Archive for January, 2010

More Planning For TramTrain In The U.K. – Now It Is Wales Turn

January 31, 2010

It seems TramTrains are on the menu for Wales as the Welsh Government looks at introducing tram and TramTrain operation in local cities. There are still several minor rail lines that service the Welsh Valleys, that were once formed a much larger network from the coal mining days and scores more of abandoned rail routes that could be relaid for TramTrain operation. It seems that the Welsh government is thinking much further ahead in planning for new transit compared to the English ‘Home’ government in London. It seems, in an age of global warming and ‘peak oil, the British bureaucracy, like the bureaucracy here in BC, are still planning for rubber on asphalt transportation with bigger mega-highways and treat rail transport as ‘yesterday’s‘ transit.


From the Light Rail Transit Association

Trams for Wales? :

A report ‘Future railway infrastructure in Wales’ has been published by the Enterprise and Learning Committee of the National Assembly for Wales.

The report which looks at the overall rail system in Wales recommends that the Welsh Government should work with relevant partners to commission feasibility studies for developing light rail networks in the main urban areas of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport, which should include consideration of how to integrate such systems with existing heavy rail infrastructure, the emphasis is therefore on the use of TramTrains in order to make fuller use of the existing rail system without jeopardising its continuing use for freight movements.

The report is available at

Vintage UK Steam and Diesel Train Movies! – Have Fun!

January 30, 2010

The following was posted on the LRTA blog and Zwei thinks it is worth while to watch and the music is cool too! Enjoy!

London’s Termini in the Swinging 60s – Music from Radio Caroline

And Now: The Green With Envy Award – Washington to get $590 million for high-speed rail improvements

January 29, 2010

In BC and Canada, there is little money for railways to improve passenger service, yet there are billions of dollars for new highways and bridges. The sad fact is, in BC and Canada new highways and bridges win votes, while the railways are considered a ‘yesterdays’ transit mode. Just $500 million would buy us a Vancouver to Chilliwack interurban.

Washington to get $590 million for high-speed rail improvements

By Mike Lindblom

The Seattle Times

The federal government will spend $590 million in stimulus money to improve rail travel times from Blaine to Portland.

The money represents the Northwest’s piece of an $8 billion stimulus package for high-speed rail, to be announced Thursday in Florida by President Obama.

Only two-thirds of passenger trains run on time on the 3 ½-hour trip between Seattle and Portland, and the state is trying to boost that number to 90 percent. A series of small projects throughout Western Washington — some but not all of which the stimulus money would pay for — would save an estimated 833 hours of delays annually, according to the state. Ridership peaked in 2008 with 775,000 riders.

“Anybody who travels the I-5 corridor in our state knows that we need to find new, efficient options to get commuters and commerce moving. And anybody interested in boosting our state’s economy knows that now is a great time to take action,” said a statement from Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Murray, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Committee, has talked at least four times with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about funding the Pacific Northwest Cascades corridor — stressing that rail could reduce congestion on nearby Interstate 5, a spokesman for the senator said Wednesday.

Thirteen high-speed-rail lines serving 31 states will receive money, including $8 million for Oregon to improve trackways and Portland’s Union Station.

Five round-trip Amtrak trains run between Seattle and Portland each day. Only two go between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., so buses fill out the route. Delays caused by freight-train traffic, and various accidents or obstructions, are common.

Washington state had sought $1.3 billion to fund 26 rail projects from border to border, to prepare for eventually running eight round-trip trains to Oregon. Several projects already include at least partial funding from state tax increases in the 2000s.

The federal stimulus money is devoted mainly to corridors of 100 to 600 miles, in hopes the trains become fast enough to substitute for airplane and car travel.

In the Cascades corridor from Blaine to Eugene, the long-term goal is speeds in the 90 mph to 120 mph range, said the administration’s national rail plan, published last year.

Years ago, Washington and Oregon purchased Talgo trains capable of 125 mph, because of advanced suspension systems that lean into curves. But they are constrained to 79 mph because of congestion, street crossings and flaws in the trackways.

Examples of the many proposed high-speed upgrades include:

• Blaine: a siding track where freight trains can be inspected at the Canadian border without blocking passenger trains.

• Blaine to Everett: reconstruction of tracks, ties and ballast to improve ride quality.

• Seattle King Street Station: seismic retrofits.

