An Apples To Apples Comparison – A Tale of Two Cities

We all know about the $3.95 billion 18 km extension of the Expo line to Surrey with all the hype and hoopla of the SkyTrain Lobby is in full swing.

Back in the Waterloo region of Ontario, $2.2 billion buys you 37 km of light rail!

The comparison between Surrey and Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge, (the urban areas of Waterloo Region) is uncanny. Similar growing populations, basically suburban municipalities on the edge of a larger City region. The only difference is the choice rail transit.

Ion Stage 1 opened in June, 2019, the final cost was $868 Million for 19 km. Stage 2 is expected to start construction in 2028 and opened by 2032. The cost of the 18 km extension is expected to be $1.36 Billion. That’s 37 km for $ 2.228 Billion that’s considerably less than $3.95 for 18km of SkyTrain.

More route mileage for LRT, means more destinations served, means far more user friendly, means a far better chance of attracting the all important motorist from the car and I like those apples!


Stage 2 ION light-rail project receives provincial clearance

The move allows the Region of Waterloo to seek provincial and federal funding for the 11.18-mile light-rail project.

Jun 22nd, 2021


An ION light-rail train operating through the snow.
An ION light-rail train operating through the snow.
Region of Waterloo

The government of Ontario has approved the Transit Project Assessment for the Stage 2 ION light-rail project in the Region of Waterloo, clearing the way for the municipality to seek funding from provincial and federal sources.

“We’re thrilled to be able to proceed with delivering Stage 2 of ION light-rail transit to residents in Waterloo Region,” said Karen Redman, Regional chair of the Region of Waterloo. “Stage 1 has been an incredible success getting people to where they need to go in a fast, reliable and affordable way. We’re committed to providing this much-needed service to community members in Cambridge.”

Stage 1 ION LRT opened to the public on June 21, 2019, and has carried millions of riders along 19 kilometers (11.8 miles) of light rail with 19 stations between Conestoga Station in Waterloo to Fairway Station in Kitchener.

Stage 2 ION will nearly double the number of light-rail miles and link Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge through 18 kilometers (11.18 miles) of light rail with eight stations.

By 2051, Waterloo Region’s population is expected to reach more than 900,000 residents.

“The city of Cambridge is excited about this milestone that brings us closer to seeing rapid transit in our community,” said Mayor of Cambridge, Ontario, Kathryn McGarry. “ION will give Cambridge residents a convenient and sustainable alternative to travelling by car and move people seamlessly not only between the other two urban centers, but to the many businesses and amenities within our own community. When finished, ION will help create an even more connected and inclusive Waterloo Region.”

Along with providing a safe mode of transportation for the growing community, light rail has also fostered local economic development, with more than C$3.5 billion (US$2.83 billion) in investment in the central transit corridor.

“We’re creating a world-class community that’s sustainable, inclusive and positioned for the future,” added Chair Redman. “Stage 2 of light-rail transit will continue to make Waterloo Region the ideal place to live, work and play.”


7 Responses to “An Apples To Apples Comparison – A Tale of Two Cities”
  1. SisterBuddha says:

    There is big differences between Metro Vancouver and Waterloo. There is 2 million more people in Metro Vancouver, Waterloo is less than 900,000. The Skytrain to Langley will cost only $2.9 billion and will be elevated, not the $3.9 billion you claim and refuse to present evidence. The Skytrain will be faster than LRT. If the LRT is on the roads it will be slower, it has to stop at traffic lights and intersections. Skytrain only stops at stations. If the LRT were elevated, it would cost as much as Skytrain. Just look at Ottawa LRT that went over budget.

    From Wikipedia. The maximum operating speed of Ion light rail vehicles is 50 km/h (31 mph) along city streets and 70 km/h (43 mph) along railway rights of way. However, in areas where there is high pedestrian traffic, the operating speed will be as low as 20–25 km/h (12–16 mph). Wikipedia did say the lrt will have signel priority at intersections which may speed things up a little.

    Much slower than skytrain. Much prefer the Skytrain to Langley if it costs more. You get what you pay for. LRT is good for smaller cities in BC like Victoria, Kelowna, Kamloops. Not for Vancouver except on the railway right of way around false creek and along arbutus.

