Posts Tagged ‘infrastructure’

The 10,000 PPHPD Question – TransLink is Hoisted on its Own Petard

October 5, 2010

At the recent streetcar symposium in Vancouver, TransLink officials contend that streetcars have very little capacity, almost less than a bus and that light rail can carry only 10,000 persons per hour per direction. This, despite the fact that the Light Rail Transit Association has, since the 1980’s, defined LRT “as a mode that can carry 2,000 to 20,000 pphpd, thus bridging the gap of what can economically be carried by buses and the ridership that would demand a subway“.

Many cities operating LRT or tram, provide capacities of over 20,000 pphpd on portions of their routes during peak hours, including Karlsruhe, Germany; Helsinki, Finland; and Tuen Mun, Hong Kong. Why then does TransLink maintain that LRT can carry only half as much as many LRT operations do in revenue service daily?

The answer lies in the 1994 Broadway – Lougheed Corridor BC Transit/Delcan study, which has formed the basis for TransLink’s questionable light rail planning since. Instead of involving consultants who have hands-on knowledge about LRT (as RftV did), TransLink continues to refer back to this questionable study, that was ill prepared and filled with technical error. TransLink wants to keep the door open for SkyTrain and metro construction in the region!

In order to make modern light rail appear inferior to the much preferred SkyTrain, the B-L Corridor Study used small capacity light rail vehicles, long headways and a small two car station in the middle of the Broadway/Kingsway/Main Street triangle to maintain the charade LRT comparisons to SkyTrain. The ruse has worked well and TransLink still spews out such dreadful bumf about light rail, that American transit and transportation expert Gerald Fox felt compelled to write a letter condemning the SkyTrain Evergreen Line business case!

https://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/a-must-read-for-regional-mayors-before-they-talk-transit/

If TransLink has been dishonest with LRT planning in the region since its inception, then we must assume that all TransLink planning is dishonest;  “the fruit of the poisonous tree“.

Regional politicians must now consider that TransLink’s metro planning and their so-called public consultations as a sham process and must now demand independent studies by consultants who have expertise in light rail for regional transit planning. If TransLink’s own vast planning department needs to be reduced to accommodate this, so be it, as the transit planning coming from the ivory towers on Kingsway are not worth the paper they are printed on.

A primer on modern light rail for Mr. Shiffer and company:

  1. The difference between LRT and a streetcar is that a streetcar operates-on street in mixed traffic, LRT operates on a reserved rights-of-ways.
  2. LRT and streetcars can carry 20,000 pphpd, or more, if need be.
  3. LRT can and does operate at 30 second headways.
  4. LRT is cheaper to operate than SkyTrain.
  5. Modern light rail has made SkyTrain and the light-metro class of transit obsolete.

It becomes evident why Vancouver and the Metro region is the only city in North America and Europe that uses SkyTrain and light-metro (Canada Line), exclusively for regional rail transit instead of LRT and its variants.

The taxpayer have grown weary of TransLink and carrying the SkyTrain tax burden.

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The Streetcar Symposium – TransLink Doesn’t Get it!

September 30, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update

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

http://stephenrees.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/streetcars-the-missing-link/

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.

Mr. Campbell Responds to the Rail For The Valley/Leewood Report With Deciet

September 25, 2010

Gordon Campbell has a very bad reputation for not telling the truth, in fact he is a habitual teller of very tall tales.

The Premier’s statement in the following article, ” But you know the operating costs of the SkyTrain are about 50 per cent a year less than with light rail. And the ridership is two and a half times greater with SkyTrain.” is a complete falsehood!

A 1996 comparison with Calgary’s C-Train LRT shows that the Expo Line costs 40% more to operate than Calgary’s LRT (both about the same length), yet the C-Train carries more passengers!

“Mr. Campbell, to restore your credibility, please provide the same type of – accurate – data for SkyTrain as can be found on the Calgary Transit website for its light-rail system.”

http://www.calgarytransit.com/html/technical_information.html

Operating costs, Calgary C-Train (2006).

