The White Elephant Line

A white elephant is a possession which its owner cannot dispose of and whose cost, particularly that of maintenance, is out of proportion to its usefulness.

To recap, the Canada Line is not a true P-3, rather a mock P-3, where SNC Lavalin/Bombardier, bid against, SNC Lavalin/ROTEM. Judge Pittfield who resided over the failed Susan Heyes lawsuit against TransLink, called the bidding process a “charade”.

The Canada Line is the only heavy-rail metro built in the world as a light-metro and being only able to operate 41 metre long, two car trains, has much less capacity than a modern tram costing a fraction to install!

At a minimum of $83.4 million to operate annually, calling the Canada line a “White Elephant” is too kind!

Surrey urged not to repeat Canada Line P3 mistake

Passengers wait to board a Canada Line train to Vancouver from Bridgeport Station in Richmond.  - Black Press file photo

Passengers wait to board a Canada Line train to Vancouver from Bridgeport Station in Richmond.

ai??i??Ai??image credit: Black Press file photo

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan says Surrey must avoid repeating the costly mistakes made when the Canada Line was built as a P3 partnership now that the city is clamouring to build new light rail lines.

Corrigan has been pushing TransLink to disclose details of the Canada Line arrangement, which he says forces the transit authority to pay the private partner not just a higher interest rate than if it had borrowed directly but also additional inflationary and other adjustments.

Those payments cover the cost of operating the line as well as the $721 million in private capital ai??i?? nearly one third of the $2.1-billion rapid transit line ai??i?? that was fronted by the partners after direct contributions from TransLink and senior governments.

The deal to secure and repay the “magic money” through the P3 has financially hobbled TransLink, leaving it unable to afford better transit service in the years since the Richmond-Vancouver line opened in 2009, Corrigan told the Metro mayors’ council Jan. 27.

For the rest of the story………….


4 Responses to “The White Elephant Line”
  1. Haveacow says:

    I honestly would not call the Canada Line a “White Elephant” it moves too many people per day as is. I believe the term “White Elephant is grossly over used! To be fair, it does move more people on a daily basis than quite a few existing subway/metro/heavy rail lines in London, Paris and the greater New York Area.

    However, It is an example of a political, technological and economic process that produced a rapid transit line with an extremely limited ability to expand its current and very small passenger carrying capacity. On top of that, due to the very high cost, it has a very low political chance of its passenger carrying capacity ever being greatly expanded. This doesn’t mean the line won’t or couldn’t be physically lengthened, that could still happen. The ability to even moderately increase the line’s very light passenger carrying capacity however, has a very low probability of happening, given the lack of local capital financing in Vancouver and the great amount of capital financing it would need. Also, the competition for capital financing from other local rapid transit lines built and unbuilt like, the possible Broadway Millennium Line extension, updating and keeping parts of the Expo Line from collapsing in the next few years as well as a LRT project in Surrey, makes it even less likely. Unless some outside condition drastically changes, given the Canada Line’s built in limitations, it simply can’t without massive help from a big injection of operating and capital funds, ever greatly expand its total daily passenger amounts. Its already too close to its physical limits.

    Zwei replies: I disagree. The Canada Line is moving mostly recycled bus passengers and U-Pass students who may use the metro over 6 times a day. The cost of this mini-metro could have funded a LRT network 4 times as large (from Siemens). Severely limited because of fiscal restraints, the Canada needs a minimum of a billion dollars (2012) just to increase capacity past about 7,500 pphpd.

    In 2013, the Canada Line cost taxpayer well over $120 million (from a FOI from Rand Chaterjee). The Canada Line has caused a large drop in ridership from South Delta and south Surrey, where former bus riders balked at the forced transfer and drove instead.

    The Canada Line today, sees about 100,000 boardings and that is dropping as demographics slowly change.

    The Canada Line has all but convinced the MoT that new highways are needed and transit doesn’t really work.

  2. eric chris says:

    @Haveacow, the Cambie Street subway (I refuse to glorify it by including the country’s name in it) moves fewer than 2,000 people per hour on average (29 million passenger trips / 365 days / 2 trips per person / ~20 hours of operation daily). This isn’t much, especially for the zillions of dollars spent:

    Actually, taxpayers paid to build the subway for SNC Lavalin to charge taxpayers about $100 million annually to “manage” it. Cons at TransLink conspired with SNC Lavalin to screw over taxpayers in Metro Vancouver. They’re collecting huge salaries and laughing at how dumb we are. Here’s what the future holds for “el-douche-bags” at TransLink and SNC Lavalin:


  3. Haveacow says:

    Eric there is no argument the line was a “cock up” from the start. I don’t disagree with your statements guys however, 40% of the NY Subway lines do not get 100,000 passengers a day. Over 30% of London’s and Paris’s metro lines carry less than 100,000 a day, are they all white elephants too? My point is that the term is way overused. Kind of like the term “Mega Project”. Officially, its only a Mega Project if it costs more than $10 Billion. Unfortunately, the term is applied to almost any large project regardless of the cost, that someone disagrees with or wants to put a negative spin on. The Canada Line’s capacity can’t be easily expanded with out spending a huge amount of money and that’s what most important thing and most disserving of scorn. Many successful metro lines attract fewer than 100,000 passengers a day and still cost a princely sum to build. Most Rapid Transit Lines world wide also recycle bus and transferring passengers from other modes of transport. Its nearly impossible to AFFORDABLY provide a single seat to destination service for most transit passengers once a city is larger than 750,000 people, given a North American, Australian, New Zealand building form context, the area of the city by this point, is just too big.

  4. zweisystem says:

    Zwei replies: Actually well under 50,000 people a day use the Canada Line, in fact the figure could be less than 40,000 actual fare paying people use the Canada Line a day.

    TransLink counts boarding’s, not actual passengers and then one factor in multiple boarding’s by U-Pass holding students (this is a very big number) and it also includes the free fare zone on Sea Island where workers park for free at the massive employee parking lots and ride on or two stations for free. Many of these people make 4 trips (boarding’s) a day, making the extra trip at lunch.

    But there is another clue that makes TransLink’s claims look bogus and that Rand Chaterjee’s group in Vancouver, found via FOI, a 2013 payment to the operating consortium of over $120 million, which stronly indicates that actual fare paid ridership was not what was advertised.

    2 car trains at 3 minute headway’s during peak hours is not indicative of high ridership.