Questions: What density is needed for ‘Rail’ Transit? Does Anyone Really Know?

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Simple questions today folks. Over the past few weeks the ugly question of density has been rearing its ugly head in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley concerning transit. Vancouver council is considering major density increases for Cambie Street because it has the Canada line mini-metro and the same treatment is expected for Broadway if ‘rail‘ transit is built. So here we go; if the powers that be say “we don’t have the density for rapid transit“, then what density is needed to sustain it? One just can’t say “we don’t have enough density, when one doesn’t know what density is needed.”

Also, if modern LRT/streetcar can be built for up to one half to one tenth the cost of a metro, then is the density needed to sustain LRT/streetcar one half to one tenth of that needed for a SkyTrain subway?

Could it be that no one knows the answer and the question of density is an urban myth, used both by bureaucrats and politicians to stop any chance of building with LRT/streetcar and an excuse to up-zone residential properties, giving windfall profits to a selected few, mainly wealthy friends of the government?

If we do not know what density is needed to sustain a transit mode, how then can anyone say we don’t have the density for that particular mode?

Would a simple LRT/streetcar line on Broadway, forgo the need for massive densification needed to sustain a metro? Are property deals already being made on Broadway on the basis of a SkyTrain subway?

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One Response to “Questions: What density is needed for ‘Rail’ Transit? Does Anyone Really Know?”

  1. Michael Says:

    The problem is that people here see it all individually, Subway / LRT / Buses

    All of these need to work in concert. You use buses to ferry people into the lower density areas, run LRT etc. in the medium density corridors (which Broadway already is) and use Subways etc. for high density / transit corridors.

    This is usually also reflected in the way stops are organized. Buses have more frequent stops than LRT which stops more frequently than the Subway.

    Until people stop thinking that only ONE mode is right this mess will continue.

    Zweisystem replies: Actually in Europe, trams and buses have stops between 400m to 600m. I have always said that when traffic flows on a transit line exceed 15,000 pphpd then a metro should be considered. We do not have traffic flows on any route in Vancouver that actually will sustain a metro. The density question that I posed is in reply to the old cliché, “We don’t have the density for rapid transit.” Thus if we don’t have the density for rapid transit, what density do we need? This is a question no one in authority has answered.

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