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Group lobbies for SkyTrain rather than light rail

with 25 comments

Group lobbies for SkyTrain rather than light rail

This is bizarre. Accepted wisdom is that light rail is cheaper than SkyTrain. SkyTrain Mainly because SkyTrain is grade separated, and the costs of a structure are way more than putting tracks in the streets. Of course, most light rail schemes started by making use of existing rail tracks, and building short links to make service more convenient especially in City Centres. (NottinghamNottingham tram at Trent University, Manchester and Croydon all follow this pattern).

Mazur also worried about the effects of street-level rapid transit on vehicle traffic,

Actually that is kind of the point. He tries to tie it in to fire trucks, but the hidden agenda is what it always is – the desire to ensure freedom for cars. In most of Europe, cities which had retained streetcars played around with “pre-metro” for a while (AntwerpAntwerp tram for example) putting the street cars into tunnels in city centres prior to planned later extensions into full blown metros. Most abandoned this approach, as cars flooded into city streets as the trams were taken out, making not only the congestion worse, but reducing the quality of life in city centres with noise, fumes and danger. Perhaps some of the nicest new LRT systems are in France (Grenoble, Strasbourg Tramway - Bernard Chartreau photoStrasbourg, Marseilles, Lyon) which are nearly all at grade and often in car free streets. The Swiss,Basle tram of course, stuck to their streetcars throughout.

SkyTrain is very nearly unique. It is only found in Canada (Scarborough – where it is going to be scrapped) and the US (Detroit, and a slightly larger version feeding JFK airport). Originally conceived as a maglev people mover, the innovations when it was launched were linear induction motors (LIM) and driverless operation (except in Scarborough). Small volume production and the use of proprietary technology means higher costs, as there is not the ability to tap into volume production. Many systems take standard cars common to many cities. Calgary LRT 7th AveCalgary and Edmonton both went for on street running using high level cars (standard German Duwag cars initially – popular with US cities too) and platforms. Most comparative studies show that LRT can be affordable, provided the proponents resist the inevitable scope creep that happens once local politicians with an edifice complex get involved. Docklands LRT(The original Docklands Light Rail was developed as a turn key contract for UKP75m, mainly built on existing rail rights of way and structures and using off the shelf German trams. It is now growing rapidly along new tracks.)

That being said, there is a lot of merit tying LRT into redevelopment. Docklands served this function so well it had to be expanded almost as soon as it was opened, and a new deep level tube line was also added to the area. Portland has made a success of developing station precincts in suburbs that were formerly lifeless dormitories, and has also added city centre street cars to regional rapid transit. The TriCities are already developed as car oriented suburbs, although Port Moody has added some high rises in its downtown, as has Coquitlam. But the key to making sustainable suburbs is to put the train in first, and put up with operating losses for the years it takes for the city to grow up around it. This is the way that most cities grew in the pre-automobile era. The streetcar and subway companies lost money on their operations, but made out on the property development. We do not have this ability here now.

Actually, when it was laid out Coquitlam left provision for an “intermediate capacity transit system” (i.e. technology not specified) with provision for a right of way along Guildford Way to City Hall. When the the province attempted to extend SkyTrain on this route the people who had moved in, knowing the SkyTrain was planned, all howled in protest and got it moved back to Barnet Highway. The same thing happened when the TTC tried to use its reserved right of way into Malvern to extend the Scarborough RT, and the extension was abandoned, contributing to the rapid decline of the area into one of Canada’s most dangerous places, though that may have been reversed recently.

What we have here, folks, is a pattern. And that is, once again, “not in my backyard.” No doubt this group will gather adherents to their misguided ideas, and the end result could be the Evergreen line (one of the few properly planned rapid transit proposals in this region) goes on the back burner once again.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 21, 2006 at 9:31 am

25 Responses

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  1. Hi! A great blog. I’ll be bookmarking it. I’ve been looking for more informed (and pro-public transport) opinion for some time. I live in Stuttgart in Germany, where the tram system is almost completely rebuilt into Stadtbahn (I think what in the English world is called “Pre metro” but in the centre the city is pedestrianised, so no cars or trams.

