Pipe Dreams

Transit studies are a “dime a dozen” in metro Vancouver, yet few are ever used for the simple fact that rapid transit is built for strictly politcal reasons and not for the needs of the transit customer.

Kennith Chan and the Hive is pro SkyTrain, yet he know very little about the local transit system, transit financing, which makes his reporting extremely questionable.

What is the cost?

What is the cost of SkyTrain to the North Shore?

$5 billion? $10 billion, including trains, bridges, complete?

The cost of the proposed 16 km Expo Line Langley extension is now fast approaching $5 billion and that is not including the cars, electrical instillation and stations and not including the Operations and Maintenance Centre #5.

The cost of a 19.5 km extension to Metrotown including new cars, and a new OMC #6, including a new bridge will top $10 billion!


The other blunder or intentional misinformation (take your pick) is that Light Rail’s Capacity is a mere 4,500 persons per hour per direction.


Sorry about that but really, this absolutely idiotic claim tells me the study is not worth the paper it is printed on.

Modern light rail has a capacity of in excess of 20,000 pphpd,. In the late 1940’s, Toronto operated couple sets of PCC trams on selected routes obtaining capacities of 12,000 to 12,500 pphpd! to say a modern tram or light rail vehicle has only a capacity of 4,500 is professional misconduct on a vast scale.

The preceding graphic compares Ottawa’s Confederation LRV’s to both MK.1 ALRT UTDC cars and MK.2 Bombardier ART cars.

When a study is so fundamentally flawed, so ill researched, one can only surmise that this is nothing more than a crass politcal exercise for pre-election photo-ops and 10 second sound bytes. As a transit study, it fails badly.

As for North Shore civic politicians and residents you have been played.

North Shore-Metrotown SkyTrain would see 120,000 riders daily: study

Kenneth Chan

May 27 2024

The use of SkyTrain technology for the North Shore rapid transit line is the clear winner in terms of potential ridership and speed, exceeding the figures of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and street-level Light Rail Transit (LRT).

The District of North Vancouver recently commissioned and funded two highly technical studies exploring the ridership potential of various modes of rapid transit, and the possibility of a multi-modal replacement of the aging Ironworkers Memorial Bridge.

In 2023, on behalf of the municipal government, transportation consultancy firm McElhanney completed an updated ridership study that compared the potential of SkyTrain, BRT, and LRT, while Spannovation Consulting performed an analysis of the optimal options to replace the existing Highway 1 bridge in the Second Narrows.

McElhanney’s latest study builds on their previous 2021 analysis of the Burrard Inlet Rapid Transit initiative jointly led by the North Shore’s three municipal governments and two First Nations, which was a process that identified the “Gold” and “Purple” lines. Some of Spannovation’s most recent major works entail contributing to the planning efforts of the new replacement Pattullo Bridge

For each of the SkyTrain, BRT, and LRT scenarios examined, the same rapid transit route was used — a 19.5-km-long route beginning at Park Royal in West Vancouver, which then runs west-east across the North Shore along Marine Drive, 3rd Street, and Main Street.

Upon reaching Phibbs Exchange near the northern end of the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge, the route turns south across the Second Narrows and reaches Hastings Park/PNE in Vancouver. It then briefly runs along Hastings Street before turning south along Willingdon Avenue for the remaining journey to Metrotown.


Route and station map of Burrard Inlet Rapid Transit between Park Royal in West Vancouver and Metrotown in Burnaby. (Spannovation)

Side-by-side twin cable-stayed bridges concept to replace the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge, including space for SkyTrain/LRT. (McElhanney)

In each of the three scenarios, there would be a total of 10 stations located in the general vicinity of Park Royal, Lions Gate (at Capilano Road and Marine Drive), Capilano Mall (on Marine Drive), Lonsdale (on 3rd Street), Moodyville (on 3rd Street), Phibbs Exchange, Hastings Park/PNE (on Hastings Street), Brentwood Town Centre Station (connecting with SkyTrain Millennium Line), BCIT Burnaby campus (on Willingdon Avenue), and Metrotown Station (connecting with SkyTrain Expo Line).

Travel time of 23 minutes on SkyTrain

By 2050, BRT would have a ridership of 41,000 boardings per day — equivalent to the present-day ridership of the 99 B-Line, Metro Vancouver’s busiest bus route. It would have an end-to-end travel time of 58 minutes and an average operating speed of 20 km/hr, based on frequencies similar to TransLink’s existing B-Line and RapidBus routes and the use of articulated buses. Its maximum capacity is about 1,300 passengers per hour per direction.

Street-level LRT would have a ridership of 100,000 boardings per day, with an end-to-end travel time of 47 minutes and an average operating speed of about 25 km/hr. With frequencies of up to every four minutes during peak periods and six minutes during mid-day periods, using LRT trains that can hold about 300 people, the maximum capacity of LRT is about 4,500 passengers per hour per direction.

To achieve BRT or LRT on the North Shore, the vast majority of the Marine Drive and 3rd Street corridor would be reduced to one general traffic vehicle lane in each direction to accommodate the bus-only lanes or LRT right-of-way.

Similarly, there would also be lane reductions for the roadways of Hastings Street and Willingdon Avenue.

As BRT or LRT would not have its own fully separated right-of-way, running through intersections, its maximum travel speed is limited to the same speed limits of general vehicle traffic.


5 Responses to “Pipe Dreams”
  1. John Smith says:

    Time to update your graph.

    There hasn’t been 4 car Mark I trains have been used for 8 years. The Mark I has only been used in 6 car trains.

    The Mark II cars are used as 4 car trains on the expo line, and mostly 2 car trains on the Millennium line, although sometimes 4 car trains.

    The Mark III cars are all 4 car trains.

    The Mark V cars are in a single 5 car train. Translink only has a single Mark V train.

    Zwei replies: Er no. The MK.1 cars were the UDTC’s ICTS/ALRT cars and operated in married pairs. They could operate as 2 car; 4 car; and 6 car trains.

    The Mk.2 cars were Bombardier’s ART cars, using the Innovia body-shell. They also operated in married pairs and could be used in 3 car or 4 car trains. I believe there was a “coach” (vestibules at both ends)car but I do not think Translink ordered them.

    The MK.5 cars are 5 car married Innovia sets with open vestibules. These cars have been around for 20 years but they were never configured to use LIM’s. With a complete fleet replacement of the MK.1’s, it was deemed worthwhile to invest in re-configuring these cars to operate with LIMs.

  2. Bond says:

    Kenneth is just a reporter.

    This SkyTrain is a bit much for the north shore.

    BC should buy the new Siemens Venture trains being made in California. Amtrak will use them on their Cascades route to Vancouver. Via rail use the same trains too. BC should use them to Prince George from Burnaby. There is an old rail bridge and tunnel in north east Vancouver. The tunnels starts near 2nd narrows bridge and ends near Brentwood, Burnaby. Build a station on Willingdon avenue. Buses can make connections to metrotown. Maybe add some lrt trains for a local service to park royal from Burnaby same tracks.

  3. legoman0320 says:

    Yes, I’m gonna ignore the flip-flop from LRT to skytrain combined total for SLS project.
    Competitive bidding process used for the SLS extension construction contract up-to-date cost.(2024)

    There are other external costs that are not easy to calculate: Moving utilities, Surveying work, Geo technical work, Planning and Engineering.

    Guideway $80 M km
    Cut and cover $250 or $500 M TBM km
    Electrical system $43.75 M km
    Bridge(Rail Trust Bridge) $50-100M

    My routing is slightly different above mentioned news article is no Station at pne(Play Land) in Instead going through Burnaby heights. 4 Additional stations I’m having will keep station spacing between 800 M to 1.2 km. Total of 12 skytrain stations. In between BCIT and Metro town. 400 m away from CMBC Burnaby. One burnaby heights. Between Park Royal and Capilano Mall. 2 underground stations in the rest will be elevated. Burrard inlet rapid transit (BIRT) line will be around 20 km Long, 16 km above grade, 2 km underground, Around 1 km Bridge and 960 M Station platform.

    Guideway total $1.28 B
    Cut and cover or TBM $500 M or $1 B
    Electrical system $875M -$1 B
    Bridge(Rail Trust Bridge) $50-100M

    Between $3 billion to $4 billion CAD Just in construction and labor cost on the major components. I think it’s going to be between 6 and 7 realistically in end project in 2030-2040.

    Mk 1 set 4 car Operations happen time to time when there’s not enough Skytrain available in service. Temporarily decoupled of maintenance or training purposes where you will see MK 1 set 2 car. The illustration/infographic is out of date compared to the current rolling stock like MK 4 and MK 5 not being represented. But it still illustrates comparison platform length and rolling stock.

    Zwei replies: you are dreaming in technoclour.

  4. Haveacow says:

    It’s kind of comforting that history repeats it self so often. It’s the first very hot and sunny day of the year and I am in the Children’s Hospital for Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and my youngest (Christopher aged 13) has had a weird form of seizure. The flowers are in bloom. Vancouver, or part of regional Vancouver anyway, is proposing a Skytrain line that forced my my first 2 in depth cost estimates to a whopping, $8.2 Billion. That’s using the same cost estimates as the Surrey extension and the first 4 lane bridge replacement estimate for the Iron Workers Bridge (that’s 4 total traffic lanes including the transit lane). So it is more than likely already outpaced by the post Covid inflation we have been through.

    As history repeats, the study uses the same subjective assessment method the Broadway extension did. Choose one of the worst possible versions of surface LRT (averaging 25 km/hour) and surface Busway (BRT) operating at an average speed of 20 km/ hour, to compare and contrast with a fullt grade segregated Skytrain Line, operating at 50km/hour.

    Guess which one wins, especially if you don’t mention cost or when supposedly the majority of said ridership happens or the actual usefulness of the former Purple Line Corridor, here’s a clue, it misses the majority of Vancouver’s biggest Skytrain passenger traffic generators. Plus for the majority of greater Vancouver’s potential rapid transit passengers, it doesn’t go where the majority generally want to go, on a daily basis. The final result has been seen before. Remember kids, I have done studies like this for a very long time, you have to compare/judge apples with apples, oranges with oranges, if you want a valid study. The extremely small number of comparative measures used is actually kind of embarrassing. The best part, Translink and the provincial government have already said, “BRT first, Skytrain later”. For the new people, this is government speak for, “WE CANNOT AFFORD THIS AT ALL, NOT NOW ANYWAY, AND MAYBE NEVER! ‘

    1. First, to keep things in perspective, the King Street Streetcar Line in Toronto, operates a section where private cars have to turn usually right but sometimes left and are outright banned from traveling east-west through the entire length of the corridor. There is no traffic signal preemption for the streetcars, just private vehicles are banned, licensed taxis are accepted along this corridor. Unlike this new Skytrain line, which has an average station stop distance of 1.95 km, the King Street line averages around 200 metres between stops in the downtown core.

    This section of King Street manages (according to the TTC and City of Toronto) to now average a speed 30km/hour-38km/hour. So if a partially traffic free streetcar corridor in the core of downtown Toronto, with unbelievably closely spaced stops and no traffic signal preemption can go faster than the speed (25km/hour) travelled on a fully traffic segregated (outside of the intersections) surface LRT right of way with full-time traffic signal preemption and stations spaced almost 2 km apart. I think there is an issue with the study.

    LRT by the way can operate in every kind of environment that Skytrain can, and more, usually for 50%+ less capital cost than the Skytrain. I will try and show you options in Canada where this is done. We have now been moved to the imaging department at CHEO and my son is figiting.

    2. Next, the BRT speed is based on non busway based rights of way, they admit that at least. Translink has promoted that, they plan to copy the light to medium capacity busways, known locally in York Region (which is just north of the City of Toronto) as Rapidways used by VIVA (York Region Transit’s marketing name for its BRT network. You would think the study’s authors would use the same example Translink plans to use, nope! According to York Region Transit (YRT), the busiest section of Rapidway (Highway 7 East) averaged 35 km/hour-42 km/hour. Yet, the study says that a similar right of way in Vancouver can only manage 25 km/ hour.

    Montreal’s new, Pie IX Blvd. Busway, which functionally is very similar to VIVA’s Rapidways is averaging 32 km/ hour – 39 km/hour. This line has stops averaged about 1 km apart, roughly similar to the busiest sections of Rapidway in York Region.

    3. Another very important thing to keep in mind, any operating schedule, vehicle consist and associated operating frequency and capacity of BRT or LRT used in this study is entirely up to the study’s authors. This becomes a really efficient and effective way to show the superiority of any Skytrain operating frequency and capacity. The lack of non similar operating frequency combined with non similar vehicle capacity, will clearly favor any Skytrain operating technology line compared to the inferior operating conditions and entirely subjective BRT or LRT alternative used in the study.

