The Streetcar Symposium – TransLink Doesn’t Get it!


Zwei attended the streetcar symposium on Wednesday and came out with a great sinking feeling – TransLink just doesn’t get it. The event itself was very well put together, with ample food and drink, but there was little discussion about streetcars, but a lot of back-slapping by the various agencies and bureaucrats attending. The symposium was derailed and for good reason too, I beleive.

What was it all about? To my well practiced eyes the event was an infomercial for Bombardier Inc. (they were well advertised) to sell Flexity trams to Vancouver for their $90 million tourist streetcar line. Why not purchase much cheaper second hand trams from Europe? No one has ever thought of that in a Bombardier town.

The symposium was mostly a tedious event with most speakers dancing around the topic of streetcars with, “oh no, they are not light rail“, responses. What is even more worrisome is that TransLink hasn’t a clue about light rail or even streetcars and continue their well honed mantra that LRT can’t carry more than 10,000 persons per hour per direction and that streetcar’s capacity is even less! of course this TransLink nonsense is to keep the SkyTrain option alive for Vancouver’s Broadway UBC Line.

Lesson for TransLink – Light Rail can carry over 20,000 pphpd! Of course TransLink knows this, but ignores it and continues to squander millions of dollars on pointless transit studies favouring SkyTrain metro or even a $80 million skyride to SFU!

As for Rail to the Valley and our ground breaking report? Nope, never, Nada; never heard of the group nor read the study; haven’t a clue what TramTrain is but; “we’ll have a look in Wikipeada……”.

Professor Patrick Condon summed up the days events; They are talking about stations and land development, they just don’t get it.

Zweisystem’s advice for the South Fraser Region, secede from TransLink and the sooner the better as TransLink is incapable of planning for affordable LRT and continues to dream in “SkyTrain”.


Stephen Rees also attended the meeting and even though he said he wasn’t going to post to his blog about it, he has. It is worth while to see his view on the day.

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6 Responses to “The Streetcar Symposium – TransLink Doesn’t Get it!”

  1. David Says:

    Very sad that the so-called experts know less than the average tourist does about light rail. Surely Bombardier salespeople know what their trams are capable of, but maybe they’ve been told by someone in management to shut up and keep pushing ART.

    While you’re quick to dismiss the SFU gondola I see merit in looking at something different that would offer some clear advantages over the status quo.

    After all, there’s no way on earth LRT is going to get built in Metro Vancouver for less than $30M/km which would make a line up to SFU at least twice the price of the gondola with a lot less tourist appeal to help subsidize operations during the slow summer months on campus.

    Zweisystem replies: If someone wishes to fund the SFU Gondola, please do, as I can see a lot better use for $80 million spent on other transit initiatives. Why not a Lougheed Mall to SFU Gondola, makes more sense.

  2. Stephen Rees Says:

    I said I wasn’t going to post about it that night I needed time to think. It is also a matter of transcribing lots of handwritten notes after the battery on my net book gave out (no power outlets to be found near the seats!) I have got the fist couple of speakers summarized and will return to the drudgery of getting the rest up tomorrow. But I am not going to miss all this sunshine!

    Zweisystem replies: Yes my lawn beckons as well, as all those other pre Autumn outside chores.

  3. zweisystem Says:

    I went to the meeting to see if there was a real change in attitude about light rail with the powers that be and there wasn’t. Streetcar/LRT has been compartmentalized to suit TransLink’s objectives and that is to build more metro/SkyTrain. This is why I asked about track gauge in Toronto because there is a physical difference between Toronto streetcars and the new LRT, as the Toronto streetcars are broad gauge and the standard gauge LRT can’t share the surface routes in the city. Tunneling has become the preferred solution but building subways is very expensive and in some cases counter productive.

    In Vancouver, TransLink, City and METRO bureaucrats believe that the maximum capacity of LRT is 10,000 PPHPD and much less for streetcar (obviously they have ignored Calgary’s C- Train), instead of the accepted capacity of 20,000 PPHPD for light rail. Why do do? It leaves the niche open for more SkyTrain and SkyTrain is a vast money-pit where bureaucrats can spend the taxpayers cash almost with impunity! Everyone loves SkyTrain because everyone is planning their retirement with SkyTrain.

    Zweisystem came, he saw, and he left – seeing no change in direction in transit planning in over 30 years.

    To repeat a quote from John Jordan, an English Transit consultant from the UK about the dismally planning process for the Canada Line; “I understand the X-Files were filmed in your part of the world, maybe that explains it.”

  4. Lauri Kangas Says:

    20 000 PPHPD is on the extreme high end of LRT if you want to provide reasonable comfortably travel. As you say, the C-Train technical specification allows for a practical capacity of just under 20 000 using 4 car (100 m) trains and two minute headways. This is quite heavy LRT and for high speeds will require very limited pedestrian crossing points. A train of this length will take some time to pass though intersections, so tighter headways than 2 minutes would not be advisable. All of these should be possible with typical North American wide throughfares and long intersection spacing though.

    Still typical tram and light rail applications will tend to be below 10 000 PPHPD. Running higher capacity systems in streets can be controversial.

    Zweisystem replies: Dead wrong. In fact, Calgary’s maximum theoretical capacity is over 30,000 pphpd. The small, first generation Siemens U series cars have less capacity than more recent light rail vehicles, Calgary is resignalling the transit mall for 90 second headways to increase capacity, thus with 90 second headways, with 3 car trains capacity, practical capacity is 20,000 pphpd. Many European tram systems offer capacities of over 20,000 pphpd on portions of their routes daily.

    Today, in Karlsruhe Germany, city and transit authorities are building a subway replacing the surface tramway (streetcar) operating on the main street through the city, why? Because of the massive success of TramTrain and all TramTrain routes using the line on the main street, saw 45 second headways with two car trains, with an hourly capacity exceeding 38,000 pphpd!

  5. Weekly Roundup « The Gondola Project Says:

    […] gondola link between the Skytrain and Simon Fraser University, the usual chorus of cynics chime in: Rail For The Valley calls the study “pointless,” slags the concept as nothing more than a “skyride,” and perpetuates the common myth […]

  6. Bibi Khatoon Says:

    Notable roundup irony; your apoplectic reaction to the RvtV report and the self-indulgent unconstructive postings on forums allude to a juvenile male propensity for a testosterone rush when your comfort zone is threatened by the positive press reactions. I’m sure though you’d be equally critical of TransLink should their proposals not meet your expectations?
    A predictable view on the proposed SFU gondola, but then you are picking up your cheques as Gordon’s spin doctors?

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