Reality Check: Has TransLink Again Mislead The Public?

Did the Evergreen Line really have less capacity than a streetcar? Evidently it did!

Did the Evergreen Line really have less capacity than a streetcar? Evidently it did!

It is hard to surprise ole Zwei these days, but the following has somewhat astounded me.

Expo and Millennium Upgrade Program

The Expo and Millennium Line are the region’s Rail Rapid Transit Lines that connect key locations across Metro Vancouver. The Expo Line opened in 1985 and was the region’s first rail rapid transit line. Since its inception over thirty years ago, the region has extended the original Expo Line from Vancouver to Surrey and built the Millennium Line to reach Coquitlam.

To accommodate the future growth of the region, and to support longer trains and more frequent service, we are making major investments over the next ten years. These upgrades will keep the system safe, reliable, and comfortable for our current and future customers.

When the program is fully implemented, the Expo Line will be able to move 17,500 passengers per hour per direction, and the Millennium Line will be able to move 7,500 passengers per hour per direction. This represents a 32 and 96 per cent increase respectively over the existing capacity.

What, increase the Millennium Line capacity to 7,500 pphpd?

I know that the term capacity is not used, but it is certainly has been inferred!

The following is from Gerald Fox’s 2008 comment on the Evergreen Line’s Business Case.

The Business Case analysis assumes a capacity of 4,080 for LRT, on the Evergreen Line which it states is not enough, and compares it to SkyTrain capacity of 10400.!

Yet today, according to TransLink, the Millennium Line’s Capacity is much less than 7,500 pphpd and nowhere near the 10,400 pphpd as claimed in the Evergreen line’s business case!

This also points to the City of Vancouver’s bogus claim that an at-grade LRT could only manage slightly more than 7,000 pphpd on Broadway, despite the fact that coupled sets of PCC cars were moving an excess of 12,000 pphpd, on the Toronto’s Bloor/Danforth line, in the late 1040’s!


An excerpt from Modern Tramways in 1983.

An excerpt from Modern Tramways in 1983.

So, has TransLink, again, been caught selling “Porkies”.

Is this the reason the Millennium Line can only operate two car trains is because it cannot operate four car trains because it was not designed to operate four car trains from the start?

This could also explain BC’s Attorney General, David Eby’s reluctance to pursue any sort of investigation of TransLink and why due diligence of transit projects is no longer practice by the province and Metro Vancouver.

Where is the mainstream media? Hiding in a corner, afraid to tackle real issues, it seems!

This upgrade program also shows that there is not the ridership potential on the Broadway to justify a subway, even after the upgrade.

What is being hidden from the public is the simple fact a modern, at-grade LRT/tram could easily  handle the projected traffic flows which the Millennium Line subway to UBC can handle, but also handle increased traffic flows at a far cheaper cost than the current, full build $8 billion Broadway/UBC, with a limited capacity of a mere 7,500 pphpd - after upgrade!

More and more, the evidence is adding up that TransLink aand the chief benificarry of the Broadway subwaym the city of Vancouver, has not been honest with the public, more and more, there is a need for a judicial inquiry into TransLink and current transit planning, yet premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby remain deaf for such an inquiry.


What are they afraid of?


12 Responses to “Reality Check: Has TransLink Again Mislead The Public?”
  1. Gwyer Webber says:

    For your info.

    The Toronto Street Cars have an average speed of 14.5km/hr. The cancelled Surrey LRT was 20% less than Skytrain and would only have an average speed of 23.3km/hr. The Expo Line and Millennium Line have an average speed of 45km/hr.

    The new 5 car MkV trains ordered will carry 650 passengers seated and standing. The original design of the Expo and Millennium Line is for trains up to 75 seconds apart. This means the full capacity can be up to 31,200 (with no spurs) and allows for future growth.

    Zwei replies: Sorry, you are way off the wrong track.

