Archive for February, 2010

Olympic Hubris – Will The Wrong Conclusions Be Made By Our Planning & Political Elites?

February 27, 2010

In the last days of the 2010 Olympics, much has been made about how well our transportation worked during the event. What has been overlooked is that for the two week extravaganza, Vancouver had much warmer seasonal weather, meaning no snow to stall the SkyTrain metro and make a shambles out of the bus schedules. Added to this, many Vancouver downtown professional businesses closed or reduced hours of operations because of driving and parking restrictions. This was a win-win situation for TransLink as many people were forced from car to transit (active traffic calming), while at the same time, spring like weather created absolutely no problems in operations.

High ridership figures were reported for SkyTrain and the Canada Line and that was to be expected for such a large protracted event. In San Diego, their LRT system, which carries about 110,000 passengers a day, carried over 340,000 customers on Superbowl Sunday, when the city last hosted the event.

The SkyTrain Lobby have taken the metro’s high ridership numbers as some sort of reason to build more metro, while at the same time belittling light-rail. Though one disputes some of the ridership figures given by TransLink, it must be accepted that the metro carried record numbers of customers, the same would have been true with light rail. The SkyTrain lobby are trying desperately, while the Olympic memory is still fresh, to push for hugely expensive metro and subway projects, before the sleeping giant South of the Fraser awakens.

That sleeping giant? The Fraser Valley, which combined population is greater than Vancouver, Burnaby, and Richmond; which population is awakening to the fact that their transit taxes are paying for high priced metro for Vancouver, while they get scraps. Surrey residents in particular are beginning to realize that SkyTrain will not be extended in the near future (38 years according to one group) in their city, while learning that LRT/tram can be built for the fraction of the cost and quickly. There is an ever increasing call for the South Fraser Area to secede from TransLink and form their own transportation authority, which taxes collected will be kept in their local, to pay for the transit they want or can afford.

The provincial government must finally mature and let the people decide what transit mode they want and not keep on with a the very tired “You are going to get SkyTrain whether you like it or not” routine. What many South of the Fraser see, is that TransLink’s planning will further burdening the taxpayer with ever higher taxes to subsidize a costly “Edsel” metro system, that very few will actually use.

The one question that the SkyTrain lobby refuse to answer is; “Why, after being on the market for over 30 years, only seven SkyTrain systems have been built; all by private deals with little or no public scrutiny?” The answer of course is embarrassing to their cause and is swept under the carpet.

The SkyTrain lobby’s demands for more and more expensive SkyTrain, may be fortified with Olympic Hubris. Taxpayers beware!

A Press Release From The Light Rail Transit Association

February 26, 2010


The following press release from the LRTA is their response to the UK  All Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group, regarding LRT which ‘Zwei’ commented on earlier in the week.




25 February 2010


TramForward  welcomes publication of Light Rail and the City regions Report
TramForward welcomes the publication of the findings of the All Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group Inquiry into Light Rail and the City Regions. At a meeting at Westminster Paul Rowen, MP for Rochdale who chairs the group, launched the report of the Inquiry held last autumn, in which a panel of MPsscrutinised submissions from more than 30 organisations.

The Inquiry found that light rail is best suited to heavily used urban corridors, where their speed, reliability and capacity can be fully exploited. Furthermore, evidence suggests that modern tram systems are very successful in attracting motorists out of their cars, reducing congestion, improving safety, providing access for all, transforming perceptions, improving the urban environment, and supporting regeneration.

Nevertheless, the Inquiry found a ‘lack of coherent policies and consistent direction’ from the Department for Transport, which creates uncertainty in the industry and stifles development, leading to delays and cost inflation. In contrast the European experience is characterised by relatively faster delivery and lower costs.

Light rail in the UK is disadvantaged, compared to other transport modes, by the current appraisal system, which fails to take into account the full range of benefits that trams have to offer, while trams also experience less favourable treatment in the levels of local contribution and utilities betterment required.

