SkyTrain design full of limitations

Only seven SkyTrain-type systems have been built since it was first marketed in the late 1970s.

A recent letter from Mr. Cruz, ( is full of dated and misleading misinformation, so common with the SkyTrain lobby.

Only seven SkyTrain-type systems have been built since it was first marketed in the late 1970s, compared with well over 100 new light rail systems built during the same period. Why?

Modern light rapid transit (LRT) improves service on routes which it operates, bringing a quality transit service to former bus routes.

SkyTrain is a proprietary mini-metro system and if Bombardier Inc. (the present owner) decides to cease production, we would lose our only supplier. No one else builds SkyTrain, unlike modern LRT, which has many suppliers – including Bombardier Inc.

What many people do not realize is that SkyTrain was too expensive for the Canada Line and a cheaper, generic, grade-separated, electric multiple unit transit system was built instead. The Canada Line is not compatible to operate with the rest of the SkyTrain system.

Speed of LRT is dependent on the quality of rights-of-ways it operates on and the number of stations per route kilometre. LRT operating on a reserved right-of-ways (which can be a simple as a HOV lane with rails) can obtain commercial speeds equal of that of SkyTrain; LRT operating as a TramTrain on railway lines can obtain higher commercial speeds than SkyTrain.

Mr. Cruz, quoting “raw” construction costs, which excludes the cost of cars, signalling and power supplies for the Expo Line in Surrey, is again misleading as the same “raw” costs for LRT operating on-street is about $6 million/km.

The Rail for the Valley group, which engaged Leewood Projects from the UK to plan for a Fraser Valley TramTrain service using the old interurban route, found that the full build, 138 kms from Vancouver/Richmond to Rosedale worked out to $7.2 million/km. Modern LRT is affordable if it is designed to be affordable.

It sad to see the same old dated rhetoric trundled out by the SkyTrain lobby, especially today when there is such overwhelming evidence that modern LRT is faster than, attracts more ridership than, and is cheaper to build than SkyTrain.


Malcolm Johnston

Rail for the Valley

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