A Letter To North Shore Mayors

Continues from my previous post. Zwei sent the following Email to the North Shore Mayor’s and Councils one week ago.

I would also like to thank Mr. Cow for info used.

Interestingly I have been in communication with one of the North Shore Mayors who wants more information.

In this day and age, with so much information about light rail available, this study reverts back to the Evergreen Line’s business case, which American Engineer, Gerald Fox, easily shredded. In a SkyTrain only bubble of metro Vancouver, honest transit studies are few and far between.

Please Deliver to Mayor and Council;

The North Shore Rapid Transit Study reminds me of the earlier Evergreen Line Business Case, manipulated and slanted to favour the continued expansion of the now obsolete SkyTrain light-metro system.

I find it astounding, with all the material available about modern transit planning, that the study merely copied the earlier Evergreen Line Business Case’s pro SkyTrain hype and Hoopla and tried to pass it off as a credible study.

Translink and the provincial government have already said, “BRT first, Skytrain later”. This is government-speak for, “WE CANNOT AFFORD THIS AT ALL, NOT NOW ANYWAY, AND MAYBE NEVER!

The Evergreen Line Report made me curious as to how TransLink could justify continuing to expand SkyTrain, when the rest of the world is building LRT. So I went back and read the alleged Business Case (BC) report in a little more detail. I found several instances where the analysis had made assumptions that were inaccurate, or had been manipulated to make the case for SkyTrain. If the underlying assumptions are inaccurate, the conclusions may be so too

Gerald Fox’s (a noted American Engineer who oversaw the construction of several US transit systems) opening paragraph of his 2008 review of the Evergreen Line Business Case.

Reviewing the District of North Vancouver recently commissioned and funded studies for a North Shore Rapid Transit Plan, I too found The analysis had made assumptions that were also inaccurate, or had been manipulated to make the case for SkyTrain. If the underlying assumptions are inaccurate, the conclusions may be so too

Capacity: A combination of train size and headway. For instance, TriMet's new Type 4 Low floor LRVs, arriving later this year, have a rated capacity of 232 per car, or 464 for a 2- car train. (Of course one must also be sure to use the same standee density when comparing car capacity. I don't know if that was done here). In Portland we operate a frequency of 3 minutes downtown in the peak hour, giving a one way peak hour capacity of 9,280. By next year we will have two routes through downtown, which will eventually load both ways, giving a theoretical peak hour rail capacity of 37,000 into or out of downtown

From Gerald Fox’s review of the Evergreen Line Business Case

The maximum capacity of light rail in the Rapid Transit Study is wildly inaccurate.

The capacity of modern light rail can exceed 20,000 persons per hour per direction (Light Rail Transit Association) and ignores the singular fact that in the late 1940’s until opening of the first subway in Toronto, the Toronto Transit Commission operated coupled sets of PCC cars on select routes, obtaining peak hour capacities between 12,000 to 12,500 pphpd and that, operating in mixed traffic with no transit priority!

A two car Alstom Citadis LRV train used in Ottawa is 98 metres long and 2.86 m wide, has a larger capacity than Skytrain’s MK.5, 5-car train-sets width of 2.65 and 88 metres long. The Citadis LRV is 10 metres longer, has a 600 passenger capacity at 4 passengers per square metre. Operating at 5 minute headways, the 2-car Citadis LRV’s would have an hourly capacity of 7,200 pphpd and at 2.5 minute headways, would have a capacity of 14,400 pphpd.

Confederation LRT LIne Versus Skytrain 2.0.jpg
A comparison of Ottawa’s confederation Line and Vancouver’s light metro system.

The stated capacity of modern LRT in the study of only 4,500 pphpd is not just wrong; it borders on professional misconduct.

Ridership. Is a function of many factors. The Business Case report would have you believe that type of rail mode alone, makes a difference (It does in the bus vs rail comparison, according to the latest US federal guidelines). But, on the Evergreen Line, I doubt it. What makes a difference is speed, frequency (but not so much when headways get to 5 minutes), station spacing and amenity etc. Since the speed, frequency and capacity assumptions used in the Business Case are clearly inaccurate, the ridership estimates cannot be correct either.

From Gerald Fox’s review of the Evergreen Line Business Case.

Another assumption is that light rail is slower and will carry fewer customers.

