Why the car is winning the commuter war – Simple, it is called SkyTrain

The modern tram brings fast, reliable and user-friendly public transport to

densely populated European Cities, like Amsterdam. The ability of the transit customer

of having his/hers transit on the pavement and easily accessible, makes

modern light-rail the first choice of transit planners around the world.

Sadly, not so in Metro Vancouver.

A bit of a “Puff”Ai?? article in BC Business.

Frances Bula, a big supporter of light-metro and her “puff stories” on the Canada Line earned a rather unfriendly moniker by those living on Cambie St.

But the “chickens have come home to roost” so to speak and now with over $10 billion invested in SkyTrain and the Canada line, the car is winning the commuter war!

The problem is so simple, that it is far too complicated for the likes of Bula and many other media mavens who opine on transit in the mainstream media to understand.

If you want people to use transit, it must be user friendly; it must be an attractive alternative to the car.

As Bula and Translink have not figured this out, speaks volumes why TransLink is held in such high odor by locals.

Except for residents of the principality of Vancouverai??i??aAi??little piece of Amsterdam dropped into our local equivalent of Los Angelesai??i??the majority of people in the region are wedded to their wheels.

The preceding quote from Bula shows her Vancouver centric thinking, where people living in Vancouver remain blind to the fact of massive car use in the city.

Vancouver cannot even come close to be compared with Amsterdam and by doing so showcases the many biases contained in the article.

Amsterdam, like most European cities offer a customer friendly trams (as well as metro and a comprehensive metro and regional rail services), which Vancouver shuns, in favour of grossly expensive subways and mini-metros which have been proven very poor in attracting the motorist from the car.

Bula further muddies the water with her love affair with SkyTrain and the Canada line and nowhere does she mentions that the proprietary ALRT/ART system is hugely expensive to maintain and operate and the Canada line has greatly limited capacity due to have only 40 metre long station platforms, giving the illusion of being popular by offering short crowded trains.

Light-metro is so expensive to build that it can only offer a limited network that must be reached by bus, both inefficient and time consuming for the potential transit customer.

Yes, as Zwei had predicted many years ago, the car is winning the commuter war and there is a solution, it is called light rail (tram in Europe), a user friendly transit mode that has the proven ability to attract the motorist from the car, but the likes of Bula, Vision(less) Vancouver and TransLink are too blind, too dated in their thinking, and too egotistic to discuss honestly.

Unless there is a complete reversal in transit planning in the region, the car will win.


Why the car is winning the commuter warai??i??and what can be done to stop it

Frances Bula | May 19, 2016


Why the car is still king

Image by: Paul Joseph

DOUBLE COMMUTE | The Chmeliks were dedicated transit users until they moved from Vancouver to more affordable Surrey. Now they have two cars


Billions have been spent on new transit lines, better bike lanes and more walkable communitiesai??i??and yet we refuse to give up our wheels. And nowhere is that more true than in the suburbs of the Lower Mainland.

Clayton Chmelik and his wife were poster children for the car-shunning millennial generation for most of their 20s. They lived in south Vancouverai??i??s Marpole neighbourhood and both took buses almost everywhereai??i??first to university, then to their practicums and jobs. They didnai??i??t own a car and didnai??i??t feel deprived.

Now 33, Chmelik, a health manager at a Richmond company, has two cars in his family. He commutes 40 minutes a day each way in his Mazda 3 from his townhouse in Surrey, while his wife has her own car, a Mazda 5, that sheai??i??ll be using to commute to her counselling job when her maternity leave for their second child ends later this year. He estimates it costs them at least $700 a month to run both vehicles, not counting the $10,000 apiece the cars cost to buy. He knows itai??i??s a lot. ai???If I had a choice, I wouldnai??i??t do it.ai???

But he feels like he doesnai??i??t have a choice. First, TransLink eliminated the B-line bus along Granville when the Canada Line opened and transformed his 10-minute commute to Richmond into a 40-minute, two-transfer one. Then, when he and his wife decided to buy a home, a modest townhouse in South Surrey was all they could afford. That new location made transit even more unrealistic.


For the rest of the story…..


6 Responses to “Why the car is winning the commuter war – Simple, it is called SkyTrain”
  1. eric chris says:

    Yes, exactly, Chmelik and his wife moved to Surrey to escape public transit by TransLink, own a townhome and live the lifestyle that they want. Nobody twisted their arms.

    This is what I have been saying all along because the evidence supports it. Young families are moving to the burbs to drive more, not less. Developers wiping out single family homes around central transit hubs have been the catalyst for the exodus of people from Vancouver. As people outgrow public transit and have kids: they move out of Vancouver and add cars to the highways – just as in Toronto.

    Subways and viaducts for DIRT aren’t the cure for road congestion and housing unaffordability, they are the cause. You know what? Five years ago after I said this, I was censored in The Georgia Straight, and haven’t been able to comment since. TransLink went berserk. I guess; the truth is too much for everyone at TransLink to take.

    Excessive urban densification like we have in Vancouver makes real estate prices soar. Single family housing and townhomes are replaced by 40 story condo towers. Each condo tower has hundreds of parking spaces for cars! It is impossible to increase the number of cars by 5,000% and not have more road congestion. Yet, TransLink maintains that if we keep doing it, road congestion will drop. Here is what I say, shoot every last one… of them, or at least fire everyone at TransLink if the bullets cost too much.

    TransLink (let’s rename TransLink to get away from all the baggage that the TransLink name has) only requires one manager, and a small number of engineers on overhead. Really, $15 million to $20 million annually in overhead is plenty for any transit organization. TransLink has an overhead of $100 million annually, minimum, and has multiple boards with countless directors as well as its CEO having no real purpose. Fire them.

