Archive for April, 2010

Another Dayliner crash on Vancouver Island – Why Do Car Drivers Believe They Have The Right To Go Through a Red Light?

April 30, 2010

Here we go again, another car driver ignoring railway crossing lights and bell and proceeds to crash into a train. One has little sympathy for car drivers ignoring the rules of the road, but until our provincial ministry of transportation takes seriously the fact that car drivers deliberately disobeying ‘red’ lights should be prohibited from driving for at least six months. We are getting extremely tough on ‘drink and drive’ violations but the most basic tenets of the rules of the road, stopping at red lights, is taken lightly.

Don’t blame the train, blame the car driver.

A google view of the Drinkwater railway crossing.,+British+Columbia&sll=48.763686,-123.679233&sspn=0.020537,0.0527&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Drinkwater+Rd,+Duncan,+British+Columbia+V9L+6C2&ll=48.80798,-123.717899&spn=0,0.02635&z=16&layer=c&cbll=48.803141,-123.72417&panoid=SnV8x-OpJRrQppsVJExzrQ&cbp=12,259.53,,0,14.36

Train and car collide in Duncan

Campbell’s “Reshuffling of The Deck Chairs on TransLink” Can’t Hide The fact That TransLink, is Steering Directly Into a Financial Iceberg!

April 30, 2010

 The series of amendments are in response to a report filed in November by B.C. comptroller-general Cheryl Wenesenki-Yolland who found that TransLink was plagued by “significant operational issues” and has not worked hard enough to manage its finances.

 One amendment will allow service improvements to proceed at any time, rather than on the restrictive annual process currently in place. The legislation also amends the requirement for a fully-funded plan from 10 years to three years.

 The legislation also requires an outlook plan from years four to 10, focusing on future services.

 “The board and management at TransLink should be commended for already taking action on key recommendations of the comptroller-general,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Shirley Bond in a media statement.

 “In recent months the company has taken significant steps to find efficiencies to help meet its financial goals.”

 Bond said the comptroller-general found that BC Ferries is “well managed overall” but had recommended improvements to B.C. Ferry governance, transparency and regulations on executive-compensation.

 To that end, an amendment being introduced today would subject B.C. Ferries and the B.C. Ferry Authority to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, in order to improve transparency.

 Another amendment will ensure, according to a media statement, that compensation for future B.C. Ferries executive and board is comparable to other public sector organizations.

 The legislation will also separate the B.C. Ferry Services board of directors from the B.C. Ferry Authority. A final amendment will include reservation fees in the price cap regulated by the B.C. Ferry Commission.

Two Tram projects planned in northern France. What no VAL?

April 29, 2010

The Mongy in Lille France. The huge cost of VAL ensured this tramway's survival.

What is interesting about this announcement is that the new tram projects are planned near Lille France, which operates the VAL automatic mini-metro. The two approved tram or light-rail lines are very close to the City of Lille and the VAL mini-metro system. This poses the question: Why not build with VAL?

French cities that have built with VAL, do not continue building with VAL, as it is just too expensive to build and costly to operate. SkyTrain costs about the same to build and operate than VAL, yet TransLink doesn’t care about the taxpayer and still continues to plan for the SkyTrain mini-metro or any mini-metro for that matter, instead of light rail. And with any alternative to SkyTrain is offered, it is so poorly planned or the costs are so inflated that SkyTrain appears to be the best option. This is planning by deceit and deception;  no wonder TransLink has a terminal case of financial bankruptcy.

From the Railway Gazette

April 2010

Tram projects planned in northern France

FRANCE: A consortium comprising Systra, Inexia, Eccta, Ilex and Urbanica has been appointed to manage two tram projects in northern France. The contract was awarded by the Artois-Gohelle local transport authority, which is responsible for public transport in an area comprising 115 towns and villages with a total population of 600 000.

The first route connecting Liévin, Lens and Hénin-Beaumont will be 20·8 km long with 30 stops. The second will be 17·4 km long, running from Bruay-la-Buissière to Béthune and Beuvry and will have 24 stops. The tram lines will serve key destinations in 18 towns and villages and are part of an initiative to regenerate the former mining area.

