Debunking the SkyTrain myth. Rail for the Valley answers the UBC SkyTrain Lobby!

It was brought to Zweisystem’s attention yesterday that a blog site was established by the UBC SkyTrain Lobby, critiquing modern LRT.Ai??Ai?? Zweisystem responded,Ai??Ai?? posting correctionsAi??Ai??forAi??Ai??the many myths, half truths and anti-LRT claptrap so often used by the SkyTrain lobby. The SkyTrain folks removed the comments and by doing so, fully admit that they are afraid of the truth. Zweisystem is not surprised as this is exactly how the SkyTrain lobby operates: repeat a lie so often that it soon becomes a fact. What is lost in the LRT/SkyTrain debate is that LRT has made SkyTrain light-metro obsolete decades ago,Ai??Ai??something theAi??Ai??SkyTrain lobby fails to admit.

Why should Rail for the Valley supporters be concerned with a UBC SkyTrain? Simple, the $4 billion subway (RAV was to cost a mere $1.3 billion and now it’s direct costAi??Ai??may exceed $2.8 billion) will suck money away fromAi??Ai??all ‘rail’ projects for the Fraser Valley by spending hard earned tax dollars on another needless gold-plated rapid transit project for Vancouver. We must debunk the SkyTrain myth now.

There is no mention who the UBC SkyTrain lobby are and one wonders why they are so afraid of debate?.

The following is the website of the UBC SkyTrain lobby.

The following is the 22 myths comment, with Zweisystem’s comments in Italics.

Debunking Myths: Our 22Ai??Ai??Points

Twenty-two points created by our organization, debunking myths and inaccuracies:


ItA?ai??i??ai???s okay to have longer travel times (which is what ground-level LRT will bring) in exchange for a A?ai??i??Ai??community-friendly systemA?ai??i??A?.

Zweisystem responds: What is lost, is thatAi??Ai??a community friendly transit system attracts ridership, something that an unfriendly transit system does not do. Subways are very user unfriendly. Speed ofAi??Ai??a transit system itself doesn’t attract ridership (Hass Clau) but the time of the total commute (doorstep to doorstep), the overall ambiance and ease of use of a transit system that has proven to attract ridership, especially the motorist from the car.

(1) SkyTrain will have 2-3 times more capacity and more than twice the speed of an ground level LRT line due to its private right-of-way. Speed is an important factor for the daily commuter, as shown by bus ridership statistics for the Broadway corridor: 99 B-Line (60,000 passengers per day); other Broadway bus routes (40,000 per-day) = total Broadway bus ridership is 100,000 passengers per day.

There is a reason why a large majority of Broadway transit commuters take the 99 B-Line: speed and convenience. The 99 B-Line is a rapid bus service, and it is at capacity in terms of the number of buses that can be put into service (according to TransLink, over 120 articulated buses were dedicated to the 99 B-Line in 2006; 10% of the entire TransLink bus fleet). Counting the 99 B-LineA?ai??i??ai???s 60,000 daily riders alone, that is more than the ridership of TorontoA?ai??i??ai???s streetcar lines.

Zweisystem responds: SkyTrain does not have 2 to 3 times more capacity than LRT asAi??Ai??SkyTrain’s potential capacityAi??Ai??is about the sameAi??Ai??as modern light rail (Gerald Fox). This myth was created byAi??Ai??the discredited Delcan and ND Lea studies of the early 90’s, whichAi??Ai??arbitrarily claimed that SkyTrain had more capacity than LRT, without any study backing this assertion.Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??Modern LRT/tram, operating on-street/at-grade,Ai??Ai??can handle over 20,000 persons per hour per direction (LRTA).

The claim that the B-Line carries more than Toronto’s streetcars is pure bunkum. Maybe on a route by route basis, the Broadway buses carry more riders than on some streetcar lines, but not the network!

(2) The 12-km SkyTrain extension from VCC/Clarke Station to UBC via the Broadway corridor will take between 15-20-minutes travel time from terminus to terminus. Stations will be located at Finning, Main/Kingsway, Cambie (vital interchange station with Canada Line), Oak (hospital precinct), Granville, Arbutus, Macdonald, Alma, Sasamat/West Point Grey Village, and UBC transit interchange. All of these stations parallel the existing 99 B-Line service. A SkyTrain would be mainly tunneled, and with its own private right-of-way would be allowed to reach speeds of 80 km/h.