    Andy Evans

    September 22, 2006 at 2:28 am

  2. My concerns about the Evergreen Line as an LRT are:

    1) Mode changes – LRT, to SkyTrain, to SkyTrain (downtown, or Surrey bound). SkyTrain from Coquitlam would continue right through to VCC (Granville eventually)
    2) The $$$ already spent on integration of SkyTrain at Lougheed station
    3) Travel time
    4) Attraction of new riders

    From what I read in TransLink’s own reports, SkyTrain is the best system for this purpose, its just too expensive.


    September 22, 2006 at 6:39 am

  3. 1) Absolutely. Changes in level are the bane of inter-modal transfer, and are a weakness of all grade separated systems. Most cities recognise this, and continue to operate surface systems alongside the grade separated ones. London, for example, has always had a good bus system, and has recently been strengthening it, as the underground is increasingly crowded, and not just in peak periods. Many people don’t like travelling in tunnels, and dislike standing on transit. My Mum reports from her recent trip to Paris that the bus system there is fantastic. She had not been there for some years, and now she has new titanium knee joints was a bit worried about stairs. The bus system worked really well, and she always got a seat, and got see parts of Paris she had missed before when she took the Metro.

    In Vancouver, the transit planners refuse to provide what they call “competing” bus services on SkyTrain routes. This is largely due to concerns that ridership projections that they made for SkyTrain will be reduced. In fact, the market for buses is rather different to Sky Train, but because we are so proud of our “integrated system” that is impossible to demonstrate. (Also the data set is inadequate but that’s another issue).

    I personally doubt that the SkyTrain will be extended from VCC to UBC. But that is clearly what is needed – a through service to the major market. It is just not affordable.

    2) Sunk costs, and ones that do not count in this sort of exercise. Just like the costs of ripping out the recent improvements on No 3 Road (for the 98 B-Line) don’t count for the Canada Line.

    The very odd design of Lougheed station derives from decisions made to lower the cost of the Millenium Line. That station was never planned as part of a complete system. East West travel has always been the most important flow through this point of the network, but all the plans were to go through Port Moody rather than Maillardville. The link south through New Westminster is only necessary since the Millennium Line does not have its own maintenance facility, and trains need to access the one at Edmonds.

    I would prefer to see cross platform transfers from LRT to SkyTrain here, which would be much better than stairs, escalators or lifts.

    3) In vehicle time on a surface rapid transit system can be comparable to SkyTrain. It just depends on how intersections and corridor separation are handled. Signal priorities and rolled curbs do quite well on the Harbourfront/Spadina LRT in Toronto – although I admit there speeds are slower. But total travel time, especially for short trips, or those that involve and change in level, is comparable. And if you take the inconvenience factor into account, as transportation models do, valuing wait times and transfer times at double in vehicle time, the sums work out in surface LRT’s favour.

    4) What attracts new riders is convenience and quality of service. Yes, SkyTrain seems to attract younger males in ways that buses can’t. But cities that have surface LRT do have reasonable attraction rates. The greatest effect is what happens to car travel. SkyTrain does not impede cars at all. Some surface LRT systems, expecially in Europe, are designed to keep cars out of central cities. Cars can get in, but must go out the way they came. They cannot drive through. We still seem to be stuck on not delaying cars – and even where there have been small victories they have to be refought – Granville St in downtown. It is the relative speed of transit vs the car that matters, not the absolute speed of the transit system. If the trams can get through, while the otehr traffic is held up, you will attract lots of new riders. Modelling for bus only lanes on South Granville demonstrated that unequivocally, but the City of Vancouver Traffic Engineers killed the idea long before it went to public consultation.

