The case for Diesel LRT for the metro Vancouver region.


Diesel light-rail is a light-rail vehicle which is powered by a diesel engine, rather than electricity, conforming to the operational parameters of modern LRT. This means Diesel LRT can be installed very cheaply on routes that would otherwise not be considered for ‘rail’ transit, as it forgoes the expense of the ‘overhead’ for electric transmission, giving large cost savings on longer routes. Being light-rail, Diesel LRT can also operate on tram tracks in city centres, on ‘reserved rights-of-ways, and track share on mainline railways. The following is a U-Tube feature, showing the New Jersey Diesel LRT line.

Being powered by a diesel engine, the light-rail vehicle can operate on existing railway tracks, track-sharing with regular freight and passenger trains, with safe operation ensured by modern signaling methods. There are five routes in the metro Vancouver region that could be considered for Diesel LRT operation.

  1. The Vancouver to Chilliwack interurban.
  2. Vancouver to Whiterock.
  3. Coquitlam/Port Moody to Vancouver via New Westminster, Marpole and the Arbutus Corridor.
  4. New Westminster to Queensborough and Annacis Island.
  5. New Westminster to Richmond.

Five Diesel LRT routes, using existing railway infrastructure and a new Fraser River Rail bridge with a 3-track lift span, could be had for the cost of one new SkyTrain line. What is needed is the political will to provide affordable LRT solutions and Federal legislation to compel mainline railway operators to accept Diesel LRT operation on lightly used rail lines in urban areas. With ‘peak oil’ and a severe economic downturn, precious transit money should not be spent on prestigious ‘metro’ projects that will achieve very little, but on ‘workhorse’ solutions, bringing LRT to as many people as possible at the cheapest cost.

It is time that our provincial and federal politicians and regional transportation authorities end their fixation with hugely expensive light-metros like SkyTrain and RAV/Canada Line and start planning for affordable LRT projects, including diesel LRT, that would provide the all important seamless journey from residence to destination that has proven time after time, to attract the all important motorist from the car.


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2 Responses to “The case for Diesel LRT for the metro Vancouver region.”

  1. ngwright Says:

    I disagree with you on the light metro, but thats because I don’t see it as a robbing peter to pay paul situation. I would be very excited to see more of everything, including some of the new LRT routes you are suggesting. Its frustrating that something like the interurban, which could be done very cheaply and very quickly, is taking such a long time to get going. And obviously not for lack of community support. Surrey is becoming our second downtown and transit has only recently started to reflect this reality.

    I also like the idea of a whiterock route. Diesel LRT is perfect for these kind of communities where there is some density, but a huge amount of agricultural land surrounding it. It works in Ottawa, and it would work here. But isn’t the Port Moody portion already served by the west coast express (service improvements would definitely be welcome of course). Queensborough probably doesn’t have the density needed to support this, but if it was factored into a New Westminster – Richmond route there is potential. Like with Surrey, people are not automatically commuting to downtown Van anymore. They go back and forth between nearly every municipality.

    They’re talking about your rail crossing for the new Patullo. Its pretty early yet, but something has to be done about the old New West rail bridge.

    How do you suggest getting track rights from CN and CP? It was enough of a chore getting it for the west coast express, and the scale of this would dwarf that line.

  2. zweisystem Says:

    Have you been through Queensborough lately, it is a mass of condominiums, with a very close packed, dense population. Diesel LRT on a perhaps 30 minute schedule would provide a very good transit connection to New West.

    D-LRT from the Tri-Cities would provide a very fast connection to Vancouver and without transfer. As a bonus it would be much cheaper than a SkyTrain connection. D-LRT from the Tri-City region would also provide quick access to Richmond and YVR, much faster (due to fewer stops or stations) than taking SkyTrain and RAV.

    TransLink and the GVRD ruled out D-LRT from the Tri-Cities simply because – “We spent over $1 billion on the Millennium Line and we have to feed as many people on to as we can to get our monies worth!” I was dumbfounded when I heard that!

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