    Comparing a streetcar to LRT is somewhat ridiculous because the R-o-w’s are completely different. Given equal leangth, stations, the commercial speed for Skytrain and LRT would be the same.

    The MK.2/5, 5 car train-sets have a practical maximum capacity of just over 500 persons and not 650, which is based on a theoretical calculation that does to take into account passengers entering or leaving the train , back packs etc.

    As the present signalling system and Transport Canada’s operational certificate to not allow 75 second headway’s, your statement is erroneous.

    Your claim of a capacity of 31,000 is more of a joke than anything else and would need many billions of dollars invested to achieve.

  2. Haveacow says:

    It’s Not the Capacity It’s The Comfort

    A maximum theoretical operational passenger capacity of 17500 to 18000 passengers per hour per direction is possible on the Expo Line if all the trainsets being used are the 5 car Mk #4. trainsets. Plus, I thought the limitation of the Millennium Line was because of a trainset shortage?

    Remember, as I always said, once you get to about 92% of your theoretical/operational capacity its difficult to go higher because of crowding and unpleasant conditions on the vehicle, if people have another choice, people will find other ways to get around.

    Streetcar Speed

    Actually, Toronto streetcars can move much faster as long as your streetcar is not caught in mixed traffic. On the stretch of King St. that has car traffic removed the average speed was 27 km/h, it would be even faster if the stops were at proper LRT spacing, which is a minimum distance of 400 metres between stops. Even on the St. Clair (24.6 km/h), Spadina (26.2 km/h) and Harborfront (29.7 km/h) private rights of way, many of the stops are closer than 400 metres, mainly due to political interference, so you get slower average speeds.

    One reason the Skytrain has higher speeds is that each station is almost 1.5 to 2 km apart. When stations on a rapid transit line are too far apart you loose the better parts of the networking effects. The trains are faster but you then have to transfer to another transit vehicle to complete your journey because walking to your destination in very uncomfortable. Toronto found out that if you want people to use your rapid transit lines outside of commuting peak times, you need stations that are no closer than 800 metres but no more than 1.5 km apart because anything larger than that, makes it difficult to then comfortably walk to most destinations.

    Service Frequency Change Requirements

    Currently the lowest frequency allowed legally on the Expo or Millennium Lines is 1 train ever 109 seconds. 75 second frequency is only possible if:

    1. All the low speed turnouts (switches) must be removed and replaced with high speed ones (are physically longer because the angle of departure changes as well as being more expensive to maintain and operate). This would change the track geometry in many locations, so the positions of the 3rd rails would have to change as well. This forces a change in the physical location of the connections with the power cables. This is time consuming track work. It would have to be done during the times the system isn’t running.

    2. A new Automation software program is needed. The current Citiflo 650 Automation software is no longer being supported by Bombardier and massive amounts of new communication equipment and modules will have to be installed and old equipment removed and again, forcing a change in power connection cable locations. This forces a change in some pieces of track and their track geometry as well.

    3. A new train traffic command centre is needed, the old one isn’t equipped for it hopefully, this isn’t one of the works/upgrades that are being temporarily/postponed/cancelled because of the drop in tax revenue of Translink, whose revenues aren’t expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2027-2028 at the earliest.

    4. The whole network of power connecting cables, telecommunication cables, their mountings and their conduit protection measures all have to be upgraded and or completely replaced on the 19 km section of the original Expo Line and soon across all of the Expo Line due to their advancing age.

    5. The old Dunsmuir Railway tunnel, that the Expo Line uses in downtown is massively leaking and needs an upgrade ASAP.

    6. You have to apply for a change to Transport Canada in your operating safety certificate, for example, the ability to operate at frequencies below 109 seconds. Transport Canada then sends a team down to make sure you instituted all the changes they asked for the last time you were tested. The TC team then goes through all appropriate training, operational, maintenance and emergency procedures that will need to be changed. The TC team then makes sure you do those changes needed. Addresses all hardware upgrades and hardware performance issues and makes a list of changes and upgrades needed to be followed immediately, in the medium term (1 to 2 years) and long term (3+ years) and a list of suggested very long term upgrades. Then 2 weeks of simulated testing, 2 weeks of actual testing but not carrying passenger (usually done in nonoperational hours) and a specific amount of time doing testing with passengers (done during operational hours but not in general use track). Once all that is done and the TC team has reviewed their findings and concerns with Translink, a pass or fail grade is given. This whole process takes anywhere form 9 months to 18 months. It’s a big deal, very expensive and painful for every one involved.

