Some Sunday Reading – The “Automatic Metro” or AGT Debate – Too Much Bunkum By The AGT Lobby

by

French transit authorities were the first to extensively lawn LRT RoW's

In various other transit oriented blogs, the myth that automatic operation of trains saves operating costs is perpetuated ad nauseum. Those who try to set the record straight are subjected to a sort of ‘Spanish Inquisition’ and are treated as latter day heretics. What is so Monty Pythonish about this is that back in the 1980’s and early 90’s several papers were published and many studies done comparing LRT to AGT (Automatic Guided Transit), showing that LRT tended to be not only cheaper to build, but cheaper to operate. Only on transit routes with extremely high traffic flows is automatic operation warranted.

It is in France, where the greatest scrutiny of LRT and AGT, has taken place, where the Central government sponsored VAL mini-metro system competed against LRT. At the time, VAL was manufactured by MATRA, a leading French arms manufacturer and the French government felt that if VAL was rejected in favour of LRT in French cities and towns, it would reflect badly on international arms sales. Behind a background of extremely generous government funding (sound familiar?) for initial VAL installation, scores of studies were done done comparing the two modes. The studies tended to show that LRT was cheaper to build; cheaper to operate; and better able to attract new ridership than AGT. This intense debate over AGT (VAL) heralded an unprecedented expansion of LRT in France, making the country a leader in both modern transit design and operating philosophy.

In North America, trying to promote AGT transit, including SkyTrain, instead of much cheaper LRT is like promoting a Boeing 707, instead of a Boeing 787 DreamLiner.

The following may provide some interesting reading.

http://www.lightrailnow.org/facts/fa_monorail002.htm

http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/tcrp/tcrp_rpt_13-d.pdf

http://www.lightrailnow.org/facts/fa_monorail003.htm

http://pubsindex.trb.org/view.aspx?id=295713

A COMPARISON OF SOME NEW LIGHT RAIL AND AUTOMATED-GUIDEWAY SYSTEMS

Abstract:

The past decade has seen dramatic developments in urban rail transit, particularly in the field of light rail transit (LRT). At the same time, several proprietary automated systems have been developed and deployed, often claiming superior levels of service and cost-effectiveness. Data are now becoming available that make it possible to check, for the first time, how well the new automated-guideway transit (AGT) systems are meeting their promoters’ claims, and to compare such systems with the new conventional LRT systems. Methodologies are presented to collect and screen performance data from different systems in a uniform manner, and examples are developed to show how these data can be used to compare modes using actual operating information to the maximum extent. When new AGT systems are compared with new LRT systems, or when AGT and LRT are compared on identical alignments, it appears that the cost of additional maintenance and supervising staff and additional “non-staff” budget may exceed the savings that AGT systems achieve by eliminating operators. Although the new AGT systems represent a further advance in the development of urban transit technological capabilities, and reflect great credit on those who have built and financed them, they may also contain the seeds of future problems. Having a significantly higher construction cost per mile than LRT, urban areas with AGT will tend to have smaller rail networks than equivalent areas selecting LRT. Being proprietary systems in limited use, they may experience future procurement problems, particularly if the promoter goes out of business. Being a contemporary, high-technology product, there is also a high risk of obsolescence in future years.
Automatic metros need grade separation, which are intrinsically unsightly
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59 Responses to “Some Sunday Reading – The “Automatic Metro” or AGT Debate – Too Much Bunkum By The AGT Lobby”

  1. mezzanine Says:

    The Gerald Fox study you quote is 21 years old.

    Here is some more recent reseach and discussion:

    “The application of automation to new metro lines is no longer an issue; it is proven’, continued Meyer. ‘What is new – and being pioneered in Nürnberg – is the introduction of automation on existing lines up to 100 years old.’

    “Today, Fabian estimated, there were 115 AGT systems in operation across the world, of which 19 could be classified as metros. These ranged in size from medium-capacity mini-metros such as VAL and Skytrain to heavy metros like Paris Line 14 (Météor) and Singapore’s North East Line.”

    Given that the cost of tunnelling remains the same, Dembrowsky said the additional capital cost of equipping Line U3 for automatic operation was around €90m. He estimated that the additional costs of automation would be paid off after 10 years, thanks to operational savings and increased revenue..”

    “He reported that Line 14 had produced a huge ‘draw advantage’ thanks to its ability to operate an increased off-peak frequency at low cost. Météor runs at 3min or 4min headways, compared to the 8min which would be appropriate to deliver the same capacity on a conventional metro line. Line 14 meant RATP was now looking to move to eight-car sets.

    Caire also believed that increased frequency improved passenger security; as there was less waiting time, fewer people would be ‘hanging about’ at stations. ”

    http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/single-view/view/10/customers-stand-to-benefit-most-from-metro-automation.html

    “Few on either side make the crucial point that a driverless system will be able to run frequently even very late at night, early in the morning, whenever you want to travel. Light rail, bound by labor costs, will always be pressured to cut frequency outside the peak period. ”

    http://www.humantransit.org/2010/02/driverless-rapid-transit-why-it-matters.html

    Zweisystem replies: Mezz, I am not saying automatic operation is unproven, rather it is very expensive to install and maintain and is only used on the m ost heavily used metro lines where there is an ecconomic benefit.
    The comment “Few on either side make the crucial point that a driverless system will be able to run frequently even very late at night, early in the morning, whenever you want to travel. Light rail, bound by labor costs, will always be pressured to cut frequency outside the peak period. ” is pure BS, simply because automatic transit systems must have preventative maintenance done almost nightly to ensure smooth operation the next day. It costs far more to run an automatic metro 24 hours than a LRT system. I am absolutely stunned that you fail to mention the large staffs required to operate a driverless transit system and equally gob-smacked that you refuse to admit to this. As such much of your comments are factually lacking.

    As for comments about in your post, it sounds like salesmen selling a product, rather than knowledgeable transit operators.

  2. mezzanine Says:

    From the Human Transit link:

    “The lack of a driver is the key to those extreme frequencies. When you have a driver on every vehicle, the labor cost is the dominant cost of operations. So when you have to cut service, as many North American agencies are doing this year, you end up cutting frequencies, starting with late night and weekend. Many North American light rail systems are dropping below even a 15-minute frequency in the evening, making themselves increasingly useless for the spontaneous trips that are essential to freedom in urban life.”

    Well, look at Portland. The new Green Line runs every 30 minutes on weekday evenings.

    “The time between trains will be increased from 15 minutes to about every 17 minutes on all lines during midday, evening and weekend trips. In the early morning and late evening, the time between trains will be increased by up to 4 minutes.”

    http://trimet.org/news/september2010proposal.htm

    Zweisystem replies: I think the chap from Human Transit is a bit out of touch. One driver on a light rail system can carry 250 persons (1 car); 500 persons (2 car); and 750 persons (3 car). In Calgary, the cost of LRT drivers ($6 million in 2006) is about one fifth to one sixth the total operational costs. The drop in frequencies is due to declining ridership, which in the USA, has been caused by the perilous economic situation.

    With RAV, yes there are 10 minute headways in the evening, but busses connecting to the burbs run every 30 to 60 minutes “………..making themselves increasingly useless for the spontaneous trips that are essential to freedom in urban life.”

  3. zweisystem Says:

    Upon correspondence to a signaling engineer in Europe, the quotes in Mezz’s post do not refer to light rail, rather older metros and S-bahn that still use manual signaling or semi manual signaling requiring large signal boxes with many signalmen to operate the system. They use very cumbersome older ‘block signaling’ which is maintenance intensive. He also said, “the post fails to mention the large amount of subway station staff required to keep the system safe for transit users and with 24 hour operation, station staff must be increased. With LRT there is no station staff as their are no stations.” Also he pointed out that many tram systems in Europe only use local signaling (all automatic) for switches or road intersections and operate by line of sight, which requires no signaling. LRT systems require very few staff for overnight operation, a fraction that is required to keep a metro in operation.

  4. Joe G Says:

    Well said, Zwei.

    From Mezzanine above: “So when you have to cut service, as many North American agencies are doing this year, you end up cutting frequencies, starting with late night and weekend.”

