Archive for July, 2010

More Tram Videos

July 30, 2010

Thank you for blog reader, David Cockle, for more European tram movies!






Croydon Tramlink.











Tram Berlin Linie M13 KT4D Warschauer Str. – Virchow Klinikum 4/7

July 29, 2010

The next four U-Tube Videos in the series.

What we see is classic European tram operation where the tram operates as:

  1. A streetcar, operating on-street in mixed traffic.
  2. Light Rail, operating on various Reserved Rights-of -Ways

Included in video #4 is a “Gauntlet” style switch.

Video #5 shows operation on RRoW and a “Gauntlet”  track crossing of a road bridge.

Video #6 shows much lawned rights-of-ways along tree line boulevards.

Finally video #7 completes our journey on Line M13. Watch for the loop at the end.

Tram Berlin Linie M13 KT4D Warschauer Str. – Virchow Klinikum 1/7

July 28, 2010

This video from U-Tube shows a classic European tramways, which operates on-street and on reserved rights-of-ways, including simple HOV lane style of RRoW. Please note the simple (traffic light) style signaling at intersections and the various styles of RRoWs.

Streetcar/LRT has the flexibility to operate in almost all urban conditions, affordabley and efficiently, a lesson that the TransLink planning mandarins refuse to accept.

And the second ‘tube‘ in the series.

Now the third ‘tube‘ in the series.

Rail ‘creates more jobs than road transport’

July 27, 2010


An interesting article from RailNews UK.

Rail ‘creates more jobs than road transport’

MORE jobs would be created
by reducing car use and encouraging a switch to rail travel, according to a new report.

The findings. commissioned by pteg, the Campaign for Better Transport and Sustrans from researchers Ekosgen, show that 100 direct rail jobs support 140 ‘indirect and induced’ jobs, while 100 direct motor industry jobs support only 48 other jobs.

The conclusion is also supported by evidence from the United States that investing in public transport creates twice as many jobs than investing in roads.

The report goes on to say: ‘It is widely accepted that sustainable transport is at the heart of tackling congestion, in delivering important international  commitments on climate change and bringing about the change to a low carbon economy.  In addition this research firmly demonstrates that the sustainable transport sector also employs significant numbers of people (estimated at almost half a million jobs) which can make an important contribution to the economic recovery and growth.’

Stephen Joseph, who is the director of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: ‘This report clearly shows for the first time that sustainable transport industries are major employers and are in fact on some measures more  important to the overall economy than the motor industry. Investment in sustainable transport can support the low carbon industries the  Government says it wants to encourage. In deciding its spending priorities, the Government must learn the lessons from other countries, where consistent long term investment in rail and bus has supported domestic manufacturing industries providing skilled jobs.’

A Cost Comparison of Transportation Modes. A study worth looking at.

July 26, 2010

Inekon/Skoda tram or streetcar.

The following study is well worth a look as it dispels many currents myths about transit, especially the SkyTrain light-metro system.

Zwei’ notes that Professor Condon has fallen into the light rail/streetcar trap. The difference between LRT and a streetcar is the quality of rights-of-way, where a streetcar operates on-street in mixed traffic, with little or no signal priority at intersections, while LRT is a streetcar that operates on a ‘reserved rights-of-way’ (RRoW), which is a a route reserved exclusively for a streetcar or tram and with signal priority at intersections. A RRoW can be as simple as a HOV lane with rails or as complex as a lawned boulevard RoW such as the Arbutus corridor. When a streetcar/tram operates on a grade separated RoW such as elevated on a viaduct or in a subway, in fact becomes a metro!

Until academics, transit planners and bureaucrats start understanding that modern LRT/streetcar a independent transit mode that is built to provide different and unique transit solutions different from that of a metro and is not a poor-man’s SkyTrain, we will get the same monotonous, expensive and unworkable  metro only planning that the region has suffered for the past three decades.


