Notes on – Broadway merchants want light rail not SkyTrain down business corridor – meeting


A few thoughts on Tuesdays meeting put on by BARSTA regarding transit issues on Broadway or what Zweisystem calls the ‘Broadway Follies’.

First though a comment on Vancouver’s pedestrians; my god does anyone in Vancouver, including pedestrians and cyclists obey the rules of the road? Driving in Vancouver reminded me of some sort of perverted pinball game were people blindly walk across the street against the prevailing road signals. No fewer than five intersections on Tuesday did pedestrians (including one matron with a pram) attempted to cross the street on a red light. This is pure suicide, yet it seems to have become everyday practice in Vancouver.

It was nice to meet the feisty Susan Heyes, who took on TransLink over cut-and cover construction and won. Also it was good to meet Patrick Condon, Vancouver’s streetcar man, who explained to ‘Zwei’ how he did his study and ‘Zwei’ was impressed. Stephen Rees is always worth the price of admission, as he knows the transit game in the Metro area so well.

The panel did their shtick and the audience were very receptive about light rail/streetcar. There were a few die-hard SkyTrain supporters in the audience and the three most notable were:

  1. An older lady who wanted much higher density along Broadway, for what ends, she did not elaborate.
  2. A UBC student who wanted a ‘fast’ subway so he could commute from Coquitlam to UBC to save money by not renting closer to the university.
  3. A lady who claimed she lived on Cambie St., sang hosannas about the Canada Line and then stormed out of the meeting and drove away!

Donna Dobo and BARSTA have done their homework and with the panel on Tuesday night, are well advised on the issue. I will offer the following unsolicited comments:

  1. DO NOT get involved with the ‘free transit’ debate as it doesn’t work. It has been tried elsewhere and has failed miserably in attracting the motorist from the car.
  2. BRT or bus rapid transit costs more to operate and only slightly less costly to build than LRT. BRT systems seem to failed to attract the all important motorist from the car.
  3. Do not let city engineers get their way and take off parking on Broadway. All this means, for all their hype and hoopla, is that their transit planning concedes that they will not attract car drivers to transit.
  4. All new LRT lines being built also involve traffic calming, either passive or active, reducing auto capacity on Broadway is passive auto calming.
  5. The speed issue for transit is a non issue as all transit lines are as fast as they are designed to be. Because a surface LRT system will have stops every 500m to 600m versus a subway with stops every KM. or so, the commercial speed of LRT will be about 10 kph slower than metro.
  6. If a subway is built, electric trolley buses on Broadway will be replaces by smelly and health threatening diesel buses. Diesel particulate is a carcinogen.
  7. Unless the Broadway subway is built to regular heavy rail subway standards, the capacity of a SkyTrain subway and LRT would be about the same.
  8. City staff should really try to educate themselves on light rail, I continue to be absolutely appalled by city planners and engineers who are absolutely clueless on the subject, despite modern light rail being the most popular form of ‘rail‘ transit in the world.

Also sad to say is the the so-called intelligentsia at UBC still carry on with their puerile anti-LRT stance and still treat professors who champion cheaper and just efficient light rail as some latter day Luddites. It’s a sad statement on an institution which, it seems, has lost its way.

In conversation with the intrepid Susan Heyes, it seems through her research, the real cost of the RAV/Canada Line to date is about $2.8 billion – not including compensation or court cases. Also, it seems several people were quietly compensated by TransLink over RAV/Canada line construction, but somehow, their names have been blanked out on documents received from (not so) Freedom of Information!

An interesting night, a full house bodes well for BARSTA’s efforts in the future!

For the original news article:


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

9 Responses to “Notes on – Broadway merchants want light rail not SkyTrain down business corridor – meeting”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    If you propose that a street level LRT will exist on Broadway, but not take away parking lanes, where will it go?

    A dual-tracked system plus stations will take away more than 2 lanes of traffic. That is simply not feasible.

    Zweisystem replies: Sorry, you are wrong, LRT is a perfect fir for Broadway.

  2. Donna Dobo, Director WBBA Says:

    For the record:
    West Broadway businesses have voted in favour of surface, electric transit transit with stops every 500 to 600 metres, for the proposed UBC line. We will not survive if we can not be seen.

