Posts Tagged ‘Day of Action’

From the Georgia Straight – Transportation activists mobilize to thwart South Fraser Perimeter Road and Broadway SkyTrain

January 14, 2010

Athens tram - note simple on-street construction

Charlie Smith has another good article in the Georgia Straight about transit and transportation in the region and of course the comments are well worth a read.

Please attend the meetings.

The January 16 meeting will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Sundance Banquet Hall (6574 Ladner Trunk Road). It’s served by the C76 and C87 buses.

January 18, TransLink is hosting a stakeholder meeting from 6 to 9 p.m. on a proposed rapid-transit line to UBC. It will take place at the Plaza 500 Hotel at 500 West 12th Avenue.



December 20, 2009

From the Zweisystem and the rest of the Rail For The Valley Gang

A very merry Christmas and a very happy and safe New Year!

A Darmstadt tram plowing through a snow storm.

Our Campaign Blog – 1 year old today

December 8, 2009

April 11, 2009: Two young Rail for the Valley supporters hold a banner on a Chilliwack overpass, part of our Highway 1 Day of Action.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Rail for the Valley Campaign Blog!

Readership (now at 300-400 hits per day) has grown dramatically since last December, when the Campaign Blog was initially launched and the readership was… well, 0.

Here’s the very first blog post, on Dec. 8, 2008:

When I first created this blog, I had in mind a place where I and others could regularly congregate and contribute  – not necessarily “News” items – but our thoughts and items of interest, a place to communicate and get ideas flowing. In that regard, the blog has so far been a success well beyond my expectations.

At the time, I asked Zweisystem if he would like to be a contributor. I had no idea how quickly he would adapt to blogging, to getting debate going (and certainly not always preaching to the converted!), and how adept he would be at building our readership, both locally and in fact around the world. I know today we have visitors from every place you can imagine – to our international readers, I’m glad you have found this blog and are enjoying it!

Looking to the future of the blog, I want to keep us moving forward, and to really build an online community around our main issue, as well as other related issues. To do this, means more writers and fresh perspectives. (Zweisystem strongly agrees.)

In the new year, you can look forward to an increase in the number of “guest posts” on this blog – and if all goes well, new regular bloggers as well.

In order to achieve this, we are looking for

1) “guest” bloggers who wish to contribute one or more “guest” articles for publication on the blog

You don’t need to be an expert on the Fraser Valley, or on all things light rail. A well-written post from a personal point of view is just as good. We’re looking for both local, as well as international perspectives.

2) regular contributors, whether it be once a week, or more frequently.

If you’d like to contribute, or if you know someone else, please send an email to

If you have a passion for the issue of Rail for the Valley, and an enthusiasm to write for us, please come forward!

Post number 300 and many more to come.

November 17, 2009

This post marks the 300th posting on the Rail for the Valley Blog and congratulations to (now) Dr. John Buker for all his efforts with the valley rail project. When John asked me to post for the RFV blog, I don’t think he expected such a “stormy petrel“. I have tried hard to keep the blog current on rail projects around the globe, as well, inform local enthusiasts of the history and application of modern public transit.

The Seattle’s monorail versus LRT debate – Same story, different players!”   remains the number one post, with “The SkyTrain lobby – “Pixie Dust planning””  and  “Is LRT becoming the new Light-Metro?”  second and third respectively. The large daily viewing of Seattle’s monorail scheme, certainly shows we has as many readers South of the boarder as we do here.

Our readers responses to the various posts are informative and very welcome.

The RFV blog is just not a local blog, but we also have many international readers and not just in the USA, but in the UK, Finland, Russia, and elsewhere, which continues my task to keep postings interesting.

There is going to be some changes in the New Year, with more posts from guest contributers, to give a different opinion on transportation in the region. As well, the new year will bring some very interesting events, which will make Rail For The Valley front and centre for the Return of the Interurban debate in the Fraser Valley. 2010 will be a good year for valley transportation.

From U-Tube – Trams Of Karlsruhe, Germany. Finest in the world?

October 20, 2009

An interesting video on Karlsruhe’s tram system, including their famous TramTrain, which can operate as a streetcar, a light railway or a commuter train! It’s worth a watch.

