Thursday, January 30, 2014


I must comment on your interview with Gordon Price, who is perceived by many as a transit expert, he is not and not even close. Mr. Price is a graduate City Planner and has very little knowledge of transport mode and its application and operation.

I must state that I am not a transit expert but a layman, who has over the past 30 years have consulted with transit professionals about metro, light-metro and light rail. I was also the chap who was responsible for organizing the Rail for the Valley Leewood report about reinstating the the Vancouver to Chilliwack interurban.
I was once on your radio program in your 'NW days.
So let's look at the transit situation today. SkyTrain is a vintage proprietary railway, which after being on the market since the late 1970's has managed to sell only seven such systems under four different names (ICTS; ALRT; ALM; ART)and only three are seriously used for regional transit, with the other four being a demonstration line and or an airport/theme park people movers, all overseas SkyTrains financed in part by the government of Canada. The vehicle and technological patents for the SkyTrain system are held by SNC Lavalin and Bombardier.
The Canada Line is not really a SkyTrain at all but a $2.5 billion dumbed down heavy-rail metro, built as a light metro and as built has less capacity than a streetcar costing a fraction to build! The Canada Line is also incompatible in operation with the rest of the SkyTrain mini-metro system.
Mr. Price made much hay about the "90 second headways", to which I say; "so what", most European LRT/tram systems operate at 30 second headways during peak hours! SkyTrain's 90 second headways are necessary due to the small cars and small stations which demand short headways to be able to keep up to traffic loads. As an aside, the Canada Line has very small station platforms and was at capacity when it was completed!
Today, it is recognized by transit professionals,(but not Mr. Price or SFU) that modern LRT does indeed have a higher capacity than SkyTrain, that's why no one builds with SkyTrain today!
SkyTrain does indeed carry high ridership, but over 80% are bus passengers forced to transfer from bus to SkyTrain, about twice the industry standard, which conveys the message that SkyTrain's ridership is a forced ridership which is definitely not how you attract new ridership. With the proliferation of a 110,000 U-Passes for post secondary students it is easy to see that our transit system is at capacity on major routes, but with cheap fares, TransLink is going broke carrying the extra loads brought about by the U-Pass.
From 1994 to 2011 the mode share in the Metro Vancouver region has remained unchanged at 57% and transit ridership has increased a mere 3%, hardly a great selling point after an over $9 billion invested in rapid transit.
SkyTrain, with it's puny streetcar sized stations with 80 metre platforms means the mini-metro has met its maximum capacity of about 15,000 persons per hour per direction (the Canada line has 40 to 50 metre station platforms and effectively has about half the capacity!) meaning a Skytrain subway under Broadway will not have the capacity as claimed by the city of Vancouver, TransLink and Mr. Price unless every station platform is increased to 120 metres or more in length which will push the cost for a Broadway subway to near $5 billion! No wonder the SkyTrain Lobby wants road pricing and all the tax revenues they can get their dirty little hands on.
Calgary's LRT has platform lengths of 120 metres, enabling them to operate longer trains and the Ottawa LRT will also have 120 metre platforms, which are designed to be easily expanded to 150 metres, in fact the tram subway in Ottawa already has 150 metre platforms!
I am tired by academics pretending to be transit experts trying to sell dated planning, using dated Skytrain as something wonderful. All I think what Mr. Price wants, is to keep his speaking engagements calendar open for as many dates as possible selling what is tantamount to, is an Edsel.
Malcolm Johnston
Rail for the Valley