    SkyTrain is not “the best”. It has its costs and benefits. The conclusion needs to be drawn by fair comparison of the costs and benefits of the alternatives. The planning studies for the Evergreen Line did this. That is very unusual in BC.

    Stephen Rees

    September 22, 2006 at 9:44 am

  4. Thanks, Andy. I will go do some more research on Stuttgart, but if you want to chip in with any information you have on the transit system and car free town centres would be very welcome here.

    Stephen Rees

    September 22, 2006 at 10:11 am

  5. Transrapid (Which I think is the same as Skytrain has had a major accident in Germany last week. Full news on the link above.

    Andy Evans

    September 22, 2006 at 10:21 pm

  6. Sorry. Here’s the link again:

    Essentially the train crashed on test killing all on board.

    Andy Evans

    September 22, 2006 at 10:24 pm

  7. No, there is very little in common between SkyTrain and TransRapid. I did see news about the crash, which was very shocking.

    Stephen Rees

    September 23, 2006 at 5:41 am

  8. What is fundamentally missing is a tiny bit of simple logic from the streetcar mentality and that is drawn from US Reports “The trick to having the pubic become adopters of a technology for transit is a very simple one. Make it fast and efficient and get people where they’re going at a minimum, as fast or faster as if they drove.” Street cars because that is what they are average 7 minutes a trip slower then Skytrain.

    Originally estimated to cost 210 million, the fast ferries were cancelled with a cost overrun of 234 million, the current project cost overrun of the Evergreen Street Cars exceeds 350 million, already consumed 50 million, in need of 20 million for the first phase of the detailed design, the board of directors under governance review, project funding unsecured, slipped two years to completion it continues unabated spending down a path to a point of no recovery and already 16 to 33% higher then costs of Skytrain subject to which corridor is used and for what, a Provincial Government power play by the Minister on the Gateway project.

    NOTWITHSTANDING that on February 26th 2004 the director of Economic and Strategic Development for Port Moody confirmed Port Moody’s Council preferred Skytrain alignment and I quote “ A recent survey confirms that an overwhelming majority of Tri-City residents believe Skytrain should be built down the Coquitlam Lougheed corridor. “None of the respondents in the survey were told the Lougheed corridor was a less expensive alternative, yet nearly all selected this location anyhow,” The random telephone survey included a total of 240 persons, 110 respondents from Coquitlam, 70 from Port Coquitlam and 60 from Port Moody.

    NOTWITHSTANDING in response to the vague question in a Port Moody referendum that only asked the Question: Are you in favour of a Skytrain route through Moody Centre? 1805 people, of Port Moody cast a decision that provided the excuse for Translink to strangle the future transit infrastructure from Port Moody to Maple Ridge, protect the West Coast Express Contract, ensure the Provincial Government’s Gateway Project and expand the Vancouver Skytrain line.

    NOTWITHSTANDING that on Dec 15, 2004 the Coquitlam Council forwarded the councils position on following resolution that included the following recognition: WHEREAS citizens of Coquitlam have responded in large numbers that they are uninterested in a compromise “at grade system” and would prefer waiting until the NE Sector receives sufficient funding to complete the elevated Millennium Line from Lougheed Mall to Coquitlam Town Centre;

    NOTWITHSTANDING Translink’s Consultant reports stating “Skytrain ranks the highest for all environmental criteria, including air, water and green zone impacts.
    Traffic impacts studies favour Skytrain, which is grade separated. LRT may face service integration risks, transit users will realize the highest net user benefits on Skytrain irregardless of the route and annualized operating costs for Skytrain are $4.30 per passenger, $7.00 per passenger for LRT which are estimated be $9.00.

    NOTWITHSTANDING that the current Coquitlam City Planning manager while City Planning Manager of Port Moody acknowledged in a October 15 2004 Press Release “The train will “follow the rules of the road,” including speed limits, but will be faster than cars because the driver can control traffic signals. There are 23 intersections on the route and 18 have some form of transit priority, from extending the green light (a “soft pre-empt”) to changing the light to green (“full priority”). And I summarize further “but will be more then 6 minutes per trip slower then Skytrain and more then 9 minutes per trip slower then Skytrain if the SE corridor was used”.