A ground-level LRT line would begin from Commercial/Broadway Station, and would take a travel time of between 30-45-minutes from terminus to terminus. It would have the same stations as the above mentioned SkyTrain with an additional four to six stations. Its higher travel time, on par with the existing 99 B-Line bus service, is a result of the line running through city streets instead of its own private right-of-way; as it runs in city streets, it must abide local traffic laws and speed limit of 50 kms/h. This will no doubt affect the extensionA?ai??i??ai???s reliability as a real alternative to the car: peak-hour traffic, road congestion, traffic accidents, etc.

In addition, commuters will be given a one-train ride with SkyTrain: no transfer will be needed, saving significant time. It also offers higher train frequencies and flexible schedule adjustments. On the contrary, LRT tends to have less frequent schedules due to the expense of having drivers and it would require a time-costly transfer from the regionA?ai??i??ai???s main transit network: SkyTrain (as it would simply be an extension of the Millennium Line). Such a pointless transfer would also affect ridership.

Zweisystem responds: A light rail/tram line operating on a reserved rights-of-way, with equal number of stops, would have travel times comparable to a SkyTrain light-metro. In Germany, trams operating in mixed traffic (with autos)Ai??Ai??are allowed to travel 10 kph faster than posted auto speeds and if tram/LRT operates on a reserved rights-way (a rights-of-way used exclusively for a tram), could operate at higher speeds quite safely. The authors of theAi??Ai??blog conveniently forget that a transfer would have to be made to the proposed UBC SkyTrain from the Expo Line, thus the transfer argument is moot.

One, also questionsAi??Ai??the validity of recentAi??Ai??light rail studies and asks, “were they done by qualified experts in LRT”. To date not one company with a proven expertise in the construction and operation of modern light rail have ever been allowed into the study process. It is also important to know that the various owners of the proprietary SkyTrain light-metro system have never allowedAi??Ai??it to compete against modern LRT!

(3) SkyTrain is the regionA?ai??i??ai???s main transit network. Such a network should be high in speed, capacity, reliability, and frequency. Metro Vancouver axed a highway expansion plan in the 1970A?ai??i??ai???s in favour of building a competent transit network: we must build a competent transit backbone that makes up for our lack in road capacity.

Zweisystem responds: Many cities around the world happily operate metro with light rail and the argument is again silly. What is not mentioned is that SkyTrain is a proprietary light metro, a mode long made obsolete by modern light rail. Building with SkyTrain today, is like trying to buy a new Edsel, because “I already have one”. Who buys SkyTrain?

(4) For such a costly expense, ground-level LRT will be a minor upgrade from the existing 99 B-Line bus service. The 99 B-Line is overflowing with riders, it needs something far greater than that to take its place. LRT is a short-term solution and will simply be a A?ai??i??Ai??99 B-Line with steel wheelsA?ai??i??A?. On the other hand, SkyTrain will provide a long-term solution for the corridorA?ai??i??ai???s transit needs.

Zweisystem responds: Light RailAi??Ai??will be more expensive to build than upgrading the B-Line service, about 30% more,Ai??Ai??but it would be much cheaper to operate than buses. One modern light Rail vehicle, withAi??Ai??one driver is as efficient as 6 to 8 busses, with 6 to 8Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??bus drivers and one needs to hireAi??Ai??three or more people per bus or tram to drive, maintain and manage them. Do the math, cities that operate LRT have done so. Ai??Ai??Even operating in mixed traffic, with no reserved rights-of-ways or signal priority, modern trams are about 10% faster than buses. SkyTrain on the other hand, costs a lot more to operate, almost twice as much as Calgary’s LRT C-Train, which also carries more customers daily! The higher operating costs of SkyTrain and other proprietary light-metros were well understood by the early 1990’s and helped in the demise of the mode.

(5) Frequent trolley service will still exist, given the importance of local service along the Broadway corridor. It will complement the SkyTrain service.

Zweisystem responds: Why, after spending up to $4 billion on a subway, wouldAi??Ai??TransLink want to operate trolley buses as well, driving up operating costs of the route; even on Cambie St., the electric trolley busesAi??Ai??are nowAi??Ai??replaced by diesel buses. Modern LRT is built because it is cheaper to operate than buses on a transit route, when ridership exceeds 2,000 pphpd. With LRT operating on-street, with stops every 500 to 600 metres, there would be no need for buses on Broadway.

(6) A 2000 study by the City of Vancouver concluded that an LRT line, with 16 stations from Commercial to UBC along the Broadway corridor, would rake in 140,000 daily riders. However, a SkyTrain extension from VCC/Clarke to Arbutus combined with a rapid bus service from Arbutus to UBC would bring in 150,000 daily riders.

Zweisystem responds: Based on what figures? Subways are notoriously poor in attracting new ridership and that, combined with high operating and maintenance costs, subways are avoided, unless traffic flows are over 500,000 passengers a day. It was predicted in 1980, that SkyTrain would be carrying over 20,000 pphpd, in the peak hour,Ai??Ai??by the year 2000; presently it is carrying half this number.

Note that the study was completed before the U-Pass was implemented, before record high gas prices, and before the green shift took priority. Following the 2002 implementation of the U-Pass, transit ridership at UBC increased significantly: in 2002 daily ridership was at 29,700 but by 2004 it was 50,000; a 68% increase in ridership in just two years because of the U-Pass! Transit ridership still increased significantly in the years after.

Zweisystem responds: Funny how a bus route, Broadway, operating at capacity can attract 68% more customers. The argument is moot because a LRT line could easily handle 250,000 or more passengers a day.

The study also does not account for the improved transit services since, especially the new Canada Line that will be opening in September 2009.

Taking account that the study was completed nearly ten years ago, and with all the changes to the region since then, ridership for a SkyTrain extension to UBC could rake in more than 200,000 passengers per day.

For comparisonA?ai??i??ai???s sake, the Expo Line (29-kms) currently has a daily ridership of 185,000; Millennium Line (20-kms) at 75,000; and the projected daily ridership for the Canada Line (19-kms) and Evergreen Line (11-kms) is at 100,000 and 80,000.

Zweisystem responds: SkyTrain, unlike other transit systems around the world,Ai??Ai??has never had an independent audit of ridership, so the figures presented are questionable; that being said TransLink admits that 80% of SkyTrain’s ridership first take a bus to the light metro and as buses are poor in attracting new ridership, one questions this 200,000 a day figure. But again the argument is moot, because LRT can easily handle such loads!

As there is no independent audit of SkyTrain’s ridership, the numbers are questionable, also Expo Line riders are double counted on the Millennium Line and visa versa. Ridership projections for the Evergreen line and RAV Canada line are speculative at best.


Building light rail is fast and painless, unlike building SkyTrain; light rail wonA?ai??i??ai???t require digging up the road, while SkyTrain will. Businesses will not be affected. With light rail, parking spaces will not be lost both during the construction process and after construction is complete. LRT can be built on West 4th Avenue, instead of Broadway. LRT will not require tunneling. LRT will cost only a fraction of what SkyTrain would cost.

(7) If light rail were the chosen technology for the extension, a trunk sewer underneath Broadway will require a costly removal and relocation. Thus, it will require digging up the entire street, like a large trench, and will be time consumingA?ai??i??Ai??

Zweisystem responds: The sewer trunk is built in the gutter lane, why? Because the old streetcars operated in the median lanes! The argument is thus lost.

(8) A?ai??i??Ai??In addition to removing the Broadway trunk sewer, ground level light rail construction will require the closure of several lanes and all on-street parking lanes. Traffic will be reduced to two-lanes, similarly to Cambie Canada Line constructionA?ai??i??Ai??.

Zweisystem responds: Modern LRT construction would require street closures on a block by block basis and only for a short period of time, no different when the city tears up roads for utility maintenance.

(9) All in all, with light rail Broadway merchants will still be significantly affected by construction for about 2 years. In comparison, most of Cambie has been closed for about the same period for Canada Line construction. Light rail construction is far painless as claimed. It should also be noted that the construction timeline for an LRT line in the middle of a road should not be confused with the construction timeline for an LRT or streetcar line with its already existing private right-of-way.

