The SkyTrain Dream Collapsing

So, despite the hype and hoopla of SkyTrain being a driver for increased density, it is now being seen as the harbinger of urban sprawl as affordable housing is demolished and in its place unaffordable condos in towers are built.

As rents exceed income and combined incomes of families (one now needs an income of $140,000 a year to afford an average new downtown condo), poorer families escape to the transit  poor ‘burbs’, where housing is affordable.

The city it seems, can only get more market rentals at presumably unaffordable rates and there is no real benefit, except low income families fleeing the City Vancouver.

So, what do metro mayor’s do, they double down build more of the hugely expensive MALM proprietary light metro of course, to be used as a driver to tear down more affordable housing to build more unaffordable housing. This is called renoviction in polite society; in not so polite society it is called profiteering.

$4.6 billion to build 12.8 km of light metro on routes that do not have the ridership to sustain it, only shows the complete ignorance of our regional mayors, the Minister of Transportation, the minister responsible for TransLink, TransLink’s CEO and TransLink’s planners, and the Engineering society as a whole!

Such wilful ignoring of the facts boils down to malfeasance on a grand scale.

In just a short decade from now,  civic and provincial politicians are going to wake from their transit stupor, too late, and see the City Vancouver as a vast wasteland for the very rich and the very poor, with roads and highways choked with commuters driving from where living is affordable to work where it is unaffordable and the $20 billion of taxpayer’s money spent on the light metro system  will be seen as another politically driven mega-project gone wrong.

We must go back to the basics, only seven of the now called MALM proprietary railways have been sold, with only three being seriously used for urban transport. Not one has been sold in over ten years and Metro Vancouver is the only region in the world that exclusively uses light metro for urban transport.

In an age of unprecedented investment in urban transport, no one has copied Vancouver or its exclusive use of light metro and now it is embarrassing apparent why!



Lewis N. Villegas

Mr. Villegas has a degree in architecture from UBC (B Arch); a diploma in Building Technology from BCIT; and a bachelor in Liberal Arts from SFU. He has practiced since 1985, completing several downtown revitalization projects in the Lower Mainland and throughout British Columbia worked 3 years as a consultant to LCA Portland, a new urbanism firm.



The City of Vancouver led the way on Regional Planning for maintaining ‘our high quality of life’ building the Skytrain-and-Towers; hosting a Class B Expo (1986) and the Winter Olympics (2010). Now we are feeling the blows of serious errors in planning:

  • Business counts are the lowest in 10 years;
  • There is an out-migration of middle-income families looking for affordable housing;
  • Mentally ill, street-involved citizens are being housed in tents at Oppenheimer Park;
  • Streets and the sidewalks almost everywhere are in a bad state of disrepair; and
  • The school system is ‘sputtering’ at the elementary and high school levels for lack of funding.
  • … Could bankruptcy be next?

The Regional Plans singled out for special attention the single family house—denigrating it as the agent of sprawl—and the private automobile—berating it for polluting the air and causing congestion. Yet, the drafters of the Regional Plans completely missed identifying the electric car as the ‘Urban Innovation of the Century.’ A new technology that will clean the air and make of the ‘Age of Combustion’ a bygone era.

Cities looking to succeed in the present climate must embrace the new technology and leverage it into a bright, green future. As well, the failed ideologies of the Regional Plans must be let go.

Following on the direction of the regional government, for over 30 years, Vancouver councils went about finding ways for discouraging automobile use—including taxing fuel, hiking parking fees, and closing road lanes to cars. They also set about redrawing neighborhood plans to identify potential tower sites. The concrete-and-glass behemoths are energy hogs with huge carbon footprints that cannot compete with the vernacular building forms in the new, combustion-free era. City initiatives based on the failed Regional Plans have rained unwanted results in the neighborhoods while failing to reduce traffic congestion, or deliver clean air. Then, there is the problem that the Regional Plans—far from sustaining ‘our high quality of life’—have driven us head-long into a housing crisis. There is more pollution everyday, and more traffic congestion. Sometimes the arterials are choked all day long. But, now—and for over 20 years—median income households cannot afford to own a house in this city. That condition has now spread from the centre to blanket the entire region.

The effects of the failed Regional Plans are clearly visible in Downtown Vancouver. Here, the new restrictions and closures have hung up a big metaphorical sign proclaiming, “Downtown is Not Open for Business.” If you can’t get here by walking, or on transit, then don’t bother to come at all. In response, people have stayed away in droves. The loss of affordable housing in the downtown core has further stymied business growth. The empty luxury condominiums pay city-tax, but they don’t spend dollars at downtown shops.

Turning downtown into a residential and hotel concrete tower Nirvana for the tourism and convention trade—complete with casinos for Chinese money laundering—has caused the regional capital to lose its competitive advantage. Save for tourists and conventioneers, and office workers at lunch hour, visitors arriving downtown feel unwelcome and many have simply stopped coming. One visible result is papered-over storefronts in increasing numbers on Robson Street and Gastown.

The bars from the 2010 Olympics never closed down after the crowds went home. Granville Street Mall today is an unrecognizable mutation of its former self. Block after block of Granville Street is host to booze joints and boozers. Not exactly an exemplary model of supporting high levels of social functioning; not exactly a place to take the family. The sidewalks and the streets around Granville Mall are filthy. The trees were cut down for the Olympics. The new trees are small and scrawny. And everywhere the traffic is a mess. We did all this to build towers—to add density! Yet, Downtown the residential towers are mostly dark, setting the mood for the entire place.

Meanwhile, the same animus driving against private transportation has government falling behind on building Modern Tram and automobile infrastructure—including new highways and bridges. These missing projects are now the new drag on the economy.


3 Responses to “The SkyTrain Dream Collapsing”
  1. Will says:

    The skytrain is not collapsing. Construction is just starting for the latest extension under broadway.

    Zwei replies: Didn’t read the article, did you.

  2. daniel says:

    I wonder if you saw the news? are you going to report on it too? Or you only do so when the skytrain is involved? I was under the impression that unlike skytrain, lightrain never ever has a breakdown?

    Zwei replies: The problem was brought to my attention but upon investigation it was caused by people holding the doors open, as they do on SkyTrain. Not really worthy of reporting.

  3. Haveacow says:

    @Daniel, While the Confederation Line is new it is just having teething issues, passenger traffic is exceeding expectations and the riding public of Ottawa are not use to train protocols that more experienced riders in Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and Toronto already know. As in, if you miss your station, simply go to the next one and go to the opposite platform and come back it just takes an extra 2-3 minutes. What they have been doing is panicking and trying to force the doors open, which locks the wheels of the trains in place.

    The Skytrain Expo Line is wearing out and Translink can’t afford the fixes because it is building amazingly expensive line extensions, far far more expensive than Ottawa’s Confederation line and the Stage 2 extensions currently under construction.

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