Posts Tagged ‘Broadway LRT’

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.

Late Friday Night’s Musings For Saturday Reading

July 3, 2010

Zwei, with a cup of tea in hand, has been reading the various transit blogs and answering emails from interested parties around the world, trying to get a read on what direction public transit is going in the near and not so near future. Sadly, I see a trend in North America towards supporting building hugely expensive heavy-rail subway metro systems, without any consideration for the cost of such a venture. This unrealistic view has tainted our transit planning on this side of the pond to such an extent, that tens of billions of dollars will be wasted on gold plated, over engineered transportation projects, when far cheaper and just as efficient transit solutions would have worked just as well.

The silliness I see from professionals supporting hugely expensive, to install and maintain, automatic train control signaling on new rapid transit (LRT is not rapid transit) lines, demonstrates a gross naivety on the subject of railway signaling. Has anyone who promotes or supports automatic train control (ATC) ever talked to a signaling engineer? I don’t thinks so by the endless cheer-leading for ATC.

Has anyone compared the operating costs of Vancouver’s SkyTrain with Calgary’s LRT? If they had, they would have found that just the SkyTrain Expo Line costs 60% more to operate (2006) than the Calgary’s C-Train LRT, yet the C-Train carried more customers!

Has anyone thumping the desk for ATC ever stopped and considered that transit systems which include ATC are seldom built and ATC is only used on the heaviest used metro lines where automatic (driverless) operation does save operating costs over older manually operated block signaling?

LRT’s Renaissance started in France in the mid 1980’s, when modern low-floor cars, operating on dedicated or Reserved Rights of Ways, were found to be cheaper to build and operate than France’s home grown automatic VAL mini-metro. In the 1970’s France only had a handful of elderly tram or streetcar systems, but in 2010, the country boasts 16 operating tram/LRT systems; 9 more under construction; and 5 in later stages of planning!

In the mid 1980’s, metro or subway construction was bankrupting scores of transportation authorities in many countries and at one time, there was over 100 km of uncompleted or semi-abandoned subway tunnels throughout Europe! The Chaleroi in Belgium being a  good example. Though building subways on heavily used transit routes still continues and rightly so, European transit planners have reduced public transit construction costs by building new LRT/tram systems. The Germans take top prize for cost efficient public transit with the very successful TramTrain concept.

TramTrain, where streetcars are so designed to track share with mainline railways, see total construction costs well under $10 million/km., a fraction the cost of subway or metro construction, where in some cases see construction costs exceed $500 million/km.!

Yet this is all lost by the many blogs and bloggist who support ATC and denounce LRT as some sort of 19th century folly. What is really sad, is that those supporting subways and ATC, seem completely removed from the real world of finance and financing expensive public transit schemes. The fairy tale land of subway planning always include new and higher taxes, yet proponents of subways fail utterly to understand that there is precious little money to fund their ever costlier transit plans.

In the end, those supporting automatic metros and their kin, may see a line built, but with little chance of much needed expansion in the near or not so near future, while at the same time, much derided Portland keeps expanding its LRT network by about two lines every decade. In an age of peak oil, global warming, and massive urban congestion, it is completely foolish to keep advocating ‘pie in the sky’ metro projects that in the end, may build one or two line at most (three lines in Vancouver),  financially exhausting the taxpayer and not providing a credible alternative to the car.

Those who spend hours condemning LRT with “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics“, fail to grasp historic lessons with light rail and have invented their own little world, where Tom Swift style $250 million/km. or more, driverless elevated railways or subways, with all the whistles and bangs, are easy to come by and the taxpayer is only too happy to pay more tax to fund transit mega projects.



Light Rail Fits In! Useful Links for LRT

June 30, 2010

A reader of this blog from the UK has sent Rail For The Valley some very useful links for those advocating for light rail.

Zweisystem send a a hearty thank you!

Smart Growth. A look into Cities, Urban planning, and the Sustainable Movement.

June 27, 2010

A tram makes a city livable!

A reader of this blog has kindly given ‘Zwei’ some links about Smart Growth around the world and they are very much well worth having a look.