From The Infrastructurist – 36 Reasons Streetcars Are Better Than Buses

October 11, 2009

tram bus

Just an interesting article that came Zweisystem’s way. If you have a complaint or comment, please register with the Infrastructurist’s web site:

The Infrastructurist
Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

36 Reasons Streetcars Are Better Than Buses

Posted on Wednesday June 3rd by The Infrastructurist

If you want a system that really attracts riders and investment, many transit experts will attest that streetcars are the best dollar-for-dollar investment a city can make.

Of course, there are plenty of situations where old-fashioned bus service or newfangled bus rapid transit (which usually has dedicated lanes) are just the thing. But for cities facing a choice between building a streetcar system or high-end BRT and the cost difference can be smaller than might think it’s handy to know that transit riders overwhelming prefer
streetcars. Well, overwhelmingly if the comments section from a recent story on this site can be taken as a fair sample. One reader posed the question, “buses or streetcars?” and the responses from laypeople and transportation experts alike came fast and furious. In the end, we were left with dozens of reasons why streetcars are superior, ranging from the
obvious to the wonderfully creative.

As the comments added up, we became more and more intrigued. So we’ve edited the various reasons into a proper list. Did we miss anything? Do any of these not hold up? Disagree entirely? Let us know in the comments section and we’ll update the story and the headline as worthwhile additions come in.

New streetcar lines always, always, get more passengers than the bus routes they replace.

Buses, are susceptible to every pothole and height irregularity in the pavement (and in Chicago we have plenty). Streetcars ride on smooth, jointless steel rails that rarely develop bumps.

Streetcars don’t feel low status to transit riders. Buses often do.

Mapmakers almost always include streetcar lines on their city maps, and almost never put any bus route in ink. New investment follows the lines on the map.

The upfront costs are higher for streetcars than buses but that is more than made up over time in lower operating and maintenance costs. In
transit you get what you pay for.

There is a compelling  ‘coolness’ and ‘newness’ factor attached to streetcars.

Streetcars feel safer from a crime point of view.

Steel wheel on steel rail is inherently more efficient than rubber tire on pavement.

Electric streetcars can accelerate more quickly than buses.

Streetcars don’t smell like diesel.

Streetcars accelerate and decelerate smoothly because they’re electrically propelled. Internal-combustion engines acting through a transmission
simply cannot surge with the same smoothness.

The current length limit for a bus is 60 feet, but streetcars can go longer, since they are locked into the rails and won’t be swinging all around the streets, smashing into cars.

Streetcars have an air of nostalgia.

New streetcar and light rail lines usually come with an upgraded street experience from better stops, landscaping, new roadbeds, and better sidewalks, to name a few. Of course, your federal transit dollar is paying for these modernizations, so why wouldn’t cities try to get them!

Perhaps the most over looked and significant difference between street cars and buses is permanence. You’ll notice that development will follow a train station, but rarely a bus stop.

Rails don’t pick up and move any time soon. Once a trolley system is in place, business and investors can count on them for decades. Buses come and go.

Streetcars are light and potentially 100% green. Potentially they could be powered by 100% solar and/or wind power. Even powered with regular power plant-derived electricity, they are still 95% cleaner than diesel buses. [Source? -Ed.]

Streetcars stop less. Because of the increased infrastructure for stops, transit planners don’t place stops at EVERY BLOCK, like they do with buses (SEPTA in Philly is terrible for this). Instead, blocks are a quarter to a half mile apart, so any point is no more than an eighth to a quarter mile from a stop.

People will travel longer distances on streetcars. At one point, in the 1930s, a person could travel to Boston from Washington solely on trolleys, with only two short gaps in the routes.

Buses are noisy. I ride them every day in Chicago, and I am constantly amazed at how loud a diesel bus engine is even on our latest-model buses [and] the valve chatter is an irritant to the nervous system. By comparison, streetcars are virtually silent.

Technological advances already make the current generation definitely NOT your grandfather’s streetcar. Low floors are standard, for easy-on easy-off curbside boarding. Wide doors allow passengers to enter or exit quickly. So streetcar stops take less time than buses.