The report calls upon Government to work together with local transport authorities and the light rail industry to address and solve these problems to ensure fair treatment for trams in the future.

Geoff Lusher, Chairman of the Light Rail Transit Association said “we support the Inquiry’s recommendations and look forward to a more robust government policy towards light rail. In order to survive and prosper in the modern world, our city regions need to be able to plan, develop and finance transport systems appropriate to their needs.”


1. TramForwardis the campaigning arm of the Light Rail Transit Association. 

2. The Light Rail Transit Association is the world’s leading organisation campaigning for better public transport through light rail, tramway and metro systems in our towns and cities for 70 years. It also supports the revitalisation of suburban and rural transport through the application of light rail.

3. The LRTA acts through its network of local branches, which campaign for better transport in their localities.

4. Membership of the LRTA costs under 12p a day. To join, visit or write to the Membership Secretary, LRTA, 38 Wolseley Road, Sale, Greater Manchester, M33 7AU. Members of the LRTA receive the monthly magazine Tramways & Urban Transit – written and read by experts in the field – and gain other benefits including discounts on videos and books, tours of transport systems and cut-price admission to selected transport sites.

Note to TransLink: Toronto’s Streetcars operate 24/7

February 25, 2010

A post from confirms what Zweisystem already knew, many streetcar/LRT systems operate twenty-four hours a day! Here we have an excellent example of the flexibility of modern LRT.

501 Queen and 506 Carlton. The routes are numbered 301 and 306 at night.

From Wikipedia:

The Blue Night Network is the overnight public transit service operated by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The network consists of a basic grid of 22 bus and 2 streetcar routes, distributed so that almost all of the city is within 2 km of at least one route.

All Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group (APPLRG) report – Should we do the same in BC?

February 23, 2010

Trams are coming to a city near you!

Some interesting news from across the pond. Urban transit development in the UK has been hamstrung by a very powerful and vocal ‘Roads Lobby’, within the central government (not unlike the SkyTrain Lobby in Victoria), which has all but stopped light rail development in the UK. In an era of peak oil and global warming, that the transportation department still advocates for bigger and wider highways in the UK, boarders on the ludicrous. Even converting little used railways lines into TramTrain or LRT, face horrendous roadblocks created by the British Government’s bureaucracy, while road oriented transit schemes (BRT) face little hindrance for implementation.

Like the UK, what is needed in BC is a level playing field for transit and transportation projects and not the litany of half truths and deceptions that follow BC’s penchant for the SkyTrain light-metro; a mode almost universally rejected in Europe and North America. TransLink’s shrill claims about SkyTrain during the Olympics are laughable, for the ever higher ridership numbers on the SkyTrain and Canada Line could be easily handled by light rail. Also, Zweisystem wants to correct the false impression that light rail systems can’t operate 24 hours a day, like the automatic and driverless SkyTrain. The fact is LRT can operate 24 hours a day, if demand warrants, and many LRT operations around the world do.

Automatic metros, like SkyTrain and RAV, must stop for signaling maintenance daily, or face a prospect of train stoppages during revenue service and is another reason why automatic operation, both being expensive to install and maintain, is only used on the heaviest used metro routes, which needs close headways to increase line capacity.

For public transit to become a force in dealing with urban congestion and to be an attractive alternative to the car, it must be built quickly and operate affordably, something which is impossible with light metro. A good example is the City of Surrey, which has been told it must wait 38 years for an extension to the SkyTrain light-metro system!

The region needs a level playing ground for transit planning and funding and the public, for once, must be informed honestly on both the pros and cons on light rail and light metro. Until this happens in the region, TransLink will still be steaming full speed a head, on a collision course with a financial iceberg!

TransLink steaming full speed into a financial iceberg.

