BC politicians have had a long love affair with SkyTrain and one wonders why?
British Columbia’s politicians love spending billions of dollars on the prestigious SkyTrain light-metro and the mind set is the more you spend on SkyTrain, the better it must be. Friends of the government love SkyTrain/light-metro (oh yes they are the same types that balk at raising or installing new taxes) because a lot more money is spread around to friends of the government, including cement manufacturers, the trucking industry, engineering firms, consulting firms and the media. It should come as no surprise that to date, not a penny has been given to the bankrupted merchants along Cambie St. due to the cut-and-cover subway construction, yet millions were spent on media relations and advertising for RAV/Canada Line. Finally, the big winner in the SkyTrain stakes are land developers and property owners who own lands near a SkyTrain line or are lucky enough to own land adjacent to a SkyTrain station. Property values, near a SkyTrain line skyrocket because of the density mantra of all levels of governments, with the call: “Can’t have SkyTrain without more density” or “There is not enough density for rapid transit“!
That nobody knows what density is needed for rapid transit is another story.
The result of course is a small, very expensive metro system, that despite all the increased density along the line, still gets 80% of its riders from buses, which should give one pause for thought. Are the people in the newly higher density areas using SkyTrain or has TransLink cascaded as many bus riders as they can onto the metro, to inflate ridership to give the appearance of people living near the SkyTrain Line are using the metro?
With light rail, being much cheaper to build, up to 10% the cost per km. than SkyTrain, there is lot less money to “shovel off the back of a truck” to political supporters and cronies; SkyTrain has now become a vehicle for a provincial corporate welfare scheme, where the provincial government diverts taxpayers money to ‘friends of the government’, legally by building the most expensive rapid transit scheme possible.
Despite claims by the SkyTrain lobby that SkyTrain has a higher capacity, faster, or safer than LRT, the opposite is true; to date SkyTrain has yet to out perform LRT in revenue service and is probably why very few people build it.
So it seems Mr. Falcon’s and Mr. Campbell’s love affair with SkyTrain or light-metro is to keep their political friends in business and that is maybe why the Board of Trade supported RAV.
But for the taxpayer, who has to pony up the money in higher taxes and user fees to pay for exotic metro schemes – a lump of coal.