    There may be a number of possible technologies that fit. A modern Euro tram is one of them. We are concerned that Translink is studying a heavier version of light rail that is more than we need, is the wrong scale for the neighbourhood, and more expensive than necessary. Whatever technology is chosen there must be a plan to assist the businesses to survive the construction phase.

    Thank you to Rail for the Valley for ongoing coverage on this issue that is vital to sustainable neighbourhoods.

  3. Alex MacKinnon Says:

    Ms. Dobo, generally what you’re referring to as a Euro-tram is called a streetcar; and light rail is just generally called light rail.

    I’m rather interest in what portions of light rail you think are too heavy for the Broadway corridor. Pretty much everyone here is looking for some form of separation from traffic; Zweisystem included.

    Almost everyone is looking for some form of signal priority, and a decently sized platform to load from, be it on a center island or on the curb lane.

    Translink has pretty much put all these options in a yes/no format in all the consultations I’ve gone to. What features are the WBBA explicitly concerned about?

    Zwei, I would really like to talk to you at one of these open houses, or even over a cup of coffee. The internet really doesn’t work all that well for back and forth debate.

    Zweisystem replies: In Europe, the term tram encompasses what we call light rail and streetcar. In North America, planners have morphed LRT into something else, light-metro, which is now considered obsolete in Europe (except for a few proprietary transit systems). What is called LRT here is known as pre-metro in Belgium or S-bahn in Germany.

    Again, what really separates LRT from a streetcar is the concept of the reserved rights-of-way (not to be confused with a grade separated RoW) and signal priority at intersections. Signal priority at intersections is not new as most heavily used intersections have a form of signal priority today and of course emergency vehicles can pre-empty traffic signals as well. Signal priority for trams is just a no biggy!

    The SkyTrain/LRT debate can be simplifies to just this: Those wanting a SkyTrain metro are long distance commuters who want a fast (read limited stations) metro to UBC, versus LRT which want an improved on-street service, which one gets with trams. The question should be more basic: “What are the average traffic flows on Broadway? Over 2,000 pphpd – consider LRT; over 15,000 pphpd – consider a metro. That’s how its done in the real world.

  4. Broadway Skeptic Says:

    It appears to me that nobody has explained to BARSTA that digging up Broadway to put rails on the surface is equally as disruptive as digging up Broadway to put rails in a tunnel. Whichever type of system you install, you’ll be digging up the street to move power conduits, sewer lines, water lines, cable conduits, natural gas lines, Telus conduits (I know I’m forgetting something) so they aren’t under the tracks or in the way of the tunnels.

    Thats before any actual surface rail or rail tunnel construction happens.

    If you’re building surface tracks, the street gets dug to a depth of around 10 feet to build the required structure for the tracks and signalling system. If you’re building tunnels, you’re now digging down 30, 40, 50 feet or more to build the tunnel and then covering it up again (a la Cambie). In either case, you have months of construction equipment and supplies on the street and sidewalk, no on-street parking, and no stopping in construction zones (other than the buses which will still be running).

    Since the street is being torn up, you will get the “While we’re doing this, can we also ….” suggestions:

    a) add /remove /relocate the trees
    b) add/ remove street parking
    c) add /remove /relocate bus stops
    d) add /remove /relocate truck loading zones
    e) widen / narrow / straighten / level out the sidewalks
    f) add /remove /relocate pedestrian crossings
    g) add /remove traffic lights and/or left-turn lanes
    h) add /remove /relocate the rush-hour Diamond Lanes
    I) add /remove /relocate Bike Lanes

    which add to the cost & add extra time to finish the project.
    (all 77 blocks of it)

    Look how long it took to re-surface 10 blocks of Granville street.
    This didn’t require major moves of power conduits, sewer lines, water lines, cable conduits, natural gas lines &tc. to make way for tracks on Granville either: Just new sidewalks, curbs and asphalt. And some granite accents, new benches & tables and some fancy lighting.
    The new trolley wires are still being installed, but the trolleys won’t be back on Granville until September (I think) – four years after they were bumped to Seymour and Howe because of the subway stations being built at Hastings-Cordova and Georgia-Robson. At least the new bus shelters are ready to be used whenever the trolleys show up again on Granville.

