Mobility Pricing -TransLink’s Desperate Ploy.

Mobility pricing, TransLink’s desperate ploy to hide their inept planning to date.

TransLink happily spends twice or three times more for “rail” transit than they should. TransLink also spends at least 60% more operation “rail” transit than they should.

The result, large deficits operating the transit system, requiring large subsidies to pay for the large deficits.

The dishonesty of TransLink and its CEO knows no bounds as recently, Kevin Desmond, repeated the old saw that “SkyTrain pays its operating costs”.

Newsflash Mr. Desmond, the GVRD in 1992, blew that myth out of the water by releasing the annual subsidy for SkyTrain Expo Line, a massive $157 million annually. Put another way, just the Expo Line cost taxpayers more to operate than the combined diesel and electric buses!

Also it should be of note, that TransLink, like BC Transit before did not apportion fares from bus and SkyTrain, which is important as over 80% of SkyTrain customers first take the bus!

This dishonesty by TransLink and its CEO has kept the public in the dark about the true costs of SkyTrain and as new lines are built, the subsidies increases with each new transit line built. Today, including the fake P-3 Canada Line which costs TransLink around $110 million annually, the total subsidy to operate SkyTrain light metro system exceeds $400 million annually!

TransLink can no longer hide this hemorrhage of cash and with the $3 billion Broadway subway, with its added $40 million annual operating costs (and not including debt servicing costs) TransLink either goes bankrupt or engages into a new revenue source.

Mobility pricing is TransLink’s desperate gamble to once again hide the real costs of the SkyTrain mini-metro from the public.

Metro Vancouver mobility pricing could cost up to $8 per day per family: report

Jennifer Saltman Jennifer Saltman

Drivers could end up paying an average of between $3 and $8 per day to get around Metro Vancouver if decongestion charging is introduced in the region.

The cost estimates were in a report presented by the Mobility Pricing Independent Commission to a joint meeting of TransLinkai??i??s Mayorsai??i?? Council and board of directors on Thursday.

The report caused concern for a number of the regionai??i??s mayors, who called it a good start and agreed the conversation needs to take place, but worried that mobility pricing would not be fair or affordable for residents.

ai???Going through the report, definitely some of the charges that are talked about here are definitely up there and certainly are going to catch peopleai??i??s attention,ai??? said New Westminster Mayor Jonathan CotAi??, who described mobility pricing as a difficult, complex and controversial issue.

Itai??i??s been proposed that mobility pricing could pay for transit and transportation improvements in the region, replace the declining gas tax and deal with traffic gridlock.

The commission looked at two options for decongestion charging, both of which could reduce congestion by 20 to 25 per cent.

One option is congestion point charges, where drivers are charged when they pass a certain location ai??i?? including bridges ai??i?? and complemented by further charges at locations on the Burrard Peninsula.

Based on early analysis, a regional congestion point charge would cost the average driving household $5 to $8 per day, or $1,800 to $2,700 per year. This option would see the regional gas tax, which is 17 cents per litre, remain in place so that people who donai??i??t cross tolled points would still contribute to paying for transportation.

The capital cost to establish congestion point charges would be in the $150 million to $300 million range, with annual operating costs of $110 million to $200 million. Itai??i??s estimated it could bring in annual net revenues in the range of $1.1 billion to $1.5 billion.

The other decongestion pricing option is distance-based charges that vary by time and location, meaning drivers would be charged for each kilometre they drive, but the amount would vary depending on where they go and at what time.

The analysis shows that a multi-zone distance-based charge could cost the average driving household $3 to $5 per day, or $1,000 to $1,700 per year. Fuel tax could be eliminated under this option.

The exact number and boundaries of zones are still to be determined, but for the purpose of analysis eight zones were identified.

Capital costs ai??i?? which include on-board units for all Metro Vancouver vehicles ai??i?? could be in the range of $400 million to $700 million, with annual operating costs between $300 million and $500 million. If capital costs are annualized over 7.5 years, itai??i??s expected that annual net revenue would be in the range of $1 billion to $1.6 billion.

The report priced out some typical trips within the region.

For instance, travelling between South Surrey and Coquitlam would cost between $3.54 and $5.30 under cost-point charges at peak time, and 75 cents to $1.11 off peak. The same trip under distance-based charging would cost $5.20 to $7.48 at peak or 64 to 96 cents off peak.

