Ottawa’s Transit system project


light rail, Ottawaai??i??s Transit system, transit system

ai???The Transitwayai??i??, in Ottawa, is one of the most successful Bus Rapid Transit Systems in North America. However with the increase of traffic and demand the Council has decided to develop the Bus Rapid Transit System into to a Light Rail Transit one. This 20 year plus expansion will start its first phase with the Confederation Line. A $2.1 billion investment which will have a 13 station LRT running over 12.5 km. By making it a P3 project it has reduced the tax payers cost benefits. This project should help the local economy, community and create thousands of new jobs.

This $2.1 billion transportation project, supported by the federal, provincial and municipal governments, is the largest single project ever undertaken by the City of Ottawa in regards to scope, size and complexity. The project, which is the first stage in Ottawaai??i??s planned 40 km light rail network, will see the construction of a 12.5 km LRT system including 3 km of tunnel under the downtown, and 13 stations, three of which will be in the tunnel portion.Ai?? Implementation of the new system will include converting portions of the existing Bus Rapid Transit to light rail (one of the first such undertakings in North America). It is being carried out under a Design-Build-Finance-Maintain delivery model.

Project Cost:Ai??Ai??$2.1 billionAi?? Project Size:Ai??Ai??13.5 kmAi??Ai?? Project Duration:Ai??Ai?? 7 years

Project Challenge: One of the biggest challenges of this project is to convert an existing Bus Rapid Transit route and tunneling through the downtown core of Ottawa to a new light rail system. There are many private properties, environmental, heritage and utility coordination issues.

Ottawaai??i??s Light Rail Transit (OLRT) project, will enhance that cityai??i??s connectivity and create a greener downtown with a vastly improved streetscape.Ai?? This $2.1 billion transportation project, supported by the federal, provincial and municipal governments, is the largest single project ever undertaken by the City of Ottawa in regards to scope, size and complexity.Ai?? The OLRT system will take portions of the Bus Rapid Transit and convert them to Light Rail Transport (one of the first such undertakings in North America). ai??i??

This project is the first stage in Ottawaai??i??s planned 40 km light rail network.Ai?? In 2011, Morrison Hershfield together with three (3) other firms making up Capital Transit Partners (CTP), a joint venture, was awarded the Preliminary Design and Project Management mandate by the City of Ottawa in support of the development of a 12.5 km (7.8 mile) Light Rail Transit (LRT) system to the city. It includes a 3.2 km (1.9 mile) tunnel under the downtown and conversion of the existing exclusive Bus Transitway from Blair Road in the East toTunneyai??i??s Pasture in the West, to LRT.Ai??The OLRTAi??projectAi??includes 13 stations, withAi??three in the mined tunnel portion, one in cut and cover and the remaining at grade within the existing transit corridor. The project also includes a maintenance and storage facility to accommodate the new fleet of LRT vehicles.

The Plan:

The Confederation Line will be a significant part of OC Transpoai??i??s integrated transit network. It will connect to the existing Bus Rapid Transitway at Tunneyai??i??s Pasture Station in the west and Blair Road in the east, and to the O-Train at Bayview Station. Together with a 2.5km downtown tunnel, this light rail system will move Ottawa faster and in more comfort than ever before.

Why light rail transit?

Increased Capacity

Increased Capacity
The Confederation Line will launch with a planned peak capacity of 10,700 passengers per hour in each direction, with potential to grow to over 18,000 passengers per hour in each direction by 2031.

Faster Commuting

Reliable Commuting
With a tunnel through the downtown core, travel time between Blair Road and Tunneyai??i??s Pasture Station will be less than 24 minutesai??i??any time of day. Time saved is projected to provide a net economic benefit to the City of $276 million between 2019 and 2031.

Lower Emissions

Lower Emissions
Replacing bus and car trips with the LRTai??i??s zero emission electric trains, means reducing carbon dioxide by approximately 38,000 tonnes per year by 2031ai??i??the equivalent of taking 7,300 cars off of our streets.

Quieter Neighborhoods

Quieter Neighbourhoods
Light rail vehicles are significantly quieter than diesel-powered buses. Replacing buses with light rail, plus an underground downtown corridor, means a reduction in both air and noise pollution.