    Hilarious. So Mezz, I wonder just how you would cut service with a driverless metro, without cutting frequencies. Maybe cut the trains in half??

    No wait, I KNOW. If there is a decline in ridership on a driverless metro due to economic conditions, you simply let the metro rack up the resulting debt and cut bus service instead!

  5. mezzanine Says:

    “One driver on a light rail system can carry 250 persons (1 car); 500 persons (2 car); and 750 persons (3 car). ”

    The key, as with any LRT or metro system, is to actually get people to use it. San Francisco actually finds that Muni LRT is now more expensive than bus service due to the lower density corridor it serves and its slower speed.

    “In Muni’s case, LRT costs 34% more per passenger trip than
    Muni bus. In other words, it is less cost effective for Muni to
    move passengers by LRT than bus, exactly the opposite of
    what is expected.

    Two factors contribute to Muni’s low LRT productivity.
    First, Muni’s LRT lines are historical legacies that owe their
    survival in part due to their own right of way, such as the Twin
    Peaks Tunnel. These routes happen to operate in relatively
    low density parts of San Francisco, reducing their potential
    productivity. Muni did operate streetcars on denser corridors
    (Geary, Stockton, Mission), but these were replaced by buses
    in the 1950s.
    The second factor is the low speed of Muni’s LRT service,
    explained below.”

    http://www.sfmta.com/cms/mtep/documents/MuniTEPBinder_05.pdf

    (page 11)

    Zweisystem replies: You are comparing “apples” with “oranges” LRT/streetcar and metro are built for two different reasons. San Fransisco Muni streetcars are a heritage streetcar system, dating from 1912, which has seen little modernization. There are a few segments of segregated RoW’s in tunnels but the system is a classic streetcar with little or no priority signaling at intersections, with stops every 300 to 400 metres. Of course its slow. The Muni has been plagued with bad management and aging infrastructure.

    One wonders if the author of the report included the cable car operation as LRT as well? I remember well a noted transit pundit in Vancouver did a marvelous presentation about San Francisco’s streetcar system, showing many pictures of the cable cars and claiming they collected electric power via the slot between the rails. When I corrected him, stating that the only power between the rails was a continuous cable operation which the cars “gripped” on with a clamp to move up the incline.

    Taken aback by my statement, he claimed otherwise as he was the expert! Sad to say, for many leaving the presentation, believed that the San Fransisco Cable cars were powered electrically by a connection between the slot in the rails!

  6. mezzanine Says:

    “Mezz, I am not saying automatic operation is unproven, rather it is very expensive to install and maintain and is only used on the m ost heavily used metro lines where there is an ecconomic benefit. ”

    Well, the key of course is looking at your potential corridor. Muni’s LRT could work better if it was in a denser corridor. Skytrain is not right for every corridor, and LRT is wonderfully flexible. That being said, automation does have known cost and operational benefits. When copenhagen looked at a corridor to the airport, they decided to build automated metro over streetcar and LRT service, and its specs mirror that of vancouver’s canada line.

    “(1997) Like Paris, Copenhagen is building a driverless automated rapid transit system. The 22 km line will connect the city center with Copenhagen’s international airport and the new town of Orestad. The system is due to be completed by January 2001. The decision to opt for a driverless metro was made after careful evaluation of the alternatives: a driver-operated light rail system and a streetcar system.

    The main advantage offered by the driverless system are high frequency, speed and operating cost.

    The system is designed to operate at 90 second headways and 40 km/hour — giving it a capacity of 8,250 passengers/hour in each direction.”

    http://dspace.mit.edu/bitstream/handle/1721.1/1566/Section%205.pdf;jsessionid=8DCDBD46D80B00835A89BAEDB972DB55?sequence=8

    Zweisystem replies: Today, in Karlsruhe Germany, coupled pairs of trams (& TramTrains) travel through the downtown core, on-street at 45 second headways (90 trips per hour) in peak times, with speeds allowed 10 kph over other vehicular traffic (60 kph) between stops. Signalling is line of sight, with local Signalling for points and intersections. The potential peak hour capacity (500 per couple trams X 90 trips per hour) is said to be 45,000 pphpd! The City of Karlsruhe is quite rightly planning to build a subway under the city route to handle even longer trains to handle the ridership on the route.

    So Mezz, what’s your point?

  7. Justin Bernard Says:

    Frequency is not dictated by choice of technology. There are many examples of tram systems running frequencies of 90 seconds. I decided to check the schedule of the Copenhagen metro. The frequency is 4 minutes for each line, and 2 minutes in the combined section.

    Zweisystem replies: Amsterdam, Helsinki and Basel all operate 30 second headways during peak hours on portions of their tram/LRT routes.

  8. Justin Bernard Says:

    High frequency is not an advantage of automation. I cannot believe consultants still preach this. Any rail system can run high frequencies, it depends on the signaling, and desire from the agency. Hell, the Moscow metro was rumored to run 40 second intervals!

    Taking Mezzanine’s Copenhagen example, the lowest headway between trains is 2 minutes in the combined section of the metro, and 4 minutes for each line. The Toronto subway runs 2 minutes in rush hour with much longer trains, and aspect signaling! For all the money spent on Copenhagen’s automated metro, the metro attracts around 150,000 riders. Not a lot for a fully grade separated metro, in my opinion.

    I think automation is useful, when you need to absolutely max out the capacity of an existing line. RATP is doing this, and the TTC is upgrading the signaling on it’s busiest line(The system is due to be replaced) to be able to run trains at 90 seconds.

    I personally think Copenhagen should have gone with a pre-metro type system, where the central section is underground, and the outer sections could run in street ROW.

  9. mezzanine Says:

    @ Justin, true about frequency not being dictated by mode, but the concern is the staffing costs to maintain such frequencies with non-automated systems, especially if off peak hours.

    For instance, the example was made of amsterdam. If you look at a single line, the timetables also seem constrained at night. If you look at line 13, that’s the tram to go from centraal to anne frank’s house. rush hour, it runs at 7 minute frequencies. Sunday evenings? it runs every 15 minutes after 8pm. combined service with other lines – i don’t have time to cruch the numbers, but the further out of the old city you go, the less dense tram coverage is. but of course a tram line corridor is different than an LRT/metro corridor.

    http://www.gvb.nl/english/travellers/timetables/Pages/vertrektijden.aspx

    Moreover, I wonder how trams subect to surface traffic, pedestirans and bikes can keep to a tight headway. toronto’s streetcar system is prone to bunching, and to keep to a schedule, they sometimes short-turn the tram and forse everyone off to catch the next tram.

    “For one thing, I can’t tell you how many days of the week I’m on a streetcar headed home and they decide to short turn, forcing everyone off to wait for another vehicle. Most of the time when I get on the streetcar it says it’s going all the way to the end of the line, and then they get an update part-way through the trip and all you can do is groan.”

    http://www.thegate.ca/blog/rants/01136/suffering-the-ttc/

    Zweisystem replies: A point of logic – autos and buses operate daily on Broadway at 1.5 second headways with only the most rudimentary of signaling, without causing traffic chaos, why would it be a problem for a tram operating at 30 second headways?

    Regarding Amsterdam trams; many tram lines share 1 track, as well, during peak hours many tram operations run unadvertised services during peak hours.

  10. David Says:

    OK Mezz, explain why it’s OK for the #99 B-Line to run at 12-minute headways every evening yet it’s unacceptable for a tram to do the same thing.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Frequency with respect to automated metros is all about near-zero incremental costs and being at the mercy of labour unions.

    It has nothing to do with signaling, except in the case of most driver systems which have at least portions shared with regular traffic, and cross roads, etc.

    The 99 B-Line operates at 6 minute intervals during peak rush hour. This is limited by the infrastructure of the road, interaction with traffic, and the ability of the bus to load and unload.

    LRT on the road would allow faster loading and unloading, but would still be slowed by traffic. I doubt it could achieve greater than 3-4 min intervals in the same area.

    Skytrain would operate at it’s normal 90 second interval, all the time.

    Zweisystem replies: Correction -LRT would not be slowed by traffic as it operates on a “reserved” rights-of-way a streetcar would. Studies have shown that even a streetcar is about 5% to 10% faster than a bus.