    If Skytrain becomes obsolute, it can be replaced with different trains and still use the elevated right of way.

    Zwei replies: So many men of straw arguments, so much misinformation.

    So let’s deal with it.

    1) The population demographic along both the Ion route and the Expo line extension are about the same. I doubt residents from Delta or Richmond will rush to use the line. Do not forget that Greater Toronto’s population is $6.5 million, about 1.4 million greater than all of BC.
    2) The total cost of the Expo Line extension to Langley, complete including new cars and maintenance facility is $3.95 billion and there is absolutely no mention of the $3 billion in much needed rehab of the Expo line so it can operate more trains, that the extension will provide.
    3) Currently the Expo line extension to Langley is unfunded by around &800 million.
    4)SkyTrain is faster than LRT because it has fewer stations. This old saw about speed in meaningless, due to the fact, that customers must take extra time to reach a station. Despite the hoopla with the Canada line, South Delta/Surrey residents saw an increase of around 10 minutes in travel time, compared to the direct buses.
    5) Berlin (pop.3.5 million), Amsterdam (pop 1.5 million), Moscow (pop. 12.5 million), Paris (pop.11 million), Toronto (pop. 3 mil.)all operate LRT/tram systems, plus about 600 other cities around the world; only 9 cities use the proprietary MALM system (erroneously called SkyTrain), with only three (3) seriously used for urban the way, the population of Surrey is 580K. Your argument is laughable.
    The problem with the Expo Line is large portions of the line is nearing being “life expired” and was designed for the much lighter UTDC ICTS and ALRT cars. With the Bombardier ART MK 2/3 cars (which barely can operate on portions of the line), finding replacement was would be an extremely expensive proposition. Unlike the Canada Line which basically is an elevated railway, operating EMU’s operating anything but ALRT/ART/MALM cars would be problematic.

  2. Major Hoople says:

    I do not think, that those who are so uninformed about transit, realize what complete dummkopfs they make them selves out to be, when they try to pretend that they are expert.

    There are over 550 tramways in operation around the world. On our side of the pond we do not use the term LRT and that does not include the well over 120 light railways, which many of them use modern trams.

    As Mr. Zwei points out, cities with large populations operate trams, but they also operate metro on their heavily used lines and heavily used I mean 30K to 50K an hour. Your little Expo line can handle a maximum of only 15K, less than most trams operating in large conurbations.

    This fixation of operating speeds gets very tiresome indeed as speed comes with a penalty, the higher speed, the fewer stations, the fewer stations, fewer transit customers.

    Studies have shown that the optimum distance for a stop with any transit mode in 500m to 600m. Now tram stops are very cheap compared to the grand elevated and subway stations, but tram stops tend to attract more ridership. This is important because on the world scene, your pygmy Skytrain is very poor in attracting ridership, something that has been well known for many years.

    “Only three seriously used for urban transit?” Our little VAL light Metro operates in eight cities All used for urban transit, though the Orly VAL maybe questionable.

    We await with baited breathe for future developments and very imaginative stories from your Skytrain enthusiasts.

  3. zweisystem says:

    The figure of $3.95 billion has been quoted in the very Skytrain friendly Vancouver Sun and from our expert, Haveacow. The previous cost estimate from TransLink was $3.1 billion. But, I have been told that there has been no accurate survey or cost estimate for crossing the Serpentine Valley, which is a massive peat bog. Unlike LRT, the massive tonnage of the cement pylons and guideway, may need special (read expensive) engineering, escalating the cost once again. Also, there has been no land purchased for the much needed maintenance centre and with escalating land values and a nasty political fight to get the land out of the ALR, if they go that route, the cost estimate may rise considerably.

  4. zweisystem says:

    A note to Sister Buddah. I have learned to check the IP addresses of everyone posting here and guess what, you email addresses are linked to spam. I find most trolls use rotating addresses and i can surmise that either you are working for the Safe Surrey group or the Liberals/NDP. Experience has taught me that all politcal parties hire professional trolls and to keep their true identities secret, they rotate Email addresses.

