A tramtrain traveling through a village near Karlsruhe Germany.
The “Debunking the SkyTrain myth. Rail for the Valley answers the UBC SkyTrain Lobby” , post……..
…….has become the most read and commented one to date, yet no one with the SkyTrain lobby has posted a credible reply. On the various SkyTrain blog sites, the one term used over and over is “cherry-picking” and how the LRT supporters cherry pick the best about modern LRT when they comment about SkyTrain. This argument is pathetic and certainly demonstrates a lack of knowledge about light rail, SkyTrain, and public transit as a whole!
What is forgotten by the various supporters of SkyTrain, is that it is a proprietary light-metro which was made obsolete by light-rail/LRT in the early 90’s. Light-metro had little advantage over LRT and cost a whole lot more to build and operate. As one could build up to ten times more light-rail for the cost of one light-metro line, the writing was on the wall so to speak for the mode. The RAV/Canada line is testament to the fact light-metro is obsolete, RAV being a regular heavy-rail metro was cheaper to build than SkyTrain light-metro! No wonder the mode disappeared into obsolescence. As SkyTrain is a proprietary (not compatible with other transit modes) light-metro, the owner, Bombardier Inc., continue to sell the mode today as a prestigious airport people mover and not an urban transit system. Unless a transit system has routes with traffic flows in excess of 500,000 passengers a day, there is no economic case to build a subway.
Light-rail is a generic transit mode and adheres to the basic operational capabilities obtained by other systems, it all interchangeable. Speed of a light rail vehicle is based on motor size; commercial speed of a LRT line is based on the quality of rights-of-ways and station or stop spacing; capacity of a transit system is a function of headway; the industry standard for LRT climbing grades is 8%, with more powerful vehicles able to climb 10% grades and so on. Light rail operating on a reserved rights-of-ways or routes reserved strictly for trams (the Arbutus Corridor is an excellent example of a reserved rights-of-ways) was found to bring a slightly superior service than light-metro, at a far cheaper cost! Except for Vancouver, no other city in the world uses the existing six SkyTrain installations solely for urban transportation. The SkyTrain lobby would have us think otherwise.
The following are general facts about modern LRT, not cherry-picked, that the SkyTrain lobby, wish the general public not to know.
- A twined tracked LRT line has the ability to carry over 20,000 persons per hour per direction.
- A light rail vehicle has a passenger capacity, based on the industry standard of all seat taken and 4 persons per metre/sq., depending on size of vehicle, range from 95 persons to 350 persons, depending on the size of vehicle. (Note: The SkyTrain lobby uses capacity formulas of all seats taken and standing passengers at 6 or 8 persons per metre/sq.!)
- LRT or streetcar, operating on-street, with no reservation and no preemptive signaling is still about 10% faster than a bus on the same route.
- One light rail vehicle (1 driver) is as efficient as six to eight buses (6 to 8 bus drivers).
- On-street LRT (streetcar) can be built for under $10 million/km. (not including vehicles), what drives up prices is needless add-ons, strictly for political or bureaucratic reasons!
- It is not speed that attracts customers to transit, rather it is the overall ambiance of the system including ease of use, ease of ticketing, vehicle comfort (seating) and the seamless or no transfer journey.
- Modern light-rail has a proven ability to attract the motorist from the car, where 20% to 30% modal shifts, car to LRT, are common on new systems. SkyTrain’s claimed high ridership is based on Translink management cascading every bus and bus rider it can onto the metro!
It is no great feat that a simple tram line in Hong Kong carries over 260,000 a day, or a modern LRT line in the same city carries over 25,000 pphpd in the peak hours. Yet the SkyTrain lobby bang the drums and shouts great things if SkyTrain achieves anything close to what modern LRT does in every day service. The LRT types do not cherry-pick statistics, rather state operational facts that pertain to light rail.
Quoting Gerald Fox, a well respected American transit expert about SkyTrain, “……anyway, most of the world has moved on.” It’s time the SkyTrain lobby do to!