Systra will be responsible for project management and, with Inexia, for engineering and systems. Eccta is in charge of infrastructure, roads and services, while Ilex and Urbanica will handle architecture, landscaping and urban design.

The consortium is due to present its proposals for the two routes by autumn 2010. Construction is expected to start in 2011 with revenue service set for 2014. The project will cost around €657m.

Light Rail & Tramways Growth Continues With new Openings in 2010

April 27, 2010

From May’s issue of Tramway’s & Urban Transit comes a list of new LRT openings in 2010, almost one every six weeks. The following is a partial list of new LRT/tram and TramTrain systems.

It is interesting to note the increase of TramTrain expansion, both in Europe and in North America. Also, when compared to metro construction at about $150 million/km to $200 million/km, we can effectively build a complete LRT on Broadway for about the same cost of 3 km. of subway.

Firenze Italy: 14 February 2010

Route 1

Cost: €170mil. (CAD $228.02 mil.)

Length: 7.4 km

Vehicles: 17 LRV’s

Cost per km: $30.8 mil/km.

Austin Texas, 22 March 2010

Rail for the Valley Take Note

Route: 1

Cost: USD $300 mil. (CAD $302 MIL.)

Length: 51km

Vehicles: 6 TramTrains

Cost per km: $6 mil/km.

Bergen Norway, 22 June 2010

Route: 1

Cost: €274 million (CAD $368.25 mil.)

Length: 9.8 km.

Vehicles: 12 LRV’s – 5 TramTrain

Cost per km: CAD $37.58 mil/km.

Mulhouse, 13 December  2010

Route: 1

Cost : €137 mil. (CAD $184.5 mil.)

Length: 24 km.

Vehicles: 12 TramTrains

Cost per km: CAD $7.7 million/km

The Broadway Follies – TransLink does the Gong Show

April 26, 2010

Here we go again, TransLink’s famous planning exercises that in the end will please no one and achieve very little. There is no bold ‘grand plan’ but more of the same, a little BRT here; a little SkyTrain there, with a hint of LRT thrown in to keep the trolley-jolly types happy. With all the information available today, with all the examples of modern LRT, TransLink goes back to its dated and questionable planning practices which are a blend of distortions and misinformation.

The present six alternatives, save for one, are expensive and unworkable and begs the question: “Does TransLink have the revenue streams to fund any of them?”

The one alternative, the sixth and last, the Best Bus Alternative is probably the only doable option, which then poses the question: “Why waste the publics time with five expansive and unworkable transit solutions?”

The Light Rail Committee’s 1990’s plan, the BCIT to UBC and Stanley Park LRT is simply a much superior plan, which had a vision for Vancouver’s transit needs for the next half century. Alas, not in Vancouver, where tunnel vision, subway tunnel’s that is, still rules how TransLink bureaucrats still plan for transit.

If TransLink is to have any credibility, it must ‘think out of the box’, they have not and what they present as transit planning is the ‘same old song and dance’, with TransLink’s patented ‘dog and pony show’. Transit customers and regional taxpayers deserve better.

The following are the six transit alternatives presented by TransLink.


BRT Alternative

Buses are not ‘rapid transit’ as the definition for ‘rapid transit’ is a heavy-rail metro installation. BRT in North America is really express buses or buses operating on a busway. For buses to truly compete against ‘rail‘ they must be guided, either kerb guided or rail guided (optical guidance has been proven far too troublesome), which requires a ‘reserved rights of ways‘ or a route used exclusively by transit. Guided bus has proven to be a third less costly to build than light rail, but has proven disappointing in operation, by not attracting new ridership. For many a bus, is a bus and perceived as a second rate transit mode and remain taking their cars.

BRT, if built, would prove only slightly cheaper to build than LRT, with none of the operating benefits.

