determine your rapid transit future had no idea that LRV’S could be very very large or operate the way Ottawa was intending to. This guy is not dumb and he is a very knowledgeable professional but his total knowledge of LRT was what Portland and Seattle have done, that’s it. He just hadn’t been exposed to other possibilities. He was as most professionals are, stunned into silence when they hear how many passengers per hour per direction our Transitway system moves during the peak periods. Followed by, “why didn’t you guys convert to rail earlier?”

    So yes, Zwei can be very very rough and unapologetic when it comes to dealing with matters around the Skytrain. He has been in the trenches a long long time. But you need more like him because too many of your well meaning transit experts are exposed to nothing but the SkyTrain. Through this website I have become aware just how much sway your local Skytrain lobby really has. It reminds me of Ottawa’s transit elite around 1996-99. They know change will be coming sooner than later but if they can just hold on a little longer, just long enough, they will be OK until they are ready to retire. Just like the most senior Transitway officials did in Ottawa.

  5. vancouver says:

    what is the alternative to building a subway?

    An LRT? Where would the right of way be located on broadway?

    Extending the skytrain to UBC is the best option. Forget about arbutus.

    Translink is only responsible to metro vancouver that only goes east to Langley.

    Fraser valley is BC Transit responsibility.

    Zwei replies: $5.5 billion for a SkyTrain subway to UBC and that is cut and cover, Daryl.

    Actually, 4 to 6 buses on the B-line in peak hours would solve the problem.

  6. vancouver says:

    Zwei is the mayor of (edited for legal reasons).

  7. Haveacow says:

    What is curious is that when TransLink did their Broadway study they never studied LRT in a tunnel just Skytrain in a tunnel. They never looked seriously at surface LRT either. Many many pages devoted to it and their main reason for not doing
    it was can’t have just 2 car lanes. A situation repeated in many cities the world over that have LRT. No one thought about looking too hard at that either.

    Remember it’s only 40-45 buses a per hour per direction. There are much busier bus corridors in Canada and the US. That BS line that Broadway is the busiest bus corridor in North America. Whom ever started it sure didn’t research it too hard. How about simply improving the bus service by making the operations more efficient. They never studied the elimination of non transit through traffic in certain areas like on King Street in Toronto. They never looked at actually separated bus passenger areas with the segregation of bus routes into selected express routes based on specific service areas. They never looked at prepared bus rally areas so extra service could be added far more easily. They just run buses strait from the garage. Rush or Peak Hour only intersection by pass lanes. The numbers are high but nowhere near the need to add a horrifically expensive tunnel and a light metro line. One day sure there will be a need but not yet!

  8. vancouver says:

    Who is Daryl?

    Only 4-6 buses per hour that is a bus every 15 minutes. Not good enough. Needs to be every 2 minutes.

    Skytrain will be extended in a bored tunnel.

    Zwei replies: Are that obtuse? I said 4 to 6 extra buses should ease overcrowding.

  9. Dondi says:


    I wish this blog would 1) really challenge Translink and Skytrain, for what they have FAILED to achieve in terms of expanding transit for the Lower Mainland at a reasonable cost, and 2) explore how promote a Leewood-like tram-train for the Valley.

    Unfortunately, Mr Zwei’s animus towards Skytrain is so fact-free/reference-free that 1) never happens and 2) is almost completely absent. Instead we get the same, unsubstantiated BS, over and over.

    The real obstacles to good transit in the Lower Mainland (the road and car and gas and suburban real estate lobby) are never even mentioned.

    Zwei ignores when he does not reject without any sound basis the most authoritative comparative data available from the FTA and CUTA and StatsCan, and from Translink itself. He instead uncritically repeats every misinformed exaggeration portraying Skytrain in a bad light.

    I am NOT a supporter of Translink but Zwei makes it necessary to simply stand up in favour of facts rather than his un-facts.

    Mr Zwei has made it explicit. He thinks that only by killing Skytrain will his pet Rail-For-The-Valley project have a chance to birth.

    Every rational observer knows this will not happen. Zwei’s perspective is, simply, a dead end. It not just only fails to advance rail for the valley, it tends towards being anti-transit in the broader sense.

