From the Vancouver Province – Canada Line to lose millions each year despite strong ridership – Another TransLink Bambozzle


From the “Tip of the Iceberg Department”; the RAV/Canada Line is going to cost TransLink money but until the BC Auditor General has a go at TransLink, SkyTrain and RAV, the public will never know the true costs of the new subway or of TransLink’s metro operation.

The $14 million to $21 million shortfall mentioned is just on the $300 million or so P-3 part of the project and TransLink’s portion of the metro and does not include the annual debt servicing costs of the over $1 billion in senior government money invested in the subway. If TransLink’s appeal of Susan Heyes lawsuit fails and hundred of other affected merchants sue, TransLink’s shortfall for the RAV/Canada Line will increase dramatically.

What is so ‘Joesph Goebbels’ about the piece is the term “strong ridership” – 83,000 passengers a day is not strong ridership for a subway, or metro! 83,000 passengers a day is really very poor ridership when compared to the at least 400,000 passengers a day that is needed to justify the investment on an almost $3 billion subway! Again, in METRO Vancouver, mediocre SkyTrain and metro performance is perverted by TransLink, through the mainstream media, as success.

The final insult is the quote: “The indication is that the line is attracting more car drivers because 79 per cent have access to a private vehicle for the trip compared with 66 per cent of riders overall. Three in 10, or 29 per cent, were not regular users of transit.”

TransLink, like BC Transit before, never asks a question that the answer can’t be twisted to suit its own ends; instead of asking: “Have you switched from car to transit“, which would have given a definite answer (an answer that TransLink may not like); asks the nebulous “Do you have access to a car?“, there by assuring a very hazy answer that can be easily manipulated.

What the news article failed to mention is that the RAV/Canada Line is force fed almost 40,000 bus passengers a day (which equals almost 80,000 trips as transit customers travel there and back), transit customers that once took direct buses from Surrey, Delta, Richmond to Vancouver, as well many bus customers on Cambie St. The new metro has probably increased transit ridership on the route by about 10%, but is this number attributed to students using the deep discounted U-Pass or a slight modal shift from car to transit. As RAV/Canada Line has no turnstiles and relies on laser counters that lose reliability in congested locations, ridership on the RAV/Canada Line nay be distorted by as much as 15%. Politely not mentioned is the airport portion of the line that despite initial hype and hoopla, is ignored. Recent polling by YVR and independent sources, indicate that very few airline customers are using the metro and almost no one is taking RAV to shop at the airport.

The RAV/Canada Line is full of stories, if only the mainstream media care to dig a little.

Canada Line to lose millions each year despite strong ridership


Shortfall of $14m to $21m per year till 2025

By Frank Luba, The ProvinceNovember 12, 2009

The new, $2-billion Canada Line will lose between $14 million and $21 million per year until 2025.

That’s despite the fact the line is rapidly approaching the 100,000 riders per day on which the project was based.

The information was contained in a report by provincial comptroller-general Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland concerning TransLink and B.C. Ferries, which was released last week.

While the report chided TransLink and the mayors’ council for not addressing the Lower Mainland transportation authority’s funding shortfall sooner, it acknowledged that TransLink was burdened with services where costs will be much higher than revenue for a long time.

“For example, the cost of operating the Canada Line [net of bus-fleet operating efficiencies] is expected to exceed the additional system revenue it generates until 2025, with costs exceeding incremental revenues by $14 million to $21 million for most years until then,” wrote Wenezenki-Yolland.

TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie said the costs are partially the result of how the public-private partnership deal was structured to pay off more than $700 million put into the project by builder InTransitB.C.

“It costs less to pay more up front,” said Hardie. “It’s like paying off your mortgage earlier.” New Democratic Party transportation critic Harry Bains (Surrey-Newton) blamed the decision to build the Canada Line as a public-private partnership on the government’s “ideological” support of P3s.

Bains said the Canada Line deal is one of the reasons for TransLink’s ongoing need to raise more revenue, as pointed out in the comptroller-general’s report.

“It’s a sad situation,” said Bains. “I hope the government pays attention.” Figures provided by TransLink for the period from Sept. 9 to Oct. 6 show average daily ridership of 83,027.

Hardie said “the ridership to date is a very positive development.” But he said it was “too early” to say how many of those riders are new to transit or how many cars were taken off the road as the result of the transit megaproject.

Back in March, Premier Gordon Campbell said: “This project is the equivalent of investing in a new 10-lane road between downtown Vancouver and Richmond. It will take 200,000 one-way trips off the streets.” However, the best Trans-Link could do to back that up was provide feedback from its customer-service polling of 200 adult Canada Line riders, who were more positive overall than other transit users.

