Calgary’s C-Train Development & Operating Costs

First published in 2009

A note from Zwei: These costs were taken directly from Calgary Transit, which once had a fine web page giving accurate statistics about the C-Train, unlike TransLink and BC Transit, which hid the real costs in a baffle-gab of nonsense and phony news releases. One did not need a F.O.I. to get actual operating costs!

At the time the Calgary C-Train carried more customers daily than SkyTrain and that an “apples to apples” comparison showed that LRT was indeed much cheaper to operate than SkyTrain. It also goes a long way explaining why Bombardier Inc. refused to let SkyTrain compete directly against light rail and why no one builds with SkyTrain today!

C-Train’s Development and Operating Costs

  • Total system development costs to date: $548 M
  • Original cost of vehicle acquisition/unit: $1.2 M
  • Current vehicle replacement cost: $3.9 M
  • Total costs of track construction per meter:
    above ground $30,000
    below ground $35,000
    at grade $15,000
  • Average costs per station: $2.1 M
  • Cost of Rail Control facilities: $3.1M
  • Vehicle Maintenance costs: $13.9M (2006)
  • Station Maintenance costs: $2.8M (2006)
  • Right of Way Maintenance costs: $2.9M (2006)
  • Signals Maintenance costs: $2.4M (2006)
  • Average annual power costs: $4.8M (2006)
  • Annual LRV Operator wages: $6.0M (includes fringe benefits of 21.57%) (2006)

What is interesting is that Calgary’s C-Train operating costs in, 2006, was nearly $33 million, while SkyTrain’s annual operating costs during the same period was nearly $80 million (not including the $157 million provincial subsidy) and Calgary’s light rail system carried more passengers! The Interurban, by comparison would be far cheaper to operate on an annual basis.


16 Responses to “Calgary’s C-Train Development & Operating Costs”
  1. eric chris says:

    Yes, and LRT is run by The City of Calgary and not by the provincial government. TransLink is part of the provincial government. What we have in BC is a bunch of goons using public transit at the municipal level to create jobs for themselves at the provincial level. Nobody at the provincial level needs to be employed to run municipal transit. End of story.

    Deep down, “The Vancouver Sun” (VS) understands how TransLink is run by mobsters who are building s-train lines to upzone density and drive up the cost of housing for developers to profit and for the firms (who have Gregor Robertson by the nuts) to make money from the subway construction on Broadway. Transit oriented development (it even sounds queer) or TOD is linked to our housing unaffordability here. Elizabeth Murphy did a story in the VS (gasp) and she is pretty much alluding to it:

    “Using transit to dictate massive changes in land use in an establish transit oriented city like Vancouver, is letting the tail wag the dog. Land use should be based on local community planning with transit oriented development in scale with the neighbourhood context.”

    “Clearly, we do not have to create more zoning supply in Vancouver to meet regional growth. There may be other reasons to adjust zoning, but there is no rush. It must be done very carefully since upzoning causes speculation that drives land inflation. This has the unintended consequence of making housing even less affordable.”

    “Vancouver was built prior to the common use of the automobile. It was designed around the streetcar [tram or trolleybus] system that has all areas of the city within a 10 minute walk of an arterial, making the city inherently transit oriented. All we need is more frequent reliable electric transit to support mode shift. In the city we need transit to serve the existing population rather than having transit form new land use patterns like in the developing suburbs.”

    Maybe Haveacow or Zwei can help me out here. I know that Ottawa went with LRT, and I do prefer LRT or trams running on rails over trolleybuses running on tires (trolleybuses use more energy than trams or LRT on steel rails). Was there any discussion about HOV lanes with trolleybuses in Ottawa? This is really frequent bus transit (FBT) rather than bus rapid transit (BRT) to move people “fast”. Personally, I don’t buy the argument about fast transit taking cars off the roads. Fast transit merely swaps out short distance commuters for long distance commutes (Marchetti’s rule limiting the commute to 30 minutes one-way or 60 minutes daily).

    In Vancouver to get things started, what do you think about very long 200 passenger trolleybuses running in HOV lanes? Hess in Switzerland produces 200 passenger trolleybuses. Could they be used on Broadway in HOV lanes and allow cars with two or more people on board to travel in the HOV lanes, too?

  2. Haveacow says:

    Eric Bi articulated buses are not road legal, pure and simple in Canada or the USA, although there is an up coming test for them in the US for busway operations. Electric Trolley bus or not, double articulated buses don’t run well it winter weather or wet roads. Like all articulated buses they have hill climbing issues and can spontaneously become unstable and fishtail, even on dry pavement. The cost to purchase any Trolley Buses let alone very large ones from non North American producers drives up purchasing costs, and causes big unknowns in operating an maintenance costs compared to standard North American diesel and trolley buses as well as their easily known and understood costs. Unless you can guarantee cheap and easy supply chains, maintenance and training packages, dependable and affordable supplies for spare parts buying non North American Buses is a big risk! Bi-articulated buses also have to very specialized bus garages/depots specifically designed just for them as well as extra indoor storage space, all built and operating before the buses start arriving. If Vancouver can make it work sure, its something to investigate but its a big decision that will have big ramifications for the next 2 decades if it goes ahead.

    Buses only in bus only lanes. HOV lanes which share transit and private vehicles don’t work very well. Understand, personal automobiles have to be considered second class to transit, bicycles, pedestrians and commercial vehicles, if our cities are going to survive the next 50-60 years. The day of the private car is over, it just takes up too much space on the road.

  3. eric chris says:

    @Haveacow, thanks. That is what I was trying to suss out and figured that you knew. It’s good to know. I do agree that there are uncertainties with the light tram. They can’t be any worse than the uncertainties of the s-train in the coming years. TransLink is learning how maintenance for s-train is a step function ($50 million for 29 km after 30 years on the Expo Line). Likely, the $50 million is under stated and the first of many more future maintenance costs unanticipated by the simpleton accountants and new “commerce grad” boss of s-train, Viv King, who doesn’t have a clue about what needs to be done to keep s-train in good working order or the costs to keep the money sucking s-train in operation. The smart thing to do is to cut our losses and scrap s-train to go with trams.