Operational Savings

Operational Savings
By 2021, the Confederation Line will produce a savings of $16M a year. These savings will grow as ridership increases, given that the system provides significantly greater capacity at a lower unit cost than is possible with buses.

Encouraging Ridership

Encouraging Ridership
Studies suggest that the speed, comfort, and reliability of LRT will lead to a 9% increase in ridership. That means 4.6 million new trips in the first year aloneai??i??and fewer cars on our roads.

Creating Jobs

Creating Jobs
The investment in LRT is projected to generate more than 20,000 person-years of direct and indirect employment, and provide a total economic output of approximately $3.2 billion.


28 Responses to “Ottawa’s Transit system project”
  1. Trolley-Jolly says:

    The problem with LRT in North America is that it costs so much to build, why?

    Why a subway? Why all the bells and whistles?

    It seems that building any sort of rapid transit in Canada and the USA is a con game where tax monies are divided to friends and insiders on bloated transit projects.

  2. Rico says:

    The downtown tunnel in Ottawa is the most important difference with the existing bus way. It will make the system fast and reliable…and sucessful.

    Zwei replies: Such hubris Rico, if what you said were true, every new transit system in North America would be in a subway. I see the TransLink employees are up bright and early.

  3. Rico says:


    Ottawa will be a great system with lots of ridership….but the busway already had a lot of ridership. What the Ottawa LRT does is remove the bottle neck downtown…because it is in a tunnel. I doubt the LRT would have radically different ridership than the busway without a downtown tunnel. The tunnel is expensive, but worth it. Cheap is not always best if more expensive gets you enough extra riders.

    Vancouver has lower CAPITAL COSTS per rider than most of your favorite LRTs because of this (the excellent system in Calgary is an exception to this but you don’t actually seem like a big fan of Calgary for some reason). Vancouver has lower CAPITAL COSTS per rider than San Diego or Portland (because even though our system is more expensive we get way more ridership). At the same time there is better service, lower operating costs, better fare recovery (54% for San Diego LRT, 34.7% for Portland LRT, >100 for Skytrain), higher mode share in Vancouver (and increasing in Vancouver)…why should someone go cheap on the critical sections again? Looking at recent Calgary LRT they won’t go cheap on critical sections again.

    Zwei replies: No Rico Vancouver does not have has lower CAPITAL COSTS per rider, because it does not include debt servicing, today the SkyTrain mini-metro is subsidized by over $400 million by Victoria, before adding in the regional taxes.

  4. Haveacow says:

    A bus tunnel would not have removed the 180-200 buses per hour per direction (10500 pphpd) just shoved it all underground. The high conversion cost comes form the fact that much of the original concrete and bridge work is too old and in need of major upgrades or outright replacement. The stations were designed for the LRT cars of 30 + years ago not the huge monsters they have today, Ottawa’s LRV ‘S are 49 metres long per 4 unit section car. There will be 2 car trains at rush hour and when needed 3 car trains. The length of 3 car train is 147 metres. The platforms will be 150 metres long in the tunnel and 120 in the surface stations.

    The most important thing is it will finally free downtown of the kilometres long rush hour bus jams and conservatively save 16 million in operation costs assuming they don’t get rid of drivers and buses. 60,000,000 is saved if a third of all the buses and drivers caught in the downtown core are declared surplus which is very likely to happen. We won’t need a 1075 bus fleet anymore and the remaining two thirds of the buses that are currently caught in the downtown core can be redistributed to other routes that, till now can’t get more buses because they are stuck downtown. Currently, Ottawa has the largest transit ridership for a city its size in North America according to the APTA (American Public Transit Association, CUTA agrees as well). The ridership is approximately 325,000 passenger trips a day (565,000 boardings) and 100,000,000 trips a year.

    Zwei, is there any way to paste pictures to the comment section because I have pictures of what it looks like here in rush hour.

    Zwei replies: Post them to and they will be posted.

  5. Richard says:


    The other cities and province’s typically use debt financing as well. They will be paying off these expensive LRT projects for decades as well.

    Zwei replies: But they include debt servicing in their budgets, TransLink does not.

  6. Rico says:


    What are you smoking? I want some of whatever it is, must be good stuff. I could of course add debt servicing costs, of course I would have to add them to San Diego and Portland too…and we would be back in the same place. I doubt it would really matter though, Vancouvers costs per rider are so much lower than San Diegos and Portlands you could probably include it in the Vancouver costs and not the others and still be cheaper.

