Olympic Hubris – Will The Wrong Conclusions Be Made By Our Planning & Political Elites?


In the last days of the 2010 Olympics, much has been made about how well our transportation worked during the event. What has been overlooked is that for the two week extravaganza, Vancouver had much warmer seasonal weather, meaning no snow to stall the SkyTrain metro and make a shambles out of the bus schedules. Added to this, many Vancouver downtown professional businesses closed or reduced hours of operations because of driving and parking restrictions. This was a win-win situation for TransLink as many people were forced from car to transit (active traffic calming), while at the same time, spring like weather created absolutely no problems in operations.

High ridership figures were reported for SkyTrain and the Canada Line and that was to be expected for such a large protracted event. In San Diego, their LRT system, which carries about 110,000 passengers a day, carried over 340,000 customers on Superbowl Sunday, when the city last hosted the event.

The SkyTrain Lobby have taken the metro’s high ridership numbers as some sort of reason to build more metro, while at the same time belittling light-rail. Though one disputes some of the ridership figures given by TransLink, it must be accepted that the metro carried record numbers of customers, the same would have been true with light rail. The SkyTrain lobby are trying desperately, while the Olympic memory is still fresh, to push for hugely expensive metro and subway projects, before the sleeping giant South of the Fraser awakens.

That sleeping giant? The Fraser Valley, which combined population is greater than Vancouver, Burnaby, and Richmond; which population is awakening to the fact that their transit taxes are paying for high priced metro for Vancouver, while they get scraps. Surrey residents in particular are beginning to realize that SkyTrain will not be extended in the near future (38 years according to one group) in their city, while learning that LRT/tram can be built for the fraction of the cost and quickly. There is an ever increasing call for the South Fraser Area to secede from TransLink and form their own transportation authority, which taxes collected will be kept in their local, to pay for the transit they want or can afford.

The provincial government must finally mature and let the people decide what transit mode they want and not keep on with a the very tired “You are going to get SkyTrain whether you like it or not” routine. What many South of the Fraser see, is that TransLink’s planning will further burdening the taxpayer with ever higher taxes to subsidize a costly “Edsel” metro system, that very few will actually use.

The one question that the SkyTrain lobby refuse to answer is; “Why, after being on the market for over 30 years, only seven SkyTrain systems have been built; all by private deals with little or no public scrutiny?” The answer of course is embarrassing to their cause and is swept under the carpet.

The SkyTrain lobby’s demands for more and more expensive SkyTrain, may be fortified with Olympic Hubris. Taxpayers beware!


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9 Responses to “Olympic Hubris – Will The Wrong Conclusions Be Made By Our Planning & Political Elites?”

  1. mezzanine Says:

    We both agree translink is broke. and transit use in south fraser is poor.

    but remember – you have to change culture in surrey/langley. only since 2005 did they implement reasonable bus service in south-of-fraser, it is the primary reason why translink has a structural debt.

    Remember the Comptroller general’s report….

    “The majority of the $130 million structural deficit faced by TransLink is a result of factors other than Canada Line, such as the increase in the operational cost of the bus fleet, particularly into lower ridership, geographically sparse areas.”

    So even if Canada Line was LRT, an expanded bus system in lower density areas and a hesitant provincial/municipal government would still mean funding shortfalls.

    “We were advised that the expansion strategy created increased operational expenses where additional services were added to less populated regions. Ridership and associated revenue are lower on these routes, yet the cost of operating a bus is relatively constant.”

    That’s not to say that isn’t a bad thing. We are building rideship and changing culture in the valley. And we maintained our bus service even as places like Portland (of all places) cut bus service.

    But it makes you wonder how we will be able to implement rapid transit in the valley (or broadway or evergreen) in the most appropriate way. At the very least, we should start a SOF B-line and start doing a corridor analysis.



    January 31, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Zweisystem replies: Every transit expert I have talked to have echoed the same refrain: “To keep building with SkyTrain and/or light metro, will both retard transit growth and bankrupt the system.”

  2. Justin Says:

    The skytrain lobby is actually saying light metro can carry as many riders as the RER! A tad delusional?

  3. David Says:

    Today’s Metro newspaper has just such a conclusion on their Commentary page.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Well I went into Vancouver during the Olympics. There was a free concert, and we’re paying for them whether we want to or not so I decided what the heck. The Translink officials were friendly. The system was definitely not packed, from the reports I hear about it being packed, I guess we just chose the correct times, I don’t know. It was easy. We used skytrain from scott road to stadium, and later the canada line across town (day pass $9). It was convenient from scott road, but there was no easy way to take transit to get there. It would have been just as easy and convenient had they been built with LRT, but would have been easier because the rail system would be able to have been much larger. If money were no concern then Skytrain can work, but we can do so much more if we build with affordable LRT that it’s just plain stupid for translink to keep thinking what theyre doing, which isn’t working, will work if they just keep at it.

    Zweisystem replies: A source has told Zwei, that no fare checks were made during the Olympics and most visitors used the metro for free! On weekends of course, those holding monthly or annual passes were able to take families along for free as well! High ridership does not equate into high revenues.

  5. mezzanine Says:

    @ Anonymous

    I’m glad you found the skytrain system convienient to get to olympic events.

    WRT scott road station, you can get the 312, 314, or the 319. It is also skytrain’s only park and ride facility.

    And coming home from the canada line, wouldn’t it be nice to take the millienium line from broadway-city hall back to scott road?


    Zweisystem replies: Oh yes, a little Millennium Line costing $4 billion. I hope you house taxes rise to pay for subway and not mine!

  6. David Says:

    The future grid will be LRT if a true grid ever gets built that is. SkyTrain is going to be the exception that interrupts the grid not the other way around.

  7. curious Says:

    “Zweisystem replies: Every transit expert I have talked to …”

    Name them please.
    I would like to know the name of the transit expert you talked to. I would like to email or write to them directly to know more rationale about their opinion.

    Zweisystem replies: I am not going to name the expert game, but the evidence is overwhelming, no one builds with SkyTrain.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    @mez, yes it was, but my point was more along the lines of, it would have been more convenient if they had a larger system, which they could maybe afford if they stopped building skytrain and used lrt instead.

  9. David Says:

    Had LRT been chosen for the Millennium Line, it would been running from Coquitlam Centre to UBC for the past five years.

    Instead we’re looking at possibly getting that link by 2020 and only if both the federal government and TransLink each kick in at least $1.5 billion.

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