Zweisystem responds: More fear mongering as Broadway would be closed on a block by block basis as track laying progressed. Street construction would be completed in aboutAi??Ai??one years time orAi??Ai??less.

(10) As Broadway is a narrow street, a ground-level light rail system would result in the permanent removal of the majority of the on-street parking spaces that Broadway merchants hold onto so dearly. Nearly all of Broadway will also be reduced to a two-lane road (one lane in each direction) due to the massive amount of spacing needed for ground level light-rail; a major east-west road artery in the city will be abolished.

Zweisystem responds: Such nonsense, there will no loss of on-street parking, unless the city of Vancouver wishes it, what will happen is that one traffic lane, in each direction, will have capacity increased from a bout 1,600 pphpd to over 20,000 pphpd, with LRT.Ai??Ai?? Traffic on Broadway will be reduced by 1 lane in each direction; this is known as traffic calming.

(11) Any mass transit extension would need to be located along the Broadway corridor. West 4th Avenue would not work as it would skip the main employment hubs along Broadway, thus reducing potential ridership significantly.

The Broadway corridor catches 16th Avenue to 4th Avenue; more people live along the upper corridor rather than 4th Avenue

Zweisystem responds: What is “mass transit”? We are dealing with light-rail and light metro and there are pros and cons about each mode. For the cost of a SkyTrain subway to UBC, one could build a 4th Ave. LRT; a Broadway LRT; 41st Ave. LRT, for a combined capacity of over 60,000 pphpd, plus at least 2 North south LRT lines in Vancouver.

(12) LRT would likely require significant tunneling due to the steep grades on the hill west of Alma Street. LRT trains will be unable to climb the hill on such a steep slope.

Zweisystem responds: Not true. The industry standard for LRT climbing grades is 8%; in Sheffield England the maximum grade is 10% and in Lisbon, their trams climb 13.8% grades. The old streetcars climbed the Alma grades and modern LRT can do the same as well.

(13) It is a myth that $2.8-billion could build you 200-kms of light rail. Such a claim would likely mean the routes for these 200-kms of light rail lines already have pre-existing rail right-of-ways: we know that certainly does not exist in Vancouver, especially not for the Broadway mass transit extension.

Zweisystem responds: In Spain, new LRT is being built for under $8 million/km. and in Helsinki, on-street tram construction, including the electrical overhead was about $5 million/km. The $2.8 billion for 200 km. of LRT is very realistic. What the SkyTrain lobby is scared of is that $2.8 billion will buy youAi??Ai??less thanAi??Ai??28 km. of elevated SkyTrain or less than 9 km. of subway.

Proponents also falsely advocate this claim by A?ai??i??Ai??cherry-pickingA?ai??i??A? the best features of LRT, all of which come with a high price. The real cost of 200-kms of real LRT in the region would likely be at least $12-billion.

Zweisystem responds:Ai??Ai??More invention and uninformed assertions, showingAi??Ai??a complete ignorance of modern light rail.


SkyTrain construction along the Broadway corridor will devastate local businesses just like Canada Line construction. SkyTrain is also expensive to build and operate.

(14) The SkyTrain extension would likely occur under 10th Avenue (and NOT on Broadway), one block/60-metres south of Broadway. Station entrances will still be located on BroadwayA?ai??i??Ai??.

(15)A?ai??i??Ai??Such an extension under 10th Avenue, bored or cut and cover, would significantly reduce the impact on local businessesA?ai??i??Ai??

(16)A?ai??i??Ai??With the large $2.8-billion budget, a vital long-term investment into the regionA?ai??i??ai???s infrastructure, it is likely that planners are planning for a bored tunnel design rather than cut and cover to avert most of the mistakes on Cambie.

Ai??Ai??Zweisystem responds: $2.8 billion will not buy much of a subway. If the 19 km. RAV/Canada line 50% subway may cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.8 billion a Broadway subway will cost a lot more.

(17) With an underground system, built on 10th Avenue and likely a bored tunnel, businesses will not be as affected (compared to a ground-level LRT line or a Cambie-style cut and cover tunnel).

Zweisystem responds: if a bored tunnel is used, properties adjacent to the subway may settle because the surrounding groundAi??Ai??will beAi??Ai??disturbed. Without costly pre-engineering work, the true cost of subway construction is a guesstimate at best.