    Zwei replies: Actually no. Until 1992, when the GVRD released the Cost of Transporting People in the BC Lower Mainland, revealed that the Expo Line was being subsidized by $157 million annually, while at the same time, the BC Government and BC Transit, did not include this with SkyTrain debt calculations. This hidden subsidy now has surpassed $300 million and maybe as high as $400 million. In fact such claims are not worth the paper they are printed on and no one copies Vancouver and no one builds with SkyTrain. Live with it.

  7. Richard says:

    Uh no. For example, the $2.1 billion for the Ottawa LRT would not include debt servicing except probably interest during construction which would also be included in projects here.

  8. Rico says:


    I understand your concern a bit better after reading your response to Richard. The numbers I calculated were all year of expenditure trended to 2012 for comparison….so the individual accounting practices for how debt is tracked don’t affect them…..and Vancouver has way lower capital cost per rider than San Diego or Portland.

  9. Rico says:


    You are right the debt/subsidy thing is much clearer if you just use the Portland method (or newer San Diego segments) were the Federal government pays most of the capital costs……

  10. eric chris says:

    @ rico,
    Come on rico, you’re just making things up, again. Are TransLink’s transit costs less than Edmonton’s? Edmonton has had LRT since 1978 and has LRT in a tunnel down Jasper Avenue in the downtown – first and last. Edmonton will never build another tunnel – it costs too much to operate and killed the street life (according to Edmonton engineers who I have consulted in the past).

    Approximately 90% of the $1.5 billion annual operating budget of TransLink is for transit. In 2013, transit by TransLink costs about $1.4 billion to operate, and about $1 billion of the annual operating budget for transit is currently being subsidized by taxpayers. Many taxpayers pay about $1,000 annually (gas, property, parking… hydro taxes) to TransLink.

    Edmonton Transit System (ETS) in contrast has a modest $310 million annual budget to operate transit. Taxpayers in Edmonton pay about $200 to $300 annually through property taxes, only, and just $180 million of the ETS annual operating budget is subsidized by taxpayers. Both Metro Vancouver and Metro Edmonton have about the same population density (Metro Edmonton slightly less than Metro Vancouver) and transit costs are roughly proportional to the population served since the population densities are about the same in Metro Vancouver and Metro Edmonton. Right? Of course, right.

    2012 TransLink efficiency review – Table 4-1, page 19

    With ETS running transit in Metro Vancouver having double the population of Metro Edmonton, the annual operating cost of transit is about $620 million, about two times the operating budget of transit in Metro Edmonton. According to TransLink and you, transit by TransLink costs less than other transit and is world class.

    Fine, TransLink with an annual operating budget of about $1,400 million has misplaced $780 million in 2013 ($1,400 million – $620 million = $780 million) if this is the case, notwithstanding the higher winter costs in Metro Edmonton. Where did the missing $780 million go in 2013?

    2013 ETS operating budget = $309.5 million, page 314
    2013 TransLink operating budget ~ $1.4 billion on page 14
    2012 Metro Edmonton and Vancouver populations

    TransLink can’t explain where the missing $780 million went in 2013. Can you rico? You did say that transit by TransLink costs less to operate than transit with LRT, didn’t you?

    Remember, the population density in Metro Edmonton is less than Metro Vancouver’s; therefore, the cost to provide transit in Edmonton is more than here (on a per person basis). Also, Edmonton has severe winter costs which Vancouver does not. As a result, simply prorating transit based on population, is very conservative and TransLink is spending way more than $780 too much. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to my computer for a few days and might not be able to reply right away.

    Let me know where it went rico. You won’t and can’t reply to the question and will just go off on another tangent, making irrational and stupid statements like you always do.

  11. Rico says:

    Hi Eric,

    I have not calculated capital cost per rider for Edmonton but given the difference in yearly ridership and reasonably high cost of the segments I doubt I have to. Capital cost per rider is less in Vancouver.

    As for the rest of your post this is about the tenth time you have convieniently forgotten my replies to your previous posts. ETS serves just the CITY of Edmonton. Translink serves METRO Vancouver. Enough said…I assume you are bright enough to understand exactly why that explains everything. Don’t dissapoint…..

