Archive for September, 2009

A news release from Rail for the Valley – Light rail groups renew call to scrap SkyTrain expansion

September 30, 2009

OTrain&BusGreenboro

September 29, 2009
Media Release (for immediate release)

Rail For The Valley and the Light Rail Committee today joined forces in calling on provincial and federal governments, and Translink, to respect the wishes of local governments in the region, and start work on a modified Evergreen line.

John Buker, a spokesman with Rail For The Valley, pointed out that no new taxes would be required to be collected by Translink, if only senior levels of government would listen to the communities affected and build using at-grade light rail instead of Skytrain. Said Buker: “With Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts wanting at-grade light rail for Surrey as well, the potential now exists to rapidly and relatively inexpensively build up a large light rail network in the region, using a mixture of track-sharing with existing railroads and newly constructed light rail.”

Translink’s original proposal for the Evergreen line, supported by area mayors at the time, was as a light rail line. It would have saved about $400 million in construction costs compared to Skytrain. However, Light Rail Committee spokesman Malcolm Johnston points out that we could do much better than even that.

“The Light Rail Committee had years ago proposed a plan for light-rail in the Tri-City area, which would cost a fraction of the cost of Translink’s,” said Johnston. “The plan, which takes into account the advice of several transit consultants, would use use diesel and diesel-electric light-rail vehicles, combining track sharing with existing railways and the use of on-street operation where practical.”

Johnston explained the route of the proposed line: “The plan consisted of on-street operation from Port Moody to Coquitlam Centre, with a spur line using the Ioco freight branch to the Esso refinery line to 1st Ave. in Ioco. The line would then travel South along Lougheed highway till it connected to the  CPR rail line paralleling the Lougheed highway, connecting to the BNSF/CN mainline until it reached Pacific Central Station in Vancouver. This would give very fast journeys for people living in the Tri-Cities to Vancouver and visa versa. The Light Rail Committee estimated that the cost of this line would have been in the neighbourhood of $400 million to $600 million and giving a superior and direct service to downtown Vancouver. For a fraction the cost of SkyTrain or TransLink’s grossly over engineered light-rail plans, we could get a much larger usable ‘rail’ network that would be available to far more transit customers than a truncated light-metro line.”

Questions have been raised as to why the provincial and federal governments, in such trying economic times, would continue to go against the wishes of municipalities who are themselves asking for a cheaper alternative. Many have speculated that the federal government’s interest in finding Bombardier a market for it’s Skytrain vehicles is skewing local transit plans.

Said Johnston: “It’s further proof that the regions rapid transit plans are geared for Eastern Canadian politicians using local taxpayers money to subsidize jobs in both Ontario and Quebec.”

For further inquiries, please contact

Light Rail Committee spokesman Malcolm Johnston
dmjohnston@imag.net
604-889-4484

John Buker
Rail For The Valley
http://www.railforthevalley.com
railforthevalley@gmail.com
867-668-3736

Advertisements

News1130 piece on Rail for the Valley

September 29, 2009

Rail For The Valley made it onto News1130 Radio tonight. Here is the online article:

Light rail groups renew call to scrap SkyTrain expansion

Groups say light rail is a less expensive option

Bruce Claggett TRI-CITIES (NEWS1130) 2009-09-29 19:15
The two groups have called for light-rail in the past (Photo: Courtesy Rail for the Valley)

The two groups have called for light-rail in the past (Photo: Courtesy Rail for the Valley)

TRI-CITIES (NEWS1130) – Two community action groups are calling on senior governments to scrap plans for SkyTrain expansion and concentrate on at-grade light rail, which they say is a less expensive option.

The request comes from the community action groups ‘Rail for the Valley’ and the ‘Light Rail Committee’ who are calling for an at-grade light rail system for both Surrey and the Tri-Cities area. They say local mayors, like Surrey’s Dianne Watts, already understand the potential exists to rapidly expand the light rail network using a mixture of track-sharing.

The Light Rail Committee also says the proposed Evergreen expansion is not the wisest choice. The group says the Tri-Cities area would be better off with diesel-electric light rail vehicles, which is something the Committee proposed years ago.

http://www.news1130.com/news/local/more.jsp?content=20090929_220852_2196

Is it time to replan the Evergreen Line? Could diesel LRT be the answer for the Tri-Cities?

