Some balance please! An independant view of the RAV/Canada line.



The following Email came Zweisystem’s way today and is certainly contrary to the hype and hoopla of other blogs claiming that the RAV Line is almost at capacity. The author of the item, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a party who works in local transit planning. Yes, the RAV/Canada line is up and running, but so is RAV’s debt clock and the ludicrous number of 100,000 passengers a day, claimed by TransLink, for the RAV line to ‘break even’, doesn’t take into account apportioning fares between RAV and bus, discount fares and the U-pass.

Yes the U-Pass, sounds good but it is the taxpayer who will be left with higher taxes and fees to subsidies deep discounted student fares enabling them to use premium priced metros!

 A complete transportation financial fiasco is just around the corner.

Imagine, not knowing what impacts a project you have been working on for 7 years would have on the other adjoining transit corridors.  Despite an administration staff of over 350 people, TransLink and its subsidiaries still can’t run a transit system.

During the last three days I have driven from White Rock to downtown Vancouver, taken the bus/train from White Rock to downtown Vancouver and today took the train to the airport and to Brighouse from the Bridgeport Station.  I did this during the am peak period.

My initial observations…it took 6 minutes longer to go from White Rock to Granville or City Centre Station with the bus/train journey (66 minutes).  Prior to the summer, I took the 351 from White Rock to Granville and Seymour during the am peak and it took 60 minutes.  My car trip on Wednesday took 43 minutes.

I witnessed very little congestion, unlike other Expo Line stations, and found ample room to stand, unlike the Expo Line cars during the am peak.  The journey in the tunnel was as expected dull.  I was looking for leaks along Cambie Street, but I guess we will have to wait for the real rains to arrive.  Most of the people on the train were young and appeared to be students and most of them got off downtown.  Very few passengers got off at the 49th ave station and very few got off at City Hall station.  Only two people wearing suits were on board and they came on at 12th, City Hall and going downtown.  Very few people got on the train in Vancouver.  Some at Broadway heading downtown but the train had ample room for them.

The return journey from downtown Vancouver to Bridgeport in Richmond was very comfortable as only 1/4 of the seats  were occupied…this is till during the am peak period.  Two people had small bags heading to the airport.

Today, I rode into Richmond Centre or Brighouse.  The line is single track after the Landsdowne Mall.  Most people got off at either Aberdeen or Landsdowne Mall.  Returning back to Bridgeport station we waited two minutes after boarding before beginning the journey.  The problem with single track guideways.  At no time were the cars full or congested and at no time did I see more than a B-Line bus load on any of the Rmd trains.  The airport mainly had sightseers who were going on a round trip to and from the airport.  Four people on board had luggage.

I began to wonder how Translink is going to find the $70 million it needs to pay for their portion of the debt and for what they need to pay Intransient BC (SNC Lavalin) for operating the line.  Each transit user that uses the train will be subsidized a minimum of $2,000 a year based on Translink’s boarding numbers of 77,000 per day

It is still to early to guage the performance of this line.  Once the ‘tourist’ user has satisfied their curiosity and people settle into the Fall commuting season, we will see what is happening.

I have sent an email to two Vancouver councillors asking whether or not the City is going to do trip counts on all its southern entry points, Knight Street-Oak-Arthur Laing Bridges, to see if traffic is less or more than what it was in the past.  The City usually conducts traffic trip counts in November.  It would be good to get that data since number challenged Falcon believes the train will reduce daily vehicle trips by 200,000 or 40% of the entire am peak period vehicles commuting on our region’s roadways.

I have also contacted the taxi association to find out how the line is impacting their business.  They will not know until mid October or after the Cruise Ship season.  The airport passenger stats show that from January to June of this year, passenger numbers are down by 15% or 1.2 million passengers from last year.  All segments, domestic, transborder and international numbers are down.  However, the cruise ship numbers are up from last year, increased by 8%, despite less sailings.

When I asked one of the execs with the London Underground just who takes the tube from Heathrow to Piccadilly (London) he answered, the budget traveller.

A friend who recently took the train from YVR to get to his home near Trout Lake in Vancouver was happy that his journey took only 45 minutes.  I said that if he had taken a taxi he would have been home in 20 minutes.  So perhaps if we are talking about efficiency, we should have more taxis or even vans for multiple passengers taking people to their destinations like they do in a lot of other cities in the world.  Perhaps fares for taxis could be subsidized, it would be cheaper.

Just one final note…my car journey into Vancouver was amazingly fast.  I don’t know why that is.  One thing I did notice…Granville Street was without buses, it was so quiet I thought I might be someplace else.  However, the golden rule states, if there is capacity on a roadway, it will be filled.


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3 Responses to “Some balance please! An independant view of the RAV/Canada line.”

  1. David Says:

    That’s an interesting letter. Most of it agrees with my experiences and those from other city blogs, but I have my doubts about that 43 minute drive from White Rock to downtown.

    I’m willing to believe the partly empty trains heading into Vancouver. I’ve heard that many of the Richmond trains fill up before they get to Aberdeen, but the YVR ones are always able to absorb the crowd at Bridgeport.

    That Vancouver stations are mostly empty in the morning isn’t the least bit surprising. It is, as Emperor Palpatine might say, as I had foreseen.

    Canada Line leaving Vancouver at 5:00PM is VERY different. The first day I was lucky and caught a YVR train, but it was still packed by the time we left Vancouver City Centre. The next time I took Canada Line home I was stuck on a Richmond bound train. I haven’t been crushed like that on the Expo line in ages, even on 2 car trains. I had some woman’s huge shoulder bag jammed in my gut from Vancouver City Centre to Broadway where thankfully she got off. The train remained packed up the hill to Oakridge where I had to push my way to the door. On that second trip my shoulder was pressed up against a Canada Line employee the whole way. She told me the crowd was like that every weekday at 5:00.

    Finally I have to cry foul on the comparison between Canada Line to YVR and Piccadilly to LHR. Canada Line takes only 25 minutes and the trains are designed for luggage. The Piccadilly line uses standard tube trains that barely hold full size adults let alone those with bags and the trip takes 50 minutes from Piccadilly Circus. Anyone with a few quid to spare is going to opt for a main line train like Heathrow Connect.

    Zweisystem replies: The person who sent me the e-mail is very pro transit and not one to exaggerate driving time. Anecdotal evidence from neighbours also confirms faster driving times to Vancouver and can be attributed to:

    1) Less congestion on Granville Street.
    2) Bus lane from #5 Road & the #99 HWY to Casino Junction.

    Again. anecdotal evidence from South Delta is that there is no noticeable increase on Vancouver bound buses.

    The problem with the Canada line and crush loading is that there is not the ‘lift’ available to handle “rush-hours”. 3 minute headways, with 2 car trains translates to about 6500 persons per hour per direction, as the practical capacity of a RAV/Canada line car is 163 persons, not 200 as claimed by TransLink. This capacity is effectively cut in half when trains leave Casino Junction. Even the most basic of LRT service can easily handle these loads.

    I can recollect taking the Piccadilly Line from Heathrow to London and I believe there were luggage racks on the trains. But the cost, when factored into the distance between YVR and Vancouver means that taxi’s and Limo’s are still viable options, especially for groups of people. I believe the flat fare to Heathrow from London is now over 50 quid or $90.00+ – in 2010 two people can take a cab from downtown Vancouver to YVR for $12.50 each plus tip. As I blogged before, this will be about the same price for a taxi to the RAV/Canada line station and 2-zone fare + YVR supplement.

  2. Chris Says:

    Well I think we all know why the Canada Line was built – for the olympics, not to meet any real transportation need in the region.

    I wonder if we may see more sticks being employed over the next couple of years to try and force people onto the Canada Line who would have otherwise taken a taxi due to comparable cost but higher comfort and convenience. Wouldn’t be surprising.

  3. David Says:

    The few times I have taken the Canada line fromWaterfront in the PM rush the trains have been quite crowded, and sure this is anecdotal, but a co-worker who lives within walking distance of Brighouse reports that the trains have very few seats available in the Am rush by the time the train leaves… For me, the only thing I’ve noticed is an increase in people carrying bulky luggage on the older Skytrain Lines, mostly Asian(can i say that?), almost certainly headed for YVR

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