By Rail to Simon Fraser University



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.


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3 Responses to “By Rail to Simon Fraser University”

  1. viewfromthe44 Says:

    For what it’s worth, this is relevant to thinking about rail to UBC, too. The hill up to UBC isn’t nearly as long or steep as the one up to SFU, but I suspect it will be long and steep enough to require some smart engineering.

    Zweisystem replies: The Broadway 10th Ave. approach to UBC doesn’t present present any grade difficulties as the maximum grade is about 7% and industry standard for LRT is 8%. The steepest grades in Vancouver for the old streetcars was the Dunbar/Alma route which had 9.5% grades. There is no problem.

  2. mezzanine Says:

    What is your source for the maximum grade for LRT being 8%?

    In edmonton it is 6.7%. (Limit of disc brakes for an AW4 loaded U2 LRV), page 16.

    In calgary, they limit the gradient to 6%, but IIRC they use similar vehicles to edmonton.

    IMO it is difficult to compare early 20th century single streetcars to fully loaded multi-car LRT vehicles.

    Zweisystem replies: If you had read anything about the issue, you would have known that the industry standard for LRT/trams is 8%; this means a fully loaded tram (all seats occupied and standees @ 4 persons per metre/sq.) can stop on an 8% grade and restart. Now in a city like Amsterdam, where there is no steep grades, they use smaller and fewer motors. In Sheffield, their trams, with all axles powered, climb 10% grades daily in all weathers, their steepest tram stop is on a 9% grade. Of course in Lisbon, their venerable trams climb 13.8% grades daily and have done so for over 80 years.

    Calgary’s and Edmonton’s U-2’s are older models and probably have smaller motors because they didn’t have to climb grades. The grades to UBC offer no problems for modern LRT.

  3. mezzanine Says:

    ^ sorry, page 4 on the PDF for the edmonton link.

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