Archive for February, 2009

B.C. on the hook for $3.3-billion Port Mann bridge

February 27, 2009

The Ministry of Transportation announced today that the Port Mann P3 has failed, and B.C. will now directly fund the bridge construction. Globe and Mail article here.

The B.C. taxpayers will be taking all of the risk, if traffic on the bridge is less than forecast.

What this means is…..

If the government does invest in a light rail alternative for the Fraser Valley, successfully encouraging people to leave their cars for more sustainable transportation options, resulting in less traffic on the bridge than forecast, taxpayers will have to pay up!

Not to worry, people.

Not to worry.

Kevin Falcon says he is “very comfortable with traffic forecasts.”  Why’s that, Mr. Falcon? Maybe because the current plan for the valley is “no light rail alternative for the foreseeable future?”

Next time you’re stuck in traffic, you’ll know at least someone’s comfortable.

On another note, check out this latest location of VALTAC‘s rail for the valley trailer:


Picture taken by Terry Lyster. “Taken yesterday in Abbotsford just after Hwy 1 was made passable. The Interurban moved in all weathers; the only time it was stopped was during the great flood of 1948. Darn Sumas Lake! Several winters ago, Southern Rail of BC carried emergency provisions and rescued people during a freeway closing blizzard. Fancy that.

There is a good reason why the propaganda system works the way it does. It recognizes that the public will not support the actual policies. Therefore it is important to prevent any knowledge or understanding of them.”

February 26, 2009

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised to give $350 million for the beleaguered and ill planned Evergreen SkyTrain Line, which must bring joy to the hearts of the SkyTrain lobby and Bombardier Inc.

The SkyTrain/metro lobby is waking up to the fact that Fraser Valley residents want light-rail and they want it sooner rather than later. For almost 30 years the great SkyTrain propaganda machine ground on and on, spewing reams of phony claims, based on contrived facts. The so-called business case for the Evergreen SkyTrain line continues the sad saga of manipulating truth to insure more of the light metro is built .   It seems the Prime Minister has also been scammed to support this white elephant, with loads of Federal (photo-op) money for ‘politically prestigious’  and politically correct transit mega-projects. One guesses the Prime Minister is trying to buy votes for Conservative MP’s along the Evergreen line will operate; shades of Glen Clark’s Millennium Line.

The Vancouver Sun also embarrassed itself with a picture of a classic European style tram operating on-street instead of showing ugly elevated guideways which will be in place with the elevated automatic SkyTrain ART light-metro!  It seems the Vancouver Sun continues its long history of pro-SkyTrain propaganda and anti-LRT rhetoric, distorting facts to favouring SkyTrain.  The Evergreen Line will definitely not run at street level.

For the taxpayer, the Evergreen SkyTrain Line means higher property taxes; for the car driver, a car levy; and for the transit customer, higher fares, all brought to you courtesy of Gordon Campbell, Kevin Falcon, and now Stephen Harper. Harper’s and Campbell’s latest Evergreen Line gambit may backfire if Fraser Valley residents feel they have been ignored far too long and return MP’s and MLA’s not belonging to the federal Conservative or provincial Liberal parties.

As Abraham Lincoln said, “You can’t fool all the people all the time.”

Is TransLink Going Bankrupt? Has Gordon Campbell Made a Secret Deal With The Devil (TransLink)?

February 25, 2009

An interesting email came my way today, with the astonishing claim that TransLink will go bankrupt next year!

Two tiny snippets out of that tell the whole story…

Even with the inflated ridership claims, the provincial subsidy per trip (TransLink) is $5/rider, and for Victoria’s BC Transit system it is over $20/rider.!!! We all pay for that…likely much of it out of gasoline tax revenues.

The other snippet is that,as we’ve been told by Tom Prendergast, without an additional $300/million/year, T-Link will have to close its doors. The vehicle levy of course is back on the table.

If this is true, it begs the question; “Has Gordon Campbell and Kevin Falcon already entered into a secret agreement with TransLink to reintroduce the auto levy after next May’s election?” Rail for the Valley must get into election mode now and force political candidates in all political parties to come clean on regional transit planning; as it stands now the valley taxpayer is going to pay hefty tax hikes to fund other peoples expensive transit systems!

The Valley Interurban – As Shovel Ready as One Can Get!

February 24, 2009

In today’s lexicon of government deficit spending, ‘shovel ready’ has become the cliché of choice for politicians to fund their pet mega-projects. Evergreen Line, Gateway are all said to be shovel ready, yet much planning and design work must take place before the shovels are actually in the ground.

