Posts Tagged ‘Fraser Valley’

The Leewood Projects ‘Full Build Option’ or “Full Meal Deal”. Finally a Transit Plan With Vision!

September 28, 2010

Click here to download the full 84 page report

What is interesting about the Rail for the Valley/Leewood Projects TramTrain or interurban report is the vision shown by the author. Not only does he plan for the ‘politically correct’ (for valley types) Scott Road to Chilliwack TramTrain he also looks to the future with extensions to Vancouver, Richmond and Rosedale, with the ‘Full Build Option’ costing just under one billion dollars!

For a better perspective, the 11 km. SkyTrain Evergreen Line extension will cost over $1.4 billion and service far fewer potential transit customers, this has lead to demand for more density along the Evergreen Line in the Tri-Cities region to try to increase ridership on the metro. The RftV TramTrain doesn’t need such high density as there is plenty of population along the route to provide ridership. The density issue for rail transit has become a SkyTrain only issue as there is sufficient population to ensure economic operation with much cheaper to build light rail.

For the same cost as the Evergreen SkyTrain Line, a  full build (Full Meal Deal) Valley TramTrain, Vancouver/Richmond to Rosedale could be built and with the remaining $400 million, a Vancouver/Richmond to Maple Ridge TramTrain operation could also be funded.

The planned SkyTrain subway to UBC is estimated to cost $3 billion to $4 billion, yet for the same amount of monetary outlay, we could build a BCIT to UBC/Stanley Park LRT/streetcar ($1 billion); a full build RftV TramTrain ($1 billion); a new multi track Fraser River Rail bridge (approx. $500 million); TramTrain to Whiterock (approx. $300 million); and LRT/tram lines in Surrey and Langley ($500 million to $1 billion+)!

For the cost of one SkyTrain subway line, we could fund a sizable regional LRT network combining light rail, TramTrain and streetcar/tram, with the potential of being able to get on a tram in Rosedale and take the same tram to Stanley Park or UBC or Richmond! This is the vision behind the Rail for the Valley/Leewood Projects Report, it is not just a one politically and bureaucratically prestigious rapid transit line, rather a plan to implement affordable light rail transit in the region, providing affordable ‘rail‘ transit for generations.

The sad fact is, Premier Campbell lacks such vision with his childish, TransLink Speak, remarks regarding light rail and his pronouncements are a continuing embarrassment for those  trying to get affordable rail transit built in the Fraser Valley.

The Fraser Valley municipal politicians had better show transit vision now and board the valley TramTrain, lest they be left waiting at the platform, paying Vancouver’s fare for a new $4 billion SkyTrain subway under Broadway.

A Karlsruhe TramTrain operating on tram tracks. The same LRV can operate on the mainline.


Rail for the Valley in the News!

September 22, 2010

The Rail for the Valley/Leewood TramTrain study has had region wide reporting, with most of the weekly papers featuring this historic news release.

Click here to download the full 84 page report

Surrey Leader, Langley Times & Chilliwack Progress, BC


Valley light rail all go, twin groups claim

Vancouver Province


Chilliwack Progress

 Report supports light rail

‘An honest accounting’ of the potential transit system

Chilliwack Times, BC

 From the North Shore News

Valley light rail all go, twin groups claim
Vancouver Province

Even the Richmond Review and south Delta Leader has Jeff Nagel’s article!


A Must Read For Regional Mayors Before They Talk Transit Funding!

September 20, 2010

Since the spring of 2008, the Light Rail Committee has circulated an E-Mail sent by American transit and transportation expert, Gerald Fox to a Victoria transit group that wants to promote LRT and TramTrain in the Capital Region. Mr. Fox easily shreds TransLink’s business case for the Evergreen Line which should forewarn transit groups and regional politicians in the Fraser Valley that TransLink easily manipulates statistics to favour SkyTrain to the detriment of light-rail and is not to be trusted with any transit study. The following is the text of the E-Mail and for those lobbying for the return of the Interurban, just substitute the Fraser Valley for Victoria.

The letter, first published in in this blog December 27th, 2008 is reprinted in light of this weeks meeting of regional mayors with Transportation Minister Shirley Bond and the Premier of BC, regarding funding for the Evergreen Line.

The question is basic: If TransLink’s business case for the Evergreen line is dishonest, then would a funding formula for the Evergreen line be equally dishonest?