A Cost Comparison of Transportation Modes

Professor Patrick M. Condon, Kari Dow

Islanders ignore fiscal realities as they rail to save decrepit E&N – Has anyone planned for TramTrain

July 23, 2010
The following item from the Vancouver Sun, is one of the most ill researched pieces of anti-rail nonsense I have seen in a long while. Mr. Palmer demonstrates his total lack of knowledge of ‘rail‘ transport and loudly supports the government line of not investing in the E&N Railway. It is so sad that the state of BC’s journalism concerning ‘rail‘ transit is so dismal.
What is obvious is that the BC government has greatly extended itself financially on vote getting projects like a retractable roof on BC, Place or spending $1.5 billion more for a truncated subway line instead of LRT for the RAV/Canada Line, or the needless multi-billion dollar ‘Gateway‘ Highways project, and just doesn’t want to deal with the E&N Railway. There is not enough Liberal support on Vancouver island to warrant any investment, which in turn, may lead to a Liberal rout in the next election.
At an estimated upfront cost as high as $168 million in current dollars plus a subsidy of $3.5 million a year, commuter rail would not qualify as a low-budget option” is chump change for ‘rail’ transit projects in BC. Compare a $3.5 million annual E & N subsidy to SkyTrain’s annual provincial subsidy of $230 million or $168 million cost to rehabilitate the E & N with the gold-plated $1.4 billion, plus, Evergreen Line.
According to Susan Heyes research, the real cost of the RAV/Canada Line has now believed to have exceeded $2.8 billion and  the cost to bring the RAV/Canada Line operation on par with LRT (the scope of the project was greatly reduced as the project was rocketing over budget), would need an investment of $1 billion to $2 billion more, yet the mainstream media remains quiet on more expensive transportation fiascoes in the province! The cost of the needless $140 million SkyTrain faregate/turnstile project would almost pay for the rehabilitation of the E & N railway!
Mr. Palmer continues with his tired anti-rail rhetoric, “Then, too, the line has some 240 level crossings each a recipe for accidents, service interruptions, lawsuits and soaring insurance “, ignores the fact that most of the level crossings are protected by lights and are safer than traffic intersections with no light control at all! Of course, there are thousands of such road intersections on the island that are also each “a recipe for accidents, service interruptions, lawsuits, and soaring insurance“! If one follows Mr. Palmer’s logic, he would have us abandon all roads, except divided highways!
In the rest of the world, railway tourism is very big and will draw many local and international tourists, but if the product is poorly maintained or lacks a draw like operating ‘live steam’ trains, the knowledgeable tourist will give it a pass.
What is needed for the E & N is an independent review of the railway, not a government orchestrated ‘kiss of death’. A TramTrain operation on part or all of the line could just be the tonic needed to get the grand old lady, the E & N Railway, back on firm fiscal ground. Maybe upcoming news about the RFV Vancouver to Chilliwack interurban may give impetuous for a rethink on the E & N. In fact, the government needs a complete rethink on ‘rail‘ transport, as the Department of Transportation and the Minister responsible, seem to be firmly stuck in the 19th century!
As for the mainstream media, they constantly embarrass themselves when they report on ‘rail‘ news and badly need to take a primer on modern ‘rail’ transport, including tourist trains, TramTrain, and more, lest they become nothing more than shills, rubber stamping  propaganda from a largely discredited government, which is desperately spending the taxpayers money on multi billion dollar, voter friendly, mega-projects in the Metro Vancouver area.

Islanders ignore fiscal realities as they rail to save decrepit E&N

By Vaughn Palmer, Vancouver Sun

July 22, 2010

The B.C. Liberal government decision last week not to spend tens of millions of dollars on a rescue of the decrepit E&N railway brought an angry if predictable reaction in the provincial capital region.

An insult. A stark contrast to hefty funding elsewhere in the province. The government doesn’t spend nearly enough on transportation on Vancouver Island.

The previous New Democratic Party government spent $1 billion on a new Island Highway. And as residents of the southern Interior have noted, it was toll-free, unlike the Coquihalla Highway for the first 20 years of its existence.