    A study of 10 North American cities including Canada of all aspects of safety issues pertaining to LRT specifically points to the issues of semi-exclusive rights of way and the higher incidence of accident severity between low speed and high speed [55 kmh] intersections, of note at the high speed intersection crossings 29% of all pedestrian/LRT accidents and 17% of all vehicular accidents resulted in fatalities, the avg. accidents per LRT system are 20.9 and 0.17 per crossing per year. We therefore can assume 3.91 accidents per year, last week in Calgary a cyclist has hit by a streetcar, accordingly there then is a legal question, if you knowingly implement a system that has a higher incidence of risk operationally and environmentally to the citizens and region, is there not a higher degree of liability risk?

    Douglas A. Mazur

    September 27, 2006 at 8:09 pm

  9. Would you please provide a source for the quotation in your first paragraph. Preferably as a URL that we can follow to establish the credibility of this assertion.
    I would have thought it was obvious that it is the relative overall trip speed (transit vs car) that determines mode choice. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the concept of “generalised cost”? A range of factors are taken into account, including perceptions, of issues such as convenience, uncertainty and so on. The probability of using a car is determined largely by car ownership (once you have made a significant up front investment, it makes sense to utilise it as much as possible) and the availability of parking (if your employer gives you a prestigious free parking spot in a prominent place, you will probably want to leave your status symbol parked there as often as possible). The amount of mode shifting that takes place is marginal (in the economists’ sense of the word), but that is all that matters because that is how you free up road space – which, of course, quickly fills up with traffic again unless there is some kind of throttle mechanism (traffic management or congestion charging).
    Your examples might be more convincing if they were drawn from more than North American examples. (And again if sources were provided that could be followed up. “A study of” is not a citation.) Collisions between road users and rail vehicles at level crossings are almost always due to the road user ignoring the fact that trains have priority, since they take much longer to stop than raod vehicles. Individul incidents, such as your Calgary cyclcist, are simply anecdotes that add little to the quality of your argument.
    You should be aware that the Evergreen Line is the only rapid transit investment in this region that received an unbiased, open and professional assessment of both the route and technology. Quite unlike the “studies” that were trotted out to support foregone conclusions as happened with the Expo, Millennium and Canada Lines.

    Stephen Rees

    September 28, 2006 at 8:31 am

  10. A comprehensive report from California’s Orange County Transit Authority studied 12 cities with light rail over an 18-year period and the statement was drawn from that report and a URL plus the document name will be provided in fact a full bibliography will be provided but what I am speaking drawing from at this moment is from:

    The Consultants North East Sector Rapid Transit Alternatives Project Phase II report dated March 31st 2004.

    · GVTA Board of Directors Report titled “Results of Planning & Consultation Process & Recommended Draft Essential Elements presented by Glen Leicester Vice President Planning Translink October 7th 2004.

    · The City of Vancouver January 5th 2004 engineering department definition of the scope of the work council update

    · Transit Cooperative Research Program, TCRP Report 64, Light Rail Service Pedestrian & Vehicular Safety, This report was published by the: US Transportation Research Board National Research Council Washington DC 10/19/04

    As to the reference of an unbiased decision process then why are we doing it and how did we get here, the how and the detailed issues surrounding ephinal decisions we will leave for further diligence, conclusions and a recommendation by counsel, but the why, there are three reasons, and each by itself should be so disturbing.