    Signaling does have a bearing of frequency, depending how a metro is signaled, moving block or other system.

  12. mezzanine Says:

    @ David, then you will spend hundred of millions of dollars to get a local service tram with no improvement to mobility and frequency versus a b-line bus service.

    http://www.humantransit.org/2009/07/streetcars-an-inconvenient-truth.html

    Zweisystem replies: It has been well recognized that the implementation of LRT/tram greatly improves mobility and the chap from human transit transit is certainly not an expert on LRT.

  13. David Says:

    I’m spending hundreds of millions to provide the daytime capacity that is either impossible or impossibly expensive to provide with buses.

    Once that infrastructure is in place for the peak it makes sense to use it during the evening too.

    I still don’t understand people who claim trams can’t or shouldn’t operate on short headways. Cars, trucks and buses operate on a line of sight basis with primitive signalling and headways as short as 3 seconds. If that’s OK then a spacing 10 times as great should be fine for rail transit vehicles.

  14. mezzanine Says:

    “I’m spending hundreds of millions to provide the daytime capacity that is either impossible or impossibly expensive to provide with buses.”

    but is it? we still haven’t established signal priority or a true ROW for the 99B. Think of how fast buses were on the curb lane when we had no-parking olympic lanes.

    “I still don’t understand people who claim trams can’t or shouldn’t operate on short headways. ”

    I’m not saying that you can’t do that for surface tram, but it will be more expensive and perhaps even slower than a comparable bus service. remember that one of the reasons why trams are more expensive to run than buses in san francisco is that they are slower due to all the time they spend in mixed traffic.

    ” Boston’s light rail service carries 56% more passengers per year
    than Muni LRT for only 2% more in operating costs in part
    because Boston’s Green Line LRT vehicles travel 57% faster
    than Muni’s (15.0 MPH for Boston vs. 9.6 MPH for Muni).
    Faster vehicles can carry more trips per hour, which reduces
    the number of vehicle service hours required to serve those trips.

    Boston’s LRT vehicles are faster partly because 97% of Boston’s LRT guideway mileage is seperated from mixed traffic
    lanes versus 35% for Muni’s LRT.”

    http://www.sfmta.com/cms/mtep/documents/MuniTEPBinder_05.pdf

    Zweisystem replies: Two items concerning San Francisco.

    1) The tram system historically has been badly managed.
    2) Some statistics include the cable car system.

  15. David Says:

    But trams on Broadway wouldn’t be in mixed traffic. They’d have their own priority “lanes” down the middle of the street. With proper signalling they’d be as fast as the B-Line was during the Olympics even with a small increase in the number of stops.

    I’m sure we could expand capacity with buses, but by how much? The B-Line already operates every 2 minutes in peak periods. Even if modest reductions in travel time could be achieved, moving to the next capacity level would require a lot more buses, a lot more drivers and a lot more money. TransLink is currently short of all three.

    The same three issues face the solution of adding buses on parallel routes. TransLink can’t afford to operate the system we have now. Increasing operating costs in Vancouver is only going to lead to cuts elsewhere.

    In the short term and if operating funds were to magically appear, I would definitely say let’s improve the bus network and wait to see if predicted demand growth appears. But TransLink is looking longer term and, if they’re smart, for a solution that lowers operating costs. The only one that can possibly lower operating costs is on-street LRT and it comes with the added bonus of carrying several times more passengers than BRT.

  16. mezzanine Says:

    “But trams on Broadway wouldn’t be in mixed traffic. They’d have their own priority “lanes” down the middle of the street. With proper signalling they’d be as fast as the B-Line was during the Olympics even with a small increase in the number of stops.”

    @David, this raises 2 points, with your plan, where will you put existing bus service like the #16 or #10, or the #9 if the ROW is just for LRT? I assume that buses will not use the ROW to keep your LRT speed. This means the lane you have taken away from parking will have to be used for local service trolley and somehow fit bike and commercial deliveries and regular traffic.

    “This is an example of an almost universal fallacy in thinking about rail transit outside the transit profession: that somehow, rail just makes buses disappear.

    The truth is more complex and interesting. Rail replaces some buses but never all of them. Major bus corridors still need to run into the city, and need to be accommodated there. Even with light rail on the Portland transit mall, for example, buses are by far the majority of vehicles there, and the great design challenge of that street was how to integrate the light rail and bus services without letting them get in each other’s way. It’s not an easy problem. There are many solutions, but all of them have enough impacts that you have to think about this when you’re proposing your rail line, not just assume that bus people will figure it out later.”

    http://www.humantransit.org/2010/04/honolulu-grand-themes-from-the-rail-transit-wars.html

    And in the surface ROW, even if you put up barriers, there is still a lot of reasons why maintaining frequent and reliable service is challenging. Seattle transit blog as an interesting article about the MLK ROW, which does have surface ROW with priority signalling:

    “Below is a (non-exhaustive) list of some reasons your train might have stopped, or not gotten its permission to leave the station immediately:

    -The operator has delayed the train. This could be due to something on the tracks, a late runner, or merely some difficulty keeping the train at the optimal speed. This often results in a “phantom train” of requests propagating up the line for several signals.
    -Headways less than four minutes. If trains in the same direction are coming less than four minutes apart, the system will deny the later train priority. Early on, revenue trains were having this problem fairly often. According to Pahlman, however, “over the last few months the headways have seen big improvements and are much more on target than during the first few months.” Today, close headways usually result from either trailing an out-of-service train or a “phantom train.”
    -Pedestrian Signal in Progress. Obviously, pedestrians must be given the chance to complete their crossing.
    -Skipped Pedestrians. If a pedestrian signal has been skipped in the cycle, it will not be skipped a second consecutive time, “to encourage compliance with the signal display.”
    -Emergency Vehicles. Priority requests from Link and from emergency vehicles are resolved on a first-come first-served basis. If the emergency vehicle gets there before the Link request does, the emergency vehicle will go first. ”

    http://seattletransitblog.com/2010/03/08/signaling-on-mlk-i/

    Zweisystem replies: Mezz, again you fail to understand LRT and why it is built. In Europe, trams/LRT is built to replace buses on a transit route when ridership reaches a point on that route that makes tram/LRT more economic than buses, effectively replacing all buses on that transit route.

    In North America, ‘rapid transit’ is planned and built as a stand alone ‘rapid transit’ line that doesn’t replace buses and as many bus customers are forced onto the ‘rapid transit’ line (because of widely spaced stations) to pretend it is doing well, with SkyTrain being a prime example.

    LRT/tram on Broadway would replace all Broadway buses on the Broadway Route.

    Also Mezz, have you ever talked to a signaling Engineer? I doubt it, as you constantly refer to dated studies that reflect ancient operating technique and much of what you say is pure stuff and nonsense. It maybe true for a metro, but not light rail. You make it sound that LRT crashes, blocks intersections and runs empty all day long!

  17. Paul Says:

    @ David

    “OK Mezz, explain why it’s OK for the #99 B-Line to run at 12-minute headways every evening yet it’s unacceptable for a tram to do the same thing.”

    It drops to 12 minute frequencies because it would cost too much in labour to keep the buses running at the higher headway. No one said it is OK for the headway to be lowered. It is just known that off peak it will be lowered. Even the skytrain system runs at a lower headway off-peak compared to peak.

    Here is a question for those of you who would love to see a nice at grade street car / LRT along Broadway. You know who you are :)

    Ok so I’m not going to argue that it wouldn’t be able to handle the passenger levels today nor even tomorrow. I will agree that we could easily signal prioritize the system so the trains don’t have to wait. We could easily run a high frequency system even if it had drivers.

    My big concern is would this system be able to travel at around 70 km/h or faster between stations. I’m not talking about average commute speed. But the actual top speed between stations. Would we have to run it slower like at 50 km/h or less for safety reasons. Now if it could run at 70 km/h or more. Would we have to built a barricade along most of its route so that people don’t cross at mid points. So now we’ve blocked off the north side of Broadway from the south side. Except for where the stations are.

    I get the feeling that those of you who want a nice at grade system. Don’t seem to fathom that people don’t want to spend all day commuting. Basically they want to get to where they are going as quickly as possible. You may have all day to travel. But I and most other people don’t. :)

    And if someone says well commute speed isn’t all that important. Then you can pay me personally for the extra time I would need to commute on a slower system.

    Zweisystem replies: With stations/stops 500m to 600m apart LRT would only travel at speed for a few seconds between stops. There are plenty of inexpensive ways to prevent egress on RoW’s and with a driver, the safety of the pedestrian is ensured. As for the speed issue, there would be little difference between the total commute time between LRT and a metro, when you take in account widely spaced underground stations, etc.

    By the way, have you ever clocked auto traffic along Broadway? No? if you had, you would see that average speed for cars is about 60 kph to 70 kph! Your arguments are without foundation.

  18. mezzanine Says:

    I think you are blurring LRT and tram functions. Your above description sounds more like tram, as regular bus stops are spaced 250 metres apart.

    “Stop spacing — wide stops for rapid operation — makes light rail useful for longer trips, and that’s the most critical usefulness distinction. This is why you rarely hear about “light rail” vs “streetcar” debates for a specific designated corridor. The two terms refer to broadly the same technology, but the length of the corridor, and the speed it requires, usually determine whether we’re talking about rapid transit, in which case this technology’s offering is called light rail, or more local-stop service, in which case this technology’s offering is called a “streetcar.”

    http://www.humantransit.org/2010/03/streetcars-vs-light-rail-is-there-a-difference.html

    Zweisystem replies: Sorry Mezz, I am not blurring tram and LRT (in Europe LRT is a tram) it’s the chap at Human Transit trying to give a North American spin on LRT, making it akin it a costly light-metro. The more I read his blog, the more I come to understand his lack of knowledge about ‘rail’ transit. This is the 21st century, not the 1970’s! I do not want to start a ‘pissing match’ with him as he has his opinions and I have mine; to let everyone else know, my opinion on transit has been shaped over 30 years of communication with transit operators, transit designers, and transit specialist, locally, in the USA and Europe.

    Here is the difference between LRT and a tram – the quality of rights-of-way, with trams operating mainly on street and LRT on a reserved rights-of-way. the station/stop spacing for LRT is dependent on customer demand (in urban area’s it is 500m to 600m apart) and here is where Human transit fails – he is stuck in a yesterday’s transit world. In his world TramTrain doesn’t exist because it disproves his theory!

    I have been signing the virtues of TramTrain for almost 20 years, yet even recently a local Transit expert (?) claimed that TramTrain was just a failed experiment, not worth repeating here. He went on to claim that TramTrain can’t travel any further than a few km. on a railway. Upon telling him the longest TramTrain route in Karlsruhe Germany was 210 km long, he just walked away!

    In North America, transit planners are largely 30 to 50 years behind the times and as such what we get in urban ‘rail’ transit is dated, expensive and more importantly – auto friendly. The goal of RFV is to obtain affordable transit to a many people we can and sadly, pursuing hugely expensive metro schemes on routes that do not warrant a metro, clearly blocks our objectives.

    http://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2009/05/20/is-lrt-becoming-the-new-light-metro/

  19. David Says:

    No Paul it won’t do 70km/h between stops and it doesn’t need to. All it has to do is be more comfortable, reliable and convenient than the B-Line and it’ll double transit use on Broadway virtually overnight with lots of room to handle added numbers in the future.

    You don’t seem to count all the time it takes to get to and from the metro stations in your “speed” calculations. Wider spacing means more time is required getting to/from stations. How much extra time varies from individual to individual. For some the added speed of the metro is enough to reduce total travel time, for others it’s not.

    In either case you will be paid. LRT will cost $3 billion less to build than a subway and less to operate. Payments will be sent to you every April (income tax) and July (property tax).

  20. Joe G Says:

    No response to my comment above, Mezz??

    From Mezzanine (now way) above: “So when you have to cut service, as many North American agencies are doing this year, you end up cutting frequencies, starting with late night and weekend.”

    Hilarious. So Mezz, I wonder just how you would cut service with a driverless metro, without cutting frequencies. Maybe cut the trains in half??

    No wait, I KNOW. If there is a decline in ridership on a driverless metro due to economic conditions, you simply let the metro rack up the resulting debt and cut bus service instead!

  21. Paul Says:

    “With stations/stops 500m to 600m apart LRT would only travel at speed for a few seconds between stops. There are plenty of inexpensive ways to prevent egress on RoW’s and with a driver, the safety of the pedestrian is ensured. As for the speed issue, there would be little difference between the total commute time between LRT and a metro, when you take in account widely spaced underground stations, etc. ”

    It would still have to travel slower than it could potentially travel. For safety reasons. Same reason as why we have a speed limit for vehicles. You couldn’t have a train running 70km/h and faster. When there is a possibility of a pedestrian crossing mid way. Even if there was a prevent egress on the RoW. At the sections that you do provide egress on the RoW. You would still need to slow the train down.

    “By the way, have you ever clocked auto traffic along Broadway? No? if you had, you would see that average speed for cars is about 60 kph to 70 kph! Your arguments are without foundation.”

    My argument had nothing to do with the average speed of cars on Broadway. I was thinking about how the current skytrain system hits a speed of about 80 km/h between stations. So I can’t see how an at grade LRT could do the same. I also dropped my at grade LRT to 70km/h. Although I’d wish for about 80km/h as well.

    Zweisystem replies: The time to travel between stops (450m apart) would be 42.1 seconds using a maximum speed of 50 kph, but only 39.3 kph using a maximum speed of 70 kph. The time difference is minimal. I like to thank the LRTA for the information. Your arguments are without foundation.

    SkyTrain only hits 80 kph between stations on long stretches of track, so does Portland’s MAX and Calgary’s C-Train

  22. Anonymous Says:

    Joe G, you’re missing the point. The idea is not to cut service, the idea is that budgets are squeezed and cutting trains (due to the cost of drivers) is happening en masse across North America.

    Those systems without drivers are not subject to the same level of cuts.

    Zweisystem replies: The cost of drivers is just a small part of the overall operational budget. The whole drivers issue is much overstated as SkyTrain has attendants and station staff and security persons, which in the end costs more than drivers.

  23. mezzanine Says:

    @ JoeG:

    “No response to my comment above, Mezz??
    Hilarious. So Mezz, I wonder just how you would cut service with a driverless metro, without cutting frequencies. Maybe cut the trains in half??
    No wait, I KNOW. If there is a decline in ridership on a driverless metro due to economic conditions, you simply let the metro rack up the resulting debt and cut bus service instead!”

    Well, the idea is that because of automation there would be little incremental cost in providing frequent service and the converse, there is little money to be saved if you did want to cut frequency.

    Zweisystem replies: Mezz, the problem is that automatic systems still needs attendants, station staff and security, which costs more than drivers. With a metro you need a large staff to maintain stations etc., something that LRT systems do not.

  24. David Says:

    The question of what to do with the buses is complicated by the fact that the LRT should go all the way to Port Coquitlam not stop at Broadway and Commercial, but having spent so much money on the Millennium SkyTrain we’re boxed in.

    I don’t have time to do a complete analysis of what to do with the buses, but here’s a basic outline.

    #4 eliminated
    #9 west of Commercial eliminated
    #9 east of Commerical convered to diesel and extended to BCIT
    #16 retained, eastern branch re-routed to Powell, McGill, Renfrew. TransLink already has plans to re-route the #16 as above and eliminate the eastern segment of the #4.
    #17 west of downtown eliminated
    #44 upgraded to B-Line, two existing #4 stops west of Alma added to serve the beaches, seniors’ complex, DND, WPGA and the hostel.
    #99 eliminated

  25. Joe G Says:

    OK Mezz, so what happens with an automated metro if there is a shortfall in revenue due to a poor economy?

    Since it doesn’t make sense to cut back service on the automated metro, what happens? Bus service would be cut back.

    How is this better?

    Am I missing something here?

  26. Paul Says:

    “No Paul it won’t do 70km/h between stops and it doesn’t need to. All it has to do is be more comfortable, reliable and convenient than the B-Line and it’ll double transit use on Broadway virtually overnight with lots of room to handle added numbers in the future.”

