The End Of The SkyTrain “Gravy-Train?

Gravy train 2

Gravy Train: Used to refer to a situation in which someone can make a lot of money for very little effort.

Mr. Cow’s comment in the previous post, deserves a post of its own, because it could be a game changer in regional transit planning.

Criticizing regional transit planning has been somewhat taboo with the mainstream media, thus the public know very little of the ingredients needed to plan for an affordable and user friendly transit route, let alone a transit system or network.

Currently, major transit planning decisions, comes from the Premier’s Office, through the Ministry of Transportation, to TransLink, which was, since inception, designed to keep regional mayors on base with the Premier’s wishes. Everything else is window-dressing.

The switch from LRT to light metro, thus using the Movia Automatic Light Metro (MALM) system, was well orchestrated by the now deposed Mayor of Surrey, Doug McCallum. With a litany of half baked “facts” and questionable motives, the Premier’s office got what it wanted and cemented the deal by making it a Premier John Horgan politcal promise.

Did Horgan want a Expo line extension to Langley?

Probably, because the NDP have had an ongoing relationship with Bombardier Inc. and SNC Lavalin (who owned the patents for the proprietary railway), since the NDP flip flop from LRT to ART (an earlier name of MALM) with the Broadway-Lougheed R/T project, later known as the millennium Line. The old faces responsible for this bit of politcal intrigue are once again working for the provincial NDP and to build a stand alone LRT system, would be embarrassing for the government.

Alstom now owns the proprietary railway and owns, Bombardier’s patents (and by all accounts wants to ditch this lemon as fast as they can) and what was once cozy deals between Bombardier and SNC Lavalin with the provincial government are no more.

The the SLS Extension Project (Surrey to Langley SkyTrain Extension Project) will be the first project affected by Ottawa’s funding cuts for rapid transit projects and if the project goes over the now $4.6 billion budget, the province will have to pick up the extra cost.

Gerald Fox, predicted this, back in 2008, with his critique of the Evergreen line:

But, eventually, Vancouver will need to adopt lower-cost LRT in its lesser corridors, or else limit the extent of its rail system. And that seems to make some TransLink people very nervous.

I would say today, those same “some” at TransLink are again, very nervous indeed!

Screenshot 2022-10-22 at 09-00-41 Gravy Train.webp (WEBP Image 620 × 372 pixels)


Well the news broke last night and it hit Ottawa like a bomb. Federal funding is going to be cut to reign in our yearly budget deficit. The expected effect on infrastructure funding is a drop in new federal infrastructure funding by 25% -50% per year. Existing agreements will be honoured.

However, that means no increase in federal funding for the SLS Extension Project (Surrey to Langley SkyTrain Extension Project) regardless of the expected increases in capital (construction) costs. The province of B.C. will have to cover 100% of all future cost increases for the SLS project. Remember, you guys haven’t tendered the project yet to outside bidders or given the cost of O.M.C. #5 which will add its costs (the last estimate was $530 million) to the existing $4.01 Billion budget of the project.

For the period of 1997-2028, the federal government has provided / will provide, an average of $113.2 million to build 742 metres of Skytrain/Canada Line per year. The federal percentage of total project funding has been at an average of 31.3%. Unfortunately, the actual total federal financial coverage of major rapid transit projects, for each project, has been steadily dropping from 33% for the first stage of the Millennium Line, to 28.8% for the SLS extension. Since 1997 the inflation rate that the federal government has been covering is an average of 8% (7.98%) per year. This will not continue indefinitely.

So the amount of federal funding is going to drop for rapid transit projects nationally, believed to be 25% – 50%, that means, unless your cities and provinces are going to pick up the slack, the building rate of multi-billion rapid transit projects is going to slow down dramatically. Therefore lower cost projects are going to replace the extreme higher cost ones. Fewer subways/heavy rail metro and light metro projects (like Skytrain) more simpler, cheaper BRT and LRT projects. Projects that will most likely be almost completely on surface routes, mainly due to cost. For example, BRT and LRT projects like the Pie IX BRT Extension in Montreal/Laval or Finch Avenue West, Eglinton Crosstown East extension and the Eastern Waterfront LRT projects in Toronto.