Letter: ‘Time for TransLink to come clean on SkyTrain,’ says LRT proponent

Editor: It is time TransLink comes clean about SkyTrain, as extending SkyTrain is fraught with many expensive problems.

The operating ticket from Transport Canada only allows SkyTrain a maximum capacity of 15,000 persons per hour per direction and it is illegal to carry more.

By extending SkyTrain, capacity will be limited, unless the electrical supply is refurbished to allow more trains and all stations rebuilt with longer platforms to allow longer trains.

The estimated cost for this; buying more trains and updating the automatic train control is between $2 billion to $3 billion, without any extensions, such as the $3 billion Broadway subway.

With SkyTrain, one is left with a dated and obsolete proprietary light metro system and with only seven examples built since the late 1970s, there is the threat that the manufacturer may soon cease production.

As a reference point, the Canada Line is not ALRT/ART SkyTrain, rather a generic elevated railway, but has station platforms half the length of the Expo and Millennium Lines and has effectively about one half the capacity.

Modern light rail made mini metros like SkyTrain obsolete, because it is extremely adaptable and flexible in operation. LRT out-performs SkyTrain on all levels, which is why only seven such systems have been built.

Modern LRT is cheaper to build; cheaper to maintain and operate than SkyTrain, also has a greater capacity.

During the same period SkyTrain has been on the market, over two hundred new LRT systems have been built and many of the 350 existing ‘heritage’ tram systems have been rebuilt to modern LRT standards.

The real problem with LRT in Surrey is simple; as it is being designed as a poor man’s SkyTrain continuing the many of the expensive mistakes made by building with light metro.

What is essentially a demonstration tram line is being grossly gold-plated by planners and engineers with little knowledge of modern LRT, its abilities, inherent adaptability, and capabilities.

My fear is, the City of Surrey and TransLink are using the excuse of LRT construction to have the regional taxpayer pay for major road rebuilding and underground utility upgrading, just like the St. Clair LRT project in Toronto.

Transit is to move people and not for politicians to cut ribbons in front of at election time.

Malcolm Johnston,

Rail for the Valley