In its current term, the government has seen a massive expenditure on capital construction for ferries and terminals, plus more than $1 billion in direct subsidies for the ferry service.

But as we say on the Island — I’ve lived here for most of three decades — “what have they done for us lately?”

Still, judging from the series of reports released by the government in support of its decision, it is hard to make the case that an E&N makeover would be the best use of public infrastructure dollars on the Island.

The line, 125 years old and neglected for decades, is in wretched shape. A third of the ties are already defective; many others are rotting their way to imminent ruin. “The bulk of the rail joints are in poor condition and not in compliance with the regulations.”

Some of the signalling equipment is so out of date, spare parts can no longer be purchased. (Rummage sales?) Plus, sad to say, “most frogs need grinding.” (Love that railway jargon).

More serious, from a standpoint of long-term reliability, “some bridges date back before the corridor and were reassembled here after being in service elsewhere in Canada in the 1800s.” (!)

Note that the government-funded stock-taking on the line did not include a seismic review. Maybe there are some instances where it is better not to know the true state of affairs.

Then, too, the line has some 240 level crossings, each a recipe for accidents, service interruptions, lawsuits and soaring insurance premiums. “Injury damage awards have been high, particularly for long-term debilitating injuries.”

In sum, without significant investment in upkeep, “the line will become inoperable.” Figure $70 million to maintain the status quo, between $200 million and $300 million if service is to be expanded. But the prospects for expanded utilization are, at best, iffy.

Freight? Current volumes on the line amount to about three carloads a day. The most likely prospect for growth would necessitate persuading industry, mainly the troubled forest sector, to switch back to rail from trucks.

Tourism? “Major tour group operators often did not view the Victoria-based tourist train as a high-profile enough rail excursion to include in their itineraries.”

Passengers? The line averages fewer than 300 trips per day at peak season, a mere 41,000 paying customers in an entire year. Improved service might reap a three-to fourfold increase in passengers, presuming an investment of at least $100 million, plus an annual subsidy of $1.6 million a year.

One of the reports suggested that at least part of the line could be transformed into something other than a historical artifact, by adapting a 17-kilometre stretch into a commuter rail service linking downtown Victoria to the communities west of the city.

Rebuild with double-tracking in some stretches. Construct four new stations and a maintenance facility. Improve safety at some two dozen level crossings. Invest in new vehicles like those on Ottawa’s O-train.

At an estimated upfront cost as high as $168 million in current dollars plus a subsidy of $3.5 million a year, commuter rail would not qualify as a low-budget option. Still, if you build it, won’t they come?

Maybe not. The E&N corridor is out of whack with regional travel patterns. The service would be oriented toward commuters going to and from work in downtown Victoria. But four out of five regional trips are by people headed elsewhere for other purposes. And even for the one in five headed to and from work, the track runs out annoyingly short of the employment and commercial core of the city.

Plus the one-way travel time, even on the refurbished line, would be 30 minutes. “This is a fairly slow service for a 17-kilometre trip and may cause many potential passengers to continue commuting by automobile.”

Still Victoria’s E&N boosters say transit is a chronic money loser and that hasn’t stopped government from expanding the network on the mainland. Look at the West Coast Express. Look at that nifty new Canada Line.

Okay, let’s look. The projected usage of the E&N commuter line is just over 1,000 riders per working day, fewer than 300,000 in a year.

The West Coast Express hauls the latter tally worth of commuters back and forth in a little over a month. The Canada Line carries that many people in three days.

I love my Island home. But from time to time, I do wonder at the fiscal logic of some of my fellow Islanders.

Read more:

If You Think Railway Crossings Are Troublesome, How About an Airport Runway Crossing?

July 21, 2010

For some light summer fun. Gibraltar, as we all know is a very small colony on the bottom tip of Spain and land is at a premium. Instead of an expensive tunnel, the main road into Gibraltar crosses the main airport runway and is protected by railway style crossing gates!

