An example of false syllogism

October 9, 2009

  • Socrates is mortal, all men are mortal, hence all men are Socrates
  • Translink is broke, Skytrain is expensive hence Skytrain broke Translink

the first example is commonly used to teach the art of syllogism, the second can be read in an article of the NorthShore news titled No light at end of TransLink funding tunnel (Elizabeth James, oct 7, 2009 ) presenting the opinion of an Light Right Committee as expressed by its spokesman, John Malcom. This second case, could be also called a sophism since one could assume the illogical arguments is used to deceive the opinion, what we don’t necessarily claim here.

Simple arguments too often sound with simplistic views, and eventually the journalist will have forgot to notice it:

  • The mentioned skytrain line (Millennium) has been fully financed by the Province, not Translink which only operates it, so it is not supporting debt servicing on it
  • The Skytrain operating cost of $1.14 per boarding passenger[8] is way below the $2.16 translink average cost boarding passenger [9], so tend to improve the operation efficiency of translink and not the reverse

The argument that Translink is broke because the Skytrain is expensive bear little ground… But as teach us Vladimir Lenin, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth”: Could it be the philosophy followed by the Light Rail committee?

Diagnostic being off the mark, how we can trust the remedy? Nevertheless the journalist provides some clues at the Translink problem, and some solutions are suggested on the Stephen rees’s blog.

The article mentions that the Light Rail Committee got ignored from Translink authorities. It looks at least that Translink takes the pain to answer to the Light Rail Committee spokesman, and seem to follow him [3], probably to avoid the Lenin’s prediction (the raison d’être of this post also!). We have even further evidence that the Light Rail Committee is listened:

  • By the intermediate of its spokesman Malcolm Johnston, it was claiming that transfer could be responsible of 70% [7] of ridership potential lost [3]
  • Recently this committee, by the voice of the same spokesman explained that an LRT for the evergreen line is preferable to a faster Skytrain, this time, neglecting the transfer involved by the suggested solution [5]
  • In the meantime, the spokesman explains also how important is commuting time for him [6]

The Light rail committee seems definitely to have some issues with logic, but it looks it has been heard by the authorities…

What else could explain the reason why the projected Evergreen line ridership for the skytrain solution is order of magnitude higher than with the LRT solution involving a transfer [4]?


[1] Translink is boke and broken, John Malcom, Delta Tri-city news, Oct 05, 2009
[2] TransLink’s record speaks for itself, Ken Hardie for Translink, Tri-city news, Oct 07, 2009
[3] Public works and transportation committee, March 19th, 2003, City of Richmond, Minutes
[4] Evergreen Line Facts
[5] a-news-release-from-rail-for-the-valley see also: “SkyTrain extension not an astute investment”, John Malcom, VancouverSun, January 8, 2009
[6] Commute now 20 minutes longer thanks to the train, John Malcom, Delat optimist, Sept 26, 2009
[7] The advanced number by the Light Rail Committee is not validated by the current litterature as far as we know, which recognize an negative impact of 10 to 40% according to the situation.
[8] Sky train, 23 years of automated rail transit in vancouver, Ottawa transportation technology Forum, June 19-20, 2009
[9] Computed as the overall operating expense divided by the number of boardig passenger. Number from Translink 2008 annual report.
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