    So if this LRT line ran on average 1 km/h faster than the B-line. It would be a success for you. Even though it doesn’t significantly improve the commute time of the people on it compared to the B-line itself. You seem to live in this world were slow moving trains are perfect. Where you don’t consider the fact that people don’t want to be travelling like a snail. And just want to get to where they are going.

    There is also the thought that if you decrease the Commute time significantly enough along Broadway to UBC. That you might actually pull UBC bound people away from the 41,43, and 49 routes.

    “You don’t seem to count all the time it takes to get to and from the metro stations in your “speed” calculations. Wider spacing means more time is required getting to/from stations. How much extra time varies from individual to individual. For some the added speed of the metro is enough to reduce total travel time, for others it’s not.”

    I do realize that station spacing will impact on how much time is needed to get to and from the station. It wasn’t part of my question. My question was how fast could the train run. Not how far apart the stations were.

    “In either case you will be paid. LRT will cost $3 billion less to build than a subway and less to operate. Payments will be sent to you every April (income tax) and July (property tax).”

    Considering the estimated cost of a subway is $2.8 Billion. If an LRT is $3 Billion less. Does that mean the workers and material are actually going to pay Translink.

    “OK Mezz, so what happens with an automated metro if there is a shortfall in revenue due to a poor economy?

    Since it doesn’t make sense to cut back service on the automated metro, what happens? Bus service would be cut back.

    How is this better?

    Am I missing something here?”

    Who said they couldn’t cut back service on an automated system. Although you would see more of a saving for each bus removed vs each automated train.

    Zweisystem replies: Paul, speed is not the prime factor in attracting ridership, your argument is a non argument, based on hearsay. So one spends $3 billion more for a 5 minute faster commute, that really doesn’t compute!

  27. Joe G Says:

    “Who said they couldn’t cut back service on an automated system. Although you would see more of a saving for each bus removed vs each automated train.”

    But you’d have to even more drastically cut back the automated service than LRT or bus service for the same savings.

    So in the event of poor economic conditions causing a lack of ridership on an automated metro, forcing a transit authority to cut back on transit, either of these two options happens:

    a) bus service is cut back
    or
    b) the automated metro service is (more severely) cut back, (or worst case but possible, since there is limited savings in cutting back service on the automated metro, it goes bankrupt!)

    Please enlighten me: How are these two options more desirable than cutting back service on a non-automated LRT?

  28. mezzanine Says:

    “OK Mezz, so what happens with an automated metro if there is a shortfall in revenue due to a poor economy?
    Since it doesn’t make sense to cut back service on the automated metro, what happens? Bus service would be cut back. ”

    Well, tranlink had this very question recently. If we faced budgetary shortfalls, and opted not to put any further funding in, then we would face drastic cuts.

    http://www.translink.ca/en/Get-Involved/Be-Part-of-the-Plan/Previous-Consultations/2010-10-Year-Plan/Funding-Choices/Choice-Drastic-Cuts.aspx

    “-Bus service reduced by approximately 40% – a reduction of between 1.8-2.2 million service hours
    -SeaBus operating hours reduced and 3rd vessel not used after the Olympics
    -Elimination of effective Frequent Transit Network”

    Even skytrain would be affected, not by a reduction in frequency, but by a reduction of operating hours.

    “-Reduction in SkyTrain hours of operation”

    To translink’s credit they pushed for funding to sustain the level of service we have now, instead of opting for cuts to bus and train service as seen in places in the USA, like portland, salt lake city and chicago.

    Zweisystem replies: if you believe TransLink, I have some BRICK shares for you to buy!

  29. David Says:

    @Paul:
    I feel sorry for you if you believe a subway from Commercial to UBC could be built for $2.8 billion.

    We were told Canada Line was going to cost $1.335 billion. During the project we were consistently told it was “on budget” and the project website showed the costs tracked against the original amount.

    At the end of the project we were told it was “on budget” at a cost of $2.05 billion and there is strong evidence to suggest the actual cost exceeded $2.5 billion.

    Had Canada Line been a bored tunnel under Cambie we were told it would have required three separate types of tunnel boring machine to complete the line, a fact that would have significantly driven up cost and construction time. It’s highly likely that the route to UBC would also require multiple machines.

    Oh and my dad still has a bunch of those BRICK shares. Any takers? ;)

  30. Paul Says:

    “Paul, speed is not the prime factor in attracting ridership, your argument is a non argument, based on hearsay.”

    Actually my argument that speed is a factor is based on me personally having commuted by both car and transit. So I’m not basing my opinion on what others have said. Speed is not the only factor but it is an important factor on whether someone will decide to drive or take transit.

    Zweisystem replies: Your opinion is just that, studies have shown what has been stated above.

  31. Paul Says:

    “I feel sorry for you if you believe a subway from Commercial to UBC could be built for $2.8 billion.”

    I wouldn’t say I believe or don’t believe that a subway could be built for $2.8 Billion. What I don’t believe is a street car could be built for $3 Billion less.

    “We were told Canada Line was going to cost $1.335 billion. During the project we were consistently told it was “on budget” and the project website showed the costs tracked against the original amount.

    At the end of the project we were told it was “on budget” at a cost of $2.05 billion and there is strong evidence to suggest the actual cost exceeded $2.5 billion.”

    First off I’m not sure where you got that $1.335 Billion number from. When I’ve always heard it would be around $2 Billion from the start

    One thing I have noticed and this pertains to not just the Canada Line. When a major project is announced by the government. They give an estimate on what it would cost. The problem of course is they try and keep that estimate low so that it doesn’t look all that bad. It sounds better to the joe blow when he hears that a project would cost $1 Billion compared to hearing that it would cost $3 Billion. So they always give the lower estimate on what something would cost. But a lot of times we get a situtation like the Canade Line did where labour costs and material costs climb during the construction. So now the original estimate is completely wrong.

    It would be better if they just gave an estimate that was higher than what they thought that would take into account the chance the labour and material might increase.

    Zweisystem replies: In 2003 or so, the cost of the RAV/Canada Line was pegged at about $1.3 billion. when Charlie Smith of the Georgia Straight phoned me about the cost, I had a very good laugh. With the Susan Heyes court action against TransLink (et al), documents showed that the cost of RAV was at least $2.5 billion. A cost of a no-frills, economy LRT line along Broadway would be about $20 million per km to build.

  32. Joe G Says:

    “-Bus service reduced by approximately 40% – a reduction of between 1.8-2.2 million service hours
    -SeaBus operating hours reduced and 3rd vessel not used after the Olympics
    -Elimination of effective Frequent Transit Network
    Even skytrain would be affected, not by a reduction in frequency, but by a reduction of operating hours.”

    Yes!

    So……

    You must strongly disagree then with the point the Human Transit guy is making, who said the following about systems with a driver. (Then why on earth did you quote him?)

    “So when you have to cut service, as many North American agencies are doing this year, you end up cutting frequencies, starting with late night and weekend. Many North American light rail systems are dropping below even a 15-minute frequency in the evening, making themselves increasingly useless for the spontaneous trips that are essential to freedom in urban life.”

    Eliminating late night Skytrain service and cutting bus service by 40% would also make that service increasingly useless for the spontaneous trips that are essential to freedom in urban life! It has nothing at all to do with whether the system is driverless or not!

    So why do you try to put forth this argument against LRT? In fact, why do you, Mezzanine, at every attempt, make DISENGENUOUS arguments against LRT designed to discourage people, without presenting the facts that you are well aware of up front?

    Why would a 40% reduction in bus service be necessary given a constant budget? 40% is very extreme. Part of the answer is this: the high-cost Skytrain system is inflexible in its ability to reduce costs, thus the bus system must bear the brunt of cutbacks, creating this ridiculously high 40% cutback number assuming a constant level of funding. How is this at all desirable and better than the situation faced if we had LRT with drivers?

    Zweisystem replies: The chap from human Transit is out of his depth on the issue of LRT. SkyTrain is more labour intensive than LRT and has a large maintenance staff to keep the cars operational. The steerable Axel trucks always need adjusting and as the cars are not articulated, there are more axles to maintain.