The Valley Interurban project is almost complete; the tracks are there; the vehicles are ready for hire and all what is needed is negotiations with the Southern Railway of BC and the Super Port railway folks for ‘pathways’ for the interurban service. No major engineering is needed. What must happen is track renewals, new signaling, simple bus-stop style station infrastructure  and passing loops at strategic points. It is not an exaggeration to say that a basic 5 or 6 returns a day service could be up an running within 1 year and certainly a more intensive hourly or half hourly service could be in place within 2 years.

It is certain that the Valley Interurban project meets the current definition of ‘shovel ready’ but it seems it doesn’t meet the politicians desire for building grand metro and highway projects which more and more look like pre-election monument building than building affordable and sustainable transportation infrastructure for the region.

TRAM-TRAIN TECHNOLOGY SEARCHING FOR A PROBLEM – From the LRTA. And what is tram-train? The interurban!

February 19, 2009

The following discussion paper from the LRTA should be of interest for those who want the return of the interurban to Chilliwack. Just substitute interurban for tram-train.

A programme on BBC 1 giving a nostalgic look at the former local railway route from York to Beverley (1) interviewed locals along the former route to see if they wanted it put back. It brought out many strong viewpoints, some for and some against. Unfortunately the line closed at a difficult period when British Rail was approximately midway through its policy change to diesel power. Those unfortunate enough to own a house on the former route realised that if pressure to put the line back gained momentum, their house could be in the way. As a whole, it highlighted the many problems that could be encountered with a successful YES campaign. For reasons, not very clear to the general public, the difficulties of introducing the tram-train concept in this country are thought to be fairly substantial but made more so because of our reluctance to look at the successes in Europe. The York to Beverley route with tram-train technology should be a resounding success because existing systems in Europe have already proved its better performance than what went before it and also an ability to circumnavigate obstacles on the former track bed as well as going to pick-up points nearer passenger demand. Added to all this is its sharper acceleration and improved braking power which would probably remove a need for railway type signalling and the expense that goes with it. Much of this is already practised on Metrolink in Manchester. Lower operating costs could increase frequency and with it an improved passenger demand. The tram-train power requirements would be electrification at tramway voltage at each end of the route with an on-board diesel engine being used on the middle section. This would ensure “clean” operation as it passed through the streets of York and also suitable for an extension as a tram into Hull city centre. At this stage of the Discussion Document, a brief look at Germany’s better known tram-train projects could be very helpful. The main-line electric railway services into Saarbrucken Station (Hbf) had a similar problem to Leeds in that a passenger had a short walk to reach the shopping centre. Saarbrucken did something about it and provided a tram-train service over railway tracks at railway voltage to a convenient point where it could branch off as a tram at tramway voltage and pass through the streets of the CBD. It was such a success that at peak periods it was necessary to couple two three unit articulated units together. Leeds had a similar proposal but could not satisfy Central Government requirements. Karlsruhe did something very similar some years earlier but on a much larger scale and its success can be judged by the high passenger demand for extensions.

Tales of Transit studies past – You’d be amazed at the hundreds of politicians manipulated over the last 30 years!

February 17, 2009

Since SkyTrain was forced onto the region, transit planning has been skewed to fit the expensive proprietary light-metro. Most recently, noted American transit specialist, Gerald Fox, found the business case for the Evergreen SkyTrain Line had,several instances where the analysis had made assumptions that were inaccurate, or had been manipulated to make the case for SkyTrain.” (the full letter is found at ). This is not news, for over 30 years TransLink, as BC Transit before have manipulated rapid transit studies to favour SkyTrain over light-rail, with the desired result of confusing both politicians and the media with false facts, manipulated statistics, and plain untruths.

In 1994, three rapid transit studies; Broadway-Lougheed Corridor Study, Coquitlam – New Westminster Corridor, and Vancouver – Richmond Corridor studies were published by BC Transit. All three rapid transit studies are the foundation of TransLink’s SkyTrain or light metro construction program; all three studies are badly flawed and are of little use, yet no one seems able to ‘bell the cat’. The problem is a familiar one; the studies completely misrepresented the abilities modern LRT to the detriment of the mode.

Example #1: Even though it was well known that modern LRT could carry over 20,000 persons per hour per direction, the study limited LRT’s capacity at 10,000 pphpd!

Example #2: The study used European metre gauge tramway’s (Geneva & Bern) with smaller profile LRV’s as comparisons with the SkyTrain light-metro.

Example #3: The studies state, without any collaborating research or evidence, that just by building SkyTrain, would attract more riders to transit.

Example #4: Despite the fact that San Diego’s LRT was 16.5% the cost to build than the SkyTrain Expo Line; Portland 27% the cost to build than the Expo Line and Calgary’s LRT was 50% the cost to build than the Expo Line, the studies pegged the cost of LRT at 62.5% to 65.5% the cost of SkyTrain to build!