    The first is contained in the Translink board of director’s report and I quote “Thus while a SkyTrain might attract the most riders, a large number of these would not be riders who are new to transit. This finding is also confirmed by opinion research that suggests that up to 30 percent of WCE riders may divert to a SkyTrain line.” It should be noted that only 10% of the WCE traffic actually comes from Abbotsford and Mission while the operating entity lost $13,000,000 last year

    It is to protect the WCE/CPR contract, under an agreement that has been held confidential despite more then 33 attempts to disclose. In addition to the high track charges, WCE spent $63 million on infrastructure upgrades in order to get the service started in 1995. CPR’s freight customers use the infrastructure paid for by WCE on behalf of taxpayers, further increasing the benefits (CPR realizes from the commuter rail authority. West Coast Express ridership has increased by 60 percent since opening day, and operating costs have been substantially reduced, but the commuter rail authority cannot afford to increase service at the rates currently charged by CPR.

    Documents recently made public show that West Coast Express pays CP Rail $8.3 million a year to use its track and crew – which is one-third of the commuter rail’s annual budget. It has been reported “90 per cent of the $8 million in fares collected annually from about 8,000 daily West Coast Express passengers go to CP Rail. With contract expiration, they do not want competition from Skytrain and extension to Maple Ridge; they cannot in any manner afford to lose ridership because of a potential guaranteed minimum ridership condition in the contract. There would be no need to renew the contract or at best take the leverage of the contractual bargaining away from the CPR. At minimum, the requirement for commercial confidentiality where public funds are involved is unreasonable. After all of its investment into the West Coast Express it must remembered that The Canadian Transportation Act allows a railway to discontinue service after following a process under which it advertises its intent to do so,

    The second is a political squeeze play by the Provincial government counting on council acquiescence by holding back on funding while positioning regional councils so that they are happy to receive second best, all to guarantee the Gateway Project. Councils, because of their failure to take a hard stand that all or nothing is better then streetcars allowed themselves to be manipulated, all they had to do was say no in November 2004.

    The third is our belief that Translink’s emerging priority will be the extension of a link between the Broadway Station and the Canada Line at Cambie and then on to UBC to relieve congestion on the primary line, in return we get a streetcar

    Simply what it means is the actual plans for street cars in this region have had more to do with satisfying political considerations, Machiavellian manipulations of an agenda and a CPR contract than with relieving congestion, reducing pollution, and the provisioning of a system that people will use. Good public policy requires properly defining problems, developing solutions and connecting objectives with spending. Building light rail in the Tri Cities certainly does not fit the description of good public policy.

    Douglas A. Mazur

    September 28, 2006 at 3:02 pm


    Baltimore 29.8 0.04
    Calgary 12.2 0.26
    Dallas 6.0 0.09
    Denver 34.0 0.25
    Edmonton 1.7 0.21
    Los Angeles 50.7 0.38
    Portland 20.8 0.03
    Sacramento 20.5 0.16
    San Diego 28.5 0.14
    San Jose 25.2 0.07

    Average 20.9 0.17

    Douglas A. Mazur

    September 28, 2006 at 3:03 pm

  12. As earlier responses I have posted here state, Translink has a policy of not competing with existing rapid transit services. “Abstraction” from West Coast Express is seen as a problem, just as running buses along SkyTrain routes is said to be counterproductive. I disagree. I think bus, Skytrain and commuter rail serve different but overlapping markets. Some “abstraction” from WCE might be no bad thing, if there are no seats to be had, because of occupation by short distance riders. Freeing them up could attract newer, longer distance trips. The passengers who switch away from WCE to the new RT have decided that this gives them a better service, why stop them?

    I am not about to break any commercial confidences about the WCE contract with CP – and others (even if I could). But Doug Kelsey’s campaign to have some of the contract terms changed through federal legislation revealed a lot about the way that CP exploited Glen Clark’s rush to get WCE going. But there is nothing unusual in that. A long contract dispute with BNSF held up the extension to VCC. GO Transit has been held to ransom by CN and CP for access to their tracks, and every extension proposed to that system is bedevilled by the railways demanding all sorts of infrastructure upgrades that they had manged to do without until Government (with its seemingly bottomless pockets) came to call.

