Debunking the SkyTrain myth – Part 2

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S2-Rheinstetten3

A tramtrain traveling through a village near Karlsruhe Germany.

The “Debunking the SkyTrain myth. Rail for the Valley answers the UBC SkyTrain Lobby” , post……..

https://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/debunking-the-skytrain-myth-rail-for-the-valley-answers-the-ubc-skytrain-lobby/

…….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  The RAV/Canada line is testament to the fact light-metro is obsolete, RAV being a regular heavy-rail metro was cheaper to build than SkyTrain light-metro!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.

  1. A twined tracked LRT line has the ability to carry over 20,000 persons per hour per direction.
  2. 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.!)
  3. 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.
  4. One light rail vehicle (1 driver) is as efficient as six to eight buses (6 to 8 bus drivers).
  5. 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!
  6. 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.
  7. 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!

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44 Responses to “Debunking the SkyTrain myth – Part 2”

  1. ngwright Says:

    I made a similar comment on Stephen Rees’ blog, but I don’t think the argument should be between LRT and skytrain. They are different technologies designed to do two essentially different things. Apples and grapefruits you could say. At the same time though, having skytrain does not mean we shouldn’t get on with building lots of light rail and streetcar networks. Skytrain is designed to operate at speed with few stops, moving much greater volumes than it currently does on the millenium line. Skytrain should be extended to the Canada Line, but no farther. That connection will enhance both the millenium and skytrain line ridership. We should also be looking for at-grade options that will reduce costs.

    LRT does attract ridership and operate at a greater capacity then it often gets credit for; it makes no sense to exclude it considering its wide spread use. And the fact that it is not proprietary and can operate at street level is a huge benefit. There are benefits to grade separation and speed and we should consider skytrain, but only when ridership justifies it. In the mean time, we should get on with building LRT and streetcar routes like the interurban and granville island routes and hopefully extend those services and build new routes for Surrey and Langley where population growth is exploding.

    I would disagree with you in saying that the overall ambience is the key draw. The list would be much longer than that, but getting me where I want to go in a reasonable amount of time (possibly longer than driving but still competitive) would rank highest on my list.

  2. Factsman Says:

    Canada Line? Heavy Rail? Please!

    “Hyundai Rotem’s Unmanned Light Rail Vehicles

    Praised in Canada

    – Successfully delivers products to Canada, satisfying the high quality standard of 100% unmanned driving system

    – Receives letter of appreciation and Achievement of Excellence Certificate
    from Canadian contractor

    – Secures competitive advantage in future markets by successfully completing its first deal in the North American railway market

    Hyundai Rotem Company has received a letter of appreciation and an Achievement of Excellence Certificate from SNC Lavalin of Vancouver, Canada. By making early delivery, Hyundai Rotem was acknowledged for contributing to the early start of service for the Canada Line.

    Dr. Rainer Ibowski, Vice President of SNC Lavalin, visited the headquarters of Hyundai Rotem Company in Seoul, Korea to personally deliver the certificate. During the visit he expressed his admiration and said, “Hyundai Rotem’s efforts to deliver its 100% quality guaranteed unmanned Light Rail Vehicles, has played an essential role in commencing the service of the Canada Line three to four months ahead of its initial target date of Nov, 2009.”

    For SNC Lavalin, this early delivery of trains, not only allows sufficient time for complete test running on its rails but also advances the starting date of its revenue service, which will bring in profits earlier than expected.

    Hyundai Rotem expects the success of this project to serve as an opportunity to expand its markets in North America and promote its brand power.

    The Vancouver Light Rail Vehicle is the first 2-car train-set 100% unmanned driving railcar to be made in Korea. After three months of unmanned test and commissioning in Korea the Light Rail Vehicles were exported to Canada.

    These trains will be widely used by tourists from all over the world in 2010 during the Vancouver Winter Olympics, from the airport to the downtown area.

    An official of Hyundai Rotem said, “Since receiving excellent RAMS(Reliability Availability Maintenability Safety) scores and an incentive bonus from Hong Kong in 2001, Hyundai Rotem has been praised by countries such as Ireland, Turkey and India for high quality railway vehicles.” He also added, “This indicates that Hyundai Rotem is now competent enough in terms of technology levels and quality to compete equally with leading European railway system companies.”

    From an official Rotem press release.

  3. zweisystem Says:

    Sorry old chum, but the ROTEM cars are indeed heavy-rail metro cars. Obviously you do not know the difference between light rail and heavy rail. First clue, they are driverless and LRT, by definition, bust be able to operate in mixed traffic and impossibility with automatic driverless transit systems. These cars also operate in a subway, which again falls into the light/heavy metro category. Sadly, because the RAV/Canada line was scaled down to such a degree to save costs, it actually has about, as built, 60% to 75% the capacity of a simple LRT line, such as if one were to have been built down the Arbutus Corridor! To increase capacity to surpass LRT, TransLink would need to invest at least $1.5 billion more and do the cut and cover thing all over again.

    This News Release you quoted is merely corporate verbal diarrhea, designed to confuse local media and has little to to with the ROTEM cars being light rail vehicles. I would suggest studying the matter further.

  4. zweisystem Says:

    SkyTrain and LRT are not different technologies and are both railways and adhere to the same principals of railway operation and nomenclature. SkyTrain, because it uses Linear Induction Motors or LIM’s, it is said to be an unconventional railway. Thus the SkyTrain package is an unconventional, proprietary railway marketed as a light-metro, under various names such as ICTS, ALRT (two versions) ALM, and ART. Being an automatic railway is just the degree of signaling used to control the line. A different technology would be guided-bus or monorail.

    According to Professor of Urban Transportation (University of Wuppertal) Carmen Hass-Klau’s widely acclaimed set of international studies, starting with “Bus or Light Rail; making the Right Choice’ found that indeed the overall all ambiance, ease of ticketing, etc. was more important than speed for attracting ridership.

