Debunking Myths

Twenty-two points created by our organization, debunking myths and inaccuracies:

It’s okay to have longer travel times (which is what ground-level LRT will bring) in exchange for a “community-friendly system”.

(1) SkyTrain will have 2-3 times more capacity and more than twice the speed of an ground level LRT line due to its private right-of-way. Speed is an important factor for the daily commuter, as shown by bus ridership statistics for the Broadway corridor: 99 B-Line (60,000 passengers per day); other Broadway bus routes (40,000 per-day) = total Broadway bus ridership is 100,000 passengers per day.

There is a reason why a large majority of Broadway transit commuters take the 99 B-Line: speed and convenience. The 99 B-Line is a rapid bus service, and it is at capacity in terms of the number of buses that can be put into service (according to Translink, over 120 articulated buses were dedicated to the 99 B-Line in 2006; 10% of the entire Translink bus fleet). Counting the 99 B-Line’s 60,000 daily riders alone, that is more than the ridership of Toronto’s streetcar lines.

(2) The 12-km SkyTrain extension from VCC/Clarke Station to UBC via the Broadway corridor will take between 15-20-minutes travel time from terminus to terminus. Stations will be located at Finning, Main/Kingsway, Cambie (vital interchange station with Canada Line), Oak (hospital precinct), Granville, Arbutus, Macdonald, Alma, Sasamat/West Point Grey Village, and UBC transit interchange. All of these stations parallel the existing 99 B-Line service. A SkyTrain would be mainly tunneled, and with its own private right-of-way would be allowed to reach speeds of 80 km/h.

A ground-level LRT line would begin from Commercial/Broadway Station, and would take a travel time of between 30-45-minutes from terminus to terminus. It would have the same stations as the above mentioned SkyTrain with an additional four to six stations. Its higher travel time, on par with the existing 99 B-Line bus service, is a result of the line running through city streets instead of its own private right-of-way; as it runs in city streets, it must abide local traffic laws and speed limit of 50 kms/h. This will no doubt affect the extension’s reliability as a real alternative to the car: peak-hour traffic, road congestion, traffic accidents, etc.

In addition, commuters will be given a one-train ride with SkyTrain: no transfer will be needed, saving significant time. It also offers higher train frequencies and flexible schedule adjustments. On the contrary, LRT tends to have less frequent schedules due to the expense of having drivers and it would require a time-costly transfer from the region’s main transit network: SkyTrain (as it would simply be an extension of the Millennium Line). Such a pointless transfer would also affect ridership.

(3) SkyTrain is the region’s main transit network. Such a network should be high in speed, capacity, reliability, and frequency. Metro Vancouver axed a highway expansion plan in the 1970’s in favour of building a competent transit network: we must build a competent transit backbone that makes up for our lack in road capacity.

(4) For such a costly expense, ground-level LRT will be a minor upgrade from the existing 99 B-Line bus service. The 99 B-Line is overflowing with riders, it needs something far greater than that to take its place. LRT is a short-term solution and will simply be a “99 B-Line with steel wheels”. On the other hand, SkyTrain will provide a long-term solution for the corridor’s transit needs.

(5) Frequent trolley service will still exist, given the importance of local service along the Broadway corridor. It will complement the SkyTrain service.

(6) A 2000 study by the City of Vancouver concluded that an LRT line, with 16 stations from Commercial to UBC along the Broadway corridor, would rake in 140,000 daily riders. However, a SkyTrain extension from VCC/Clarke to Arbutus combined with a rapid bus service from Arbutus to UBC would bring in 150,000 daily riders.

Note that the study was completed before the U-Pass was implemented, before record high gas prices, and before the green shift took priority. Following the 2002 implementation of the U-Pass, transit ridership at UBC increased significantly: in 2002 daily ridership was at 29,700 but by 2004 it was 50,000; a 68% increase in ridership in just two years because of the U-Pass! Transit ridership still increased significantly in the years after.

The study also does not account for the improved transit services since, especially the new Canada Line that will be opening in September 2009.

Taking account that the study was completed nearly ten years ago, and with all the changes to the region since then, ridership for a SkyTrain extension to UBC could rake in more than 200,000 passengers per day.

For comparison’s sake, the Expo Line (29-kms) currently has a daily ridership of 185,000; Millennium Line (20-kms) at 75,000; and the projected daily ridership for the Canada Line (19-kms) and Evergreen Line (11-kms) is at 100,000 and 80,000.


Building light rail is fast and painless, unlike building SkyTrain; light rail won’t require digging up the road, while SkyTrain will. Businesses will not be affected. With light rail, parking spaces will not be lost both during the construction process and after construction is complete. LRT can be built on West 4th Avenue, instead of Broadway. LRT will not require tunneling. LRT will cost only a fraction of what SkyTrain would cost.