LRT will motivate us to ditch cars, From the Hamilton Spectator

June 21, 2010

What I find interesting about this news item, is the statement, “…….a consultants’ report into the economics of LRT in Hamilton projected the system would need about 34,000 riders a weekday (8.9 million a year) to break even on its operational costs.“; which should put a stop to the SkyTrain’s lobby claims that light rail is expensive to operate! But, those advocating for LRT already knew that.

It would seem that the same figures would hold true for a Broadway LRT, which with the much higher ridership numbers, would not just pay its operating costs, but most or if not, all of its capital costs! Of course this is what the man from ABB told ‘Zwei’ almost fifteen years ago; “A BCIT to UBC and Stanley Park LRT route, would double present bus ridership on those routes in about two to three years, thus attracting enough ridership to not only pay for operating costs, but also to pay for its capital costs as well“!

LRT, built at no cost to the taxpayer!


LRT will motivate us to ditch cars: HSR chief

February 02, 2010

Meredith Macleod
The Hamilton Spectator

Does Hamilton have the ridership to justify light rail transit?

There are plenty of people in this city who think the answer is no.

In letters to this paper, blog posts and opinion surveys, they say not enough people want or need to go downtown and that Hamiltonians are too attached to their cars.

Critics point out that most cities with successful light rail have much larger populations than Hamilton.

Even Don Hull, director of the Hamilton Street Railway, says based on sheer numbers alone, Hamilton probably doesn’t cut it.

But he says that’s only part of the equation.

Present-day transit ridership doesn’t account for changes coming down the road that will push people out of their cars: increasing congestion, growing concern about pollution and climate change, and the inevitability of soaring gas prices.

Light rail transit will transform the city’s transit network, attract new riders and be the critical component that gets people out of their cars, Hull says.

And it brings investment and tax dollars to struggling neighbourhoods, he adds.

“More than population or density or ridership, the key to whether LRT is successful and viable is the support of all three levels of government.”

The B-Line from Eastgate Square to McMaster University — the city’s proposed corridor for a light rail line — affects four of the HSR’s major routes, Hull says.

Collectively, they account for about 50 per cent of the system’s riders.

That adds up to 25,000 to 30,000 trips a day, half or more in peak periods.

Hull says that’s not far off the usage that would be hoped for on an LRT line. In fact, a consultants’ report into the economics of LRT in Hamilton projected the system would need about 34,000 riders a weekday (8.9 million a year) to break even on its operational costs.

Hull says many cities, including Portland, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Denver, quickly exceeded ridership forecasts.

Hamilton is unique in that the ridership is already there, it just has to be shifted from bus to rail. Most North American systems, he says, run on an entirely new line and have to build from nothing.

That’s a big advantage, says Antonio Paez, an associate geography and earth sciences professor at McMaster, who specializes in transportation.

“There is only the potential to gain. It’s a relatively low-risk transition in that corridor.”

The objective is to make transit the most attractive option for getting around, says Paez. Choosing to run rail lines along the busiest routes in the city — King and Main — and cut into, or eliminate, car lanes will achieve just that.

“The goal is to make traffic less problematic for those who choose transit but not necessarily better for those who don’t choose it.”

Once B-Line buses are replaced by light rail, Hull hopes capacity can be boosted in other areas of the city.

In day peak periods, HSR is having trouble meeting demand on many routes, he says.

Another important element is the city’s official plan, which aims to see 100 transit trips per year per capita by 2030. That number now sits at 48 and the target simply can’t be reached without LRT, says Hull.

The beauty of choosing the B-Line for the first leg of an overhaul of the city’s transit system is that about 80 per cent of routes already intersect with the corridor.

“Everything off the Mountain as well as the North End and Bayfront routes meet up with King. It would be virtually an entirely intersecting system.

“That’s very desirable.”

Metrolinx has identified two rapid transit corridors in Hamilton to be developed in the first 15 years — the east-west line that’s on the table, and north-south on James Street from the airport to the waterfront.

Three other routes — Eastgate to the Ancaster business park, the Centre Mall to the Meadowlands and downtown Hamilton to Waterdown — are part of a 25-year vision.

Metrolinx has made no commitment to whether Hamilton will receive light rail or bus rapid transit.

A recommendation on the B-Line corridor is expected Feb. 19.

Light Rail on Broadway – The SkyTrain Lobby Ramps Up The Costs – BARSTA Fights Back

June 16, 2010

On June 22nd, at St. James Community Square 3214 West 10th Avenue at Trutch, a public meeting will take place concerning the building of ‘rail‘ transit on or under Broadway. What is of no great surprise, Translink has vastly ‘ramped’ up the cost for building modern light rail, with needless over-design. This is the tired old trick that plays so well in the Vancouver region, gold-plate a light rail project with so much needless engineering, that the costs of construction near that of its much more expensive cousin, light-metro (RAV & SkyTrain).

Elevating LRT greatly increases construction costs, taking away a major advantage of LRT over light-metro!

From a 2009 BARSTA (Business and Residents for Sustainable Transit Alternatives) document …….

……. which shows the cost of a VCC/Commercial Drive to UBC, streetcar costing $370.7 million yet LRT built on the same route would cost almost three times as much as $998.7 million or almost $1 billion!


The difference between LRT and a streetcar is the concept of the reserved rights-of-ways (RRoW) and priority signaling at intersections; then why an almost three-fold cost of construction for LRT?

Simple RRoW in Europe, denoted by colour and small curb.

The answer is simple; gross over-engineering by planners and engineers to artificially increase the cost of LRT to make it as expensive or more expensive than elevated SkyTrain or subway transit options! In other parts of the world, this is known a professional misconduct, but in Vancouver it is business as usual!

Vancouver already had a demonstration LRT line – it was of course, the temporary Olympic Line, which operated on a full RRoW, using two Bombardier Flexity tram cars, borrowed from a delivery to the Brussels tram system. It is the RRoW, which can be as simple as a high occupancy lane (HOV) with rails or as elaborate as the Arbutus Corridor, which allows modern light rail unfettered operation, with operational parameters on par with light-metro!

Lawned RRoW and modest LRT/tram station in Europe.

By using the concept of the RRoW, station/tram-stops every 500m to 600m, with priority signaling at intersections and using the current power-poles and span wires now used by the trolleybuses, we could keep the cost of of a VCC/Commercial Drive LRT under $450 million or just slightly more than a basic streetcar line! Or better yet, a UBC/BCIT/Stanley Park LRT, costing under $1 billion, which would offer even more convenient destinations for the transit customer and would offer a real alternative to the car!

The powers that be, just do not want modern LRT operating in Vancouver and continue to over-engineer and gold-plate light rail/streetcar projects to make them unaffordable and unattractive to politicians, taxpayers and residents.

Classic lawned RRoW!

The following is a quick primer for those advocating for modern light rail on Broadway.

  1. Capacity of modern LRT and streetcar/tram can exceed 20,000 persons per hour per direction.
  2. The capacity of a modern modular tram/LRT car now exceeds 350 persons.
  3. Modern LRT is 100% accessible for the mobility impaired without the need of expensive stations, elevators and escalators.
  4. Speed of a transit system is not the prime factor in attracting ridership, rather the overall ambiance, accessibility and ease of use are more important than speed. In fact it the the combination of many factors that attracts ridership to a public transit system.
  5. Priority signaling does not cause traffic gridlock at intersections. In fact, the light sequence for a tram/auto intersection  at an intersection is much less than an auto/auto light controlled intersection.
  6. Modern LRT/streetcar/tram is one of the safest public transit mode in the world.
  7. Transportation capacity on Broadway will be increased by about 18,000 pphpd, by using a LRT/tram in one traffic lane per direction.
  8. Businesses along a streetcar/LRT route see about a 10% increase in business.
  9. There will be substantial operating costs savings by using LRT/streetcar instead of buses. One modern tram (1 driver) is as efficient as 6 to 8 buses (6 to 8 drivers).
  10. Modern LRT is very flexible in operation and could carry freight, as in Dresden, operate vintage trams and streetcars, or be used by specialty operators like a dinner tram.
  11. There is no truth that by building LRT will take away curb parking for local merchants, this is a decision by Vancouver’s Engineering Department to scare away support for LRT.
  12. Tram stops would be between 500m to 600m apart as studies have shown that the greatest amount of ridership for a LRT system comes within 300m radius of a tram line.
  13. Signaling on a Broadway will be ‘line-of-sight’ with local signals for intersections/crosswalks; switches; and areas of limited visibility/ Line-of-sight greatly reduces the cost of installation.
  14. LRT/streetcar can maintain minimum headways (time between trains) of 30 seconds.
  15. A ‘peak-hour’ 3 minute LRT/tram service (20 trips per hour), with cars having a capacity of 250 persons, would offer an hourly capacity of 5,000 pphpd. Operating 2-cars in multiple units (no added driver) effectively doubles the capacity to 10,000 pphpd. A 2 minute headway (30 trips per hour), using 2 car sets would offer an hourly capacity of 15,000!

