More SkyTrain Expansion?

The Vancouver Sun – December 11, 2008

More SkyTrain Expansion to be studied?  Do we need more studies at this point?  Perhaps studies for alignment, but the technology choice is becoming more obvious over time.  SkyTrain is not a very cost-effective mode of transportation.  You get less bang for your buck.  For the same amount of money, you could lay down way more kilometres of light rail across a region.

If people have forgotten, the Evergreen Line emerged from public consulation as a light rail project.  It would have elevated, at-grade, and tunnel portions.  It would have also had separated and mixed travel with traffic along the route depending on location.  As Malcolm J on Stephen Rees’ Blog often points out, LRT can have the same headway with proper traffic management and separation from traffic.

I personally hope that the Evergreen Line will still get the green light.  It’s been delayed again and again.  It was supposed to be built at the same time as the Canada Line, but has been delayed until after the Olympics.  It’s not expected to be operational until 2013/14, but no actual physical construction has started.

Dianne Watts, Mayor of Surrey, has gone on record before in supporting light rail South of the Fraser, but she “embraces” the idea of SkyTrain in this recent article.  We can only hope that studies by the province and the City of Surrey will give a fair evaluation of our technology choices.

As for the UBC extension, I am more partial to an underground train, but costs may not allow for that.  Plus, do we want to sink more money into a SkyTrain extension when it’s not the ideal technology with narrow trains and an expensive proprietary motion system?  A light-rail system would definitely change the look and feel of Broadway.  Before the Glen Clark NDP government decreed SkyTrain upon Lougheed Highway, the plan was originally for a light rail from Lougheed Mall all the way to UBC.  Platform locations and traffic relocation was all planned out.  We don’t need to re-study these options as much, but an update of the cost definitely needs an update.

I am increasingly afraid of the cost of the automated “light rail” systems like SkyTrain and the Rotem Hyundai trains for the Canada Line.  Are we getting the best value for our dollar in these systems?  Do we need mass transit?  Yes, there is no question about that.  However, if light rail can provide the same service at a fraction of the cost, we should definitely consider it.

The Evergreen Line should be on the top of the list and should be completed before any other extensions or additions.  Richmond and Vancouver already bypassed the Tri-Cities with the Canada Line.  The Coquitlam line was planned to be done immediately after the Millennium Line.  However, the Olympics happened and that helped to fast track a Richmond-Airport-Vancouver Line.  As a region, we owe one to the Tri-Cities for making them suffer more poor transit service.  I just hope the technology choice will be light rail.

We need a light-rail Evergreen Line to showcase the technology.  We’re too stuck on SkyTrain in Vancouver.  We need to open our eyes and minds to something beyond SkyTrain.  SkyTrain is not the pinnacle of rapid transit.  If it were, then why do only 7 of these “SkyTrain” systems exist in the world (JFK Airport, Detroit people mover, Beijing Airport Express, Vancouver SkyTrain, Kuala Lumpur, Yongin, and … shudder … the Scarborough RT)?  There are dozens of light rail systems in comparison manufactured by several companies (Bombardier, Siemens, Alstom, GE, and Kawasaki are some of the largest companies involved in light rail).  SkyTrain technology is exclusively from Bombardier.  So don’t think of having a competitive bid when you have to replace the trains 40-50 years down the road.

Further Reading:

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