  5. Factsman Says:

    “First clue, they are driverless and LRT, by definition, bust be able to operate in mixed traffic and impossibility with automatic driverless transit systems.”

    No they don’t. The Canada Line is fully capable of operating with driver. The Canada Line would have been able to run at-grade, the Richmond City Counsel suggested it run at-grade, but was rejected.

    “These cars also operate in a subway, which again falls into the light/heavy metro category. ”

    The Central Link in Seattle operates for some parts of the line in a tunnel. Where they have their own ROW. Does it make it a full blown heavy rail system?

    “Sadly, because the RAV/Canada line was scaled down to such a degree to save costs, it actually has about, as built, 60% to 75% the capacity of a simple LRT line, such as if one were to have been built down the Arbutus Corridor!”
    No source = no evidence. A grade-separated LRT will have a much higher capacity than one that runs at-grade.

  6. Donald Says:

    Sad to see that the Rail for the Valley group which I support is going against the Skytrain to UBC group which I also support. Are you guys going to make me choose? I think DMUs/LRTs are the best mode for the revived Interurban but Skytrain just makes absolutely more sense down this dense, heavily used corridor. I calculated that Skytrain would take 21 minutes to get from Broadway to UBC vs. 28 minutes for LRT vs. 30 minutes for a busway for the 99 B-Line. The 84 bus currently takes 30 minutes to get from VCC-Clark to UBC. Why would we go through the cost of building LRT for minimal improvement to travel times along a corridor that certainly does not have any trouble attracting ridership? If we couldn’t go with Skytrain, I would rather see a busway built for the 99 for much less. I don’t doubt that LRT will provide double the capacity of buses but the students at UBC want a true, fast metro service that’ll get them places as quick as possible. For UBC students living in Coquitlam, Skytrain would mean a transferless ride in 53 minutes vs. 65 minutes by LRT including transfer.

  7. kyle Says:

    “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.”

    Not nearly fast enough to justify the expense of creating the system or to offer a better speed alternative to a car. Your statement that the overall ambiance of a transit system is enough to attract riders is laughable. Transit has to be more practical, competitive to cars in terms of speed, lower cost than cars, and easier to use than cars to attract large numbers. By large I mean more than 50% of all commuters using transit. A percentage that will never happen in Vancouver unless Translink starts building high capacity transit lines along ALREADY established high density corridors such as Broadway, The West End, Hastings, and connections between major regional centres.

  8. zweisystem Says:

    I will repeat this for all you armchair transit enthusiasts, recent studies have shown that the overall ambiance of a transit system, including ease of use, ease of ticketing overshadow speed in attracting ridership. A streetcar operating on a reserved rights-of-ways (in fact LRT) can obtain commercial speeds near or equal to that of a metro at a fraction of the cost of a metro.

    What is a high capacity transit line? Any LRT/streetcar line can and does, carry 20,000 persons per hour per direction in peak hours! But here is an important fact you maybe not aware of; as 1 tram or LRV (1 driver) is as efficient as 6 to 8 buses (6 to 8 bus drivers) and for every bus or tram operated, one must hire at least three people to drive, maintain, and manage them. Thus on a transit route that uses 70 buses (210 employees), about 10 or 11 trams (30 to 33 employees) need to be used. Now factor the wage saving over a 25 year period and you see huge cost saving by operating LRT.

  9. zweisystem Says:

    The higher commercial speed that you claim for SkyTrain comes from a penalty of fewer stations and fewer stations means fewer transit customers. Again I stress it is not speed that attracts customers to transit but the overall ambiance of the transit system including ease of use that attracts new custom. Studies have shown over and over that the transit customer wants his/hers transit, on the pavement, easy to use, not up in the air or deep in a tunnel. Busways have proven expensive and in Europe the cost for guided bus or busways are only about 30% cheaper than light rail and have proven not very popular with the transit customer. A bus, is a bus, is a bus.

    Unless there are traffic flows of over 500,000 passengers a day on a transit route, there is no need for an expensive metro. Building a SkyTrain subway to UBC, will be utter folly and lead to a $5.00 one zone fare by 2015! Already TransLink is feeling the financial pinch of the folly of building metros on routes that do not have the ridership to sustain them. A SkyTrain subway may break the back of TransLink and the collapse of the entire public transit system.

  10. zweisystem Says:

    The Seattle hybrid LRT/light-metro has more in common with light-metro systems than LRT systems. True their is some on-street operation, but the majority of the line is on viaduct or in tunnel. Those portions of the line, operating on viaduct or in tunnel are considered light-metro. Seattle’s transit planners wanted heavy-rail metro but was scaled back to LRT to obtain Federal funding.

    The Canada Line, like the SkyTrain lines are signaled by a movable block system and have Automatic Train Control (ATC) and (Automatic Train Protection ATP) and Automatic Train Operation (ATO) which is the basis of automatic or driverless operation. As with all driverless train systems there is the ability to revert to manual control if the situation warrants it and if there’s a driver or attendant on board. Driverless trains by their nature do not have drivers.

    “The Canada Line would have been able to run at-grade, the Richmond City Counsel suggested it run at-grade, but was rejected.” Sorry to burst your bubble, but SkyTrain operates at grade on portions of its line but is heavily fenced, with 8 foot fencing topped with razor wire. The same would be true of the Canada line operating at grade and in no way would be interface with on-street traffic.

    “Sadly, because the RAV/Canada line was scaled down to such a degree to save costs, it actually has about, as built, 60% to 75% the capacity of a simple LRT line, such as if one were to have been built down the Arbutus Corridor!” There have been many reports about how RAV was downscaled to reduce cost. The station platforms in the subway section will only accommodate 3 car trains and to enlarge them would be phenomenally expensive. Also portions of the route is single track in /Richmond, further impairing operational capacity.