These studies have laid the groundwork of 15 years of misinformation which many regional politicians have taken for gospel, repeating transit nonsense as fact. Even today, TransLink and the provincial government continue investing massive sums of taxpayer’s money, with little or no public input, into SkyTrain and/or light-metro, which planning foundation is a quicksand of deliberate misinformation and professional fibbing. The RAV/Canada line and the proposed SkyTrain Evergreen line is more of the same; gold-plated rapid transit projects that have done little to alleviate traffic congestion, gridlock and pollution, while at the same time, driving up fares and taxes.

For Rail to the Valley to succeed, the SkyTrain myth must be ended once and for all and regional politicians must be educated about modern public transport philosophy and the importance of modern LRT’ ability to provide an affordable alternative to the car. Until this happens, the provincial government’s and TransLink’s ‘SkyTrain dog and pony’ show will continue.

Carole James & the NDP – Have they missed the train?

February 14, 2009

Carole James and the provincial NDP’s regional transportation platform is in stealth mode, which is not surprising, as past NDP administrations have ignored sound public transport practice and used ‘rail’ transit solely as an election tool. Glen Clark, successfully used ‘rail‘ projects as reelection tools: the West Coast Express (known at the time as the Reelection Express) and the flip-flop on the Broadway – Lougheed Rapid Transit Project, from LRT to the Millennium Line SkyTrain and changing the route to ‘show it’, billboard style, in NDP ridings.

The West Coast Express has never been a true alternative to the car, but helped in spreading sprawling population growth along the North shore of the Fraser River to Mission, by providing a highly subsidized commuter rail service, exacerbating traffic congestion and gridlock in the region. The Millennium Line flip-flop cost the NDP many supporters, who worked hard to make modern light-rail a reality in regional planning and were seen to be ‘slapped in the face’ by Glen Clark and Joy McPhail and did not vote in the 2001 election, the same election that the NDP were reduced to a rump of 2 seats.

The provincial NDP do not have a regional transportation plan and certainly have no vision for the return of the interurban to the Fraser Valley. The silence on this issue is deafening. Yet, reinstating the Vancouver to Chilliwack Interurban is a relatively easy thing to do; the tracks are there and vehicles are available, the only thing that has to be done is to negotiate with the Southern Railway of BC and the CPR/CNR over shared tracks in Langley. A basic (hourly) service could start within a year, with major track improvements happening when ridership demands new ` investment. The interurban is as ‘shovel ready’ project, as one can get!

What is needed is the political will to make this happen and certainly the Valley Interurban would grab the voters attention in May’s election, but the NDP are in silent running mode. The fear is that Carole James, like Glen Clark before, has succumbed to the ‘SkyTrain’ lobby, which always wants “one more line” to be built, this time the Evergreen Line, to make the network a success. Now, with over $6 billion invested by the taxpayer on the light-metro (those annual subsidies do add up), the best TransLink can say is that “80% of SkyTrain’s customers, first take  a bus to the metro“. SkyTrain has just given bus riders a slightly faster trip while at the same time, failing to attract the all important motorist from the car. The failure of TransLink to have independently audited ridership numbers and their refusal to accurately explain how they calculate ridership, indicates they have something to hide.

This election, the NDP could signal the end of the SkyTrain and hugely expensive light-metro planning and join the rest of the world planning and building with light-rail. Supporting light-rail and the valley interurban, would go a long way to bring affordable ‘rail’ transit to the region. If that $6 billion, that has been spent on SkyTrain, had been invested in LRT instead the region would have that magic 300 km. light-rail network that would have gone a long way reducing congestion & gridlock, so much so that there would have been little need for new a 10 lane mega-bridge and the Gateway bridge and highways project. Many commentators have stated that this May’s provincial election is Carole James and the NDP’s to lose and by not supporting modern LRT and the valley interurban project, may be very well left behind on the station platform, after missing the election train!

Five reasons Why Gordo and his ‘Falcon’ don’t want the “Return of the Interurban”.

February 11, 2009

It is all too simple, the tracks are there from Vancouver to Chilliwack, the diesel light-rail vehicles are available from many manufacturers and have been proven in revenue operation, and the precedent of the Karlsruhe two-system or zweisystem LRT with almost 20 years of safe operation track-sharing with mainline railways, makes the return of the interurban an almost shovel-ready project. Why then does Premier Campbell and his Minister of Transportation, Kevin Falcon, not want the “return of the interurban” for the Fraser Valley. There are five main reasons.