LRT Alternative 1

Like BRT, LRT is by definition not ‘rapid transit’, but is light rail a separate ‘rail’ mode built to solve different transportation problems. What makes LRT different from a streetcar is the concept of a ‘reserved rights-of-ways’ (RRoW’s), where the streetcar operates on an exclusive route free from traffic, add in preemptive signaling at intersections and LRT operation can rival its much more expensive cousin heavy-rail metro, in operation. Modern LRT has all made light-metro such a as VAL and our SkyTrain obsolete.

Clearly,  TransLink has only dusted off BC Transit’s Broadway Lougheed ‘rapid transit’ planning from the early 90’s and cobbled together this loser. No thought has been made to provide a customer friendly transit service and again TransLink planners prove that they plan for LRT as a ‘poor man’s’ SkyTrain.


LRT Alternative 2

The second LRT alternative, feeding a second line to the Olympic Line, seems to have been planned on a back of an envelope to take advantage of the recent success of the now closed Olympic Line. Another daft TransLink plan.





RRT Alternative

It seems that TransLink is scared by the term subway or metro and use the very strange term Rapid Rail Transit, more to confuse people than anything else. The name is to infer that it is fast and for TransLink, the speed of a transit line is their mantra. But the higher speed from a metro comes from grade separation and fewer stations, which means an expensive ‘shadow’ bus operation to try to feed the metro. Metros are very expensive to build and are not very good in attracting new ridership and guess what, SkyTrain is a metro, yet has seemed very poor in attracting the motorist from the car. Strange to, that SkyTrain was first conceived to be elevated to mitigate the massive cost of subway construction.

Rail Rapid Transit or metro is only built if ridership demand (15,000 pphpd or more) warrant the huge expenditures required to build and operate the mode.

Combo Alternative

This is truly bizarre and it seems TransLink is trying to please Bombardier, by having a ‘rail‘ option for both their LRT/tram line of vehicles and SkyTrain. Really, what has been proven over and over again is that transfers deter ridership, yet TransLink loves to force transfers on transit customers. This option is expensive and extremely poorly thought out.




Best Bus Alternative

It would save TransLink a lot of grief and money by promoting an European style of bus service with stops every 400m to 500m,  with faster commercial speeds and better productivity. The Best Bus is well past its ‘Best By’ date but probably will be the winning option due to TransLink horrendous financial problems.

Parry People Movers For Granville Island?

April 24, 2010

 Granville Island was once a large industrial site, serviced with rail and when Granville Island was commercialized in the 1970’s the tracks were left in situ, with a promise of a (at the time) funky horse drawn tram. The tram service did not materialize, but the tracks and switches remain. With very little capital outlay, compared with other transit projects on the drawing board, it is not beyond imagination for a local Parry People Mover tram service to operate on the island, which would be a great benefit for island mobility and tourist fun , as well  it does rain in Vancouver and having a tram service would be a benefit.

The Parry people Mover is powered by a flywheel energy storage, allowing electric tramway systems without overhead wires and railcars powered by small prime movers running on gas, diesel or hydrogen – all with very high energy efficiency and very low emissions of pollutants and noise. This allows for small vehicles to operate in locals where larger, more expensive  rail vehicles cannot.

What the Parry People Mover does show, is that there is a light rail solution for almost every transportation need and maybe the powers that be should investigate a PPM tram service for Granville Island.

A Parry People Mover in an urban setting




Railcar success

From Railfuture

The “brilliant tram-style service” connecting Stourbridge Town and Stourbridge Junction won praise last week from Transport Secretary Lord Adonis.
During a pre-election political visit to Stourbridge on 13 April, Lord Adonis undertook a personal inspection of the new light-weight railcar service which operates under the London Midland rail franchise.  He also visited the maintenance depot. 