From: A North-American Rail Expert (Gerald Fox)

Subject: Comments on the Evergreen Line “Business Case”

Date: February 6, 2008 12:15:22 PM PST (CA)


 The Evergreen Line Report made me curious as to how TransLink could justify continuing to expand SkyTrain, when the rest of the world is building LRT. So I went back and read the alleged “Business Case” (BC) report in a little more detail. I found several instances where the analysis had made assumptions that were inaccurate, or had been manipulated to make the case for SkyTrain. If the underlying assumptions are inaccurate, the conclusions may be so too. Specifically:

 Capacity. A combination of train size and headway. For instance, TriMet’s new “Type 4” Low floor LRVs, arriving later this year, have a rated capacity of 232 per car, or 464 for a 2- car train. (Of course one must also be sure to use the same standee density when comparing car capacity. I don’t know if that was done here). In Portland we operate a frequency of 3 minutes downtown in the peak hour, giving a one way peak hour capacity of 9,280. By next year we will have two routes through downtown, which will eventually load both ways, giving a theoretical peak hour rail capacity of 37,000 into or out of downtown. Of course we also run a lot of buses.

 The new Seattle LRT system which opens next year, is designed for 4-car trains, and thus have a peak hour capacity of 18,560. (but doesn’t need this yet, and so shares the tunnel with buses). The Business Case analysis assumes a capacity of 4,080 for LRT, on the Evergreen Line which it states is not enough, and compares it to SkyTrain capacity of 10400.!

 Speed. The analysis states the maximum LRT speed is 60 kph. (which would be correct for the street sections) But most LRVs are actually designed for 90 kph. On the Evergreen Line, LRT could operate at up to 90 where conditions permit, such as in the tunnels, and on protected ROW. Most LRT systems pre-empt most intersections, and so experience little delay at grade crossings. (Our policy is that the trains stop only at stations, and seldom experience traffic delays. It seems to work fine, and has little effect on traffic.) There is another element of speed, which is station access time. At-grade stations have less access time. This was overlooked in the analysis.

 Also, on the NW alignment, the SkyTrain proposal uses a different, faster, less-costly alignment to LRT proposal. And has 8 rather than 12 stations. If LRT was compared on the alignment now proposed for SkyTrain, it would go faster, and cost less than the Business Case report states!

 Cost. Here again, there seems to be some hidden biases. As mentioned above, on the NW Corridor, LRT is costed on a different alignment, with more stations. The cost difference between LRT and SkyTrain presented in the Business Case report is therefore misleading. If they were compared on identical alignments, with the same number of stations, and designed to optimize each mode, the cost advantage of LRT would be far greater. I also suspect that the basic LRT design has been rendered more costly by requirements for tunnels and general design that would not be found on more cost-sensitive LRT projects.

 Then there are the car costs. Last time I looked, the cost per unit of capacity was far higher for SkyTrain. Also,it takes about 2 SkyTrain cars to match the capacity of one LRV. And the grade-separated SkyTrain stations are far most costly and complex than LRT stations. Comparing 8 SkyTrain stations with 12 LRT stations also helps blur the distinction.

 Ridership. Is a function of many factors. The Business Case report would have you believe that type of rail mode alone, makes a difference (It does in the bus vs rail comparison, according to the latest US federal guidelines). But, on the Evergreen Line, I doubt it. What makes a difference is speed, frequency (but not so much when headways get to 5 minutes), station spacing and amenity etc. Since the speed, frequency and capacity assumptions used in the Business Case are clearly inaccurate, the ridership estimates cannot be correct either. There would be some advantage if SkyTrain could avoid a transfer. If the connecting system has capacity for the extra trains. But the case is way overstated.

 And nowhere is it addressed whether the Evergreen Line, at the extremity of the system, has the demand for so much capacity and, if it does, what that would mean on the rest of the system if feeds into?

 Innuedos about safety, and traffic impacts, seem to be a big issue for SkyTrain proponents, but are solved by the numerous systems that operate new LRT systems (i.e., they can’t be as bad as the SkyTrain folk would like you to believe).

 I’ve no desire to get drawn into the Vancouver transit wars, and, anyway, most of the rest of the world has moved on. To be fair, there are clear advantages in keeping with one kind of rail technology, and in through-routing service at Lougheed. But, eventually, Vancouver will need to adopt lower-cost LRT in its lesser corridors, or else limit the extent of its rail system. And that seems to make some TransLink people very nervous.