    Fact: Capacity is a function of headway and grade separation has little to do with capacity. Train lengths and headways are the keys to higher capacity.

  11. Donald Says:

    LRT/DMU is need to attract ridership in the Fraser Valley but speed should be the #1 priority to UBC as well as passenger capacity.

    Edmonton’s 7.5km LRT line cost $675 million to build, so it’s safe to say that a good LRT system with full prioritization and separation from traffic (do NOT mix LRT with general traffic) will be a minimum $1.4 billion. You can definitely do the Interurban for $10 million/km but not Broadway. The construction of the LRT down Broadway will absolutely disrupt traffic just as much as cut and cover, the only saving grace is that construction periods are shorter at each section. Skytrain would be bored meaning that the only sign of construction would be at station pits.

    Armchair transit enthusiasts, what are your credentials? Do your opinions supercede the majority of the taxpaying population in Vancouver who want Skytrain?

  12. Donald Says:

    BTW, why can’t you guys keep out of the Broadway corridor argument so I can continue to support your Interurban revitalization cause? As a Mission resident I would really love to support your cause but it’s a bit of a conflict of interest right now. If you want to argue for LRT on Broadway, start a completely new group for that.

  13. zweisystem Says:

    No man is an Island and no transit system is an island. If this ill found Broadway SkyTrain subway is built, there will be no LRT to the Valley. The estimated $4 billion subway will suck all available monies to fund this pig. It is not a conflict of interest at all, but statement of fact.

    Vancouver has never had a light-metro/LRT debate, it has never been allowed by politicians. Since 1980, when SkyTrain was first forced upon the region, the public have been spoon-fed a pablum of half truths and invention by the SkyTrain lobby. In cities where this debate has happened, light-metro lost and lost badly. Why? It was proven that LRT not only cheaper to build and operate, it provided a superior service. The world has moved on and SkyTrain/light-metro is no more. Building more SkyTrain is like buying a new Edsel.

  14. zweisystem Says:

    Sorry, you are dead wrong, today LRT is being built for under $10 million a km., the trouble with Edmonton is that it is another example of light-rail being built as a light-metro; over engineered and hugely expensive. To date in the region, no one with expertise planning, building, and operating modern LRT has been allowed anywhere near transit planning and the reason is simple. Planners knowledgeable in LRT would show what utter tripe much of the pro SkyTrain rhetoric is.

    Depending how you built LRT on Broadway, the construction costs would range from $6 million/km. to $15 million/km.. Costs could be kept down by using existing electrical masts and overhead and simple on-street reservations for LRT would permit unimpeded operation by trams. Construction would be block by block, with construction taking about one year. Minor problems, with street closures will happen, but merchants will be rewarded with about a 10% increase of business when the line opens; something that subway just do not do! Those poor merchants on Cambie St have been duped by the SkyTrain/light-metro machine.

    Transit is a subject that almost everyone has an opinion and everyone who has an engineers degree, thinks they are an expert, yet very few people have read a book about it. If the taxpayers were told the truth about LRT and SkyTrain, they would opt for LRT. Don’t believe me? Not one US city has ever voted to build a SkyTrain light-metro system, not one SkyTrain has past muster. Quoting Gerald Fox, a well respected US transit planner and consultant, “In the US, all new transit projects that seek federal support are now subjected to scrutiny by a panel of transit peers, selected and monitored by the federal government, to ensure that projects are analyzed honestly, and the taxpayers’ interests are protected. No SkyTrain project has ever passed this scrutiny in the US.”

    Unlike Europe, in Canada, there are no degrees in Urban Transportation; everyone is an armchair enthusiast, just some read more than others!

  15. Mark Says:

    Zwei, I think this is a great debate – but since the discussion has turned to how badly read most people are on this subject, perhaps you could recommend some background reading? You mention “recent studies” in support of your position but do not often give references.

  16. zweisystem Says:

    First, if one want to be up to date on urban Transit, one must join the Light Rail Transit Association http://www.lrta.org and with your membership you receive the highly acclaimed Modern Tramway and Urban Transit magazine. Other studies one should have is the series of studies by Professor of Urban Transport (University of Wuppertal) Carmen Hass-Klau’s internationally acclaimed; ‘Bus or Light Rail, Making the Right Choice“, volumes 1 & 2, ‘Future of Urban Transport’, and ‘The Economics of Light Rail’. Then I would read Gerald Fox’s 1993 Study, ‘A Comparison of Automated Guided Transit and Light Rail’, the study the delivered the final blow to driverless ‘gadgetbahnen’, like SkyTrain and VAL.

    The Light Rail Now folks http://www.lightrailnow.org/ in the USA also have many interesting studies and comments about transit. Finally one should read about railway and transit history and learn the fundamentals of signaling, track, and vehicles, which there are many books and periodicals available.

  17. Donald Says:

    1. The maximum length of trains can be 100m so that trains that do have to stop at stop lights will fit in a typical city block. Let’s say we run 4 Siemens Avanto trains — that’s 110m but that’s fine — that’s 940 passengers per train set, you will need to run at 2 minute headways to maintain 18800 ppphd.

    2. How many stops are you wishing to add with LRT? My thoughts would be that the LRT would have the same stops as the 99 (with additions at Fraser and Arbutus) as the assumption is that either way the #9/17 would still be running along side both services to provide local service. If you’re thinking about having the trains stop every three blocks, there is no way, the train would just take way too long and people will either resort to driving or taking the #84 bus which takes only 30 minutes to get from VCC-Clark to UBC. I don’t care how attractive the service is, at the end of the day people who value time are going to look at the bottom line: How long is it going to take for me to get there? Google Transit would never recommend a local service tram over the faster #84. Furthermore, the wear and tear as well as the disruptions caused by a 110m long train stopping and going that often will be tremendous. The trolley buses can handle the local service.

