The Greer Report – Review of Rapid Transit Project Claims. We didn’t need an American consultant to tell us TransLink is ‘off the rails’.



Over ten years ago the Greer Report, done by Greer Consulting Services, issued a scathing report on the Broadway/Lougheed Rapid Transit Projects, later to be know as the SkyTrain Millennium Line. The report found:

  • cost comparisons appear to have been contrived to favour SkyTrain over LRT
  •  no ridership (demand) analysis was reported to justify the high capacity system
  •  air quality and transportation benefits are unsubstantiated
  • accelerated construction advantages of SkyTrain were clearly unrealistic
  • risks associated with the SkyTrain car manufacture have not been assessed.

Fast forward to 2009, has anything changed?

Nada, nope, not a chance!

How can TransLink be trusted with any honest rapid transit planning, especially when they want hundreds of millions more in taxpayers money to pay for ‘pie-in-the-sky’ light-metro planning based on contrived planning and phony studies? The RAV/Canada line is just a symptom of a major problem: TransLink refuses to plan for affordable light-rail and instead invents statistics to suit their in-house light-metro planning. The 100,000 passengers a day, quoted by RAV officials and Liberal politicians, needed so the RAV/Canada line will operate subsidy free is ‘stuff-and-nonsense’ as TransLink has absolutely no mechanism in place to apportion fares between SkyTrain, RAV/Canada line, Seabus, and the regular buses. TransLink doesn’t know what percentage of fares are full fares, concession fares, and the deeply discounted U-Pass, nor do they have a formula for allocating fares between bus, seabus and metro.

Example: A South Surrey student (3 zone fare) going to UBC via transit pays just $25 a month for a U-Pass; he/she takes a bus to Casino/Bridgeport Junction, transfers to the RAV/Canada Line and then transfers again to a bus going to UBC. The apportioned fare should be $8.33 for the RAV/Canada line and $16.67 for the bus system. The RAV/Canada Line’s share of an U-Pass (1,2,or 3 zones) would be $8.33 a month or about $0.41.5 cents a day (based on 20 days use)! There is absolutely no way with the current fare structure that RAV will pay for itself with 100,000 passengers a day; especially when other metros need 400,000 to 500,000 passengers a day to justify construction.

Clearly TransLink hasn’t a clue about apportioned fares or even how the RAV/Canada line will determine what percentage will be paid to the metro and buses. What may happen is that TransLink will count all ridership on RAV as full adult cash fares and ‘fiddle away’ monies that rightfully should go to the bus system’s coffers.

What is known for certain is that the 100,000 a day claim made by TransLink, Kevin Falcon and Gordon Campbell is completely bogus!

Certainly nothing has changed much at TransLink as American transit expert, Gerald Fox, stated in a Feb.2008 letter regarding the Evergreen line:

“I found several instances where the analysis had made assumptions that were inaccurate, or had been manipulated to make the case for SkyTrain. If the underlying assumptions are inaccurate, the conclusions may be so too.” And adding: ” 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.”

 Metro politicians take note, TransLink is about to take you and your taxpayers on a wild ride, “around, around, TransLink goes; where it will stop nobody knows!”

For the full Greer Report

Gerald Fox’s letter

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10 Responses to “The Greer Report – Review of Rapid Transit Project Claims. We didn’t need an American consultant to tell us TransLink is ‘off the rails’.”

  1. mezzanine Says:

    In all fairness, I think the Greer report is a critique of the politcal process of building infrastructure, rather than of the merits of skytrain or LRT.

    Zweisystem replies: You try to skim over the facts, the studies were contrived to support SkyTrain over LRT. In other jurisdictions the police would have been called, but not here in BC. Exactly the same thing happened with the RAV/Canada Line and the Evergreen Line, the statistics have been contrived to support light-metro.

    To date there has never been allowed a full honest debate between light-rail and SkyTrain – I wonder why?

  2. Richard Says:

    Again, you show just how confused you are. It is the provincial government that keeps selecting SkyTrain and Light Metro over LRT.

    A couple of hundred dollars extra a year for a vastly improved transit system is hardly a “wild ride” compared to the $10,000 a year it costs to own and operate an automobile. Your over the top rhetoric is hardly helpful. You say you want a “full honest debate” yet your lack of balance, distortion of the facts and rhetoric hardly lends itself to such a debate.

    Zweisystem replies: Sadly, it is you who has distorted the truth to suit your mania for SkyTrain and RAV. The culmination of building and operation light-metro systems on routes that do not have the ridership to support them will be a dysfunctional, truncated public transit system that will be used by the poor, the elderly and students. The car will reign supreme and the blame will rest squarely on the provincial politicians who forced metro on the region; the civic politicians who blindly went along with the province; TransLink who did as they were told with no questions asked; and the many academics from UBC & SFU (please note: as late as 1996, certain UBC professors were still claiming the light rail was an obsolete transit mode) who pontificated on the subject of transportation without reading a book on the subject first.