    Example: a two section articulated vehicle generally has 6 axles t& 12 wheels to maintain; A married pair of MK.1 SkyTrain cars has 8 axles and 16 wheels to maintain. Multiply this by 100 vehicles, you then get 600 axles and 1200 wheels to maintain for LRT and a whopping 800 axles and 1600 wheels to maintain! More axles and wheels to maintain, the higher your maintenance and operational costs.

  33. mezzanine Says:

    @Joe G,

    “So why do you try to put forth this argument against LRT? In fact, why do you, Mezzanine, at every attempt, make DISENGENUOUS arguments against LRT designed to discourage people, without presenting the facts that you are well aware of up front?”

    This goes back to labour costs and automated metros. LRT has great attributes, such as being very flexible (on-street running or in guideways) and cheaper capital costs than automated metro. But operator costs are a major driver of expenses and this is an advantage of automated metros.

    For instance – the reason why translink has an operating deficit? Because of the expansion of bus service and resulting low initial ridership and the high cost of operators. Don’t believe me? This is from the comptroller general:

    http://www.fin.gov.bc.ca/OCG/ias/pdf_Docs/transportation_governance.pdf

    “The majority of the $130 million structural deficit faced by TransLink is a result of factors other than Canada Line, such as the increase in the operational cost of the bus fleet, particularly into lower ridership, geographically sparse areas.

    We were advised that the expansion strategy created increased operational expenses where additional services were added to less populated regions. Ridership and associated revenue are lower on these routes, yet the cost of operating a bus is relatively constant.

    Significant savings will likely be realized only through service rationalization as bus operational costs are a significant proportion of total overall operational costs.”

    I’m saying this is bad – we enhanced bus service for south of fraser and we are making it easier for SOF ppl to get by without a car. But this highlights the point that running higher frequency transit service during low ridership areas/times becomes more cost-prohibative if you have to pay a driver.

    Zweisystem replies: Mezz, metros (automated or not) cost more to operate than LRT, your arguments are without foundation. Just the Expo Line cost about 60% more to operate than Calgary’s C-Train LRT (both having approximately the same route length), yet the C-Train has drivers and carries more passengers.

  34. mezzanine Says:

    sorry, above, last paragraph, it should say ” I’m not saying this is bad…”

  35. David Says:

    SkyTrain subway to UBC will likely cost at least $4 billion, especially if it takes another 5 years for construction to start.
    I’m less of an optimist than zweisystem. His estimate of $20M/km is based on projects elsewhere and the ease of putting LRT on Broadway, but I’m willing to bet costs will be much higher here, say $50M/km. For a roughly 13km project that’s $650 million.
    There I just saved you at least $3 billion.

    I’ve already noted my pessimism with regard to cost, but Broadway should be one of the least expensive on-street LRT projects in history. It had streetcars until 1950 so all the utilities are under the outside running lanes and not in the middle so utility relocation would virtually nonexistent. An overhead supply of DC power already exists on the entire route too.

    LRT can be built quickly. Elsewhere merchants were compensated if there was substantial disruption of their business for more than a month. Cambie was a mess for over three years.

    If all the consultations, approvals, etc. were done today the UBC line could open for business in January 2012. Does that sound better than 2020 to anyone else out there?

  36. Anonymous Says:

    “In 2003 or so, the cost of the RAV/Canada Line was pegged at about $1.3 billion. when Charlie Smith of the Georgia Straight phoned me about the cost, I had a very good laugh. With the Susan Heyes court action against TransLink (et al), documents showed that the cost of RAV was at least $2.5 billion. A cost of a no-frills, economy LRT line along Broadway would be about $20 million per km to build.”

    Have you ever seen a case where the majority of government projects are on budget. Ever notice that most times the project is over budget. My point is that government seem to always under estimate the cost of project to make it look better to the voter. That is what my point was that no matter what the project it most likely will be over budget.

  37. mezzanine Says:

    I would have to agree with anonymous. Constructions and Budget gaffes are not not uncommon with any large transit project.

    “The project to install dedicated tracks along St. Clair Ave. W. threw a 6.8-kilometre stretch into turmoil for nearly five years, obstructing traffic, reducing business for merchants, narrowing sidewalks, ripping up mature trees and disturbing what local Councillor Cesar Palacio calls the strip’s “European patio culture.” The price tag soared from $65 million to $106 million and the final 300 metres won’t be completed until spring.”

    http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/ttc/article/751068–st-clair-streetcar-anguish-avoidable-study-says

    Zweisystem replies: This not the fault of light rail, rather inept management by the TTC. Hopefully our friends in Toronto can explain what happened. It is sort of reminiscent of the Canada line as well, where the cost escalated from $1.3 billion to over $2.5 billion and scores of lawsuits from affected merchants.

  38. Joe G Says:

    “For instance – the reason why translink has an operating deficit? Because of the expansion of bus service and resulting low initial ridership and the high cost of operators.”

    And now you’re changing the subject!

    We were talking about the event that an economic downturn results in lower revenue generated, because of a general lower ridership. That is what you quoted from Human Transit. You refuse to address my points. Regardless of a driver or driverless system, lower revenue generation will result in cutbacks.

    Why should I care about anything else you say in areas where I lack expertise, when it is clear that many other points you are making, couched in seemingly “reasonableness of language” and an obvious extensive knowledge, can easily be debunked and are in fact disingenuous?

    Zweisystem replies: What is so disingenuous about TransLink is that we do not know the formula TransLink uses to apportion fare revenue between SkyTrain and bus. A source told Zwei that TransLink doesn’t and just takes enough fare revenue until they can claim that “SkyTrain pays its operating costs!”

    The driver – non driver issue is a mere smokescreen and only becomes an issue if average hourly ridership exceeds about 20,000 pphpd! But hey, this is SkyTrain land, money grows on trees and there is a SkyTrain on every block.

  39. mezzanine Says:

    @JoeG:

    I’m just a pseudonym on the internet. My opinions are just that, but I try to back up my major points to references in the public domain so people can make up their own minds.

    For instance:

    “We were talking about the event that an economic downturn results in lower revenue generated, because of a general lower ridership… Regardless of a driver or driverless system, lower revenue generation will result in cutbacks.”

    For a really nuanced answer, funding for transit in the US (where this a larger crisis) is more dependent on sales and payroll taxes, which is very economy dependent. In canada, it is more property-tax dependent which is more stable.

    http://www.masstransitmag.com/web/online/Online-Exclusives/Rough-Ride-for-Transit-Finances/5$10918

    “Canadian transit agencies and Canada’s economy have not been as hard hit as their U.S. counterparts: APTA reports that Canadian ridership is down by 0.13 percent in 2009 compared with the same period in 2008.

    A key reason for the comparatively better financial picture in Canada is different funding sources reports Michael Roschlau, president and chief executive officer, Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA). He explains that Canadian systems tend to rely on local property taxes, which are less volatile he says than sales taxes for operating support.
    ….
    Agencies are in a bind. They have axed administrative costs and found savings in fuel, material and procurement. Unfortunately many have made little headway on the largest single-cost item — operating employee wages — with their unions.”

    And JoeG: “Regardless of a driver or driverless system, lower revenue generation will result in cutbacks”

    Or you could take the braver approach and increase taxes and fares, like other jurisdictions have done in addition to vancouver, like in washington DC.

    “”We heard from our customers that they would rather increase fares than reduce service,” said Peter Benjamin, who was elected Metro board chairman Thursday. “Not a single member of this board wants to increase fares or decrease service, but we need to take this temporary action to balance the budget this year.”

    Advocacy groups welcomed the board’s decision not to reduce service. Proposed service cuts would have lengthened time between trains to as long as a half an hour and caused greater crowding on trains and buses, risking turning riders away. Metro has said ridership is already in decline because of the recession.

    “We are relieved that the Metro board didn’t cut service,” Cheryl Cort of the Coalition for Smarter Growth said in a statement Thursday. “This would have left tens of thousands of riders stranded and sent many commuters back to face traffic jams in their cars.” ”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/28/AR2010012803788.html?sid=ST2010012803810

  40. Joe G Says:

    So…. You still have no answer for me as to why you would quote this Human Transit guy in the first place, who claims that systems with drivers are problematic in the event of poor ridership due to an economic downturn, when it is obvious that driverless systems would face the same cutbacks, but likely they would have to find savings by increasing fares or cutting back other services such as buses.

    Why would you make that argument?

    Zweisystem replies: This is absolutely correct. Driverless transit systems are expensive to operate, being thus would face cut-backs in station staffing (unsafe stations) and car and track maintenance (less reliability). I am astounded that a person who professes to be a transit expert, knows so little about LRT and metro operation.

  41. mezzanine Says:

    Well, JoeG, I do agree if there is a funding crisis and raising fares is not an option, all services will have to be evaluated for cuts, including bus and non-automated/automated rail.

    I can’t seem to convince you that automated rail makes it easy to sustain frequent service in good times and bad due to the lack of operator costs, the largest driver of ongoing operating costs for transit agencies.

    I’ll leave it at that. :-)

    Zweisystem replies: MEZZ you are completely wrong, let me spell this out – AUTOMATIC METRO SYSTEMS NEED MORE PERSONNEL TO OPERATE, THEREFORE HAVE HIGHER OPERATING COSTS THAN COMPARATIVE LIGHT RAIL SYSTEMS. IF IN BAD TIMES, THERE NEEDS TO BE A REDUCTION OF PERSONNEL, THEN THE AUTOMATIC METRO WILL OPERATE AT REDUCED LEVELS TO COMPENSATE FOR LESS EMPLOYEES. WITH AUTOMATIC METROS, SAVINGS COMES FROM TRAIN MAINTENANCE AND REDUCED MAINTENANCE MEANS REDUCED OPERATING LEVELS. THIS IS ONE MAJOR REASON WHY AUTOMATIC LIGHT METRO SYSTEMS HAVE FALLEN OUT OF FAVOUR WITH TRANSIT OPERATORS AND WHY LRT MADE LIGHT-METRO OBSOLETE, THEY ARE VERY EXPENSIVE TO BUILD AND OPERATE.

    Sorry Mezz, it is you and the chap from Human transit that do not understand how transit operates and have tried to twist things around to suit your own ends. Your arguments are nothing but invention and are without foundation.

  42. Canadian Mind Says:

    Why would an automated metro need more transit workers than a LRT? If the whole skytrain system were LRT would you not need several hundred drivers to maintain current service levels provided by the automated system?

    Zweisystem replies: According to TransLink’s own statics, The Expo Line is 60% more costly to operate than Calgary’s C-Train (both lines are about the same length), yet Calgary’s LRT carries more riders. I’m sorry, you are full of BS, the cost of the C-Train’s drivers is $6 million out of a $36 million annual budget (2006). Fact trumps SkyTrain Lobby BS!

    Cost of Rail Control facilities: $3.1M
    Vehicle Maintenance costs: $13.9M (2006)
    Station Maintenance costs: $2.8M (2006)
    Right of Way Maintenance costs: $2.9M (2006)
    Signals Maintenance costs: $2.4M (2006)
    Average annual power costs: $4.8M (2006)
    Annual LRV Operator wages: $6.0M (includes fringe benefits of 21.57%) (2006)

    Tell the chap at human transit to please read a book on the subject!

    http://www.calgarytransit.com/html/technical_information.html

  43. Justin Bernard Says:

    “The project to install dedicated tracks along St. Clair Ave. W. threw a 6.8-kilometre stretch into turmoil for nearly five years, obstructing traffic, reducing business for merchants, narrowing sidewalks, ripping up mature trees and disturbing what local Councillor Cesar Palacio calls the strip’s “European patio culture.” The price tag soared from $65 million to $106 million and the final 300 metres won’t be completed until spring.”

    Nothing to do with LRT, but poor management by the TTC. You can read a good piece by Steve Munro

    http://stevemunro.ca/?p=3191

  44. Canadian Mind Says:

    Zwei, I was looking at the current stats on wikipedia.

    The current system lengths are as follows:

    C-train – 48.8km

    Skytrain – 68.7km

    Daily ridership:

    C-train – 266 100 (2009 Q4)

    Skytrain – 344 796 (2010 Q1)

    I’m not going to argue with your operations costs, according to wikipedia Skytrain cost $82,684,000 to operate in 2008. Far more than C-train.

    Question about revenue generation, though. How much of C-trains operating costs are covered by user fares when compared to Skytrain? I have read other places that, the revenues from operating Skytrain actually exceed costs of operating them, meaning that, as expensive as they are to run, Translink is making money off of the system. Is it the same with C-train? Would you have figures to support or refute either claim?

    Zweisystem replies: I said just the Expo Line. We do not know how much of the fares cover SkyTrain operation because:

    1) We do not know if TransLink claims for SkyTrain ridership are accurate (no annual audit).
    2) As 80%of SkyTrain’s ridership first take a bus to a metro, we do not know how TransLink apportions the fare between bus and SkyTrain.
    3) We do not know how much of the SkyTrain annual subsidy of over $230 million is used to reduce fares.

    TransLink makes a lot of claims, but many fall well short of being truthful and it is also safe to assume that no one actually has bought the system (SkyTrain is only sold in private deals) that that many of the claims are just that, claims. This is not 1980, it’s 2010 and SkyTrain sales are non existent, while a new LRT line has been opened every 6 weeks in 2010.

    In Nottingham, the system runs at a profit with fares not only paying operating costs but debt servicing costs as well.

  45. David Says:

    Yes, Canadian Mind, if Vancouver’s system was LRT we would need hundreds of drivers. In peak hours TransLink operates 55-57 trains on the Expo/Millennium system and 14-16 trains on the Canada Line.

    While it’s possible to go overboard like Seattle did, a typical LRT “station” is essentially a large bus stop. It needs someone to empty the trash occasionally and a technician on call to fix the ticket machine if it breaks down.

    SkyTrain and other metro systems have large stations filled with expensive equipment like escalators and elevators that need frequent maintenance. Their closed design means they need to be staffed and equipped with monitored security cameras. In addition to the usual customer service and security people TransLink also has a large police force that operates almost exclusively on SkyTrain. Big stations require a full time maintenance staff and full time cleaning staff. Underground stations also need extensive well maintained air conditioning systems so passengers can breathe..

    Automated systems have large control centres and the routes are lined with equipment for signalling and alerting staff of any possible object on the tracks. These must be inspected daily in order to keep the trains running and there must be repair staff on call throughout the service day because a single broken wire or tree branch on the tracks brings the entire system to a halt. Underground lines and their signalling equipment experience significant damage from flying debris that is pushed along by the trains.

    SkyTrain needs more maintenance than other automated systems because it also has a reaction rail in the middle of the tracks that must be positioned precisely for the trains to operate correctly and not use excessive amounts of electricity.

  46. zweisystem Says:

    From Calgary Transit

    Ridership figures.

    Year LRT Boardings Notes
    ==== ================ =========================
    2006 56,403,800
    2007 72,178,000 New station online plus massive ridership increase system wide
    2008 78,080,000 Large system wide ridership increase
    2009 77,418,700 Ridership declined on entire transit system by 1.2%

  47. Justin Bernard Says:

    The one advantage of automated metros is to fully max out the capacity of a line.

    Case in point, RATP Line 1.

  48. Anonymous Says:

    I’d suggest that stations for any type of rail transit in Vancouver would be more expensive as they would still have elevators and other equipment to keep the entire system perfectly accessible as it is now.

    Zwei do you have the annual operating expenses for the C-Train to go along with that ridership?

    Don’t users in Calgary take buses to C-Train stations?

    Zweisystem replies: Again I’ll post Calgary Transit’s 2006 summery of operational costs:

    Cost of Rail Control facilities: $3.1M
    Vehicle Maintenance costs: $13.9M (2006)
    Station Maintenance costs: $2.8M (2006)
    Right of Way Maintenance costs: $2.9M (2006)
    Signals Maintenance costs: $2.4M (2006)
    Average annual power costs: $4.8M (2006)
    Annual LRV Operator wages: $6.0M (includes fringe benefits of 21.57%) (2006)

    Please note – Driver’s wages are about 17% of the total operating costs of the C-Train. The highest cost is vehicle maintenance which is over 38% of the annual operating costs. I would love to see TransLink release the same figures for SkyTrain!

    About 30% to 40% of a ‘rail’ transit system should come from buses, with SkyTrain it is over 80%. There is very little evidence that the metro, despite over $8 billion spent by taxpayers, has attracted the motorist from the car.

  49. mezzanine Says:

    ^ I’m glad the c-train is providing increasing service for calgary.

    And just like Skytrain, a good part of those passenger numbers come from transfers from bus, and the elimination of bus routes made redundant by the C-train route.

    http://www.calgary.ca/docgallery/BU/planning/pdf/west_lrt_study/frequently_asked_questions_west_lrt_line.pdf

    “Bus service will not be eliminated from communities adjacent to the West LRT. Instead, bus routes will provide feeder service to the West LRT stations to allow residents faster travel into the downtown and connect to the rest of the LRT network. The BRT (Bus Rapid Transit Service), currently in place in lieu of the LRT will be phased out. The feeder bus network will be planned in consultation with the communities.”

  50. David Says:

    @Anonymous from April 25:

    The Vancouver bus system is fully accessible yet there seems to be a real shortage of bus stops with elevators. Wonder why that is.

  51. Canadian Mind Says:

    Why is it bad that so many buses transfer riders onto skytrain? is it not better that a person catches a bus from the local bus stop to the train then to take a car to the station park & ride?

    Zweisystem replies: Because one can lose upwards of 70% of potential ridership per transfer, simple.

  52. Paul C Says:

    @David

    Well there is no point of having an elevator or escalator to go from the same level to the same level.

    Of course I can see where you are going. Your trying to get the point across that a ground level street car would be more accessible than a metro line. If I’m wrong on that account please do correct me.

    My counter argument is simply. Why should I as a transit user be forced to ride a street car system that has to run slower for safety reasons compared to a metro line. If there was both a metro line and a street car on Broadway. 90% of the time I would probably chose the metro line over the street car. The only time I would choose the street car is if I wasn’t going that far in distance.

    You may not think nor may others like you who support the street car. But speed is a big factor for most people out there. The higher the speed the lower the commute time. I’m now waiting for the comment that speed and commute time are not a factor. :)

    Zweisystem replies: Your comment, “Why should I as a transit user be forced to ride a street car system that has to run slower for safety reasons compared to a metro line.” refers to a streetcar system not light rail. The difference is a reserved rights-of-way. The question of speed is more to do with station/stop spacing rather than mode. Actually Paul, you are in the minority as more people want their transit on the pavement, handy to use as LRT has a far better record in attracting new ridership. And Paul, why should I be forced to use a pygmy transit system or metro, the compels me to use the stairs, when I have very bad knees and can only climb ascend or descent stairs in pain. Oh yes the station has an elevator, but by the time I wait in line to use it, my metro journey is now become an ordeal.

    The actual speed of a transit system is not the prime factor is people using transit, it is the over all ambiance of the transit system, ease of tickets, the seamless or no transfer journey and several more factors, all combines to make transit easy and nice to use. The speed factor is a myth, use by the SkyTrain Lobby to scare people, oh yes, the Seattle hybrid light rail/metro, with large portions of its route in tunnel or on viaduct and has few stations and fast commercial speeds, oh wait for it 20,000 passengers a day – hmmmmmm, I guess speed of the system isn’t all what it is cracked up to be.

  53. Paul C Says:

    So how about we just build both systems :)

    If speed or better yet commute time is a myth why then do people prefer to drive on a freeway vs driving on a local road with traffic lights?

    As for Seattle while I will admit their ridership is very low. Because the system is fairly new and really only has one line. You really can’t use it has a point of argument. Even our system and the Portland and Calgary systems had low ridership at the beginning. Just because you build a line doesn’t mean people are just going to switch the next day. Some will switch faster than others. Others may not switch right away. While some may never switch.

    Zweisystem replies: The freeway/road analogy is very bad and not worth considering as there are many more options/reasons for taking a car on a highway. In Europe, people prefer to take a tram rather a metro. Seattle is a very poorly designed transit system as only fools would design a $2 billion+ transit system to carry such few customers.

  54. David Says:

    @Paul C

    Once again a reader concerned with speed doesn’t factor in the extra time and effort it takes to get where you’re going with a “faster” metro system. Not only are stations less convenient and farther apart, but the lines are significantly shorter which forces a large percentage of passengers to use other forms of transportation to get where they’re going.

    The Millennium Line was supposed to run from Broadway and Granville all the way to Coquitlam, but when the government of the day decided to build SkyTrain instead of LRT there simply wasn’t enough money to build the whole thing.

    So for 10 years passengers have had to transfer to/from buses every day and at the rate things are going it will be another 10 years before the line is finally built. That’s 20 years of waiting for the bus. Where is all that waiting in your speed calculations? Where are the decades of waiting the rest of Metro Vancouver will have to suffer if SkyTrain is imposed upon us again?

  55. Anonymous Says:

    Europeans like trams over metros? Could have fooled me when I was on a jam packed Rome subway last fall.

    Zweisystem replies: You confuse the issue completely, metros are only built on routes that have the ridership to justify the huge extra expense of subway construction. Far more new light rail lines have been built in Europe than metros and even in Roma, the locals are passionate about the tram!

  56. Paul C Says:

    @David

    I will admit that the rest of the M-line should have been built sooner. There is no debate there. Thing is there is no proof that if they had gone with an LRT line that the entire thing would have been built sooner. Chances are they would have done the same section. And we’d still be in the same situation of waiting for the other sections. Because the money they would have saved most likely would have been spent on some other project or more likely used to balance the books.

    As for the speed factor and station spacing. I realize that if your daily commute is not that far then you would want stations closer together. Basically you don’t want to be wasting most of your time walking. The other side of the coin though is someone is coming in from Surrey. They are going to UBC. They don’t really want to have to go along a slower street car just so the locals in that area can get easier access. They want to skip past Broadway as quickly as they can.

    Zweisystem replies: There is plenty of proof if that we had built with LRT instead of SkyTrain, we would now have had two separate North/South routes and at least two separate East/West routes including a line to UBC, an electric railway to Chilliwack and the beginnings of a LRT network in Surrey.

  57. David Says:

    The M-line plan was essentially complete and funding was in place to build the entire route. It was the switch to SkyTrain that forced the truncated route to be adopted instead.

    I won’t deny that it would be nice to have high speed service for long distance travel, but I don’t think a metro line is the right solution.

    For a small fraction of the cost of SkyTrain Metro Vancouver could have both on-street LRT with 500m stop spacing and express services that operate on dedicated, limited-stop rail lines between cities.

    This site promotes the establishment of tram-train on the old interurban route through Surrey/Langley/Abbotsford that would switch to the CN main line at New Westminster for a fast, limited stop journey to Main street where the tram would join the city’s LRT network. It would offer several operational advantages over SkyTrain.

    1. Passengers from North Delta, Newton, Cloverdale and points east would require much shorter bus rides.
    2. The tram would be faster than SkyTrain between Scott Road and Main Street.
    3. Passengers would be free to transfer to Expo or MIllennium if they so chose, but would not have to transfer in order to reach downtown, central Broadway or UBC.
    4. The service could be in operation at a basic level within 18 months and at high frequency as soon as a new Fraser River rail bridge is built.

    Fast, seamless journeys would be very attractive and pull significant numbers from other modes of travel.

    Zweisystem replies: Exactly!

    Let us not forget, the funding for the original Vancouver to Richmond, Whally and Lougheed LRT, was only enough to fund SkyTrain to New Westminster.

  58. Anonymous Says:

    @David, when I move about in Abbotsford I mostly am able to walk where I need to go, my car is required only if I plan to go to Langley, Surrey, or Vancouver, what this site and you are proposing would mean I would rarely if ever even need to use my car. Thumbs up to that. With SkyTrain, I have to drive half an hour before I can get onto it, and then it is still slower and more costly then just driving the rest of the way. Go rail for the valley.

    Though, I highly doubt it will ever happen with the Campbell lieberals in office, let’s see in a few years if enough people have remained pissed off about this HST thing and all of their lies to actually vote them out of office.

  59. Radio interview OliNo deel 4/4 | Zonnepanelen.a-bc.org Says:

    […] Some Sunday Reading – The “Automatic Metro” or AGT Debate – Too Much Bunkum … […]

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