The indication is that the line is attracting more car drivers because 79 per cent have access to a private vehicle for the trip compared with 66 per cent of riders overall. Three in 10, or 29 per cent, were not regular users of transit.

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8 Responses to “From the Vancouver Province – Canada Line to lose millions each year despite strong ridership – Another TransLink Bambozzle”

  1. mezzanine Says:

    You are mixing your arguements. Are you against the P3 aspect of the canada line? would you prefer a fully publicly funded metro to the airport? Would a a P3 for a Canada line LRT be more acceptible?

    I find it disappointing that we did have to go to a P3 for the canada line. I would have liked a 100% publicly funded metro on the canada line route, built to M-line spec. Still, I am satisfied with what we have.

    Even portland’s MAX line requires an 80% govt subsidy for operations. (see page 4)

    Zweisystem replies: I wonder just how much TransLink pays you? Last things first: I do not see any figures for a 80% subsidy for operations for MAX, rather what I saw the entire funding chart for Tri-met, including 91 bus lines and over 825 buses! Remember Portland’s LRT system is funded by long term bonds, which may skew the subsidy chart. In fact 52% funding of Tri_met is from payroll taxes, in a state that is sales tax free! If RAV was a real P-3, it would not have been an automatic metro as it is just not cost effective or profitable. TransLink’s and Gordon Campbell’s P-3 was merely a smokescreen to hide the real costs of the subway.

  2. mezzanine Says:

    That info sheet that I linked to may be out of date as it is from 2006. But the pie chart on page 4 states that 20.69% of operations come from passenger revenue, and the rest of operational funds come from other sources (payroll taxes, cigarette taxes, federal/state grants).

  3. mezzanine Says:

    Oh, I see what you mean, that would be for the subsidy for all of trimet, including buses and LRT.

  4. David Says:

    I still have to wonder what organization would agree to run a money losing operation for at least 16 years with nothing more than a break-even contribution from TransLink. There simply must be another major source of money for InTransBC or whatever the heck they call themselves now. When they signed up for it the economy was still booming so the return on the project must be huge.

  5. BCPhil Says:

    @David, you’re right, we should also shut down these horrible hospitals we have, they don’t make any money at all and just soak up billions in funding. Sorry for the sarcasm, but really. Transit is a public service, like health care, building highways, police, courts, schools, and more. It’s not a for profit venture.

    If transit was profitable without public contributions, we wouldn’t need translink. We would have various corporations freely competing against each other for our travel dollar.

    @Zweisystem, yes, the payments to IntransBC are in addition to the money Translink has put into the project, but the purpose of the payments is to offset the amount that the private sector put in: some $700 million. Even at the full $21 million for each of the next 16 years, that’s just $336 million, which is a savings of $364 million on what the private company put in (meaning we don’t have to service that debt).

    Zweisystem replies: If you believe that, I have some shares in the Lions Gate Bridge for you to buy. The real reason for the RAV P-3 was to hide the real costs of the subway, in effect to bamboozle the public, especially those in the Fraser Valley. Talk to any real transit expert and you get the same response – RAV is grossly over built (read expensive) for the job it is supposed to do. 85,000 passengers a day, crowed by TransLink and the mainstream media is over 300,000 less passengers that should be using the metro tp justify its construction. The costs for the metro spiraled out of control, resulting in a truncated pygmy subway system, needing massive cash infusions to make the metro able to carry what much cheaper LRT can. That is the real story about RAV, but where is the Palmer’s, the Baldry’s, and the Good’s with the real story?

    Oh by the, who picks up the tab for RAV, oh yes us, through higher taxes, such as the carbon tax, Hydro levies, etc. You forget, that there is only one taxpayer. We haven’t saved a penny.

    The RAV/Canada Line is nothing more than a grade-B movie.

  6. David Says:


    You simply didn’t get my point at all.

    InTransBC or whatever the heck they’re called are the PRIVATE part of Public-Private-Partnership. Private enterprise exists for the sole purpose of making a profit.

    No enterprise that exists solely for the purpose of profit would, in the early part of this decade, agree to put $364 million (your number) into a project if they weren’t going to get substantially more back out.

    As you’ve noted $21 million/year for 16 years isn’t enough to break even even ignoring 16 years of inflation.

    Private companies do NOT plan longer term money losing operations. So unless they gambled entirely on real estate development for their profit, there are additional payments being made by the BC Government to InTransBC that we’re not being told about.

    The level of deceit displayed by our elected officials is appalling.

    Zweisystem replies: Exactly David! Until BC’s Auditor General goes through the RAV/Canada Line finances with a fine tooth comb, will the public know the truth. Why is it a metro line, carrying 83,000 passenger trips a day, is so affordable in Vancouver but nowhere else? Really, I wish Gordon Campbell or his brother explain that to the public.