    Zweisystem replies: Actually no, on-street LRT construction can be quite fast, yes the street will be dug up, but only for a few weeks in front of any one business. construction would mostly be at night and progress at about 40m to 50m a night. Where switches are located or custom made curves a little longer. Do not forget, the foundation is already there for LRT, the span-wires for the electrics are already there, it is just laying the track down a rather straight route.

    Zwei has been told that a BCIT to UBC LRT could be in operation within 2 years, or about 1 1/2 years less than what Susan Heyes and her neighbours had to put up with a trench in front of their place of business!

    The key for fast construction is not include City of Vancouver Engineers, nor TransLink.

  5. Broadway Skeptic Says:

    >> Zweisystem replies: Sorry, you are wrong, LRT is a perfect fir for Broadway.

    So with a wave of your hand and a dismissive sniff, you DON’T actually answer the question of where on-street parking will go when the LRT takes up two or three existing lanes of Broadway.

    Zweisystem replies: First what are the traffic flows? Is average transit traffic flow on Broadway 15,000 pphpd or more? If so then a subway is needed, if the traffic flows are under, LRT is the better bet. As for the traffic, you reduce it by one traffic lane per direction, that is called traffic calming.

  6. zweisystem Says:

    May I remind everyone about this post.

  7. Broadway Skeptic Says:

    >> on-street LRT construction can be quite fast, yes the street will be dug up, but only for a few weeks in front of any one business. construction would mostly be at night and progress at about 40m to 50m a night.

    If new LRT construction is so fast and easy, why did the St Clair rebuild in Toronto take so long? From what I’ve been told, 6 KMs of rail took five years of construction.

    Zweisystem replies: As Justin Bernard so simply put it, The St. Clair Ave. was a road project, not a LRT project.

  8. Kenny Wu Says:

    Could you please name all these experts you name? You always claim that “[you]’ve been told,” but it’s very hard to trust the numbers you throw around if you can’t source them.

    Zweisystem replies: Most of the experts that I have talked to have worked in the field of public transport for a long time, Gerald Fox, David Cockle, John Jordan are just three of the many I have chatted or communicated with. Then there are the experts whose studies I have obtained and read, including Professor of Public Transport Carmen Hass-Klau (I also have her 4 studies starting with Bus or Light Rail – Making the Right Choice) and Lyndon Henry (Light Rail Now Fame). There are hundreds of letters and emails from various transit concerns updating myself, etc. on current transit trends. And finally I have been a 25 year member of the Light Rail Transit Association, which despite the name, investigates the many facets of public transportation. Combined, I have a rich resource in modern public transport.

  9. bulleid35028 Says:

    I get a distinct feeling of disquiet, reading many of the comments on the RftV Blog.
    Zwei has more than explained the advantages and benefits of LIGHT Rail, LIGHT Rapid Transit, Trams or Streetcars in the context of Transit Orientated Development, Transport Modal Shift, Congestion Reduction and internal combustion engine pollution generated reduction.
    Yet Vancouverite’s still have not grasped that:
    a) European & US cities have successfully introduced and expanded Light Rail systems that have answered all the criticisms voiced on the Blog regarding the capability, practicality and fitness of the mode.
    b) Introduction & development of a street-level Light Rail/Tram system in the city will provide a economic & reliable alternative to private car use, a modal shift to Light Rail of 30%+ will bring about a reduction of car use and the prophesy’s of the doom mongers for grid-lock on Broadway will shown for what they are scare tactics spread by the automobile & oil lobby
    Wise-up guys, come out of your cotton wool lined silos and visit:
    Alleghney, Augsburg, Berlin, Brussels, Budapest, Charlotte, Croydon, Dallas, Den Haag, Houston, Istanbul, Kassel, Karlsruhe, Madrid, Manchester, Nantes, Nottingham, Pittsburg, St.Louis, and Zurich.
    Do they know something that Vancouver doesn’t? or do they have a practical vision of the future?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: