The Broadway Follies – TransLink does the Gong Show


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.


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6 Responses to “The Broadway Follies – TransLink does the Gong Show”

  1. Joe G Says:

    I go to the Translink website and see only a very basic outline of the 6 different possibilities.

    I’m confused as to why you would dismiss Translink’s two LRT alternatives.

    Very little detail seems to be given on their website, but I can support the idea of LRT from Commercial to UBC if done right.

    Are you just (understandably) assuming the worst?

    Zweisystem replies: The big problems would be the cost of land and rezoning for the yard (huge) and that for a whole lot of disruption, there would be little benefit. By replacing the Broadway trolley buses completely would see large cost savings and if we do that, then the Broadway LRT is just a few km. away from BCIT, a great ridership generator.

    We must get away from this patchwork transit planning where TransLink compels everyone to transfer, not only is this greatly inconvenient, it fails to attract ridership. Successful transit lines offer complete and seamless (no transfer) journeys, which TransLink refuses to do, simply because they need to force bus passengers onto SkyTrain to claim high ridership.

    Sorry to say, what TransLink has offered for LRT are dated and expansive transit plans, that for the most part, are designed to be unworkable.

    To be successful, a Broadway LRT must service downtown Vancouver.

    We have to start copying what works around the world, not to forever do the same thing over and over again to hopefully get it right this time. In 15 years, nothing has changed.

  2. David Says:

    While I strongly dislike being asked to comment on a single “corridor” without being shown how it fits into the bigger picture getting one LRT line into operation would undoubtedly lead to extensions and more lines in the future.

    I also hate the fact that there’s no indication that the options carry widely varying price tags. If all we can afford is LRT then the more expensive options shouldn’t even be up for discussion. If we can afford SkyTrain then the other options should be expanded to use a similar amount of money. Draw 5 LRT lines instead of 1. Show all the new express bus routes and improvements to existing services.

    Zweisystem replies: Seriously, I do not think the current round of planning has anything to do about providing good transit, I think it is all about spreading confusion and panic among residents and merchants along Broadway. TransLink did the same thing years ago with the Canada Line!

  3. mezzanine Says:

    ” Successful transit lines offer complete and seamless (no transfer) journeys, which TransLink refuses to do, simply because they need to force bus passengers onto SkyTrain to claim high ridership.”

    In Calgary’s West LRT:

    “Bus service will not be eliminated from communities adjacent to the West LRT. Instead, bus routes will provide feeder service to the West LRT stations to allow residents faster travel into the downtown and connect to the rest of the LRT network. The BRT (Bus Rapid Transit Service), currently in place in lieu of the LRT will be phased out. The feeder bus network will be planned in consultation with the communities.”

    Zweisystem replies: I really don’t care about Calgary, rather what I care about is the region I live in. Calgary is good example of first generation LRT, but we are in an era of third generation light rail and one of the keys for attracting ridership is a seamless journey. TransLink ‘patchwork’ planning, with forced transfers only deters ridership. In the end Mezz, you are defending TransLink and their inept and dated approach to transit planning.

  4. Paul C Says:

    On the issue of what we can afford it really is a mute point. Remember this line won’t even be started till at least 2015 at the minimum. Who knows what the financial situation will be by that time. Just because there is a lack of funds now doesn’t mean there will be then. Also the provincial and federal govt might chip in. There might be more sources of revenue by then. Maybe some body will finally realize that we need to toll all the bridges or maybe increase the fuel and parking taxes.

    As for the options all we can do is give out opinions on each one and wait for the next release when I feel there will be shorter list but things like stations and how each option will be built.

    Zweisystem replies: Problem is, if we can build LRT on Broadway for $20 million/km. to $25 million/km. we may see it much sooner than you think, but for a subway at $200 million/km., probably not in my lifetime.

  5. The Buzzer blog » A roundup of UBC Line blog posts and articles Says:

    […] Rail for the Valley, April 26 The Broadway Follies – TransLink does the Gong Show […]

  6. Benjamin Says:

    It’s legitimate to complain about TransLink, but in their defense, at least they’re thinking. It’s way better to put all options on the table and settle for the only feasible one, than say, well, let’s limit our vision by our wallet.

    Also, I don’t know where you got 15,000 pphpd for RRT (which incidentally is a good acronym, metro and subway imply underground while RRT could be at or above grade). 15,000 is max capacity, if you look at ridership projections for the Canada Line they were planning for an average of 5,000 pphpd.

    Finally, patchwork wise, consider this: a UBC line should connect to the existing Millennium line / future Evergreen line, giving us a 35 km east/west line from Arbutus or UBC to Coquitlam and beyond.

    Zweisystem replies: In the real world, transit tends to be built on a hierarchy – bus > LRT/tram > metro. Each mode operates economically at certain passenger levels. Buses up to about 6,000 pphpd; LRT/streetcar between 2,000 to 20,000 pphpd; and metro 15,000 pphpd +. In Vancouver, transit planners have pretended that LRT does not exist and planned for metro as LRT! This means huge construction/operating/debt servicing costs for our taxpayer and is the prime reason TransLink finds itself in fiscal peril.

    Why should the UBC line connect to the Millennium Line, as for the same cost of a SkyTrain metro (again I must remind everyone that SkyTrain was so designed to mitigate the costs of subway construction) we could build a Chilliwack to Vancouver/Richmond TramTrain, a new Fraser River Rail Bridge, TramTrain to Maple Ridge and White Rock and a BCIT to UBC and Stanley Park LRT/streetcar! Giving a potential 150 km UBC to Chilliwack LRT/TramTrain line!

    Also a reminder, i do not like the tram ‘rapid transit’ as a transit system is a rapid as it is designed to be. SkyTrain is faster because it has fewer stations than comparable LRT systems.

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