Passengers can take comfort from seeing the rails stretching out far ahead of them, while ever fearing that the bus could take a wrong turn at the next corner and divert them off course.

Once purchased (albeit at high cost) streetcars are cheaper to maintain and last way the hell longer (case in point, streetcars discarded in the US in the 40’s, snapped up by the Yugoslavs, which are still running).

Streetcar tracks are cheaper to maintain than the roadways they displace.

People get notably more excited about the proposed extension of the streetcar system and expect revitalization of the neighborhoods around the planned stops.

Streetcars create more walkable streets. This is because streetcars, as mentioned above, are more attractive to riders than buses, which in turns prompt to more mass transit usage in general, which in turns prompts to more walking; a virtuous cycle that creates more attractive city streets.

Most European cities and countries kept investing in public transit during the decades when America was DISinvesting. Now I look across the pond and see dozens of European cities extending or building new rail transit systems, including many streetcar lines, and conclude: They probably know what they are doing; we should do some of that too.

You know exactly where a streetcar is going, but have you ever tried looking at a bus route map?

Streetcars are faster than buses or trackless trolleys (aside from 2 lines in Philly, do any other cities run trackless trolleys, or trolley buses anymore?) because trams tend to have dedicated lanes. Even if they don’t, if they operate on streets with multiple lanes, people stay out of the tram lane, because it’s harder to drive a car along tram tracks (the wheels pull to one side or the other as they fall into the groove) {Zweisystem replies: This may have been true in the 20’s when cars has narrow tires, but with a girder rail flangeway a mere 2 cm to 3 cm wide this is hardly a problem}.

In buses you’re still jostled by every pothole and sway at every bus stop. I thought bus rapid transit would be a significant improvement – there’s still a bit of sway and they concrete was not installed as smoothly as line of steel rail.

With buses transit planners are pushed by funding formulas to capture every pocket of riders thus you can get a very wiggly route; something that’s less practical on a fixed rail system.

Buses lurch unpredictably from side to side as they weave in and out of traffic and as they move from the traffic lane to the curb lane to pick up passengers. In streetcars turns occur at the same location on every trip, so that even standees can more or less relax knowing the car is not going to perform any unpredictable lateral maneuvers.

Most streetcar riders don’t consciously think about the differences between a bus ride and a streetcar ride. But their unconscious minds the spinal cord, the solar plexus, the inner ear and the seat of the pants, quickly tally the differences and deliver an impressionistic conclusion: The streetcar ride is physiologically less stressful.

An internal-combustion engine is constantly engaged in hammering itself to death and buses tend to vibrate themselves into a sort of metallurgical dishevelment. Interior fittings, window frames, handrails, floor coverings; seats tend to work loose and make the interior look frowzy and uncared- for.

By age 12 the bus is a piece of junk and has to be retired. A streetcar the same age is barely into its adolescence.

Streetcar stops are typically given more attention than most bus routes and the information system is more advanced. In Portland, the shelters even have VMS displays that tell you the times of the next two streetcar arrivals. This valuable information gives people the option to wait, do something else to pass the time, or walk to their destination.

One great advantage of streetcars is that the infrastructure serves as an orienting and way-finding device. The track alerts folks to the route and leads them to stops. Because they are a permanent feature of the streetscape, the routing is predictable and stable (unlike bus routes). So unlike a bus, a streetcar informs and helps citizens to formulate an image of their city, even if folks don’t ride it. It is a feature of their public realm. Because of this, these streets get greater public attention.

When you ride one of the remaining historic cars in Toronto or San Francisco you can tell they’re  ‘old’  in the sense of  ‘out of style’,  but when you look around the interior everything still seems shipshape, nothing rattles, the windows open and close without binding. The rider experiences a sense of solid quality associated with Grandma’s solid-oak dining table and 1847 Rodgers Brothers silver. And that makes everybody feel good.  Unlike, say, an aging bus.

For those of you who cannot see the difference between a bus and a streetcar, I suggest riding a streetcar when you get the chance. Then, if you can locate a bus that more or less follows the same route, give that a try. Compare the two experiences.