  • Vehicle Maintenance costs: $13.9M (2006)
  • Station Maintenance costs: $2.8M (2006)
  • Right of Way Maintenance costs: $2.9M (2006)
  • Signals Maintenance costs: $2.4M (2006)
  • Average annual power costs: $4.8M (2006)
  • Annual LRV Operator wages: $6.0M (includes fringe benefits of 21.57%) (2006)
  • Total – $32.8 million
  • A 2009 study done by UBC Professor Patrick Condon also showed SkyTrain as being very expensive to operate and in his study, SkyTrain had the highest cost to operate than any other transit mode in the study, which reflects much higher operating costs.

    http://thetyee.ca/News/2010/09/16/StreetcarToBeDesired/

    Mr. Campbell’s other statement that ridership is two times and half a much as LRT’s is pure fiction, both SkyTrain and LRT have the same potential capacities. To remind everyone, capacity is a function of headway & train length. This comment from the Toronto Transit Commissions 1980’s ART Study sums up SkyTrain potential capacity:

     “ICTS (which SkyTrain was called at the time) 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 its capacity.”

    There is no independent study that shows that SkyTrain attracts more ridership than LRT, in fact at-grade/on-street light rail tends to be very good for attracting ridership.

    There are other erroneous claims being made in the article and they will be dealt with later.

    Mr. Campbell demeans himself with such claims, as he continues to demonstrate that truth is not in his lexicon. SkyTrain was built and will be built for reasons of political prestige and not what is best for the transit customer or the taxpayer. SkyTrain has failed to find a market domestically,in the USA and in Europe because it is both more expensive to build and more expensive to operate than its chief competitor modern LRT.

    Mr. Campbell, Rail for the Valley demands honest debate for the future of transit in the region, not your half baked statements based on fiction, to pursue your political aims.

    Oh, what tangled webs we weave, when we first practice to deceive“, Mr. Campbell, your tangled web of anti-LRT propaganda stops here, next time, deal in fact.

    Burnaby News leader

    By Jeff Nagel – BC Local News

    SkyTrain detractors should consider the benefits of the technology and not focus solely on the lower cost of building new rapid transit lines with at-grade light rail, Premier Gordon Campbell said.

    “It does cost less in capital – it costs about $150 million less,” the premier said in an interview with Black Press, referring to price estimates for the Evergreen Line to Coquitlam.

    “But you know the operating costs of the SkyTrain are about 50 per cent a year less than with light rail. And the ridership is two and a half times greater with SkyTrain.”

    The decision to make the Evergreen Line a SkyTrain extension rather than a separate light rail line will ultimately move more people, faster at lower long-term costs, he predicted.

    Campbell spoke Thursday, two days after the release of a new study from advocates who say a 100-kilometre light rail line from Surrey to Chilliwack can be opened on existing railway tracks for less than $500 million, compared to $1.4 billion for the 11-kilometre Evergreen Line.

    Several mayors, including Surrey’s Dianne Watts, have lobbied for light rail for future lines.

    Also critical to any transit expansion in the Lower Mainland, the premier said, is to ensure cities concentrate growth along transit corridors to support use of new lines while also making neighbourhoods more livable for walking and cycling.

    “You can’t have an urban transit system at rural densities,” he said. “You have to actually give yourself a chance for transit to make ends meet.”

    Campbell signed an accord with Metro Vancouver mayors Sept. 23 promising to explore a multitude of methods to raise more cash for transit expansion.

    He said mayors are free to put on the table even contentious options like a vehicle levy or forms of road pricing, which the agreement notes can help shape how people choose to travel.

    But he cautioned the key is to deliver good transit services that work and not merely try to use tolls or other fees to deter driving.

    “You can’t punish people into transit,” he said. “People use the Canada Line because they love it. It meets their needs.”

    Asked about public concern over the potential tolling of all three Fraser River bridges out of Surrey, Campbell downplayed the issue, saying the province determined in advance residents supported tolling the new Port Mann Bridge to deliver congestion relief.

    “There’s always going to be someone who says ‘I don’t want to do it,'” he said, but cited the time savings for users of the Golden Ears Bridge.

    “Think of the opportunities for connecting families, for moving goods.”

    He said an “adult conversation” is required on the options to fund TransLink for the future.

    Other parts of B.C. need transportation upgrades too, he said, adding the province will be hesitant about steering money to TransLink that deepens B.C.’s deficit or makes it harder to fund health care.

    “If there was a simple answer it would have been done a long time ago.”

    http://www.bclocalnews.com/greater_vancouver/burnabynewsleader/news/103734279.html

    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

    http://www.bclocalnews.com/surrey_area/surreyleader/news/103467759.html

    or http://tinyurl.com/32zmj7n

    Valley light rail all go, twin groups claim

    Vancouver Province

    http://www.theprovince.com/life/Valley+light+rail+twin+groups+claim/3556678/story.html

    or http://tinyurl.com/36aznnb

    Chilliwack Progress

    http://www.bclocalnews.com/fraser_valley/theprogress/news/103467759.html

     Report supports light rail

    ‘An honest accounting’ of the potential transit system

    Chilliwack Times, BC

    http://www.chilliwacktimes.com/news/Report+supports+light+rail/3555699/story.html

     From the North Shore News

    http://www.nsnews.com/columnists/Valley+residents+track+with+light+rail/3561755/story.html

    Valley light rail all go, twin groups claim
    Vancouver Province

    http://www.theprovince.com/life/Valley+light+rail+twin+groups+claim/3556678/story.html

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

    http://www.bclocalnews.com/richmond_southdelta/richmondreview/news/103467759.html

    CBC TV News

    http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/News/Local_News/BC/ID=1596879406

    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)

     Greetings:

     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.

     Victoria

     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.

    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: http://www.theprovince.com/news/Mayors+Premier+Transportation+Minister+meet+next+week/3524841/story.html#ixzz0zYIYqWw5

    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: http://www.abbotsfordtimes.com/news/Rails/3489498/story.html#ixzz0zK9NHh8q

    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: http://www.theprovince.com/Surrey+mayor+calls+transit+expansion+profile+make+sense/3489905/story.html#ixzz0yscHjLO4

    Metro Vancouver pushes rapid transit for Surrey, not UBC – Why Not Build Both?

    September 4, 2010

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

    It seems that that METRO Vancouver’s chief honcho wants to extend ‘rapid transit’ (read SkyTrain) in Surrey and not on Broadway. But don’t hold your breathe for any action anytime soon. The Tri-Cities have been waiting for their ‘rapid transit’ (read SkyTrain) for over two decades and were pipped at the post by Premier Campbell (and former Vancouver mayor) who used his political will to build the extremely expensive and prestigious Canada Line subway.

    The reason that Mr. Carline is mentioning rapid transit to Surrey probably has more to do with the ever growing demand by South Fraser taxpayers to secede from TransLink and if that happens, opens the door to secede from Metro Vancouver altogether. If Metro Vancouver does extend SkyTrain in Surrey, then any public revolt against ponderous and boated bureaucracy on Kingsway (and soon New Westminster) will be near impossible.

    The sad fact is, the region can’t afford any more SkyTrain lines, which with construction costs of over $100 million/km. has all but castrated TransLink’s ability to provide a useful public transit service!

    There is an alternative to the dated SkyTrain metro system and that is light rail transit.

    TransLink has always treated light rail and the light rail family as a poorman’s SkyTrain and to this day remain largely ignorant of the world’s most popular ‘rail‘ transit mode. TransLink’s own documents well illustrate their anti-LRT bias.

    We do know that we can build TramTrain for under $10 million/km. and simple LRT/tram for under $20 million/km. and if we deny transit  bureaucrats from over designing and over building ‘rail‘ transit in the region could have just an efficient light rail transit network at a fraction of the cost of SkyTrain/metro !

    The cost of a usable SkyTrain extension in Surrey would be at least $1.5 billion to $2 billion, with no further extensions for many decades, yet for $1.5 billion we could build a Vancouver to Chilliwack TramTrain and a BCIT to UBC/Stanley Park LRT/tram line.

    This has always been the choice of transit bureaucrats, cheaper and longer LRT/tram lines or more expensive, shorter metro lines. To date, TransLink bureaucrats have always taken the most expensive route.

