Why are we stuck with SkyTrain

The ongoing SkyTrain versus light rail debate continues in the Lower Mainland, which is curious because elsewhere modern LRT made SkyTrain obsolete over two decades ago.

Has anyone at TransLink or the SkyTrain lobby noticed that no one builds with SkyTrain anymore?

Over 33 years being on the market, only seven have been built. Compare this with over 150 new light rail lines being built during the same period!

It’s not SkyTrain, rather it’s the family of driverless light-metros that have been made obsolete by LRT simply because you can operate LRT as light-metro, on a grade separated guideway like Seattle, yet retain the ability to operate as light-rail or a streetcar on the same route if need be.

This inherent flexibility of modern light rail made the much more expensive SkyTrain fit for only small people-mover type systems.

SkyTrain is driverless and as a result costs more to operate than LRT because instead of drivers, SkyTrain has attendants—over 250 of them at last count and with more technical employees needed for smooth operation.

Combined with SkyTrain’s huge construction costs, SkyTrain is a very bad bargain.

The SkyTrain mini-metro system has become a pariah of transit systems, yet TransLink, which is sinking fast in a quicksand of debt, still plans for more.

Can’t any civic or provincial politicians draw a straight line from SkyTrain to TransLink’s financial chaos? Evidently not.

Today, modern light rail has proven to carry more people, faster, at a far cheaper cost than SkyTrain.

Malcolm Johnston


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