Twenty-two points created by our organization, debunking myths and inaccuracies:
TIME IS MONEY
It’s okay to have longer travel times (which is what ground-level LRT will bring) in exchange for a “community-friendly system”.
Zweisystem responds: What is lost, is that a community friendly transit system attracts ridership, something that an unfriendly transit system does not do. Subways are very user unfriendly. Speed of a transit system itself doesn’t attract ridership (Hass Clau) but the time of the total commute (doorstep to doorstep), the overall ambiance and ease of use of a transit system that has proven to attract ridership, especially the motorist from the car.
(1) SkyTrain will have 2-3 times more capacity and more than twice the speed of an ground level LRT line due to its private right-of-way. Speed is an important factor for the daily commuter, as shown by bus ridership statistics for the Broadway corridor: 99 B-Line (60,000 passengers per day); other Broadway bus routes (40,000 per-day) = total Broadway bus ridership is 100,000 passengers per day.
There is a reason why a large majority of Broadway transit commuters take the 99 B-Line: speed and convenience. The 99 B-Line is a rapid bus service, and it is at capacity in terms of the number of buses that can be put into service (according to TransLink, over 120 articulated buses were dedicated to the 99 B-Line in 2006; 10% of the entire TransLink bus fleet). Counting the 99 B-Line’s 60,000 daily riders alone, that is more than the ridership of Toronto’s streetcar lines.
Zweisystem responds: SkyTrain does not have 2 to 3 times more capacity than LRT as SkyTrain’s potential capacity is about the same as modern light rail (Gerald Fox). This myth was created by the discredited Delcan and ND Lea studies of the early 90’s, which arbitrarily claimed that SkyTrain had more capacity than LRT, without any study backing this assertion. Modern LRT/tram, operating on-street/at-grade, can handle over 20,000 persons per hour per direction (LRTA).
The claim that the B-Line carries more than Toronto’s streetcars is pure bunkum. Maybe on a route by route basis, the Broadway buses carry more riders than on some streetcar lines, but not the network!
(2) The 12-km SkyTrain extension from VCC/Clarke Station to UBC via the Broadway corridor will take between 15-20-minutes travel time from terminus to terminus. Stations will be located at Finning, Main/Kingsway, Cambie (vital interchange station with Canada Line), Oak (hospital precinct), Granville, Arbutus, Macdonald, Alma, Sasamat/West Point Grey Village, and UBC transit interchange. All of these stations parallel the existing 99 B-Line service. A SkyTrain would be mainly tunneled, and with its own private right-of-way would be allowed to reach speeds of 80 km/h.
A ground-level LRT line would begin from Commercial/Broadway Station, and would take a travel time of between 30-45-minutes from terminus to terminus. It would have the same stations as the above mentioned SkyTrain with an additional four to six stations. Its higher travel time, on par with the existing 99 B-Line bus service, is a result of the line running through city streets instead of its own private right-of-way; as it runs in city streets, it must abide local traffic laws and speed limit of 50 kms/h. This will no doubt affect the extension’s reliability as a real alternative to the car: peak-hour traffic, road congestion, traffic accidents, etc.
In addition, commuters will be given a one-train ride with SkyTrain: no transfer will be needed, saving significant time. It also offers higher train frequencies and flexible schedule adjustments. On the contrary, LRT tends to have less frequent schedules due to the expense of having drivers and it would require a time-costly transfer from the region’s main transit network: SkyTrain (as it would simply be an extension of the Millennium Line). Such a pointless transfer would also affect ridership.
Zweisystem responds: A light rail/tram line operating on a reserved rights-of-way, with equal number of stops, would have travel times comparable to a SkyTrain light-metro. In Germany, trams operating in mixed traffic (with autos) are allowed to travel 10 kph faster than posted auto speeds and if tram/LRT operates on a reserved rights-way (a rights-of-way used exclusively for a tram), could operate at higher speeds quite safely. The authors of the blog conveniently forget that a transfer would have to be made to the proposed UBC SkyTrain from the Expo Line, thus the transfer argument is moot.
One, also questions the validity of recent light rail studies and asks, “were they done by qualified experts in LRT”. To date not one company with a proven expertise in the construction and operation of modern light rail have ever been allowed into the study process. It is also important to know that the various owners of the proprietary SkyTrain light-metro system have never allowed it to compete against modern LRT!
(3) SkyTrain is the region’s main transit network. Such a network should be high in speed, capacity, reliability, and frequency. Metro Vancouver axed a highway expansion plan in the 1970’s in favour of building a competent transit network: we must build a competent transit backbone that makes up for our lack in road capacity.
Zweisystem responds: Many cities around the world happily operate metro with light rail and the argument is again silly. What is not mentioned is that SkyTrain is a proprietary light metro, a mode long made obsolete by modern light rail. Building with SkyTrain today, is like trying to buy a new Edsel, because “I already have one”. Who buys SkyTrain?
(4) For such a costly expense, ground-level LRT will be a minor upgrade from the existing 99 B-Line bus service. The 99 B-Line is overflowing with riders, it needs something far greater than that to take its place. LRT is a short-term solution and will simply be a “99 B-Line with steel wheels”. On the other hand, SkyTrain will provide a long-term solution for the corridor’s transit needs.
Zweisystem responds: Light Rail will be more expensive to build than upgrading the B-Line service, about 30% more, but it would be much cheaper to operate than buses. One modern light Rail vehicle, with one driver is as efficient as 6 to 8 busses, with 6 to 8 bus drivers and one needs to hire three or more people per bus or tram to drive, maintain and manage them. Do the math, cities that operate LRT have done so. Even operating in mixed traffic, with no reserved rights-of-ways or signal priority, modern trams are about 10% faster than buses. SkyTrain on the other hand, costs a lot more to operate, almost twice as much as Calgary’s LRT C-Train, which also carries more customers daily! The higher operating costs of SkyTrain and other proprietary light-metros were well understood by the early 1990’s and helped in the demise of the mode.
(5) Frequent trolley service will still exist, given the importance of local service along the Broadway corridor. It will complement the SkyTrain service.
Zweisystem responds: Why, after spending up to $4 billion on a subway, would TransLink want to operate trolley buses as well, driving up operating costs of the route; even on Cambie St., the electric trolley buses are now replaced by diesel buses. Modern LRT is built because it is cheaper to operate than buses on a transit route, when ridership exceeds 2,000 pphpd. With LRT operating on-street, with stops every 500 to 600 metres, there would be no need for buses on Broadway.
(6) A 2000 study by the City of Vancouver concluded that an LRT line, with 16 stations from Commercial to UBC along the Broadway corridor, would rake in 140,000 daily riders. However, a SkyTrain extension from VCC/Clarke to Arbutus combined with a rapid bus service from Arbutus to UBC would bring in 150,000 daily riders.
Zweisystem responds: Based on what figures? Subways are notoriously poor in attracting new ridership and that, combined with high operating and maintenance costs, subways are avoided, unless traffic flows are over 500,000 passengers a day. It was predicted in 1980, that SkyTrain would be carrying over 20,000 pphpd, in the peak hour, by the year 2000; presently it is carrying half this number.
Note that the study was completed before the U-Pass was implemented, before record high gas prices, and before the green shift took priority. Following the 2002 implementation of the U-Pass, transit ridership at UBC increased significantly: in 2002 daily ridership was at 29,700 but by 2004 it was 50,000; a 68% increase in ridership in just two years because of the U-Pass! Transit ridership still increased significantly in the years after.
Zweisystem responds: Funny how a bus route, Broadway, operating at capacity can attract 68% more customers. The argument is moot because a LRT line could easily handle 250,000 or more passengers a day.
The study also does not account for the improved transit services since, especially the new Canada Line that will be opening in September 2009.
Taking account that the study was completed nearly ten years ago, and with all the changes to the region since then, ridership for a SkyTrain extension to UBC could rake in more than 200,000 passengers per day.
For comparison’s sake, the Expo Line (29-kms) currently has a daily ridership of 185,000; Millennium Line (20-kms) at 75,000; and the projected daily ridership for the Canada Line (19-kms) and Evergreen Line (11-kms) is at 100,000 and 80,000.
Zweisystem responds: SkyTrain, unlike other transit systems around the world, has never had an independent audit of ridership, so the figures presented are questionable; that being said TransLink admits that 80% of SkyTrain’s ridership first take a bus to the light metro and as buses are poor in attracting new ridership, one questions this 200,000 a day figure. But again the argument is moot, because LRT can easily handle such loads!
As there is no independent audit of SkyTrain’s ridership, the numbers are questionable, also Expo Line riders are double counted on the Millennium Line and visa versa. Ridership projections for the Evergreen line and RAV Canada line are speculative at best.
ROUTE AND CONSTRUCTION METHODOLOGY: LRT
Building light rail is fast and painless, unlike building SkyTrain; light rail won’t require digging up the road, while SkyTrain will. Businesses will not be affected. With light rail, parking spaces will not be lost both during the construction process and after construction is complete. LRT can be built on West 4th Avenue, instead of Broadway. LRT will not require tunneling. LRT will cost only a fraction of what SkyTrain would cost.
(7) If light rail were the chosen technology for the extension, a trunk sewer underneath Broadway will require a costly removal and relocation. Thus, it will require digging up the entire street, like a large trench, and will be time consuming…
Zweisystem responds: The sewer trunk is built in the gutter lane, why? Because the old streetcars operated in the median lanes! The argument is thus lost.
(8) …In addition to removing the Broadway trunk sewer, ground level light rail construction will require the closure of several lanes and all on-street parking lanes. Traffic will be reduced to two-lanes, similarly to Cambie Canada Line construction….
Zweisystem responds: Modern LRT construction would require street closures on a block by block basis and only for a short period of time, no different when the city tears up roads for utility maintenance.
(9) All in all, with light rail Broadway merchants will still be significantly affected by construction for about 2 years. In comparison, most of Cambie has been closed for about the same period for Canada Line construction. Light rail construction is far painless as claimed. It should also be noted that the construction timeline for an LRT line in the middle of a road should not be confused with the construction timeline for an LRT or streetcar line with its already existing private right-of-way.
Zweisystem responds: More fear mongering as Broadway would be closed on a block by block basis as track laying progressed. Street construction would be completed in about one years time or less.
(10) As Broadway is a narrow street, a ground-level light rail system would result in the permanent removal of the majority of the on-street parking spaces that Broadway merchants hold onto so dearly. Nearly all of Broadway will also be reduced to a two-lane road (one lane in each direction) due to the massive amount of spacing needed for ground level light-rail; a major east-west road artery in the city will be abolished.
Zweisystem responds: Such nonsense, there will no loss of on-street parking, unless the city of Vancouver wishes it, what will happen is that one traffic lane, in each direction, will have capacity increased from a bout 1,600 pphpd to over 20,000 pphpd, with LRT. Traffic on Broadway will be reduced by 1 lane in each direction; this is known as traffic calming.
(11) Any mass transit extension would need to be located along the Broadway corridor. West 4th Avenue would not work as it would skip the main employment hubs along Broadway, thus reducing potential ridership significantly.
The Broadway corridor catches 16th Avenue to 4th Avenue; more people live along the upper corridor rather than 4th Avenue
Zweisystem responds: What is “mass transit”? We are dealing with light-rail and light metro and there are pros and cons about each mode. For the cost of a SkyTrain subway to UBC, one could build a 4th Ave. LRT; a Broadway LRT; 41st Ave. LRT, for a combined capacity of over 60,000 pphpd, plus at least 2 North south LRT lines in Vancouver.
(12) LRT would likely require significant tunneling due to the steep grades on the hill west of Alma Street. LRT trains will be unable to climb the hill on such a steep slope.
Zweisystem responds: Not true. The industry standard for LRT climbing grades is 8%; in Sheffield England the maximum grade is 10% and in Lisbon, their trams climb 13.8% grades. The old streetcars climbed the Alma grades and modern LRT can do the same as well.
(13) It is a myth that $2.8-billion could build you 200-kms of light rail. Such a claim would likely mean the routes for these 200-kms of light rail lines already have pre-existing rail right-of-ways: we know that certainly does not exist in Vancouver, especially not for the Broadway mass transit extension.
Zweisystem responds: In Spain, new LRT is being built for under $8 million/km. and in Helsinki, on-street tram construction, including the electrical overhead was about $5 million/km. The $2.8 billion for 200 km. of LRT is very realistic. What the SkyTrain lobby is scared of is that $2.8 billion will buy you less than 28 km. of elevated SkyTrain or less than 9 km. of subway.
Proponents also falsely advocate this claim by “cherry-picking” the best features of LRT, all of which come with a high price. The real cost of 200-kms of real LRT in the region would likely be at least $12-billion.
Zweisystem responds: More invention and uninformed assertions, showing a complete ignorance of modern light rail.
ROUTE AND CONSTRUCTION METHODOLOGY: SkyTrain
SkyTrain construction along the Broadway corridor will devastate local businesses just like Canada Line construction. SkyTrain is also expensive to build and operate.
(14) The SkyTrain extension would likely occur under 10th Avenue (and NOT on Broadway), one block/60-metres south of Broadway. Station entrances will still be located on Broadway….