September 29, 2009

tricities-map

Both the provincial and federal government want TransLink to build SkyTrain on the Evergreen Line and it is clearly evident that the decision to build with SkyTrain is purely political to keep Ontario and Quebec jobs secure in Bombardier owned plants. With the ongoing propaganda campaign of the SkyTrain lobby, combined with the complete ignorance of Transportation Ministers, both provincial and federal on the subject of regional transit, TransLink persists in planning for unworkable and unfordable light-metro. Despite clear indications that after the huge investment in SkyTrain and RAV light-metro (SkyTrain was too expensive for the Canada Line) TransLink’s ridership share has only risen with population increase. There has not been a modal shift from car to transit. Yet, TransLink and provincial and federal governments still want to squander billions of dollars more on SkyTrain and light-metro, in the vain hope they will get different results on the next metro line they build.

They won’t. Then the question should be asked: “should there be complete rethink on both mode (light-rail & light-metro) and TransLink’s role in transit planning in the region that is free of political interference.”

Regional Mayors want light-rail to be built on the Evergreen Line at a supposedly $400 million cheaper cost, but the provincial Transportation Minister and her federal counterpart will hear none of it. It’s SkyTrain or nothing.

Why?

Simple, to keep jobs in Ontario and Quebec. Further proof that the regions rapid transit plans are geared for Eastern Canadian politicians using local taxpayers subsidize jobs in both Ontario and Quebec.

This further gives credence for the call for TransLink to get out of transit planning altogether and shed the ponderous bureaucracy that is fixated on SkyTrain and light-metro and rejects light-rail out of hand. By rejecting light-rail, TransLink’s planners rejects modern public transit philosophy based on almost forty years of proven and affordable light-rail, in revenue operation in over 600 cities around the world.

One must remember American transit expert, Gerald Fox’s comments on the TransLink’s Evergreen Line business case:

“I found several instances where the analysis had made assumptions that were inaccurate, or had been manipulated to make the case for SkyTrain. If the underlying assumptions are inaccurate, the conclusions may be so too.”

Fox sums up with:

“It is interesting how TransLink has used this cunning method of manipulating analysis to justify SkyTrain in corridor after corridor, and has thus succeeded in keeping its proprietary rail system expanding. In the US, all new transit projects that seek federal support are now subjected to scrutiny by a panel of transit peers, selected and monitored by the federal government, to ensure that projects are analysed honestly, and the taxpayers’ interests are protected. No SkyTrain project has ever passed this scrutiny in the US.”

A different plan for the Evergreen Line

The Light Rail Committee proposed a different plan for light-rail in the Tri-City area which is based on modern light-rail philosophy that has proven so effective elsewhere in the world.

The plan also takes into account the advice of several transit consultants, would use use diesel and diesel-electric light-rail vehicles, combining track sharing with existing railways and the use of on-street operation where practical. The plan consisted of on-street operation from Port Moody to Coquitlam Centre, with a spur line using the Ioco freight branch to the Esso refinery line to 1st Ave. in Ioco. The line would then travel South along Lougheed highway till it connected to the  CPR rail line paralleling the Lougheed highway, connecting to the BNSF/CN mainline until it reached Pacific Central Station in Vancouver.

This would give very fast journeys for people living in the Tri-Cities to Vancouver and visa versa. The Light Rail Committee estimated that the cost of this line would have been in the neighbourhood of $400 million to $600 million and giving a superior and direct service to downtown Vancouver. For a fraction the cost of SkyTrain or TransLink’s grossly over engineered light-rail plans, we could get a much larger usable ‘rail’ network that would be available to far more transit customers than a truncated light-metro line.

TransLink officials quickly shot down the plan because: “We had just built a $1.2 billion metro line and we had get get as many passengers on the new rapid transit line as we can.”