    Where does TransLink find its stars? Until TransLink has an electrical engineer in charge of operations at TransLink, many more unforeseen costs will pop up and TransLink will continue to flounder.

    Hess advertises that its light tram (lighTram) can operate in rain, snow and ice. I can’t comment and suppliers typically exaggerate.

    Public transport is booming. In metropolitan areas especially, more and more people want a way to travel from point A to point B that is convenient, fast and safe. HESS has developed an elegant alternative that provides greater transport capacity in the form of its lighTram®, a 25-meter-long double-articulated bus. This extremely nimble giant with its first-rate handling performance, quiet engine, zero emissions and energy recovery has become a top seller in only a few years.

    4-axle bus with 2-axle drive
    Accommodates up to 200 passengers
    Low noise and emissions (reduced exhaust gas and particulate matter)
    Energy recovery from 15–35 % (depending on route profile and traffic flow)
    Nimble thanks to double articulation
    Stable handling even in snow, ice and rain”

    Even articulated trolleybuses in HOV lanes in regular service are an improvement over the chaotic express B-Line and regular buses recycling riders to the B-Line route on Broadway. TransLink is merely using the B-Line as the precursor to the subway. Getting rid of the express service to run trolleybuses (double or single articulated) in HOV lanes or trams in regular service undermines the subway plan for Broadway.

    TransLink is running diesel buses at the highest frequency in North America to build up ridership on Broadway despite the terrible noise and diesel exhaust impacts on people. This is truly unethical and demonstrates the level of corruption and depravity of the individuals at TransLink. They will stop at nothing to build their subway to make developers money and give SNC Lavalin business. They all need to go. I’m waiting for the s-train to derail. It has been an uneventful summer for s-train so far – the calm before the storm.

    TransLink and its subways quest on Broadway makes me think of the Monty Python skit, where King Arthur is on his quest for his holy grail and is taunted by the Frenchmen who refuse to join him. In the case of TransLink, the subway is TransLink’s holy grail which has been repelled by voters telling the “pig-dogs and tiny brained wipers of other peoples’ bottoms” at TransLink to get lost. Citizens in Vancouver are putting together a legal case against TransLink: Basis for Criminal Charges against South Coast British Columbia Transit Authority (TransLink). We’ll see how the “pig-dogs” whose mothers were hamsters at TransLink handle it.

  4. Dondi says:

    Mr. Zwei, thanks for re-posting the Calgary C train numbers from 2009; it is always helpful to have concrete data, though these numbers do not provide the apples to apples comparison with Skytrain that we want. In an earlier post I objected to you seeming to endorse a claim that operating costs were $0.27 per passenger km in Calgary vs. $3.92 in Vancouver. On p. 15 of the report at the link below, in 2013 Calgary’s direct operating cost per passenger km was reported to be about $0.24, while Translink’s is just over $0.30 – noticeably higher, but not by a silly margin, and probably within the margin of error for such calculations to the operating costs in Toronto and Montreal. The data source was CUTA.

    This report failed to compare Skytrain to other rail transit in Canada (why is this data so hard to get???!!), but it did compare Skytrain to rapid rail in the US. Page 9 reports that Skytrain has the lowest operations and maintenance cost per passenger of 16 rapid rail systems in the US in 2012.

    Naturally we should assume there is some self-serving depiction of the data in this report. But broad patterns are almost impossible to hide – facts are stubborn things!

    Mr. Chris, yes, the reigning idea in (social democratic) urban planning is that transit should be used to guide urban form rather than only responding to urban form. In contrast, the (pro-free-market) urban economists argue that ‘consumer sovereignty’ applies (people want to live in the burbs (demand) and transportation infrastructure (supply, mainly roads) should be build to serve them). You seem to agree with the latter. Fine, but the transit bureaucrats go with the widely held expert opinion from urban planning and transportation. This view may be wrong but that is a different issue than the incompetence or corruption you raise (not that the latter is irrelevant).

    If we take Vancouver as an example, as the article you cited notes, the City of Vancouver’s urban form was substantially created by the streetcar – streetcar lines were built and allowed people to move out to the inner suburbs that are now part of Vancouver, not the other way around. It is the old maxim: Pedestrian city – small and dense; Horse-cart city – still quite small and dense; Electric streetcar city – much larger, less dense and separation of land use; Auto city – far, far larger, sprawled and separation of land use. The comparison of North American and European cities shows the same thing. The difference is not zoning bylaws, it is that North Americans had more cars, the Europeans had to rely on transit. More public housing in Europe played a role, but transportation mode was the key factor. And it is not transit (Skytrain) that has shaped the suburbs of the Lower Mainland but cars. Skytrain has at the very best only slightly moderated the sprawl that would have occurred had it not been built. Your idea that Skytrain is only good for property developers is more than half wrong, because starving transit also serves equivalent business interests – property developers in the suburbs, the auto and gas industry, etc. Just look at who are the major contributors to the BC Liberal government.

    Finally, Mr. Chris, didn’t your mother tell you to be more respectful in public in how you refer to other people, even those you do not like? Your posts leave a really bad atmosphere.

    Zwei replies: TransLink, like BC Transit before never included the provincial subsidy with their financial calculations. Today, one must factor in t least $300 million more with TransLink’s costs.

  5. Dondi says:

    Mr. Zwei, we are all entitled to our opinions but not to our own facts, and, respectfully, the way you refer to this “provincial subsidy” is not well founded in facts.

    I believe the numbers for the ‘subsidy’ you are referring to originally come from “The Cost of Transporting People in the British Columbia Lower Mainland”, a report prepared by Todd Litman, among other authors, for Transport 2021. I scanned through a copy at the VPL.

    First, this study was primarily a comparison of the estimated full cost of different transportation modes, that is, not just the direct costs but including estimates of the cost of ‘externalities’ like air pollution, noise pollution, road accidents, travel time, road, roadway and parking space, etc. It was a valuable early effort to make an “apples to apples” comparison of transportation by car vs. by transit, and its main point was to document how much auto travel is subsidized (does not pay its total costs) relative to the better-known amount by which transit is subsidized. The study reports on p. iv that, “The term ‘subsidy’ is used in this report in a context that includes both financial subsidies and economic or social subsidies.”