 It is interesting how TransLink has used this cunning method of manipulating analysis to justify SkyTrain in corridor after corridor, and has thus succeeded in keeping its proprietary rail system expanding. In the US, all new transit projects that seek federal support are now subjected to scrutiny by a panel of transit peers, selected and monitored by the federal government, to ensure that projects are analysed honestly, and the taxpayers’ interests are protected. No SkyTrain project has ever passed this scrutiny in the US.


 But the BIG DEAL for Victoria is: If the Business Case analysis were corrected to fix at least some of the errors outlined above, the COST INCREASE from using SkyTrain on the Evergreen Line will be comparable to the TOTAL COST of a modest starter line in Victoria. This needs to come to the attention of the Province. Victoria really does deserve better. Please share these thoughts as you feel appropriate.

Light Rail News Round Up

September 19, 2010

Some news about LRT and transit from the USA and Europe.



TAMPA – More than a decade ago, Phoenix baseball officials showcased a video of their state of the art ballpark during a lavish Tampa Bay reception, overwhelming the home team’s introduction of Tropicana Field.

Local business and civic leaders that night yearned for a comparable facility, even before the Rays’ first season had begun.

Once again local officials are casting an envious eye toward Phoenix. This time they are studying a 20-mile light rail system that could serve as a model for a proposed system in Tampa.

WASATCH FRONT — The Utah Transit Authority says work on five new TRAX rail lines is steadily progressing. Riders are expected to be able to hop on light rail on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley by next fall.

All five lines are expected to be done by 2015, which will add 70 miles to UTA’s existing 64-mile rail network.

In the not-too-distant future, commuters on TRAX will have a lot more rail to ride.

Toronto – letter: candidates have heads in asphalt Candidates’ transit ideas defy reality–candidates-transit-ideas-defy-reality

Ottawa’s largest independent business organization is jumping onboard Ottawa’s $2.1 billion Light Rail Transit Plan.

As Predicted – “Mayors consider raising taxes to pay for TransLink”

September 16, 2010

 As predicted yesterday:

TransLink is in a conundrum; there is no money for new metro expansion and the bureaucracy refuses to plan for much cheaper light rail. There is no way out, either taxes must increase to pay for metro construction or the transit system stagnates and becomes even more unattractive product for customers.

It seems Langley City Mayor and the rest of the regional mayors are going to take the cowards way out, by raising everyones municipal taxes to build the Tri_Cities Millennium Line. Instead of questioning the need to build, yet again, another hugely expensive metro line on a route that doesn’t have the ridership to justify the investment, regional mayor should look at cheaper options. Instead of saying “NO” to TransLink and their dated and cumbersome metro planning, they are going again to attack the taxpayer to fund political and bureaucratic metro dreams.

Next week, Rail for the Valley will be releasing a document that shows that we can build ‘rail‘ transit cheaper, far cheaper than the planning mandarins, in their ivory towers, on Kingsway can plan for. Here is an example: for the cost of the $1.4 billion plus Evergreen Line, we can build 140 km. of TramTrain in the region plus a Vancouver to Maple Ridge TramTrain service!

Does Mayor Fassbender want a political reaction like the HST, by raising taxes for a transit mega project that in the past has failed to induce a modal shift from car to transit? Are regional mayors so insensitive to the effects of another tax hike to build something that can be achieved for a fraction of its price.

It is time regional mayors hire an independent transportation consultant to give an alternative opinion for transit solutions in the region than what the well heeled bureaucrats at TransLink want forced on the public. Rail For The Valley certainly can suggest one!

Mayors consider raising taxes to pay for TransLink

Funds needed to build Evergreen Line

By KELLY SINOSKI, Vancouver Sun – September 15, 2010

Metro Vancouver mayors will likely consider a separate financial supplement to pay for TransLink’s $400-million share of the Evergreen Line by the end of the year.

Peter Fassbender, chairman of the mayors’ council on regional transportation, said Wednesday the mayors hope to fund their commitment for the rapid transit line, or the provincial government will come up with another way to make them pay for it.

A funding supplement would have to be approved by regional mayors, and could involve raising fuel or property taxes to bring in extra money for TransLink. The province has already said the Evergreen Line, the region’s top priority, will be built to connect Coquitlam to Vancouver via Port Moody. The provincial and federal governments have committed their share of the project.