In comparison, when the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges were tolled, a person commuting from Surrey to Coquitlam paid $6.30 per day if they crossed the Port Mann Bridge twice.

Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read pointed out that there is a problem with equitable access to transit in some parts of Metro Vancouver, and that should be dealt with before mobility pricing.

ai???I think thereai??i??s a long way to go and, for me, I really need to use this opportunity to exercise a lot of caution because for people in the eastern part of the region this is a really, really concerning next conversation that we have to have,ai??? she said.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said she was also concerned about commuters ai???on the outer fringes of this

ai???I know the commission has looked at this aspect of fairness and equity and I think we have to continue to look at that,ai??? Jackson said.

Kris Sims, B.C. director for the Canadian Federation of Taxpayers, called decongestion pricing ai???a non-starterai??? for the regionai??i??s residents.

ai???They just actually donai??i??t have the money for this,ai??? Sims said. ai???I was encouraged to see some of the mayors throwing cold water on this

Sims said she was skeptical that other taxes, such as the gas tax, would be eliminated or reduced with the introduction of mobility pricing.

CotAi?? said there does need to be more work done in the area of tax shifting.

ai???The commissionai??i??s report highlights a real need to talk about the elimination of the gas tax if this is something that we are going to be considering, and a whole host of other taxes that may not be as directly related to transportation that could ultimately be replaced,ai??? he said.

The report also put forward 13 principles for guiding mobility pricing policy around congestion, fairness, how transportation investment is supported, and other considerations.

The Mayorsai??i?? Council and board voted to share the report with the federal and provincial governments and referred it to staff for more research and follow up on the commissionai??i??s work.

They also asked TransLink to continue consulting the public and stakeholders on the proposal.

However, itai??i??s not anticipated that mobility pricing is imminent. The report itself states that it will take four to seven years to implement, if it makes it that far.

The political will to pursue mobility pricing may be difficult to find.

ai???It is not for the faint of heart politically, and we recognize that,ai??? said Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner. ai???I think that the better educated we can be both at local government and with our provincial government partners ai??i?? and even at the federal level ai??i?? the easier whatever transition to mobility pricing

On Twitter, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson said that while he appreciated the work the commission did, ai???This proposal is unaffordable and the wrong direction for British Columbians. I canai??i??t support this and I hope (Premier John Horgan) wonai??i??t

In a statement, B.C. Green party spokesperson for transportation Adam Olsen said that because it a political minefield, there needs to be provincial leadership on the issue.

ai???Our team is closely analyzing this report and will continue to engage with local governments and British Columbians to determine the best path forward,ai??? he said. ai???We will keep pressure on government and continue to work collaboratively with them to fulfil our shared commitments on transit, climate and affordability.

The full page from the GVRD's Cost of Transporting people......


12 Responses to “Mobility Pricing -TransLink’s Desperate Ploy.”
  1. Bill Burgess says:

    Mr Zwei, in relation to the issue of mobility pricing, the key idea from the report you cite is not its $157 milliion/year subsidy of Skytrain but the much larger $2.7 billion/year!!!!! that it reported was the subsidy of drivers in the Lower Mainland.

    I agree with your opposition to mobility pricing. It would penalize the poor to the benefit of the rich who can afford to travel the routes they want whenever they want while not significantly increasing transit use.

    But mobility pricing is NOT mainly driven by the cost of Skytrain and ‘subsidies’ to Skytrain. Metro Vancouver’s problems in financing transit are not unusual – all major cities share them, whether they have Skytrain or not.

    The main problem that all cities share is exactly what the above-mentioned report emphasizes – that cars are massively subsidized. This not only eats up money that should go to transit, but it shapes cities in ways that make transit very expensive and inconvenient to use.

    Besides missing the main point of the report (the discussion of subsidies of cars is featured in the Conclusion on p. 29) I think that you mis-interpret the report in several other ways.

    So that everyone can decide for if Mr Zwei properly uses the report in question (The Cost of Transporting People in the British Columbia Lower Mainland) I have posted a scanned version of this report at .

    Mr Zwei is wrong to imply that the $157 million/year subsidy figure comes from the GVRD (now Metro Vancouver), because that suggests the figure has greater authority than is really the case. The report was, in fact, a “Working Paper” prepared by consultants for a group called Transport 2021, and whose Steering Committee wrote that they were “unable to endorse the report”. They therefore instead released it under the name of the consultant (see the end of the Preface; note that Todd Litman was a key member of the consulting team). They “advise readers to interpret its findings with caution” (Preface, first page).

    For the purpose of discussing the provincial subsidy of Skytrain, the relevant number is actually $120.87 million per year, not $157 million. The difference between these two figures is the gas taxes, Hydro levies, and non-residential and municipal property taxes that subsidize both Skytrain and the other transit modes.

    The report says that “BC Transit provided all data” (see p, 10 of Appendix B). However, it is very evident that the $157 million subsidy figure was not from BC Transit, but is the result of a calculation by the authors whose basis is not explained. There is little discussion of the capital cost of constructing the Skytrain system and buying cars. There is no discussion of how BC Transit receives the ‘subsidy’ from the provincial government.

    Contrary to Mr Zwei’s claims about the high cost of operating Sky Train, the very report he cites provides this comparison of the variable portion of “Modal Operating Costs” (see p. 3 of Appendix B):

    Variable costs (“operating costs and maintenance) per [passenger] km :

    Diesel bus $2.44
    Trolley bus $4.51
    Skytrain $1.30
    Sea bus $0.34

    (In contrast, ‘fixed’ costs (insurance, depreciation and finance and management) for Skytrain were very high: $8.01/ km, vs $0.88/km for diesel bus, $1.62/km for trolley bus and $5.68/km for Sea Bus. Elsewhere it is noted that the Skytrain costs/km will decline as additional passengers impose few additional costs.)

    Finally, please, this report is about 27 years ago! Where is the evidence that the provincial government has continued this ‘subsidy’ to Skytrain, year after year? Where is this amount found in the provincial government’s books, and where in Translink’s books?

    It is true that they deliberately disguise many figures, notably the terms of the Canada Line PPP. However, I believe it is well established that part of the ‘subsidy’ for the Canada Line that Mr Zwei refers to above is actually part of the province’s contribution to the capital costs of building the Canada Line. I believe this is what the $23.3 million reported as being the “amortization of deferred concessionalre credit” is on p. 11 of the 2017 Year-End Financial and Peformance Report at

    We all know that Sky Train is hellishly expensive to build and that it is subsidized by the provincial government. But, again 1) the subsidy is less than for highways and cars, 2) all transit modes are subsidized, and 3) I believe the real discussion of ‘subsidy’ is about the the capital costs (building it and buying the cars), not the operating costs (running it).

    I suspect the $157 million ‘subsidy’ Mr Zwei refers to was calculated on he basis of the province assuming some of the costs of building the Expo Line (note the $145 million/year for depreciation and finance of Skytrain listed on p. 4 of Appendix B). But if so, the Expo line costs have presumably been paid off by now, and we should be looking at how the province and feds have financed major transit infastructure since the Expo Line.

    Mr Zwei, you just muddy the waters by constantly citing this old study instead of looking for more current and reliable evidence on both capital costs and operation costs by transit mode.

    Zwei replies: You have got it wrong on all counts.

    The chart comes from the GVRD’s “The Cost of Transporting People in the BC Lower mainland”, which I have a copy.

    I was told by one of the authors that the figure of $157.00 million covered both operating costs and debt servicing and the subsidy was paid by taxpayers.

    Of course the politicians of the day hated it, as it made their previous statements lies.

    Transportation experts of the day warned BC Transit and the provincial government that the ALRT system was so expensive that continuing building the light metro would eventually bankrupt the operating authority.

    Notice, no one builds with SkyTrain?

    Notice that all the ICTS/ALRT/ART systems built were by private deals, with the SkyTrain option forced on the operating authority against their wishes by senior government.

    Unfortunately decades of lies and damned lies by the SkyTrain Lobby has created a fiscal mess.

    Privately, I have been told the Broadway subway will once and for all bankrupt TransLink, with massive costs, which TransLink is desperately trying to introduce mobility pricing to hide their malfeasance of planning.

    Live in your little world Mr. Burgess, the reality of SkyTrain will soon be very apparent, sadly the region will suffer decades more of mismanaged and corrupt transit planning. Decite and deception is SkyTrain’s sad legacy.

  2. zweisystem says:

    The SkyTrain Lobby like to pretend, SkyTrain costs little or nothing to operate and maintain.

