The Rail for the Valley/Leewood study is indeed historic, for it is the first time in over 30 years that a truly independent transit study, free of political and bureaucratic influence, has been done in the region. The study shows that the region can build a large ‘rail’ network cheaply, with an affordable vision for future, cost effective extensions.
SkyTrain’s Achilles heel is cost and when one compares the per kilometer cost of the RftV TramTrain and SkyTrain, a full build TramTrain is less than 10% the cost per km. to build than SkyTrain light metro.
Being affordable to build, enables TramTrain to penetrate to areas, that would otherwise remain unserved by ‘rail‘. The ‘density’ argument, used successfully by TransLink and the provincial government to deter ‘rail‘ expansion South of the Fraser, disappears as TramTrain easily uses existing railway lines, without any any need for expensive ‘greenfields’ construction (like using the median of the Number 1 Hwy.). If on-street operation is desired in town centres, TramTrain can play the role of a streetcar or LRT, yet retaining the ability of cost effective operation to widely spaced population centres using existing rail lines.
The Evergreen Line has demonstrated that funding for SkyTrain is becoming harder and harder and if we look at the ‘full build’ RftV/Leewood Study, a Vancouver/Richmond to Rosedale TramTrain would cost less than one billion dollars or put another way, for the over $1.4 billion Evergreen line, we could build the ‘full build’ TramTrain, plus a Vancouver to Port Moody TramTrain service as well! More rail service, servicing more customer destinations, is the best recipe for achieving a true modal shift from car to transit.
One hopes that the ‘powers that be’ understand that planning for expensive, ‘pie in the sky’ metro is becoming a fools game as there is just not the money to fund such grandiose schemes and in todays economy, TramTrain becomes a most viable option. The RftV/Leewood Study paves the way for a real and cost effective alternative for transit expansion in the METRO and Fraser Valley Regions and one hoped that the politicians will jump on board TramTrain, lest they be left at the station platform, waiting for a SkyTrain that will never come.