Entering The Land of Unicorns and Pixie Dust – TransLink’s Current P.R. Gamble

Well, the first surprise was that this news item came via the Alaska Highway News of all places.

This tells me TransLink is spinning the story to everyone it can to give the good news to!

The big problem that there is no money to fund these grand schemes and the post Covid economy may not support the level of taxation that politicians have deluded themselves that they can shake from taxpayer’s pockets.

Metro Vancouver’s rapid transit system needs to quadruple by 2050 with 300 kilometres of new routes including SkyTrain, subway, light rail, or bus rapid transit, says a TransLink report released today.
So someone please tell me, how much will that cost?
The Expo line extension to Langley is topping $250 million/km and the Broadway subway will surpass the current $500 million/km to build. The city of Vancouver claims a 12 km streetcar will cost over $1 billion, so where is the money coming from?
It also becomes evident why Kevin Quinn was hired to be TransLink’s CEO. Kevin holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Johns Hopkins University.  Translation, he is an over paid spin doctor with expertise manipulating facts and truths to be fed to the public.
I sent an email to he Baltimore MTA inquiring about Mr. Quinn and what I got back was less than reassuring.

You are about to get a new CEO of TransLink in the person of Kevin Quinn.  this is a good news/bad news situation.   Good news is we are rid of him, bad news you are getting him.

Mr Quinn may be the nicest yes man you will ever meet.  he is very personable and friendly but have yet to actually see him in 6yrs have an opinion of his own  and if he has any use for light rail he has kept it well hidden.

Hopefully you will have better luck than Baltimore, ridership is off (before pandemic) 2% year over year since he took over.

 TransLink has serious financial problems; TransLink has not sourced the extra $1 billion dollars to complete the Expo Line expansion to Langley. TransLink does not have the funds to cover cost overruns on the Broadway subway. Covid has cut deep into ridership and ridership revenue. So what does a university trained spin doctor do, smother us with dreams of transit here, there and everywhere, while lurking in financial shadows deflecting the truth.
TransLink also has ridership problems, as transit use has been slowly dropping pre Covid as the following table records. The ridership numbers are increasing at a slower rate when compared to rising population numbers.
Let us not forget that transit ridership in Baltimore decreased 2% a year every year, during Mr. Quinn’s tenure there!
Pre Covid, Mode share for transit was declining.

Pre Covid, Mode share for transit was declining.

What TransLink is doing is opening the first shot for the 2022 civic campaign giving current politicians platforms to win their reelections. TransLink has no money, revenue is dropping, there is a $1 billion and growing shortfall of money to complete the Expo Line expansion, costs are sure to increase for the Broadway subway, so the big transit lie is offered and…………

when you repeat a transit lie often enough, the people tend to believe it!

Metro Vancouver rapid transit needs major expansion: TransLink report

300 kilometres of new SkyTrain, subway, light rail, or bus rapid transit routes needed, study finds.


3 Responses to “Entering The Land of Unicorns and Pixie Dust – TransLink’s Current P.R. Gamble”
  1. Haveacow says:

    Keeping in mind that this is really a visioning exercise. For any super-regional transit agency like Translink it’s much easier to say this to a group of mayors and municipal politicians, “here’s some of the great things we would like to do in your communities over the next 30 years! Let’s find a way to pay for it and make it happen!” As opposed to saying, “we got great ideas for your communities but were not even going to bother to show you until we get our financial house in order and secure better funding formulas from the taxpayer and senior levels of government! “.

    Any agency that does that Zwei, is just begging to be defunded by a senior level of government! There is a logic to this type of long-term planning practice.

    I agree that Translink’s current,” build only Skytrain like Light-Metros or nothing at all”, rapid transit practices, are absolutely dumb considering, the never-ending and always growing capital costs of the Skytrains Network and how small its existing capacity is, regardless of how long you make your new trains. It’s especially dumb when your current track and support infrastructure is continuously degrading in condition and capabilities, due to age and political expediency/neglect, especially on the Expo Line.

    However, you still have to get the public excited about new possibilities and opportunities. The report did mention the possibility of regional railway technologies on outer-area routes like, Chilliwack and Whistler. This would be a great time to start “pressing the flesh”, of more local politicians and try to rope in new ones by convincing them of the unlikelyness of new Skytrain extensions. I’m convinced, if you go to them with a positive attitude, you will turn even the most ardent Skytrain supporters.

  2. The brutal facts are that, when compared to modern tram (Olympic Line), the Skytrain is hamstrung by exorbitant costs and kneecapped by its ‘light’ carrying capacity.

    Prof. Patrick Condon at UBC suggests a km of modern tram will cost $50 million (not the 80 million/km for 12 km of streetcar).

    Something interesting happed on the way to the circus 3 years ago. New mayors in Vancouver and Surrey (sort of new) changed transit policy the next day after they were elected. I don’t even think they waited to be sworn in.

    That set a precedent.

    I have a map (not a cow) of the Lower Mainland where I can superimpose routes, areas, etc. and measure them. For the silliest of reasons it occurred to me to draw a rectangle containing all the route of the Skytrain/Canada lines in Metro Van (I left out the last tail of the line to the airport).

    Guess how big that rectangle is?

    105 sq.mi. or 272 km2. That’s 86% of the size of the City of Surrey. That is how much service BILLIONS of dollars have gotten us with Skytrain (and the hamstrung/kneecapped Canada Line subway).

    When people are given this to understand, there is going to be a major about face.

    Yes, it will take a new party coming into city halls around the region… But we have the Housing Crisis to help there. And now we have the Covid hang-over with inflation already flirting with 4%. Who knows where it is a year from now.

    I agree that agencies have to present plans.

    But wait for the tremor when agencies have to explain their plans against the proposals of new elected officials that take their transit straight up.

    Now, the other point is that there will not be any money left. The economy will spin out of control. And there will be no transit projects for years.

    My take on that is that the BS does not go to UBC. Modern Tram can get there on 4th Ave for $600 million. Probably saving $3 billion. When the cash pinch is on, these decisions will rise to the top.

    Modern Tram from Kitsilano to Langley (Pratt Livingstone Corridor) costs $2.4 billion.

    A North Shore expansion, with a subway under Burrard that will arrive below station level at Waterfront, then cross to Lonsdale—$4.4 billion. A Third Crossing of the Inlet will have to be argued here, if the big ticket is going to be bought.

    But lets return to the ‘box of operations for LM transit’. The 272 km2 footprint. What is the transit capacity there, combined for all 3 lines?

    38,850 pphpd or 1.2% of the regional population.

    The we reach an inflection point in the transportation picture: how many trips can go from the edge of the box into the regional periphery? And on to—say—Chilliwack?

    17,640 pphpd or 0.6% of the regional population (3 highways; 2 freeways)

    If we are looking for an answer to the economists that say the Housing Crisis is caused by ‘a constricted supply of land’?

    I mean, haven’t we just put our finger on it?

    If land for affordable houses has been exhausted inside this box or ‘regional core’, slightly less in size than Surrey, but only 0.6% of the population is supported reaching the periphery where housing can still be build in sufficient numbers to satisfy demand… That’s a logjam.

    If we can’t access affordable houses, then less than desirable levels of transportation we are driving up the price of land.

    And freeways are not going to do it, because there is no more space for car lanes in the regional core.

    So, it is tram or bust. You want to keep the economy pumping? Its going to have to be by building the more affordable modern tram. Then putting towns on tramstops to support over 1 million in affordable houses, hard-wired to the regional core.

  3. Haveacow says:

    I agree with your idea but you need to be careful of one thing that Vancouverites are generally ignoring when planning (navel gazing) future routes and it’s effect is becoming self evident with the Langley Expo Line Extension, that is geographic scale. Any type of rapid transit technology has a geographic scale that limits effectiveness and operational use. Metro’s, Light Metros (like the Skytrain Network), LRT and BRT are “Trunk Level” or “second level” technologies when applied to a 4 level scale of distance of traveled.

    1. Local Scale-Standard bus and streetcar/tram routes, 1-20 km distance

    2. Trunk Scale-Metro, Light Metro, LRT, BRT (actual BRT with Busway/Transitway) and commuter ferries (geographically dependent), 3-35 km distance

    3. Regional Scale-various commuter rail, regional mainline rail technologies, highway coach buses and hybrid technologies (Tram-Train, Train-Tram, higher capacity or coach buses (using a combination of longer distance highway bus lanes and busways), shorter range commuter aircraft and ferries (geographically dependent) 16-160 km distance

    4. Inter-Regional or National Scale 100 km+ distances

    Yes, there is overlap between each distance scale and there are aids at each level that can comfortably increase the distance travelled.

    My point is that, planning to build the Skytrain traveling to places like Langley, induces a trip length, especially if your going all the way to downtown Vancouver, that really not only makes it horrifically expensive to build but also horrifically expensive for anybody to operate, using the existing Skytrain technology. The cost becomes almost criminal when you consider the small number of passengers this line extension will actually generate upon opening day. A simple DMU or EMU (Diesel or Electric Multiple Unit) mainline railway service on the existing and available freight line, provided by simply negotiating an operating window with the operating railway and throwing cash for track and ROW upgrades, is a much cheaper option. If the line ends up in the wrong place or you need to by pass an unneeded line deviation, you can build a bypass or an extension to where you want it to go as part of the same project.

    For example, in the Greater Golden Horseshoe Region (Toronto Area), you could build a Metro, Light Metro, LRT or even a proper BRT to travel the 35-40 km from say Oakville to downtown Toronto at a cost of billions of dollars to move the 11,000 passengers a day that currently make that trip (that’s right now not before Covid-19). However, the existing GO Train Regional Railway and Bus Network does it much more economically for the passenger and the various levels of governments involved who pay for the operation of this service (mainly but not entirely the province of Ontario in this case).

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