He was full of praise for what had been achieved by the local engineers who had designed and built the railcars, JPM Parry & Associates of Cradley Heath.
Lord Adonis told reporters that the Parry People Movers railcars – which have been running since May 2009 – could offer new opportunities for the UK transport authorities and also had good export potential.
He took a return trip on the branch line on board one of the railcars and was given evidence of the operation’s environmental, engineering and service achievements.
The Parry People Movers railcars use less than one-third of the fuel required by the former heavy railcars and give similar reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

They are providing Stourbridge Town with its best-ever rail service – a 50 per cent increase in frequency on weekdays and Saturdays with a regular 10-minute interval service in each direction, where previously it ran at irregular intervals around four times per hour.

They give a journey time two to three times quicker than the bus using local roads.

They have reduced the cost of the branch line operation to less than half that incurred running conventional heavy rolling stock.

The railcars are low noise, low emission and provide good access for passengers in wheelchairs, or with luggage and buggies, by having a floor height level with the station platform.

They have equalled the highest performance elsewhere on the rail network, operating over 99.5 per cent of scheduled services in intense shuttle operation.
Lord Adonis was told similar light-weight railcars had potential for expanding the railway – introducing new services on lines not currently open to passengers.
John Parry, chairman of the company which makes the railcars, said: “We are delighted that the Secretary of State has shown such interest in our light-weight railcars in their first full-service operation. 

“We hope that he and his opposite numbers in other parties will see how the combined economic and environmental benefits of this technology could bring about a new era for local rail services, bringing attractive transport links to many more communities and providing them with easy access to mainline trains so more people can move from road to rail transport.”
Parry People Movers Ltd was founded in 1991 to develop rail transport based on the flywheel energy store, which allows vehicles to run extremely efficiently and to recapture their braking energy for re-use when accelerating. 

PPML’s rail vehicles offer the quality of modern light rail transport without the need for electrical power supply, giving excellent environmental performance and energy efficiency at lower costs than conventional technology. 

PPML technology can be used on both railways and on urban tramways. 

Information from Parry People Movers Limited, Overend Road, Cradley Heath, West Midlands B64 7DD
Telephone: +44 (0)1384 569553 ,Fax: +44 (0)1384 637753

A Parry People Mover on the Stourbridge branch.

Transit Agency Approves Cuts, and More Bad News Looms – From the New York Times

April 23, 2010

It seems that New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is in dire fancial straights, just like our TransLink. What should not be forgotten is that even though New York has a vast subway system and massive daily ridership, mainteneace cost for that subway are massive and contributing to their finacial plight.

For those preaching a subway solution as the only transit solution for Broadway, maybe leaving a financial time bomb for future generations if the subway doesn’t carry the ridership that justifies subway construction. If a SkyTrain subway is built under Broadway, watch for the elimination of the U-Pass and the introduction of a $5.00 one zone ticket and those will be the least of both transit customers and Vancouver taxpayer’s worries.

Transit Agency Approves Cuts, and More Bad News Looms

Published: March 24, 2010

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority formally approved on Wednesday a slate of severe service cuts that will eliminate two subway lines and dozens of bus routes in the city and create longer, more-crowded trips for the region’s transit riders.

The cuts, which will help close a budget gap of about $400 million, will not go into effect until June, but discussions have already begun about how the board will address an anticipated budget deficit of nearly another $400 million. And there is a growing, if reluctant, consensus that higher fares and tolls will be necessary; the only question is when and by how much.

A 7.5 percent fare increase is scheduled for next year. Agency officials have calculated how much revenue could be gained from various fare and toll structures, according to people familiar with the discussions. The topic has come up in private conversations between Jay H. Walder, the authority’s chairman, and friends and colleagues.

And the question has arisen whether an even bigger increase would be preferable to losing yet more service.

Mr. Walder has repeatedly said that he does not want to raise fares this year, and people familiar with his thinking say that he is determined to keep that pledge.

Asked on Wednesday if next year’s increase might be larger than 7.5 percent, Mr. Walder said only that the authority would consider the specifics of the next increase later this year.

“The first priority right now is on reducing our costs,” he said.

With little possibility of a state bailout, however, the authority’s options are limited.

The cuts approved on Wednesday, which prompted a widespread outcry from riders, will save the authority about $93 million.