  12. zweisystem says:

    Your calculations are not valid rico because you fail to include the costs of the bus system directly associated with the mini-metro system, TransLink has admitted that over 80% (even higher for the Canada Line) of the mini-metro passenger first take a bus to the metro. This figure is more than double the industry standard. When you include the real costs of the SkyTrain system, it becomes a bad bargain and it seems transit planners elsewhere do not do their sums on the back of envelopes and understand what BC Transit and Translink have done to make the system look better than it is. The real cost of the three mini-metro lines today is well over $9 billion (from the Sauder School of Business at UBC), which compared to Calgary’s total cost of over $1 billion to date for their LRT, certainly makes LRT look like a better deal.

    You still do not address the fact that after being on the market for over 35 years only seven SkyTrain systems have been built; only three are seriously used for urban transit; and not one was allowed to compete against LRT.

    The fact is, no one seriously plans of builds with SkyTrain ART/ALRT today, even the Canada Line is not Skytrain and no one has copied that white elephant as a template for transit in their region. Vancouver’s regional transit planning is an orphan, laughed at by some, ignored my most. The only lesson Vancouver has to offer is “how not to build regional transit”.

  13. Rowley Bank says:

    Yet another series of carping, sniping comments about subways, from rico who seems to know about the cost of everything and the value of nothing…and who can’t and won’t reply to questions with a straight answer
    Hey rico, you must get so exited when subways or tunnels are mentioned….tell me are you really a troll who lives in a dark, damp tunnel in the bowels of the city?

  14. Haveacow says:

    Ottawa is not using debt financing at all for the LRT project. The federal and provincial cheques have been in a bank account for few years now (600,000,000 each). Since fiscal year 2009, the city has been putting away 90% of its gas tax money into the LRT account as well as a yearly budget fund. BY 2017 Ottawa will have the 900,000,000 needed already. Some bills are performanced based so its not likely to be paid out till 2019-20. I was told that as of the start of construction in late 2013, more than half of the city’s portion was already sitting in the bank collecting interest, ready to go. Ottawa has been like this with most transit projects since amalgamation in 2000-2001. They are big on not incurring extra debt. However before we get too cocky, now there is the Landowne Park (CFL stadium, private shopping mall and major urban park) project and that is 100% debt financing from the start. About 400,000,000 by the time the last interest payment is made on the 230,000,000 loan the city got for the project, is finally paid for in 2038. We are definitely not perfect here, when it comes to finance.

  15. Rico says:

    Hi Zwei,

    I don’t know enough about San Diego to be sure but if they are like pretty much all other cities they run their LRT as a trunk line and feed the buses into it. Calgary and Portland certainly do….just like Vancouver. What was your point again?

    Zwei replies; Rico, sorry no. Portland is building a network, so eventually the transit customer does not need to take bus as buses deter new ridership and are expensive to operate. Vancouver has twice the industry standard for transfers from bus to metro.

  16. Rico says:


    Apparently I read your posts too often and start glossing over the stinkers you keep telling. Total skytrain capital costs trended to 2012 dollars is about 6 billion (includes vehicles and for you also the station upgrades). Just because some shmuck googled RfV and quoted your number does not make it true. Costs for various phases are easily findable via google, don’t forget to add the extra train orders in 2009 and 2010 that were not part of associated construction. For the record the last line of Calgary’s C-train was 1.4billion by itself. Keep the stinkers coming. That said Calgary is a great system and good value for money….so is Vancouver.

    Zwei replies: Again Rico you are wrong, the UBC Sauder School of Business (not some schmuck as you put it) put the total cost of out R/T system at $9 billion, so be careful of your stinkers, because you are only trying to deceive. Isn’t it a sad comment that those who support LRT tell the truth because they have to defend what they say, while those who want SkyTrain lie with impunity because they refuse to defend what they say. No wonder TransLink is in a financial crisis, there is absolutely no honesty with transit planning.

  17. Haveacow says:

    I was reviewing some of the things that have been said regarding the need for parallel bus routes and feeder routes and I had the unique pleasure today of running into a old colleague of mine, I have not seen in years. I showed him the debate going on here and he is uniquely qualified on the subject because not only does he work with the YRT (York Region Transit) on the Viva BRT System but, I just found out he is ex employee of Translink. I personally have not wanted to way in because all sides are making good points and I have no desire to use the word stinker. I have known Jeff a long time and trust his opinion.