• Tacoma: new and upgraded trackways through the city, so Amtrak trains can head directly south instead of looping around Point Defiance. (This will seem like a drawback to many Amtrak riders who love the Puget Sound views and passage beneath the Narrows bridges, but the new Tacoma route also would shave six minutes from the trip and allow a Sounder commuter-train extension to Lakewood.)

• Kelso: a new siding track where grain trains entering the nearby Port of Kalama can wait without obstructing the mainline.

• Vancouver, Wash.: bypass tracks to avoid a large freight yard, moving passenger trains through 2 ½ times faster.

The $8 billion in federal spending is only a fraction of last year’s $787 billion stimulus plan, and several regions have rail desires that far exceed the stimulus money.

For instance, California voters in 2008 approved $10 billion in bonds toward a $45 billion bullet train from the Bay Area and Sacramento to Los Angeles and San Diego, to be a public-private partnership. This week’s award adds $2.25 billion, leaving a huge gap. California had asked for twice that much stimulus, arguing that its project is the only one aspiring to world-class, 220 mph train speeds.

Florida is getting $1.3 billion to start a line between Tampa and Orlando that is supposed to reach 168 mph, a White House project list says.

The administration will add $1 billion for each of the next five years, calling that money “a down payment to jump start the program,” said a statement, which notes that the interstate highway system took four decades to complete.

Density shouldn’t be Cambie corridor focus, prof says – From the Georgia Straight.

January 28, 2010


Since the province and BC Transit and TransLink embarked on light-metro only construction in the region 30 years ago, the public have been told over and over again that higher densities were a must. Made redundant industrial lands (made redundant by municipal politicians rezoning land) were rezoned to higher density residential housing along the Expo Line route, compelling light industrial operations to move to Surrey and beyond. This meant, for many moving into the new housing, a car was a must to commute to work as the SkyTrain metro system did not serve the new industrial precincts. With densification car usage tended to increased.

What did happen, of course, were windfall profits for the owners of the lands rezoned.

The Evergreen Line is another example of politicians and municipal planners mania for densification, where the proposed Evergreen Line ia being sold as a  public transit panacea for the massive high density developments taking place, yet many of the commuters in the Tri-Cities are going to where SkyTrain doesn’t. What of course is happening again, is windfall profits for land developers who had low density residential and industrial lands rezoned to much higher value high density condominiums and apartments.

Now its Cambie Street’s turn with the newly opened RAV/Canada line where lower density commercial and industrial properties are being assembled for much higher density use, again making large windfall profits to the owners.

What is very strange, is that the highest residential densities in Canada are located in Vancouver’s West End, which is ill-served by transit and not even even serviced by a metro route.

The question must be asked, especially with the SkyTrain/subway lobby with the now demand for a SkyTrain subway to UBC: “Is the demand for SkyTrain subway to UBC, nothing more than a $4 billion ruse to rezone residential and commercial properties to much higher densities, to create windfall profits for developers?”

Density should’t be Cambie corridor focus, prof says

By Matthew Burrows

A professor with UBC’s centre for human settlements wants to see more public discussion about “the benefits of a more compact urban form” along the Cambie corridor.

“I think we need to get away…[from] just using this word density,” Lawrence Frank told a special meeting of council’s planning and environment committee on January 22. “From a ridership and transportation perspective, density alone does you nothing; it actually can cause you a lot of trouble. So, we need obviously to focus on the complementary land uses.”

Council unanimously approved seven planning principles and an interim rezoning policy for the Cambie corridor. The guiding principles appear to be on the right track, according to Frank. However, he added that he wanted to see “follow-up work done” to bring forward strategies for accommodating “young, middle-aged, and elderly” Vancouverites with varying incomes.

This sentiment was echoed by COPE councillor Ellen Woodsworth.

“It’s important that we get affordable housing along the nodes of densification on Cambie Corridor,” Woodsworth told the Straight via cellphone.

The Growing Popularity of TramTrains Are Again In The News

January 27, 2010

The February Tramways & Urban Transit has an excellent article on TramTrains and their growing popularity with transit planners in Europe and North America. The article ” Tram-trains: are they worth it? “, is interesting and well worth reading as very important questions are posed. The article was written mainly for the UK market where TramTrain is seen by transit bureaucrats as a “cheap way to replace clapped out DMU’s” on local services and more thought must be put into UK TramTrain proposals.