The authority has cut administrative costs by 15 percent and laid off hundreds of station agents, and Mr. Walder said on Wednesday that it was renegotiating contracts with its suppliers and trying to drive down labor costs.

The authority still plans to eliminate discounted fares for students, which would save $214 million, but that proposal was not considered by the board on Wednesday, adding to the sense that the worst was yet to come.

The authority’s only path toward generating significant revenue is a fare increase. Longtime transit planners believe that an increase of 10 to 12 percent — which would raise the base fare to about $2.50 — might be necessary to make up the gap. (Several have shared those thoughts with the chairman.)

“There’s definitely going to be a fare increase; now the question is will it be enough?” said Allen Cappelli, a board member. “Probably not.” He said that the board had not yet discussed the prospect of a bigger increase.

With discounts for multiple-ride MetroCards, the average fare paid by a subway rider was $1.47 in January, far less than the $2.25 base fare and 8 cents higher than the average ride in 1996.

“Based on a comparison of New York City to other major urban areas, there’s clearly elasticity in the fares,” said Kathryn S. Wylde, chief executive of the Partnership for New York City, a business group that Mr. Walder meets with regularly. “Fares could go up without losing ridership,” she added.

The 7.5 percent fare increase approved for next year was part of an attempt to create a regular pattern of increases for the New York City system that would roughly follow inflation, similar to a system in London, where Mr. Walder worked previously.

There was a growing sense among officials on Wednesday that straphangers would be facing more pain in coming months.

At a news conference, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg warned New Yorkers to “save your anger” for the authority’s next set of cuts. “This is just the beginning,” the mayor said. “The next round, I would think, would be much worse.”

Under the plan approved on Wednesday, the V and W trains will be eliminated and the M line will no longer run in Lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. Bus riders will lose 34 routes, including 13 express ones. Several other bus lines will be truncated or rerouted.

The Long Island Rail Road will reduce service on several lines, and eliminate overnight service between its Atlantic Avenue terminal and Jamaica. Trains on the Port Washington line will run every hour, instead of every 30 minutes, except during rush hours.

Metro-North Railroad will eliminate a handful of trains.

“The only thing I fear more than the vote I have to cast today,” John Banks, another board member, said on Wednesday, “is the vote I’m going to be asked to cast in the near future.”

Clean, affordable light rail also delivers economic lift

April 22, 2010
Shades of the Broadway LRT/metro debate. It seems the metro lobby is hard at it to derail Toronto’s LRT plans, just like how the metro/SkyTrain lobby is trying to do the same in Vancouver.
Added to the metro/SkyTrain debate is that our friends South of the boarder are trying reinvent light rail into light-metro, a transit mode made obsolete by light rail decades ago! Today, transit is not built to move people, oh no, transit is build to influence land use, which is an excuse to gold-plate transit projects, which vastly increases the cost of providing ‘rail’ transit while at the same time offering no real proof that the added expenditure actually increases ridership.
What has been forgotten with the mad rush to build with hugely expensive metro’s (yes automatic transit systems are metro), is the wants and wishes of the transit customer. What studies have shown what the transit customer wants is that the ‘transit‘ is on the pavement; affordable to use; comfortable; a seamless or no-transfer trip; and a timely journey. The transit customer doesn’t want underground or elevated transit (for many reasons); expensive fares (which come with more expensive metro); standing; and transferring to complete ones journey. As for a timely journey, the transit customer wants a reasonably fast journey, comparable with one using a car.
Recent comments from the metro/SkyTrain lobby claim that the faster commercial speed of SkyTrain, itself attracts customers to our transit system. In short, the answer is no. What attracts the transit customer to transit, is a combination of many things, including safety, the ambiance of the transit system, ease of ticketing, speed of the complete transit journey (door to door), a seamless or no transfer journey, etc.
Modern light rail has proven to provide all of the above, which is why it is the most popular public transit mode in the world; LRT works. So when others try to morph LRT into another mode, especially a mode inferior to LRT, it should give one pause for concern. Why should we squander billions of dollars trying to reinvent the wheel, or building gold-plated light-metro, when that money would have been better spent on providing much more needed transit; transit that the customer actually wants.
In the 21st century, transit is seen as a product and if the transit ‘customer‘ doesn’t like the product, he/she will not buy.