Maybe the time has come for TransLink to get out of the business of transit planning and hire independent consultants to compete to provide plans for the best and most affordable transit solutions for our endemic regional transportation chaos. The taxpayer can no longer afford TransLink’s grandiose gold-plated rapid transit lines that, in the past, have not attracted the motorist from the car and at best, gives the bus rider a questionably faster, yet more inconvenient journey.

regio-sprinter

 

 

From the Delta Optimist: Commute now 20 minutes longer thanks to the train

September 28, 2009

TrafficJamCartoon

More evidence that all is not well in “Lotus Land“. Despite some ‘good news’ stories provided by TransLink’s spin doctors this weekend on local radio stations, the new, almost $3 billion RAV/Canada Line light metro system has increased journey times for South of the Fraser commuters, especially if they have to make two or more transfers. What is also interesting is that any savings in journey times for bus riders from South Delta/Surrey, is not the Canada line, but the newly installed HOV lane on the highway 99 from Number 5 Road interchange to St.Edwards Drive, near the Oak Street Bridge, which now buses can avoid about 2 km. of congestion.

The question must be asked: “Why the need for an almost $3 billion metro system, when what was needed to decrease journey bus journey times was a $50 million HOV lane?

Which again begs the question: “Why didn’t TransLink invest in HOV lanes on Hwy 99 in the first place?” Seems to be a lot cheaper solution than a very expensive metro system.

No wonder TransLink is verging on bankruptcy as it seems we have idiots running the show.

Published: Saturday, September 26, 2009

Editor:

Re: Sky didn’t fall as riders make switch to Canada Line, Community Comment, Sept. 19

I disagree with Nathalie Heiberg-Harrison’s conclusions about the train’s usefulness. Furthermore, her “Chicken Little” characterization was off the mark because nobody predicted the world would end.

The travelling public did predict that commuting times would be negatively impacted (I thought it would add 10 minutes to my ride) despite TransLink’s predictions that travel from Ladner to UBC would be quicker.

After trying every reasonable combination of bus-to-train-to-bus connection I could find over the last two weeks, I have found that both predictions were wrong.

My prediction of a 10-minute increase was out by a factor of two — my commute time has actually increased by 20 minutes each way when riding the train.

So, by that measure, I think that predictions of worse transit service from South Delta have been proven correct. No, the world hasn’t ended, but the train has not lived up to its intended purpose of improving the public transit experience.

Judging by conversations with other bus passengers, I am not alone.

Minimizing commuting time on public transit is all about minimizing transfer time; fast vehicles alone are not enough. Rides such as Bridgeport to 41st Avenue are simply too short to compensate for the longer transfer times built into the new system.

It’s easy to squander all the benefit of a high-speed train run with a lengthy transfer. It’s a shame that TransLink was not upfront about this reality during its planning and open houses.

Remember the Fast Cat ferries? Same effect is at play with the train.

The comment about the new bus lane south of the Oak Street Bridge is a red herring because its only linkage with the train is political expediency. It could have been built long before the train was conceived. If TransLink was serious about eliminating bottlenecks for buses, it could build a southbound “fast bus lane” on Highway 99 at Westminster Highway.

There is no doubt the train has degraded the commuting from Ladner to UBC. Perhaps other routes have been improved, but it’s hard to judge the overall balance. TransLink has never provided an unbiased assessment of who benefits and who pays, but it’s my suspicion that overall commuting from South Delta has also been degraded.

In conclusion, I will use the 601-480, just as I did before the train was built. I’ve tried the train in all sorts of route combinations, but nothing works well.

But I guess the train will move lots of well-heeled Olympic fans, and that was the main reason for its construction, wasn’t it?

http://www2.canada.com/deltaoptimist/news/letters/story.html?id=7b0689a9-6e92-4e0d-8386-8ee31aff7859

From the Georgia Straight – Metro Vancouver board pushes for $450 million a year increase in TransLink funding

September 26, 2009
Is TransLink like the Titanic, sailing full steam ahead into a "financial" iceberg?

Is TransLink like the Titanic, sailing full steam ahead into a "financial" iceberg?

If one really wanted any more evidence that our regional politicians are completely out of touch on regional transit issues, this item from the Georgia Straight should put that to rest.