(18) Local businesses stand to benefit significantly from the additional foot traffic within SkyTrain station precincts.

Zweisystem responds: Not so, as subways have proven poor in attracting business to local merchants. Modern LRT has a proven record in increasing business by about 10% along routes where LRT runs.Ai??Ai??PassengersAi??Ai??Ai??Ai??in subways do not seeAi??Ai??surface businesses.

(19) SkyTrain may cost billions to build, but this is a long-term investment into our regionA?ai??i??ai???s infrastructure: an investment that could last up to a century. On the contrary, LRT with its limited capacity and speed is a short-term investment.

Zweisystem responds: Completely untrue. Subways lack operational flexibility and require most customers to use other transport to get to the subway. To date, SkyTrain has yet to match LRT’s capacity and speeds! Lack of stations may provide a faster service, but at the same time deter ridership. Many LRT lines operate on well maintainedAi??Ai??infrastructure that is over 100 years old; subway on the other hand require constant and expensive maintenance as London’s TUBE and Toronto’s subways have well proven.

(20) SkyTrain, with its driverless automation, is cheaper to operate annually compared to driver systems such as LRT. In addition, there are capital cost savings and efficiencies from using the same maintenance yard/facilities, operations centre, and train rolling stock.

Zweisystem responds: Actually it is the other way around, automated transit systems cost a lot more toAi??Ai??operate than LRT. Calgary’s C-Train LRT costs less than half per annum to operate than SkyTrain and it carries more passengers as well! in 2006, the cost of wages for drivers was $6 million. SkyTrain doesn’t have drivers, rather attendants and SkyTrain police, which cost more than drivers for Calgary’s LRT system.

As SkyTrain light-metro cars cost more to purchase than equivalent LRT cars, the last statement loses much of its validity. Also, with SkyTrain, there is only one supplier ofAi??Ai?? one style of car: Ai??Ai??Bombardier Inc.; With LRT there are many suppliers and styles of cars to choose from and all are able to operate in conjunction with each other, something that RAV/Canada line and SkyTrain cars can’t do.


There is not enough ridership to support a rapid transit rail line along the Broadway corridor. Any rapid transit rail lineA?ai??i??ai???s real purpose would be to solely serve the University of British Columbia.

(21) Central Broadway/Cambie A?ai??i??Ai??UptownA?ai??i??A? is the second largest employment centre in the entire region after Vancouver City Centre. According to a 1996 census, there were 40,000 jobs in the area and half of these people live outside of Vancouver making the district a regional centre. We can only assume that the number of jobs in the area has grown significantly since 13 years ago and will continue to grow. In addition, the Broadway corridor is one of the most densely populated areas outside of Downtown Vancouver.

Zweisystem responds: By building LRT down Broadway, itAi??Ai??would protect both residents and businesses from escalating taxes to pay for a gold-plated subway project and the need to massively increase densityAi??Ai??along the routeAi??Ai??to feed the metro, while at the same time provide high quality transportation to the area.

Central Broadway is also part of the Metropolitan Core, part of Downtown Vancouver; a focus area for population and employment growth.

All of the above only serves to support ridership. And as mentioned above, there are already 100,000 daily bus riders along the Broadway corridor making it the busiest bus corridor in the entire region.

(22) The University of British Columbia is one of the largest employment centres in the entire region. With over 50,000 students and faculty, it will only continue to grow. In addition, the university is developing plans to build new dense residential neighborhoods – this will only serve to support ridership.

As already mentioned above, transit ridership at the university was at 50,000 in 2004A?ai??i??Ai??we can only assume it will be much more today. It will only grow with additional and improved services.

Zweisystem responds: LRT would be able to service all of UBC and with the inherent flexibility of the mode, could provide a minor LRT network on campus. Also there is the possibility of LRT carrying freight to UBC, as done in other European cities, taking commercial vehicles off city streets. The ridership forecasts certainly point to a light rail solution for UBC and not an expensive subway.


19 Responses to “Debunking the SkyTrain myth. Rail for the Valley answers the UBC SkyTrain Lobby!”
  1. David says:

    I can’t find a place to post a comment on the skytrain blog. They must be too scared of the truth.