“We have a window of time to either come up with our commitment or the government will have to do something else,” Fassbender said. “[A financial supplement] is the only way we can come up with our share. What it looks like I don’t know yet because it hasn’t been developed.”

Fassbender will meet Premier Gordon Campbell and Transportation Minister Shirley Bond next week to examine long-term issues of TransLink’s financial woes.

He said he can’t “pre-suppose” what decisions will be made at the meeting but hopes “we’ll be moving forward in a positive way.

“The purpose is to talk about working together to deal with sustainable funding and issues in transportation. It’s not going to be easy.”

A report this week by transportation commissioner Martin Crilly suggested TransLink is still struggling to pay for transit services and will have to look at other methods if it’s to meet the ambitious goals in its 2040 plan.

“To gain ground on the background growth of the region, a greater portion of the region’s wealth will need somehow to be devoted to providing that capacity,” he said in the report. “TransLink has yet to solve the conundrum of funding for capacity expansion, and cannot do so alone.”

Crilly said Wednesday TransLink will have to move in the direction of a “user-pay” system to continue to build transit infrastructure and operate it. Road pricing is just one example, he said, to get more people out of single vehicles and using transit or carpooling.

“That really is a more efficient use of space,” he said. “But in order to increase capacity it’s going to mean people will end up spending less on private travel and more on collective travel.”

Read more:

Mayors, Premier and Transportation Minister to meet next week – The Blind Leading the Blind

September 15, 2010

Talk about the blind leading the blind.

BC Transportation Minister, Shirley Bond (who knows little or nothing about transit), the besieged premier (who knows that building glitzy metro lines buys votes), and regional mayors (who are equally unread on transit) are going to have a private meeting regarding TransLink’s ongoing financial crisis. The first hing that must be done is to invite the public, simply because the public is public transit’s customers and politicians should value their input.  Secondly, TransLink and the Premier must understand that TransLink’s perennial financial malaise is due mainly to the SkyTrain light-metro system and our perverse penchant to build very expensive to build and operate light-metro lines instead of modern light rail!

To date the taxpayer has unknowingly spent over $8 billion for our metro system, yet for less than one  half the cost, by building with modern LRT we could have had almost double the route mileage – more trams, serving more destinations providing more incentive for people to use transit! Now there is a clever thought!

Added to TransLink’s woes, is the singular fact that the SkyTrain light-metro system has failed to attract the motorist from the car and it is just far too expensive to extend in lighter populated areas and has not proven to be a credible transit alternative for the car. The current hype and hoopla about the Canada Line is merely self serving window dressing to sell the public on building more metro, but in real terms, for about $2.8 billion costs to date, the new metro has attracted only about 4,000 to 5,000 new riders (which is about normal for a new ‘rail’ line) and the new riders are mainly the elderly going to the River Rock Casino or Asian shops in Richmond most using discounted concession fares  and students using $1.00 a day U-Passes! The RAV/Canada line has yet to show that it has attracted the motorist from the car.

Yes, the airport is also garnering new ridership, but do not forget the 15 minute service Airporter bus the Canada Line metro replaced.

TransLink is in a conundrum; there is no money for new metro expansion and the bureaucracy refuses to plan for much cheaper light rail. There is no way out, either taxes must increase to pay for metro construction or the transit system stagnates and becomes even more unattractive product for customers.

Next week, Rail for the Valley will present an affordable alternative to TransLink’s present grandiose metro and subway plans, the problem is: Will the premier, Ms. Bond and regional mayors listen!

In BC Rubber on Asphalt Rules!

Mayors, Premier and Transportation Minister to meet next week

By Frank Luba, The Province – September 14, 2010 4:02 PM
A closed-door meeting between Metro Vancouver mayors, Premier Gordon Campbell and Transportation Minister Shirley Bond next week is expected to go a long way toward settling TransLink’s financial woes.

Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender, chairman of the Metro mayors’ council on transportation, can’t presume to say exactly what will come out of the meeting.

But he and TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis will both speak at the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce luncheon that follows the meeting. Cambell and Bond will also be in attendance.

When asked if there will finally be some news about TransLink’s long-standing cash crunch, Fassbender replied: “We will at least be demonstrating where we need to go and how we’re going to get there together.