    The report mentioned in this post is indeed 27 years old and the cost of subsidies has increased with time.

    The problem is the operating authority (which both BC Transit and TransLink were in partnership with Bombardier and SNC to sell SkyTrain abroad) has learned to hide costs.

    Operating costs are cut by nor including the now over 200 attendants that are required to ensure safe operation.

    Maintenance costs are deferred and hidden in the accounts.

    Why so?

    Too many politicians; too many bureaucrats, too many academics have fudged the truth about SkyTrain and revealing the truth today may harm both careers and pensions.

    I come back to this simple business observation. Only seven, of what we call SkyTrain systems have been built in the past 40 years; What we call SkyTrain has undergone numerous name changes due to its being unsalable.

    1, built as a demonstration line.

    1, built by chicanery, with lawsuit ongoing.

    1, built to acquire technology.

    4, ICTS/ALRT/ART systems were built via political intrigue, where light rail was prohibited from bidding.

    So, during a time of unprecedented investment in regional transportation around the world, what we call SkyTrain has a terrible record. No one wants the damn thing, unless one is bribed, cheated or mislead.

  3. Paul says:

    Zwei still uses financial data from 1990’s when Transit was managed by BC Transit, a provincial crown corporation. Today, Transit is managed by Translink which is a division of Metro Vancouver.

    Why can’t Zwei download and look at the latest annual reports (2017) from Translink?

    They do receive an annual subsidy from BC government to operate all busses and trains. This is why it is public transit, it is subsized by government. Fares collected pay for some costs but not all.

    Zwei replies: Do you know I can check IP addresses and you are the same as Garfield, Newton and a few others, who posed.

    It is the fact that SkyTrain is so hevily subsidized is the point. I would imagine a forensic audit of TransLink would reveal much higher subsidies that what they would have wanted us to know.

    Adios Troll.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Zwei is the most annoying person.

  5. Haveacow says:

    Has anyone found recent data that shows Translink’s revenue broken down by the mode that generated it? Mine is a little old. The reason why I am asking is that, Translink’s busiest line “The Expo Line”, should have revenues that exceed their costs regardless of whether or not the Skytrain network as a whole gets a operational subsidy. One of the issues with a rail system that has purposely underbuilt infrastructure in favor of an increased operating frequency is that, revenue on the busiest line needs to greatly exceed operating costs. High operating tempos put a lot of stress on their underbuilt infrastructure. The short life span of the power distribution system of the Skytrain, it’s desperate need for newer signaling equipment and the immediate need to replace many of it’s over used turnouts (switches) all are big signs that it’s infrastructure is quickly and prematurely wearing out!

    Zwei replies: Getting hard numbers from TransLink is like pulling teeth.

    One problem stems from the fact that both BC Transit and TransLink were in partnership to sell SkyTrain abroad and positive financial numbers were a must.

    True story. Some years back, a decade or so ago, I attended a public meeting hosted by TransLink. After their well patented soft shoe performance, they answered a series of “puff” questions. I eased up to the microphone and when it was my urn, one TransLink type turned pale.

    The question was on ridership calculation and revenue and from memory I asked; “If TransLink’s claims that operating costs are paid for by fares, does TransLink apportion bus and SkyTrain fares, as 80% of SkyTrain’s customers first take the bus and many once again transfer to another bus to complete their journey?”

    After a few ga-faws , the TransLink type asked me to repeat the the question, which I said, “Does TransLink apportion fares between bus and SkyTrain?”

    TransLink type than asked; “what do mean apportion fares?

    And on and on it went, with TransLink finally moved on without answering the question.

    Luckily the next person who was at the mic, asked the TransLink types “why they did not answer the question”

    On and on it went, which some red faces on the podium.

    The nub of the story is that Translink likes to make positive statements but cannot back them up.

    The 130,000 U-Passes issues has also muddied the water with revenue!

    Most people who I ask, who have studied the numbers are also baffled somewhat by TransLink’s creative accounting.

    I guess that’s why we keep building with the damn thing.

  6. Bill Burgess says:

    Mr Zwei, I don’t think you are correct that station attendants are excluded from Skytrain operating cost data as reported by Translink, e.g. to CUTA. If you have evidence they are excluded please correct me, but if you don’t please stop making this claim until you have a credible source.

    You may be right that maintenance costs have been pushed down the road, but the Expo line has been running for more than 30 years and so major replacement and upgrade costs are hardly surprising.