    Second contrary to what you have reported in the past it was not a “GVRD study”, and the Transport 2021 Steering Committee who contracted the study added several cautions regarding interpretation of the data. They even clarify that it was put into the public domain under the names of its authors rather than their own name. I think that is actually a badge of honour worn by the authors of the report, but the point here is the numbers in the report require the proper context and interpretation.

    However, the authors of the study did not make that easy to do. A table on p. 10 reports that [annual?] “Operating Subsidy provided” for “SkyTrain” was $157.63 million, of which $120.87 is listed for the “Province” and the balance of the $157.63 million was the gasoline tax, Hydro levy and non-residential property tax. A table on p. 15 similarly reports that the “financial subsidies for public transit in 1991” by the Provincial Government for Skytrain was $120.87 million.

    This seems to narrow the ‘subsidy’ referred to as actual financial costs rather than the additional economic and social externalities referred to above. However, here the term “Operating” is used differently than in the convention distinction between ‘operating costs’ and ‘capital costs’, since [total operating] “costs are calculated from transit vehicle kilometers and fixed [i.e. mostly ‘capital’?] and variable [i.e. mostly ‘operating’?] costs per kilometer” (p. 10).

    The report states that “Certain provincial government contributions are dedicated to SkyTrain. We have pro-rated provincial contributions across modes in proportion to the subsidy required” (p.10). I emailed Todd Litman to ask for more clarification of what the $120.87 million ‘subsidy’ refers to, but, very understandably, he replied that this study was too long ago for him to recall such details.

    However, under “Data Sheet 4” [I think, I lost the title during xeroxing] of the study, the [annual?] “Fixed costs” for SkyTrain are reported to be $153.22 million, of which $2.22 mil. was for insurance, $145.30 mil. for depreciation and finance, and $5.70 mil. for management. This yielded a [fixed] “Cost per [passenger?] km of $8.014 for Skytrain, compared to $0.883 for Diesel bus and $1.666 for Trolley bus.

    The The ”Variable costs” reported for Skytrain were $24.86 million, of which $8.80 mil was for “Operating costs” and $16.06 mil. for “Maintenance”. The result yielded a [variable] “cost per [passenger?] km” of $1.300 for Skytrain relative to $2.442 for Diesel bus and $4.51 for Trolley bus.

    As an aside, this confirms what we all know, that Skytrain *capital* costs are very high, but it also provides a very positive estimate of Skytrain *operating* costs relative to other transit modes. So if you are going to use this study to make your subsidy claim you should also note the favourable per km variable [similar to operating] cost for Skytrain along with any other less favourable estimates that you want to cite. Don’t worry, Skytrain still comes out bad – adding fixed and variable [passenger?] “cost per km” we get $3.325 for diesel bus, $$6.176 for trolley bus and $9.314 for Skytrain, in 1991.

    One possibility is that most of the $120 million “subsidy” actually refers to some of the above $145.30 million for depreciation and finance but that was put on the books of the provincial government instead of on Skytrain/Translink books – perhaps you have more definite information, or, this sounds like a job for the Auditor General of BC!

    However, it is now 25 years later. If the $120 million was for depreciation of capital costs the latter are now largely paid off. It is not reasonable to inflate that number to a current $300 million per year. If it is true that the province continues to ‘subsidize’ Skytrain in a way that goes against proper government accounting conventions it should be possible it show this using better sources than a 25 year old report that was highly qualified by both its own authors and the body who contracted them, and that discusses Skytrain in its infancy.

    Zwei replies: Well Dondi, I just got out my copy of the “Cost of…………….”, no faded xerox’s here.

    First of all 2021 was a joint project of the GVRD and the Prov. of BC. and the “study was a “whitepaper” that fell on deaf ears.

    And yes, SkyTrain was subsidized by $157.3 million in 1993.

    Dondi, you an expert in perverting the truth to suit your own ends, whatever they may be, in short, you are a troll.

    There is a great fear in BC that SkyTrain is not built and that fear is light rail and it is simple as that.

    Why? A Stand alone LRT would give an apples to apples comparison with light-metro and light rail and that makes a lot of politicians, academics and engineers very nervous. This is especially true of the Engineering profession where the spectre of professional misconduct may come into play, especially with the C.o.V’s Engineering staff. The establishment wants one more SkyTrain line so they will be happily collecting six figure pensions, immune from any censure.

    Back to 2021, it was ignored and we are now feeling the financial reverberations of metro Vancouver’s light-metro policy and why regional transportation is collapsing into a morass of gridlock, congestion and pollution.

  6. Haveacow says:

    Eric I forgot o answer this statement before.

    “Maybe Haveacow or Zwei can help me out here. I know that Ottawa went with LRT, and I do prefer LRT or trams running on rails over trolleybuses running on tires (trolleybuses use more energy than trams or LRT on steel rails). Was there any discussion about HOV lanes with trolleybuses in Ottawa?”

    One of the reasons we are building LRT in Ottawa is that, we have had 30 years of our high capacity Transitway (Busway System) emptying out on to bus only lanes in our downtown, on a couplet of one way streets (Slater Street eastbound and Albert Street westbound). You have seen the pictures I posted of these bus back ups on those one way streets that, occurs twice a day, 5 days a week in Ottawa and they have been like that since the mid 80′s. That is the problem/issue of buses on bus lanes. The traffic mess that it causes as well as the enormous operating costs of 185-200 buses per hour per direction (and there bus operators) during the peak hour (although officially its only 180 buses/hour/direction) while moving up to 10700 passengers/hour/direction. This is the direct result of buses using bus lanes trying to cross too many intersections and having stations that are far too small for the needed passenger and vehicle numbers built in an environment that makes larger BRT stations difficult and very expensive. Unless these busses or light trams you speak of they are truly massive vehicles, like 40+ metres long each, just don not have the capacity needed for rapid transit service once certain passenger levels and operating parameters are exceeded. This why each car on our 2 car LRV consists, will be 48.5-49 metres long (4 sections or 3 articulation joints per car). With the ability to add a 5th section per vehicle for a length of 59.8 metres per car (60 metres and 370 passengers per car, up from the current 300 per car) once passenger levels require it. The nice thing about nearly all modern Light Rail Vehicles is that, they are modular and these extra sections can be added here in Ottawa at the maintenance facility and don’t require the whole fleet to be sent back to the factory. Something the Skytrain can’t ever do.

