The Peanut Gallery

Peanut Gallery: a group of people who criticize someone, often by focusing on insignificant details.


After 35 years of advocating for better transit, I have come to understand the transit peanut gallery. Our local variety has become more and more disjointed from the realities of providing affordable public transport in the Metro Vancouver area.

They don’t want light rail and I get that; but and it is a big but, the financial realities of of a usable light metro network is staggering, currently we are spending $4.6 billion to extend the MALM a mere 12.8 km, with no thought given to the added operating costs that must be paid.

Please note: Movia Automatic Light Metro (MALM) is the sixth name given to the proprietary railway that is used on the Expo and Millennium Lines.

The peanut gallery has vague knowledge of operating and maintenance costs and pretend the the light metro system is paying for itself, yet after numerous times telling the peanut gallery that in 1992, the Expo line, just to new Westminster, was subsided at a $157 million annually, MORE than the trolley and diesel buses. Yet, they remain deaf and blind to this.

What this subsidy is today is largely unknown, but adding the onerous operational fees paid to the SNC Lavalin lead P-3 consortium operating it, the total annual subsidy is around $400 million! This is more than the cost of the newly opened Caen LRT/tramway, which cost $373 million!

Imagine a new 16 km tramway/LRT line built annually for the cost of the light metro subsidy!

The peanut gallery, in full delusion mode, continues with the old memes that SkyTrain is not proprietary; LRT is not safe; LRT is slow; LRT has no capacity, yet over and over again these memes have proven untrue. If it were as good as the peanut gallery says, then why does no one builds with it?

The recent revelations that the MALM lines have over 900 workers and that only around 150,000 actual people use the MALM is ignored and like Orwell’s sheep, keep bleating “SkyTrain good – LRT bad”.

The peanut gallery, as well as members who work in the mainstream media never, ever answer the main question:

After 40 years of unprecedented investment in urban and regional transport, only seven of the six times renamed and now called MALM proprietary transit system has been sold and not one was ever allowed to compete directly against LRT: WHY?”

I am still waiting for an answer.



8 Responses to “The Peanut Gallery”
  1. fredinno says:


    The recent revelations that the MALM lines have over 900 workers and that only around 150,000 actual people use the MALM is ignored and like Orwell’s sheep, keep bleating “LRT good – TransLink bad”

    Pointing out that you’re about as honest with your statements as the average politician, being ‘right’ off pure technicalities, and failing to understand that some critical flaw is indeed an major flaw in your reasoning is purely rational. Tram-trains as you propose simply not having enough sufficient capacity is indeed a serious issue that you’ve still failed to address.

    Zwei replies: you do not have a fuckin clue about capacity, in fact there is ample capacity for TramTrain for present ridership if built and added capacity can be had at reasonable cost.

    Capacity is basically a numbers game played by those who haven’t a clue about transit, namely the peanut gallery.

  2. fredinno says:

    Can you show it? Also, the rebuttal study seems to have been a response to Rick Green. So it’s basically their word against yours at this point.
    Anyways, let’s entertain the idea. The SFU Study FROM YOUR WEBSITE’S REFERENCES BTW ( says 20 minutes frequency. Considering the size of these trains (~82-85m Flexity Link trams), you get a maximum pphpd that’s not only less than Skytrain, but less than the WCE, and Broadway BRT and Bus+B-Line options! (~1611pphpd maximum for the interurban).
    This is why you need your own tracks, to get frequency down to minimum below 5-10 minutes. That, as acknowledged in the SFU study, would send the cost close to $2B.

    This was my question back in here:
    Answer the capacity problem. How do you make Tram-Train run without its own tracks and have capacity even just above the WCE?

    Zwei replies: It is not about capacity sunshine it is about ridership and a 30 minute service on the the former interurban route could offers capacity of a bout 1,500 pphpd, more than enough to cater to the current demand. As demand grows, improvements to the line can be made to increase capacity. Translink love to BS about capacity because they have conditioned the media to speak in terms of capacity and not demand. Providing more capacity than demand costs money and why one does not see extra buese on the 99B route.

    As for SFu’s cost, Rail for the Valley engaged Leewood Projects to do a study of the former BCE route and Leewood projects is quite experienced with planning for rail on existing routes, something SFU is not. The study is available on the RftV website and i would read it before you cite SFU’s study or any other study.

  3. Haveacow says:

    Sorry guys, LRT and Tram-Train do have very high passenger capacity many European networks move more than Vancouver’s Light Metro system. The Skytrain network is currently maxed out in terms of capacity, which means unless certain numerous and extremely expensive capacity upgrades are done to the Millennium and Expo Lines, 14200 passengers/hour/direction is the operations limit placed on the network by Translink to avoid damage and maintain anything near a normal operational flow of trains. 15000 passengers/hour/direction is the maximum theoretical throughput of the network and the minimum legal service frequency of one train every 109 seconds, also can’t be upgraded until big improvements occur. The main problem is that the Skytrain Network capital costs are 2 to 3 times higher per km than standard Canadian LRT capital costs. The all mighty dollar cost wins every time with politicians.