Again, inaccurate. Light Rail Transit is a modern tram or streetcar which operates on dedicated or reserved rights of way, with priority signalling at intersections and having no traffic interference. Only if the tram or streetcar operates in mixed traffic, the commercial speed would be slower, defined by the road speed limit, but LRT does not operate on the road, but on its own dedicated route. Thus a modern light rail with comparative Rights-of-Ways, with equal stations, would have comparative travel times. Another factor not considered is that dwell times for light rail vehicles are much less when compared to the driverless SkyTrain light metro cars and the cumulative savings with shorter dwell times do add up over a longer trip.

A modern Paris Tram on a lawned reserved or dedicated R-o-W.

What is true is that LRT, because of it operating on much cheaper R-o-W’s has more stations or stops, thus attracting more ridership than elevated light-metros, which stations tend to be much further apart and mainly assccable by customers first taking a bus. More stations along a transit route will achieve slower commercial speeds but will attract more ridership.Over 80% of SkyTrain’s ridership first takes a bus and by taking a bus, increases door to door travel times, not reflected in the study.

Innuendos about safety, and traffic impacts, seem to be a big issue for SkyTrain proponents, but are solved by the numerous systems that operate new LRT systems (i.e., they can't be as bad as the SkyTrain folk would like you to believe)............................ But, eventually, Vancouver will need to adopt lower-cost LRT in its lesser corridors, or else limit the extent of its rail system. And that seems to make some TransLink people very nervous. 

Gerald Fox’s review of the Evergreen Line Business Case.

The SkyTrain Light Metro system operates two very different railways. The Canada Line is a conventional heavy-rail railway, operated as a light metro and the Expo and Millennium Lines operate the proprietary and last called Movia Automatic Light Metro (MALM) system, now owned by Alstom. The SkyTrain name for the light metro system was chosen in a radio contest (CKNW) in 1985. The study did not consider this and as each light metro system (conventional or unconventional/proprietary) has different costs and operating parameters and any reference to SkyTrain is based solely on assumptions and not fact.

As MALM is a proprietary railway and powered by Linear Induction Motors, it is incompatible in operations with any other railway, except its current family of 6 systems.

As Alstom is the sole supplier of the proprietary MALM cars and only seven such systems have been built in almost 50 years with only six remaining in operation; if Alstom ceases production, there will be no supplier of MALM compatible cars and parts.

Planning for MALM (SkyTrain) that may be built decades in the future, is a fool’s errand because there may not be a supplier for MALM cars in the future and vehicles will have to be custom built.

It is interesting how TransLink has used this cunning method of manipulating analysis to justify SkyTrain in corridor after corridor, and has thus succeeded in keeping its proprietary rail system expanding. In the US, all new transit projects that seek federal support are now subjected to scrutiny by a panel of transit peers, selected and monitored by the federal government, to ensure that projects are analysed honestly, and the taxpayer interests are protected. No SkyTrain project has ever passed this scrutiny in the US.

Gerald Fox’s review of the Evereen Line Business case

It is interesting that the North Shore transit plan still opts for a “SkyTrain solution, even though no city has copied Vancouver’s exclusive use of light-metro and no transit authority has copied using the now called proprietary MALM system. In the realm of modern public transport, success is copied and failure is ignored; except in Metro Vancouver!

It is interesting that the North shore transit plan has either deliberately or for a lack of due diligence, had the capacity of light rail so low, that one wonders why over 420 light rail/tram systems are in operation around the world, operating well over 16,000 km of line.

What would be the cost of 19.5 North Shore to Metrotown MALM Line?

The current cost of the 16 km. Expo Line extension is $4.01 million, but that cost was from 2021 and accounting for inflation that cost is now $4.59 billion and it is interesting that the most recent news release regarding the Langley extension was the $4.01 billion was a firm cost for the guideway only and did not include the electrical supply, signalling and stations which were “still under negotiation”. The cost does not include the rail compatible Bridge replacing the current Ironworkers Memorial Bridge; the cars needed to operate the extension; nor the $500 million to $1 billion Operations and Maintenance Centre #5, which will be needed, especially for the 5 car MK.V stock.

If a SkyTrain extension to the North Shore is planned a similar cost OMC #6 will have to be built.

It is a fair estimate that the true cost of the 19.5 km SkyTrain extension from the North Shore to Metrotown will be around $10 billion!

Light Rail is not only cheaper to build, it is cheaper to operate and maintain; it has a higher capacity; it has many suppliers and it has operational flexibility, which MALM Skytrain does not have.

From MetroLinx (Ontario) showing the 50 year costs of various transit. As MALM (SkyTrain) is a four rail system, its fifty year operating costs are higher than elevated LRT.

