SkyTrain is modern-day Edsel

Those who continually dismiss modern LRT never explain why only seven SkyTrain systems have been built in 40 years.

There is myth that Light Rail Transit is slow, slower than SkyTrain, in fact as slow as road traffic. This needs to be corrected.

Studies have shown that streetcars operating in mixed traffic are about 10 per cent faster than buses, but streetcars or trams are not quite light rail.

Modern light rail is a streetcar or tram that operates on dedicated or reserved rights-of-ways, with priority signalling at intersections. The reserved rights-of-way enables modern LRT to obtain commercial speeds of a light metro such as SkyTrain, with commercial speed largely determined by the number of stations per route kilometre.

The optimum station spacing for LRT in an urban setting is about every 500 metres to 600 metres, but with light-metro stations (SkyTrain) being so expensive, station spacing for metro tends to be further apart – one kilometre to 1.5 kms apart. This does give faster commercial speeds, but it deters ridership because door-to-door travel times are more because the transit customer must travel further to get to transit than he/she would with light rail.

Modern LRT can obtain actual speeds equal to or faster than our present SkyTrain if need be. In many cities today, modern LRT can also act as a passenger train operating on the mainline railways at mainline speeds.

It is the inherent flexibility of modern LRT – which can operate as a streetcar (in mixed traffic), as light rail on its own dedicated route, and a passenger train, often on the same route – that made light metro such as SkyTrain (only seven built in 40 years) obsolete.

Those who continually dismiss modern LRT with one excuse or another are not telling the truth and they never explain why only seven SkyTrain systems have been built in 40 years and why none have ever been allowed to compete directly against modern light rail.

Could it be that transit authorities around the world do not want to invest in expensive “Edsel-style” transit such as SkyTrain?

Malcolm Johnston, Delta

 

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