From the Light Rail Transit Association

February 23, 2010

All Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group (APPLRG) report :

The report which is being launched today (15.00, Tuesday 23rd Feb) at an event at the Grand Committee Room, Westminster Hall in Parliament is the outcome of an inquiry chaired by Rochdale MP, Paul Rowen and a panel consisting of:Tom Harris MP (Glasgow South), Graham Stringer MP (Manchester Blackley), Clive Betts MP (Sheffield Attercliffe), Lord John Attlee and Baroness Hanham. Members of the Inquiry met three times in the Autumn of 2009 to consider evidence and hear from twenty five witnesses including the LRTA. The transcripts of the inquiry sessions can be found at the inquiry web hub

The key recommendations of the report include:

For Government

  • the biases against light rail schemes should be removed from the appraisal process
  • the DfT should provide more leadership on light rail, including a dedicated funding stream and a centre of expertise
  • the Government can assist in cutting the high costs of moving utilities associated with new light rail schemes

For local transport authorities promoting light rail schemes

  • trams should not be promoted in isolation but should be fully integrated into wider transport, economic, regeneration and environmental strategies for changing cities for the better
  • the benefits of integration that can come through the tools available in the 2008 Local Transport Act should be explored

For the light rail sector

  • the multiplicity of players, in what is ultimately a small industry, should raise their game through a single, co-ordinated and effective body which will act as a single voice for the industry as well as establish cross-industry standards which can help drive down costs

The report highlighted utility costs as a potential ‘quick win’ in bringing down the costs of new tram schemes.

Paul Rowen MP said: “There’s little argument that modern trams can help get cities moving and transform the urban realm. However, progress on bringing the tram back to city streets can too often get bogged down in circular arguments about process and costs. Our report provides a way out of the impasse with practical recommendations which we will put to the transport leads for all three of our main political parties.”

Olympic Line Update: Olympic Line street car resumes service after collision

February 21, 2010

The Olympic Line is back to full operation after Friday night’s fender bender. Indications are, that the motorist ignored light signals and drove in front of the tram. The Olympic Line is not a new line, rather it is Vancouver’s Historic Streetcar line, which has seen operation along the same route for years. There should be no excuses for motorists who ignore signals or signs and come into collision with a tram.

Drivers in Vancouver have a strange sense of entailment and road signs and signals are for othersBender Olympic. it is time to reflect that a stop signs and red lights mean stop, not stop if I feel like it.

Olympic Line Fender Bender

Olympic Line street car resumes service after collision

By Rebecca Lindell, Canwest News Service

February 20, 2010

VANCOUVER — An Olympic Line streetcar is back on track after colliding with a Jeep at Moberly Road and Sixth Avenue in False Creek just before 11:30 p.m. Friday night.

The streetcar was carrying 70 passengers coming from Granville Island. Two people were in the Jeep. No one was injured in the crash.

The city’s director of Olympic transportation Dale Bracewell described the incident as a “fender-bender” and said the streetcar was returned to service Saturday morning.

“Not only is it on the track but we are running two streetcars and we got a streetcar line up all the way past the Olympic Village Canada Line Station,” said Bracewell on Saturday afternoon.

Early indications are that the Jeep was in the right-hand turn lane on Moberly Street approaching West 6th Avenue at the time of the crash according to a police news release. Bracewell would not comment on the actions of the driver of the Jeep, but said the streetcar operator did everything according to safety procedures.

“According to our reports, our signals and the streetcar driver were up to safety standards and our investigation has suggested that everything done in terms of our operations was completely normal,” Bracewell said.

The BC Safety Authority investigated the incident and approved the move to put the streetcar back in action.

A neighbour who witnessed the aftermath of the crash said motorists haven’t adjusted to the Olympic Line.

“Since they put it in, the city had folks sitting at the crossing to get people to actually stop and they wouldn’t,” said Catherine Crough. “They would just mosey onto the tracks. There was a sense of entitlement and habit.”

“There’s always a little bit of people who are adjusting,” Bracewell said.

Car Crashes close the Olympic Line and Highway 17.

