It seems that the efforts of Zwei and others have paid off’ as others in the region are taking note of LRT and TramTrain and the huge costs that go along with the SkyTrain light-metro system and subway construction. TramTrain and especially “Rail for the Valley” itself may find some welcome allies to their cause from the North Shore, especially from taxpayers fed up throwing money at Vancouver-centric transit projects.
Maybe TransLink should rethink the Evergreen Line along TramTrain lines and start looking at the bigger regional picture, with much cheaper TramTrain and LRT. Certainly TramTrain could be part of the transit solution for the North Shore, as well as North Delta, Crescent Beach and Whiterock.
Questions are being asked; affordable solutions are being offered for out current transit malaise and its time to make TransLink and the provincial government listen!
Costly SkyTrain technology choices baffle
Elizabeth James, Special To North Shore News
“Light rail service can occur at a small fraction of the cost of the proposed fully elevated multibillion dollar system, with similar or better results in ridership. So why was the rail alternative largely ignored from any serious analysis? “
Prof. Panos Prevedouros, civil engineer and member of the Honolulu Transit Advisory Task Force, March 8, 2010
Is there any truth to the persistent rumour that Victoria’s ongoing fascination with SkyTrain has frustrated attempts by management of Bombardier Inc. to break into the lucrative light-rail and tram markets in North America?
If there is, that might explain why the company volunteered to loan Olympics-bound Vancouver the European cars that proved to be such an immediate success; we were being given the old marketing soft-sell, so to speak.
But if that is the case, why were cash-strapped regional taxpayers not offered this conversation — about what amounts to a demonstration light-rail system — before they were forced to swallow their third SkyTrain-style transit line at a capital cost of more than $2.4 billion?
Why would any government risk the ire of the public by building a few gold-plated transit lines when, instead, it could have show-cased to the world a region-wide, light-rail system for the same money or less? It does not make sense, never did.
Common sense notwithstanding, it is imperative that the mystery behind the choice of technology decisions for the Millennium and Canada Line projects be unravelled, and fast.
This is because, under another of its infamous cones of silence, Victoria is planning yet another incarnation of TransLink, an incarnation we’ve learned to expect will remove the body even further beyond open and transparent.
Furthermore, B.C. Transportation Minister Shirley Bond already has two more rapid transit lines on the political drawing board — the many times announced Evergreen Line and the East-West line along, or adjacent to the Broadway corridor to UBC.
Nowhere is the unravelling more important to taxpayers than here on the North Shore where, for years, residents have complained that they are little more than a cash cow for an unaccountable, Vancouver-centric TransLink operation.
TransLink and its puppet-master need to know, once and for all, that we are TransLink-taxed to the max; we cannot afford any more of their “$1.35 billion not a penny more” blunders that end up costing us almost twice as much.
Since 1999, when the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority assumed responsibility for transit in the Lower Mainland, TransLink has been a consistent thorn in the side of regional taxpayers, and with good reason.
Underfunded from the start, the capital, operating and debt-servicing costs of the provincially dictated Bombardier Millennium Line and the SNC-Lavalin Canada Line have, more than once, threatened to bring the operation to its knees.
Squeezed between a succession of obdurate provincial governments and an increasing public resistance to being taxed by a body the people could not hold to account, the “old” TransLink board grew increasingly dysfunctional. It had virtually no way to raise funds enough to cover the annual budget shortfalls that arrived with monotonous regularity.
As a result, in 2006, then minister Kevin Falcon ordered a review of the organization, rearranged the deck chairs and changed the official name to South Coast Transportation Authority. (Watch out Abbotsford, the TransLink taxman cometh.)
Assuring the public that his newly appointed, privatized board of transportation experts would still be accountable to a council of elected mayors, Falcon installed Tom Prendergast, the transit-savvy former VP of the New York subway system, as president.
The ship had a new coat of paint but no-one had thought to patch up the hole in the bow. So it was not long before the new TransLink board began to founder for the same reasons as its predecessor — the need to build and operate underfunded capital projects, as and when dictated by the province, but with no ability to wring enough additional dollars out of taxpayers to make up the shortfall.
A mere 15 months later Prendergast resigned and returned home to head up the entire New York transit system. (This time, hopefully, he paid his own $60,000 moving costs.)
Perhaps the most intriguing local development, however, comes out of Langley, where a chomping-at-the-bit Rail for the Valley group, independent of TransLink, has decided to approach the issue the old-fashioned way. Tired of hearing that “people should get out of their cars to reduce air-pollution,” at the same time they were being told to hurry up and wait until increased ridership (development?) was available to justify transit infrastructure, they set about investigating all technology options and arrived at a conclusion: In a nutshell, RFTV wants to introduce a European tram-train — a streetcar that can operate on shared mainline railway tracks — which would run from Vancouver to Chilliwack.
Based on a consultant’s opinion, they say it can be done for a capital cost well under $10 million per kilometre — fraction of the predicted cost of a SkyTrain and/or subway project for the Evergreen or Broadway-UBC routes.
More to the point for North Shore residents is this: Some years ago, I approached District of North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton, with a suggestion that the three North Shore municipalities look at the feasibility of going it alone on a shared-track, light-rail transit service from the Ironworkers’ Memorial bridge to Horseshoe Bay. The rationale was that, if we were serious about switching from cars to transit, the North Shore needed a seamless, low-level, east-west service outside the congested Marine Drive corridor.
The mayor expressed interest at the time, but the idea fizzled when, not long after, the province folded the North Vancouver ports complex into what is now the Vancouver Ports Authority, thus appearing to tie up the trackage along that stretch.
In view of the RFTV initiative, and bearing in mind the need to replace North Shore jobs lost to the BC Rail not-a-sale, perhaps it’s worth revisiting the idea — but from a different angle.
Since a tram-train runs on regular railway tracks, why not look at the feasibility of using the existing rail-bridge at the Ironworkers’ Memorial location for a tram-train that would connect North Vancouver to the mainline in Vancouver? In fact, judging by the numbers being put forward by the RFTV group, it’s conceivable that a North Shore to Vancouver and all points east to Chilliwack could be built for a fraction of the cost of building the Canada Line.
The main point to consider is that whether or not Langley residents have discovered a workable answer to some of our growing transit woes, they are asking the right questions.
It behooves us all to join in the chorus and repeat our own version of the question asked by Hawaii’s professor: Why has discussion of a popular light-rail alternative consistently been shelved in favour of building SkyTrain at triple to as much as 10 times the cost?
Tags: Abbotsford, C-train, Chilliwack, commuter rail, cost per km, demonstration project, Diesel LRT, economic stimulus, Evergreen Line, Fraser River rail bridge, Fraser Valley, infrastructure, interurban, Karlsruhe, Langley, light metro, light rail, LRT, North Shore, North Vancouver, passenger rail, Patrick Condon, Rail for the Valley, skytrain, streetcars, study, Surrey, track-sharing, tram, Translink, UBC, UBC SkyTrain, VALTAC, Vancouver, West Vancouver