    There will never be enough rapid transit line density to reduce the need for feeders and transfers. Transfers and feeder routes do not deter or lower ridership at all, they can in fact grow them. I agree but, before you all flame me listen first.

    Poorly timed or outright missed transfers reduce ridership properly timed and relatively convenient ones can grow them. There will never be enough rapid transit line density in most parts of cities or most cities in general because of our collective fascination with nothing but low density development and thank heavens that is finally changing. Our cities simply cannot afford it anymore its to expensive to service vs. the low amount of taxes you actually get for them.

    Feeders are used to intensify ridership to increase passenger use of very expensive rapid transit infrastructures. Yes they can slow trips down, excessive route concentration always does and it can significantly add to operating costs. Without it however in most cases, there would never be enough ridership for any rail line, light rail, light metro or subway, considering the density of most North American cities. Even the best lines heavily rely on feeder route concentration. It has been proven only with excessive concentration do you get significant customer loss, anything else are drivers who want quick trips like in a private car and complain when transit doesn’t deliver those quick trips. Transit by its collective nature may only be able to do this where rider density can make it happen otherwise, if you need to get to somewhere in 10 minutes and you are many kilometres away in another low density area better get in that car. Yes, sometimes low density areas properly set up with the right type of service can do it but, they always require a level of subsidy that most taxpayers rarely put up with or it has a very limited schedule.

    It is correct Vancouver has a very high rate of transfers from buses and very low local trip use rate. Vancouver could significantly shrink the distance between many of its stations and it would not severely effect travel time but, could greatly increase the amount of local short distance trips and reduce the need for some of the parallel bus service. Jeff pointed out that, the expensive above ground right of way required for Skytrain causes the cost of stations to be so prohibitive that, a greater number of stations to grow local short distance trips would likely increase the cost of construction so much that many of the lines here would be either significantly shorter or not built at all. The fact that Skytrain has been mostly built on above grade right of way means that its designers never felt the need to stick to a specific street or highway for most of its routes. This means in many cases Skytrain is taking a far more direct trip to a specific location. This decreases trip times in most cases however, it adds a significant operating cost to the feeder bus service. A true single parallel bus line is impractical or impossible with this type of arrangement so many tangent lines or several partially parallel bus lines are needed. These operating costs for feeders are starting to get excessive as the system grows and the Skytrain routes continually jump streets and make cross country turns that make it very expensive to add surface feeder bus service. Jeff pointed out that in the early design of the Evergreen Line there was a directive to keep the it as strait as possible to reduce the amount of raised right of way and its associated capital cost.

    Jeff made a point to me for those who think its cheaper to operate than Light Rail better listen, it is a complex issue and not that cut and dry. When you compare just operator (driver) costs yes Skytrain is cheaper than Light Rail however, maintenance and spare parts are significantly higher than LRT lines especially surface lines. The raised ROW used by Skytrain, significantly adds to time and lack of access when a line is down because of maintenance issues. In fact, because of Canadian Law requiring tunnels to have certain number of emergency access points and a large number of equipment access points maintenance in the tunnel sections of the Skytrain system can be far faster and easier than its raised rights of way. The Skytrain viaducts can be quite crowded when a work team needs to fix something and great care has to be taken when equipment is put down by track workers and put in a safe place for a later step in the maintenance process. Great care has to exercised by workers, a guy putting a spike maull down carelessly, accidentally knocked it off the viaduct to the ground below, it thankfully landed on a patch of weeds and caused no damage but, it could have been different. The oddity of the spare parts and the sheer lack of commonality with other rail systems greatly increases cost. Especially the propulsion equipment. As any rail line ages the maintenance costs go up, any new line should have lower costs than a older one. Jeff’s simple statement was that, your system is not ageing well. The odd technology the line employs makes this worse. Is it fair then to compare new LRT lines to your ageing system Jeff said probably no, but there are so few examples of newer versions and the ones that exist in the North American context are not that similar or very successful for that matter. In fact, many new LRT lines are cheaper than Skytrain to operate but that’s because they are new and their simple easier to operate technology gives them an advantage.

    Zwei replies: Very interesting stuff indeed, but I have one quibble with your statement; “operator (driver) costs yes Skytrain is cheaper than Light Rail however,….” Let us not forget that SkyTrain has over 170 full time attendants (an unknown number of part time attendants)which actually makes the employee costs higher for SkyTrain than compared to LRT. This debate is not new but about a decade ago, TransLink admitted that the operating costs for the Expo Line was about 60% higher when compared to Calgary’s C-Train.

  18. Haveacow says:

    I mentioned the attendants too, Jeff’s answer was, way less benefits than operators and much less powerful union lobby.

    Zwei replies; I’m afraid Jeff takes too much of a cavalier attitude with the attendants issue, as average salary is over $0k a year with benefits and I think he confuses wage scales back eat with here. I restate, TransLink admitted some years ago that the cost to operate the Expo Line was about 60% higher than the Calgary C-Train. An American transit specialist told me 8 years ago or so, that the SkyTrain light-metro system proved to be very expensive to operate and was one of the reasons why no one down South Wanted it. The JFK ART system was a private deal between the Port authority (the same one which is involved in the lane closing scandal), Bombardier, and the Federal Government, who supplied cheap loans and not privy to US federal or state scrutiny.

  19. eric chris says:

    Sorry, please replace my previous post with this one:

    I’m clearing discussing things which are beyond your comprehension and over your head. You’re simply unable to understand and communication with you is impossible. If you enroll in some advanced math courses to understand Green’s theorem which is necessary for you to grasp my point of view requiring insight into applied calculus, you won’t have to keep avoiding questions with irrelevant comments to divert attention away from the questions (common tactic used by TransLink whenever it is caught lying).

    You merely rely on propaganda from TransLink to distort reality to your liking. I understand your feeble point of view, very well. You just don’t understand mine You gotta get to get it and you don’t:

    Anyhow, let’s dumb things down for you. Even though Metro Edmonton (ME) has a low population concentration (population density) relative to Metro Vancouver (MV) and ETS recovers less money from transit users than TransLink does, let’s correlate the operating costs of ME to MV based on the service area for the CITY [of Edmonton] and METRO [Vancouver] which you put in annoying and shouting “capital letters” to emphasize your superior intellect.

    We really can’t do this as ETS is far more efficient than TransLink and you can’t just use service area to compare the operating costs of ME to the operating costs of MV. Let’s ignore this, however, and do it your way.

    TransLink has a service area of 1,800 km2 and ETS has a service area of 700 km2. This is from Table 4-1 on page 19 from the Shirocca Consulting report of 2012:

    Metro Vancouver has a service area which is 2.57 (1,800 km2 / 700 km2 = 2.57) times the service area of ME. So, TransLink requires 2.57 more drivers, buses… trains than ME. If ME were relocated to the west coast, based on the 1,800 km2 service area in Metro Vancouver served by TransLink, ETS with LRT could run transit for $797million in MV ($310 million operating cost of ETS in 2013 times 2.57 = $797 million).

    In other words, even this dumbed down comparison shows that the unexplained operating costs in 2013 for TransLink are $603 million ($1,400 million – $797 million = $603 million). If sky train is automated and has the low operating costs according to you and TransLink, where did this money go, rico?

    Answer the question this time or don’t bother replying, I’m not gong to waste any more time replying. One final thing, don’t just assume – only idiots assume.

  20. eric chris says:

    It is good to see things from both sides. At the end of the day, if it were your money, Jeff’s money or anyone else’s money – you are not going to build a sky train line which is definitely more expensive to build (raised on concrete supports every ~30 metres or buried, mostly) compared with an inexpensive at grade rail line.

    Jeff is deluded about sky train having lower operating costs, ever, new or old, compared with LRT Even if he is a nice guy, Jeff is an ex-TransLink man, after all. Who wants to admit that he was ever wrong or that he was part of team loser?

    Sky train (Expo Line and Millennium Line) employs 537 very pricey union employees. That is, about 10 people per kilometer of sky train line. Sky train is hardly less expensive that the tram or LRT line with fewer operating personnel. In addition you have bus drivers for the buses which match 80% of capacity of the sky train lines to get riders to the sky train lines.

    Maybe there will be a strike soon to remind everyone how little effect transit has on traffic here. That would take the wind out of TransLink asking for more money to “reduce road congestion”. In 2001, there was a strike for four months in the winter and everyone was predicting chaos! Traffic moved better without transit and the air quality improved without noxious transit buses. I remember driving down West 4th Avenue in record time during the transit strike without the stinking buses cutting me off every block.

    Finally, the Canada Line is run by SNCL. I have no idea how many people TransLink pays to run it – in the hundreds for sure. I appreciate what you are saying. I can’t buy it.

  21. Rico says:


    From ‘On Track: The SkyTrain Story”, it’s a book published by TransLink so I am sure you feel it is a part of the ‘Skytrain conspiracy,’ I also added vehicle procurement when it was not part of construction and station upgrades (even though they are not done yet). You could also add in the Evergreen line (also not included) and still not come anywhere near 9 billion. Feel free to show which projects I have missed or where the numbers are wrong (with source please):

    Phase I (Original Expo Line)
    Length: 21.4km
    Started Construction: 1981
    In Service: 1986
    Cost: $854.3m (1986)
    Cost: $1,601.15m (2012)
    Cost per km: $74.8m (2012)

    Phase II (Columbia to Scott Road)
    Length: 3.1km
    Started Construction: 1986
    In Service: 1990
    Cost: $179m (1990)
    Cost: $281.69m (2012)
    Cost per km: $90.9m (2012)

    Phase III (Scott Road to King George)
    Length: 4.4km
    Started Construction: 1990
    In Service: 1994
    Cost: $148m (1994)
    Cost: $207.48m (2012)
    Cost per km: $47.1m (2012)

    Phase IV/V (Millennium Line)
    Length: 20.5km
    Started Construction: 1999
    In Service: 2002
    Cost: $1,167m (2002)
    Cost: $1,443.21 (2012)
    Cost per km: $70.4m (2012)

    Canada Line
    Length: 19.2km
    Started Construction: 2005
    In Service: 2009
    Cost: $2,000m (2009)
    Cost: $2,136.28m (2012)
    Cost per km: $111.3m (2012)

    Station upgrade costs $164million (2012ish cost)
    Extra train orders 2009: $113million
    Extra train orders 2010: $42million

    I am conifident in your ability to yell ‘Conspiracy’ and not produce any other numbers with sources.

    Zwei replies: These are direct costs and doesn’t include debt servicing or the provincial subsidy, which was in 1992, $157 million annually and today over $300 million! Add interest and proper calculations and one hits $9 billion all too quickly. You are much too cavalier with your numbers as it is the taxpayer who has to pay your “non-costs’. Sorry, I will take the UBC Sauder School of Business accounting, rather than TransLink’s.

    Again Rico, no one builds with SkyTrain today and until you are honest with yourself, you cannot be honest here.

  22. zweisystem says:

    SkyTrain’s 198/89 operating budget was $27,658,789 out of a total budget of $109,279,884.
    This was from a letter by Rick Krowchuck, Executive VP Finance.

    The 1990 operating costs for Calgary’s C-Train was $15,335,000.
    This was from a letter by Niel Mckendrick, Calgary Transit.

  23. Rico says:

    Zwei, you are partially right. Those numbers don’t include debt servicing. Of coarse that is true for any place that has debt. If they pay for their transit system in cash but use that debt room to pay for a convention center the end result is the same. So except for cities that are debt free (can’t think of any can you?) debt servicing is not relavent when comparing across systems….ie debt servicing will be about the same proportionally in Portland as Vancouver (with differences in rate based on credit rating and timing).

    1989 really? I am 100% certain you could find the 2012 or 2013 numbers instead od 25year old numbers from when Skytrain was less than 3yrs. Want to bet you don’t post those numbers?

    Zwei replies: Well Rico, here is the tale. In the 80’s after SkyTrain was built, BC Transit released budgets, monies spent, but never directly released the real costs.

    At a public meeting, the late Des Turner, formerly of Citizens for Rapid Transit, cornered then minister responsible for transit, Grace McCarthy and demanded the real numbers. It happened that news reporters were taping the incident and in a few weeks Mr. turner received the information he wanted.

    As an aside Calgary Transit freely released their operating costs with no problem, yet with BC Transit it took 2 years!

    What we get from TransLink today is carefully crafted financial statements, but they do not address Skytrain or the Canada Line directly. We don’t know today’s operating costs nor how many people actually work for the Rapid Transit Company.

