Archive for May, 2010

Come on TransLink, stop doing “TransLink Speak!”

May 31, 2010

TransLink just can’t help themselves, they just can’t give a straight story without embellishing the truth. Really, if TransLink wishes to improve their public relationship, just tell it as it is, not like a $150,000.00+ a year carney huckster!

The quote from the following story,

“Anytime you have any debris of any kind, no matter what the source, you don’t know what it might do,” he said, noting SkyTrain is already one of the few train systems in North America that has installed intrusion systems in rail tracks at platforms to alert oncoming trains if foreign objects fall onto the tracks.

fails to mention that all automatic (driverless) transit systems have anti intrusion alarms at stations, or better yet, platform gates, which only open when the train arrives at a station, to prevent passenger egress onto the tracks. Of course, light rail systems, which have drivers, don’t need such a system and older subways and metro have suicide pits where the rail is raised from the floor so a train passes over an object. SkyTrain which uses Linear Induction Motor’s for motive power and needs a centre reaction rail which makes it impossible to install a suicide pit.

SkyTrain’s anti-intrusion system at stations is a non story and has absolutely nothing to do with the main story of debris falling off a SkyTrain, fouling the line and derailing the next train to come along.

What has become an almost non-story, except for an eccentric few, has now become one of interest.

SkyTrain safe despite derailment: spokesman

By Cheryl Chan, The Province May 29, 2010

TransLink has quarantined one SkyTrain and moved up inspections on sister units after a dislodged brake from one train caused a second train to jump off the track last week.

The derailment, which occurred as the second train was going out of service at King George SkyTrain station, shut down a portion of the Expo Line track for several hours Wednesday afternoon.

No passengers were on board and no one was injured.

Doug Kelsey, president of B.C. Rapid Transit Co., said the company is still investigating what caused a brake caliper to break off from the first train, but that it has put measures in place to ensure passenger safety.

“We have quarantined the first train and inspected the whole fleet,” said Kelsey. “The rest are all running fine.”

All trains are inspected every six weeks, he said, but the inspection schedule of 36 other similar trains in the fleet has been bumped up to every three weeks “until we get a better read on things.”

The quarantined train has been in operation since 1996.

The second train was traveling at about three to five kilometres an hour when it hit the brake caliper.

It is the first derailment of a SkyTrain in 25 years.

Kelsey said debris is always a possibility on train tracks, as it is on roads or marine routes.

“Anytime you have any debris of any kind, no matter what the source, you don’t know what it might do,” he said, noting SkyTrain is already one of the few train systems in North America that has installed intrusion systems in rail tracks at platforms to alert oncoming trains if foreign objects fall onto the tracks.

No such system was in place where the derailment occurred because it was a no-passenger zone.

Kelsey said SkyTrain passengers shouldn’t be worried about their safety on board the trains.

“The system is absolutely safe,” he said. “We will investigate this and if there is anything that needs to change to make the trains safer, we’ll make sure that happens.”

SkyTrain Derails In Surrey – Is This The Shape Of Things To Come?

May 29, 2010

TransLink was very lucky that this accident happened at the end of the line in Surrey, with an apparently empty train. A brake caliper fell onto the track and was large enough to derail the next train that passed by. Here lies the Achilles heel of automatic transit systems, they can’t see obstructions on the track and proceed to hit them, sometimes with disastrous results.

TransLink is now operating a fleet of 25 year old vehicles and as with most older transit vehicles, if preventive maintenance is not done more frequently, this sort of thing will happen and with increasing regularity. This should be a wake up call for TransLink, that yes, SkyTrain is railway and derailments do happen and the older fleet of Mk.1 cars will need a more intensive maintenance schedule, which of course will raise operating costs and that is something the cash strapped TransLink doesn’t want .

And now a final niggle at TransLink, if this was LRT and if there was a driver, a piece of scrap metal large enough to derail a SkyTrain car, would have probably have been seen by the driver, who would have stopped the tram, preventing a derailment.

TransLink investigates SkyTrain derailment

By Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver Sun

May 28, 2010 3:02 PM

Canada’s gridlocked mayors call for multi-level strategy on transit

May 28, 2010

The following news item shows that the issue of public and regional transit and funding of transit is beginning to creep into the politicians radar. Throwing more money at transit will not solve very much as politicians have a very strange habit of funding their ‘pet‘ projects. The federal government can help by rewriting the ‘Railways Act’ to take into account their almost total monopoly over railway infrastructure, the vast majority of it paid for by the Canadian taxpayer. Small commuter-rail lines and the advent of the TramTrain, means that the national and regional railways must make available (by statute or contract) train pathways for such services on their rails.

RFV makes the following suggestions for Canada’s ‘gridlocked‘ mayors to make of the federal government.

  1. Mandate by law that railway companies must allow passenger/commuter rail/tramtrain service on their lines.
  2. Mandate by law that all disused or abandoned rail routes, in urban areas, are kept for ‘rail‘ transit use.
  3. Mandate by law a funding cap of $25 million/km. be placed on all road and rail transit projects; all costs above the funding cap must be approved by local referendum.
  4. Mandate by law a full and open independent review of all transit projects, which cost over $100 million.
  5. A review and implementation of new road and highway safety rules for railway crossings, with the onus placed on the auto driver to obey such rules.

Such laws in place in Canada would help curb the present mania for gold-plated transit projects so favoured by politicians and bureaucrats, as well leave open cheaper options for ‘rail‘ transit projects hitherto ignored in this country. We are nearing the precipice of ‘peak oil’ and ‘global warming’ and there will be a great need to utilize both existing railway lines and abandoned and disused rail lines. To prepare for the future, our politicos must act now.

Canada’s gridlocked mayors call for multi-level strategy on transit

By Mike De Souza, Canwest News Service
OTTAWA — Gridlock and lack of federal funding for public transit is jeopardizing Canada’s economic recovery, say mayors from across the country.

TransLink’s Ridership Numbers – Can They Be Trusted?

May 27, 2010

Several local blogs have trumpeted TransLink’s claim that March’s ridership is up over 19% from the same time last year.

Yet ‘Zwei’ has some nagging questions as to how TransLink counts transit ridership, especially on the metro system.

Back in BC Transit days, the transit agency proclaimed in annual news releases; “that ridership on the SkyTrain metro has increased by over 10%“, without giving actual ridership numbers. After a great deal of research, ‘Zwei’ found that the numbers claimed by BC Transit for SkyTrain’s ridership had no basis and in fact, were quite misleading. Unlike Calgary Transit’s light rail system, which counted actual (all) boardings three times a year, BC Transit counted partial boardings and relied mainly on estimating car loadings at key points along the line. Further information revealed that bureaucrats were counting 100 persons per full (MK1) SkyTrain vehicle, instead of the at capacity of 75 persons. Also, after finding some base numbers to work with, if one added 10% increases every year as BC Transit claimed, ridership would be on par with what TransLink claims today!

In conversation with a high ranking BC Transit bureaucrat at the time, I was told that; “No way could BC Transit count actual boardings three times a year, as we don’t have the manpower to do it.

Welcome to 2010.

The SkyTrain metro system is a very expensive operation and needs every cent it can get from TransLink’s farepool, to maintain and operate its ever expanding fleet of vehicles. TransLink has admitted that 80% of SkyTrain customers first use a bus to get to the metro, thus the fare pool share for SkyTrain must take in account this alarming number. Most fares are bought through agents such as grocery and convenience stores, thus revenue collected goes first into a farepool (or whatever you may wish to call it). If the SkyTrain bureaucrats still want to maintain the fairytale that SkyTrain pays its operating costs, it must get an increasing share of the farepool. By overstating ridership on the SkyTrain system, enables bureaucrats to get a larger share of TransLink’s farepool, with the result of robbing the buses of their rightful share of revenue.

TransLink is quite sensitive on the fare evasion issue and the installation of turnstiles; could it be that turnstiles, which are very good at counting ridership, will reveal that TransLink has greatly exaggerated ridership, while at the same time gave a impression of massive fare evasion? It’s too simple, if fare revenue is much less than claimed ridership numbers, then the only assumption is that of massive fare evasion!

Taking a portion of the farepool revenue is called apportioning fares.

With the Seabus, Canadian maritime law demands that exact boarding counts must be made for maritime safety, which was done by having customers pass through turnstiles.

The Canada Line, being a P-3 is even more revenue sensitive than SkyTrain and although it has laser style automatic passenger counters, TransLink doesn’t reveal that if those numbers are indeed the ones claimed for ridership purposes. If the automatic counters are not accurate and if are giving higher than real ridership figures, all is well as the Canada Line will receive more than its fair share from TransLink’s farepool. A nifty trick if you can get away with it.

Before we believe TransLink’s claims of increased ridership, the following questions must be asked:

  1. How is ridership counted on bus, Seabus, and the metro system? Are they full boarding counts?
  2. Is there an independent audit of ridership numbers done on an annual or bi annual basis?
  3. What are the annual fare evasion numbers? What percentage of ridership are they?
  4. What portion of the farepool is apportioned to bus; Seabus; the SkyTrain metro; the Canada line metro?
  5. Why will the provincial government not let BC’s Auditor General audit TransLink’s books?
  6. Are the Canada Line’s automatic passenger counters accurate? Has anyone audited their accuracy?

Before we invest any more money into the regions’ metro and bus system, the taxpayer must be assured that the transit system is giving good value for money. At present, all the public has is TransLink’s word for it and past experience dictate that TransLink’s word is not worth a plugged nickle. Just go and ask Susan Heyes!

SkyTrain service shut down between two Surrey stations

May 26, 2010

From the Vancouver Sun.

According to the SkyTrain Lobby, SkyTrain operates trouble free; well not today it seems.

SkyTrain service shut down between two Surrey stations

May 25, 2010

Bad Practise!

May 26, 2010

From David Cockle in the UK.

Some interesting video clips.

and a few more;

and the good practise.


The Failure To Understand Modern Light Rail = Public Transit Chaos

May 25, 2010

‘Zwei’ has been taken aback by the viciousness of the SkyTrain Lobby and the great lengths they have taken in discrediting the LRT, while at the same time refusing to acknowledge the marketing failure of the proprietary (ICTS/ALRT/ALM/ART ) light-metro system, known in Vancouver as SkyTrain.

‘Zwei’ is also taken aback by abject refusal by many supposed experts to take the time to clearly understand modern light rail and/or modern LRT philosophy,  instead treating it the same as a glorified bus or a poor-man’s metro.  As well, ‘Zwei is dumbfounded, by many of the same supposed transit experts who do not understand the fundamentals of transit and or rail operation, especially from a customers point of view. In Metro Vancouver, many planning bureaucrats abjectly refuse to acknowledge that  modern light rail is a very strong tool to mitigate congestion and pollution, which only exacerbates our regional transportation planning ennui.

A good example of not understanding ‘rail‘ operation are those who continue to pontificate that automatic transit systems have fewer employees, therefore cheaper to operate than light rail. This simplistic view is wrong and except when traffic flows are in the order of 20,000 pphpd or more, then there are noticeable cost savings in automatic operation. The notion that automatic metros can operate 24/7 is just that, a notion as driverless metro need daily ‘down time’ to adjust and check the signaling system for if something goes wrong, the driverless metro stops and until a real persons checks the system to see why the metro stopped and if it is safe to continue operation, will operation be started again.

Unlike LRT, with an on-board driver, automatic metros need a full complement of staff to operate at all hours to ensure the safety of passengers, on trains and in stations. Many LRT operations have service 24 hours a day and with the simplicity of the transit mode, very few staff are needed. Contrary to what many ‘bloggist’s’ post, modern light rail is much cheaper to operate than metro and driverless metro.

The hysterical wailings of those wishing grade separated transit systems also ignore the fact that moder LRT is one of the safest public transit modes in the world. The fact that SkyTrain has a higher annual death rate than comparable LRT operations is forgotten in their zeal to discredit modern trams. Yes, cars do crash into trams. Yes, car drivers do disobey stop signals and deliberately drive across tram lines in the path of an oncoming trams, with predictable results. Yet tram/LRT/streetcar road intersections are about ten times safer than a road – road intersection. In Europe, if a car driver ignores a stop signal and is in an accident with a tram, the car driver is heavily fined and may lose his right to drive. In Europe, autos seldom come to grief with a tram, as the legal consequences colliding with a tram is a strong deterrent.

The speed issue is another ‘man of straw’ argument as those who want SkyTrain. They bang the ‘speed‘ drum loudly proclaiming that SkyTrain is fast and speed trumps all in attracting ridership. Speed of ones journey is just one facet of the many reasons why people opt to take public transit. What is true, it is that the overall ambiance and convenience of a ‘rail‘ transit system has proven more important attracting new ridership. Contrary to what many believe, elevated and underground transit stations tend to deter ridership. The speed issue is a non-issue and fact is, if the Vancouver to Chilliwack tramtrain comes into operation, it will have a much faster commercial speed than SkyTrain, yet Zwei would never make the claim that tramtrain would be better because it was faster!

Studies have shown (Hass-Klau Bus or Light Rail, Making The right Choice) that in urban areas the most beneficial distance between transit stops is 450m to 600m and with any greater distances between stops tends to deter ridership and stops closer than 450m tend to be too slow. Those want a fast subway under Broadway are commuting from the far reaches of the SkyTrain and or bus network and one would question why they would live so far away to commute to UBC, if they are at all?

In the real world, transit systems are designed and built to economically move people, not so in Vancouver where transit is built to cater to the needs of land use, thus we continue to build hugely expensive metro lines on low ridership routes (for metro), where selected property owners make windfall profits from up-zoning residential properties to higher density condos and apartments. This is a ‘fools paradise’, because we are spending up to ten times more to install a metro on transit routes that don’t have the ridership to sustain a metro, while at the same time failing upgrade many bus routes to LRT to cater to higher passenger flows, which now demand greater operational economies. Much needed transit upgrades and improvements in the region go wanting to fulfill the extremely expensive and questionable SkyTrain/land use dream on only a few routes.

The failure to understand modern light rail is leading the region into a massive financial black hole, by continually building extremely expensive metro while at the same time treating LRT as a yesterday’s transit mode. Today, Vancouver’s transit fares are some of the highest in North America and fares will continue to rise, largely in part due to SkyTrain and light-metro. TransLink will continue to be in financial peril if planning bureaucrats continues to plan and build with metro on the Evergreen Line and the Broadway subway.

Modern light rail has been crafted, with over 125 years of public transit experience, to fulfill  human transit and transportation needs, unlike our automatic SkyTrain light metro, which original design and selling point was to mitigate the massive costs of heavy-rail metro in an age before modern LRT. To put SkyTrain in a subway is an oxymoron and demonstrates the modes proponents gross ignorance of transit history; to continue to build SkyTrain on routes that do not have the ridership to sustain metro demonstrates complete fiscal irresponsibility.

As Zweisystem has always observed, “Those who fail to read public transit history are doomed to make the same very expensive mistakes.”

The failure to understand the role of modern LRT, streetcars and trams, will lead the region into transit and transportation chaos, where the much needed ‘rail‘ network will be but patches of expensive politically prestigious metro lines linked by buses: impractical, unsustainable, and fool-hardy.

Chaleroi light-metro station - Too expensive to complete and never used!

Broadway Transit meeting – June 22

May 21, 2010

Business and Residents Association for Sustainable Alternative Transport re:

Broadway and w 10th proposed Translink
Community meeting on June 22nd 7.30 P.M.

St. James Community Centre, West 10th Ave and Trutch.

Speakers include  Patrick Condon of UBC
Mel Lehan, local NDP candidate and comm. organizer.

All welcome

The 1986 LRTA Study: Bus – LRT – Metro Comparison

May 20, 2010

A Vienna tram on a simple reserved rights-of-way.