The financial problems with TransLink are simple:

1) It operates light-metro (an obsolete transit mode) on routes that do not have the ridership to support it. Result – high annual subsidies must be paid to sustain the light-metro.

2) Operates buses on routes that have little or no ridership, while ignoring bus routes with endemic overcrowding. Result – bus service is diverted from high demand areas to areas of low demand.  High subsidies must be paid to sustain less than marginal bus operations, while at the same time limiting revenues from high demand bus services.

3) Offers deep discounted fares while at the same time providing a very expensive ‘premium’ transit service with light metro. Result – Over crowding of high demand services and limiting much needed revenue from full fare paying customers and again demanding large subsidies needed to sustain the premium transit service.

Huge annual subsidies for SkyTrain and RAV/Canada Line, in excess of $200 million annually and a growing deficit as scarce transit monies are poured into unworkable transit solutions has created a burgeoning deficit. TransLink has run into a financial iceberg.

And regional politicians want more of this hocus-pocus planning?

Regional politicos suffer from complete ‘transit denial’ in the region, where the SkyTrain myth reigns supreme and combined with a complete lack of accountability by TransLink to the taxpayer, has left us in a regional hubris. Despite over $8 billion spent on light metro to date, for three metro lines of which one is incompatible in operation with the other two, has not created the all important modal shift from car to transit.

And regional politicians what more of this? 

Do they not  realize that with the impending HST and other downloaded provincial taxes onto regional taxpayers, there is no money left for this “pixie dust’ TransLink planning.

What should worry advocates for the return of the interurban is that regional politicians want to continue TransLink’s extremely expensive, yet grossly inept transit planning and not wanting to pursue more affordable transit solutions. To be blunt, by voting to fund TransLink, regional politicians have voted to leave South of Fraser residents out of the mix, while gladly tapping their wallets to pay for dated transit plans that have proven unworkable.

Man the lifeboats!

Metro Vancouver board pushes for $450 million a year increase in TransLink funding

By Matthew Burrows

Metro Vancouver directors voted today (September 25) to push for the best-case TransLink funding scenario.

Burnaby councilor Sav Dhaliwal was the only politician who voted against Vancouver mayor and director Gregor Robertson’s motion.

Now the board will send the message to TransLink’s private board of directors and its mayors’ council that it should implement $450 million in annual funding above current levels—the most generous of the three options presented in TransLink’s 2010 10-Year Plan to address funding constraints at the regional transportation authority.

The Metro motion originated through its regional planning committee earlier this month. At the latest meeting at Metro headquarters in Burnaby, directors also expressed concerns over the first business-as-usual “base plan” funding scenario proposed, which would lead to “drastic cuts”, according to TransLink.

TransLink CEO Tom Prendergast was at the meeting, and said he wanted to avoid the potential “chaos” the base plan would unleash on transit riders across the region.

Robertson said at the meeting that significant consultation had taken place to get to the Metro consensus. He said it was important that directors “don’t fold tents now” and “remain united”. In response,

Corrigan said he understood why people would want to avoid cuts, but said the $450 million had to come from somewhere. The former B.C. Transit chair also cautioned that “there is a limit to what the taxpayer can expect”.

He said that, like with the discussions around the previous 10-year plan in 2004, there is a temptation to be overly optimistic on the accounting side. “We keep on supporting things; then we don’t know how to pay for them.”

Surrey councillor and director Linda Hepner moved an amendment, which passed, that—in the event funding is constrained—priority be given to the northeast sector and areas south of the Fraser.

Corrigan added his own amendment, which stated: “Without additional funding any 10-year plan cannot be successfully implemented.” Corrigan’s motion passed ahead of the main motion.

http://www.straight.com/article-259895/metro-vancouver-board-pushes-450-million-year-increase-translink-funding

 

Will the regional taxpayer go down with the 'TransLink' ship? Will politicians and bureaucrats get to the 'financial' lifeboats first?

Will the regional taxpayer go down with the 'TransLink' ship? Will politicians and bureaucrats get to the 'financial' lifeboats first?

The propaganda campaign for the UBC subway has begun. Here comes the Campbell Line!