“My hope is that Thursday will be a major step forward in finding the answer specifically to the question people have of ‘How are you going to do this?’” said Fassbender

“They’re not easy answers,” he said. “There isn’t a quick fix here.”

The situation has come to a crossroads.

“We’re either going to move ahead or it’s clear we can’t work together,” said Fassbender. “But you know what? I believe we can.”

The problem of TransLink funding was highlighted again Monday night when transportation commissioner Martin Crilly gave his seal of approval to the transportation authority’s 2011 plans.

Crilly pointed out that TransLink doesn’t have the money to do what its own long-range plans to 2040 call for or what the region needs according to Metro Vancouver.

“To gain ground on the background growth of the region, a greater portion of the region’s wealth will need somehow to be devoted to providing that [transportation] capacity,” said Crilly in a release.

“TransLink has yet to solve the conundrum of funding for capacity expansion, and cannot do so alone,” said Crilly.

Read more:

Off The Rails – From the Abby Times

September 12, 2010

An interesting tome in the Abbotsford Times.

Anyone wanting to put ‘rail’ transit down the median of the number 1 highway forgets that it would be hugely expensive and the curvature and gradients along the route would mean very expensive engineering would have to be done. Going ‘greenfields’ construction is always an expensive proposition which knowledgeable transit planners try to avoid.

The problem with ‘rapid bus’ or BRT is that those who propose it do not ride it. The Achilles heel of any bus bases transit system is that it doesn’t attract ridership and BRT is no exception. Despite the hue and cry from the bus lobby, the singular fact remains that many people perceive buses as ‘looser cruisers’ and take the car instead.

The one workable option of course is reinstating the Vancouver to Chilliwack interurban but using the 21st century Tram Train instead. It makes sense in our financially challenging times to use existing railway infrastructure to improve regional transit, as our region badly needs affordable transit solutions for our endemic transportation woes.

The SkyTrain Lobby must grow up and realize there is precious little money for their grand metro solutions and SkyTrain here or there, sometime in the next fifty years is just not good enough!

Off The Rails

We’re all at the mercy of Highway 1.” – David D. Hull, Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce
By Rafe Arnott, The Times – September 7, 2010
A commuter train running between Chilliwack and Vancouver along Highway 1 is not feasible, say area rail proponents and infrastructure experts, but one running through higher-density urban areas could be a possibility.

Rail for the Valley spokesman John Vissers said a commuter train running down the centre of the Trans-Canada Highway through the Fraser Valley would help traffic volume, but is financially impossible.

Calling it a “pie in the sky” idea, Vissers said the government simply doesn’t have the money to finance such an ambitious transit project.

“Putting something down the middle of the freeway is hugely expensive,” he said.

“Where would the tax money come from to build something like that? That money doesn’t exist anywhere. The costs are staggering.”

B.C. Ministry of Transportation spokesman Dave Crebo said a study to examine transit options and commuter demand in the valley is underway.

“[We’re waiting] on the results of that, so no one would be committing to putting trains out there right now,” he said.

Port Mann Bridge/Highway 1 Improvement Project spokeswoman Pamela Ryan said the new bridge is designed to accommodate a grade rail line.

She said while running a train down the middle of the TransCanada Highway isn’t the best option, exploring other public transit routes through more densely populated areas in the Fraser Valley that could accommodate passenger stations is viable.

“If we’re looking at providing rapid rail along the south side of the Fraser River, the Highway 1 corridor is probably not the best location for it,” Ryan said.

“Whether that be Fraser Highway right-of-way, or whatever, rail systems are more effective when you have them located near high-density areas,” she said.

Vissers thinks the existing rail line in the hands of FVLR would be a good starting point, rather than punching through another line.

“We already own the track, and it’s underused. Why not put a few [rail] cars on it and see what happens?”

Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce Executive Director David D. Hull said long-term planning is key to infrastructure growth, but British Columbia is 15 years behind dealing with traffic issues in the Fraser Valley.

“We’ve neglected the capital infrastructure of the province for far too long,” he said.

According to Hull, delays stemming from traffic issues with Highway 1 cost Lower Mainland businesses.

“It’s in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The B.C. Trucking Association has estimated in their industry alone its in the tens of millions of dollars.

“We’re all at the mercy of Highway 1,” Hull said.

