A Wee Bit Of Local History
In early 1996, during BC Transit’s meaningless public consultation period for the Broadway Lougheed Rapid Transit Project which later morphed into the Millennium Line, Zweisystem received a phone call from an European Transit specialist, who worked for Asea Brown Boverai (later absorbed by Bombardier Inc.) regarding the project.
The European transit specialist, wanting to make contact with those planning for light-rail, had phoned BC Transit to arrange a meeting regarding the then proposed Broadway/Lougheed LRT project and was given Zweisystem’s phone number! After his initial shock and displeasure being fobbed-off by BC Transit, the transit specialist entered into a long conversation with me on transit issues in the region and how modern light rail could help solve them. To make a long story short, he proposed a classic Broadway tram, with stops every 500m to 600m, going to UBC, replacing all Broadway bus services and a second line via Main Street, Hastings St. to Stanley Park, that, he claimed would double present bus ridership on the two routes, providing enough fare revenue for the tram to operate without any subsidy, with fares covering not only operating costs but debt servicing costs as well. By doing so, a private company could build and operate the light rail line at no cost to the taxpayer. The rest is history as they say and the SkyTrain Millennium Line was built instead and is subsidized by over $80 million annually!
The Light Rail Committee Proposes the BCIT to UBC and Stanley Park Light Rail Project.
In late 1996 the LRC proposed a bold Broadway light rail plan: a tram/light rail line from BCIT to UBC via the Lougheed Hwy., Broadway, 10th Ave. and University Blvd. with a second line via Main street to Hastings Street to the Aquarium in Stanley Park. The plan consisted of lawned reserved rights-of-ways and on-street running; priority signaling on traffic calmed Broadway and Hastings Streets; tram/streetcar stops every 500 metres; a single track Vancouver General Hospital Loop via Fraser St., 10th Ave. and Cambie St., providing front door service to the hospital, and operating modern modular low-floor cars. Commercial speed would have been about 20 kph to 25 kph (depending on the number or tram-stops) and the construction costs in the region of $20 million/km to $25 million/km; maximum hourly capacity 18,000 to 20,000 persons per hour per direction (depending on the number of vehicles operated), signaling would be line of sight with intersections and switches protected by local signaling. Headways could be as low as 30 seconds in peak hours.
What the LRC’s plan would do is service many important transit destinations (UBC, BCIT, downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park, etc.), while providing economy of operation by replacing all bus services on Broadway and many in Vancouver, thus reducing operating costs. Further economies can be made by using existing masts and span wires along the proposed transit routes. The new LRT would be merely seen as the reinstatement of ‘rail’ service by modern streetcars, operating on 21st century rights-of-ways. The bonus of a private operator, securing financing to build the line at no or little cost to the taxpayer is a concept that must be looked at by politicians.
The plan would reduce Broadway to one lane of traffic in each direction (passive traffic calming) except in areas of mixed operation, while keeping the all important on-street parking for local merchants. The plan would have offered a minimum of four transit routes: BCIT to UBC; BCIT to Stanley Park; UBC to Stanley Park; UBC or BCIT to VGH loop and local services if need be. The plan incorporated modern European light rail and tram philosophy of the day; lawned reserved rights-of-ways, modular cars, high capacity, passenger comfort, and affordable cost. It was not to be, as the Glen Clark NDP government, for reasons that can only be speculated, dismissed LRT out-of-hand and went for a truncated SkyTrain light metro line, the only metro in the world that went nowhere to nowhere.
In 2009 there are again rumours of a SkyTrain subway to UBC and it maybe time to again to consider a BCIT – UBC – Stanley Park light-rail network.
Tags: Broadway light rail, Broadway streetcar, C-train, cost per km, demonstration project, Diesel LRT, Evergreen Line, Fraser Valley, infrastructure, interurban, Karlsruhe, light rail, LRT, NDP, Patrick Condon, Rail for the Valley, skytrain, streetcars, study, Surrey, track-sharing, tram, trams, transit, Translink, UBC SkyTrain, VALTAC, Vancouver