    I’m impressed that Frances Bula mentioned Cesare Marchetti, and the fact that speedier commutes only mean longer commutes, with no change in the number of drivers or transit users! That is, all the money spent to make public transit fast with dumb-trains (driverless induction rail transit or DIRT) and express buses (B-Lines) has merely swapped out short distance commuters for long distance commuters. Like I said… when the TransLink scum ask for more funding… old blue eyes, Mel Gibson’s has the right idea… light-em up…


    In the next decade, more people will be car sharing and in autonomous cars. TransLink will go the way of the Dodo bird. If we build tram lines, at least they pay for themselves by replacing diesel buses clogging up the roads. More funding for DIRT? Yeah, you bet.

  2. jim says:

    Isn’t the big problem with skytrain the grade separation? Those massive concrete guideways have a huge carbon footprint in terms of the concrete used to build them, and highely inflate the cost vs building at grade? As well the grade separation means stations are expensive and have to be spaced far apart… All so that the train operation doesn’t interfere with the car driver. Where as if we had built at grade and included signal priority for transit, it would have massively reduced the cost, so the system could have been built out more. But signal priority would make drivers wait, and that can’t be allowed? Does the technical details really play as big of a role as the obvious part, all that concrete?

    Zwei replies: You are correct, the carbon footprint from the elevated structures leave a massive carbon footprint. Though grade separated transit may bring faster trip times along the line, conversely they increase journey times as one must use time to reach the grade separated transit, by taking a bus.

  3. Dan G. Rawlings says:

    That is so true.

    I remember when SkyTrain opened in 85 they re routed almost all the buses to skytrain stations. I used to take a bus from Surrey to work (Victoria/Hastings) just one bus no transfers. It went over Port Mann and it was convenient then they changed it to go down King George Hwy over the Patullo to New west Station. So then I had to take a bus to skytrain, ride skytrain to Commercial drive and then catch the bus. So instead of one bus to work it was two buses and skytrain which took longer so guess what? I went and bought a car, actually my very first car.

    Same when the Canada line opened. We used to have a direct buses to downtown Vancouver now we are forced to go way into Richmond near the big shopping mall, which takes longer now, same with all the South delta/Tsawwassen routes they are re routed to Canada line and i guess it is to pump up the ridership numbers.

    Pumping up Canada Line and SkyTrain numbers seems more important than convenience and getting people out of vehicles….Yet to be expected when probably most of the un elected Translink board probably never set foot on a bus….

  4. Dan G. Rawlings says:

    I forgot to add we used to have great tram service with lines ‘all over’ so to speak plus Interurban all the way to Chilliwack…Like what a crying shame all that was ripped up for the car. Now we are paying for it..

  5. eric chris says:

    “Most illogical” – that’s what Spock would say about the contretemps by TransLink to go after drivers traveling at 100 kph on highways with DIRT traveling at 40 kph and taking 15 minutes to reach, walking it or busing it to stations spaced 1,600 metres apart on DIRT lines. I’m typing away and looking out my window at express 99 B-Line articulated diesel buses and standard trolleybuses heading to and from UBC. I don’t know, maybe two to three people are on any of these buses this morning. Does it matter to anyone at TransLink that UBC is closed over the summer? Nope. Crown employees at TransLink love it. The more they waste, the bigger their operating budget.

    This is good, at least for the deadbeats at TransLink. Here is the reason: overhead at TransLink is indexed to the operating budget. Cutting costs by cutting the superfluous 99 B-Line express service (to just run trolleybuses) cuts the operating budget. This is bad. It cuts overhead, too. Cutting overhead, means less money, smaller salaries and fewer jobs at TransLink. How can TransLink afford $100 million annually for its CEO and directors when the operating budget is only $750 million annually? TransLink, can’t; so very expensive DIRT service (in subways and on viaducts) tripling the operating budget at TransLink is good. See, DIRT service rather than regular trolleybus service or tram service cutting costs makes perfect sense if you are one of the cockroaches at TransLink.

    What we have at TransLink is the screwy situation where wasting money is the road to riches for everyone at TransLink. Oh yes, them hillbilly boys (as in the Pulp Fiction hillbilly kind) at TransLink are so-so clever. Nobody is onto them and nobody in Ottawa is investigating them.

  6. Haveacow says:

    Eric, which university is closed over the summer and where? Summer enrollment is generally almost as heavy as the fall and winter semester’s enrolment. It may have been that way 25 years ago but not today. Most of those students are either trying to catch up on missed classes or trying to get ahead of their fellow students. The days are over when the “summer season” was used to make money for the school year. Since the huge increases of tuition in the 1990′s there is just not enough time during the summer to make enough money for the entire year anymore. So if you are going to be in debt anyway, take as many classes in the summer as you can and get ahead. Or take enough classes to overly pad your minor a bit more and add it to your resume!

    I don’t know about BC, but here in Ontario when summer comes around the underused university dorms are usually turned into hotels for budget conscious tourists. When I’m visiting Toronto my family always stays at the residences for Ryerson. Its about 30% less than any hotel operating at the same level, its very clean, the staff, all students are very professional, virtually killing themselves to make sure you and your family are taken care of and you are in the core of downtown Toronto. Many summer student programs or government programs use them for cheap loggings for their people. For example, most of the reservists who are part of the Governor General’s Foot Guard Regiment (the guys and gals who do the Changing of the Guard ceremony on Parliament Hill every day at 10 am), reside at Carleton University for the summer.

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