(15)…Such an extension under 10th Avenue, bored or cut and cover, would significantly reduce the impact on local businesses…
(16)…With the large $2.8-billion budget, a vital long-term investment into the region’s infrastructure, it is likely that planners are planning for a bored tunnel design rather than cut and cover to avert most of the mistakes on Cambie.
Zweisystem responds: $2.8 billion will not buy much of a subway. If the 19 km. RAV/Canada line 50% subway may cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.8 billion a Broadway subway will cost a lot more.
(17) With an underground system, built on 10th Avenue and likely a bored tunnel, businesses will not be as affected (compared to a ground-level LRT line or a Cambie-style cut and cover tunnel).
Zweisystem responds: if a bored tunnel is used, properties adjacent to the subway may settle because the surrounding ground will be disturbed. Without costly pre-engineering work, the true cost of subway construction is a guesstimate at best.
(18) Local businesses stand to benefit significantly from the additional foot traffic within SkyTrain station precincts.
Zweisystem responds: Not so, as subways have proven poor in attracting business to local merchants. Modern LRT has a proven record in increasing business by about 10% along routes where LRT runs. Passengers in subways do not see surface businesses.
(19) SkyTrain may cost billions to build, but this is a long-term investment into our region’s infrastructure: an investment that could last up to a century. On the contrary, LRT with its limited capacity and speed is a short-term investment.
Zweisystem responds: Completely untrue. Subways lack operational flexibility and require most customers to use other transport to get to the subway. To date, SkyTrain has yet to match LRT’s capacity and speeds! Lack of stations may provide a faster service, but at the same time deter ridership. Many LRT lines operate on well maintained infrastructure that is over 100 years old; subway on the other hand require constant and expensive maintenance as London’s TUBE and Toronto’s subways have well proven.
(20) SkyTrain, with its driverless automation, is cheaper to operate annually compared to driver systems such as LRT. In addition, there are capital cost savings and efficiencies from using the same maintenance yard/facilities, operations centre, and train rolling stock.
Zweisystem responds: Actually it is the other way around, automated transit systems cost a lot more to operate than LRT. Calgary’s C-Train LRT costs less than half per annum to operate than SkyTrain and it carries more passengers as well! in 2006, the cost of wages for drivers was $6 million. SkyTrain doesn’t have drivers, rather attendants and SkyTrain police, which cost more than drivers for Calgary’s LRT system.
As SkyTrain light-metro cars cost more to purchase than equivalent LRT cars, the last statement loses much of its validity. Also, with SkyTrain, there is only one supplier of one style of car: Bombardier Inc.; With LRT there are many suppliers and styles of cars to choose from and all are able to operate in conjunction with each other, something that RAV/Canada line and SkyTrain cars can’t do.
A REGIONAL CORRIDOR
BUILD NOTHING & LRT SUPPORTERS:
There is not enough ridership to support a rapid transit rail line along the Broadway corridor. Any rapid transit rail line’s real purpose would be to solely serve the University of British Columbia.
(21) Central Broadway/Cambie “Uptown” is the second largest employment centre in the entire region after Vancouver City Centre. According to a 1996 census, there were 40,000 jobs in the area and half of these people live outside of Vancouver making the district a regional centre. We can only assume that the number of jobs in the area has grown significantly since 13 years ago and will continue to grow. In addition, the Broadway corridor is one of the most densely populated areas outside of Downtown Vancouver.
Zweisystem responds: By building LRT down Broadway, it would protect both residents and businesses from escalating taxes to pay for a gold-plated subway project and the need to massively increase density along the route to feed the metro, while at the same time provide high quality transportation to the area.
Central Broadway is also part of the Metropolitan Core, part of Downtown Vancouver; a focus area for population and employment growth.
All of the above only serves to support ridership. And as mentioned above, there are already 100,000 daily bus riders along the Broadway corridor making it the busiest bus corridor in the entire region.
(22) The University of British Columbia is one of the largest employment centres in the entire region. With over 50,000 students and faculty, it will only continue to grow. In addition, the university is developing plans to build new dense residential neighborhoods – this will only serve to support ridership.
As already mentioned above, transit ridership at the university was at 50,000 in 2004…we can only assume it will be much more today. It will only grow with additional and improved services.
Zweisystem responds: LRT would be able to service all of UBC and with the inherent flexibility of the mode, could provide a minor LRT network on campus. Also there is the possibility of LRT carrying freight to UBC, as done in other European cities, taking commercial vehicles off city streets. The ridership forecasts certainly point to a light rail solution for UBC and not an expensive subway.