Dubious SkyTrain claims

Editor: I see that the SkyTrain lobby’s Mr. Daryl Dela Cruz is up to his old tricks nay-saying modern light rail with some very dubious claims (The Times, Dec. 10).

Let’s correct some of his erroneous statements.

• LRT can and does operate at speeds of 80 to 90 km/h on at-grade rights-of-ways, as it does in cities like Portland and Calgary.

• At-grade operation attracts more ‘new’ transit customers than elevated transit systems, which is why most transit is built and operated at grade.

• LRT tends to improve business along its route. In Portland, businesses along a light rail route see about a 10 per cent improvement in sales.

• SkyTrain doesn’t add transit benefits, rather it significantly increases the cost of transit, requiring ever higher subsidies to operate.

• SkyTrain works in Vancouver because the provincial and regional taxpayers have spent over $9 billion on just three transit lines. The same amount of money could have funded nine LRT lines.

More LRT lines, servicing more destinations is a surefire way to garner ridership.

• Being driverless has no advantage in operating frequencies; in Europe many LRT lines operate at 30- to 40-second headways in peak times. The high cost of the automatic train control makes driverless operation about 40 per cent more to operate than comparable light rail systems.

• LRT is as reliable as automatic transit systems.

• The claim that SkyTrain promotes transit-oriented growth is spurious, especially in Metro Vancouver, where car use has remained at 57 per cent of the transit modal share since 1994

SkyTrain has been on the market for almost 35 years and only seven such systems have been built, of which only three are seriously used for urban transit, with the remainder being a demonstration line and airport/theme park people movers.

During the same period, over 150 new LRT lines have been built, are under construction or are in advanced stages of planning and modern LRT has never been allowed to compete directly with SkyTrain as all

SkyTrains built have been private deals with little meaningful public input.

These figures speak for themselves.

Malcolm Johnston

Rail for the Valley

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