Is the Hawaii SkyTrain Project Bombardier’s Last Kick At The Can?


The End of the Line for SkyTrain?

The i L i n d . n e t blog has been asking many questions about the proposed SkyTrain transit project in Hawaii, questions which should be answered before embarking on a multi billion dollar rapid transit project. Recent postings point to the fact that light rail was quietly dropped from the planning process, not unlike our RAV/Canada Line planning, and then just like magic, poof, SkyTrain appeared.

From our side of the pond, it appears that this could be Bombardier’s “last kick at the ‘SkyTrain’ can” as the proprietary light-metro is getting rather long in the tooth. The SkyTrain light-metro, a lash-up of 1960’s & 70’s technology and transit philosophy that has largely been made obsolete by time and light rail, is becoming a very hard sell, with only seven such systems built in the past 30 years. The embarrassment of the Vancouver RAV/Canada line being built as a conventional metro, instead of SkyTrain (therefore incompatible with the SkyTrain network) is a further slap in the face of Bombardier’s proprietary light-metro system.

But the real key why the Hawaii project is so important may be found in American transit specialist, Gerald Fox’s 2008 letter to a Victoria (BC) transit group, regarding the proposed SkyTrain Evergreen Line, where he easily shreds TransLink’s Evergreen Line business case.

The key comes almost at the end of the letter:

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.

Unlike the Detroit “Mugger Mover“, which was marketed as an ICTS transit system (SkyTrain’s first name) or the JFK AirTrain, which was built in a private deal between the Port Authority and Bombardier, with funding provided by the Canadian Government, no SkyTrain project has ever passed the scrutiny “by a panel of transit peers, selected and monitored by the (US)  federal government.”

Is the Hawaii SkyTrain project a desperate attempt by Bombardier Inc. to give legitimacy to their expensive proprietary light-metro in the USA and to try to eek out a few more sales of their metro system? It would be advisable for our friend in the sunny isles to take a microscope to the transit deal and who is supporting it, as it always has been a strange coincidence that those who support SkyTrain tend to be well rewarded down the line.

What does this mean for Rail for the Valley?

If the Hawaiian SkyTrain projects comes to grief, like the Seattle monorail project (which Bombardier was heavily involved with), SkyTrain will be shunted to a siding, for with coming new technologies making modern LRT even more cheaper to build and convenient to use, will make the SkyTrain light-metro almost unsellable, except for private and backroom deals, furnaced by the Canadian Government.

The failure of the Hawaiian SkyTrain will bode well for RFV is getting an affordable interurban built as SkyTrain will be relegated as an historic railway, not unlike the Wuppertal Schwebbebahn (monorail), and regional planners will be forced to think ‘light‘ for light rail.


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2 Responses to “Is the Hawaii SkyTrain Project Bombardier’s Last Kick At The Can?”

  1. voony Says:

    it is a bit daring to cite US as an example to follow when come transit investment…

    They only show a long history of failure, Seattle LRT being the last to date…
    it comes at a price of a metro but wiithout the advantage of it (speed, frequency, reliability)…

    Ridership on the Seattle link has still to materialize like it has for most of the US LRT often built in far denser area than the Valley…
    Today Seattle is cutting bus service altogether on Sunday in its suburbs, Portland, touted as a success by LRT follower, is cutting bus service, all thta to help to keep afloat those agencies

    When come to transit investment, US is not an example to follow…
    and folk pretending otherwise are probably out of touch with reality

    Zweisystem replies: No not at all, SkyTrain has never passed scrutiny in the USA. The service cuts you allude to are caused by the massive recession in the USA. When there is no work, people do not commute nor shop or can afford transit!

    The USA has invested huge sums on public transit, far more per capita than in Canada and Americans generally like to get the best bang for their buck, unlike Canadians who seem to be like rubes, being continually swindled by politicians.

  2. voony Says:

    “The USA has invested huge sums on public transit, far more per capita than in Canada”,
    yes and we far of stellar result: it is what I say:
    When come to transit investment, US is not an example to follow…

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