The lessons for the UK are also lessons for us on the ‘other side of the pond’.

Most interesting and what North American TramTrain proponents have know all along, is that today’s TramTrain can trace its ancestry back to the North American interurban!

The lesson for Rail For The Valley is, for the proposed reinstatement of valley interurban operation to be successful, interurban or TramTrain must service urban areas like Vancouver and must must do away with inconvenient and time consuming transfers, like the transfer proposed by many ‘rail’ groups for the interurban service to terminated at Scott Road Station and passenger transfer to SkyTrain.

Eliminating the transfer to SkyTrain and providing a direct service to downtown Vancouver are key in making the Valley interurban or TramTrain a success.

And Then There Were Six – Metrolinx Says Adiós to SkyTrain

January 26, 2010

Toronto’s Metrolinx is saying adiós to the SkyTrain (ICTS) Scarborough Line and will convert the route to LRT by 2015. In November 2009 Metrolinx, Toronto’s regional transit planning authority has decided to convert the 10 km. Scarborough ICTS (SkyTrain) light metro to LRT by 2015.

The Scarborough ICTS/SkyTrain line is suffering the same fate as so many other proprietary transit systems have done before; abandonment. To new to be an operating museum like the German Schwebebahn monorail, and not compatible with other transit modes like metro or LRT, has sealed the fate of the UTDC’s ICTS/ALRT light metro system.

Money too tight for barriers to be installed at SkyTrain Stations – From Radio News 1130

January 25, 2010

There seems to be plenty of money for fare-gates to be retrofitted to all SkyTrain Stations, which will do little if anything to make the metro safer or deter fare evasion, yet there is no money station gates (like we have with SeaBus) which are proven to prevent egress onto metro track. It seems what is mandated in other countries is ignored here. Just as reminder, in the EEC automatic metros, by law, must have platform gates.

I guess Mr. Dobel’s fare-gates are more important than true public safety.

Money too tight for barriers to be installed at SkyTrain Stations

Man fell on the tracks Sunday

Jim Goddard Jan 25, 2010

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Don’t expect to see barriers set up at SkyTrain Station platforms to keep people from falling or jumping on the tracks.  Sunday, a man at the Metrotown Station accidentally stumbled over the edge and fell on the rails below, suffering head injuries.  His condition isn’t known.

TransLink’s Drew Snider says they can’t install platform barriers because two different kinds of SkyTrain cars are used and their doors would not match up with the barrier gates.  “Also, it’s just a matter of having retrofit it, the amount of cost versus the frequency that this happens.  It’s extremely rare anything like this happens.”

Snider adds TransLink’s tight budget doesn’t leave room for costly barriers.  More than 30 cities in Europe and Asia have what are called ‘platform screens,’ including Tokyo, London, Beijing, Paris and Barcelona.

Welcome to the Olympic Line – Modern Light Rail In Vancouver BC

January 24, 2010

Welcome to Vancouver’s Olympic Line. Enjoy!

Stephen Rees giving a tour of the Flexity car.

Bored Subway Tunnels – Are They Problem Free? Will a Broadway SkyTrain subway be Another Cambie St. Fiasco?

January 22, 2010

The SkyTrain Lobby and many Vancouver politicians are claiming that a Broadway subway tunnel will be bored in stead of cut-and-cover, eliminating the many problems caused to those living or have businesses adjacent to the subway route, thus eliminating protracted litigation for compensation. The problem of course is a bored tunneling causes it own set of problems and may pose a serious threat to many older and some not so old, building’s foundations. Some of the problems expected to be encountered by businesses and residents along the proposed Broadway/UBC subway will be  cracked floors and foundations, sinkholes large enough to swallowed driveways, pollution, homes flooded with sewage, etc.

Despite the myth that a bored subway tunnel under Broadway will be problem free unlike a cut-and-cover subway, they are not and have a host of their own unique and expensive problems. Knowing how niggardly TransLink and the provincial government are paying compensation to those affected by subway construction on Cambie Street, a bored Broadway subway tunnel may leave thousands of property owners with very expensive repair bills and years of expensive litigation.