    There is also unfortunately traffic signaling, rapid transit modification system that currently exists that will work with, that many buses and the large number of intersections, in such short a distance as we have in Ottawa. All the existing systems say that to guarantee a red light free journey for LRT or BRT vehicles, you need less than one intersection for every 350 metres of rapid transit right of way, in downtown Ottawa we have an average of one intersection every 177 metres (14 over 2.5 km in the east-west directions). These intersection signal modification systems to functionally properly and avoid inducing traffic other problems, must have a transit vehicle frequency of no more than 18-20 vehicles an hour, for surface routes. As I mentioned before currently at peak hour, we have 185-200 per buses hour per direction (180 officially), or a bus every 18-21 seconds. The geography of downtown Ottawa has the area isolated by rivers, canals and massive cliffs remember, Parliament Hill is actually a really big hill in downtown Ottawa. All these factors mean that there is only a very small number of entry points to downtown, and they often function as traffic choke points. This is why an expensive LRT Tunnel had to be considered because there were literally very few other surface options available to us.

  7. Haveacow says:

    Arrgh! , that should read, there are NO traffic signaling rapid transit modification systems that currently exist that will work with that many buses and that large a number of intersections, in such a short distance.

  8. Haveacow says:

    O my god, I must have been high on caffeine and typing way to fast when I wrote the statement, sorry about the large number of typos today.

  9. eric chris says:


    Uh okay, we appear to be agreeing somewhat; I think: 30 cents per km in operated costs claimed by TransLink is 25% greater than 24 cents per km for LRT. TransLink’s annual operating budget is approaching $2 billion, and TransLink is spending close to $500 million more every year than if it were operating LRT. To me, $500 million wasted annually by TransLink seems excessive, but hey, you seem to be the expert with all the answers, and if you say that the extra money spent on s-train is worth it, okay, you’re entitled to your opinion which most people don’t hold from the results of the transit plebiscite.

    People voted for more public education and health care spending and less money wasted on s-train. Metro Vancouver is experiencing rampant urban sprawl around s-train corridors and has the worst road congestion in Canada. I’m not going to debate your assertion that s-train has curbed urban sprawl and road congestion more than if we had LRT or tram service, instead. Whatever you say Dondi, what’s the point of arguing it? It’s a nice day. I only don’t have much time and am going to stick to operating costs for s-train.

    “Stupendous public transit operating costs = TransLink”

    Dondi, there are inconsistencies in the operating costs purported by TransLink. I calculate that trams require just 10 people per km (route distance) compared to s-train requiring 24 people per km (making s-train two to three times more expensive to operate than the tram). Can you confirm my calculations?

    From what I can tell, TransLink (BCRTC) utilizes about 1,183 employees (661 attendants + 172 TransLink police + 350 BCRTC others = 1,183) to manage and plan the Expo Line and Millennium Line running on 49 km of routes (one way distance) to move 12,500 passengers hourly. To plan and manage these lines, BCRTC employs an astounding 24 union workers per kilometer of route. Wow, wow, wow!!!

    Here are my calculations showing how each tram holding 450 passengers with tram service every 2.2 minutes (12,500 pphpd which is the same passenger capacity as the s-train) only needs 10 people per km of route. Can you check the math for me?

    f = frequency of tram service = 2.2 minutes
    d= one way distance for tram routes to match Expo and Millennium route distances ~ 50 km
    2d = two way distance for tram routes = 100 km
    v = minimum speed of tram in mixed traffic = 20 kph
    t = round trip transit time for tram routes = 2d/v = 300 minutes
    x = number of drivers needed for round trip transit time = t/f = 300 minutes / 2.2 minutes = 136 drivers
    s = daily number of shifts for drivers = 3 full (100%) shifts = two 100% (peak) and two 50% shifts

    Q = daily number of drivers needed for 50 km of tram routes = (x)(s) = (136)(3) = 409 drivers

    Note: during off-peak hours, only 50% of the drivers are necessary for tram or LRT service. I used two peak shifts (100% of the drivers) and two off-peak shifts (50% of the drivers) which are equal to three peak shifts (100% of the drivers) throughout the day.

    Drivers make up about 80% of staff and the total number of people to run tram or LRT service. So, about 511 people are needed to offer tram service if we replace the Expo service and Millennium service with tram service (100/80 * Q = 511 people). For 50 km of tram or LRT routes, you need roughly 10 people per km route. TransLink says that operating costs for s-train service are less than the operating costs of the tram or LRT service. If this is the case, I should be getting more than 24 people per km (route) which is what you need for s-train service. I’m not.

    Tram service takes buses off the roads, and s-train service keeps buses along the s-train route and on the roads. If we add the bus drivers of these routes to the cost of s-strain, costs really start to spiral out of control for s-train. If you’re going to be honest about it, you really need to add buses and drivers recycling bus passengers to the s-trains. These buses are integral to the operation of s-train. But hey, it’s your call whether you want to be honest, Dondi.

    In 2012, the TransLink Commissioner stated the following: TransLink is misrepresenting its operating costs and is lying. Nothing has changed since 2012, and TransLink is merely understating its operating costs by shifting operating costs of s-train to overhead and busing costs:

    There is nothing to debate in terms of the cost of s-train which is the most expensive transit mode to operate and build in Canada. Dondi, from the content of your comments, you’ve exposed yourself as someone who has connections to TransLink. You’re a sham on par with Gordon Price, Todd Litman and Nathan (Langley councilor). You are spreading misinformation and likely employed by TransLink or making money from s-train in some way (I presume that you are on the TransLink payroll).

    “TransLink’s peer review by TransLink”

    Anyhow, what point are you trying to make with your TransLink “peer review website link” giving operating costs indexed to ridership? In your TransLink peer review website link: TransLink measures operating costs for s-train by dividing operating costs by ridership. TransLink’s logic is twisted.

