Light Rail on Broadway – The SkyTrain Lobby Ramps Up The Costs – BARSTA Fights Back


On June 22nd, at St. James Community Square 3214 West 10th Avenue at Trutch, a public meeting will take place concerning the building of ‘rail‘ transit on or under Broadway. What is of no great surprise, Translink has vastly ‘ramped’ up the cost for building modern light rail, with needless over-design. This is the tired old trick that plays so well in the Vancouver region, gold-plate a light rail project with so much needless engineering, that the costs of construction near that of its much more expensive cousin, light-metro (RAV & SkyTrain).

Elevating LRT greatly increases construction costs, taking away a major advantage of LRT over light-metro!

From a 2009 BARSTA (Business and Residents for Sustainable Transit Alternatives) document …….

……. which shows the cost of a VCC/Commercial Drive to UBC, streetcar costing $370.7 million yet LRT built on the same route would cost almost three times as much as $998.7 million or almost $1 billion!


The difference between LRT and a streetcar is the concept of the reserved rights-of-ways (RRoW) and priority signaling at intersections; then why an almost three-fold cost of construction for LRT?

Simple RRoW in Europe, denoted by colour and small curb.

The answer is simple; gross over-engineering by planners and engineers to artificially increase the cost of LRT to make it as expensive or more expensive than elevated SkyTrain or subway transit options! In other parts of the world, this is known a professional misconduct, but in Vancouver it is business as usual!

Vancouver already had a demonstration LRT line – it was of course, the temporary Olympic Line, which operated on a full RRoW, using two Bombardier Flexity tram cars, borrowed from a delivery to the Brussels tram system. It is the RRoW, which can be as simple as a high occupancy lane (HOV) with rails or as elaborate as the Arbutus Corridor, which allows modern light rail unfettered operation, with operational parameters on par with light-metro!

Lawned RRoW and modest LRT/tram station in Europe.

By using the concept of the RRoW, station/tram-stops every 500m to 600m, with priority signaling at intersections and using the current power-poles and span wires now used by the trolleybuses, we could keep the cost of of a VCC/Commercial Drive LRT under $450 million or just slightly more than a basic streetcar line! Or better yet, a UBC/BCIT/Stanley Park LRT, costing under $1 billion, which would offer even more convenient destinations for the transit customer and would offer a real alternative to the car!

The powers that be, just do not want modern LRT operating in Vancouver and continue to over-engineer and gold-plate light rail/streetcar projects to make them unaffordable and unattractive to politicians, taxpayers and residents.

Classic lawned RRoW!

The following is a quick primer for those advocating for modern light rail on Broadway.

  1. Capacity of modern LRT and streetcar/tram can exceed 20,000 persons per hour per direction.
  2. The capacity of a modern modular tram/LRT car now exceeds 350 persons.
  3. Modern LRT is 100% accessible for the mobility impaired without the need of expensive stations, elevators and escalators.
  4. Speed of a transit system is not the prime factor in attracting ridership, rather the overall ambiance, accessibility and ease of use are more important than speed. In fact it the the combination of many factors that attracts ridership to a public transit system.
  5. Priority signaling does not cause traffic gridlock at intersections. In fact, the light sequence for a tram/auto intersection  at an intersection is much less than an auto/auto light controlled intersection.
  6. Modern LRT/streetcar/tram is one of the safest public transit mode in the world.
  7. Transportation capacity on Broadway will be increased by about 18,000 pphpd, by using a LRT/tram in one traffic lane per direction.
  8. Businesses along a streetcar/LRT route see about a 10% increase in business.
  9. There will be substantial operating costs savings by using LRT/streetcar instead of buses. One modern tram (1 driver) is as efficient as 6 to 8 buses (6 to 8 drivers).
  10. Modern LRT is very flexible in operation and could carry freight, as in Dresden, operate vintage trams and streetcars, or be used by specialty operators like a dinner tram.
  11. There is no truth that by building LRT will take away curb parking for local merchants, this is a decision by Vancouver’s Engineering Department to scare away support for LRT.
  12. Tram stops would be between 500m to 600m apart as studies have shown that the greatest amount of ridership for a LRT system comes within 300m radius of a tram line.
  13. Signaling on a Broadway will be ‘line-of-sight’ with local signals for intersections/crosswalks; switches; and areas of limited visibility/ Line-of-sight greatly reduces the cost of installation.
  14. LRT/streetcar can maintain minimum headways (time between trains) of 30 seconds.
  15. A ‘peak-hour’ 3 minute LRT/tram service (20 trips per hour), with cars having a capacity of 250 persons, would offer an hourly capacity of 5,000 pphpd. Operating 2-cars in multiple units (no added driver) effectively doubles the capacity to 10,000 pphpd. A 2 minute headway (30 trips per hour), using 2 car sets would offer an hourly capacity of 15,000!

UBC Broadway Transit Community Meeting

“No Cambie Fiasco for Broadway and West 10th”

A meeting for residents & local business representatives from across our city:

  • Learn about sustainable alternatives for Broadway
  • Review current TransLink and City positions and policies
  • Make your voice heard about Broadway transit and the communities along it

7:00PM – 9:00 PM – Tuesday, June 22, 2010
St. James Community Square 3214 West 10th Avenue at Trutch

E-mail :

Contacts :
Mel Lehan, Director, West Kitsilano Residents Association :
Donna Dobo, Director, West Broadway Business Association :

A 54m Budapest 'Caterpillar' with a capacity of 350 persons

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