UBC Broadway Transit Community Meeting

“No Cambie Fiasco for Broadway and West 10th”

A meeting for residents & local business representatives from across our city:

  • Learn about sustainable alternatives for Broadway
  • Review current TransLink and City positions and policies
  • Make your voice heard about Broadway transit and the communities along it

7:00PM – 9:00 PM – Tuesday, June 22, 2010
St. James Community Square 3214 West 10th Avenue at Trutch

E-mail :

Contacts :
Mel Lehan, Director, West Kitsilano Residents Association :
Donna Dobo, Director, West Broadway Business Association :

A 54m Budapest 'Caterpillar' with a capacity of 350 persons

Cargotrams for Broadway or Chilliwack – LRT can adapt!

June 7, 2010

On 3 March 2000 the Dresden Public Transport Co. and the Volkswagen Automobile-Manufacture Dresden GmbH signed a contract for the Cargotram for the delivery of parts from the logistics center in Dresden Friedrichstadt  to a new car factory, using a tram running over the cities tram lines. The route from the logistics center to the factory runs straight through the inner city of Dresden and use of trucks would  increase in truck traffic, increasing diesel exhaust and traffic congestion.

One wonders how much truck traffic could be taken off Vancouver city streets by using a Cargotram style of delivery service on the proposed Broadway ‘rail’ transit project to UBC. Only modern LRT can be adapted by using cargotram not metro, either conventional or SkyTrain, operating elevated or in a subway.

Carogtram could be a natural for light frieght movements from Vancouver to Langley, Abbotsford, YXX, and Chilliwack.

The following is Carogtram in operation and could be a common sight on Broadway or the Fraser Valley, if light rail is built.

The Failure To Understand Modern Light Rail = Public Transit Chaos

May 25, 2010

‘Zwei’ has been taken aback by the viciousness of the SkyTrain Lobby and the great lengths they have taken in discrediting the LRT, while at the same time refusing to acknowledge the marketing failure of the proprietary (ICTS/ALRT/ALM/ART ) light-metro system, known in Vancouver as SkyTrain.

‘Zwei’ is also taken aback by abject refusal by many supposed experts to take the time to clearly understand modern light rail and/or modern LRT philosophy,  instead treating it the same as a glorified bus or a poor-man’s metro.  As well, ‘Zwei is dumbfounded, by many of the same supposed transit experts who do not understand the fundamentals of transit and or rail operation, especially from a customers point of view. In Metro Vancouver, many planning bureaucrats abjectly refuse to acknowledge that  modern light rail is a very strong tool to mitigate congestion and pollution, which only exacerbates our regional transportation planning ennui.

A good example of not understanding ‘rail‘ operation are those who continue to pontificate that automatic transit systems have fewer employees, therefore cheaper to operate than light rail. This simplistic view is wrong and except when traffic flows are in the order of 20,000 pphpd or more, then there are noticeable cost savings in automatic operation. The notion that automatic metros can operate 24/7 is just that, a notion as driverless metro need daily ‘down time’ to adjust and check the signaling system for if something goes wrong, the driverless metro stops and until a real persons checks the system to see why the metro stopped and if it is safe to continue operation, will operation be started again.

Unlike LRT, with an on-board driver, automatic metros need a full complement of staff to operate at all hours to ensure the safety of passengers, on trains and in stations. Many LRT operations have service 24 hours a day and with the simplicity of the transit mode, very few staff are needed. Contrary to what many ‘bloggist’s’ post, modern light rail is much cheaper to operate than metro and driverless metro.