Taking into the consideration the current traffic volumes, Ryan said the new highway and bridge improvements would allow for a rapid bus line in designated HOV lanes to serve commuters, including a new park and ride transit exchange near 202 Street in Langley.

“This Highway 1 rapid bus service will be able to take passengers between [Lougheed Station in] Burnaby and Langley in about 23 minutes,” Ryan said.

“Which provides access not only to the Millennium Line, but the Expo Line as well.”

Describing North America as a “rubber-tire society,” Hull said dedicated lanes for busses on the newly expanded Highway 1 might better serve current commuter demands.

“That’s good enough to get you somewhere, I mean, you don’t have to be on a train.”

Vissers said more roads only means more cars, and whenever capacity in increased, traffic follows, and that’s not a solution.

“A solution is to develop alternatives.

“Building freeway capacity is a 1970’s solution for the 21st Century… it doesn’t work.”

Read more:

The SkyTrain Lobby – Just The Usual Suspects!

September 10, 2010

"It used to be something called public transit ... then for reasons you're too young to understand, they did away with the public."

Transit again is making front page news in the dailies and regional newspapers, with TransLink claiming that the next big rapid transit (read SkyTrain) line will be in Surrey, not Broadway. A few international transit blogs have picked up the story with the usual suspects singing hosannas about SkyTrain, while in the same breathe libeling anyone who supports light rail, including long time advocates of the worlds most built transit system! What is perverse about the SkyTrain lobby is that they moan on and on about how facts about LRT being distorted or untrue, yet all they have to offer in turn is TransLink’s dubious claims about SkyTrain and the Canada Line, which is a conventional metro and not ART.

What is even more sad is that the old saw, “SkyTrain is cheaper to operate than light rail because it has no drivers” is trundled out ad naseum by the usual suspects and by bloggists who should know better. Automatic or driverless railways were the flavour of the month back in the 70’s and 80’s but have been found expensive to operate. Sure the system has no drivers, but in their stead an automatic metro system must hire a small army of attendants to keep trains and stations safe for the paying public. Not mentioned too, is a rather large squad of signaling experts must be on shift at all times to deal with problems with train operation because with an automatic metro, operating conditions must be at 100% or the system grinds to a halt.

What has been found is that automatic metros are only cost effective if average hourly ridership is above about 15,000 persons per hour per direction, below that threshold, LRT is cheaper to operate and at 15,000 to 20,000 pphpd operating costs of both modes are about the same. Yet, one never hears this from the usual suspects.

We have had now thirty years of SkyTrain only planning in the region and it has left us with a massive transit deficit. Sure, the SkyTrain metro system carries a lot of passengers, but 80% of those passengers have been forced to transfer from bus to metro. Transfers, especially forced transfers not only increase travel time, it deters about 70%of potential customers. There is no evidence that the SkyTrain metro system has caused a modal shift from car to transit and with the multi-billion Gateway highways and bridge project shows that the SkyTrain system is actually fueling new highway construction!

SkyTrain is too expensive to extend and even finding funds to complete the Evergreen Line (Nevergreen Line) are almost impossible to come by, yet the SkyTrain Lobby persists that the proprietary metro is just ‘peachy‘.

To date, SkyTrain has yet to prove in revenue service that it is cheaper to operate than light rail; to date SkyTrain has yet to prove in revenue service that it can carry more passengers than light rail! These two facts accounts for ICTS/ALRT/ALM/ART dismal sales record when compared to light rail and the once mighty Skytrain has now been relegated as a niche transit system for airports and theme parks. The usual suspects again remain silent about this.

Yet we knew this already. From the 1983 TTC ART Study:

“ICTS costs anything up to ten times as much as a conventional light-rail line to install, for about the same capacity; or put another way, ICTS costs more than a heavy-rail subway, with four times ICTS’s capacity.”