    Harsh words yes, but then the truth is a harsh mistress.

  3. Jim Says:

    You really should put more emphasis on the TRUNCATED part. Maybe bold underline italic?

    I have heard many times from Tanslink critics on the mayors council the evergreen line should go ahead with light rail, why won’t anyone listen to them?

  4. David Says:

    Richard is right, in a way. If a fraction of the money currently devoted to private automobiles was diverted to public transit we could afford to have SkyTrain or something similar, all the way to Abbotsford.

    The chances of that happening, however, are pretty close to zero.

    Thus we need to look at how to get the most transit for the dollars we are willing to commit. That means lots of buses and, where buses can’t cope with demand, trams.

    Zweisystem replies: The cost for SkyTrain to Abbotsford would be about $7 billion to $8 billion – The interurban, depending on service $300 thousand to $500 thousand.

  5. Jim Says:

    The cost to own and operate a private automobile for a year depends on a number of factors. I would be well under $2000.

    A couple hundred extra a year for a vastly improved transit system, I don’t have numbers, but Translink needs substantially more money simply to continue operating with the current levels of service. If they continue to build transit that they cannot afford to run it won’t be a couple of hundred more dollars a year.

    David, you are definitely correct about needing to get the most transit for the dollars, I don’t know that we can really say that is how Translink is operating though.

  6. David Says:

    Wow Jim that’s amazing. Insurance and gas are cheaper in Abbotsford for sure, but I’m still amazed.

    I have a 5 year old, entry level compact, an ICBC RoadStar discount and cheaper private comprehensive coverage. I use only 15-18 tanks of gas per year and spend very little on maintenance yet my annual costs are close to $4000/year.

    Rough numbers:
    1500 – insurance
    1500 – purchase price spread over 10 years with no interest charges
    700 – gasoline
    200 – maintenance

    Zweisystem replies: Try used cars in your mix. And, what price convenience?

  7. Jim Says:

    $1500 97 Sunfire 2.2l, paid for.
    <$1000 Insurance for the year with theft from ICBC (not old enough to be considered by private insurance (sounds like age discrimination to me)).

    Gas costs I don't know, I don't keep track, for my use it isn't a whole lot I maybe put 10K km on last year (additional KM's were put onto my motorcycle and my shoes).

    Maintenance, sure $200 sounds fair.

    I think the idea to move people to transit by making driving worse is not good, people should be moved to transit by better transit. If transit was a viable option for me, I would use it.

    My car insurance is <$100 a month, gas even with the high prices, isn't a huge cost given a relatively fuel efficient vehicle and short commute. In Abbotsford, if I wanted a monthly pass for transit it would be $45, and I am restricted to the Valley Max transit system. My car can go anywhere, more conveniently and relatively cheap. Transit is an inconvenience and costly.

    And as far as gas being cheaper in Abbotsford, you'd be surprised… What is the Metro-Van Translink gas tax? 6 cents? I don't think the difference is that big. When it was 109.9 here I think I saw it in Metro Van for 110.2. Granted it is always fluctuating. In Silverdale just out of mission, at the same time it was 99.9.

    Zweisystem replies: In Point Roberts, gas is CAD $0.86 a litre.

  8. Jim Says:

    I should add, I live right in town in Abbotsford, and unless I am travelling to work or out of the city I usually walk, for me it is more convenient. Certain things are out of walking distance, such as our sports center and the airport.

    What I would be looking for in a rail option would be a link between communities, so I don’t HAVE to drive if I want to go to Langley, Mission, or Chilliwack.

    Zweisystem replies: What is the cost of gas in Sumas Wa.?

  9. Jim Says:

    According to it is 2.95 (us) per gallon.

  10. David Says:

    It’s good to hear there are people who still walk a lot. I wish I could, but we live in a fast paced world where kids have to get to school, gymnastics and scouts on time and I want to be home in time to eat dinner with them. Even with a car it’s pretty near impossible to get to the grocery store except on weekends when we’d much rather be doing something else.

    My car is worth every penny I spend on it. There’s value in convenience and it’s higher than what I’m paying now so Jim is right, pushing up the cost of driving isn’t going to get many people out of their cars.

    It is possible for cost to reduce the number of trips made by cars however. For what it would cost me to park downtown my wife and I both get 1-zone bus passes. Having said that, if there wasn’t adequate transit service I’d have no choice. That’s why it’s so important that service be in place first. Imposing tolls without first providing alternatives just makes people angry.

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