    Zwei replies: The SkyTrain Lobby or peanut gallery just cannot get their head around the fact that no one want to build with SkyTrain and only seven such system have been built in 40 years.

    If only 3 or 4 US cities had built with ICTS/ALRT/ALM/ART/Innonvia and now Movia light metros for their regional transit system, I would not have a leg to stand on, but only three of the systems are serious transit systems and one of those is soon to be abandoned and the other is involved in a large corruption scandal. Yikes! Yet, the true believers just want to believe.

  4. fredinno says:

    1,500pphpd is the maximum potential ridership without “big improvements” occur (new rails).

    Again, a factor of *10* lower than even the pessimistic numbers listed by Havecow. (which are the maximum capacity for 6-car MKI trains)

    >Utilization cannot increase above 10% of Skytrains.<

    Capped it because you keep avoiding the proverbial Achilles Heel.

    (TransLink says max. 25,700 pphpd with MKII-2nd Gen)–Project-Summary.pdf


    Going by the maximum capacity implied by the Leewood Study (3m width, 120m length, 20min frequency), you get 2250pphpd.
    15% of the MKI max potential ridership
    8.8% of the MKII/MKIII maximum potential ridership.

    Not much better.

    Zwei replies: Haven’t a clue what you are talking about do you. You are just wasting your time. The RftV capacity a per the Leewood Study would meet demand on the route. Why spend money on capacity when it is not needed. This is the lesson Translink will learn by extending the Expo Line in Surrey.

  5. Rico says:

    Haveacow, the DAILY AVERAGE pphpd on the Expo line was 14800 in the morning peak in 2018 before all the new trains came into service. It is clearly over that now. It will obviously be greater when more MKIIIs (or equivalent) enter service, especially if they are mainly 5 car trains. I think we should know more about new trains in March. You need to adjust your numbers up.

    Zwei replies: Rico, Rico, Rico do not take what Translink says at face value. Translink, like BC Transit before, over estimates ridership by 10% to 15%. As there is no independent audit of ridership, TransLink can claim anything it wants and because SkyTrain is as much of a political transit system, as it is a public transit system, claims of high ridership, will. Fact is, ridership isn’t what TransLink claims, because Translink and the CEO styated to the media several times over several days that 150,000 people actually use The Expo and Millennium lines daily. That number just does not translate into the claim of 14,800 pphpd.

  6. zweisystem says:

    5 car trains will not be used for at least another decade if ever. Word has it that the MK.1′s are getting old and in need of major overhauls or retirement.

    I must point out that the Millennium Line only operates 2 car trains, which except for peak hours, easily are able to cater to current traffic flows.

    Time for everyone to take off their tin foil hats and return to reality.

  7. Rico says:

    Zwei, I thought we have been over this. The Expo/Millenium lines have 379,000 daily boardings, this = 150,000 actual people using the line a day (a bit more than an average of 2 boardings per person). Or, looking at it another way when combined with the 90,000 people who use the Canada line every day (interestingly less than 2 boardings per person) = more than 10% of the population using Skytrain every day (coincidently lining up with Stats Can numbers as well). Don’t forget bus numbers are extra over that. For the Expo line all those boardings = 14,800 pphpd in the morning rush as per the 2018 performance review. These numbers come from the Compass cards and represent paid/tallied boardings and are easy to count…and audit…so while the numbers may be low because of fare evaders or tap errors they won’t be high. Don’t forget 2018 was before most of the new MkIII trains were in service, those numbers will be up in 2019 even with the strike uncertainty. As for 5 car trains let’s see what gets announced when they review the bids for new trains in Feb/March. I thought the request for proposals was for a mix of 4 and 5 car trains but it could be the 5 car trains are later in the delivery period. Don’t forget even just going with extra 4 car MkIIIs increases capacity by a fair bit.
    As for the Millenium line I assume they will keep 2 car trains till the Broadway line opens and just increase frequency as new trains go into service on the Expo line (new trains go to the Expo line which keeps its frequency the same and the replaced trains end up on the Millenium line as 2 car trains…so a 4 car Expo MkII becomes 2 2 car MkIIs on the Millenium line.

    Zwei replies: Rico, you haven’t a clue what you are talking about.

    There is no independent audit of ridership, Translink can claim anything it wants without fear of being contradicted. All politicians care about is high numbers and Translink gives it to them.

    The Canada Line is not carrying 90,000 people a day, roughly about 50,000 a day use it. if you have even observed the Canada Line off peak, it is easy to see that the numbers are cooked.

    80% of the light-metro’s ridership first use a bus and from what I can see, transit ridership matches population growth, of course buses get crowded because TransLink does not match bus service with population growth.