The hysterical wailings of those wishing grade separated transit systems also ignore the fact that moder LRT is one of the safest public transit modes in the world. The fact that SkyTrain has a higher annual death rate than comparable LRT operations is forgotten in their zeal to discredit modern trams. Yes, cars do crash into trams. Yes, car drivers do disobey stop signals and deliberately drive across tram lines in the path of an oncoming trams, with predictable results. Yet tram/LRT/streetcar road intersections are about ten times safer than a road – road intersection. In Europe, if a car driver ignores a stop signal and is in an accident with a tram, the car driver is heavily fined and may lose his right to drive. In Europe, autos seldom come to grief with a tram, as the legal consequences colliding with a tram is a strong deterrent.

The speed issue is another ‘man of straw’ argument as those who want SkyTrain. They bang the ‘speed‘ drum loudly proclaiming that SkyTrain is fast and speed trumps all in attracting ridership. Speed of ones journey is just one facet of the many reasons why people opt to take public transit. What is true, it is that the overall ambiance and convenience of a ‘rail‘ transit system has proven more important attracting new ridership. Contrary to what many believe, elevated and underground transit stations tend to deter ridership. The speed issue is a non-issue and fact is, if the Vancouver to Chilliwack tramtrain comes into operation, it will have a much faster commercial speed than SkyTrain, yet Zwei would never make the claim that tramtrain would be better because it was faster!

Studies have shown (Hass-Klau Bus or Light Rail, Making The right Choice) that in urban areas the most beneficial distance between transit stops is 450m to 600m and with any greater distances between stops tends to deter ridership and stops closer than 450m tend to be too slow. Those want a fast subway under Broadway are commuting from the far reaches of the SkyTrain and or bus network and one would question why they would live so far away to commute to UBC, if they are at all?

In the real world, transit systems are designed and built to economically move people, not so in Vancouver where transit is built to cater to the needs of land use, thus we continue to build hugely expensive metro lines on low ridership routes (for metro), where selected property owners make windfall profits from up-zoning residential properties to higher density condos and apartments. This is a ‘fools paradise’, because we are spending up to ten times more to install a metro on transit routes that don’t have the ridership to sustain a metro, while at the same time failing upgrade many bus routes to LRT to cater to higher passenger flows, which now demand greater operational economies. Much needed transit upgrades and improvements in the region go wanting to fulfill the extremely expensive and questionable SkyTrain/land use dream on only a few routes.

The failure to understand modern light rail is leading the region into a massive financial black hole, by continually building extremely expensive metro while at the same time treating LRT as a yesterday’s transit mode. Today, Vancouver’s transit fares are some of the highest in North America and fares will continue to rise, largely in part due to SkyTrain and light-metro. TransLink will continue to be in financial peril if planning bureaucrats continues to plan and build with metro on the Evergreen Line and the Broadway subway.

Modern light rail has been crafted, with over 125 years of public transit experience, to fulfill  human transit and transportation needs, unlike our automatic SkyTrain light metro, which original design and selling point was to mitigate the massive costs of heavy-rail metro in an age before modern LRT. To put SkyTrain in a subway is an oxymoron and demonstrates the modes proponents gross ignorance of transit history; to continue to build SkyTrain on routes that do not have the ridership to sustain metro demonstrates complete fiscal irresponsibility.

As Zweisystem has always observed, “Those who fail to read public transit history are doomed to make the same very expensive mistakes.”

The failure to understand the role of modern LRT, streetcars and trams, will lead the region into transit and transportation chaos, where the much needed ‘rail‘ network will be but patches of expensive politically prestigious metro lines linked by buses: impractical, unsustainable, and fool-hardy.

Chaleroi light-metro station - Too expensive to complete and never used!

The Broadway Follies Part 2 – Questions & Answers about LRT

May 6, 2010

Zwei received a phone call from a confused citizen regarding a transit meeting he attended in Vancouver about transit options for Broadway. It seems a state of confusion reigns about what LRT is, what LRT can achieve, and modern transit in general. This is not to unexpected as TransLink has never been clever about LRT and generally has misinformed the public as a result.