February 20, 2010


Not in Vancouver, but a auto/tram accident in Seattle, where the car driver ignored a red light.

The inevitable has happened, a car crash at a light controlled intersection at 11: 30 on Friday night, closed the Olympic Line.

From the Vancouver sun:

VANCOUVER – An Olympic Line streetcar collided with a vehicle at Moberly Road and Sixth Avenue in False Creek just before 11:30 p.m. Friday night.

Police officers and fire trucks are on scene according to neighbours. A helicopter has also been hovering around.

A neighbour who witnessed the aftermath of the crash said motorists haven’t adjusted to trains being back on the tracks.

“Since they put it in, the city had folks sitting at the crossing to get people to actually stop and they wouldn’t,” said Catherine Crough. “They would just mosey onto the tracks. There was a sense of entitlement and habit.”

The vehicle involved in the collision was towed away just after 12:00 a.m.

Just a few hours earlier, three people were killed in a horrific car accident on Highway 17, between Highways #10 & #99.

From the Vancouver Sun:

METRO VANCOUVER — A head-on collision on Highway 17 in Delta has claimed three lives, the RCMP said.

Today, at about 7:45 p.m. a minivan with two adult male occupants was southbound on Highway 17 heading towards Ladner Trunk Road in the northbound lanes, RCMP Sgt. Peter Thiessen said in a press release.

“The minivan crashed head-on with a northbound small, compact car killing the adult male driver and his adult female passenger. No other occupants were in the vehicle,” Thiessen said. “The driver of the minivan was also killed. His adult male passenger sustained serious injury and burns as a result of a significant fire and was airlifted to a local area hospital.”

Highway 17 remains closed in all directions for the next several hours pending further investigation. The Number 601, 620, 640 and the 404 buses are being rerouted to the Ladner Trunk Road (Hwy 10), then on Ladner Trunk Road to Highway 99.

Anyone who may have witnessed this crash is asked to call the Deas Island Freeway Patrol at 604-946-2184.

As for deaths on the SkyTrain metro system, the public doesn’t know because TransLink doesn’t report deaths to the media. So far an estimated two people have been killed by metro in the region in 2010.

Before the anti-LRT crowd start moaning about the car/tram accidnet, it would be wise to consider how many other car accidents happened in Vancouver yesterday at light controlled intersections. Even better, compare the amount of accidents at all light controlled intersections in Vancouver during the operation of the Olympic Line.

In general terms tram/road intersections are about ten times safer than road/road intersections and one can say by building LRT on-street reduces car crashes at light controlled intersections, and greatly lessens the  asscociated costs of auto accidents on society.

Zweisystem recommends that auto drivers disobeying red lights at traffic intersections (both rail and road) and causing an accident receive an automatic six month suspension of their drivers license. A red light means stop!

For Those Who Wish To Take The Famous Trans Siberian Express – Google Offers a Video Trip

February 17, 2010

The following is a real time trip on the Trans-Siberian Express. Enjoy!


February 16, 2010


Distance, to paraphrase, is Nature’s way of keeping everywhere from being in the same place. Hence we need transportation.

While Zweisystem is taking a breather, I’ve been asked for some thoughts. Rail for the Valley takes on a broader meaning if we use “rail” in the sense of “argue vociferously”. I’d like to do a little railing. Think out loud about moving people and stuff from place to place in the Fraser Valley.

In 1998 or thereabout a rascal named Jim Wallace raised the prospect of revitalizing the Fraser Valley Interurban during a meeting of the Surrey Heritage Commission, which I was chairing at the time. The next weekend, with my grandson as navigator, we traced the tracks from Brownsville, on the Fraser River to Chilliwack. It was obvious. The track was there and used for freight. It would be dead easy to reinstate Passenger traffic.

During the intervening years, a lot of material has been collected. I’d like to pass it along to this forum, together with occasional thoughts. Here goes.

