Debunking Myths

Below are 10 points created by our organization, debunking myths and inaccuracies about Light Rail, SkyTrain and Bus Rapid Transit.

(Click or tap to expand the boxes below)

Light Rail Myths

Myth #1: LRT is more cost-effective

Light Rail Supporters: “We can build 27km of LRT for the same cost as 17km of SkyTrain”

FACT: 17 kms of SkyTrain AND 24KM OF BUS RAPID TRANSIT could be built for the same cost.

  • This alternative would have more transportation benefits and lower long-term operating costs

Myth #2: LRT is better for shaping communities

Light Rail Supporters: “SkyTrain does not build communities. It separates them with big, tall concrete structures.”

FACT: SkyTrain has already demonstrated its ability to help build communities

  • Many examples of communities in this region built by SkyTrain (New West Station, Marine Gateway, Brentwood, Lougheed, Metrotown, others)
  • With significantly higher ridership, SkyTrain will make for busier and more successful station areas

Myth #3: LRT links the most communities with rapid transit

Light Rail Supporters: “We can build 27km of LRT for the same cost as 17km of SkyTrain”

FACT: A SkyTrain + BRT system would link all of the same communities and potentially more.

  • Light Rail trains will create few travel time benefits over existing rapid buses
  • Light Rail will miss many communities like Cloverdale, South Surrey and Scottsdale. Bus Rapid Transit could expand to these communities with no transfers.
  • Light Rail will require a driver on each train and new maintenance facilities, increasing ongoing operating and maintenance costs
  • Alternatives like Bus Rapid Transit provide the same benefits as an LRT but offer superior flexibilities like the ability to detour around accidents.
  • With high annual operating costs, Light Rail will prevent further expansion of the city-wide bus system.

Myth #4: LRT makes more sense from a land-use planning perspective

Light Rail supporters: Investing in LRT rather than SkyTrain makes both economic and land use sense

FACT: LRT doesn’t make more sense from any perspective.

  • BRT on the same corridor can create the same travel time benefits and provide high capacity for future growth.
  • SkyTrain on the same corridor can create significantly more travel time and economic benefits.
  • Both options can generate significant land-use change as long as local government is actively supporting it.

Myth #5: LRT is more community-friendly

Light Rail Supporters: “It’s not about moving people as far as you can from A to B; it’s about building a community”

FACT: It’s not okay to have longer travel times in exchange for a “community-friendly system”.

  • Slower LRT will result in a lower transit mode-share, which congests communities, and creates transportation problems.
  • SkyTrain riders have spoken: trip speed is the most favoured aspect of new SkyTrain expansions in rider surveys.
  • Surrey has the highest growth in vehicle-registrations of any city in this region

88% of Surrey residents feel that “transit should be as convenient and attractive as driving a car on city roads”

(2008 Surrey Transportation Vision survey)

Myth #6: Only LRT has the capacity to handle future growth

Light Rail supporters: Rapid buses won’t meet demand and will result in Broadway-like overcrowding on King George Blvd.

FACT: A full Bus Rapid Transit system has the capacity to meet future demand

  • A full BRT system would offer higher capacity than Broadway B-Line services
  • Surrey has time to foresee & prevent Broadway-like overcrowding through effective zoning policies.
  • BRT systems can use double-articulated buses, such as the Hess lighTram, to offer an LRT-like high capacity with space for between 250-300 passengers

An example of a double-articulated bus

ABOVE: An example of a double-articulated bus


Myth #7: LRT will better achieve development and urban design objectives

Light Rail supporters: Closer station spacing promotes evenly distributed medium density development

Reality: Any station spacing and technology can promote this type of development.

  • Development outcomes depend on zoning choices and City Council decisions, not transit technologies
  • Similar communities in Metro Vancouver (Morgan Crossing, River District) were built away from major transit corridors.
  • SkyTrain has generated over $30 billion in development: more than any other rapid transit system in North America

“Per dollar of transit investment, and under similar conditions, Bus Rapid Transit leverages more transit-oriented development (T.O.D.) investment than Light Rail Transit or streetcars.”

From: More Development for Your Transit Dollar: An Analysis of 21 North American Transit Corridors (ITDP study)

Also see: “Yes, great bus service can stimualte development” on Human Transit

Myth #8: LRT has permanence that’s more attractive for growth

Light Rail Supporters: “LRT is a fixed product. Bus routes can change.”

FACT: LRT has less permanence as it has higher operating costs.

  • Light Rail is also vulnerable to service changes if ridership/fare revenue doesn’t meet expectations
  • Portland Streetcar service frequencies dropped from initial 6 mins. to current 15-20 mins. due to poor ridership

Myth #9: LRT is easier to access because it is at ground level

Light Rail Supporters: LRT is at street level, which is more accessible for passengers with wheelchairs, strollers and shopping carts.

FACT: Street-level operation doesn’t make LRT “more accessible”.

  • Rapid Transit service isn’t less “accessible” unless riders are actually missing trains due to time required to access stations.
  • To access on-street LRT stations in the median, riders must wait for a green signal to cross vehicle traffic.
  • In that time, riders may miss a train and will have to wait for the next.
  • Frequency between trains will be lower on an LRT system, resulting in longer wait times for the next train.
  • SkyTrain stations wrongly implied to be inaccessible (all stations have elevators and accessibility features).

LRT access chart

The maximum time required to get on a SkyTrain can be less than the time required just to wait for an LRT to show up.

Myth #10: LRT will make single or no car households more feasible

Light Rail supporters: LRT will assist affordability by making single or no car households more feasible

Reality: LRT won’t make such households more feasible unless there is a decrease in travel time + increase in ridership

  • Only 1-minute faster than the current 96 B-Line or future “L-Line” Bus Rapid Transit
  • 15 minutes slower than future SkyTrain on Fraser Highway
  • Significantly less ridership than an extension of SkyTrain and BRT

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