September 25, 2009

1

On September 8, the first day of regular commuting, after the summer break, in the region, the Vancouver Sun had a “Canada Line” Live chat where a poll question pops up “Should SkyTrain continue to UBC” and not surprisingly 59% have voted, “Yes get on with it”. Here we have the the first push of a massive propaganda campaign to win public approval for building Vancouver’s UBC subway. Certainly the mainstream media, both print and electronic, loudly banged the drum for RAV/Canada line and now banging on the drum for the UBC subway.

Not only should a UBC subway worry residents in the Tri-Cities as they see their long promised Evergreen Line dismally fade away, it should worry residents in the Fraser Valley, that once again Vancouver is getting a politically prestigious subway at the expense of regional and provincial taxpayers. The promoters of the a UBC subway and the SkyTrain Lobby will delight at the fact that once again taxpayers who live outside of Vancouver, with no say on how transit is provided inside Vancouver will see massive tax and user fee increases to fund a subway to UBC that they will seldom, if ever use.

It will take about one year before the hoopla of the RAV/Canada Line dies down and a meaningful statistical analysis can be made. Many questions must be answered, including:

  1. How many RAV Line customers first took a bus to the metro?
  2. Is TransLink apportioning fares between bus and metro?
  3. What percentage of RAV Line customers use deep discounted U-Pass?
  4. What is the real daily ridership?
  5. Is there an independent audit of RAV service?

Before we invest any more money on a very expensive subway, we first must have solid evidence that the RAV/Canada Line has indeed attracted new customers and that it has created a discernible modal shift from car to transit, in the neighbourhood of at least 30%. If not, then a subway, under Broadway, will be a colossal waste of taxpayers money.

Just what sort of ridership justifies subway construction? About 400,000 to 500,000 passengers a day, far less that what the Broadway buses carry on Broadway today. TransLink and SkyTrain/metro lobby are again, selling ‘pixie dust’ planning as real the real thing, with faux arguments supporting a SkyTrain subway!  One must stop and pause for a moment to reflect, that despite now investing over $8 billion of taxpayers money on light-metro, TransLink share of regional ridership is still a dismal 11% to 12%, a number that has remained almost unchanged for almost two decades!

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, is TransLink’s modus operandi!

Gordon Campbell, with full support of Liberal ‘West side types’, Vancouver politicians, UBC academics, and the mainstream media will champion a nearly $4 billion subway because Vancouver is a ‘world-class city’ and as everyone knows ‘world-class cities’ all have subways; whether the subway will actually attract the motorist from the car is a different matter.

Premier Gordon Campbell, with a disastrous start to his third term as Premier and with the CN Rail-gate trial beginning to stink like three day old fish, is looking for a legacy or two before he departs for more leisurely pursuits in Maui. Could it be that the new replaced Port Mann Bridge will be called the Gordon Campbell Bridge and the new UBC subway will be called the Campbell Line?

One thing is for certain, if the Campbell Line subway is built, watch for TransLink to implode, as Fraser Valley politicians shun the transit authority like a leper, and call for a new South Fraser Transit Authority. If that happens, then wait for shrill screams of Vancouver’s taxpayers as they have to pay the real cost of a very expensive, yet needless politically prestigious subway.

From the Georgia Straight – Patrick Condon highlights cost of Broadway transit

September 24, 2009
Just substitute TransLink for MTA

Just substitute TransLink for MTA

There is no doubt that TransLink, the province and the city of Vancouver are steamrollering ahead for a SkyTrain UBC subway. The $2.8 billion for the proposed 12 km. subway is rather conservative and the true cost would be nearer to $4 billion.

Going back to the $2.8 billion figure – $2.8 billion would buy you:

 1) A deluxe Vancouver to UBC Interurban, with a new rail bridge

 2) A LRT Evergreen Line

 3) A BCIT to UBC LRT, with a possibility of a Tramtrain service from Chilliwack to UBC without making one transfer!

Folk living South of the Fraser had better tell their political leaders that not one penny of their tax money should go to pay for this hugely expensive, yet needless subway. If Vancouver wants a subway, let Vancouver taxpayer’s pay for it!

If the UBC subway project goes ahead, watch for TransLink to collapse.

Patrick Condon highlights cost of Broadway transit

By Matthew Burrows

A senior researcher at the UBC Design Centre for Sustainability says that a proposed rapid-transit line along Broadway would be “the most expensive system we’ve had to date”.

Patrick Condon bases this on the provincial government’s 2008 Provincial Transit Plan. In it, the B.C. Liberals called for $2.8 billion for a new 12-kilometre rapid-transit line from Broadway Station to UBC.

“It’s about twice as expensive [per kilometre] as the Canada Line, and it’s about 15 times more expensive per kilometre than a system which, I think, shows a lot of promise, and that would be a European tram system,” Condon told the Straight by phone.

Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs called expanding the SkyTrain along Broadway a “city priority”.

“But I don’t think it can get ahead of the Evergreen project,” Meggs told the Straight. “I don’t think the regional consensus is there for Broadway until they have the Evergreen Line at hand.”

Meggs said he has no idea how much the Broadway project would cost. “We already have a high-speed line ending at the Millennium Line at VCC–Clark,” he noted. “It just makes sense to complete it somehow, either over to the Canada Line or, better yet, take it to Arbutus. It could be the hub of a future extension down the Arbutus corridor or over to UBC.”

Initially, Non-Partisan Association councillor Suzanne Anton told the Straight she didn’t want to get “embroiled” in a debate over whether SkyTrain expansion along Broadway should take priority over an Evergreen Line to Coquitlam.

“They both have to get built,” Anton said. “The Broadway line serves a need that’s already there, and once it was built, it would immediately start pumping operational dollars back into the system. In other words, it would be a net benefit to the system and not a net cost.”

At its Friday (September 25) meeting, the Metro Vancouver board will vote on a motion to advise TransLink that its 2010 10-year base plan, which calls for “Drastic Cuts”, is not in line with the region’s goals. The motion also states that TransLink’s upgrade and expansion program, which would require additional funds of up to $450 million per year, supports regional planning priorities.

“And I fully expect that it will be endorsed by Metro on Friday,” Meggs said.

http://www.straight.com/article-258880/condon-highlights-cost-broadway-transit

By Rail to Simon Fraser University

September 23, 2009

PCD12_58a

In a private email to Zweisystem, a question was asked: “other than buses, how else could Simon Fraser University be serviced by public transit?” The email went on to discuss the merits or pitfalls of various transit modes including Funiculars (not enough capacity) and a high speed Gondolas (again, questionable capacity and high maintenance costs). What wasn’t discussed was light rail because as every one knows, according to TransLink ” light rail can’t climb steep grades” or can it?

A transit expert from Europe once told Zweisystem that: “If one builds popular transit destinations in extraordinary places, one must use extraordinary methods to service them.”

There is a LRT solution: the rack & pinion tram.

Stuttgart Germany also has an university located on a steep hill and transit authorities operate  rack & pinion trams on that route, enabling them to climb the steep grades to service the institution. The service has been in operation for a very long time and works well in all weathers, especially in the snow. The cost of a LRT rack & pinion tram is about 10% to 15% more to install and only on the rack portions of the route; the maximum speed while racking, depending on motor size is about 60 kph and up to 80 kph when not.

A nice touch is that the university tram service also offers a bike trolley for customers to take the tram up the hill and then bike down later.

What this post demonstrates, that unlike SkyTrain and light-metro, where costs prohibit even small spur lines to service destinations; (in Richmond the closest station on RAV/Canada Line for the Olympic Skating Oval is about one and a half kilometers away, yet the Oval is built adjacent to an old railway formation which means LRT could have directly serviced it if light-rail had been built instead), thus expensive shuttle buses must be employed or customers face a long walks which makes the decision to take the car instead all the more easier.

For almost every transportation problem, there is an affordable light-rail solution, something that bureaucrats a TransLink continue to ignore.

New Westminster’s Interurban station C.1949

September 22, 2009

Here is a vintage video of BC Electric’s New Westminster depot.

Last of the interurbans – Part 5 A video of the South Shore interurban.

September 21, 2009

Courtesy of U-Tube, a video of the South Shore interurban.