    Here is a sure fire way to make s-train appear artificially low in cost to operate: compare the operating costs of s-train service which doesn’t run late at night to the operating costs of LRT or tram service running late at night. It works every time. This is what TransLink has done by indexing operating costs to ridership and not worrying about the fact that tram service operates 24 hours daily compared to s-train service which doesn’t run 24 hours daily and is off-line about 25% of the time.

    Let’s go further and really go “pig-dog” nuts: for added effect, let’s uncouple the cost of providing s-train from the cost of using s-train. Hand out 140,000 s-train passes to students who comprise almost one-half of all transit users and charge them next to nothing to use s-train. Allow students unlimited travel on s-train. Voila !! Instant ridership to drive down the operating costs indexed to ridership, to the lowest level in North America ! Outstanding !!

    Anyone who truly believes that the sheer magnitude of the operating costs for s-train can be made to go away by simply indexing them to ridership is daft. If TransLink’s method of evaluating operating costs really reflected reality, there’d be a “linear one to one relationship” between operating costs and ridership. That is, if TransLink were correct in how it evaluated the operating costs of s-train: doubling the passengers from one passenger to two passengers, cuts operating costs on s-train in one-half. Does it? This is what TransLink implies on page 9 of the TransLink peer review claiming that s-train is the most cost effective transit mode in North America:

    Thanks, Dondi. I’ll be sure to bring your revelation to the attention to the group which is preparing to indict certain “pig-dogs” at TransLink. TransLink just can’t invent some fantasy “one to one” relationship between ridership and operating costs to pretend that s-train operating costs for s-train aren’t high. There has to be an actual “one to one” relationship between ridership and operating costs. There isn’t.

    What the (insert expletive here) Dondi? How about TransLink carrying hamsters on s-train to add them to the ridership and bring down operating costs on s-train even more? What do you think? You’ve just directed me to another example of fraud by TransLink. How the (insert expletive here) can s-train be the “most cost effective transit mode” in North America with TransLink $3.6 billion in the hole, Dondi?

    Service hours relate to the operating costs. Relating service hours to operating costs determines whether public transit is a lemon and this is how operating costs are evaluated by every other “reputable” public transit organization in Canada (reputable excludes TransLink, obviously). Let’s emphasize, maybe it will sink into your empty head: TransLink can’t cheat if it indexes operating costs to service hours.

    To cheat and misrepresent operating costs of s-train: TransLink indexes operating costs to ridership. But: operating costs are related to service hours. Operating costs are related to service hours… operating costs are related to service hours.

    TransLink does not compare “Apples to Apples” and uses some idiotic and contrived accounting-method indexing operating costs to ridership (ridership = the number of times that people board s-train and TransLink can bus-transfer as many people as it wants to s-train to reduce the “operating costs” of s-train as much as TransLink wants). What the (insert expletive here) Dondi? (Insert expletive here) off, Dondi. Just (insert expletive here) off.

    I’m probably presenting concepts which are way over your head, Dondi. Forget it. You gotta get it to get it.

    Here’s some more breaking news on s-train. It’s just another day with the creeps on the lowest cost transit mode in the North America (cost of TransLink police and other employees, excluded, of course). Were the TransLink police on their coffee break or driving around in their cruisers during all of the following and recent incidents on s-train? How often do these sort of incidents happen on trams with drivers? How could anyone with a car not want to take s-train? How is it that only the CBC which doesn’t receive “advertising” revenue regularly reports on these happenings on s-train?

    According to TransLink, s-train has the least social impacts, notwithstanding the creeps, assaults and increased real estate prices along s-train lines, making housing unaffordable in Vancouver. Oh, I see…

    “Metro Vancouver’s Transit Police have released photos of three men who allegedly sexually harassed and threatened two women on SkyTrain, before attacking a Good Samaritan who tried to intervene.”

    “A woman who Transit Police say was “victimized by a sexual offender for over 30 minutes on the SkyTrain” helped police catch the suspect.”

    “Transit Police are seeking a man for allegedly attacking a male passenger and hurling racial insults and threats at a woman and her adult son.”

    Let’s see your calculations on the operating cost of trams compared to the operating costs of s-train. No rush, Dondi. Maybe TransLink can help.

  10. Haveacow says:

    I was having a similar conversation about the Skytrain in Vancouver compared with LRT in Ottawa, on the time of basic construction. I pointed out that the first section of our Transitway from Hurdman to Blair Station was closed June 28, the 2015 for conversion to rail. Sometime in September in September 2016 the first section or about 1.2 km of this length of right of way will begin functional testing of LRV’s. By late October or early November the rest of the 5km of double track will be fully operational and ready for testing LRV’s. By February 2017 all the stations except for Hurdman will be 100% complete. Hurdman Station and its section of the right of way is on an above grade concrete and dirt embankment right of way (the only place on the system this happens), due to very high ground water and poor drainage into the Rideau river. This is why the many of the rail lines which once crossed this area were pulled up so quickly when the final customers disappeared in the early 1970′s and the land in the area was all turned into park land. The only remaining track in the area is the set that goes into our current VIA Rail station on Trembley Road and its also on a mostly raised dirt embankment, located almost twice the distance from the Rideau river as the LRT ROW is. The Hurdman construction will be 100% complete by July or August 2017.

    In an earlier article I made the statement that when LRT doesn’t have to go through massive infrastructure programs, even in Canada, it can actually be built fairly easy and quickly. So from June 28, 2015 to July/August 2017 or about 24-25 months, about 5.2 km of LRT ROW can be built in place and be operational. This compares favorably to the Queens Quay LRT project and redevelopment in Toronto. This project which forced the complete destruction of the old right of way, replaced all the local underground services, completely upgraded the power infrastructure for the line and moved it 6 metres south creating a wonderful new environment for Queens Quay Blvd. West. All in about 22-23 months. Both the Queens Quay LRT project and the Ottawa Confederation LRT Line compare quite favorably to your Evergreen Skytrain project which unfortunately, with its tunnels and mostly raised right of way is nothing but a massive infrastructure project for its entire length. How long has this project taken to build? The kicker is that our LRT project here in Ottawa is designed to easily out preform the Skytrain in capacity as well!

    The kicker is that about $1.25 Billion of our $2.12 billion LRT project are one off costs that, won’t need to be copied for future extensions. The very much needed downtown LRT Tunnel at $725 Million and the Belfast Maintenance and Storage Yard at $ 525 Million, which has the capacity for storing 70 extended length LRV’s. Or for about $870 Million, Ottawa gets 10km of track, 10 stations, several of them very large stations, 4 very large bridge replacements and about 8 small to medium sized bridge replacements/upgrades as well as 34, 48.5 Metre long 4 section LRV’s, (expandable to 60 metres by adding a 5th section). This expansion work can be easily done at the Belfast yard facility because modern LRV’s unlike Skytrains, are designed to be modular. They don’t have to be sent to a separate factory to be changed or upgraded.

  11. Haveacow says:

    It is now confirmed with the federal cash we got yesterday, we are getting 4 more LRV’s or 2 complete 2 car consists for $20 Million or $5 Million per LRV. That means soon after construction finishes in 2018 we will have a fleet of 38 LRV’s or 19 2 car consists. This means most likely, at the least one more train or 16 2 car trains, up from the current planned 15 consists will be operating at peak hour in Ottawa.

  12. Dondi says:

    Mr. Chris, I did not say SkyTrain’s higher costs are worth it. I questioned what I thought are exaggerations of those costs because they get in the way of serious discussion. We know Skytrain’s capital costs are very high. On the other hand, Skytrain reports that its operating costs are relatively low, and I have not seen serious evidence to the contrary. The debt is from building the system, not operating it.

    I appreciate your theoretical calculations of LRT manpower needs, but I think post facto data on actual experience is more convincing. But since you asked, I think you should add another 20% or so to your LRT numbers for illness and vacation replacement on the assumption this is included in the Skytrain numbers. To discuss whether Skytrain is “worth it” (which is harder to quantify) we also need to also compare the service benefits (service hours, travel speed, spacing of stops, transfers, road space (trams vs. cars every 2.2 minutes!), etc.).

    But in any case, for better or worse, we have inherited the Skytrain backbone. Where I most disagree with you and Mr. Zwei is that rather than seeing Skytrain as our main problem I think the problem is the ongoing priority given to auto transportation – the Gateway Project, George Massey Bridge, etc. Your “rampant urban sprawl along s-train corridors” is better described as more compact and dense development than would take place if there were no such corridors. These corridors could be along LRT or tram lines rather than Skytrain lines. I think which transit mode is a secondary issue (though important!) and obviously good integration of modes is important.

    You object to Translink dividing costs by ridership. This is one general metric for comparing different systems. Service hours are also important. So how does Translink compare (with whom I have zero connection, BTW)? You suggested Nathan Pachal’s report ( was biased in favour of Translink, but three of his 7 measures include service hours. His compilation of the CUTA data reports that Translink provides more revenue km per service hour than Calgary, it has higher operating costs per service hour, more passenger trips per service hour and the same service hours per capita.

    Again, and as I noted in a previous post, this report shows Translink has higher operating costs per service km, but not by a silly amount ($181.47 for Vancouver vs. $147.08 for Calgary and the 6 region median value of $156.43). Translink’s 25% margin over Calgary is the same as the 25% margin in Translink’s ‘peer review’ report for operating cost per passenger km ($0.30 vs. $0.24).So I don’t see any devious conspiracy by Translink when citing costs per ridership.

    Of course, for the more specific discussion about Skytrain what we need is the same comparison for Skytrain alone vs. Calgary’s C train or another comparable LRT system.

    Mr. Cow, if you are reading, what are the manpower and other operating cost projections for Ottawa, once your system is up and running?

    Mr Chris, I do appreciate your “insert expletive here” over inserting vulgar words. Could you also please refrain from referring to people who work at Translink as “pig-dogs”?

  13. eric chris says:

    You nailed in about the EGL for s-train being an infrastructure project rather than a public transit project. TransLink has devolved into a front for criminal organizations using public transit to pour concrete and get rich. This will come out in court. I must say, despite the massive cost of LRT in Ottawa, it at least is a people mover and mostly at grade to make it accessible and inexpensive to maintain in the future.

    TransLink keeps pretending that s-train can be upgraded to move 30,000 pphpd “at a later date”. How s-trains limited to about 80 metres in length (six to seven person capacity per linear metre of length) allowing s-trains to hold 500 people at most and operate every two minutes at best can achieve 30,000 pphpd is a mystery. Well, this will be discussed in court, as well.

    Anyhow, thanks for the additional feedback and technical constraints of BRT in Ottawa. Broadway has traffic lights every 250 metres (more or less) and I can’t imagine any more than about 50 light trams in service on Broadway (with each 25 metre long light tram holding 200 passengers).

    Round trip transit time between Commercial Drive and UBC is about 100 minutes during peak hours, so the 50 light trams effectively triple transit capacity from 2,000 pphpd (99 B-Line) to 6,000 pphpd. Light trams buy time for LRT or trams when the demand increases well beyond 6,000 pphpd on Broadway (in 20 years, maybe). Initially, only about 3,000 pphpd is needed (25 light trams on Broadway) to match the current peak hour transit capacity from all bus routes along Broadway and going to UBC. All the 99 B-Lines and other trolleybuses on Broadway could be replaced with 25 light tram drivers replacing the 50 drivers now and cutting operating costs in one-half now (TransLink is not in the business of improving transit service or saving money, however).

    At present, all bus routes (over one dozen) on three major transit corridors move fewer than 7,500 pphpd (peak hour) to UBC (Figure 3.3 in the following link). If we built just two light tram corridors, they could move 12,000 pphpd to UBC, plenty for a lot less than $5 billion which is what the subway to UBC costs at last count.

    My guess is that TransLink and COV planners would look like dorks if we bought 100 light trams moving 12,000 pphpd (for about $2 million each or a mere $200 million in total) and constructed two HOV lanes costing another $50 million, perhaps, for a grand total of $250 million to match the passenger capacity of s-train in the subway. This has to be the reason that nobody at TransLink wants to look at LRT, trams or especially light trams in the near term. They’d all get strung up for trying to scam taxpayer out of $5 billion, if word got out that spending just $250 million carries 12,000 pphpd to move just as many people as the subway will move (another concrete pouring project like the EGL project for organized crime to profit).

    Pig-dogs at TransLink need billions of dollars to pay off their $3.6 billion debt and stay out of jail. Staying out of jail and keeping their bloated salaries are the prime motives for everything that the pig-dogs at TransLink plan and do. Too bad that they committed fraud with their subway study (claiming that the subway limited to 12,500 pphpd somehow has more potential to move more people than BRT, LRT or trams moving far more people than 12,500 pphpd). Citizens in Vancouver exposed the fraud by TransLink trying to bilk Canadian taxpayers out of billions of dollars. It looks like the pig-dogs at TransLink are going to be in a load of crap soon.

    Lastly, Elizabeth Murphy has penned another great article in “The Vancouver Sun” which seems to have found the courage to turn on TransLink, granted in a roundabout way by targeting the up-zoning at s-train stations rather than TransLink, directly. She’s essentially saying that “TransLink” in cahoots with developers and politicians zoning too much density around s-train stations has caused the current unaffordability crisis in Vancouver. She’s right, and it makes people who have built their careers around the s-train scam fearful that there will be a public backlash and lynching of them (pig-dogs at TransLink, Gordon Price… Gregor Robertson):

    “So from this we can see there is no rush to force yet more zoning supply that does more harm than good. Solutions to affordability are complex and multifaceted.

    Although broader public policies regarding the social safety net, immigration and taxation play important roles in housing affordability, land-use policies are the focus in this article.
    There are several planning principles that need to be followed to create a system that supports an affordable built environment.

    1. Do no harm. Protect vulnerable people, cultural and heritage buildings, community amenities and the environment.
    2. Upgrade, improve and adaptively reuse good-quality existing buildings.
    3. Plan very carefully for future new development and implement incrementally to avoid land inflation.
    Although not fully followed, these principles generally were reflected in the city’s planning process from the 1970s to 1990s.”

    [Then came TransLink in 1999… ]

    “Similarly, transit planning signals massive upzoning along new transit lines. Dogmatic application of transit oriented tower development undermines local planning processes without reasonable consideration of community scale and character. Broadway west to Arbutus is reported as being in the midst of a “land rush” in speculation of a subway that has yet to be finally approved and is potentially decades from completion if funded. This is driving land values ever higher.

    So the key to housing affordability is to slow down the industry’s expectations that everything is up for rezoning and development. Spot rezoning has become the new normal. This has to change. Then perhaps staff will have more time to process the backlog of permits that currently is taking so long to get through an overburdened city hall. It should not take many months, sometimes over a year, to get a simple interior renovation approved like many applicants are currently experiencing. It also increases cynicism in the electoral process when people can see that the big money going into political parties is coming from the same people who get large rezoning approvals.”


  14. Haveacow says:


    Technically Skytrain can be expanded to do 28,000+ p/h/d. Actually any existing rapid transit system can be expanded to handle much greater passenger capacities. The real issue is how much you want to spend to do that.
    Skytrain could with existing technology upgrade its signaling systems to a state of the art, high capacity multiple independent moving blocks signaling system with the newest version of Bombardier’s City Flo 650 Automation System operating as the system governor. But that’s expensive and Translink is only and very begrudgingly doing some of this, mostly because of cost issues and the time required.

    First you need to be able to run more trains per hour.

    Problem/Issue#1, the electrical handling capacity of the system needs to be upgraded. Meaning, the existing electrical transformers (hidden behind the doors at nearly every station and what is mostly responsible for the mysterious size of most stations on the ground floor) needs to be upgraded in capacity or new ones have to be built and the corresponding cabling replaced, as well as the replacement of many of the system’s third rails and third rail connecting joints with each other and the cabling (can’t remember the technical name right now). Translink is trying to do this but its expensive and very time consuming however, it can easily be done at night when the system is closed and doesn’t necessarily. This is the first step in signal upgrades.

    Problem/issue #2 Next spending at a minimum of $500-700 Million and about 2-5 years with multiple daytime shutdowns to completely replace all the existing signaling software and hardware as well as the signals themselves. Toronto is replacing its 60 year old signaling system on line#1 (Yonge-University Spadina-York Subway Line). Its taken 4 years so far with major portions of the line getting shutdown on the weekends. This weekend its Lawrence Station to Yonge and Bloor, (the busiest stretch of rapid transit line in Canada and 2nd busiest in North America during peak hours). But it must be done to improve the lines top capacity limit and to keep the overall network in good repair. The traditional time the TTC does maintenance projects, the 6.5-7 hours a week from closing time Saturday night/Sunday morning to the traditional late start Sunday morning at 9am is just not enough time. So every weekend or at least every second weekend a section of the line is taken out of service to replace the thousands of km’s of cables and signaling infrastructure. Fall 2017 is the expected completion date.

    Next, add new centre platforms to existing stations and or adding centre tracks with new passenger platforms either side and move the existing tracks to the outside wall limit which is also expanded. Except for the highest use stations, this eliminates the need to lengthen platforms and is cheaper optioin when dealing with an above grade rapid transit system.

    Problem/Issue #3, Man this time consuming and expensive and you really have to do step 1 and 2 first but it can work. Translink is doing a station by station approach which means it may have most of the original stations on the Expo line upgraded by 2041. Time to do all the stations depends on budgets and assuming we survive the asteroid impact we will be subject to in 2048 (I’m a back yard astronomer each time a particular well know asteroid passes by us it keeps getting closer and closer, I’m not kidding). However, after several expected close fly bys in 2020′s and 2030′s due to gravitational sheer, may change the final date or it may cause it to miss us altogether, we will see. Anyway back to point.

    There are other issues such as, as your above grade Skytrain lines age, the structure between the stations will need significant structural upgrade. The longer you wait the bigger the bill. Translink has no budget or plan to deal with this issue. As we (me and employees of the company I was consulting with at the time) asked during our visit to there control centre a few years ago while we presented to the staff pieces of concrete right of way we found around Metrotown Station. What is your long term plan to deal with Expo line’s above grade structural renewal proposals we asked? Their answers were polite and diplomatic but you could tell we caught them off guard. It all depends on budgets and the availability time capital was the answer, so no plan until they have enough cash I guess.

    Lastly, as any rapid transit system gets bigger and bigger, the cheap and easy to build lines will generally get built first. Each extension or new line becomes relatively speaking more and more expensive (regardless of inflation). Its not Translink’s fault this generally happens on any system, you pick the low hanging fruit first! Many of the new lines like the Millennium Line’s Broadway extension to Arbutus and eventually UBC, are very expensive (because of the tunnel) and will only produce for now and even into the future, meager passenger numbers. In my humble professional opinion, the overly optimistic predictions of Translink will never produce the numbers really needed to justify a below grade Skytrain line that costs only 20% less per km than a late, over budget, subway line in Toronto that will daily handle twice the capacity of the planned Skytrain line, using the present 60 year old signaling system not the new one which is being installed on the rest of the line and that will be ready to go when this extension is complete. All these cost predictions for the Broadway Extension are based on 6 year old planning data which needs to be seriously upgraded and will most likely go up in cost per km as well.

    There are very few other justifiable new line opportunities for the Skytrain System given current ridership and corridor passenger levels. There are some extensions planned or being discussed. One is the killing of the very poorly thought out LRT line in Surrey and replacing it Skytrain extension but it brings about another issue that is not thought about in Vancouver yet but Toronto and Montreal have been facing for a while, that is the geographic scale of the service area. You can extend the Skytrain in Surrey but even Skytrain’s for Surrey, “Daryl”, missed this little issue. If you build the extension of the Skytrain as designed by Translink and Daryl you will have to sit for an hour just to get to the other side of the line, which is downtown. This still seems to bel the largest passenger destination for the system. It will take an hour because of all the other existing stops you already have in between Surrey Skytrain extension and downtown Vancouver. You could have a local/ express train system operation but unless track infrastructure is severely upgraded, it just can’t happen. So a change in operational technology is needed, more commuter rail/regional rail or Zwei’s Tram Trains operation. Both Toronto and Montreal learned a long time ago you can’t extend subway/metro lines outward until they are 30-40 miles long its just too expensive to build and operate. Not to mention there would be just too many stations stops between where people want to go and where they will be getting on. Adding express services is expensive and difficult and ultimately lowers capacity. Even heavier capacity LRT lines have a distance/travel time limit. So soon a new form of longer distance rapid transit will be needed for Vancouver’s outer areas you can’t keep building Skytrain further and further out its also way too expensive to build and you still suffer the distance/time penalty for potential passenger numbers. So yes a change in rapid transit operating technology, due to the geographic operating scale, for the outer portions of your region is most likely imminent.

  15. eric chris says:

    Haveacow, thanks for the added insight and information. If the asteroid doesn’t do us in, in the near term, the last thing that we need is for TransLink to surprise us in court and blindside us with technical wizardry to send us scrambling.

    Fortunately, the group preparing to lambaste TransLink includes academics, lawyers and engineers. For the average distance of 1,600 metre between s-train stations, the s-train can’t run faster than its rated speed of 80 kph for about 1,222 metres (55 seconds) and takes about 17 seconds to gradually and comfortably accelerate to 80 kph and about 17 seconds to gradually and comfortably decelerate from 80 kph. We’re up to 89 seconds already and have to allow for passengers to crawl over druggies and vomit to board s-trains and fight the creeps assaulting them on s-trains for passengers to alight s-trains.

    “Train acceleration is typically provided at 3 miles per hour per second, as it is the maximum value used as limited by passenger comfort… Train deceleration is also typically provided at 3 mphps.”

    Steve Munro suggests that 140 second headways are the practical limit for subways (viaducts). Based on the current design, s-train has a practical capacity of 13,000 pphpd (500 passengers every 140 seconds).

    Daft and clueless pig-dogs at TransLink are stringing everyone along with their crap about simply turning on the juice to get 30,000 pphpd out of their s-train debacle. This requires bending time and 60 second headways (s-train holding 500 passengers). It looks like the new TransLink boss skipped physics class.

    You have to remember; the pig-dogs at TransLink are deadbeat provincial government employees. They spent $200 million on the Compass fiasco under the ass-umption that it only takes 0.3 seconds to tap-in or tap-out to board or alight buses, only to discover after the fact that it actually takes 3 seconds to tap-in or tap-out. Pig-dogs at TransLink had to retool their fare structure to accommodate Compass which has already been made obsolete by low cost smart-phone technology.

    “… mobile apps that allow riders to pay for trips electronically and track buses as they approach.”

    “Transit by TransLink is a billion dollar blunder by the hundreds of half-wits employed as “planners” at TransLink: “Bachelor of Arts (BA) graduates” making $100,000 to $500,000 annually.”

    Given the logistical constraints imposed by the large stations requiring bus-transfers to feed the s-trains, it is inconceivable that the pig-dogs at TransLink will ever be able to get more than about 18,000 pphpd out the s-train network: provided (as you have pointed out) that the pig-dogs spend zillions of dollars to: upgrade the power grid and signaling, run s-trains holding 600 passengers or small hamsters, and train everyone at all the stations to dive in and out of the s-trains in time for headways of 120 seconds.

    Since the installation of fare gates, elderly and other slow movers create bottlenecks which make even 140 second headways for s-train pure fantasy. On the Expo Line with 20 stations, the probability of all passengers at all 20 stations being able to consistently alight and board all s-trains for headways under 140 seconds is statistically improbable. Moreover, Bombardier does not offer s-trains holding 600 passengers as far as I am aware, not even the new s-trains for the EGL.

    Do you know what the headway is for the subway in Toronto? In Ottawa, is the LRT line designed to have a headway under two minutes?

    Wholly crap, zombies are falling off the balconies on the “Fear the Walking Dead” episode tonight. It startled the crap out of me. Adios zombie pig-dogs, the end of the TransLink nightmare and con-job is nearer than you might realize.

  16. zweisystem says:

    I am sorry, but I most close comments on this post. 200 spam comments in 8 hours is a little too much.