    Each step, 1 through 4 costs hundreds of millions each and will individually at a minimum, take over a year, if not two years to install in a working functioning line. The morale of the story, when you are carrying people in a train, it isn’t fast or easy to officially and legally upgrade stuff. One of the big problems with the Surrey to Langley Skytrain, other than its exploding building cost is that, the rest of the Expo Line requires so many expensive and time consuming upgrades, due to its rapidly advancing age and quickly deuterating infrastructure.

  3. zweisystem says:

    Thank you for this!

  4. Gwyer Webber says:

    Skytrain signaling system in Vancouver is Sel Trac not Cityflo.
    Sel Trac is owned by Thales, prior to that it was Alcatel, and prior to that a company in Germany.
    When UTDC was sold off the vehicles eventually went to Bombardier but not the automated signaling system.
    Most likely because they had there own. Sel Trac was never owned by Bombardier.

    The PCC you were discussing in your article were used on the Toronto Bloor Danforth street car line.
    The average speed I mentioned is based on the Queens Streetcar at rush hour per TTC own schedule.

    Zwei replies: I have been told that they did upgrade Vancouver’s Sel Trac to Citiflo standards in the 1990’s. So yes they use Sel Trac but it’s a Citiflo clone, with becoming quite ancient and are in need of replacement. I guess someone forgot to update Wiki.

    As for your other comment, You are comparing tram operation in Toronto, pre subway, with tram operation today. Sorry an apples to oranges comparison as there was a lot less road traffic in the 1940’s and 50’s.

  5. Adam Fitch says:

    As I have been saying since 2010, an LRT on West 16th should be considered, rather than Broadway/10th, at least as a first route to UBC. Reasons:

    1. Passengers from East Van, Burnaby and Coquitlam do not care whether they are traveling on Broadway or 16th, they just want to get to their classes on time.
    2. There is more development potential on 16th, especially at the University Endowment Lands. We are in a housing crisis. A few acres of housing development on the UEL could make a big difference.
    3. Broadway will do fine without a subway. Landowners on Broadway and 10th, instead of waiting for a subway and letting and encouraging businesses to run down and closes, could focus on renewal, revitalization and small scale development.
    4. As 16th is not as developed as Broadway and 10th, it would be easier to develop a tram line.
    5. Just because Broadway is well known does not mean it is the best place to put a tram.

  6. Cedar says:

    Millenium have same platform lengths as expo line. Why can’t it have same length trains? The two lines overlap each other.

    Every second or third train from Waterfront station goes to Production way station in Burnaby. There is four car trains on the millenium line. I have been on the new four car mark 3 trains on the Millenium line often.

    Two car trains only go on the new extension to Coquitlam.

    The main problem is they need more trains. Translink did make a big order to buy more than 200 trains this decade.

    Zwei replies: Upon research, it is my belief that the line form Lougheed mall to the Tri cities, was only signaled for a maximum capacity of 5,000 pphpd to save money.

  7. It boggles the mind to read that—after an upgrade—the Broadway (Skytrain) subway is going to have a crush capacity of 7,500 pphpd. A typical subway carries 120,000. THAT is 16-times less service for the same cost!

    I mean, the station platforms are shorter. The stations themselves are smaller (since fewer people are expected). But overall, building a tunnel and electrifying it should cost roughly the same regardless of how much traffic moves through it.

    Of course it is important to remember that this is really a Skytrain/Subway-and-Towers paradigm that we are building. It’s not just transit. (More and more, it looks like transit is a mere afterthought.)

    The municipalities are using the projects to build towers and collect development revenues.

    A friend of mine has calculated that there is currently enough development product ‘in the pipe’ at Vancouver City Hall to accommodate 31 years of growth at the current yearly rate of 1%. So we really don’t need ANY more towers. Yet, a Broadway Corridor Plan will come up for approval at Council next month.

    So, its also NOT about housing people. It is all a play in the real estate markets. Meanwhile, neighborhoods are being destroyed—by towers and by Skytrain operating in viaducts.

    There is a better way.

    RFV has been advocating it for decades. The modern tram seems to hit the sweet spot. And we own a dedicated ROW from Vancovuer to Chilliwack (including 33% trackage on the NW Rail Bridge). OK, bit of a sticky wicket at the Kent Street alignment, right now. May take court action to resolve it. However, 13 km will be upgraded free of cost to taxpayers by the lease holders of the Pratt-Livingstone corridor (184th – 232nd streets, approximately) if passenger rail returns to the BCER ROW.

    I calculate we could house 500,000 souls on 40 ‘tramtowns’ in the valley. And another 50,000 in neighbourhood revitalizations around tram stops in Vancouver, Burnaby & New West. If these units were co-op, or protected from market speculation by contracts on title, then we have a real shot at putting an end to the Bonfire of the Housing Crisis.

    But… apparently we are going to have to make our force felt at a few more elections before it can happen.

  8. Haveacow says:

    @Lewis Villegas, the average North American, European and South American subway/Heavy rail/Metro
    Line, whatever you want to call it, have capacities in the 30,000 to 42,000 passengers /hour/direction. There are ones higher than that but they are on busy individual lines not a network as a whole. If your metro line is moving more than say 50,000 p/h/d you need to build another parallel line. In fact, most lines that are running over 50,000 have a high degree chance of wearing out before their design lifespan is ever reached, which could/will wipeout, completely, many equipment warranties, rail transit operators rely on.

    A General Rule of Capacity (we followed this at Bombardier)

    Commuter/Regional Rail – 2000 – 60,000
    Heavy Rail/Metro/Subways – 10,000 – 50,000 (many, many lines throughout the world operate far below this level)
    Light Metros/Medium Rail – 7000 -30,000
    Light Rail Transit – 4000 – 25000 (running on any physically segregated right of way, with traffic signaling protection)
    Hvy. Streetcar or Tram/ Lite Light Rail Transit – 3000 – 10000 (some physical segregation with traffic signal protection)
    Bus Rapid Transit* – 2500 – 16000(Running in any type of physically segregated Busway with traffic signal protection)
    BRT Lite* – 0 – 5000
    *With BRT the important thing really is the number of buses being used not necessarily the passenger output capacity. The number of buses is based on what the operator can afford. This makes BRT capacity issues highly varied based on local conditions and costs.

  9. Haveacow says:

    I was looking at a old Daily Hive article, “35 Sky Train facts marking 35 years of Skytrain” from December 11, 2020. It gave the then current capacities of the current three, Skytrain lines. I’m assuming their information is accurate because they have such a close relationship with Translink and supposedly they are never or rarely wrong:

    During the current busy peak hours, the Expo Line operates with a capacity of approximately 15,000 pphpd, while the Millennium Line operates with roughly 5,000 pphpd.

    The Canada Line can reach an ultimate capacity of 15,000 pphpd, with higher frequencies and longer trains accommodated by adopting a 50-metre platform length standard for all stations. At the moment, the Canada Line runs a peak hour capacity of 6,100 pphpd.

    Now please tell me how upgraded capacity of the Expo Line 17,500 pphpd and the Millennium Line upgraded capacity of 7,500 pphpd be equal to an increase of, “This represents a 32 and 96 per cent increase respectively over the existing capacity.”

    A Slight Correction

    Yes Zwei, the new Mark 5 trainsets (because their saving Mark 4 label for upgraded Mark 3 Trains) which start arriving next year, do have an internal maximum passenger capacity of 650, especially considering these 5 car trainsets have a 82 metre length. Zwei, is correct though, the initial order maybe for only $721million for 41, 5 car trainsets which equals, the stated 205 car order. Zwei’s $2 Billion ($2.23 Billion) comes from the total including the option of a further 80, 5 car trainsets (400 cars)

    This is not however, the big issue, right now the minimum operating frequency on the Expo Line is 108 seconds (109 actually) or 33 trainsets per hour. These new 5 car, Mark 5 Trainsets are such a massive current draw on the existing electrical supply of the Expo Line that, the operating limit is limited to 26 Trainsets per hour or a 138 second minimum frequency. This is one of the problems of longer and longer trains, they draw more current because they increase the electrical resistance but the electrical voltage stays the same. You see, it’s the electrical current or flow that does the work, not the voltage. Yes, Translink can change this but they have to upgrade the 36 year old, electrical system on the Expo Line, this is part of that extra $3 Billion for capacity upgrades that Zwei keeps talking about and everyone else seems to ignore.

    Zwei replies: I have it on good authority that the maximum capacity of the Canada Line is around 9,000 pphpd and can be increased to near 15,000 pphpd if each station platform is 50m and that is with SDO or selective door operation. As the train-sets are 41 metres long, the additional coach will cause a 5 metre overhang (15 feet) at each station platform. Zwei was told that one set of doors on the end coach will shut for the up trip and the opposite set of doors will close for the down trip.

    Aside from the confusion, this will add to dwell times. At this point in time, the concessionaires, SNC Lavalin and the Caisse have no plans to operate 3 car trains.

  10. Haveacow says:

    This old article brings up a real good point about revisiting the need for the $2.83 Billion, Millennium Line phase 1 extension project tunnel to Arbutus and the mostly tunnel stage 2, extension to UBC for which I believe will probably be close to, if not over $5 Billion, when you account for increasing levels of inflation over previous Class D estimates, all for a line whose current capacity is rated at 5000 pphpd or 7500 pphpd once upgrades are made. Our Central Transitway Busway here in Ottawa was moving 10,700 pphpd before it was converted to the Confederation LRT Line in 2019. A line which can currently move 18,500 pphpd or 24,000 with easily built (because it was planned that way) upgrades to existing stations and the modular LRV’s, by adding a 5th section to each of our 4 section LRV’s. Currently each Confederation Line train has, 2 (4 car) or 4 section trainsets.

  11. Haveacow,

    Thanks for the update. My figure of 120,000 pphpd for subways was way off. But… I found what look like reliable numbers which I report below. They are more or less in line with what you present.

    For purposes of simplification and comparison, I’m using 120 sec headways for BRT, LRT, Skytrain and TTC Subway (30 trains per hour). 300 sec/5 minutes for buses (12 buses per hour). The sources quoted below are as reliable as I can find.

    Toronto Subway

    Bombardier TTC/T1
    250 passengers (66 seated; 184 Standing)
    6 vehicles
    120 sec headways (30 trains/hr)

    45,000 pphpd TTC Subway

    NYC Subway

    ITC: 29.7 trains/hour
    2,000 passengers/train (10 car trainsets)
    59,400 pphpd

    BMT: 30.7 trains/hr
    2,400 passengers/train (8 car trainsets)
    73,000 pphpd

    New City Car: 32.2 trains/hr
    2,800 passengers/train (10 car trainsets)
    90,160 pphpd

    Hong Kong Subway
    80,000 pphpd MTR Hong Kong

    LRT in Canada
    Bombardier Flexity Freedom

    Toronto, Waterloo-Kitchner:

    251 passengers
    4 vehicles
    120 sec headways
    30,120 pphpd

    The wikipedia article states that the Edmonton vehicles are made of 7 modules carrying 275 passengers per vehicle. If the Edmonton consist will have 4 vehicles then… That returns 33,000 pphpd for LRT which seems remarkable. The way of the future?


    275 passengers
    4 vehicles
    120 sec headways (30 trains)
    33,000 pphpd

    Recently announced by Translink, reported by Zwei (pphpd):

    15,000 Expo Line
    [9,000 Canada Line—this one is from my notes]
    7,500 Broadway tunnel/Millennium
    6,000 BRT
    1,440 Articulated Trolley (see below)

    Trolleybus (source: Translink Fleet Pictorial)
    77 passengers (31 seated; 46 standing)
    5 min headway (12 trolleys per hour)
    924 pphpd

    Articulated Trolley (source: Translink Fleet Pictorial)
    120 passengers
    5 min headway
    1,440 pphpd

    Using NYC MTA numbers, the Broadway tunnel is going to deliver 10-times less capacity for the same price. Using Toronto subway numbers, 6-times less service for the same price.

    The Waterloo-Kitchner LRT (19 stations; 19 km; $868 million [2021]) gives us another very important data point: $45.7 million per km for construction. That confirms Pat Condon’s estimate in 2018 of $50 million/km for LRT.

    Now what number do we want to pic for the Broadway tunnel? Google suggests: $2.83 billion for 5.7 km (700m are the guideway, built for $200 million/km or $140 million. Leaving $2.69 billion for 5 km of tunnel = $538 million per km. That’s below the $600 million figure).

    In any case, the comparison between the Broadway line and the Waterloo LRT is 11.77 times more cost for the tunnel, and 4 times less passenger capacity. I score that a 47-times transit advantage for Waterloo.

  12. Haveacow says:

    Many of your “trains per hour” are way too high because of the limits of current and voltage.

    The LRV’s which are going are the heavy, 7 module version of Bombardier’s Flexity Swift LRV which is the Flexity sub-model optimized for the higher weight and therefore higher powere requirements for rail vehicles in North American operations because of the higher crash worthiness standards for all trains in North America, what the former head of the MTA and Amtrak, David Gunn described as, “bank vaults on rails”.

    The trains going to Edmonton can’t have more than 3 car trains, due to current limitations when using 750 volts power. If you run too many trains and your voltage must be constant with electric trains, the current drops below a level where there is enough current flow to power the motors. This is why Ottawa’s LRT system went to the very uncommon (more expensive) 1500V Voltage level, so more trains per hour can be moved. Most LRV designs don’t go above 3 or 4 LRV’s per train. As long as your are using 600V -750 V no more than 18 to 20 LRV (3 to 4 LRV’s per train) trainsets per hour are possible. There are many ways to mitigate these issues but high building as well as operating costs will follow.

    There are also limitations with the signaling and safety regulations. This is why in practice in Europe or North America, it is rare to see theoretical and or practical passenger capacities beyond 40,000 p/h/d.

    Comfort has to be considered as well. Once you get about 85% of theoretical capacity choice passengers try and find another way to get around. The Toronto Subway as currently configured using its 60 year old signaling system, can theoretically carry 33000 to 34000 passengers per hour per direction but at 30k to 31k p/h/d (and I can personally vouch for this) it’s very unpleasant and so crowded most people, choice or captive passengers, want to get off soon as possible and will only tolerate this level of crowding for a few minutes.

    A station that can handle the crowding of 30k to 40k p/h/d must be built really large platforms and really high capacity. A station platform of 150m or 500 feet is basic and a station box size of 180m or 600 feet long by 45m or 150 feet wide and 3 to 5 stories high, with no fewer than 2 of those floors being used as physically separate, high capacity exit/entrance areas, at a minimum . In Canadian dollars, whether the station is above, at or below grade, your are looking at $50 Million to $70 Million per station, if you want this level of capacity. Very high passengers per hour per direction means very high building and operating costs.

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