To enter Gibraltar, one must cross the main runway!


When the runway is in use, railway style barriers come down and stops traffic.



And when the runway is not in use, the barriers rise and the traffic proceeds normally!

Time to put pressure on officials

July 19, 2010

Time to put pressure on officials

The Chilliwack Times July 13, 2010



Regarding the remarks of Mayor Sharon Gaetz and Coun. Diane Janzen and those of previous mayors and councils about transit:

They are very parochial and short-sighted. They do not see the big valley picture (which includes Abbotsford, Langley and a large portion of Surrey) that has a need of a future light rail service for the south side our Fraser Valley.

Mayor and council could and should show more positives than negatives to the light rail concept for Chilliwack plus the other areas to be involved.

Yes, it’s not part of the city of Chilliwack’s mandate. Yes, Chilliwack doesn’t have money for light transit. Yes, the provincial and federal governments are broke. Yes, demographics indicate that there aren’t the numbers to support a transit system to-day. So what?

All that does not mean that planning for for a light rail system should be ignored or delayed.

Cooperation with all parties involved should agree on the need and the basic system but not get bogged-down with the details for now. It’s too early for that.

Promote the need of a light rail system for the Fraser Valley. Get with it.

Advise the approximately two million souls west of us who and where we are and the need for valley public transportation that doesn’t exist today. Apply pressure on the public and officials to gain their approval to the need and to the system proposed.

On Oct. 3, 1910 the Vancouver to Chilliwack Interurban arrived–one hundred years ago this October. Who is doing anything about that? Do not wait until Oct.1 to wake up.

Read more:

View obscured from ivory tower – From the Chilliwack times.

July 17, 2010
The Light Rail Committee has been advocating TramTrain for the Fraser Valley since the mid 90’s, hopefully some positive news will be forthcoming soon!
Sadly, in an age of financial frugality, regional and provincial transit planners still plan for hugely expensive metro and SkyTrain systems, yet with little or no method to pay for them. Isn’t it about time that politicians and regional bureaucrats begin to plan for proven and extremely economic light rail/ TramTrain solutions for our chronic transportation woes.

 View obscured from ivory tower

The Chilliwack Times July 16, 2010

This summer, interesting news will be released that will delight supporters of the Return of the Interurban to the Fraser Valley.

In the Metro region, we have placed all our hopes for rail transit on the very expensive light-metro model and philosophy, that forces all bus riders on a light-metro trunk line to their destinations or next transfer. Indeed TransLink admits that 80 per cent of SkyTrain’s customers, first take the bus to the metro. This is not good transit.

TransLink has been signing hosannas that the newly opened Canada Line is carrying 94,000 people a day and nearing capacity. TransLink forgets to mention that nearly 45,000 former bus customers have been cascaded onto the new metro line which translates to about 90,000 trips a day. Only about two to three thousand new transit customers are using the over $2.5 billion metro system.

The sad fact about the Canada Line is that due to escalating construction costs, the scope of the project was cut back so much that a much larger $1.5 billion cheaper LRT network, with much higher capacity, could have been built instead.

The Light Rail Committee and the Rail For the Valley group, in conjunction with several transportation experts will be offering a much cheaper and proven alternative to hugely expensive light-metro, in the form of TramTrain.

TramTrain is simply a light rail vehicle that can operate on existing railways and on its own tracks, greatly reducing rail transit costs while at the same time providing a much larger light rail network.

As an example; for the cost of a SkyTrain Evergreen Line, we could build a Vancouver to Chilliwack TramTrain and a Vancouver to Maple Ridge TramTrain. A larger rail network. servicing more destinations, at a cheaper cost should be number one TransLink’s planning goals.

Sadly, what I see from the Ivory Towers on Kingsway is more of the same, plans for hugely expensive metro lines, with no realistic way to fund them.