The following are some common questions that the average person needs answers for, if he/she is able to make an informed decision on transit issues.

  • Q: What is LRT?
  • A: LRT or light rail transit is a steel wheel on steel rail transit vehicle, mostly electrically powered from an overhead wire. LRT can handle traffic loads of between 2,000 and 20,000 persons per hour per direction (pphpd) thus effectively bridging the gap of what can be economically be handled by buses and that which needs a metro.
  • Q: What is a streetcar?
  • A: A streetcar is a light rail vehicle which operates on-street, in mixed traffic, with little or no signal priority at intersections.
  • Q: What is the difference of a streetcar and LRT?
  • A: The difference between a streetcar and LRT is when the streetcar operated on a reserved rights-of-ways or a route reserved for the exclusive use of a streetcar and with priority signaling at intersections. By operating on a RRoW, a streetcar is free of traffic and other obstructions, thus obtain higher efficiencies and commercial speeds.
  • Q: what is a tram?
  • A: A tram is an European term for a light rail vehicle or streetcar.
  • Q: What is capacity?
  • A: Capacity is a function of headway and consists of several variables including vehicle capacity and train length. Modern LRT can obtain capacities of over 20,000 pphpd! A transit route operating LRVs, with a vehicle capacity of 200 persons, operating at 10 minute headways, is said to have a capacity of 1,200 pphpd (200 LRV capacity x 6 trains per hour or one train every 10 minutes).
  • Q: What is headway?
  • A: Headway is the time between trains on a transit route. If a transit route is operating at 6 trains per hour, it is operating at 10 minute headways.
  • Q: What is the minimum headway which LRT can operate?
  • A: The minimum safe headway that streetcars  can operate at is about 30 seconds.
  • Q: It has been said that LRT causes massive delays at intersections, is this true?
  • A: No it is not true. LRT with priority signaling (the ability to preempt a traffic signal in favour of the LRV) cause less delay than a standard light controlled intersection. The time for a LRV to clear an intersection is about 4 seconds.
  • Q: It has been said that LRT is much slower than a subway, is this true?
  • A: No, not so; the commercial  speed of a transit line is as fast as it has been designed to be. Generally speaking, subways have fewer stops than LRT, thus obtains higher commercial speeds, but at the same time the higher speed sacrifices the customers ability to access the transit system. Given an equal quality RoW, with equal number of station per route, there is no difference in commercial speed. Modern LRT, operating on RRoW’s can obtain almost the same commercial speeds as a subway.
  • Q: I a subway safer than LRT?
  • A: No, subways tend to have a higher death rate than light rail, the SkyTrain metro system’s annual death rate is about 2 to 3 times higher than Calgary’s C-Train.

Light Rail & Tramways Growth Continues With new Openings in 2010

April 27, 2010

From May’s issue of Tramway’s & Urban Transit comes a list of new LRT openings in 2010, almost one every six weeks. The following is a partial list of new LRT/tram and TramTrain systems.

It is interesting to note the increase of TramTrain expansion, both in Europe and in North America. Also, when compared to metro construction at about $150 million/km to $200 million/km, we can effectively build a complete LRT on Broadway for about the same cost of 3 km. of subway.

Firenze Italy: 14 February 2010

Route 1

Cost: €170mil. (CAD $228.02 mil.)

Length: 7.4 km

Vehicles: 17 LRV’s

Cost per km: $30.8 mil/km.

Austin Texas, 22 March 2010

Rail for the Valley Take Note

Route: 1

Cost: USD $300 mil. (CAD $302 MIL.)

Length: 51km

Vehicles: 6 TramTrains

Cost per km: $6 mil/km.

Bergen Norway, 22 June 2010

Route: 1

Cost: €274 million (CAD $368.25 mil.)

Length: 9.8 km.

Vehicles: 12 LRV’s – 5 TramTrain

Cost per km: CAD $37.58 mil/km.

Mulhouse, 13 December  2010

Route: 1

Cost : €137 mil. (CAD $184.5 mil.)

Length: 24 km.

Vehicles: 12 TramTrains

Cost per km: CAD $7.7 million/km