Slowly They “Get It”

It is slowly beginning to dawn on people that SkyTrain will not be coming to their community anytime soon.

It is also dawning on people that what we call SkyTrain is just much too expensive to build, that it can only can be built in small drips and drabs, 12 km to 20 km per decade.

People are realizing that the region just cannot afford dated light-metro, especially the MALM proprietary railway and are beginning to question the $4.6 billion now being spent extending the MALM system a mere 12.8 km in Vancouver and Surrey.

Just what could $4.6 billion buy us if one built with LRT?

  1. A deluxe Leewood/RftV 130 km, diesel light rail service with a maximum of three trains power hour from Vancouver to Chilliwack.
  2. A BCIT to UBC/Stanley Park tramway (LRT)
  3.  With money left over, transit improvement through out the Metro Vancouver area.
The following is a estimate of SkyTrain costs to come.
  1. UBC subway completion – $4 billion.
  2. Langley Expo Line completion – $1.6 to $2 billion.
  3. Expo ans millennium line rehab – $2 billion to $3 billion.
Political “wish list” for rapid transit projects.
  1. Rapid transit to the North Shore – minimum $5 billion
  2. Canada line extension to Steveston/Ironwood Mall (including rehab) – minimum $5 billion
  3. Rapid transit to Abbotsford  – $8 to $14 billion.
Since the current SkyTrain light-metro has now cost the taxpayer over $10 billion for almost the past 40 years, a simple calculation shows that the “wish list” will be at least 40 years from now, in a region drowning in congestion.
LRT costing about one third the cost to install and operate than SkyTrain, will have to be planned for and sooner the better.
The chap at the Optimist gets it, despite the vague promises for “rapid transit” (SkyTrain), Delta will never see a train

Opinion: Train not much help if it doesn’t reach destination

Murphy/ Delta Optimist

February 7, 2020


SkyTrain is a prohibitively expensive form of rapid transit.
Photograph By file photo/Delta Optimist

Well, at least it will get you part way there.

Last week there were announcements of sorts on the region’s two SkyTrain projects and what they had in common is the depressing reality that we don’t have the money to get where we want to go. The Broadway subway will only extend as far as Arbutus, not UBC, unless senior governments cough up billions, while current funding for the Expo Line extension in Surrey will leave it nine kilometres shy of its Langley City goal.

That sobering reality was on full display last week as it was announced it would be another five years before either extension becomes operational, and even if additional money materializes between now and then, getting all the way to UBC and Langley would likely be a decade away.

Should that best case scenario unfold, it would still leave the rest of the region woefully underserved by rapid transit and make debates about the benefits of density in places like Delta entirely moot exercises if we continue along our chosen path. However, if we opt to expand our rapid transit system with something other than the network that has brought us a whopping four lines in four decades, then perhaps there’s a fighting chance that other areas of the region will also share in the good fortune.

Despite its cost efficiency and worldwide popularity, light rail has become a non-starter in Greater Vancouver, somehow viewed as the poor man’s rapid transit by political leaders who cling to an outdated mode and its restrictive reach. Yet for those communities where SkyTrain is simply not viable (read South Delta), we’ll never see rapid transit if we don’t turn to light rail.

We can only hope that someday decision makers become so frustrated with the pace of SkyTrain that they have no choice but to turn to the obvious alternative.


One Response to “Slowly They “Get It””
  1. Rail for the Valley says:

    The Editor;

    Sadly, Delta will not get “rail” transit in any form because of the huge costs of the present light metro system.

    Why so?

    What we call SkyTrain is a transit systems, but is the name of TransLink’s regional light metro system, which consists of two very different railways.

    The Expo and Millennium Lines, use the very expensive proprietary and now called Movia Automatic Light (MALM) metro system and the Canada Line, which uses conventional Electrical Multiple Units (EMU’s) on a truncated mini-metro system.

    Both systems are automated and driverless and are very expensive to build, maintain and operate, when compared to more conventional rail operations and embarrassingly, they are constricted in capacity as well.

    Light Rail Transit is a modern tram, operating on a dedicated or reserved ‘at-grade’ rights-of-way, and generally has only local signalling, making the system far more flexible in application at a far cheaper cost than light metro.

    In the real world, modern LRT made light metro obsolete decades ago and is reflected that of the 7 MALM systems built in the past 40 years, only 3 are seriously used for urban transport.

    No one has copied the Canada Line, an orphaned truncated heavy rail metro, operating as a light metro.

    Not only is light-metro very expensive to build, it costs more to operate and maintain, lacks capacity and operational flexibility for future expansion.

    Our SkyTrain light-metro system has had much research, studies and reviews done by domestic and international transit authorities, who then went home to build with light rail instead.

    It is cost that has made SkyTrain light metro obsolete, just as cost doomed the Edsel in the 1960′s.

    A study done by Ontario’s Metrolinx, a province of Ontario Crown agency that manages and integrates road and public transport, study shows the long term costs of elevated or subway operation were massive, when compared to at grade light-rail.

    The 50 year per kilometre cost of at-grade LRT is around $200 million, while the per km.costs for elevated LRT (MALM and EMU operation would be a little higher) is almost $600 million. Subway’s costs are stunning, at $1 billion per km.!

    Spendthrift TransLink, the TransLink board and the Mayor’s Council on Transit is not telling the taxpayer, that the long term costs for elevated transit and subways are three to five times higher than at grade LRT, yet in Metro Vancouver, at-grade LRT would have a higher capacity than the capacity constricted Canada, Expo, and Millennium Lines at at least one third of the cost!

    The huge extra costs of elevated transit and subways, instead of at-grade LRT is financially cannibalizing the rest of the transit system today and for the next 50 years and why Delta will never get a “train”.

    Rail for the Valley

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