    When you cite your favourite point about subsidies for Skytrain using hard-to-evaluate data from 27 years ago please also acknowledge that more current and authoritative data on Translink revenues and expenses is easily available, though not with all the detail we would like, notably for Skytrain vs other transit divisions.

    (I can accept that that this data does not capture all of the costs of providing transit, e.g., that some capital costs may remain on the province’s books rather than appearing on Translink books. But this is probably true of transit systems everywhere (and other public investments as well); it is not particular to Vancouver and Skytrain.)

    One source is the Translink 2017 Year-End Financial and Performance Report at It is externally audited by KPMG. See p 12:

    – “senior government” [i.e. federal and provincial] contributions to Translink revenue were $148.3 million in 2017, with these funds coming from the Greater Vancouver Regional Fund (GVRF), the Canada Line funding, the Build Canada Fund, the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund and other miscellaneous programs. Another $18.6 million was provided to replace Golden Ears bridge tolling revenue

    – the revenue from the “deferred concessionaire credit” totaled $23.3 million (this is the 2017 share of the contribution from the private P3 partner for the Canada Line)

    -taxation revenue (fuel, property, parking, Hydro levy and replacement tax totaled $821.3 million

    – transit [fare] revenue totaled $590.9 million (i.e., only 35% of total revenue, but this is pretty typical of big city transit systems)

    On p. 23 of the report, you can see that the Province paid the P3 partner who operates the Canada Line about $19.3 million in 2017. This is less than a fifth of the $110 million/year you cited above. And remember from above that the P3 partner ‘contributed’ 23.3 million to Translink revenue. [Crazy P3 finance arrangements! But still important to consider. And I don’t know if this $19.3 million is included in the $148 million above contributed by senior governments.]

    (It is not what Mr Cow wants, but there is “segmented” data provided on p. 34 of the report. It reports expenses for the each of the rail and bus divisions, for example, but not the Expo line vs. the other ‘Skytrain’ lines).

    A more current estimate of the $2.7 billion subsidy of cars in 1991 that was featured in the study you prefer to quote for its $157 million subsidy of Skytain is available at ). It reports:

    Total subsidies for transportation in the Lower Mainland (in about 2012) were $4.5 bil/yr, of which $3.6 bil/yr was the subsidy of cars (this includes the land used, accidents, etc.) and $840 was the subsidy going to transit.

    If we accept that Skytrain costs more than other rail transit, we still need reasonably accurate and properly documented evidence rather than your often misleading claims about the scale of those additional costs. Plucking figures out of the air like a current yearly subsidy of more than $400 million per year of Skytrain just does not help.

    And above all – at least in a transit blog – the numbers on subsidies of different transit modes should be placed in the context of the qualitatively larger subsidies going to roads and cars.

    Zwei replies:

    I was told by a TransLink official, that attendants were not included in operational costs as they are not essential to the operation of the system.

    When independent cost analysis are done, SkyTrain is anywhere between 40% to 60% higher than comparable light rail models. This goes a very long way to explain why no one build with SkyTrain, with only 7 such systems built and only 3 seriously used for urban transit.

    I will be blunt, ALRT/ART rapid transit, what we call SkyTrain is one of the most studied proprietary transit systems in the world, highlighted at Expo 86 as the “wonder system” for future transit. Yet, during this period no ALRT systems were sold and when Bombardier and SNC Lavalin did a make over and changed the name to ART, only 4 systems were built:

    1) Kuala Lumpor: Purchased ART when senior politicians, wanting a monorail made the mistake that it was a monorail. The next transit line built was indeed a monorail.

    2) Beijing: Built an airport ART to acquire technology.

    3) New York Port Authority: built an ART (in a private deal with Bombardier/SNC/Canadian government, thus negating any federal oversight) system to service car parks and JFK, with operational costs paid for by a $7 departure fee and the capital costs paid for by the Canadian Government.

    4) Youngin Everline, only operates single car trains and the city is suing Bombardier for malfeasance.

    Not a stellar sales record and no ART system sold in the past decade.

    The one reason I have been told, not only by Mr. Cow, but the likes of John Schuman; Gerald Fox and many other transportation experts is that SkyTrain’s operating costs are indeed high, higher than LRT and ART lacks the flexibility needed to plan and build a workable transit system.