    3. Without proper separation from traffic, drivers will often have little respect for the trains’ right-of-way. The bus-way on No. 3 Road for the 98 B-Line did not cost too much to build but did its job quite well.

    4. I would not call it overengineering if the train is supposed to function as rapid transit. The new streetcar service around Central Vancouver is a local tram that can be built at minimal cost. If you have manually driven trains only 3 minutes apart, it needs to be well engineered. Let’s say we decide to follow Portland’s Yellow Line example which I think was well designed, that still came in at $35million USD/km back in 2004, and construction costs have risen quite a bit since then.

    I’m sorry if you misinterpreted our differences of opinion as being uninformed. Scholars tend to pick one side and be completely biased for it. I feel that LRTs, Metros, commuter rail, trams, buses, ferries, roads, bicycle paths and pedestrian amenities must all intertwine together to provide the best transit system. Each technology has its own function — Metros provide high speed, high capacity transport, LRTs provide intermediate speed, high capacity transport, trams provide intermediate capacity local service, buses for low capacity flexible local service. There is no one band-aid technology. I use the West Coast Express and I absolutely love it. While I can see LRT and trams serving the Interurban, King George Hwy, South Fraser Way, Main St and Arbutus in Vancouver, a lot of us think that Skytrain is the better technology for Broadway. Transit in North America is in an uphill battle against the private automobile and if it doesn’t provide competitive speed, convenience, and comfort, you will not get people out of the private automobile especially in Vancouver where everyone is in a hurry. Remember, the greatest transit systems in the world make use of a variety of technologies.

  18. zweisystem Says:

    Answers for Donald

    Question #1

    First with priority signaling, there will be no stops for lights at intersections and two minute headways are very easy to maintain. Most European LRT lines have 30 second headways at peak hours!

    Question #2

    In Europe, on-street LRT (tram) uses have stops every 400 m. to 600 m. depending on location, etc. in urban areas, with longer stop spacing in suburban routes. it is the same for buses. Studies have shown that the vast majority of transit customers come from a 300 m. radius around each stop. Dwell times in Europe for trams is about 15 seconds. LRT, with much faster acceleration and quicker deceleration, means it can operate a speed for a longer time than a bus, hence provide a faster trip. It is not the actual time of a transit trip that attracts customers, rather the overall commute time. With longer waits for metros and the time to get to stations factored in, overall travel time between tram and metro are about the same. The bonus is, on-street LRT has proven to attract new customers, where subways do not!

    Question #3

    Not true, a reserved rights-of-ways can be protected by a raised curb, bollards, or grassing it over. What has been found with new streetcar/LRT operating on-street is that through traffic is calmed, giving local businesses more access to local customers who use the car. Again, with LRT, 30 second headways can be maintained in peak hours.

    Question #4

    There is no such thing as rapid transit or mass transit for that matter and the commercial speed of any transit line is determined by the number of stations or stops along the route; quality of rights-of-ways, and the degree of tram reservation. LRT can obtain higher commercial speeds, but like a metro, at a price of reducing stops and/or stations. Fewer stops = fewer customers and this is the Achilles heel of a metro. To take your logic one step further, we could build a Broadway to UBC subway with no intermediate stops and have an extremely fast service, but it would be useless for those traveling in between and I would wager, carry very few passengers.

    The problem is that with SkyTrain we have been sold a”bill of goods” and for almost 30 years BC Transit and TransLink have very desperately and expensively tried to fit a round (transit) peg into a square hole. SkyTrain is obsolete and if we don’t have the traffic flows (in excess of 500,000 passengers per day) for a subway, taxpayers dollars will be wasted on another expensive subway that will not provide an attractive alternative to the car.

    Here is the ultimate irony about SkyTrain; it was designed to be elevated to mitigate the massive costs of subway construction. It has been a failure and only Vancouver continues to build more of this proprietary metro.

    The statistic TransLink shies away from is the modal shift from car to SkyTrain and why? There hasn’t been one, unlike the scores of cities around the world that has built with LRT. That one fact alone has condemned SkyTrain on the dead branch of transit evolution.

  19. David Says:

    The public has been fed a steady stream of lies by our Provincial governments for 30 years. Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes accepted as the truth. That’s the only reason there appears to be widespread public support for SkyTrain.

    To everyone here, since many of you seem to think speed matters, how do you measure it? When you say SkyTrain would take 21 minutes or LRT 30 minutes have you considered ALL the time involved and ALL the passengers along the route?

    Add up all these factors and I think you’ll discover that for most passengers on-street LRT requires LESS travel time than SkyTrain.

    Walk to the bus
    Wait for the bus
    Ride the bus
    Get off bus, through fare gates and up/down to the platform
    Ride train
    Get off train, through station and up/down to the street
    Wait for another bus
    Ride the bus
    Walk to destination

    SkyTrain stations are always farther apart. This means fewer people are within walking distance of a station and thus more are in need of a bus at one or both ends of their train journey. This not only has an enormous impact on travel time, it decimates ridership.

    I take transit to work every day. I have two choices:
    1. Take a half-empty bus to SkyTrain, ride the crowded train, walk to work.
    2. Take a crowded bus, walk to work

    Option 1 involves a transfer and a less frequent bus so waiting time, especially coming home, can be much longer.

    Option 2 is a frequent bus and includes no transfers.
    Walking time is roughly equal and is not a factor for me.

    So even though option 2 is faster, I choose option 1 because it’s more comfortable.

  20. ngwright Says:

    I have to side with Mark and Donald. We need to bring this debate to a more civil level. Well meaning and well educated people can disagree. You don’t believe skytrain is ever appropriate for a long list of reasons, but you must accept that is a bias we do not all share.