  7. urban rail Says:

    Of course the Comptroller-General, who is an employee of the government not an independent officer like the Auditor-General appears to have left and out a thing or two.

    For example both the Canada Line and SkyTrain require a whole police force (rarely seen on the buses). That cost does not seem to be included in the annual cost of either line.

    Hence the nonsense like that spouted in today’s Province about SkyTrain covering over 100% of its operating costs. Give me a break. TransLink makes these statements but the media never seem to ask to see the ‘math’.

    Does anyone really believe that the miniature subway is going to have enough capacity 10 years from now? Talk about short-sighted, with underground platforms about half the length of the SkyTrain system, which itself is a midget, the costs to lengthen the platforms will be staggering, and be incurred well before the so-called break-even years.

    Zweisystem replies: The claim that the Canada Line and the SkyTrain system covers its operating costs is absolutely bogus as they do not include the annual $230 million plus provincial; subsidy, nor do they have a formula for apportioning fares between bus and metro. Example: A UBC student traveling from South surrey/Delta to UBC, using a U-PASS, taking 2 bus and 1 metro trip a day, pays an apportioned fare of $8.33 a month to the RAV/Canada line! There is no way, with fares as low as this, that SkyTrain and or RAV pay their operating costs!

  8. Bryan Vogler Says:

    The Canada Line was first started in 1990 when myself and a group of others got an environmental assesment done on the airport lands. We had proposed the stations and the line and it was agreeable to everyone.
    B.C.Transit had made a planning error putting the track from the terminal down the middle of the Grant Mchonikie way. The group corrected the implementation by runninig parellel to the old airline hangars toward the north arm of the Fraser.
    The branch offs were a busway along the Iona Island road and build a bridge across the Fraser and go up the slop to Marine Drive and U.B.C bus routes.
    The study for the U,B,C, city said two things. 70% of the students are from Richmond and about 30% using the 99B line across Broadway.
    The group wanted washroom for the public and the planners had it on the list. Well the employees have them but not the users of the system.
    This led to the bacteria box scandal, where if there was no washrooms then you don’t have to wash your hands. The government will not pass legislation on municipal level transit. They did for airplanes, trains, R.V’s and ferries. Why did they single that out when millions of people use the system every year. Could you imagine going to a Stanley Cup play-off game and have no washrooms for the public. We were astounded at such ignorance of these urban planners.
    We were going to be short on hygenic services, and it maybe why people prefer the car as a necessity rather than convenience. It certainly does not makes sense to join the rush hour every morning and complain about the traffic one drove into to go to work. But such is the case for the Canada Line which could not prove ridership because of a history of poor bus service to the Airport. The planners hinged it on the third runway traffic as we have to catch up to other international cities with rail airport services. There certainly was no overwhelming response from public information sessions or love-in rail fans that rejection of the rail line would be an improvement of infrastructure. The next implementation was a ferry service from New Westminster Skytrain to a ferry dock on the north arm of the Fraser, under the Auther Laing bridge.
    B.C. Ferries said ok as long as it arrives at Twassen and is a walk on.
    Translink rejected it and therefore no transit connection.
    The thinking is a walk on ferry travels faster down the river than road traffic on marine Drive. But it was the walk on connction that planners did not want the public knowledge of. We may have been able to convert the Albion ferries.
    When i visited B.C.Transit planners they loved the idea and had drawn up plans to use Cambie Street in 1991. C.P.R. using a a 1800 piece of law stated the position was not to use the the Arbutus line nor abandon it.
    They chose to sit on it, and Cambie was the only option despite residential protests and of late a winning lawsuit by the business community.
    The other No3 Road lead was a busway now scrapped for the Canada Line. Anywhere you look on this line the population does not support the building of it. Bus connection are bad and people make it there last choice of commuting. This line is an Olympic pipe dream of dictatorship dimensions that will in the future prove once again the folly of democracy in Canada. The Canada Line name exemplifies not only the tax burden left behind, but the bill to pay for years to come. I call it democratic dictatorship moving into a new century. You can vote all you want, but the dictator will swing the party line against what the public has said. Ommissions of agendas not brought before the public prior to voting day are yet a another tattoo of a Translink which passes law to suit themselves and admits they are an authority. The system is wrong because its a dictatorship and the the travelling public have no rights once on board. Watched by camera, seached for tickets, no washrooms and a complete lack of confidentiality and privacy. If we are to build a successful railfor the valley train then then we have to change the system in many ways because from Chilliwack to Vancouver is a long haul under such short haul commuter conditions

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