And now, here is the real story ~ Lies, damned lies and statistics!


For a long time now, TransLink’s spin doctors have been crying a woeful story that SkyTrain is “jammed packed” and needs more cars. With ridership numbers increasing at a fantastic rate on the metro, Gordon Campbell’s cronies on the TransLink Board approved the purchase of more SkyTrain cars. As well, TransLink and ‘Metro’ region are trying to build the Evergreen SkyTrain Line and a 10 km. extension in Surrey, to cater to burgeoning ridership. But is the ridership on SkyTrain as high as reported? Has TransLink contrived to make the metro look more crowed than it really is?

With the Patullo Bridge fiasco, TransLink predicted a mass of new ridership on transit and particularly on the metro. It didn’t materialize.

He had been expecting a crush as commuters, unable to use the Patullo Bridge following a weekend fire that damaged part of its wooden structure, flocked to SkyTrain.

Ridership was 22 per cent heavier than normal but was handled without any problems to the system, he said.

That was due to the fact SkyTrain ran 59 trains Tuesday and had 200 of its 210 cars in service — the highest proportion of in-service vehicles in the transit company’s history, Hardie said.

“We’ve never had that many in service before. On a normal day we’d have … 160 to 170 cars operating.”

Some problems with the previous statement.

TransLink loves to use percentages, but is reluctant to use real numbers. If weekday ridership is as high as 250,000 passengers a day, as previously claimed by TransLink, a 22% increase would equate to an additional 55,000 riders a day, pushing daily ridership over 305,000 a day.  Easy to claim when there is no way to accurately count (no turnstiles at stations, unlike SeaBus) daily ridership on the metro system. Today’s news reports say that transit and SkyTrain’s usage has not increase significantly. Something doesn’t add up.

What is most interesting is the number of cars,  on average “160 to 170 cars operating” during peak hours; put another way, 20% to 25% of available cars do not operate during peak hours! Certainly this shows that ridership on SkyTrain is not what has been advertised and that TransLink’s published ridership numbers are ‘stuff and nonsense’.

SkyTrain is not at capacity, during peak hours and the overcrowding on the metro has been contrived by reducing capacity to give the impression of high ridership and the resulting overcrowding. Until TransLink is forced to give independently audited ridership numbers on an annual basis, it will be very hard for advocates for the interurban to enter into any honest debate with TransLink, the Minister and Ministry of Transportation, and regional municipalities, trying to reestablish the interurban. TransLink must be compelled by legislation, under penalty of stiff fines or even jail time for the TransLink Board, to provide honest and accurate transit system statistics.

Only with accurate transit and transportation statistics can we plan for an affordable and user-friendly public transit for the future.


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2 Responses to “And now, here is the real story ~ Lies, damned lies and statistics!”

  1. David Says:

    I agree that something doesn’t add up in the TransLink numbers, but yours don’t either. Real systems require proper maintenance and that frequently means cars are not available for use. What percentage of vehicles in other systems is out for maintenance at any given time?

    I think it’s instructive to look at the two SkyTrain systems in Canada. The Scarborough RT has a fleet of 28 Mark I cars. The Toronto Transit Commission says the cars are worn out and in need of replacement.

    In Vancouver we have a fleet of 150 Mark I cars. 114 of them are just a few months newer than the ones in Toronto, but they are not in desperate need of replacement. In fact TransLink estimates they’ll get another 30 years use out of the Mark I fleet.

    Why such a huge difference? Could it be the fact that TransLink keeps 20-24% of their fleet out of action for regular maintenance?

    I’m not a SkyTrain supporter; I want to see LRT on the Evergreen Line and old interurban to Langley.

  2. zweisystem Says:

    SkyTrain’s cars are rather simple affairs, powered by Linear Induction Motors, which according to the ‘spin’ require less maintenance than regular light-rail vehicles. One can accept 10% of the fleet or about 20 cars (10 train sets) out of service for intensive maintenance at any given time. Even 20 cars seems a little much.

    Toronto’s ICTS (SkyTrain) cars have had problems including structural fatigue (which was rectified by minor rebuilding), which BC Transit and/or TransLink have never claimed for their MK.1’s. To say that the cars are worn out is a little simplistic, rather it is the guideway itself, which seems to be of concern. If the TTC wish to continue using ICTS, they must do some major reconstruction of the guideway to accommodate MK 2 cars as Bombardier has stopped all production of MK.1 cars.

    It seems now the lifespan of light-rail vehicles is about 40 to 50 years and the Glenelg tramway (which is reality is an interurban) until recently, operated 80 year old cars!

    If 20% or more of the SkyTrain fleet is not operational due to maintenance, then this indicates serious problems with the cars or SkyTrain’s maintenance regimen or both, problems until now that have been kept out of the media.

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