(7) If light rail were the chosen technology for the extension, a trunk sewer underneath Broadway will require a costly removal and relocation. Thus, it will require digging up the entire street, like a large trench, and will be time consuming…

(8) …In addition to removing the Broadway trunk sewer, ground level light rail construction will require the closure of several lanes and all on-street parking lanes. Traffic will be reduced to two-lanes, similarly to Cambie Canada Line construction….

(9) All in all, with light rail Broadway merchants will still be significantly affected by construction for about 2 years. In comparison, most of Cambie has been closed for about the same period for Canada Line construction. Light rail construction is far painless as claimed. It should also be noted that the construction timeline for an LRT line in the middle of a road should not be confused with the construction timeline for an LRT or streetcar line with its already existing private right-of-way.

(10) As Broadway is a narrow street, a ground-level light rail system would result in the permanent removal of the majority of the on-street parking spaces that Broadway merchants hold onto so dearly. Nearly all of Broadway will also be reduced to a two-lane road (one lane in each direction) due to the massive amount of spacing needed for ground level light-rail; a major east-west road artery in the city will be abolished.

(11) Any mass transit extension would need to be located along the Broadway corridor. West 4th Avenue would not work as it would skip the main employment hubs along Broadway, thus reducing potential ridership significantly.

The Broadway corridor catches 16th Avenue to 4th Avenue; more people live along the upper corridor rather than 4th Avenue.

(12) LRT would likely require significant tunneling due to the steep grades on the hill west of Alma Street. LRT trains will be unable to climb the hill on such a steep slope.

(13) It is a myth that $2.8-billion could build you 200-kms of light rail. Such a claim would likely mean the routes for these 200-kms of light rail lines already have pre-existing rail right-of-ways: we know that certainly does not exist in Vancouver, especially not for the Broadway mass transit extension.

Proponents also falsely advocate this claim by “cherry-picking” the best features of LRT, all of which come with a high price. The real cost of 200-kms of real LRT in the region would likely be at least $12-billion.


SkyTrain construction along the Broadway corridor will devastate local businesses just like Canada Line construction. SkyTrain is also expensive to build and operate.

(14) The SkyTrain extension would likely occur under 10th Avenue (and NOT on Broadway), one block/60-metres south of Broadway. Station entrances will still be located on Broadway….

(15)…Such an extension under 10th Avenue, bored or cut and cover, would significantly reduce the impact on local businesses…

(16)…With the large $2.8-billion budget, a vital long-term investment into the region’s infrastructure, it is likely that planners are planning for a bored tunnel design rather than cut and cover to avert most of the mistakes on Cambie.

(17) With an underground system, built on 10th Avenue and likely a bored tunnel, businesses will not be as affected (compared to a ground-level LRT line or a Cambie-style cut and cover tunnel).

(18) Local businesses stand to benefit significantly from the additional foot traffic within SkyTrain station precincts.

(19) SkyTrain may cost billions to build, but this is a long-term investment into our region’s infrastructure: an investment that could last up to a century. On the contrary, LRT with its limited capacity and speed is a short-term investment.

(20) SkyTrain, with its driverless automation, is cheaper to operate annually compared to driver systems such as LRT. In addition, there are capital cost savings and efficiencies from using the same maintenance yard/facilities, operations centre, and train rolling stock.


There is not enough ridership to support a rapid transit rail line along the Broadway corridor. Any rapid transit rail line’s real purpose would be to solely serve the University of British Columbia.

(21) Central Broadway/Cambie “Uptown” is the second largest employment centre in the entire region after Vancouver City Centre. According to a 1996 census, there were 40,000 jobs in the area and half of these people live outside of Vancouver making the district a regional centre. We can only assume that the number of jobs in the area has grown significantly since 13 years ago and will continue to grow. In addition, the Broadway corridor is one of the most densely populated areas outside of Downtown Vancouver.

Central Broadway is also part of the Metropolitan Core, part of Downtown Vancouver; a focus area for population and employment growth.

All of the above only serves to support ridership. And as mentioned above, there are already 100,000 daily bus riders along the Broadway corridor making it the busiest bus corridor in the entire region.

(22) The University of British Columbia is one of the largest employment centres in the entire region. With over 50,000 students and faculty, it will only continue to grow. In addition, the university is developing plans to build new dense residential neighbourhoods – this will only serve to support ridership.

As already mentioned above, transit ridership at the university was at 50,000 in 2004…we can only assume it will be much more today. It will only grow with additional and improved services.

More pro-LRT UBC and anti-SkyTrain UBC myths are debunked here:

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