    Certainly rapid transit along Broadway should be the region’s highest priority. That was always the case – but first the Expo line had to be extended, and then the Millenium Line was built to chase its own tail. And now, thanks to a change in government and the one man campaign by Ken Dobell, the Canada Line is being built. But for a while there, BC Transit (as it then was) was preparing for the creation of the GVTA by following the regional growth strategy (LRSP) which calls for rapid transit along Broadway, Lougheed Highway and out to Coquitlam. If we had not gone for SkyTrain for the Millennium Line and tunnels for the Canada Line we could have had a complete regional rapid transit network by now for the same price. Slower than SkyTrain, sure. And getting in the way of traffic growth (good) but producing a far better transit system than we have now, and increasing mode share of noncar modes, which is supposed to be the objective. And that is achieved by have a better relative speed for some trips (not all by any means) and better service quality (multiple factors) overall.

    The decisions on the Evergreen Line (route, technology) were made some time ago. The delay in securing adequate funding – because as always the amount in the transportation budget only allows at most one big project in BC at a time – calls these decsions into question. Once again a great opportunity to do the right thing looks like being lost in political bickering. Meanwhile the world warms and the auto makers and oil drillers rub their hands with glee, as we argue among ourselves.

    Have a nice day.

    Stephen Rees

    September 29, 2006 at 11:19 am

  13. We agree on many things but simply, the facts are the Evergreen line is still $370,000,000 over budget and has not reached the detailed design phase. Any reasonalbe engineering assumption would be that cost is going to rise not drop with the delay.

    A functional rapid transit system must co-exist with cars not penalize them, we must deal in reality with the fact.

    The Federal Government and Provincial Governments are on record confirming they will not contriubte any more, but, they are politicians so that is poured in sand not cast in concrete. A billion dollars for street cars is just not going to fly in the Tri Cities region, all we want is a vote, 1805 people out of a total of approximately 3300 voting and a mayor with an epiphany cast the direction of our region, we all know it is wrong and I maybe wrong but we don’t think it is going to go ahead in the present format.

    The WCE issue is clearly wrong, the conerns are documented in the reports and they must prevent the canabalization at all costs.

    We agree the auto makers and oil companies are a primary cause of our planets troubles,they started the cycle along with early coal burning stoves in homes around the world, but now the cycle is in danger of being driven by melting ice, thawing tundra and more coal driven generation plants. But the issue in front of us is simple the fact is that street cars are slower and if they use linear induction motors may [do not know yet but looking at it] consume electric power equal to or greater then SKytrain, is that not the reason why the Canada Line cars moved to conventional motors, I do not know the anwser to this but would appreciate comment.

    Additionaly is it not true that the Canada Line cars are incompatible with the rest of the network?

    Douglas A. Mazur

    September 29, 2006 at 2:41 pm

  14. We disagree on the need to accomodate cars. As long as it is easier to use a car than transit then there is no reason for anyone to switch modes. Transit must get better – much better – but the absolute freedom we give cars at present must be cut back. People should get priority, not vehicles, and a bus is usually carrying forty times as many people as the average car. Whenever there is a car free day anywhere in the world (we don’t have them here) or a car free area of a city opens, everyone breathes a sigh of relief, and remarks how peaceful it is. One my happiest Christmases was the one when the snow shut down the city completely as there were no snow ploughs (I was living in Saanich at the time). Talk about Silent Night.

    The Linear Induction Motor (LIM) technology used by SkyTrain is proprietary to Bombardier. They did not win the Canada Line competition, so a different technology has to be used. Most conventional electric transit systems use axle hung, nose suspended motors with a mechanical drive system. (I had hoped by now that hub motors would be more widespread.) Modern electronic control systems and regenerative braking have made these energy efficient vehicles even better. Street cars cannot use LIMs because of the centre reaction rail: the LIM is one of the reasons SkyTrain has to be grade separated.