    So why do you enable this direction?

    Zwei replies: Mr. Burgess, your complete ignorance of transit and transit issues is appalling.

    The mainstream media refuse to investigate SkyTrain and they treat it as an “motherhood and apple pie” issue.

    SkyTrain is on the way out, with no sales in the past decade, Bombardier is only keeping the production line open for the suckers in Vancouver.

    SkyTrain is sucking in huge amounts of taxpayer’s monies to keep it in operation, a very important issue if you want to expand transit.

    Current transit planning is not worth the paper its printed on and politicians are afraid to “bell the cat”.

    Only 7 such systems built in 40 years; no such system built in the past decade should seal the deal.

    For you, it does not.

  10. Haveacow says:

    The problem of using what the FTA collects as data, like ridership is problematic at best. They use boardings which measures passengers entry into every vehicle. If you have a simple transit system that’s okay. If you have a large multimodal transit system it seriously double and even triple counts most passenger journeys.

    For example, most passenger numbers publicly used by TransLink are boardings. This has the natural effect of making TransLink look better than it really is. Instead they should be using linked trips. This counts as one journey from origin to destination. No matter how many times a passenger transfers towards his or her final destination, it’s only counted as one trip. When you use boardings, each transfer to a new vehicle counts as another boarding. What a lot of professionals would like to see is a big warning label every time TransLink or any transit agency uses boardings.

    Attention people who think that this is measuring each total trip, this counts everytime you step into an individual transit vehicle. These aren’t really the numbers you want. Then tell them the various method used to calculate linked trips or provide a place where those numbers are located.

    When you see the actual numbers of linked trips compared to other cities like Ottawa, Waterloo or Mississauga and then compare them with Vancouver, the numbers still look somewhat impressive but they are not stellar. Especially when you compare how much TransLink actually spends on its operational budget compared to those cities.

    American examples are even more misleading because of how poor their system is when it comes to operational budgets. Denver’s RTA is prime example. Only a few of their LRT lines operate lower service frequencies of less than 5 minutes during peak periods. It all makes sense when you look at the operating budget, which is about 45% of Translink’s. One local Vancouver pro Skytrain blogger used this data as proof that no LRT system could run at frequencies of lower than 5 minutes. Which is patently untrue!

    This is why Zwei is as vocal as he is. You guys are so sure of Skytrain’s superiority you don’t question what Zwei is really saying when he says that, in 40+ years only 7 of these systems were purchased. Only 3 of them actually used for general rapid transit service. The rest are used as people movers in downtowns or access to and from airports and amusement parks. If it’s so blessed good how come more don’t use it? In North America 2 of those systems will be gone within a decade (Detroit’s People Mover and Scarborough’s RT).

    Having worked for and with Bombardier in the past I can tell you, the INNOVIA 300 Light to Medium Metro Transportation System is not popular and is running down it’s life as a Bombardier product.

    It’s main competition from France, the rubber tire VAL Advanced Transport System is on equally unsure footing since Alstom bought Siemens’s Rail transport group. They have several French cities that use this system and one is still being delivered advanced versions of VAL however, after that it is most likely Alstom will try and sell the technology to someone else. They really didn’t want it and were offered it before when MATRA the French Arms Corporation and the French National Government tried to unload the technology during the 80′s & 90′s.

    The point being is that the whole Light Metro industry in North America and Europe is in serious trouble unless it can find a new market. Yes, various builders like the ones who built the new Light Metro in Denmark are getting one off sales but that’s nowhere near enough in the modern rail vehicle market. Unit sales must be in the high hundreds of vehicles to break even and pay for development costs of the technology. One or two systems isn’t enough.

    If I were in charge in Vancouver I would either buy the technology and build it locally or plan to convert Skytrain lines to more conventional rail vehicle technology.

  11. Haveacow says:


    When we members of the public in Ottawa, finally got Ottawa to start the O-Train in 2001 we cheared. For years we had been told the same thing. It’s a dead end, it will never happen. Well it led to the Confederation LRT and a lengthened Trillium Line (the original O-Train line). Stage 3 will see it extended across the Ottawa River.