More European Tram-Trains – Rail for the Valley offers a challange to Translink and BC Transportation Minister Shirely Bond

August 10, 2009


In 1994, the GVRD, in an attempt to include the public in the planning process, held a two hour call-in about regional transit, on local cable channels. A panel of experts were on hand to answer the publics questions about transit issues, including rapid transit. Zweisystem phoned in and asked a question: Has BC Transit and/or the GVRD investigated the fledgling Karlsruhe two-system (tram-train), where light rail vehicles or streetcars, were able to network on and operate the mainline railways.

The answer coming from a GVRD planner was disappointing: “We are not interested in European transit solutions because their transit issues are different than ours.” 

Vancouver’s and European transit issues are almost identical; trying to design a transit system to attract the motorist from the car, thus alleviating auto congestion and pollution. The solutions used here and across the pond, are very different. Vancouver and regional planners were and still are planning for very expensive SkyTrain light-metro, while European transit planners, after seeing the failure of light-metro, opted to build with much cheaper at-grade/on-street light rail! The dichotomy continues!

Now in 2009, fifteen years later, tram-train is an accepted transit mode that can operate in smaller cites with much smaller populations, as well it can extend a major city’s transit lines hundred’s of kilometres way, cheaply, by track-sharing with regular railways. Karlsruhe’s famous “Zweisystem” or two-system LRT, the longest tram route is 210 km.!

Rail for the Valley contends that there is the ridership available for a Vancouver to Chillwack tram-train service; a transit service that can be built for a fraction of the cost of one SkyTrain light-metro line. Rail for the Valley is also tired of the old clichéd excuses for the province not investing in tram-train, such as there isn’t the density for transit, or freight trains can’t operate on passenger rail lines. Rail for the Valley offers this challenge to TransLink and BC Transportation minister Shirley Bond: Hold a competition with the suppliers of tram-train, including Siemens, Bombardier, Alstom, and Stadler for a Vancouver to Chilliwack interurban service and see what the ‘real‘ experts on tram-train have to say.


European cities introduce
new tram-train technology

By Brian Baker, Senior Correspondent

June 2009: Interest in deploying the tram-trains concept is growing across Europe during the present period. As all tiers of government grapple with the challenges of beating congestion whilst also cutting carbon emissions this approach, which combines proven technologies, is attractive. By combining heavy rail routes with tramway’s they allow passengers to access key destinations in city centres from suburbs without making a change and attract people who previously used cars thus cutting congestion and emissions.

Germany pioneered the utilisation of combining heavy rail and street running fixed link systems but in the last few years there has also been an upsurge of interest elsewhere. Several schemes are in the construction phase in France and a trial is underway in the UK.

The trial in the UK is being jointly managed by the Ministry of Transport, rail infrastructure owner Network Rail and train operations franchisee Northern Rail. Northern Rail is jointly owned by Serco and NedRail. Northern Rail Chief Executive Heidi Mottram said “ We at Northern Rail are a can do company and we were keen to take part in this trial because we thought tram trains could provide something new which could add to what we were doing.”

“The trial is being conducted in a way which can provide the learning for planning and delivering reliably on schemes anywhere in the UK,” she said.
“The tram train product has generated a lot of passenger growth in Germany and seems to be able to get people out of their cars. For the crowded UK network, its introduction could also free up scarce capacity at the major stations.” 

The trial routes are in Yorkshire and are those, which connect Sheffield with Huddersfield and Rotherham. These two lines share tracks between Sheffield and Meadowhall. During phase 2 of the trial services will leave this busy corridor and connect to Sheffield’s street-running tram system. “We needed a route which includes a passenger only section, sections with some inter-operability and a location where we could get on to the street and operate as a normal tram,” said Mottram.

Stadler, Alstom and Siemens vehicles are already on the market so it seems manufacturers are confident of a niche in mainland Europe. With a narrower track gauge on the national rail system, the situation in the UK is more fluid.

Mottram emphasises that the trial is to test and prove costs and technical operability on the UK rail and street environment. Phase 1 is underway and new tram trains are likely to begin running on the Sheffield-Huddersfield line in 2011.