    Stephen Rees

    September 29, 2006 at 3:17 pm

  15. Douglas Mazur, your arguments are so full of holes its not even funny. Have you actually experienced using a modern LRT yourself? The mere fact that you keep referring to the Evergreen LRT is a streetcar is out of sheer ignorant. It is NO WHERE NEAR what “streetcars’ are. In my recent trip to Stockholm, I took nine kinds of train systems and there is a HUGE difference between a commuter system, grade separated system, one similar to Evergreen, and what “streetcars” are! And for the bedroom community that is the Tri Cities, the Evergreen style system, in which there are two lines operating at the outer areas of Stockholm, is MORE than adequate.

    As far as rising costs are concerned, you do aware we have a labour and construction materials shortage, do you?

    And as for the vote, guess what? You already had it! Port Moody had that referendum and they clearly did not want Skytrain. And even if only 20% of eligible voters voted in that referendum and if 80% of those that didn’t vote wanted Skytrain, the fact that they did not exercise their basic democratic right to voice their opinion in election day, then their vote is as good as NO TO SKYTRAIN!

    And as far as Coquitlam is concerned, we had a municipal elections recently. One mayoral candidates and two councillor candidates WANTED SKYTRAIN and was their main election platform. Guess what? NONE OF THEM CAME CLOSE TO WINNING! Clearly the people iof Coquitlam has spoken and if they wanted Skytrain as oppose to LRT, then those pro-Skytrain candidates should have done better.


    September 29, 2006 at 6:28 pm

  16. […] have commented here before on the Evergreen Line and the group which has been pushing for SkyTrain rather than light rail. So the link will take you there and I won’t cover the same ground […]

  17. I will admit I have only skimmed theses blogs but I am soley for skytrain we are recognized world wide for this technology and to change med stream makes no sense the europeans can keep their lrt system we need skytrain along lougheed hwy to douglass college and down lougheed to maple ridge over the new langly bridge and into port kells and lanlgey and then return via surrey completing a loop with little to no transfers needed it is fast and efficent with no interferance of trucking goods or commuter traffic. this could be a 10 year project with the investment into development around the line and also would have a plant in opperation to build track sections and also be able to purchase cars at a very atractable price based on demand. I have been following this alrt and lrt debate for 3 years now and I’m amazed at the backward thinking of the people . ps the referendum in port moody was if they wanted skytrain in port mody which council said it would prefer on the se route but that was not on the ballot if it had been all 20% would have said yes to skytrain on the se route . I know this as fact my client base is 90% tricity residents and only one (who was uninformmed ) said lrt on the ne route until he was filled in on all the facts 4 3″ binders off political crap. enough for now I challenge anyone to say skytrain on the se route is not the ONLY option.

    Rob Grant

    December 28, 2007 at 1:16 pm

  18. Rob

    I recognize that it is difficult to write well on a web page that does not support word processing. I have resisted the temptation to edit what you wrote, but it does damage your argument when you ignore basic rules of punctuation. If I might suggest, you can use a word processor program to write your comment (and spell check it) then cut and paste it into a comment box.

    And I too have to reread my stuff quite a bit – but even so typos r us here.

    SkyTrain is not “recognized world wide” – it is almost unused elsewhere. Apart from the Scarborough, Detroit and New York airport systems it is unknown in other cities around the world. It is as expensive as most full sized (“heavy”) rapid transit systems, but has much lower capacity.

    When it was first demonstrated here for Expo, one widely quoted expert commented “I hope you have lots of money”. We didn’t. And that meant we got much less rapid transit than we needed – and indeed, could not afford to expand our bus system either. We cannot now unmake the omlette – but we should, I think, try to avoid making the same mistake.

    The main argument now in its favour is that new lines that use the same technology will reduce the need to change modes. But even that argument did not persuade the Canada Line proponents.

    Stephen Rees

    December 28, 2007 at 2:24 pm

  19. Vancouver is definetely unique in its use of light-metro (Skytrain).

    However, unique can be spun both positively and negatively. While the skytrain technology was marketed as a compromise between light-rail and the heavy rail subways (used in Toronto and Montreal), the city is now stuck with an outdated, unpractical technology.