It is clearly apparent that the North shore Rapid Transit study is of little or no value because it includes erroneous assumptions and even worse, false claims for modern light rail. It also ignores the singular fact that the current 21.7 km, $11 billion expansion of the Expo and Millennium Lines has literally sucked all transit monies off the table for the next decade, at least.

There will be no rapid transit from the North shore across the Burrard Inlet in the foreseeable future.

If I were the Mayor of the District of North Vancouver, I would demand a refund!


The whole study believed that LRT can only operate in curb or median road lanes like this.



See this is Hurdman Station an above grade station, notice the above grade concrete right of way leading into the station, wow just like the Skytrain!


Notice several surface LRT Rights of way that don’t involve operating in the central or curb lane of a road.


They can even operate in tunnels, just like the Skytrain can.



2 Responses to “A Letter To North Shore Mayors”
  1. legoman0320 says:

    Some of the information used here is from the latest study for BIRT 2023. Construction firm, Miguel University and funded by the North Shore Municipal government.

    20 vehicles In service on a line

    (Capacities are all equivalent to 6 people per square meter)
    20 – Articulated bus
    Capacity 100 People
    Frequency 10 buses A hour. Like BRT light.

    20 – Citizens spirit LRV
    Capacity 300 People
    Frequency 15 LRV A hour. Like Surrey LRT proposal.

    20- MK 2 4 car set
    Capacity 600 People.
    Frequency 20 trains an hour. Like Automated metro.

    not need OMC 6
    Like the UBC extension 28 km of OMC 4
    BIRT line is 26 km of OMC 1
    Most likely going to have storage tracks at the end of the line of 4-6 Trains.

    Rail Rapid transit Fixed Cost.
    Signaling, power systems and Employees
    The variable cost is Infrastructure, rolling stock and maintenance.

    Light rail by definition means low capacity 2,000 – 19,999 People per direction per hour. Some subways in North America are classified in the light category of capacities. And The others are classified in the middle Capacities at 20,000 – 39,999 People per direction per hour.

    In Translink thinking If we need to pay for automated signaling systems = SkyTrain.
    go underground = SkyTrain.
    Average line speed over 35 kmh = SkyTrain

    Skytrain Manual operation 5 minute frequency.(Expo line example) That’s mean skytrain needs to have available 120 skytrain attendant a week per line. it not ideal Skytrain to operate at a low frequency, but during storms or Automated skytrain does go down is temporary. it no fun.
    LRT on the other hand would have the same amount of people 120 a week operating LRV. Increase frequency, they need to hire more people for the LRV.
    (Math: 3 rotating shift and 4 days on 3 days off. Shift x Operators × 2 Replacement Operators = 3 x 20 x 2 = 120 Train operators)

    (Reference Transport 2050 plan)
    Translink, taking a look forward to next 30 years of the region. Upgrades capacity needs of existing lines and future lines is max Platform length 120 M Canada line and max Platform length 130 M Other line.

    side noise: Most business Rapid transit systems are wealthy integrated to the bus network and Rail network(Metros, LRT). For majority customers, well need to make a transfer at some point to bus. Allowing the line to get better utilized and Saving people on Time-traveling.

    Zwei Replies: You haven’t a clue what you are talking about sunshine, just words randomly put into sentences. Show me the $10 billion to build it! Can’t? Dream on!

  2. Haveacow says:

    I learned that yes, this North Shore/Purple Line does connect to the Millennium Line at Brentwood. Which is a terribly long commute if your going to UBC, especially considering that it’s really not that UBC isn’t that great a distance from the North Shore. This line is poorly thought out and even more poorly connected to the rest of the network. There are very few stations, too few actually, above all else it’s too expensive for what it does.

    This new line is even worse to go to the heart of downtown (Skytrain’s biggest passenger generator) because transferring at Brentwood, using the Millennium Line, you are forced to transfer again, whether it’s tranfering to the Canada Line or to the Expo Line at Broadway Commercial, just to get to the core of downtown. These network connections are not thought out well. It’s actually increasing the distance traveled, enormously, for north shore commuters, compared to simply taking the ferry across or using the Lions Gate Bridge.

    The too few stations means that North Shore Skytrain passengers can’t use this line very efficiently to simplify get around the North Shore and many parallel bus services must be in operating to fill in service gaps between the sparsely spaced Skytrain stations.

    North shore commuters using this line have to either travel far longer distances to use the Millennium Line or transfer twice just to get to downtown Vancouver. Or travel even further away from downtown to only require a single transfer trip using the Expo Line. I know the Lionsgate Bridge has heavy traffic but is the ferry to downtown Vancouver that slow?

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