    The authors of the study can do this because they defined all the operating conditions in the first place. None of their examples are similar, so you can’t validate things like capital costs or basic operating tempos for service as well as basic operating costs. All the conditions have to be basically similar to be fairly measured against each other. They just aren’t.

    4. One simple example about building and operating scale and the massive differences between various rapid transit modes. I have used this one before, YRT in conjunction with the TTC, Metrolinx (the Province of Ontario) and the Federal Government is almost ready to start building the Yonge Street Subway Extension into York Region. This 8 km long subway extension has a capital cost of around $5 Billion – $6 Billion.

    YRT will often point out that for $6.5 Billion they can build 132 KM OF VIVA RAPPIDWAYS INCLUDING ALL THE BUSES NEEDED FOR THE SERVICE. LET THAT SINK IN, 132 KM OF BUSWAY OR EQUIVALENTLY, ABOUT 9.5 KM OF SUBWAY, INCLUDING THE TRAINS, GIVEN TODAY’S BUILDING COSTS. Yes, the Rapidways move fewer passengers per operating km. However at these costs, you can put a tremendous amounts of parallel BRT lines for greater capacity and still have lots of extra busway km’s left over for somewhere else.

    Very little public mention of LRT right of way capability, surface or otherwise is considered or mentioned in the media release.

    This study missed all of this, the study’s authors either didn’t think it was important to include to the media or didn’t include it in the media release, wanting to display only a small selected group of results. Exactly similar to the process followed by the Broadway study. So with the coming eventual Environmental Assessment, that study will point to this one as the basis for choosing the Skytrain over LRT and BRT simply because, this study said so. No mention of the obvious faults in how this study was done.

    Lastly, this study actually is saying that BRT and LRT operating technology can’t or shouldn’t run outside of surface street corridors, contrary to evidence shown elsewhere in Canada, North America and the rest of the world. If you want to compare Skytrain in a completely segregated right of way compare it, to both an LRT and BRT Lines in a completely segregated, comparable right of way, if you want the study to be valid. Please advertise all of the characteristics you studied and not just the small number of subjective operating conditions used. It’s no surprise the study produced wired or outrageously bogus travel times, extremely unclear and obviously dubious passenger counts. Not to mention, many of the BRT or LRT operating examples are comically low service frequencies in most cases, using under capacity vehicle consists in right of way operating conditions that fundamentally are just not comparable to each other. Especially considering the limited number of characteristics outlined to the media

    One glaring issue with the entire project is that you have a 19.5 km long line and only 9 new stations along the route. As proposed, it’s just not a very functional line.

    This line isn’t serving the majority of Vancouver’s population but simply the population of the North Vancouver Region and the City of Burnaby. It misses connecting stations with the West Coast Express, bypasses completely downtown Vancouver, the region’s largest passenger generator. Does it actually connect to the Millennium Line? The study’s media release doesn’t mention this at all. That would significantly shorten the travel time and line cost, especially if you are going downtown. The actual planned connection to the Expo Line forces a 25 to 30 minute travel time to downtown, during the peak period. At a point where more than likely, there will be few if any seats for passengers transferring from the North Vancouver/Purple Line.

    It’s a great line if your point is to bypass downtown but at a tremendous building cost. I thought the purpose of this line is to get people in the North Vancouver Region to downtown Vancouver or the central portion of it anyway. Considering the eye watering current cost I mentioned earlier, $8.2 Billion. This won’t be the cost when you are actually ready to build it, it will be much higher. Your own government and transit operator have already admitted that they cannot afford this project now or in the foreseeable future. Considering its limited functionality, it may never be built as is. It maybe cheaper in the long run to just dig a tunnel under the water to downtown Vancouver, it certainly would be a much shorter line. The actual line will drain other much more needed and viable projects of funding for a very, very long time, yet produce very little benefit compared to its enormous cost.

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



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


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



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


    Look BRT is the same, this is what the study says is the only optimal form of BRT


    Look at all the BRT options used in Canada everything from tunnels to above grade structures and no road lanes in sight.






    Zwei replies: Amen. I hope your son is doing OK, that is the most important thing.

    I have crafted a letter to North Shore cities.

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