  2. Jim says:

    I support LRT, but when it comes to elevated trains, wouldn’t monorail be a significantly more cost effective option then SkyTrain, SkyTrain just seems like such a waste.

  3. SkytraintoUBC says:

    The fact of the matter is there is no ROW for any LRT to run on either Broadway, 4th nor 10th, it will be a huge traffic disaster for people travelling on Broadway and businesses will be affected.

  4. zweisystem says:

    Monorails are as expensive as an elevated SkyTrain and are problematic in service. Monorails have been around a long time (The Wuppertal Schwebbebahn has been in operation for over 100 years) yet the mode has not been seriously undertaken as a for regional transit.

    The proposed Seattle monorail finally came to grief after it was found to be more expensive than their hybrid LRT/light-metro system.

  5. zweisystem says:

    Streetcars, now called light rail or LRT, once traveled on both 4th Ave and Broadway, the rights-of-way are there, just buried under pavement. Recently, city crews unearthed the old Central Park Line interurban tracks under Kingsway, when they relaid underground utilities. As for LRT R-O-W on Broadway and 4th, check any old map of Vancouver and viola, they exist. When the streetcars operated on the median, all underground utilities and services were naturally located in the ‘gutter’ lanes.

    As an aside, because streetcars once ran on Broadway and 4th Ave., reinstating service would be far quicker because the engineering was done almost a century ago!

    Actually light-rail operating on Broadway would clean up the street, by providing a high quality transit mode, creating more parking for merchants, while at the same time traffic calming the street, reducing gridlock, congestion and pollution. Reducing pollution creates a healthier and safer area for local inhabitants, which a SkyTrain subway will not do. The bonus for LRT on Broadway is that businesses along the route will see about a 10% increase of business, as proven in Portland and other cities which have invested in LRT. Subways, by their very nature actually starve surface merchants of business, something that Cambie St. merchants (those who survived the rape of Cambie) will soon find out.

  6. David says:

    The business community should be shouting for on-street LRT and doing everything they can to stop any more subways.

    Once you’re underground you don’t see anything. The only places you’re at all familiar with are your origin and destination. It’s as if all the space in between doesn’t even exist. Unless some extraordinary event causes you to get off at a new stop you’ll never do it and the merchants in the area won’t get a penny from you. Even large stores are ignored by subway passengers.

    On-street rail transit is most effective where parking is scarce since it delivers passengers to the front doors of merchants. Drivers have to be willing to circle several blocks, usually with parking meters and residential parking restrictions, and then walk however far to find your shop. If a competitor has easier parking she will get most of your customers.

    Broadway is the region’s most crowded corridor because there are ridership sources and destinations along the entire length. A high speed, limited stop system basically gives a big middle finger to all the people who live, work, shop and otherwise visit the corridor. It says to them that long distance passengers are the only ones that matter. At the risk of sounding like a frustrated taxpayer, I don’t think university students, mostly young healthy adults who pay a tiny fraction of the full transit fare and have little money to spend at any of the destinations along the line, deserve a gold plated train to get them to class faster. We need to serve everyone along Broadway, not just the few who want an express between two end points.

    Even if the powers that be deem UBC to be of greater importance than anywhere else in the area, building an LRT line on Broadway is still the better choice because it would leave plenty of money left over for additional lines feeding the campus. A line along 4th Avenue connecting UBC with downtown is an obvious option as is 41st to Joyce. 41st would cost a little more than the others because streetcars only ever ran between Kerrisdale and Oakridge, but on street construction is still a tiny fraction of the cost of overhead or subway work.

  7. zweisystem says:

    What is also forgotten is that the masts or posts and the span-wires for LRT are already in situ (currently being used for the trolley buses) along Broadway, further reducing the cost of light-rail/streetcar on Broadway or for that matter 4th Ave. or 41st.

    Based on the Helsinki model, we could build light rail for under $6 million/km.! Though this does not include vehicles ($4 mil. to $6 mil. each) and shops & garage.

  8. zweisystem says:

    Thank you David, your knowledge of the situation is greatly appreciated. I do not want to turn this into a SkyTrain/LRT debate, because that debate is over and SkyTrain lost. The reason why light-metro (SkyTrain/RAV) have lost is that for all the extra gimmicks and expense, the mode could not compete with modern LRT.

    The concept of the light-metro and monorail, came during the age of the non articulated PCC car and the general acceptance of the “reserved rights-of-way”. Add articulated cars (much greater capacity, but with added economies), the reserved rights-of-way, and priority signaling at intersections and LRT out performs light-metro at almost every instance.

    What must be done is invest in transit choices that the transit customer wants and what the taxpayer can afford.

  9. David says:

    @ SkytraintoUBC:

    Clearly you aren’t interested in transit to UBC at all because your comment pertains entirely to cars and how inconvenient it will be for them to use a street with only one lane in each direction.

    We have been giving cars first priority for almost 100 years and look where it got us.

    Subways support the discredited and completely unsustainable sprawling suburb model of development by making long distance travel fast and inexpensive while doing nothing for short trips.

  10. mrjauk says:

    I am a supporter of using a subway as the extension of the Millenium line, but am willing to learn about the relative advantages/disadvantages of it versus an LRT system.

    Do you have a reference for this claim: “SkyTrain on the other hand, costs a lot more to operate, almost twice as much as Calgary’s LRT C-Train, which also carries more customers daily!” I’d love to read the report.

    By the way, I think that you’re seriously underestimating the costs of adding an LRT down the Broadway corridor. Calgary’s 7.7 km southwest expansion is expected to cost $700 million (and a good portion of that is already grade-separated).

    As for the respective ridership numbers, currently the Millenium line is way underutilized. Once the expansion to Coquitlam Centre is done, ridership will increase dramatically. In addition, extend the line from VCC/Clark to Cambie (to hook up with the Canada Line) and ridership will increase even more dramatically. Someone working at the airport and living near Coquitlam will be able to able to commute to work making a single tranfer at Cambie/Broadway. Finally, a completed line to UBC will also dramaticaly increase ridership on the Millenium line.

    It reminds me of the criticisms that were leveled at the Croatian govenrment as it was building a new four-lane highway to the coast. They built it in segments and very few cars used the segments. It was deemed a failure. Upon completion, highway use went up dramatically and exceeded expectations in the first year. Now, the daily number of cars exceeds the total projected (in 2005) for 2015.

  11. zweisystem says:

    Calgary’s operating costs are well documented at :

    TransLink’s statistics for SkyTrain, especially operating costs are harder to come by and most are gleaned from media stories and reports. What is most refreshing is that Calgary Transit’s officials don’t brag, nor make outrageous claims and very few would even guess that the C-Train is the most successful new LRT systems built in North America. That being said, Calgary’s C-Train was designed to be upgraded in the future to light-metro or even metro standards, thus still uses high-floor cars, reserved rights-of-ways and generally heavy engineering, which greatly adds to construction costs. While Portland’s initial LRT line cost about one quarter as much as SkyTrain to build, Calgary’s C-Train cost one half of that of SkyTrain to build. European transit specialists point out that over-engineering of LRT lines in North America, most of it needless, is the one reason why LRT’s construction costs have soared.

    Earlier postings have shown that LRT can indeed be built affordably if need be and in conversation some years ago from a representative Fromm ABB (now owned by bombardier Inc.) said that building LRT on Broadway was an easy proposition and he added, ” A BCIT to UBC LRT Line, with an extension to Stanley Park via downtown Vancouver could be funded privately, with no tax money being spent!”

    I think that you are slightly over optimistic about SkyTrain expansion attracting large numbers to the metro and the long arduous trip for someone in Coquitlam to go to YVR is wishful thinking. Traffic flows do not favour SkyTrain, as more and more people are not commuting to Vancouver from the burbs. As there been no independent audit of SkyTrain’s ridership and ridership numbers are mere guesstimates, it is my belief that TransLink’s planners have been drinking their own bathwater so to speak.

    The real question that TransLink’s officials avoid like the plague is, “how many car drivers has the system attracted?” Very few by all accounts, which is telling after spending over $6 billion so far on SkyTrain.

  12. David says:

    @ mrjauk

    The proposal on this blog for the Broadway corridor is NOT to build a grade separated LRT line, but to run it down the middle of the street in place of two lanes of traffic. Grade separated systems cost much more than at grade.