Or if one had read Gerald Fox’s A Comparison Between Light Rail And Automated Transit Systems. (1991), which concluded:

  • Requiring fully grade separated R-O-W and stations and higher car and equipment costs, total construction costs is higher for AGT than LRT. A city selecting AGT will tend to have a smaller rapid transit network than a city selecting LRT.
  • There is no evidence that automatic operation saves operating and maintenance costs compared to modern LRT operating on a comparable quality of alignment.
  • The rigidity imposed on operations by a centralized control system and lack of localized response options have resulted in poor levels of reliability on AGT compared to the more versatile LRT systems.
  • LRT and AGT have similar capacities capabilities if used on the same quality of alignment. LRT also has the option to branch out on less costly R-O-W.
  • Being a product of contemporary technology, AGT systems carry with them the seeds of obsolescence.
  • Transit agencies that buy into proprietary systems should consider their future procurement options, particularly if the original equipment manufacturer were to cease operations.
  • The SkyTrain Lobby, with the usual suspects, ignore transit studies from experts who have hands on knowledge about light rail and metro and continue to put evangelic faith with those who want ‘pie in the sky’ metro and subway planning. The taxpayer, especially taxpayers who live South of the Fraser are growing weary of paying higher taxes to build just a little more politically prestigious metro in Greater Vancouver, just ask Premier Gordon Campbell and the HST fiasco.

    TransLink’s new motto for ‘rail‘ transit should be:

     “Build it Cheap and Build Lots“.

    Surrey mayor calls for transit expansion to be low profile to make sense – From the Vancouver Province

    September 7, 2010
    Surrey mayor, Dianne Watts, clearly understands the costs of ‘rail’ transit (the term ‘rapid transit’ is used by lazy or uniformed people) and that to get a larger more workable ‘rail‘  network for her city, she must opt for modern light rail. While Vancouver pines for another multi-billion dollar subway under Broadway, its politicians seem oblivious to the massive financial obligations needed to fund metro/subway. For the past three decades, Vancouver was happy to let others fund their metro system, but today’s financial realities means that there will be no more metro construction in the foreseeable future.
    The math is simple; for every km. of SkyTrain built, one can build up to 10 km. of light rail!
    The problem with Metro (today’s GVRD) and TransLink, their top planners have never understood ‘rail’ transit and plan for prestigious metro and subways such as SkyTrain and treat modern light rail as a poorman’s SkyTrain. Being at-grade doesn’t mean light rail can’t be fast nor does it condemn LRT as being slow, as any transit system is as fast as it is designers have designed it to be.
    What is so sad, is when one hears the term ‘greenhouse objectives and regional transit planning in the same sentence. Despite over $8 billion spent on three light-metro lines, there has been no discernible modal shift from car to metro! In fact. subways are poor in attracting new ridership.
    I would not call SkyTrain a ‘Cadillac’ transit system, rather it is an ‘Edsel’ transit system, that no one in Europe and North America want to build. In short, SkyTrain is an operating museum piece, which showcases 1970’s ‘rail’ transit philosophy. Today its 2010 and the financial realities of future fragile economy in the coming decade mean gold plated light-metro lines like SkyTrain will be seen as political follies.

    In a few weeks, Rail for the Valley will also join the fray with its plans, which will bolster Mayor Watts demands for light rail.

    With two competing transit modes, the Metro region will live with a dichotomy of light-metro operation North of the Fraser River and light rail South of the Fraser and soon calls will be made by those who have SkyTrain, be made to pay the higher costs for building and operating light metro. If North Fraser taxpayers (SkyTrain zone) are not inclined to do so, it may fuel the many calls for succession of South of the Fraser municipalities from TransLink. If TransLink splits, it will force North of the Fraser taxpayers into a new economic reality, one that their politicians turned a blind eye to, in their haste to build politically prestigious light metro, letting the rest of the regions taxpayers to fund it.


    Surrey mayor calls for transit expansion to be low profile to make sense

    By Frank Luba, The Province

    When rapid transit expands south of the Fraser River, Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts wants it to be at-grade and light rail — not overhead or underground or as expensive as SkyTrain.

    But whatever happens with rapid transit, she doesn’t want to get into a battle with Vancouver over which area gets the next expansion.

    “You’ve got to go where the need is,” said Watts Monday, reacting to a Metro Vancouver report that put expansion to the University of B.C. low on the priority list.

    “With those scarce dollars you have, we don’t have the luxury of just making political decisions any more.” she said. “It has to make sense.”

    While provincial plans have called for a SkyTrain expansion south of the Fraser, Watts said that for an area as big as Surrey and Langley “[SkyTrain] wouldn’t make sense because the costs would just be astronomical.”

    “It’s nice to have a Cadillac like the Canada Line, but the cost is prohibitive,” she said. “If we’re ever to get the connectivity which we need south of the Fraser, then we better be looking at alternatives.”

