A Comparrison Of Operating Costs – Revisited

If one took the ‘Way-back’ machine to the late 1980’s, the argument that SkyTrain was cheaper to operate than LRT would show the massive propaganda campaign to give the public a positive view of the proprietary ALRT light-metro. This is because it was forced upon the region by the Social Credit government of the day.

There were no comparative studies done as the orders came directly from the Premiers Office.

The reality was, building the Expo line with ALRT was a horse-trade with the government of Ontario (the UTDC was their Crown corporation) to both sell a very unsalable R/T system and to obtain the services of the then Ontario Conservative governments ‘Blue Machine’ to win the next BC election.

This is the base for Vancouver’s love affair with light-metro.


The Detroit system is closing in 2025,

due to the trains and guideways being “life expired”.

Ever since, the SkyTrain light-metro system has been portrayed as a wonder system, which over time has built up to the current SkyTrain myth. Like Robin Hood or King Arthur, the SkyTrain myth is nothing more than cobbled together claims and cherry picked facts and a myth often repeated tends to become fact in the people’s minds.

It is all “repeat a lie enough times and the people will come to believe” shtick.

It also be remembered that both BC, Transit and TransLink were in partnership to sell Advanced Rapid Transit (ART) or SkyTrain, abroad. This meant that there would be no way for LRT to be built in metro Vancouver.

The Calgary C-Train has traditionally carried more customers than the Expo Line (both being about the same length) and costing less than half to build and much less to operate.

Today, many of the “old gang” at TransLink have retired and the new lot of bureaucrats (many earning six figured salaries”)repeat the old porkies actually believing they are true.

Sadly, never was.

The print and electronic media also fell into this trap as those reporters who did investigative reporting have long retired, with the new crop of reporters,eager to please their corporate bosses, treat TransLink news releases as real news, instead of a well planned propaganda campaign.


Subsidy 1Even in the 90’s, then huge subsidies for ALRT, made the mini-metro not cost effective in operation.

Vancouver’s SkyTrain light-metro system has had the transit eyes of the world on it for almost 40 years, yet no one has copied Vancouver and that is a question that the SkyTrain Lobby prefer not to deal with.

In an era of unprecedented investment in public transport, no one has copied the Vancouver model, the exclusive use of a light metro, including a proprietary light-metro system, for urban transport.


The per km cost of LRT and light-metro, 1981 to 1987.

The per km cost of LRT and light-metro, 1981 to 1987.

A Comparrison Of Operating Costs – SkyTrain & Light Rail

The late Des Turner was meticulous with his research with the SkyTrain light metro system and in 1988, embarrassed the then Social Credit Government to release the real costs of the mini-metro.
What is more interesting is comparing the operating costs of the Calgary C-Train light rail and SkyTrain.
Thought the operating costs are a year in difference, it must be noted that the Calgary C-Train has historically carried more customers than the Expo Line, yet its operating costs are more than $12 million less than that of SkyTrain.
BC Transit knew this, but continued the myth that SkyTrain was cheaper to operate. This is called professional misconduct; others may call it more.
TransLink, which was mostly made up of BC Transit bureaucrats jumping ship, knew this, but continued the myth that SkyTrain was cheaper to operate.


The total 1988/89 budget for SkyTrain:

Operations………………… 5,483,863
Maintenance……………. 14,243,092
Administration………….. 7,931,834
                     Total:       $27,658,789
 (Rick Krowchuck, Executive V.P. Finance)

Calgary C-Train 1990 Operating Budget

Operators……………………… $2,332,000
(Labour, parts, materials)
LRV Power……………………. $1,384,000
Fixed Operating …….Costs $6,815,000
(administration, cleaning facilities/buildings)
Total:                                     $15,335,000
(Niel Mckendrick Coordinator of Transit Services, Calgary Transit)



3 Responses to “A Comparrison Of Operating Costs – Revisited”
  1. Haveacow says:

    I will say it again, at a time (1989-1990) when the Expo Line was brand new and Calgary’s LRT network was just starting to show its age, not to mention that Calgary’s network was 4km longer as well as moving more passengers at that time. That maintenance total for Expo Line is interesting. I would suggest that Calgary’s total is missing something. However, now that I know and have seen the difference in both systems maintenance practices, it does graphically show one of the problems of Vancouver’s chosen transit operating technology. I can say with great confidence that, a very large percentage of the difference between the two system’s maintenance costs has a lot to do with the Skytrain’s linear induction propulsion motors and the need to support them (the LIM motors) and its extra track infrastructure.

    It’s a very cumbersome, intrusive and expensive way to move a train from point A to point B, compared to just using standard electric motors. The LIM units may have been better than traditional electric motors from the mid 1970’s to very early 1980’s (the LIM propulsion unit’s main design era) but when you add in the need for a 4th rail to just function, wow. Unfortunately in nearly all but a few rate cases, they offer no advantage compared to today’s electric railway motors. Just their physical location alone, at the bottom of the centreline of the trucks/bogie frame, a place they have to be to make them work efficiently, adds maintenance costs compared to standard electric railway motors.

    Zwei replies: This was done to show why ALRT did not stand up well, when compared to LRT back in the day and explains why it was an “Edsel” transit system. What it does show is the cost of operators or drivers for Calgary’s trams and it is not the tens of millions of dollars extolled by BC Transit and TransLink. TransLink never publicly states the annual wages of the systems “attendants”.

    As a chap from Calgary told me in the latter 1990’s, Calgary has a system to operate while Vancouver has a system to sell.

  2. legoman0320 says:

    operates service = wear and tears. There’s only a few metros in the world that operate at the same frequency as SkyTrain
    If a system operating a frequency of 2 min 30 train per hour then a system with a frequency of 8 min 7.5 train per hour. like apples to oranges comparison. 4 X wear and tear on the system. The question is more frequent trains make it easier for taking public transit or not?

    Zwei replies: Again, absolute bullshit. SkyTrain has short headway’s because the trains have little capacity and must run more trains per hour to carry the same loads of a metro, thus causing much more wear and tear and expensive maintenance.

    Example: A 76 metre -6 car set of MK 1 cars has a maximum capacity of 450 persons, while an 138m long 6 car “Rocket” set of metro cars has a capacity around 1,500 persons. The six car SkyTrain set has to do three times the work to carry the same amount of customers than a Toronto subway.

    You should talk to real experts and learn a thing or two because your arguments tend to be the “man of straw” kind.

    Studies have shown that frequencies less than about 5 to 4 minutes do not attracvt any more customers.

  3. zweisystem says:

    The idea that the Broadway subway customers will happily transfer to the Canada Line forgets one very important fact, both are two very different railways. The Canada line can only operate 2 car trains and most are at capacity at peak hours making transfers problematic and time consuming.

    I have been told that the station must be enlarged for the Canada line to safely handle traffic flows. This will be extremely costly. There is now talk of forcing Vancouver bound passengers on the millennium Line subway to transfer at Broadway, which will make commutes much longer.

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