Brussels' light rail system uses Bombardier equipment on segregated lanes. Greg Gormick argues that light rail transit lines in Europe and the United States have revived cities and reducted pollution and traffic congestion.

From the

Clean, affordable light rail also delivers economic lift

Critics of Toronto’s Transit City plan ignore the evidence in many European cities

Greg Gormick

In the ideal world, an informed public debate over the TTC’s $10 billion Transit City light rail transit (LRT) plan would hone it into a scheme fully responsive to the needs of transit users and residents who live along the line.

Instead, Transit City is being lambasted by a cadre of critics who hope to derail it, but without really knowing anything about LRT.

To be fair, the various parties involved in Transit City have done a deplorable job explaining LRT to the plan’s opponents.

As a result, the average Torontonian has no idea of social, environmental and economic benefits of this cost-effective form of rail transit.

In the Toronto context, the first thing that needs to be understood is that LRT and streetcars are not the same beasts. They are related, but there are massive differences between these two approaches to urban transportation.

LRT is a postwar European development that grew out of the conventional streetcar. As Western Europe got back on its feet after World War II, rising car ownership gradually chewed into transit ridership. Some cities followed the North American example and abandoned their streetcars. But many others embarked on evolutionary programs to build on the streetcar’s strength as an intermediate-capacity technology filling the gap between high-capacity subways and lower-capacity buses.

The result was a series of technological and operational advances that included:

  • Larger and faster rolling stock with higher capacity and labour productivity.
  • Better track to provide a smoother and quieter ride.
  • Wider spacing of stations or car stops, leading to reduced travel times.
  • Innovative fare collection systems for faster passenger loading and unloading.
  • Pre-emptive, transit-priority signalling at intersections.
  • Separated rights-of-way to minimize conflicts with automobiles.

But European LRT also involved much more than just tracks and rolling stock. There, urban planners embraced the concept of transit-oriented land-use development, using fast, frequent and convenient rail transit services as a means of controlling outer suburban development and making the inner cities more accessible, vibrant and appealing.

European cities also used LRT as an opportunity to totally re-engineer and improve their streets for all users under a concept known as lateral segregation. Each user — transit rider, motorist, cyclist and pedestrian — is assigned a portion of a street and each is segregated from the other in order to accommodate their varying requirements. Every element of the street is re-engineered accordingly: traffic lanes, parking, taxi stands, traffic management systems, cycling lanes, sidewalks, street lighting and all aspects of the “street furniture.”

The total effect is one of calming the street while also invigorating it economically and socially. LRT now plays a major role in both large and medium-sized European cities. More than 30 cities that abandoned their streetcars — including Paris, London and Barcelona — have built new LRT lines since the late 1970s and others are hopping aboard.

The success of European LRT was not lost on planners and politicians in some North American cities that abandoned their traditional streetcar systems and paid the price for it in traffic gridlock, unacceptable levels of air pollution and rampant suburban sprawl. In 1978, Edmonton inaugurated North America’s first all-new LRT with service-proven German equipment and designs. The LRT concept has spread to 22 other North American cities and more than 30 additional systems are now under construction or in planning.

When properly implemented — as it has been in cities as diverse as Dallas, San Diego and Portland, Ore., — LRT has delivered exactly what its advocates predicted. It has sparked a transit revival, luring commuters out of their cars and reducing emissions. It has acted as an economic catalyst, encouraging compact, transit-oriented development. And it has revived deteriorated residential and commercial neighbourhoods, generating considerable on-street activity and boosting property values.

To believe that the opposite will be the result with LRT on streets such as Sheppard, Eglinton and Finch flies in the face of worldwide experience. These main thoroughfares are probably better suited to LRT than many of those in U.S. cities, where it has proved its value as a fast, clean and affordable form of transit that boosts livability.