Malcolm Johnston

Light Rail Committee

Seattle’s Light Rail Update – the SkyTrain Lobby Infiltrates Down South

July 16, 2010


The following story from the Seattle Transit Blog clearly illustrates the SkyTrain/metro types still have not read a book on the subject, instead believing that “speed’ and ‘grade separation’ for a transit system are a necessity. What is striking is the anti-LRT attitude of the metro supporting people who post. Like Vancouver, Seattle’s transit authority have done a poor job in educating the public on light rail and in some instances, have done an even poorer job educating themselves!

The Push for East Link on the Westside of 112th Ave

From the Seattle Transit Blog

Last Friday, I explained a potential dilemma between advocates of a 112th Ave west-side alignment for East Link (Option 2), and those of a retained cut on the east-side (Option 4).  Some construed my post to mean a Surrey Downs vs. Bellevue Club showdown, which I did not intend to be the case.  On Monday, I spoke with Betina Finley, an early B3 supporter who ran an unsuccessful city council campaign last year, who clarified some of the rationale behind the Bellevue Club’s letter and subsequent petition.Though the Club has supported B7 in the past, I was told that Bill Thurston, club president, has recognized the wisdom in moving forward on B2M.  Unlike Thurston’s rational disposition, Surrey Downs still wants any and every train as far away from them as possible.  While they are more partial to the east-side retained cut, the prevailing sentiment has still largely been “B7 or bust” as evident by a puzzling new pro-B7 campaign.  More below the jump.

In addition to the Bellevue Club’s petition and other support from east-side businesses, another group has signed on to a letter favoring a west-side alignment.  Interestingly enough, it just so happens that this group is the bulk of the very 46 residences that would be displaced by the line, a collection of condo-owners that would rather move than have the trench in their neighborhood.  These homeowners are willing to be displaced and compensated at market-value by Sound Transit.  This would explain why the west-side running option was so popular at the workshop survey.

Unlike the Option 4 trench, the Option 2 west-side running alignment would only be compatible with a Main Street tunnel portal, as opposed to the cheaper and shorter 2nd Street tunnel.  Entering the tunnel at 2nd Street would require the trains to move away from the 112th west-side alignment to either the east or center of the street, resulting in a kind of “S” curve.  The turns would be due to avoiding the buildings that are built right up to the sidewalk north of the 112th condos.  I’ve provided a graphic to the right that explains why this is.  Touring 112th via Google Streetview is also helpful.

Despite using the more expensive Main Street tunnel, the entire Option 2 segment would actually incur a greater savings than Option 4, by avoiding the expenses associated with a costly trench.  Supporters of the west-side alignment have also pointed to the benefits of a new greenbelt buffer that would replace the condos, essentially an extension of the Surrey Downs Park that exists there today.  Ironically, the alignment would bring trains right up to Surrey Downs doorstep.  But for a group that has resorted to wild nonsense and desperate attempts to bring back B7, many have grown weary at the obstructionism and just don’t care anymore.

The real issue, of course, is getting the ST Board to recognize these interests.  What would be most problematic for the Bellevue Club is a misjudged perception by ST that there is a “holier than thou” attitude carried by the rhetoric of preserving tennis courts, patios, and anything deemed “luxury.”  While I don’t agree that this is the right approach for the Club, emphasizing the commitment of the 112th condo owners to be bought out might make for a more convincing argument for the west-side alignment.  At any rate, whatever information the Board has will largely shape the decision to pick a preferred option.

Tomorrow, the Sound Transit Capital Committee will meet at Union Station to address the 112th Avenue options and likely make a recommendation to the ST Board to inform a preferred option vote next week.  Public testimony will be taken at both meetings.  While there is likely to be a lot of B7 noise present, expect rational-minded residents and stakeholders to testify as well.

 By the way, if you have interest in seeing Link serve the South Bellevue Park and Ride, there is an Open House tonight at Bellevue City Hall to address that segment of East Link.  Unlike last week’s workshop, the meeting will not be interactive and will likely be an open table kind of format.