    You are well read on light rail, but you cite an organization which has a similar bias against any kind of light metro. No group of academics or professionals is blessed with homogenous opinions or beliefs, that includes transit planners and engineers. Its not enough to claim so called expertise. Not everyone (including planners) agrees that metro is dead.

    Some of us would like to see Metro on corridors that have the ridership to support it (like Broadway) and light rail and tram everywhere else because in a lot of ways it is still a good value. This debate does not get Vancouver any closer to the kind of transit system it needs. We are not tearing down skytrain anytime soon, so we should get to work on getting as many drivers out of their vehicles and onto transit as we can. And to do that, everything should be on the table.

  21. zweisystem Says:

    Since the late 1970’s, 5 or 6 SkyTrain systems have been built (2 forced on the local transportation authority) and 1 under construction. During the same period over 110 new LRT systems have been built and a further 100 are being built or in the advanced stages of planning. To date no SkyTrain system has been allowed to compete directly with LRT. These figures speak volumes, only the SkyTrain lobby is deaf and continue to act as latter day Luddites. ‘nough said!

    Note: I did not say metro was dead, but a variant light-metro is dead. To date, there are under 30 transit systems in the world that are considered light-metro, which the French VAL and Bombardier’s ART ( SkyTrain ) system account for just over one half of this number!

  22. ngwright Says:

    I’m sorry you feel the need to make it an argument. We support you. We want LRT. We want the interurban. We know LRT is a very good value for dollars. It is flexible, operating on street (something that skytrain cannot do). This flexibility and affordability is why we think we should be trying to build with LRT on the interurban and according to Diane Watts, she’d like to build it in Surrey as well. TRAM’s for the downtown streetcar – I think those are LRT. Plus we have a wishlist of stuff for Main, Arbutus, 200th street in Langley. We simply disagree with you on this one transit corridor. Its true that more people have built with LRT over the last 30 years, but that doesn’t make it right for this specific corridor.

    If you think you think we’re speaking for some shadowy skytrain lobby (which sounds like fiction by the way), or are some Neo-Luddites who are blind to the benefits of LRT. You are wrong. We want to support you. We would just appreciate it if you saw our point of view and had a more inclusive attitude.

  23. zweisystem Says:

    We will have to see how the RAV/Canada line succeeds or not. If, as I suspect, it doesn’t take cars off the road, there will be little appetite for SkyTrain and LRT in the future. In all these posts, no one has made a compelling argument for a SkyTrain subway under Broadway and by the number of ‘hits’ on this posts shows me that the SkyTrain lobby is alive and well.

  24. unknown Says:

    “In all these posts, no one has made a compelling argument for a SkyTrain subway under Broadway and by the number of ‘hits’ on this posts shows me that the SkyTrain lobby is alive and well.”

    It probably has more to do with you being delusional and not understanding the issues at hand.

    Really, there’s no point in talking to people like zweisystem. It’s like talking to a glass wall.

    You probably don’t even ride transit. But I would imagine that and like-minds enjoy the views from your ivory towers.

    A note from Zweisystem:

    I include this message because I do not believe in censorship and to demonstrate a very important fact; here we have a diatribe against the author of this post, yet Mr./Ms. Unknown is afraid to print their name or to give a credible argument for SkyTrain. It does certainly show that the SkyTrain debate in Vancouver is fueled on emotion and not fact. Today, in the news, there is a report that TransLink’s 1 zone fare may soon be $3.00 or $3.50. 2-zone and 3-zone fares will increase accordingly. What will deter transit ridership is that it will soon be too expensive, for many, to take a bus. What the fare increases do show is the folly of building SkyTrain and RAV light-metro on routes that do not have the ridership to sustain them and operating buses, like the 609 in South Delta, which attract virtually no customers a day.

    This is poor management and if this poor style of management continues, TransLink will bankrupt itself very soon. The result will be sky high property taxes and a truncated transit system, which will, for many, not provide an attractive or credible alternative to the car.

  25. Donald Says:

    No, you’re simply not listening to any of us. I have taken your comments into consideration and indeed I think LRT does deserve a look yet you have not taken any of ours into consideration. If all you carry is bias, there is nothing we can argue that will make you consider Skytrain as an option for Broadway.

  26. zweisystem Says:

    Actually I am listening, yet I hear no credible reason to build a SkyTrain subway under Broadway. There is a reason that subways are built, yet I do not hear it, instead I hear the same old clichés; it is the speed of a transit system or that transit must be segregated from traffic to work. Both are wrong and wrong for several reasons. I hear claims of bias, yet there is no bias as all i stated was fact; fact based on operational precedent of light rail operations around the world, yet the SkyTrain lobby reject this out of hand. Talk about bias.

    Who buys SkyTrain? Where has SkyTrain been allowed to compete against LRT for a transit route? Why has SkyTrain been rejected by city after city around the world? To quote Gerald Fox, a noted and well respected American transit specialist: “It is interesting how TransLink has used this cunning method of manipulating analysis to justify SkyTrain in corridor after corridor, and has thus succeeded in keeping its proprietary rail system expanding. In the US, all new transit projects that seek federal support are now subjected to scrutiny by a panel of transit peers, selected and monitored by the federal government, to ensure that projects are analyzed honestly, and the taxpayers’ interests are protected. No SkyTrain project has ever passed this scrutiny in the US.”

    Please, don’t shoot the messenger.

  27. racc Says:

    “SkyTrain stations are always farther apart. This means fewer people are within walking distance of a station and thus more are in need of a bus at one or both ends of their train journey. This not only has an enormous impact on travel time, it decimates ridership.”

    This is obviously not true. If it was, SkyTrain would not be packed during rush hour and carrying more passengers than any recent LRT system in North America with the exception of Calgary. Once the new cars are on line, likely SkyTrain ridership will exceed that of Calgary’s C-Train.

    The length of the average SkyTrain trip is 10km while the average for LRT is 7km so even now, the total passenger km on SkyTrain exceeds that of Calgary’s C-train.

    It is too many stops that kill the speed of a line and decimates ridership. Just look at the success of the B-Lines. People use them because they are fast. They are fast because they have few stops.

    While I can’t point to any data to back it up, I strongly suspect that people are willing to walk further to transit stations if the service is fast.

    Zweisystem responds:

    It is well know fact that the further apart transit stations are, less people will opt to choose transit. Studies have shown that the optimum distance between stations or stops on an urban transit line is 500 m. to 600 m apart. The same is true for buses.

    SkyTrain is packed for three reasons:

    1) 80% of TransLink’s ridership first take a bus to the metro. Translation – TransLink is cascading every bus rider on the metro it can.
    2) Nearly 25% of SkyTrain’s cars are out of service during peak hours. This little known fact came to light when the Putallo Bridge burned and TransLink said it could boost metro capacity by over 20%!
    3) SkyTrain, being an automatic railway, has much longer dwell times and many more unexpected stops, causing congestion.

    I am not saying that that few people take SkyTrain, but there are many reasons why SkyTrain appears to be overcrowded and maybe TransLink wishes to give the appearance that SkyTrain is overcrowded to secure funding for a $1 billion upgrade. (Rail for the Valley take note!)

    Your statistical analysis of Calgary’s LRT is flawed, as the system is not a linear transit route, but a network of three lines. Even though Calgary’s C-Train carries more passengers than SkyTrain, it services a smaller more compact area.

    As for the B-Line buses, they have not been stellar successes. The 98-B line saw a drop in transit use because Richmond customers were forced to transfer to B-Line buses and ridership returned when TransLink reinstated direct services on many routes! The 99-B Line is crowded because the trolley bus stops, about 200 m. apart, are far too close together. Having bus stops 400 m. to 600 m., would provide a faster and cheaper transit service and eliminate the 99-B service altogether!

  28. Donald Says:

    Skytrain does not have 25% spare capacity, it is about 6%. Based on calculations of the cars required to provide the service at the 2/4/6 minute headways to the number of actual cars available. They provided extra service to Surrey by using the entire capacity and reallocating cars from the M-Line to provide maximum capacity across the Skybridge.

    You may think that providing stops 200m apart is too close but for senior citizens who have difficult walking, the stops could not be close enough. When they lengthened the average stop distance on Main St. to about 300-400m people complained to Translink to no extent.

    Calgary’s modeshare for the private automobile is still very high despite their high LRT ridership and thus one reason why they were ranked near the bottom in the list of green Canadian cities. Transit is not expected to get people out of their automobiles overnight. Vancouver is doing a good job because they are providing a decent bus system to compliment the Skytrain system as well as providing Seabus and West Coast Express, but at only 12.5% transit modeshare we still have a long ways to go. Calgary has yet to achieve 10% transit modeshare.

    Zweisystem responds:

    When the Putallo bridge fired up, it was revealed that almost 25% of the SkyTrain cars were out of service at any one time. Then must factor in TransLink’s 10% to 15% over calculation of ridership, to get a truer picture. (this fact may also contribute to the notion of massive fare evasion on SkyTrain).

    In Europe bus tops 400m. to 600m apart don’t seem to hinder the elderly there and one must consider if walking another 100m. is too much for them, then they should not be taking transit. Blunt, I know, but a transit system can’t be all things to all people.

    TransLink is not doing a good job getting people out of there cars as real ridership has just kept pace with population increase. No one looks at Vancouver for a transit success story, rather the opposite. Don’t do, what they do in Vancouver.

    Yet Calgary’s C-Train carries more people than SkyTrain and has always done so and it is the one statistic that TransLink and the SkyTrain lobby do not want to broadcast.

    As for statistics, until TransLink has annual or biannual independent audits of service, any statistic from TransLink must be taken with a grain of salt, unlike European and American transit systems, which undergo rigorous scheduled audits, there is little or no independent audits done on SkyTrain.

  29. Donald Says:

    I won’t argue with you on that. Vancouver is not doing a good job getting cars off the road but then again neither is Calgary. Calgary will have about 120km of LRT networks by 2040 but they have one main enemy that no mode of transit can fight against: SPRAWL and the inability to provide a complimentary bus system as a result. They will not achieve greater than 12% transit modeshare by that time, guaranteed.

  30. zweisystem Says:

    My contacts at Calgary transit project daily C-Train ridership surpassing 350,000 customers within a decade and are busily tweaking the system to accommodate the loads. Signaling for 90 second headways in the transit mall is being done and operating 4 car trains is being considered. Also a second downtown route maybe possibly built as a tunnel, with limited stops for through trains. The Calgary system was designed from the onset to be converted to a light-metro, if ridership demanded.

    We forget one very important thing, transit is customer oriented and on or two lines will not accomplish a whole lot. Yet, with new LRT lines built, there has been noticeable modal shifts and building new LRT lines are a easier sell. This true, especially in the USA, despite the anti-LRT negativism, light rail expansion is happening at a fast pace; and as an added consideration, most new transit lines have been passed by initiative (public votes), something that has never happened here.

    In a few months the RAV/Canada line will open and the question will be: ” Will the now $2.5 billion to $2.8 billion metro line attract those 200,000 single car journeys (200,000 drivers), claimed by Gordon Campbell, every day. If RAV fails to achieve much, kiss goodbye to subways and LRT in the region and welcome a new age of highways and buses. It maybe strange irony that the 1960’s downtown freeway successfully opposed by Mr. Harcourt and others, may be built 60 years later because of the failure of a very expensive RAV/Canada line to attract the motorist from the car. A metro line supported by Harcourt and other Vancouver elites!

  31. Donald Says:

    Why are you stating that Vancouver has failed to take cars off the road yet you’re not acknowledging the fact that Calgary has also failed to take cars off the road? Calgary has over 80% automobile usage despite the high LRT use, Vancouver is about 77%.

    Zweisysten responds:

    Who really cares about Calgary. I just use their ridership as an illustration of LRT being able to carry high volumes of customers. Here is the real problem: To date, the taxpayer has spent about $6 billion on SkyTrain (those annual $200 million plus subsidies do add up) and soon, with the $2.5 billion RAV/Canada line and $1.5 Evergreen Line, the grand total will be $10 billion. Calgary’s has spent a fraction of that, about $1 billion, on their C-Train, yet it carries more customers than SkyTrain!

    To the BC Treasury or Finance department it is cheaper to build more highways that to build transit. Building gold-plated transit systems has put current transit planning right square in the Premiers Office and all metro planning, because of the massive sums involved are treated as politically prestigious mega-projects and are built to satisfy political demands, not transit demands. This is the trap SkyTrain has lead us. Building more SkyTrain will just lead us to a ‘rubber on asphalt’ solutions because they are so much cheaper. The Gateway highways and Bridge project, in part, was made possible because of the massive costs of building SkyTrain into the Fraser Valley!

  32. David Says:

    The SkyTrain on Broadway lobby seems focused on a single journey type: Commercial Drive to UBC. To put it mildly, that’s ridiculous.

    TransLink used to have a non-stop B-Line bus from Broadway Station to UBC, the 99S. That service was discontinued because it was underutilized.

    Broadway is a transit oriented street with ridership generators along its length. It needs a high capacity transit system that serves that entire corridor, one with frequent stops and convenient access.

    An on-street system would move more people than the 9 and 99 combined and benefit all the residents, merchants and others along the entire street.

    A grade separated system designed for end-to-end speed helps nobody along the line; it’s sole benefactors are those making a non-stop journey.

    So in the interest of fairness I propose that the SkyTrain to UBC lobby pay for it out of their own pockets.

    I won’t make you pay all the merchants for lost business (versus a 10% increase they would get with LRT), the residents for years of construction mess, the increased operating costs or the increased crime. All you have to pay is the difference between subway and LRT.

    $2 billion spread across 40,000 UBC U-passes is only $50,000 each. Amortized over 25 years at 5% that’s just $292 per month.

    Flame me if you like, but adults who pay less for transit services than my 5 year old does would be better off keeping their mouths shut lest those of us who actually pay for the transit system decide to stop subsidizing you for choosing to live off campus.

  33. Justin Bernard Says:

    Here in Toronto, we are finally getting rid of our ICTS system.

  34. Richard C. Says:

    “Yet Calgary’s C-Train carries more people than SkyTrain and has always done so and it is the one statistic that TransLink and the SkyTrain lobby do not want to broadcast.”

    I have always given you that point. The C-Train is successful but by only focusing only on the C-train, you are really cherry picking.t is also the only new LRT line that carries more passengers than SkyTrain in North America. All the other systems have a fraction of the ridership.

    The C-train is 3 lines while the SkyTrain is 1.5 lines essentially. Both the passengers per line and the passenger kms are greater for SkyTrain.

    Zweisystem responds:

    I love the term cherry-picking, especially from those who support SkyTrain, because the so called statistics for SkyTrain are not vetted and Translink knows this well. I had the opportunity to meet with an American delegation some time ago who came up to look at our SkyTrain system. They were impressed, until I told them that the metro was subsidized by over $200 million annually! “We were never told that!” was the reply. There is a very goos reason why SkyTrain is obsolete, it costs both more to build and operate than LRT, even LRT built as a light metro!

    Here lies the point, I would like to see a level playing field for all transit planning, not the current crap that claims that denounces LRT is slower, will not attract ridership, and costs more to operate (the opposite is true!). The RAV/Canada line P-3 was a shambles with planners oversees scoffing at Vancouver and how we planned transit. Vancouver is seen as an international laughing stock with its continued SkyTrain only planning.

    The claim of cherry-picking pales against the pure inventions of the SkyTrain lobby!

  35. Richard C. Says:

    You are confusing the financing model with the technology used. Any issues with the P3 would have been the same if they had chosen to do an LRT down Arbutus or Cambie for that matter.

    The Canada Line could have used LRT technology and been at grade south of 49th. LRT was not chosen as it was not cost effective.

  36. Richard C. Says:

    Zweisysten responds:

    ” Who really cares about Calgary. I just use their ridership as an illustration of LRT being able to carry high volumes of customers. Here is the real problem: To date, the taxpayer has spent about $6 billion on SkyTrain (those annual $200 million plus subsidies do add up) and soon, with the $2.5 billion RAV/Canada line and $1.5 Evergreen Line, the grand total will be $10 billion. Calgary’s has spent a fraction of that, about $1 billion, on their C-Train, yet it carries more customers than SkyTrain!

    To the BC Treasury or Finance department it is cheaper to build more highways that to build transit. Building gold-plated transit systems has put current transit planning right square in the Premiers Office and all metro planning, because of the massive sums involved are treated as politically prestigious mega-projects and are built to satisfy political demands, not transit demands. This is the trap SkyTrain has lead us. Building more SkyTrain will just lead us to a ‘rubber on asphalt’ solutions because they are so much cheaper. The Gateway highways and Bridge project, in part, was made possible because of the massive costs of building SkyTrain into the Fraser Valley!”

    This is pure rhetoric. You will note that Vancouver has more km of Rapid Transit than Calgary. If what you said was true, then Calgary would have more km of rapid transit. Arguably, the SkyTrain to Surrey delayed the supposed need for Highway 1 expansion by a decade. If anything, the funding for SkyTrain has come at the expense of highway expansion.