The following is from the Light Rail Transit Associations hand book Light Rail Transit Today, comparing the operating parameters of bus, light rail, and metro on an unimpeded 8 kilometre route with stations every 450 metres. Using real data based on acceleration, deceleration, dwell time, etc., the study gives real time information for the three transit modes.

Please note: This study has been abridged for brevity and clarity.

The study assumes a vehicle capacity for a bus at 90 persons; LRT 240 persons (running in multiple unit doubles capacity); and metro at 1000 persons.

The time to over the 8 km. route would be:

  1. Bus – 22.4 minutes
  2. LRT – 18 .6 minutes
  3. Metro – 16.3 minutes

The Round trip time, including a 5 minute layover:

  1. Bus – 54.8 minutes
  2. LRT – 47.2 minutes
  3. Metro – 42.6 minutes

The comparative frequency of service in relation to passenger flows would be:

At 2,000 persons per hour per direction:

  1. Bus – 2.7 minute headways, with 22 trips.
  2. LRT – 7.5  minute headways, with 8 trips.
  3. LRT (2-car) – 15 minute headways, with 4 trips.
  4. Metro – 30 minute headways, with 2 trips.

At 6,000 pphpd:

  1. 1 Bus – 0.9 minute headways, with 67 trips.
  2. LRT – 2.4 minute headways, with 17 trips.
  3. LRT (2-car) – 4.8 minutes, with 13 trips.
  4. Metro – 10 minute headways with 6 trips.

At 10,000 pphpd:

  1. Bus – 30 second headways, with 111 trips (traffic flows above 10,000 pphpd impractical).
  2. LRT – 1.4 minute headways, with 42 trips.
  3. LRT (2 car) – 2.8 minute headways, 21 trips
  4. Metro – 6 minute headways, 10 trips.

At 20,000 pphpd:

  1. LRT – 0.7 minute headways, with 83 trips.
  2. LRT (2 car) – 1.4 minute headways, with 42 trips.
  3. Metro – 3 minute headways, with 20 trips.

Comparative Staff Requirements on vehicles in relation to passenger flows. Station staff in brackets ().

At 2,000 pphpd:

  1. Bus – 21 (0)
  2. LRT – 7 (0)
  3. LRT (2 car) – 4 (0)
  4. metro – 2 (up to 38)

At 6,000 pphpd:

  1. Bus – 61 (0)
  2. LRT – 20 (0)
  3. LRT (2 car) – 10 (0)
  4. Metro – 5 (up to 38)

At 10,000 pphpd:

  1. Bus – 110 (traffic flows above 10,000 pphpd impractical) (0).
  2. LRT – 34 (0)
  3. LRT (2 car) – 17 (0)
  4. Metro – 8 (up to 38)

At 20,000 pphpd:

  1. LRT – 69 (0)
  2. LRT (2 car) – 34 (0)
  3. Metro – 15 (up to 38)

Though the study is 24 years old and completed before the advent of low-floor trams (which decreased dwell times), it still give a good comparison of employee needs for each mode. Metro’s, especially automatic metro systems do require a much larger  maintenance staff than for bus or LRT and when one factors in the added high cost of subway or viaduct construction plus higher operational costs, Metro only become a viable proposition when traffic flows exceed 16,000 pphpd to 20,000 pphpd on a transit route. 

Claims from other blogs that automatic metros can operate more frequent headways than LRT are untrue; automatic metros can not operate at higher frequencies than LRT, but if Metro is operated at close headways in times of low traffic flows, they do so with a penalty in higher maintenance costs and operational costs.

Taking into account the almost universal use of low-floor trams, operating in reserved rights-of-ways, combined with advances in safe signal priority at intersections; given an identical transit route with equal stations or stops, LRT operating on the surface (on-street) would be just as fast as a metro operating either elevated or in a subway at a fraction of the overall cost grade separated RoW’s. Also,  automatic (driverless) metros, though not having drivers have attendants and station staff, which negate any claim that automatic metros use less staff than light rail.

The LRTA study does give good evidence why LRT has made light-metros such a as SkyTrain and VAL obsolete.