Making the Valley

Might as well start at the beginning. Visualize the Fraser Valley:

This triangle of green is clearly visible from space; a distinct fertile, flat form. An ideal place for people to settle. Where people settle, semi-paradoxically, they need to move around.

The map below shows the mouth of the Fraser River at the end of the last ice age, an ice choked fjord dotted with islands. For 15,000 years, the Fraser River has conveyed silt from the Interior to the Salish Sea. Think of Sumas Mountain as a valve.

Originally the river ran south of Sumas Mountain with a main stem following the alignment of the Nooksack River through a delta.

The early Fraser Valley formed as a delta south of Sumas Mountain.

The oral tradition of the Tswwassen people tells of their ancestors standing on Mount Sleese and seeing their future Point Roberts home as an island across an inland sea.

The maps show water in dark blue, elevations above 300 metres in white and green is the “bottom land” of the Fraser Valley. 

The soil of the valley was pushed here by glaciers and deposited, particle by particle, by the river. The result is a tumultuous series of soil profiles. Glacial till offers firm bearing and resists erosion in some places, while soft alluvial deposits underlie marshes in others. As the delta developed, life, including people, advanced westward with the edge of the land.

At some point the channel south of Sumas mountain silted up or an ice dam melted and the main stem flipped to the north side. A new delta began forming.

Later the main stem of the river switched to the north side of Sumas Mountain and the delta was pushed west.

Here is our basic land form, a V-shaped alluvial valley about 140 kilometres long, set in a wedge of mountains with salt water to the southwest. Because the whole landscape had been depressed by the weight of ice several miles thick, there was rebound. The old delta to the south (now mostly in the United States) is higher than the new delta. Glacial rebound continues.

This is a very simple version of the story. The Geological Survey of Canada provides more detail at:

For at least 10,000 years, the Fraser Valley has been an ideal place for people to settle. And where people are settled as noted above, they are going to want to move.

Respectfully Submitted

Terry Lyster

Study reveals travel and transport trends – From the United Kingdom

February 16, 2010

An interesting study from the UK.

From the Independent website

Study reveals travel and transport trends

By Peter Woodman, Press Association

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The number of motorists with large-engined cars has almost doubled over the last decade, figures showed today.

 The number of licensed vehicles with engine capacity of more than 2,000cc increased from 2.3 million in 1999 to 4.0 million in 2008, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed.

 The figures also showed that the number of licensed cars with engine capacity of less than 1,000cc has declined by 19 per cent over the same period.

 The figures, part of the latest social trends publication from ONS, also revealed:

  * Between 1989-1991 and 2008, the proportion of 5-10 year old children traveling to school by car has risen from 27 per cent to 43 per cent;

 * In 2008, transport and travel costs accounted for 16 per cent of all household expenditure in the UK and this proportion has remained relatively stable since 1998/99;

 * Between 1998/99 and 2008, the largest increase in motoring expenditure was on petrol, diesel and other oils – at 24 per cent – with expenditure rising 11 per cent between 2007 and 2008;

 * In Britain in 2008, people took 992 total journeys – including walks – compared with 972 in 2007;

 * Of the 992 journeys, more than 600 of them were either as a car or van driver or passenger;

 * On average, each Briton took 27 rail journeys in 2008, compared with 25 in 2007 and only 19 for the period 1995 to 1997;

 * The number of journeys made by local bus rose slightly in 2008/09 compared with 2007-08 but was still only around a third of the number made in 1955;

 * Only 22 per cent of households had no car in 2008 compared with as many as 86 per cent in 1951;

 * 7 per cent of households had three cars in 2008, while 27 per cent had two cars.

Zweisystem is taking a sabbatical.

February 15, 2010

Just a note. Zwei will be taking a week or two sabbatical, hopefully we will have some guest bloggists to fill the spot. Zwei is doing research for an important project and I will only post important news. There are a lot of posts to read and comment on.

Cheers and enjoy the Olympics.