Collapsed subway tunnel in China

From the Seattle Times –

Bridgewater tunnel likely causing homes’ troubles

By Keith Ervin

Seattle Times

Tom and Jan Glithero were pointing out the recently discovered cracks in their reinforced-concrete patio the other day when Tom called out, “Oh, guess what? Here’s another one! So there’s four cracks now — great.”

“The more we look, the more we find,” Jan added.

The Bothell couple first found long, wide cracks in their garage and driveway the middle of last year.

But it wasn’t until November, after they saw hairline cracks between the bricks of their living-room fireplace, that it occurred to them that a tunnel excavated beneath their backyard for the Brightwater sewer-plant pipeline might be causing the ground to settle.

Since then, engineers and insurance adjusters have made repeat visits to the Glitheros’ split-level house and installed instruments to determine whether the house is continuing to settle.

“We’re working with the assumption it is attributable to Brightwater construction,” said King County Wastewater Treatment Director Christie True.

The Glitheros are among dozens of residents of King and Snohomish counties who have been affected by the $1.8 billion sewer project that began in 2006 and won’t be completed until 2012, more than a year behind schedule.

The 13-mile tunnel will carry treated wastewater from the Brightwater plant north of Woodinville to Puget Sound off Point Wells in Shoreline. King County is responding to complaints even as Sound Transit prepares to dig twin light-rail tunnels between downtown Seattle and the University of Washington and the state Department of Transportation designs a large-diameter tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Neighbors of Brightwater have complained of construction noises late into the night, cracked floors and foundations, a sinkhole that swallowed a driveway, pollution of a creek, homes flooded with sewage and wells gone dry.

One worker died in a construction accident, and two of four tunnel-boring machines have been idled since last June while undergoing repairs more than 300 feet underground. The broken-down machines have slowed the project and will drive up costs by a yet-unknown amount.

The state Department of Labor and Industries fined tunnel contractor Vinci/Parsons RCI/Frontier-Kemper $6,600 for workplace-safety violations after worker David Keith was killed by a steel beam that fell from a crane at the North Kenmore tunnel portal in November 2006. Keith’s family is also suing contractors and the county.

Most of the complaints have been filed by people who live along the tunnel route. The tunnel runs under Northeast 195th Street and other roads, and directly beneath 147 private properties, officials said.

To date, King County and its insurance carrier have paid more than $400,000 in construction-related damage to homeowners, businesses and the county itself.

“I would say for a project of this size and the amount of liability insurance we carry, the loss is very small,” True said. The costliest project in county history has mostly gone well, officials say. Construction of the treatment plant itself is on schedule, the eastern end of the tunnel is complete, the west portion is almost done, and a mile-long outfall pipe was installed faster and cheaper than expected.

But for some neighbors of the project, it’s been anything from a nuisance to a nightmare. Several said they were initially impressed by the quick response of the county and its contractors to their complaints, but then grew frustrated by lengthy delays in resolving problems.

Here are some of the things neighbors have endured:

• The well that provides water to Jorge and Shirley Landa’s Bothell house and dog kennels stopped working when the pump burned out. A replacement pump also burned out before they realized sand was clogging the filter. Then the water level dropped and the well went dry.

The Landas also noticed that Horse Creek, which runs through their property, was behaving strangely. “You could sit in the car and you could hear the creek bubbling up like Old Faithful,” Shirley said.

The state Department of Ecology concluded that the creek was repeatedly muddied and its water chemistry changed over a three-month period by compressed air that worked its way from a tunnel-boring machine through 160 feet of soil to Horse Creek during scheduled maintenance.

The Landas’ well is back in operation but exhibiting new problems they’re trying to understand.

• Marlene and Eldon Berg’s previously quiet Kenmore neighborhood became a noisy construction site, with truck engines revving, backup beepers sounding and metal banging on metal when contractors began digging a tunnel portal. Windows in their home rattled and floors shook when a boring machine chewed its way out of the portal. After the Bergs’ well ran dry, the county hooked them up to the city water system.

• Ray Ames was asleep when his wife, Mary, woke him up and showed him a brownish liquid flooding the kitchen and pouring out of the toilet. Raw sewage had backed up into the house because of pump problems on a Kenmore sewer line that was being redirected to the Brightwater plant.

Two years later the county paid more than $70,000 for repairs and legal fees.

• Pauline Chihara stepped out of her Kenmore home early one morning and discovered her driveway had fallen into a 30-foot-wide, 15-foot-deep sinkhole. County contractors quickly filled the hole and did a temporary repaving job. The ground had caved in because a tunneling machine removed too much soil 150 feet beneath the house.

That was in March 2009. As for a permanent fix to the driveway and sidewalk, Chihara said, “They said they were waiting for warm weather. Warm weather came and passed. … I wish they would just hurry up and do it. I don’t know what they’re waiting for.”

County spokeswoman Annie Kolb-Nelson said Chihara shouldn’t have had to wait so long for repairs and said she would try to speed up the process.

“I appreciate people’s patience while we get this project done,” wastewater chief True said. “It’s essential that we get it done. We recognize that some people will be inconvenienced. Any time there is a concern or complaint we want to get out there and respond as quickly as we can.”

After the Glitheros began finding cracks around their house, the county sent out an engineer who found a crack in the foundation. More recently, as Tom relaxed in the living room, he looked up and exclaimed “Holy mackerel!” when he saw a new crack in the vaulted ceiling.

Now push pins mark five cracks in the ceiling so the Glitheros can tell if they are lengthening.

“There’s a connection here and it’s not healthy,” Tom said of the problems. His biggest worry is what the settling will mean when he and Jan try to sell the house they lived in for 30 years: “I wouldn’t buy the house.”

Now You See It, Now You Don’t – The Olympic Line Opens Today

January 21, 2010

If one wants to ride a modern tram, then one should get to the Olympic Line as quick as possible and take a ride, before the Flexity cars are returned to Brussels after the 2010 Olympics. Zweisystem would be more excited if this was a start of a program of LRT/streetcar construction, but it’s not. In fact, there is little evidence that the City of Vancouver’s Engineering and Planning departments really understand the importance of LRT/streetcar in the 21st Century and how to plan for a successful downtown streetcar line. The Olympic line is built to such a standard that Roberts Bank Coal trains could use the line. We must ensure to get the ‘light’ back in ‘Light‘ Rail.

The Bombardier built Flexity family of trams are wonderfully built and make the SkyTrain Mk.1 car seem like 49’ Ford in comparison. The modular design means that several variants of the Flexity cars can be delivered, to suit the needs of the customer without incremental costs in the price. Cars can be made to lengths as long as 55 metres; have saloon sections (no doors) for longer journeys, and even a ‘Bistro’ section if need be. There is also a TramTrain variant and I would wager Bombardier would be willing to lend a few for a Vancouver to Chilliwack interurban service, if asked.

There are many motor packages available to the Flexity trams, with 100 kph operation possible.

So ride the Olympic Line tram and salivate at 21st century public transportation, that our European cousins across the pond take for granted every day.

From CKWX News 1130 Radio:

Olympic Line streetcars set to open

Two state of the art trains are on loan from Belgium

Britt Carlsen Jan 21, 2010

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Streetcar service is making a resurgence in Vancouver and the city hopes it is something that will continue. The Olympic Line project is a partnership between the city of Vancouver and Bombardier Transportation, who brought in the two Flexity cars from Belgium. From Thursday January 21st starting at 9:30 a.m., the free service will run between Granville Island, 2nd Avenue and Cambie daily from 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. through March 21st.

Bernie Edie, one of 23 locomotive engineers who will be operating the trains, had much to say on the history of streetcars in Vancouver. Streetcars arrived in the city in June of 1980, “they were green then and they didn’t even know it. The streetcars served Vancouver very well for 65 years.”

Edie adds the relationship between the Olympic Line streetcars and those of Vancouver’s past are closely linked, the last train ran in April of 1955, “that was on Hastings street. The reason they left the streetcars on that line for as long as they did is because of the Commonwealth Empire Games, they thought it would add more capacity. Well guess what? Here we are 55 years later with a car that has more capacity.”

As for the new trains, Edie is impressed. “They’re not only quiet but they have what you call regenerative braking, so when you are in a breaking mode power goes back up the lines, its total acclimatized. It’s a very high tech machine, Bombardier did a marvelous job.”

The City of Vancouver has a vision for streetcars in the future and feels they are a clean and sustainable option for public transit in our city. The Olympic Line project has already won the Sustainability Star Award, which recognizes a service or initiative that presents a solution to a local or global sustainability challenge.–olympic-line-streetcars-set-to-open