A Poll That the Main Stream Media Ignored. Can We Expect The Same For Other Non SkyTrain ‘Rail’ Projects?

May 19, 2010

A very strange thing happened yesterday with ‘Zwei’. When I was discussing a transit matter with an US transit type about the RAV/Canada line. He told me that TransLink officials claimed that over 80% of Vancouverites supported RAV and if it were not for the high costs of the metro, many more metro type transit systems would have been built in the USA.

I replied that “Well no; TransLink likes to claim 80% support, but their polling results are questionable.”

I have dug up the following 2004 contrary poll from Robbins Research and emailed it to him and I thought it should be posted on RFV as well. What is interesting is that there is such a wide gap between this poll and TransLink’s claims.

With the Broadway Follies now in full swing, it must be remembered that what TransLink claims, isn’t necessarily true and that we should treat what TransLink or Vancouver City bureaucrats claim about public support for SkyTrain, the RAV/Canada Line and the upcoming  SkyTrain Broadway ‘Rapid Transit’ Line as we would treat a Nigerian Email.

What the SkyTrain lobby really wants.

From Robbins Sce Research

A random sample of 405 Vancouverites on May 14, 2004, It features a margin or error of 4.2%, 18 times out of 20, @97% competency.
Question #1Recently, the Board of Directors of Translink voted down RAV, with the opposing votes claiming that it was too costly, and that it may ultimately overburden taxpayers. Do you agree with THIS opposition to RAV?

Yes    72.6 %
No    27.4 %
Question #2Would you regularly use light rapid transit between Vancouver-Richmond and/or the Vancouver Airport?

Yes    35.3 %
No    64.7 %
Question #3How likely would you be to EVER use a light rapid transit means of transportation between Vancouver/Richmond and/or the Vancouver Airport?

Very Likely    33.6 %
Likely    10.7 %
Not very likely at all    55.8 %
Question #4The Vancouver Board of Trade, The BC Business Council, Premier Gordon Campbell, and Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon are all demanding that the Translink Board reconsider their vote on RAV. Mayor Larry Campbell voted for RAV, Vancouver City Councilors David Cadman and Raymond Louie voted against the proposed RAV. Whose position do you agree with?

Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell    31.4 %
Vancouver Councilors David Cadman and Raymond Louie    68.7 %
Question #5In your opinion, what direction should Translink now take with respect to light rapid transit between Vancouver-Richmond and the Vancouver Airport?

Scrap the whole concept, we don’t really need it and its all too expensive    14.9 %
We should construct light rapid transit between Vancouver Richmond and the Airport for under 1 billion dollars with NO cost overruns to be born by the taxpayer    81.8 %
We should construct the original RAV line for between 1.5 billion and 2 billion dollars just as was planned    3.5 %


Commentary-No matter how you choose to look at the light rapid transit issue between Vancouver Richmond and the Airport, it is clear that the original ‘Cadillac’ RAV must be kept off the table for ever. Its too expensive, and taxpayers do not want to be exposed to additional taxes owing to cost overruns.
It is obvious there is a need to light rapid transit to the airport; however it remains interesting how many respondents who said they would use RAV want to know what they would do with their luggage. This is the same question which was raised by Airport workers in a previous poll of Richmond residents.
Media coverage of last week’s ‘losers’ on the RAV vote, including Surrey Mayor and Translink Chair Doug McCallum, Vancouver Board of Trade and BC Business Council representatives, Rezac and Lampert, Premier Gordon Campbell and Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon, complaining about the outcome is becoming very offensive to right thinking British Columbians. It is abundantly clear that these individuals are not thinking in the interests of the citizens they purport to represent, or in the case of the two special interest representatives, ANY voting citizens.
Why do the media persist in speaking to special interest groups on subjects that those groups or organizations have no democratic interest in? I put the same criticism on the Canadian Taxpayers Association debating with H.E.U. members. This RAV debate if not modified to a dialogue that makes sense to the voter, and the consumer, runs the risk of further turning this province into a political Ozark. Mr. Falcon’s comments that 80% of the public want RAV are dishonest.