  37. zweisystem Says:

    One man’s rhetoric is another man’s fact. It is obvious that you will support SkyTrain no matter what, the sad fact is, for the past 15 years there is no real evidence that SkyTrain actually has attracted the motorist from the car. Translink has cascaded every available bus route it can into the metro to boost ridership, this sort of “penis envy’ has so distorted transit planning in the region, that for most politicians, building new highways is just easier and cheaper. The only reason that highway expansion was curtailed in favour of SkyTrain is that scarce tax dollars were sent SkyTrain’s way for the Millennium Line and not to highways.

    If SkyTrain was so good and in an age of unprecedented expansion of ‘rail’ transit systems, why hasn’t the system been successful? Instead Vancouver has been left behind; transit specialists came; they saw; and they built with LRT!

  38. zweisystem Says:

    Quote: “The Canada Line could have used LRT technology and been at grade south of 49th. LRT was not chosen as it was not cost effective. Utter rubbish, who said so? Gerald Fox’s AGT/LRT paper showed that LRT, operating on the same quality of rights-of-way as an Automated Transit System, found that it was about 10% cheaper to operate! Lies and deceit are the legacy of the RAV/Canada line.

    My correspondence with Siemens representatives during the mock RAV P-3, indicates that they were not even allowed to speak about light rail or mention the Arbutus Corridor! They though everyone involved were utter lunatics!

  39. Richard C. Says:

    Wow, a whole 10% cheaper to operate from a study done in 1991. First of all, that is a small enough difference that the results are likely to vary from system to system and secondly it was done in 1991. How about some studies from this century?

    Zweisystem responds: a defining study, that showed that AGT systems were more expensive to operate than LRT and you pooh pooh it, only confirms why SkyTrain is only built here. No competitive bidding, no vetting of SkyTrain has ever been allowed; hell LRT has never been allowed to compete against SkyTrain on any system where SkyTrain operates, why? Because Bombardier Inc. well very knows that LRT would prove superior. The same is true of the French VAL system, extensive studies has shown that automatic (driverless) transit systems were much more expensive to operate than LRT and so heralded the demise of VAL.

    As Gerald Fox stated; “It is interesting how TransLink has used this cunning
    method of manipulating analysis to justify SkyTrain in corridor
    after corridor, and has thus succeeded in keeping its
    proprietary rail system expanding. In the US, all new transit
    projects that seek federal support are now subjected to
    scrutiny by a panel of transit peers, selected and monitored
    by the federal government, to ensure that projects are
    analysed honestly, and the taxpayers’ interests are protected.
    No SkyTrain project has ever passed this scrutiny in the US.”

    Today, just the Expo Line, costs about 60% more to operate than Calgary’s LRT, yet the SkyTrain lobby rogers on pretending that it’s a better system. As for studies from this century, sorry old chum, no one bothers because light metro is obsolete, why waste your time. No one builds with light metro, unless it is a private deal with lots of government money. It is so sad because SkyTrain has hamstrung transit development in Vancouver to such a point that taking the car is easier and better – unless that is, you don’t have a car.

    I’d try reading some books on the subject rather trying to invent statistics from questionable sources to support your arguments. I repeat ad nauseam, if SkyTrain is so good, why doesn’t anyone buy it? Why isn’t TTC building with SkyTrain instead of LRT? Oh yes, they studied (ARTS) the system in 1983 and found that it could cost times times as much to build than LRT, yet have about the same capacity.

  40. zweisystem Says:

    “The problem with TransLink is that you can never believe what it says; TransLink never produces a report based on the same set of assumptions.”

    West Vancouver Clr. Victor Durman, Chair of the GVRD Finance Committee.

  41. Richard C. Says:

    “It is so sad because SkyTrain has hamstrung transit development in Vancouver to such a point that taking the car is easier and better – unless that is, you don’t have a car.”

    Yes, transit needs to be better in the region but it is hard to make the case that SkyTrain is the problem. We have a larger system than Calgary, with expansion still happening. SkyTrain has over twice the ridership of Portland’s LRT system. We have a higher transit mode share for commuting than both Portland and Calgary. Your arguments just don’t hold up to the facts.

  42. zweisystem Says:

    Zweisystem responds:

    SkyTrain does carry more passengers than Portland’s LRT system, but you confuse modal share. Portland, like most US LRT systems have actually attracted more car drivers than SkyTrain; with SkyTrain, we are just giving bus riders a somewhat faster, yet more inconvenient trip. This is where the SkyTrain’s lobby logic falls apart about SkyTrain, TransLink just can’t show a modal shift from car to SkyTrain, never could because they have never audited the system. Spending billions and forcing transit customers from bus to metro is rather silly, but this is how the SkyTrain myth has been created.

    In Portland, their LRT system has a modal shift from car to transit of over 30%, TransLink can’t or will not show comparable figures and one understands when the claim of 80% of SkyTrain’s ridership first takes a bus to the metro. Buses are notoriously poor in attracting the motorist from the car. With about 20% of SkyTrain’s ridership living near stations (walking distance), there doesn’t seem to be much of a modal shift at all! Seems to me that is one of the compelling reasons why SkyTrain has failed to find a market.

    I find it very strange, that in a period of unprecedented transit investment, that SkyTrain has been rejected, except Vancouver, by every major city in North America and Europe! Today, SkyTrain is being marketed as a “high-tech” airport people mover and not a regional transit system.

  43. Debunking the SkyTrain myth – Part 3 ~ So who operates SkyTrain and why? « Rail For The Valley Says:

    […]  https://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2009/05/12/debunking-the-skytrain-myth-part-2/  […]

  44. Debunking the SkyTrain myth part 4 – The curse of the gadgetbahnen « Rail For The Valley Says:

    […] https://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2009/05/12/debunking-the-skytrain-myth-part-2/ […]

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