Elevated or at-grade; let’s look at both!


A post to RFV’s blog moaned that; “you always show ugly pictures of elevated transit rather than the wonderful job Richmond did on #3 Road or sections of the Central Valley Greenway…………...”, well let’s compare elevated transit with at-grade/on-street light rail.

Richmond RAV


Barcelona LRT

It seems that the vast majority of transit planners would rather be associate with:


Rather than this:

monrail guideway

The over one hundred year old Wuppertal Schwebebahn monorail is one of the oldest public transit systems in the world, even though the route is 100% grade separated it wasn’t copied in other cities where tramway’s flourished instead. Could it be that even one hundred years ago transit planners found the a transit system being fully grade separated, wasn’t a viable transit solution except in the most unusual circumstances?


Elevated guideways are more expensive to build and maintain than at grade transit lines and though transit using elevated guideways may provide faster commercial speeds, the faster commercial speeds comes more from sacrificing stations, rather than being elevated. Sacrificing stations, sacrifices customer convenience.  Cities using expensive grade separated transit systems, tend to have smaller, more expensive to use transit systems than cities opting for at-grade/on-street light rail. Extremely few cities in Europe or North America have copied Vancouver’s penchant for light-metro; evidence enough that our transit planning maybe on the wrong track.



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9 Responses to “Elevated or at-grade; let’s look at both!”

  1. Jim Says:

    I guess TransLink isn’t in the majority :S

  2. Richard Says:

    Again you are showing your lack of balance. How about showing the landscaping the nice wide sidewalk that has a comfortable distances from the noise and pollution from traffic and the separated bike lane along number 3 Road? Instead you chose a photo that is dominated by the guideway. If surface LRT was used, the sidewalk would be narrower and closer to traffic and there would not have been space for the bike lane. Anyway, you can’t hide the truth from people, all they have to do is take the Canada Line down to Richmond and see it for themselves. Go on a rainy day and you will really appreciated that the elevated guideway provides great weather protection.

    Regarding the Central Valley Greenway, if surface LRT would have been used on the section between Gilmore and Renfrew, there would not have been space for the bike and ped path so who really would care if the tracks had grass between them, no one would see it.

    Zweisystem replies: Again you speak rubbish. An elevated guideway is well……an elevated guideway and it’s nearly impossible to beautify it. Most new LRT lines built in Europe also incorporate bike-ways; again your comments lack knowledge.

  3. Richard Says:

    This would be a better photo for you to use from Gordon Price’s blog:

    An interesting post as well pointing out it is Gateway that is the problem, not the Canada Line:

    Zweisystem replies: Gordon Price is not a transit expert and lacks an understanding of metro and/or LRT; I believe he called ‘rail’ transit “toys for boys”. The problem with TransLink is not Gateway, it is operating metro on routes that do not have the ridership to sustain it. The result is large subsidies which translates to deficit financing and/or higher taxes. Blaming Gateway for TransLink’s problems is a canard to camouflage the real issue of using hugely expensive metro construction on transit routes that would have been better served with much cheaper LRT.

  4. John Says:

    Sorry Richard, no way you’re going to win this argument…. The huge concrete Skytrain guideways are plain ugly, there’s no getting around it.

    On the other side of the guideway from what you show in your picture, there would be year-round shade (good luck growing flowers!) The huge structure blocks views and is an ugly monstrosity, not at all human-scale and not at all conducive to community-building.

    The loud pealing noise everytime a Skytrain passes overhead doesn’t help either.

  5. vonny Says:

    does the $3.3 Billions for the gateway +$1 billions for the SeatoSky highway are not large subsidies which translates to deficit financing and/or higher taxes?

    it looks the subsidies per passenger is smaller in the case of Canada line than other route system.
    the portMann bridge is largely a greater predator to your valley train project (who would like zig zag thru the valley on an antic alignement when you have a swift 2×4 lane highway) than the Canada line and I am afraid you choose the wrong battle in that instance.

    I noticed some post have disapear in that thread 😉

    Zweisystem replies: Sorry to say, apples and oranges comparisons. As for Rail for the Valley’s proposal for the return of the interurban, I don’t think the service that is planned will conflict much with the highway, it’s all about getting an alternative for now, as there is no transportation alternative at present.

  6. Jim Says:

    I agree, hard to argue that point… Sure there may be a few nice hanging baskets, but the majority of it is a large concrete guide way…

    I agree also about Translink’s funding problem… It is hard listening to the radio when they go on about this, because all they are doing is talking about where should we get the money, should we toll this, that, or the other? Should we put more property taxes on citizens, or vehicle levies? Gas tax(Metro-Vancouver already has by the way)? None of them are asking why do we need more and more, they say, it’s transit, it has to loose money, and we don’t need to debate that… They even had some of the mayors on, who said many times they needed LRT but th provincial government strong-armed them into expensive SkyTrain, which is why they are in the funding turmoil they’re in, and why there is no evergreen line in sight. The hosts never listen to the mayors when they bring this up, they go past it and back onto where they should raise taxes.

    Once again, I want to mention how happy I am to not be in Metro-Vancouver.

    In an earlier post, it was brought up, is it time for Langley/Surrey to leave Translink (which I don’t see as being possible)… And this has made me think of another point. Langley and Maple Ridge residents are paying into Translink through property and gas taxes, and not getting the services, essentially they are paying for Vancouver’s Canada Line… They did however get a new bridge… I was thinking, how is this fair, Maple Ridge and Langley pay into Translink, the only real “improvement” they get is this bridge, which is user pay… They already pay though… Translink should not toll Maple Ridge and Langley residents, the tolls should be collected from other bridge users, this only seems fair to the citizens there who already pay into Translink.

  7. mezzanine Says:

    @Jim, you don’t think of Golden Ears bridge as an improvement? As someone who has endured a few 6 sailing waits on the albion, I think it is a great improvement. a reliable link. no toll if you take the #595 bus, which was impossible before.

    and IMO, tolling is a good thing. the fact that Golden ears is not jammed with traffic is a sign of the success of tolling, not a failure of the bridge.

  8. David Says:

    Tolling bridges is a form of road pricing and is definitely a good thing. I agree completely that the huge drop in traffic after the initial free period is proof that tolling works.

    We have a geographical problem in this region. A huge amount of traffic flows east-west in corridors where there is no bridge to toll. That makes tolling all the bridges and not the highways rather unfair.

    It’s also unfair to charge a long haul trucker full price to cross a bridge at midnight. After all, the bridge only needs to be 2 lanes wide at midnight, it’s 7:30am that it needs to be wider and so those who create the need for more lanes should pay a higher toll.

    I respect the opinion of anyone who thinks differently, but I think elevated guideways are ugly things that intrude terribly on the neighbourhoods they go through.

    The Central Valley Greenway would have been much quieter had surface LRT been used because the LRT would have been 500m away on the Lougheed Highway not 5 m directly overhead.

  9. Jim Says:

    @mezzanine, sure it is… What I was saying is Maple Ridge and Langley pay into Translink through property tax and gas tax already, to fund what services for them? The Golden Ears bridge is user pay… They’re paying for the Canada Line… I don’t think that the bridge should be toll free, I think the bridge should be toll free for Maple Ridge and Langley residents only, since they already pay Translink…

    Translink is spending more and more on services, and having an expanding tax base (as areas become more densely populated)… But people are already paying property taxes and gas taxes, and I’ve heard tax on hydro, to pay for this stuff… It seems pretty clear that they are developing in a very unsustainable way… Defend it if you want, but what about when you end up working 365 days a year to reach tax free day because of run-away government spending…

    I think that one of the purposes of this blog is to show how LRT could achieve what the transit users need, without the huge costs that we cannot afford…

    Their transit planning is of course only one of the problems.

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