Vehicles can be supplied to operate in dual-mode. Customers can choose between diesel on the heavy rail system with 750DC for street running and the all electric 25KV or 15KV on heavy rail with the 750DC on street.

In the UK the diesel option is likely to be essential on many of the likely locations for a scheme. In France, so far, the all-electric option is being preferred. In Nantes, for example, the project promoters who are led by Pays de Loire Region are electrifying the disused rail corridor north of the city to Chateaubriant. It will connect with the tramways in the city to permit journeys from Chateaubriant and the other towns served to the city centre without a change.

The first phase from the centre of Nantes to Nort-sur-Edre will open in 2010. The complete service, through to Chateaubriant, will begin in 2013. As in other schemes in France, vehicles capable of speeds of 100 kms per hour on the heavy rail sections are to be deployed. Funding has come from the regional council, the national government, the Department of Loire-Atlantique and Nantes Metropole.

In Lyon, tram trains have been chosen for two new routes. One will link the TGV station at Part-Dieu and Lyon St. Exbury airport to the east and another will serve suburbs to the west. Both will run on electric power on both tracks and street and are likely to open before the end of 2010.

The diesel option has been pioneered in Kassel, Germany. The system cost 180 million euros and opened in 2007. It provides a more frequent regional rail service, with additional stations, along three corridors and allows the tram trains to join the city’s tram network at Schiedemann-Platz using a new tunnel from the Hauptbahnhof (central station.). The ten hybrid diesel electric and 18 dual mode electric vehicles in Kassel are  manufactured by Alstom and are branded as Regio Citadis Dualis. The funding came from a mix of Federal, Regional and Local Authority shares.

In Braunschweig, Germany, a scheme with an estimated cost of 233 million euros is planned. This will use third rail technology to allow vehicles to run over the standard 1435mm gauge tracks on the rail network and on the city’s tramway network, which has a 1100mm gauge.

The new services will provide high frequency connections to Salzitter, a town of 100,000 population to the south of Braunschweig, as well as direct journeys on-street from the central station to the city centre for travellers from the south east and northern suburbs. Although the finance was still being finalised in early 2009 work is expected to begin in the same year. Funding is likely to include 60 per cent Federal government and 22.5 per cent Niedersachen Land (Lower Saxony State) contributions. 

Issues likely to determine the extent of spread of this useful addition to the public transport portfolio include cost, safety and environmental efficiency. Perhaps the most exciting opportunity for municipalities is that it makes the creation of projects for short sections of tramway potentially highly viable.

Delegates at this year’s ACORP (Association of Community Rail Partnerships) event heard that vehicles were likely to cost more than conventional train or tram alternatives as they included a lot of complex parts. Costs could be as high as five million euros for each set. But the benefits could outweigh this as well as providing existing users with higher frequencies and modern environment’s.

Nils Janis, Deputy Director at TTK, consultants to the Karlsruhe system in Baden Wurttemberg which pioneered this combined technology approach to mobility said “these are long-term projects and whilst engineers will eventually find solutions to technical issues political support is essential.”

He said that the vehicles in Kassel used a lot of fuel and were heavy which impacted on track wear but that in areas where there was not support for electrification of heavy rail routes they were an attractive alternative.

The potential for urban regeneration was considerable. Janis cited the town of Bretten in the Karlsruhe region where in the 16 years since the tram train was introduced rider-ship has increased by 1000 per cent. Journey time was reduced by 15 minutes. “The town’s population is up 16 per cent and land values are up 300 per cent,” he said. “Registrations at schools served by tram train are up 82 per cent and unemployment in the town reduced from 20 per cent to seven per cent between 1988 and 2004.”

In Kassel, the system has opened up several development opportunities along the corridors and in the city and has restored the role of the central station, which had been diminished since the edge of city station Kassel -Wilhelmshöhe opened on the new high speed rail line in the 1990’s.

From the Georgia Straight – Professor calls Port Mann Bridge a “white elephant”

August 6, 2009


The director of SFU’s urban studies program, Anthony Perl, has claimed that a new Port Mann Bridge will become the “Mirabel Airport” of Metro Vancouver. In a phone interview with the Straight, Perl said the B.C. government is building the bridge for a future that won’t exist, just as Mirabel was built in the 1970s for supersonic transport and space planes, which never materialized.