    TransLink plays a numbers game, yet the lack of sales in 40 years certainly shows that Zwei has not been talking out of my hat so to speak, fact is, TransLink is.

    If one really wants to put the argument to bed, allow the likes of Siemens, Alstom, Stadler, to compete against the Broadway SkyTrain subway, with a light rail alternative and have a open and honest bidding process and stop this nonsense of tall tales by TransLink, trying to build with SkyTrain, a transit system no one really wants.

    Carl Sagan: “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken.

    Sums up our transit planning to date.

  7. zweisystem says:

    Gerald Fox on the Evergreen Line Business Case.

    “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.”

    “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.”

    This from one of the most respected transportation professional in the USA.

  8. Haveacow says:

    I will say again, one of my pet peeves about the Broadway Project has been the fact that TransLink continually doesn’t do apple to apple comparisons when choosing their operational rapid transit operating technologies. In fact, many of their decisions regarding this project have been based on biassed choices of comparison or inferior choices using bad or not the best arrangement of data. Of course, LRT operating on surface lanes in the center of the road will compare unfavourably to Skytrain technology running in a tunnel! The way both the LRT and BRT technology were operated and utilized as examples against the Skytrain were either very poor or complete examples of outdated operating arrangements, not the best or most up-to-date used in the world or even Canada for that matter. Just as a point of comparison, both LRT and BRT can and often do operate in tunnels. Why not compare those to a Skytrain operating in a tunnel. Both the LRT and BRT examples operated at service frequencies considerably inferior to the Skytrain in their comparisons. It’s no surprise to find out Skytrain operating technology was chosen. There are many examples of both BRT and LRT operations in Canada that operate at service frequencies much higher than what was used in Translink’s studies.

    When you see the way their Broadway reports were done, it’s hard to not believe Zwei’s continual attacks about the honestly or let’s say, the selectivity of their financial data reporting when, I work in the industry and have seen the quite interesting language and comparisons that they use. Especially, when no one and I mean nobody in Canada structures financial reporting the way TransLink does. Oh it’s legal, but it’s a little too different sometimes.

  9. Bill Burgess says:

    Mr Cow asked about data on revenue by Skytrain line.

    There is a breakdown of costs on p.33 of the easily-available report I cited above (

    Since fares are the same but depending on how fare revenue is allocated by line this data gives us some indication of what the revenue by line would be. The Expo+Mil. line cost/capacity km is less than a third of the Canada Line’s cost/ capacity km (and even less of the bus cost/capacity km) so if other things were equal it could generate more than 3 times as much revenue/capacity km.

    2017 operating cost per capacity kilometer (excludes depreciation and interest, includes transit police):

    Overall $.082
    Bus and Seabus .125
    Expo and Mil. lines .029
    Canada Line .104
    West Coast Express .093

    (Maintenance is conventionally included under ‘operating costs’, and it is included under the breakdown of “Operations” costs for the rail division (but not by line within that division) on p. 14. I actually don’t know what “capacity km” is, exactly, and it might not be the best measure for purposes here. But the overall comparison is pretty clear.)

    Mr Zwei, I would be grateful if you would cite the “independent studies” that find Skytrain operating costs are 40%-60% more than for comparable rail systems.

    I see that CUTA data shows that in 2013 all direct operating costs per passenger km for Translink were about 25% greater than for all transit in Calgary and about the same as the average of the 6 metros considered (see graph on page 15 of We see from above that buses cost more than Expo+Mil lines per capacity km (and buses account for more than twice the Skytrain share of total Translink costs, see p.12 of the above). And I doubt Calgary’s bus share of total costs is much greater than Vancouver’s. (We should complain more about the lack of easily-available data on Calgary transit more than we should about Vancouver!).

    So, I just don’t see there is much room for Skytrain costs being 40%-60% higher than C-Train LRT. And of course we would need to also address comparability of the service provided (breadth, trip time, frequency, comfort, etc.)

    Zwei replies: Actually, in the late 1990’s, when Bombardier and SNC were pushing to sell the new and improved ALRT as ART, comparisons with Calgary’s LRT were made then hidden. Just the Expo Lin cost about 60% more to operate than light rail and Calgary was carrying more customers on their LRT! Not good for sales.

    Internationally, SkyTrain (and light metro for that matter) is considered user unfriendly.