    In a few short weeks, Rail for the Valley may provide the answer to our expensive ‘rail‘ transit planning with a detailed account how to build affordable ‘rail‘ transit, the problem will be, as it always had been: “Will TransLink, Metro Vancouver, and the Provincial government listen?”

    Metro Vancouver pushes rapid transit for Surrey, not UBC

    Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Metro+Vancouver+pushes+rapid+transit+Surrey/3480197/story.html#ixzz0yZT2Vvgz

    By KELLY SINOSKI, Vancouver Sun

    VANCOUVER — Metro Vancouver’s chief bureaucrat wants TransLink to bump a proposed rapid transit line to the University of B.C. to the bottom of its priority list and instead boost services in the fast-growing area south of the Fraser River.

    Metro chief administrative officer Johnny Carline said Friday that Surrey will bear the brunt of the region’s growth in the next 30 years, and more transit is needed to help shape that city’s development.

    The recommendation, included in Metro’s new 2040 Shape our Future draft regional growth strategy, suggests TransLink give priority to connecting Surrey city centre to other growth neighbourhoods following completion of the long-awaited Evergreen Line, which will link Port Moody, Coquitlam and Burnaby.

    Only after Surrey gets improved transit should TransLink consider extending rapid transit along the Broadway corridor, the draft strategy says.

    TransLink is preparing technical reports for both projects: a UBC rapid transit line and extending SkyTrain in Surrey to the Guildford area.

    “We don’t think we’ll be able to afford full-scale investments in the Evergreen Line, south of the Fraser and UBC all in the life of this plan,” Carline told members of Metro’s regional planning committee Friday.

    “We can’t afford to have investments going out to UBC that take away from investment in the major growth areas.”

    Metro Vancouver is expected to be home to 3.4 million people by 2040 – a million more than now – with a third of the new residents expected to live in Surrey and White Rock, raising that area’s population to roughly the same as Vancouver’s.

    Under the regional growth strategy, Metro is proposing to develop more “urban centres” with office, retail, community, culture and higher density housing to keep people living and working closer to home or along transit corridors.

    Metro has been struggling for years to concentrate development in these centres, and to curb sprawl from extending into rural areas.

    Surrey Coun. Judy Villeneuve said her city is in desperate need of more transit, especially as it’s set to become the second largest metropolitan region in the province. The city is developing its town centres to become more transit-dependent, she said, while also looking at alternatives such as light rail, heritage rail and more community buses.

    Surrey city council will visit Portland in October to consider that city’s transportation system, Villeneuve said, and will lobby the federal government for more infrastructure funding.

    “Our transit network is very poor,” she said, adding that Vancouver already has a better transit system than Surrey. “Vancouver is a place where you don’t need a car. Surrey is a place where you have to have a car.

    “[Vancouver] may have to look at waiting [for transit] just like we have.”

    Carline said he has no problem with TransLink investigating rapid transit lines for the Broadway-UBC corridor, but it wouldn’t be prudent to spend its limited pot of money in Vancouver when there is a bigger need in Surrey and other areas south of the Fraser.

    “That’s where the region is changing the most and that’s where we need transit,” he said, adding: “It shouldn’t be put off. … If we put rapid transit in there, it would put a big impact on the development community on where it wants to go.”

    Carline said it’s more difficult to retrofit a community for high-density transit hubs after it has been developed, particularly if a city has decided to turn swaths of cheap land into low-density, sprawling office parks.

    The draft regional growth report – the fifth to be released since the 1960s – has been in the works since 2002. Besides developing more urban centres, it calls for protecting industrial land for manufacturing and processing to create jobs, as well as land for rural and conservation uses.

    Carline said the report has been revised to make it more flexible for municipalities to make decisions around their urban centres and other neighbourhoods without having to seek approval from the regional district.

    Metro Vancouver will receive comments on the draft strategy until Oct. 15 before going to a public hearing, likely in November. The plan must be adopted by all of Metro Vancouver’s 22 member municipalities, the Tsawwassen First Nation and TransLink.