  5. Haveacow says:

    For Educational Purposes Only

    1. As a former Torontonian, the GTA, (Greater Toronto Area) doesn’t officially exist and has no real use in the government. The term came out of planning and engineering schools in the mid to late 1980’s as way to describe Toronto’s commuter area. Although, now, its well used by the public, its a very antiquated term. Unfortunately, its now far too small to describe what’s going on around Toronto.

    The real area that is used officially by both Metrolinx and the Province of Ontario is the Greater Golden Horseshoe Region. Unlike the term, “The GTA” , this actually has a legally defined border in the associated “Greater Golden Horseshoe Region Act” as well as the “The Places To Grow Act”, “The Oak Ridges Moraine Act”, the revised “Niagara Escarpment Act” and several dozen others.

    It is the 4th largest by population, urban conurbation in North America, has just under 10 Million people (2020) and covers an area of 33500 km2. This region represents 30 municipal, semi-regional and regional transit agencies in South-Central Ontario and generally is the official operating area of GO Transit’s buses and trains. It’s area stretches from Simcoe County in the north, Peterborough in the north-east, includes parts of Northumberland County (Port Hope & Coburg) in the east, Waterloo Region in the west, Brant County the south-west and the Niagara Region in the south.×1594-figure1.jpg

    2. The first stage of the Ottawa O-Train Confederation LRT Line was late but not overbudget! It always surprises me that even the press, doesn’t understand the concept of a fixed price contract, it can’t go overbudget, the price is fixed. The final price was $2.1 Billion, if the companies involved with the Rideau Transit Group, the consortium which won the P3 contract to build, operate and maintain it go overbudget, that extra money will have to come from their money, they are getting to operate and maintain the line.

    3. The article was comparing Surrey, just Surrey, to the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge area, not the entire Lower Mainland area of BC which has nearly its entire transit fleet operated by one operator, Translink.

    4. The point wasn’t just that you can build more LRT mileage for the same price of Skytrain but to show how unbelievably inflexible the Skytrain concept is, compared to surface LRT, or LRT in general. @SisterBuddah was proving my point when he (Daryl) was talking about elevated lines being required to beat LRT in time. The point is that you should not be building structures like that unless, you are getting really big passenger numbers. Passenger numbers, like the Montreal Metro and the Toronto Subway systems get. The Skytrain really doesn’t get large numbers of passengers and really can’t handle large numbers of passengers, like real metro systems do. In the not to distant future, the original Expo Line section from 1986 will require mind numbingly large amounts of cash to update the nearly 20km of concrete viaducts and track infrastructure, that is why its better to be a little slower and stuck to the surface wherever possible.

    5. I was honestly shocked to find out recently from a former Translink employee information about your existing Expo Line. Evidently, there are a few portions of your raised right of way on the original 1986 Expo line section that because of design and or lack of maintenance, can’t handle the weight of modern Bombardier Flexity or Alstom Citadis LRV’s (Light Rail Vehicles) and may also be too narrow for those vehicles as well! These LRV’s are only 2.86-2.9 metres wide. If someone can explain this or tell me what’s going on, I’m all ears!

  6. Haveacow says:

    (Sorry, missed one) 6. The Ottawa LRT Confederation Line is designed to move more passengers per hour and in total than the Skytrain can even with larger 5 section (cars) Skytrains. The Confederation Line by design is easily expandable, in both that the stations and LRV’s can be expanded locally. The surface stations, which are all 90 to 100 metres long, all have areas at the ends of the existing platform, that allow for expansion and lengthening of existing platforms. The tunnel stations are already their maximum 120 metre length.

    Unlike the Skytrains, each individual 4 section car or LRV is designed from the ground up as a modular vehicle and can add a 5th section if needed. This expansion work can be done in the existing Belfast Yard Maintenance Facility so the existing fleet can keep working in town and not have to be sent out of town to a far away factory. Better yet or have to wait for said factory, to send you brand new larger trains sometime in the future, when they have time for your contract.

  7. zweisystem says:

    The late Des Turner had a letter from BC Transit stating that the original Expo Line was so designed that it could not operate modern LRV’s. Even the MK 2/3 cars have considerable flange squeal on the chicane from Main St. Station West and on the switches.

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