1) The interurban is not seen to be a Metro Vancouver rapid transit project. The monied ‘West-side types’ (locally known as the creme de la creme) who run and finance the provincial and federal Liberal Parties, see the interurban as a non-vote getter, thus not essential – not needed. It’s the same Liberal ‘West-side types’ that forced the now $2.5 billion (over $1.2 billion over budget) RAV/Canada line subway on TransLink because they did not want LRT operating on the former interurban rapid transit route, the Arbutus Corridor.

2) Because LRT is much cheaper to build, there is less chance of ‘friends of the government’ or ‘ ‘friends of the bureaucracy’ getting contracts to work on the project. Simply put, light rail is too cheap to build for political or bureaucratic benefit.

3) 30 years of the SkyTrain myth has ingrained itself on planning in the region; transit is no longer built to move people affordably, rather it is built to facilitate land development. For developers, the bigger and more expensive a transit project is, the better it is. Building SkyTrain in the region has been like forcing round pegs into square holes.

4) The BC Liberals think ‘valley‘ seats are safe seats and don’t care about any transit improvements because they think Fraser Valley voters, like sheep, will always return Liberal MLA’s to the legislature.

5) The trucking industry and the Road Builders Association are big supporters of the BC Liberal Party and Campbell’s and Falcon’s ‘rubber on asphalt’ transportation policies favour theses two groups. Rail, unless there is political benefit, is not even on the radar screen. ‘Rubber on Asphalt’ is the credo of the Transportation Ministry.

There are many more reasons why the Liberals do not want the ‘return of the interurban’ to the valley, but here are the top five. It is up to ‘rail’ advocates to make ‘rail for the valley’ an election issue, to force both the BC Liberals and the NDP, to come out of the closet with real (not empty promises) plans for the return of passenger rail service from Vancouver to Chilliwack. The clock for this May’s election is ticking down……………………………..

10 Quick notes on light rail – for quick letters to the Editor.

February 10, 2009
  1. Light rail is a mode that can deal economically with traffic flows between 2,000 and 20,000 persons per hour per direction.
  2. LRT can be uses on-street, on elevated guide-ways (light-metro), in tunnel (subway), or track-share with existing railways.
  3. Calgary’s LRT (C-Train) carries over 250,000 passengers a day, more than SkyTrain.
  4. Capacity is a function of headway.
  5. Commercial speed of LRT is determines by quality of rights-of-way and stations or stops per route km.
  6. LRT can obtain speeds as high as 100 kph.
  7. LRT’s operating costs are much lower than the automated SkyTrain.
  8. The ratio of construction costs for rail transit construction are: tunneling costs about twice as much as elevated construction and elevated construction can cost up to ten times as much as at-grade/on-street construction.
  9. Ghent Belgium, with a population of about 300,000 has over 29 km. of LRT. Bern, Switzerland, with a population of about 200,000,  has over 18 km. of LRT (1995).
  10. In 1991, SkyTrain was subsidized by over $157 million annually, to day the subsidy is over $200 million annually.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR FLOOD: Rail for the Valley, & the new Port Mann bridge

February 8, 2009

To all supporters of passenger rail service for the Fraser Valley

Last Wednesday, the provincial government announced, out of the blue, an entirely new Port Mann bridge to be built. It will not be a twinned bridge, but a single 10-lane span, and the existing bridge will be torn down, only 45 years into its 75 year lifespan. There will be no light rail component on the bridge when it is forecast to be completed in 2013. The project’s estimated cost is $3.3 billion. (If recent megaprojects are any indication, this cost will likely rise substantially.)

Click here for the story from the Province.

Then, you might want to read these editorials by experts supporting Rail for the Valley:

Malcolm Johnston 1

Malcolm Johnston 2

Nathan Pachal

Stephen Rees

Government spin that the bridge is designed to accomodate light rail ‘sometime in the future’ is just that – spin. Another word is ‘deception.’ Never in history has this type of bridge been built, and then at a later date had lanes taken away to accomodate light rail.

It appears the BC government is trying to deceive the people of BC, who will likely be expected to pay the equivalent of about $1000 for every man, woman, and child in the province for this single project. (Every premier wants a legacy, I suppose.) While the Pattullo bridge and the Fraser River rail bridge are in true need of replacement, this project will leave the province bankrupt of money for these, and other, important and necessary improvements. Commuters are supposed to cheer the temporary relief of traffic congestion on the bridge, while the light rail needs of the Fraser Valley, and the united pleas of residents across the valley, are completely ignored.

Friends, we can not stand for this!

***What to do right now***

Immediately flood our newspapers with Letters to the editor, cc’ing your elected representatives and opposition candidates.

The government has got to hear the message, loud and clear, from the people of the Fraser Valley, before any contracts for this project are signed.

(Click here for newspaper email addresses)

There is also a facebook event that has been created for this flood

Please pass this on to others who might be interested.
More action to follow.
Thank you for doing your part…