    The Ml.3 train is gangwayed, which means one has through communication at each end of the car. This concept has been around for over 100 years, and at least 40 years for metros. TransLink can operate 5 car trains, but they won’t until major station rehabs are done.

    The rest of your screed certainly shows you are a member of the peanut gallery. if our light metro is so good, why then does no one copy us?

    Here is something you may not know. other transit agencies monitor Vancouver’s system, because of claims made by TransLink and those claims have been found to be baseless. I have talked to a few of these guys and they all say the same thing; “not carrying the ridership as claimed” and “far too expensive for what it does”.

    Live with it.

  8. Haveacow says:


    The figure is 15,000 not 1500 passengers per hour per direction for the maximum theoretical capacity of the Skytran network. .


    The actual figure given to C.U.T.A. by Translink for 2018 is 14200. I have no doubt that it can vary quite widely day to day (most systems do have a wide variation in daily traffic) up to14800 or even higher, however your the power system and existing track turnouts (switches) and track configuration make operations consistently above that level problematic. New higher speed turnouts need to be installed because the ones used now require the trains to slow down dramatically. Higher speed turnouts are longer with frogs (turnout points) that are at a longer angle, which means all your track geometry has to change as well as having to relocate signalling and power equipment.

    Yes, you can even operate for short periods above 15,000 p/h/d but it is not recommended. Any changes to that will also require new signaling and communication equipment and signal processors. The current communication equipment can’t react fast enough if you are operating at or beyond its limit. Legally, 1 train every 109 seconds is the operational limit.. This limit is set by Transport Canada and the Transportation Safety Agency. If you want to lower the operating frequency a new proving test and schedule has to be approved. This can take 2 years as long as Translink has the improvements in place so that the testing can begin. One major problem, the existing electrical power system for the entire network is at its limits. More trains increases the electrical resistance on the system that ,lowers the electrical current level, its the electrical current or flow that actually moves the trains.

    Most of the cabling that attaches all this track and signaling infrastructure to the power system and the operating system is old and also in desperate need of replacement. The fires you have along the tracks are because animals and birds are building nests on top of or traveling along the cables. Their claws, talons and beaks have cut into the now aging and probably non-pliable overly rigid cable sheaths and are causing shorts. Many of the cable connectors and brackets are also in need replacement.

    Can you increase the capacity of each train by increasing the size of the trains (which is exactly what they are doing) yes but again, there are conditions to this. The more you go over the limit of 15,000 p/h/d you severely tax the Citiflo 650 operating system. Bombardier is now no longer updating the Citiflo 650 and Bombardier is switching to a new automation operating system, which means knowing Bombardier, all new equipment will need to be purchased. Bigger trains increase the electrical resistance on the power system, which lowers the current available. Drop the current too low and everything stops. Can you fix this sure, but that requires more new electrical infrastructure, that costs big money!

    Much of the existing infrastructure on the core part of the Expo Line is 33-36 years old depending on the construction date, remember it opened in 1986, much of the brigdes and concrete could be at least 36 or even 37 years old now. Concrete ages geometrically, the longer you put off refurbIshing said concrete, the more the costs grow above just inflationary pressure. I saw much concrete patch work on the underside of the viaducts dbuturing my last visit but no rebuilt new concrete sections. The concrete base plate that the track actually sits on needs work and isn’t getting it..

    @Rico and @Fredinno,

    Passenger flows of 25,700 are possible but will require 5 car trains, an updated and new automation operating system, major overhauls of electrical and signaling infrastructure. Track work will also have to be done, base plate and viaducts will require refurbishment to the steel reinforcement and concrete. This sounds simple but it is very expensive and time consuming. Very, very time consuming on an operating line. The existing infrastructure just can’t do the passenger flows you want . The vast majority of this work hasn’t even been budgeted yet by Translink.

    $860 million in brand new signaling infrastructure as well as some tunnel reinforcement and track upgrades have been happening on Subway Line #1 in Toronto. This is the 66 year old, Yonge-University-Spadina-York subway line which is the busiest in the country. The TTC has been shutting down sections of the line on weekends for 7 and half years now to do all the work required. This was the prefered choice compared to shutting the whole line down for 1.5-2 years. It appears they will still be doing work on it well into 2020.After that, they have to do line #2, the Bloor-Danforth Subway Line.

    Lastly, more new and larger trains mean a new yard for. You guys are out of yard space. A new maintenance and storage yard for Skytrains was planned in the follow on extension of the Expo Line to Langley. However, a spy of mine just told me that, due to ever increasing land costs in the Lower Mainland of B.C., the yard may have to be built as part of an interim extension because the cost of going all the way to Langley and building a new maintenance and storage yard at the same time is not affordable, unless senior levels of government pay for the whole line. Translation, Translink can’t afford its 33% and in this case, even 20% of the expected cost of the line is to high to get to Langley as well as build any other extensions at the same time. Like the extension of the Millennium Line to UBC from Arbutus.