Letter: Transit planners are on the wrong track

Re: “Mayors’ Council may expect Vancouver to fund Broadway line,” Sept. 24.

To the editor:

Re: “Mayors’ Council may expect Vancouver to fund Broadway line,” Sept. 24.

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Mr. Geller’s article  illustrates a very important point, the region does not have experts in “rail” for rail-based transit systems. Our universities, unlike Europe, do not have faculties of Urban Transport; there are no graduate courses in urban transportation nor is the history of public transportation taught. Currently we have mere amateurs planning our regional rapid transit and TransLink’s operation certainly reflects this.

The first mistake of an amateur transit planner is believing that a transit system only gets better by throwing more money at it. The success of a public transit system is dependent on how user-friendly the transit system is and our current transit system is far from user friendly evidenced from events this summer when SkyTrain stopped working and thousands of customers abandoned SkyTrain like rats leaving a sinking ship.

TransLink’s current financial ill-health can be traced back directly to the SkyTrain mini-metro system, which despite local hype and hoopla, is more expensive to build and operate than its chief competitor: modern light rail transit (LRT). For added insult, modern LRT also has and always had a higher capacity than SkyTrain and, combined with higher construction and operation costs, is the main reason only seven such systems have been built in the past 36 years!

Putting SkyTrain (which was first designed to mitigate the high cost of subway construction) in a subway will only increase construction and operation costs but will not increase efficiency. Increase operating costs, which combined with the fact that subway are very poor in attracting new ridership, will make a Broadway subway a very heavy finical millstone around TransLink’s neck.

The City of Vancouver by demanding a SkyTrain subway may be putting its taxpayers at risk as the cost difference between subway construction could be as much as 10 times more than on-street/at-grade LRT.

Instead of Vancouver taxpayer’s anteing up $500 million (a figure presented by amateur transit planners), they could be on the hook for billions of dollars more!

It should be of interest that despite SkyTrain being in operation in metro Vancouver since 1985, no city in North America and Europe has copied Vancouver’s transit planning, nor have they copied using the proprietary SkyTrain mini-metro.

But then, our amateur transit planners tend to gloss over that singular fact when campaigning for a SkyTrain subway under Broadway.

Malcolm Johnston,


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