    The Liberals have said that $2.8 billion should be enough to get SkyTrain to UBC, a distance of roughly 12 km. That’s a price tag of $233 million per km.

    Professor Condon’s study suggested that $2.8 billion would allow construction of almost 200km of on-street light rail. That’s an average of $14 million per km. Broadway, because it carried streetcars for 50 years and already has overhead trolley wire, would be cheaper than average, but for the sake of argument let’s use Condon’s $14 million figure for comparison to SkyTrain.

    In this case the Liberal solution would cost more than 16 times as much to build and be more expensive to operate. Trams improve the neighbourhoods they pass through while elevated and tunneled metro reduce small business income and increase crime. The only advantage of a subway over a tram is speed.

    Are you really willing to pay 16 times as much up front, pay higher taxes and devastate local businesses so students and staff at UBC can save a few minutes a day?

  13. zweisystem says:

    In an answer to a question I posed to a UK transit specialist, who worked on the RAV project, about our transit planning in general, his reply was: “Understand the X-files were filmed in your part of the world. Maybe that explains it.” I think that says it all.

  14. mrjauk says:


    “The proposal on this blog for the Broadway corridor is NOT to build a grade separated LRT line, but to run it down the middle of the street in place of two lanes of traffic. Grade separated systems cost much more than at grade.”

    I see. Then, not only is it a complete waste of money and will not significantly increase ridership over the B-line, it will make auto congestion even worse in the stretch between Fraser and MacDonald. I know that in other places, the LRT proponents have argued that LRT could have a capacity of up to 250,000 riders a day, but there’s absolutely no way that is possible (not even close) on Broadway, if it is not grade-separated.

    Zweisystem: I’ve also spoken (had beers with) some of the British guys working on the RAV line. I’ve also heard complaints about the transit planning bureaucracy here, but it was about decisions not being made quickly enough and the process being labyrinthine. In fact, a couple of the guys I’ve spoken to have lambasted the provincial government (and Translink) for not having started on the Evergreen line yet. It’s interesting how remarks can be interpreted differently based on one’s pre-existing biases.

  15. zweisystem says:

    LRT, operating in the median of Broadway would attract over double the present B-Line ridership and this number could even treble. In Paris, their first new LRT line in over 60 years (Paris ripped up their tram tracks in the late 1930’s) has now seen tram ridership four times more than what the previous bus service carried on the same route! Hong Kong’s venerable tram system (those quaint double decker cars) carries over 260,000 passengers daily and in Karlshrue Germany, on their main Strasse, sees couple pairs of articulated trams (capacity 500 persons per train set) at 45 second headways (80 trips per hour). This gives a peak hour capacity of 40,000 pphpd! Only now are Karlsruhe’s transit official thinking about building a subway! There is tremendous potential for LRT on Broadway and you seem to forget that that surface operating LRT has a proven record in attracting ridership where subways have proven very poor in attracting ridership.

    Please see the LRTA’s website on this topic.

    As for the Evergreen Line, in the UK a transit line such as the Evergreen, would never be considered for a light-metro (SkyTrain), nor for LRT as well! The same is true in Europe, where light-metro (VAL) has been made obsolete by modern LRT! If VAL was so good, why did those French cities reject VAL in spite of hefty subsidies from the central government to build with the

    What the Luddites at TransLink have failed to learn that Light-Metro, such as SkyTrain, is inferior to light rail and subways are never considered unless traffic flows on a transit route exceeds 400,000 to 500,000 persons a day.

  16. Jordan says:

    There are many thing I would like to point out while reading this, but I gave up once I read you suggested one lane for each direction on Broadway! I couldn’t stop laughing! Could you imagine Broadway with only one lane each direction!?!?!?

    Zweisystem replies: Yes I can. What would happen would be a trade off of a hourly capacity of about 1,400 persons per hour per direction (1 lane) with cars for over 20,000 pphpd with trams. This is acutely the French way of thinking. Why bother invest in transit if one doesn’t create passive traffic calming. The key is to design it right. Of course the SkyTrain lobby want their transit up in the air or underground so they can drive with impunity. Sorry, not in an age of peak oil and global warming.

    Obviously you have not read much on the subject.


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