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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