    LRT is deemed more comfortable (especially in the USA whee having seats for passengers is all important; trip times are comparable if equal quality of rights of ways are considered; LRT can offer a more frequent servcie, carry more customers than LRT (in Europe, 30 to 45 second headway’s are common on many tramways); LRT portal to portal trip times are comparable with SkyTrain and journey’s under 7 km, LRT is faster.

    You have made the mistake of comparing a streetcar with SkyTrain and not LRT and here we come to the the big deal breaker for SkyTrain, it has a total lack of flexibility in operation, while LRT can act as a light metro; light rail; streetcar; and even a tramtrain on the same route, providing the quality of servcie as deemed wanted by the customer.

    You have not answer this question so I will ask it again; Why, after being on the market for 40 years, during a period of unprecedented investment in “rail transit” and not one built in the past decade and only three seriously used for urban transport, only seven of these SkyTrain systems have been sold and built?

  10. zweisystem says:

    The late Des Turner was in communication with Calgary Transit, several times, verifying their operational costs and they were consistently lower than SkyTrain’s.

    In fact the folks in Calgary finally said to Mr. Turner that any statistic from TransLink (then newly formed) should be viewed with skepticism because they were in partnership to sell the damn thing. They were also quite mad that erroneous claims by TransLink fueled a wrongful death lawsuit again Calgary Transit, despite the fact it was ruled a suicide.

    TransLink is just not known for honesty.

  11. Bill Burgess says:

    Mr Zwei:

    When someone says there are independent studies on “x” and is asked for those studies and they don’t provide the studies , it is reasonable to not accept their claims about “x”, that is, that there is no evidence that Skytrain costs 40% to 60% more than comparable systems.

    It may well be true, but no actual evidence = no credibility for such claims.

    No. I did not compare Skytrain to streetcars.

    Your favourite question is answered very simply. Only 7 Skytrain systems have been sold because potential buyers have not seen the ‘value for money’ relative to the alternatives.

    So what?

    You play this as some kind of trump card.

    It isn’t.

    Zwei replies: Much of the study comes from pre internet days and you just can’t link studies.

    Let’s see, the Greer Report; GVRD, scores of professionals have all said that much what comes from TransLink is nothing but stuff and nonsense.

    But, you do not want the truth, just Translink’s statistics, which are really not worth the paper they are printed on.

    In the UK, there are government agencies, like the UK’s National Audit Office, which checks various government organizations statistics to see that they are factual. In BC there is none, TransLink knows this and can manipulate the facts to suit their needs, such as the Broadway subway.

    To give you a hint, it is a trick question; none of SkyTrain’s have been sold and not one was light rail allowed to compete against. There has never been a LRT/SkyTrain competition for a new transit line, rather decisions were made by government and the bureaucrats implemented them. SkyTrain never won a contract, it was forced upon the operating authority.

    In short, we never had Siemens or Alstom compete against SNC Lavalin/Bombardier for a new transit line. The Canada Line, the mention of LRT was forbidden, causing both Siemens and Alstom tossed from the bidding process. because they wanted to use modern trams, instead of heavy rail metro cars for the line because they would be both easier to maintain and allow for easier expansion of the system.

    You do not want to hear the truth, you fear it, because in your world, SkyTrain is the best. Trouble is, no one else wants it and for good reason.

  12. zweisystem says:

    We now see how the SkyTrain myth has permeated into our transit planning.

    The only way SkyTrain can be built, is to bribe politicians to force bureaucrats to build it. Thus bureaucrats fiddle costs and operating criteria to suit their politcal masters needs.

    What we call SkyTrain is a proprietary light metro that has never been allowed to compete against light rail and by doing o has created the SkyTrain Lobby, who pontificate the SkyTrain mantra like religious zealots.

    The Broadway subway is an extremely good example of this, where real costs are glossed over and myth has taken its place.

    Now Mr. Cow, may add more, but it is my belief, if NAFTA is scuttled and countervailing duties are implemented, the cost of TransLink’s mega rail projects may increase by over 20% after July 1. As there is no hint that the subway will not get started before 2020, the cost of the subway may soar past $3.5 billion!

    The NAFTA fiasco may also imperil Bombardier and that they may retire the Innovia SkyTrain s a cost cutting exercise, as none have been sold in almost a decade and few sales on the horizon.

    If this happens, it may put to bed, so to speak, any thought of SkyTrain in the future.

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