Malcolm Johnston, a private citizen, has studied and written about rail transit for years. He does not have a lucrative consulting contract to promote Sky Train, the outdated and costly beast that has for decades been rejected by transit experts around the world. Nor is he paid to promote any competing system.
Altruism is uncommon in a world where billions of dollars are at stake and millions are spent recruiting cheerleaders for big dollar systems, even ones that regularly fail open competitions for new installations.
I’ve written about the concept of bureaucratic inertia, a disease that holds BC Hydro in its grip. It is functioning at TransLink as well. The stated goal may be to move people efficiently, but the organization’s reality is that it is a vast funnel to distribute public funds in numerous directions. The agency’s preference is to never spend $1 billion if there is possibility of spending $10 billion instead.
Mr. Johnston says, “Simple facts seem not to bother those wanting SkyTrain, but with TransLink being utterly dishonest with the public, action must be taken.”
This letter to the editor of Black Press’ Surrey Now Leader is one of Johnston’s contributions to public debate:
I see another ill-informed letter about light rail has been printed using just about every old-saw one can grasp.
Men-of-straw arguments, lack of transit knowledge and spiced with clever “SkyTrain” rhetoric spewed by the SkyTrain Lobby making LRT the devil incarnate.
Why so? LRT is the first choice of transit planners around the world in providing an affordable and user-friendly transit that has a proven ability to attract new ridership. Over 200 new light rail operations have been built since SkyTrain was first marketed in the late 70’s.
Only seven of the proprietary SkyTrain systems have ever been sold, under at least five marketing names!
SkyTrain is not the wonder system many would have us think.
SkyTrain costs a lot more to build, operate, and maintain, than comparable LRT operations. Importantly, LRT is very flexible in operation, which is very important for public transit systems.
As a proprietary Railway, SkyTrain has built in obsolescence.
SkyTrain is capacity constricted, limited to Transport Canada’s Operating Certificate, which allows a maximum capacity of 15,000 pphpd for the light-metro unless a minimum of $3 billion is spent on electrical upgrades, complete station rebuilding, new automatic train control and new cars, which Bombardier is winding down production of the SkyTrain cars.
Future car orders will almost be custom made, both time consuming and expensive.
SkyTrain has become dated and despite huge efforts by the provincial government and TransLink to sell this museum piece, not one SkyTrain has been sold in the past decade, no one is interested.
Surreys’ LRT ills can be explained, TransLink has designed Surrey’s LRT as a poor man’s SkyTrain, taking all the ills of the proprietary light-metro but non of the benefits of LRT.
Real LRT is coming soon to metro Vancouver and this makes TransLink, the City of Vancouver, the Mayor’s Council on Transit,and the SkyTrain Lobby very nervous, hence the ill-informed hate mail.
Transit Police may soon be driving new vehicles. They’re not now sold anywhere in the world but #TransLink can have them built at less than $1 million each. #bcpoli #vanpolihttps://t.co/MJ7PHt3Yoq pic.twitter.com/NpMH8PamQK
— Norm Farrell (@Norm_Farrell) January 14, 2018