    A chap in the USA, who wishes to remain nameless because he does work for TransLink, has indicated to me that my figures are rather conservative and American transit planners are well aware of the large capital and operating costs of Skytrain and why there is no interest for it in the States. In fact, Seattle’s LRT has more in common with Vancouver’s SkyTrain than with LRT, except it runs at grade through a largely black/Hispanic neighourhood.

    Rico, you never answer the question; “Why after being on the market for 35 years, only seven Skytrain systems have been built and none sold for about a decade?” Could it be you know the answer but are afraid to admit it.

  24. Rico says:


    Care to adjust your numbers for level of service?

  25. zweisystem says:

    Memo to Rico please answer the question; ““Why after being on the market for 36 years, only seven Skytrain systems have been built and none sold for about a decade?”

  26. Rico says:


    Irony of ironies two seconds of google produces a budget for translinks rail division (includes some money for WCE, compass and station upgrades but close enough) but I could not find a similar breakdown for Calgary. Maybe you can find it for me? Yes I expect it is less than Vancouverbecause Calgary is in a league by itself in North
    America for low cost rail….no Vancouver would not be the same if we had gone LRT.

    Do we really have to go over this again Zwei. There are tonnes of new systems like Turin or Coppenhagen with smaller automated trains. Do I really need to print out the list again? Except for you no one cares if it is a Bombardier product and very few care if it has a LIM motor or not.

    Zwei replies: Sorry Rico, you haven’t answered the question. Transit authorities do care and don’t buy with SkyTrain. Now why is that? Why hasn’t SNC or Bombardier allowed SkyTrain to compete against LRT? Hmmmm. could it be that SkyTrain is not anywhere as good as you say it is? Could it be that Translink is telling big porkies about SkyTrain and LRT?

  27. eric chris says:

    @ rico,
    When all the costs in Edmonton were adjusted for the area served, the ridership was implicitly adjusted, as well. If you think that the ridership isn’t properly taken into account in this way, how about you provide the correction factor for ridership and explain your logic and math for the perusal of everyone who reads the posts here?

    As you know, ridership merely reduces the subsidy paid by taxpayers. Ridership as a percentage of the population in Edmonton is about the same as in Vancouver, within about a few percent, 1% to 3%. TransLink provides almost no transit service to Surrey, Delta, Port Coquitlam… North Vancouver.

    For TransLink to claim that it serves all of the Metro Vancouver region with transit is laughable. In truth, the real service area served by TransLink only includes Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond – to any extent. Vancouver receives the bulk of the transit service. This isn’t fair for you or anyone living outside Vancouver where I live. Vancouver has about the same population as the population of Edmonton.

    Last Saturday I had to go to Staples on UBC campus to pick up a new printer. I could have paid $2.75 for the 40 minute wait and ride on transit for the return trip – living close to three transit routes, including the fast 99. Instead, I paid 50 cents for the coin parking and used up another few cents in gas to drive to Staples. It took me 15 minutes, round trip. Transit is too expensive and takes too long if you have a car. Furthermore, transit is impractical most of the time if you aren’t a government worker who doesn’t have a life.

    As you dodged the question of the missing $603 million, I take it that you tacitly agree that TransLink with creative accounting techniques is misappropriating about $600 million to $800 million annually. Ian Jarvis who is the CEO of TransLink is an inept accountant who knows nothing about transit operations and is fudging the number to hide the millions of dollars squandered by TransLink.

    Anyhow, I’m too busy to keep you entertained over the next week or two and can’t reply for a while. When my post on how the ridership to UBC can be almost doubled and the transit time reduced for transit users if the buses are reconfigured to operate in two loops, I’m looking forward to finding out what you think.

    Chow, rico. Here is a cool song to keep you entertained in the meantime:

  28. Rico says:


    Do you even read my replies?

    ‘There are tonnes of new systems like Turin or Coppenhagen with smaller automated trains. Do I really need to print out the list again? Except for you no one cares if it is a Bombardier product and very few care if it has a LIM motor or not.’ If that is not enough for you I can go to Wiki and print out a large list for you.

    Zwei replies: Strange that these cities have built a light-metro, then now plan for LRT. 2 or 3 light metro does not translate into tonnes.