    In Toronto, they are currently in the process of upgrading and expanding their existing Street Car system into a modern LRT system with its own right-of-way (parts of it underground).

    The LRT model in Toronto will supplement their existing underground subway network (Which is also being expanded).

    While the concept of the Skytrain in the late 80’s appeared to be innovative, a city the size and stature of Vancouver should have invested in a higher order of transit, like a subway (where geographically possible) and supplemented by the LRT in the far suburban regions.

    Just to give an indication of the mistake the Transit authority made in choosing the Skytrain. In Toronto, the same technology of the Skytrain was used to supplement the Subway system in the Borough of Scarborough. It was meant to be a sort of pilot project that could have been expanded to the other suburban areas across the city. It ultimately failed.

    The fact that Toronto chose the skytrain, only for its boroughs and suburbs demonstrates that a city as large as Vancouver should have opted for a more urban friendly option. With the proposed ‘Transit City’ project that would see a web of LRT lines spread across downtown and the boroughs, the Skytrain in Scarborough is being phased out and ultimately abandoned.


    September 1, 2009 at 1:12 pm

  20. […] Group lobbies for SkyTrain rather than light rail September 200619 comments 4 […]

  21. […] why is this a problem with SkyTrain and not with light rail? Because SkyTrain cars use proprietary technology supplied only by Bombardier. That means that if we ever want new cars, we can’t shop around — we have to buy from […]

  22. […] SkyTrain has a very strong lobbyist force in Canada. To accuse TriCity light rail advocates of being politically motivated, even if it were […]

  23. Stephen, I just read the piece that you wrote on September 21, 2006 – Group lobbies for SkyTrain rather than light rail. It leads me to pose the following question:

    I think that the UBC line should be a street level streetcar that starts at VCC Clark station, runs past Science World and Olymic Village and the entrance to Granville Island, turns south at arbutus, under broadway, under the intersection of 16th and Arbutus, and then all the way out to UBC, with a stop at the entrance to the south campus near TBird Stadium.

    I know that the main obstacle to this is opposition from 16th Ave residents. I think that I have the answer to this. It is four-fold:

    1. Broadway residents and commercial land-owners will support it becuase an underground skytrain on Broadway will close the street for 2.5 to 3 years for construction. I would have to do some research to confirm that that was how long cambie was closed, but I am guessing that that was the impact.

    2. While broadway is closed, the traffic diversion will impact 16th heavily.

    3. the cost and time-savings of doing it this way will be very substantial; enough to run streetcars more fregquently than skytrains, improve bus service AND public space on Broadway and still save billions.

    4. a streetcar is way better for public space than a skytrain, especially an undergound skytrain

    I welcome your comments on this concept.

    Adam Fitch

    Adam Fitch

    December 6, 2011 at 8:31 pm

  24. I am always surprised when old blog posts still get read – even more when there is a comment. Your suggested routing for a 16th Avenue tram to UBC would produce some very long journey times. I would think that the current 99 B-Line is probably faster. There is also the issue of getting up the hill from Granville Island to 16th. The old BCER did that with a reverse at Burrard Bridge. There is also the niggling issue of that Starbucks. Getting trams back on to the Arbutus Line has long been a wish of mine, but I had never considered it in the context of UBC! Patrick Condon has made a very persuasive argument about trams/streetcars instead of rapid transit, based on the form of development it supports or produces. That notion does not get considered enough here. I think any system will create problems during construction – see my post about Edinburgh trams for an illustration. The idea that deep level tube is a way of eliminating this problem was never true and was simply used as spin by the proponents of the Canada Line

    Stephen Rees

    December 7, 2011 at 8:00 am

  25. […] was chosen by a small but powerful SkyTrain lobby after they’d enticed us with light rail. The citizens of the Tri-Cities never chose […]

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