    As someone who works in the industry, I can say Tram-Trains are the future. They are cheaper to build than building rapid transit rights of way completely from scratch. Your government and transit agency just don’t want to see this. They don’t like it because they just aren’t ready to do the process of planning and building in a completely different way. Tram-Trains require a very different process. What we learned with the O-TRAIN was that you have to negotiate or learn to negotiate with odd private and public entities like main line class 1& 2 railways and the Federal Transportation Agency as well as Transport Canada. This requires bravery and a lot of help. Which is something transit agencies don’t like to ask for. Publically anyway! They can’t be seen as not knowing what they are doing. Even if they haven’t done something before.

  12. Vancouver says:

    There is an open house today 14 March at 511 West Broadway, Vancouver. Time 4-7pm

    Go to the open house and tell them what you think about the broadway extension. That includes you Zwei and Haveacow.

  13. eric chris says:

    @Vancouver, whoever you are… I like Steve Brown who’s the COV engineer “planning” the subway line. He is very polite and diplomatic. If he could say without the risk of losing his job, I’d say that he’d say that $2.9 billion for 23 km of tram line is much more prudent than possibly $?? billion on top of the $3 billion to $4 billion plus estimated cost (after the boring machine gets stuck and buildings collapse) for 5.5 km of the going nowhere subway line “planned” along Broadway.

    “The project also provides for the purchase of high capacity electric buses. [Smart]. The tram line would start from boulevard Louis-XIV in the borough of Charlesbourg. She would go down along 1st Avenue, in Limoilou. At the height of the Jean-Paul-L’Allier garden in Saint-Roch, the tramway would run underground to Rue des Érables in the Montcalm district. After that, he would continue to Laval University before returning to Laurier Boulevard. He would go to Legendre Avenue in Cap-Rouge. Underground stations would be built in the Parliament Hill area.”
    “The $ 2.9 billion would include infrastructure work and the purchase of all rolling stock, according to the plan. The Canadian and Quebec governments would account for 40% – 60% of the bill, but discussions are continuing. Quebec would like Ottawa to contribute more.”

    When I talked with Steve, he was coy about what would happen to the trolleybus service on Broadway if the subway line somehow makes it beyond the public “consultations”. Construction around the trolleybus lines would get in the way of cranes and such. Likely the trolleybus service would be suspended and then eliminated like on Cambie Street where TransLink was allowed to run amok last time.

    Let me fill you in “Vancouver”. Engineers who do real engineering take on huge amounts of responsibility and have the public’s safety in their hands. Life is much more stress free if you can land a cushy job at the COV or TransLink to pretend to be an engineer to “plan” and “hold” public consultations. Very few engineers “planning” at the COV and TransLink are technically competent to do the engineering (electrical, structural and mechanical) to design the tram line along Broadway. Going with the tram line is the ticket to the unemployment line for them. They don’t “do” engineering and much prefer to spend zillions of dollars extra (there’s always another tax out there somewhere to pay for the extra cost) to “plan” for some engineering firm to bore the Broadway subway line for them to do pretend engineering. Trams require real engineers and are Kasabian cool, watch out…

  14. Haveacow says:


    I don’t think I can make it on time, I live in Ottawa, even with the 3 hour time difference. Its the March Break so I have 3 little ones, (well not that little anymore) home from school and I have had to keep them entertained while mom is at work.

    The last time I was in Vancouver I seriously didn’t have enough time to do anything. However, when I was there in 2012 and 2014 and had 2 wonderful tours of TransLink facilities, me and my colleagues gave them plenty to think about. Over the years, I have had contact with enough of their staff and senior managers to get a really good idea of what and why they do things. They know my positions as well.

  15. tensorflow says:

    While you’re right that the fundings are limited, your biggest enemy is probably the Victorians who is only interested in MVRD and CRD and doesn’t care about the future of FVRD as most of the votes currently come from the previous 2 regions.

    Even if you manage to lure them to not expand Skytrain they would probably spend these money on something else in MVRD & CRD instead of creating a rail for the valley (e.g. Tram for Victoria, expanding WCE, Ropeway to SFU, or even just throw it as research funding for UBC).

    Zwei replies: We both got it wrong, it seems we are going to study high speed rail in the states.

Leave A Comment