“You’re not going to be able to turn the Port Mann Bridge in for a refund,” Perl said. “There is no refund option on these white elephants.”

Mirabel, a $500-million project located 40 kilometres northwest of Montreal, opened in 1975. Promoted as an airport of the future, it was a monumental financial bust and closed to passenger traffic in 2004. Two years later, Montreal’s airport authority announced that it had struck a deal with two French companies to convert the site into an amusement park.

In February, the B.C. government estimated that it would cost $3.3 billion to build, operate, and finance the Port Mann–Highway 1 Project, which is part of the Gateway Program. The new tolled bridge will have 10 lanes and is expected to be completed in 2013.

Perl, coauthor of Transport Revolutions: Moving People and Freight Without Oil (Earthscan, 2008), said the Gateway Program is being built on the assumption that global trade will continue to grow and that trucks will move goods to their destinations on an expanded road system. Perl predicted, however, that rising energy costs—triggered by a peak in global oil production—will likely decimate demand for imports and exports. He has previously argued that huge capital investments should be made in electric rail, which will remain affordable even if oil prices escalate sharply.

“China is having a huge railway-building boom,” Perl said. “That’s what they’re using their [economic] stimulus for. It’s about a trillion dollars—the majority is going to rail. They’re not building a centimetre of new rail that isn’t electric because they understand that they need that energy alternative.”

Charlie Smith

Highway 1 Day of Action a Soaking Success

April 13, 2009

By all accounts!

Pictures: Day of Action in pictures on Flickr (feel free to upload yours)


I’ve heard over and over again, from people up and down the Valley and in Vancouver, that this was actually a really fun event, & people want to do it again.

*If you have a banner that needs storing, please contact us by sending an email to

News coverage so far:

VIDEO: Global TV news item on our Day of Action

VIDEO: CTV news item on our Day of Action

Chilliwack Progress: Light rail demonstration honking success in Chilliwack

Aldergrove Star: Rail transit supporters rally

Surrey Leader: Protesters push for rail not freeways

Abbotsford News; Railing for transit

Chilliwack Times: A honking success

Langley Free Press: Rail For The Valley Protests along Highway #1 Overpasses

Highway 1 Day of Action TOMORROW!

April 9, 2009

Just one more day…

Please get your friends and family out to this important, historic event in the Fraser Valley.

It’s simple: Choose an overpass, make some signs, & do your part, Saturday from 11:00am to 1:00pm, to bring passenger rail service back to the Fraser Valley!


Our Day of Action is in the news – big-time!

Day of Action will focus on light rail advantages (Abbotsford Times, April 10)

150 km of track, trains for price of new bridge: Study (The Province, April 9)

‘Massive’ transit protest planned (Robert Freeman, Chilliwack Progress, April 7)

Light rail fans to hit the highway (Jeff Nagel, Surrey Leader, April 3)

On April 11, from 11:00am to 1:00pm, we will make history, holding banners for two hours atop Highway 1 overpasses throughout the Lower Mainland, from Chilliwack in the east to Eagleridge Bluffs in West Vancouver, in support of passenger rail and in opposition to our government’s current single-minded Gateway agenda of road-building and 2nd-class transit for the South of Fraser.

*To sign up to take part in this important action, please send an email to*

We need to be very organized to pull this off, so


& let me know your overpass preference, and whether you can make a sign or a banner.

Light rail fans to hit the highway – article by Jeff Nagel in the Surrey Leader (click here)

Instead of twinning the Port Mann Bridge, the province intends to tear it down and build an all-new 10-lane span.

Instead of twinning the Port Mann Bridge, the province intends to tear it down and build an all-new 10-lane span.

UBC professor Patrick Condon estimates 200 kilometres of light rail can be built for the cost of rebuilding the Port Mann Bridge and widening Highway 1.

UBC professor Patrick Condon estimates 200 kilometres of light rail can be built for the cost of rebuilding the Port Mann Bridge and widening Highway 1.