Some Torontonians maintain that we should be building subways instead of LRT. But subways cost about four times as much per kilometre and they are financially sustainable only where there are huge volumes of passengers ready to ride them on opening day. That is not the case in Toronto on the lines proposed for LRT.

Change is always frightening. But to allow an uninformed fear of the city-changing benefits of LRT to kill Transit City would doom Toronto to more car dependency, congestion, pollution and economic stagnation.

Other cities with which we compete for residents, jobs and investment are embracing LRT as one means to improve their social, environmental and economic attractiveness. Can we afford not to? I think not.

Greg Gormick is the Canadian contributing editor of the rail and transit trade magazine Railway Age. He wrote the TTC’s 2004 consulting report, The Streetcar Renaissance: Its Background and Benefits.

The Livable Blog Talks Broadway Transit

April 20, 2010

Do our politicians have the foresight to do this on Broadway?

The Livable Blog has an interesting discussion about “rail” transit on Broadway.

Le tram in Grenoble France

Some Sunday Reading – The “Automatic Metro” or AGT Debate – Too Much Bunkum By The AGT Lobby

April 18, 2010

French transit authorities were the first to extensively lawn LRT RoW's

In various other transit oriented blogs, the myth that automatic operation of trains saves operating costs is perpetuated ad nauseum. Those who try to set the record straight are subjected to a sort of ‘Spanish Inquisition’ and are treated as latter day heretics. What is so Monty Pythonish about this is that back in the 1980’s and early 90’s several papers were published and many studies done comparing LRT to AGT (Automatic Guided Transit), showing that LRT tended to be not only cheaper to build, but cheaper to operate. Only on transit routes with extremely high traffic flows is automatic operation warranted.

It is in France, where the greatest scrutiny of LRT and AGT, has taken place, where the Central government sponsored VAL mini-metro system competed against LRT. At the time, VAL was manufactured by MATRA, a leading French arms manufacturer and the French government felt that if VAL was rejected in favour of LRT in French cities and towns, it would reflect badly on international arms sales. Behind a background of extremely generous government funding (sound familiar?) for initial VAL installation, scores of studies were done done comparing the two modes. The studies tended to show that LRT was cheaper to build; cheaper to operate; and better able to attract new ridership than AGT. This intense debate over AGT (VAL) heralded an unprecedented expansion of LRT in France, making the country a leader in both modern transit design and operating philosophy.

In North America, trying to promote AGT transit, including SkyTrain, instead of much cheaper LRT is like promoting a Boeing 707, instead of a Boeing 787 DreamLiner.

The following may provide some interesting reading.



The past decade has seen dramatic developments in urban rail transit, particularly in the field of light rail transit (LRT). At the same time, several proprietary automated systems have been developed and deployed, often claiming superior levels of service and cost-effectiveness. Data are now becoming available that make it possible to check, for the first time, how well the new automated-guideway transit (AGT) systems are meeting their promoters’ claims, and to compare such systems with the new conventional LRT systems. Methodologies are presented to collect and screen performance data from different systems in a uniform manner, and examples are developed to show how these data can be used to compare modes using actual operating information to the maximum extent. When new AGT systems are compared with new LRT systems, or when AGT and LRT are compared on identical alignments, it appears that the cost of additional maintenance and supervising staff and additional “non-staff” budget may exceed the savings that AGT systems achieve by eliminating operators. Although the new AGT systems represent a further advance in the development of urban transit technological capabilities, and reflect great credit on those who have built and financed them, they may also contain the seeds of future problems. Having a significantly higher construction cost per mile than LRT, urban areas with AGT will tend to have smaller rail networks than equivalent areas selecting LRT. Being proprietary systems in limited use, they may experience future procurement problems, particularly if the promoter goes out of business. Being a contemporary, high-technology product, there is also a high risk of obsolescence in future years.
Automatic metros need grade separation, which are intrinsically unsightly