Karlsruhe’s TramTrain’s – Why is TransLink so afraid!


regionmap4A map of Karlsruhe’s regional tram (tramtrain) network

Since 1993, Karlsruhe’s award winning two system (now called tramtrain) LRT system has been operating safely, track-sharing with mainline railways. Karlsruhe’s tramtrain concept is now used on no fewer than ten light-rail systems in Europe and North America and presently being planned for numerous transit systems world wide. The tramtrain concept has been proven in revenue service and has been very successful. Why then is TransLink so afraid of LRT and especially tram train?

avg_emu_890_vaiTramtrain servicing a mainline railway station.

TransLink ignores modern light-rail and treats it as a poor-man’s SkyTrain, despite much evidence that LRT has made SkyTrain obsolete on the world stage. TransLink has become a  creature of the provincial government, even though it is supposed to be responsible to Metro Vancouver, the real controlling force for TransLink resides in the Premier’s office and like so many provincial premier’s before all hints of transit economy are thrown out the window, in favour of very expensive glitzy metro systems. Simply, a metro like SkyTrain or RAV/Canada Line is far more sexier for a photo-op than a tram or a bus! In Vancouver’s metro region, rail transit is to promote land development and not move people, which has lead to a perversion of transit planning. Unlike other cities where transit is planned and built to cost effectively move people, in the Vancouver metro region, transit planning is to further extend SkyTrain, enriching a small clique property speculators and developers who own or have purchased lands next to the guideway.

avg840bTramTrain operating a rural service.

TransLink’s bureaucrats are loath to build with light-rail is because it is simple, much simpler to plan for and build than metro and if LRT was the chosen mode, TransLink would not need the layers of duplicate bureaucracy to function. Many bureaucrats have created little fiefdoms within their departments in TransLink, where any hints of economy is treated with disdain. LRT would bring economy to TransLink and a new philosophy of providing public transit that conflicts with current philosophy that “the more money one throws at transit, the better it is!” TransLink invests in transit that is good for TransLink and its political masters, not what is good for the transit customer and with no real public input. Sadly, there is no change on the horizon.

s2-rheinstettenTramtrain fits well into the cityscape.

TransLink fears change and wants to keep doing things as they always have done things and building with LRT/Tramtrain represents change.  Into the mix, the province wants to keep building metro, to placate the ossified transportation bureaucracy in Victoria, who in turn advise the transportation ministry and the Minister of Transportation. Building with light-rail represents change; change how the region views transit and how transit will reduce congestion and pollution. The threat of ‘peak oil’ and global warming have not registered with the current provincial government, who still want to pursue very expensive metro solutions an build new highways and bridges as they believe such a course will win votes at the polls.

Tramtrain is seen as a further complication by a transportation  bureaucracy that is stalled with 1960’s thinking, unwilling or unable to understand proven successful transit philosophies used elsewhere.

avg846Have a coffee? Try a ‘Bistro’ tram.

In an age where ‘rail’ transit is invested in to reduce auto congestion, pollution and be an attractive alternative to the car, the upcoming election should be a vehicle to tell political hopefuls that a change is needed and the electorate will stand for nothing less. Tramtrain and track-sharing represents a cost effective beginning to the 21st century public transport philosophy that to be effective LRT must not only service major destinations but also service suburbia. To do this, there is no reasonable choice but to track-share with existing railways as the cost of going  greenfields is cost prohibitive.

Rail for the valley must draw a line in the sand and not tolerate TransLink’s and the Transportation Minister’s pathetic attempts to downplay modern LRT and not supporting the reinstatement of the interurban from Vancouver to Chilliwack. The map of Karlsruhe’s 400 km. tramtrain/LRT network at the top, illustrates what can be built for less than the cost of the 19 km. $2.5 billion RAV/Canada light-metro line and one wonders why TransLink keeps planning for SkyTrain and is so afraid of modern LRT!


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