    It’s difficult to argue with the need for transit south of the Fraser River.

    The area has close to one million residents already, with another 1,000 people moving into Surrey alone every month,

    The draft regional-growth strategy report titled Metro Vancouver 2040, which was released last week, identified the top rapid-transit expansion priority as the $1.4-billion Evergreen Line connecting Coquitlam Regional City Centre to Lougheed Municipal Town Centre.

    But the second priority was rapid-transit expansion from Surrey Metro Centre to one or more of the south of Fraser regional town centres — along with connecting Central Broadway in Vancouver to the existing rapid-transit network.

    Presumably, that connection would be an extension of the Millennium Line as far as Arbutus.

    A UBC expansion was well down on the list of other needs.

    Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs, the city’s point man on transportation, thinks a connection to UBC is “inevitable” but knows Central Broadway is a more pressing priority.

    “To meet the greenhouse-gas objectives the province has set, and to ensure economic health, we should try to find the funding to do these all as fast as possible,” said Meggs.

    “Evergreen is clearly first,” he said,

    But TransLink still doesn’t have its $400-million share of the Evergreen project, which is supposed to start construction in 2011 and be complete by 2014.

    Read more:

    Why is public transit more expensive than it used to be?

    September 3, 2010

    LRT and streetcar/tram - Time to get back to basics?

    The following article from the American Conservative sums up Rail for the Valley’s long standing worries about the ever escalating cost to build light rail/streetcar.

    It is time to get back to basics and build LRT/streetcar cheaply or it will price itself right out of the market! One start, of course, would be to stop planning for LRT on viaduct or in subway as this makes LRT a light metro!

    Why is public transit more expensive than it used to be?

    by Glen Bottoms

    Rail transit’s great enemy isn’t public support or political will but its enormous price tag.

    The expense of heavy-rail subway systems has limited recent growth to extensions of existing lines. The last heavy-rail construction completed in the U.S. was a 3.2 mile extension of Washington Metro’s blue line to Largo Town Center, completed in 2004 at a cost of $695 million ($217 million/mile). Phase I of the Metro’s 11.6 mile extension to Dulles Airport is estimated at a staggering $2.65 billion ($242.1 million/mile). The bite for New York City subway extensions is in another reality.

    At first, Light Rail seemed to offer a solution, but its cost is steadily rising. The initial segment of Seattle’s 15.6 mile Central Link Light Rail system, which opened in 2009, cost $2.4 billion ($154 million/mile). Portland, Oregon’s proposed 7.3 mile MAX Light Rail extension to Milwaukie is estimated at $1.4 billion ($191.8 million/mile).

    Now that streetcars have caught on in many U.S. cities—over 60 are currently planning streetcar projects—many fear that the cost-escalation virus could infect this mode as well. The price tag on Tucson’s streetcar project, now under construction, has grown by 20 percent. Costs for proposed streetcar projects across the country range from a reasonable $10 million to an eye-popping $60 million per mile.

    What accounts for this dramatic escalation? Three key factors: 1) overdesign, 2) lack of technical expertise at the overseeing transit agency, and 3) external factors like political interference and rising material costs.

    Consultants retained to design these systems regularly use plans that they already possess without regard to applicability or functionality, selecting higher-speed overhead wire in rail yards and city streets or specifying certain types of rail without regard for cheaper alternatives. Excessive tunneling is also a critical cost driver. Tucking Light Rail in subways to avoid disturbing traffic not only raises costs, it ignores the fact that dedicating lanes to cost-effective transit increases use. The technical knowledge to recognize these inappropriate designs is a critical element of cost control.

    Supervisors often cite rising prices of construction components worldwide as the reason for transit projects’ blown budgets. But this is not a major part of the story. Consider the case of Norfolk, Virginia’s 7.4 mile Light Rail project, which suffered dramatic overruns as it was being built. One report indicated that 50 percent of the increase could be attributed to “soft” costs caused by poor management decisions, like the arrival of vehicles in a storage yard that hadn’t been built yet.

    America’s rail infrastructure won’t be resurrected overnight. But history shows that we can build rail economically and on time. After all, we have been constructing systems of all sizes and complexities in this country for well over a hundred years. Recalling those past experiences today will give us the tools we need to build the trains of tomorrow.

    Glen Bottoms is a former longtime Federal Transit Administration employee. He now serves as executive director of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation.