Posts Tagged ‘LRT’

For the Tram Enthusiast – The Finnish Tramway Society

April 12, 2010

One of the more avid readers of “Rail for the Valley” blog is from Finland and here is the link to their most excellent Finnish Tramway Society website.

Also this page of tram photos is well worth a look as it shows trams operating in very snowy conditions, the type of weather when SkyTrain likes to hide in the ‘sheds‘.

A Solar Powered Interurban?

April 8, 2010

An interesting memo about Karlsruhe’s famous TramTrain system, it is powered by solar power! 

The system has a peak output of 1000 kilo watts.The direct current it generates – which thanks to its highly efficient modules amounts to around 90,000 kilo watt hours (kWh) per year – is fed into the DC mains supply of the Karlsruhe tram system.
The following website give real time information with the hours of solar produced!

Since the time of writing this post (04/08/10) 245.1 Kilowatt hours have been produced German time and supplied directly to the tram/light rail system and a total of 973132.1 Kilowatt hours have been produced and supplied since their installation! The website is updated minute by minute.

The ‘Return of the Interurban’ is not just for providing a passenger rail servcie for the Fraser Valley, it will drag TransLink, BC Transit, Provincial and Federal Governments, kicking and screaming into the 21st century!

In Seattle – Proposed First Hill streetcar is Broadway bound – The Seattle Times

April 7, 2010

While Vancouver council sweats over big decisions like ‘chickens in the backyard’ and ‘chicken shelters’ for unwanted chickens, Seattle’s politicians seem on the right track improving their urban and regional transportation. The first streetcar line, the ill-named South Lake Union Transportation or SLUT, was too small an effort for the investment and I think this new line, to be completed by 2013, will be the harbinger of things to come. But a two mile streetcar line is still far to small to achieve anything special and Seattle’s transit planners just can’t seem to understand how to successfully plan for LRT/streetcar and continue to plan for small lines that will achieve little and in the end please no one.

In Seattle, LRT is actually light-metro and real LRT is called streetcar, with Seattle transit planners not wanting to build a successful LRT/streetcar line that may be more successful than the newly opened LINK light rail/metro line.

It would be lovely to see the truly modern Bombardier Flexity, Siemens Combino, or Alstom Citidis LRV’s instead of the rather diminutive Skoda cars, favoured in Portland and Tacoma.

At least in Seattle politicians and planners are thinking at-grade rail; not so in Vancouver where better transit seems just to be just too much of an effort for Vancouver politicos to grasp and unlike the Fraser Valley where Valley politicians are ‘on board’ for better, affordable ‘rail‘ transportation. As for modern LRT and/or streetcar operation in Vancouver, I guess we must wait until the “chickens come home to roost“.

Proposed First Hill streetcar is Broadway bound

Seattle officials appear ready to approve a First Hill streetcar that rolls straight down Broadway, when the line opens in late 2013.

By Mike Lindblom

Seattle Times transportation reporter

Seattle officials appear ready to approve a First Hill streetcar that rolls down Broadway, when the line opens in late 2013.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) endorsed the cheapest and quickest of the alternatives, and did so in only 16 months after voters approved the $130 million project.

Mayor Mike McGinn is to issue his proposal this week, followed by a City Council vote this spring.

The streetcar is a small part of the $18 billion Sound Transit expansion measure that passed in 2008. Transit leaders two decades ago pledged an underground light-rail station for First Hill but later learned it would be unaffordable. The streetcar is a sort of consolation prize.

Nonetheless, the route linking the International District/Chinatown light-rail station to the future Capitol Hill Station serves potentially high ridership — whisking people to Seattle Central Community College, Swedish Medical Center, Seattle University and shops at “Little Saigon” and South Jackson Street. Harborview and Virginia Mason medical centers and O’Dea High School are a few blocks west of Broadway. In addition, a short loop in the route reaches the Pioneer Square historic district.

Construction is to begin next year, said Rick Sheridan, SDOT spokesman. The streetcars would be similar to those used on the city-owned South Lake Union line.

Sound Transit, which hired the city as its contractor, requires that First Hill trains arrive every 10 minutes. That’s more frequent than the city’s current 15-minute standard at South Lake Union.

Streetcar planning largely has escaped public notice, overshadowed by rancor over the Highway 520 bridge replacement and the Highway 99 tunnel.

At ground level, however, an energetic debate over route choices has been under way.

The big question is the purpose of streetcars: Should they serve existing transit demand, or promote transit-friendly dense development?

Eight routes were studied before SDOT recommended last month that the streetcars run along Broadway in both directions. But two other choices still have supporters:

• A route that swings partly along Boren Avenue, directly serving Virginia Mason Medical Center’s 3,700 employees, as well as huge senior-housing complexes west of Boren.

You’ve got to get back to fundamentals, which is the streetcar was a circulating transit system that was going to replace the light-rail station on First Hill,” said Fred Savaglio, a Virginia Mason program director.

Although a hospital manager lobbied City Council member Sally Bagshaw on Friday, Savaglio said hope is slipping away for this route, and Virginia Mason will “move on” to other transit ideas, such as later service hours for its employee buses.

• A route with northbound track on Broadway and southbound track on 12th Avenue, the back side of First Hill. Trains there would promote housing and business growth immediately southeast of Seattle University.

Such a strategy recalls growth in South Lake Union, where the city was willing to cheerlead for streetcars that now average only eight or nine riders a trip, with the promise of a boom when more biotech firms, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation arrive soon.

Seattle University has created attractive campus entries along 12th Avenue, while King County’s juvenile-justice complex south of Seattle U is poised to be redeveloped.

“If we’re building a streetcar as a 50- or 100-year investment, we need to be thinking about the future destinations,” said Kate Stineback, of the group 12th Avenue Stewardship.

However, the city analysis found many advantages to Broadway — not least of which is a simple, easy-to-find route.

Construction appeared the cheapest at $122 million to $125 million, travel time was the best at 16 minutes each way, and the route would not disrupt bicycle routes or require major rebuilding of utility lines, SDOT says. Ridership would be estimated at 6,000 to 9,000 per day at the outset, about 1,000 less than the route near Boren.

Traffic congestion on Boren also was a deterrent to routes there, streetcar project director Ethan Melone said on the city-owned Seattle Channel. But Broadway will be a challenge, too, at the congested north terminus where Denny and John streets crisscross Broadway.

“Everybody wants it to come to their front door,” Melone said. “But we’re going to make someone unhappy.”

Seattle U favored the 12th Avenue version but is fine with the city’s Broadway preference, spokesman Casey Corr said. The campus serves about 8,700 students, faculty and staff.

“We can’t wait to use it,” he said.”

Diesel Trams for the Interurban – Lessons from Kassel! Part 3

April 4, 2010

Though the old BC Electric Interurban service from downtown Vancouver to Chilliwack was an ‘electric‘ service, the wires and electrical equipment have been long removed and the remaining railway has been operated as a diesel railway. To get a affordable Interurban service into ‘quick‘ service, Diesel LRT could be the answer and as we see in Kassel, Diesel LRT can be very successful in operation.

What is important but largely ignored in our part of the world is the importance of the seamless or no transfer journey in attracting ridership. The impetus for LRTs evolution to TramTrain was to provide a seamless ‘rail’  journey in Karlsruhe Germany.

Essentially it involves the ‘joining-up’ of a tram network with heavy rail so that local services sharing paths with conventional trains on the main line can travel over both systems, enabling seamless through journeys. The need to change modes is thereby eliminated: accessibility is improved and end-to-end journey times drop. In Karlsruhe’s case, the city centre, about two km from the main station, was the main attraction, and a through journey from the suburbs with dual-voltage electric trams was made possible.

Success of Karlsruhe’s TramTrain was almost instant with a 423% increase in weekday ridership after only a few week is operation! In Vancouver, TransLink’s transit philosophy is the opposite; to design a transit system that will cram every bus rider they can on the SkyTrain and RAV/Canada lines, to claim high ridership numbers. Unfortunately for the transit customer, TransLink doesn’t care about his/hers needs or wants and they show no hint in changing their rather bizarre method of operation to a more user-friendly transit model.

With the TramTrain debate we see the same naivety, where some advocates want a Surrey to Chilliwack only ‘rail‘ service and care little for the ‘rail’ service to terminate in downtown Vancouver, with the result of forcing Vancouver bound customers to transfer to SkyTrain for a 45 minute trip to Vancouver. By extending the service to Vancouver, would provide a ‘seamless‘ journey to the Fraser Valley, with a a potential to service almost one million more customers!

Rail for the Valley do not want to ‘Snatch defeat from the jaws of Victory’ with an ill-planned ‘rail’ line, that looks nice but but fails to meet customers expectations.

The key for the Fraser Valley TramTrain’s success is to design and plan it right and use proven and successful transit models such as Kassel and Karsruhe and not ‘back of an envelope’ planning, based on whims and hearsay. It is extremely important that the proposed Valley Interurban is seen by the public to be successful and to be successful, the Interuban must be the product the transit consumer wants!

A country tram in Austria - Could be rural Langley.

A ‘Must’ Read for Rail For The Valley – Diesel trams: a new way forward? Part 2

April 3, 2010


Diesel trams: a new way forward?

By Charles King – Modern Railways March 2007

A comparrison of Diesel-Hybrid and Electric only trams

                                     Diesel-Hybrid                 Electric     

# of Vehicles              10                                  18

Power rating           600kw                               600kw

# motors                    4                                      4

Accelerattion      1.1 ms2                                  1.1 ms2

Max. Speed           100 kph                               100 kph

Weight                    85.2 T                                82.5 T

Seating Cap.         90                                        90

Standing Cap.      139                                     139

Boarding Ht.        360mm                                  360mm

Length                 37.48m                              37.48mm

Width                  2.65m                                   2.65m

Min. radius           22m                                    22m

Diesel TramTrain at a rural station

Technical specification

Twenty-eight three-car vehicles were ordered for the project, 18 electric-only and 10 diesel hybrids. Built by Alstom, they are part of the Regio Citadis family. Both versions are visually very similar, and share many features for ease of maintenance. Crucially, performance is the same for both electric-only and diesel-hybrid vehicles – acceleration from start is 1.1ms the vehicles is given in the table above.
 Transferability / applicability to UK
 As stated above, conditions for tram-train have to be right, and given the small number of tram systems in the UK, let alone other complexities in the development of a scheme, it is clear that imitating the Karlsruhe model here is a harder task. The Sunderland extension of the Tyne & Wear Metro used some tram-train principles but employed the existing electric Metro vehicles, and areas including Greater Manchester and Teesside have been looking at the use of tram-trains. It would seem that in the UK context, diesel tram technology could help broaden tramtrain’s appeal, especially in increasing the affordability of light rail schemes, and where funding has been withdrawn owing to cost overruns as in the Leeds Supertram project. Potentially they combine the speed of a railway and the accessibility of a tramway, at a much lower capital cost than electric trams. 

 Joining up urban centres

First, taking advantage of a tram’s ability to penetrate the urban centre, a tramway spur from the mainline to such ‘honey pot’ sites offers the opportunity to go right to where the customers want to go and encourage modal shift with seamless journeys. If Karlsruhe has shown that through journeys work with electric vehicles, then diesel trams prove that a potential station crucially need not be sited on an electrified Network Rail line – thus opening up the entire British railway network – nor would the tramway itself require electrification. Blackpool illustrates the potential: diesel trams offer the prospect of linking up the South Fylde line with the tramway, thereby opening up many new journey opportunities and contributing to the area’s regeneration. As no electrification would be necessary, major new infrastructure would be confined to connecting the two networks and restoring some of the double track on the railway section.

Operational flexibility
The attraction of diesel trams does not merely lie in their ability to operate as urban street vehicles. With regard to rolling stock operation, in a climate where everything must be increasingly accountable, does it always make sense to run conventional trains on rural routes or a small shuttle service? Running a diesel tram over the St Erth – St Ives or Marks Tey – Sudbury branch, for example, could result in lower infrastructure operating and maintenance costs, as well as freeing up the conventional DMU for use elsewhere. A diesel tram-style service could also allow extra stops to be served, as suggested for the Tees Valley for instance. If more capacity is needed, several units can be coupled together (up to four can run as a ‘train’ in Kassel). Of course, the ultimate is full conversion of the line to tramway standards with simplification or even removal of signalling – driving on ‘line of sight’ – and again lowering track maintenance costs. Retaining the option of through running onto the mainline would open up many more possibilities, and also allow access to existing maintenance facilities elsewhere on the network if required.
The future
There are signs that the industry is looking towards an approach where operational and maintenance standards on a line are more closely dictated by its function and the type of traffic it sustains. We must be ready to accommodate this shift in focus if it secures the longer-term future of more lightly used lines and ensures they remain fit for purpose. Community railways are a prime example of this: if a certain route with a low line speed only sees a few passenger trains a day operated by Pacers and no freight, why could this service not be provided by a diesel tram with its attendant cost savings and, from the passengers’ perspective, a more comfortable journey experience? 
Diesel trams will not provide the answer in all cases, but they have clearly helped to provide new impetus to the tram-train concept as well as demonstrating their value as rail vehicles in their own right. At a time when the train-infrastructure interface comes under closer scrutiny, considerably lighter tram-type vehicles could contribute to a ‘virtuous maintenance circle’, and Network Rail’s vision for a more reliable railway. In the effort to maintain and grow rail’s attractiveness through ‘joined-up journeys’, and to ensure that each line is used as appropriately as possible, light rail technologies are likely to play an increasingly important role. Diesel trams are well placed to form part of that mix.

2-Diesel TramTrains in multiple unit operation

Following a year’s internship in Germany with DB (German Rail) and a transport planning consultancy, Charles King joined the Transportation Division of Faber Maunsell as a rail transport planner. Last year, on behalf of ACoRP, he organised the tram-train study visit to Switzerland and Germany referred to in this article.

A ‘Must’ Read for Rail For The Valley – Diesel trams: a new way forward? Part 1

April 2, 2010

Diesel trams: a new way forward?

By Charles King – Modern Railways March 2007

Light rail technologies have received closer attention in recent times as potential solutions to transport problems as well as providing alternatives to ‘traditional’ railway operation. In light of this, a trip run by ACoRP(Association of Community Rail Partnerships), and organised by Faber Maunsell, took eight delegates from Network Rail, the Department for Transport and Transport Scotland in December last year to Switzerland and Germany. The aim of this was to study developments in light rail and their applicability to the UK.
A major focus of this trip was ‘tram-train’. For many people, this concept is most closely associated with the city of Karlsruhe in south-west Germany, which pioneered the technology in the 1990s. Essentially it involves the ‘joining-up’ of a tram network with heavy rail so that local services sharing paths with conventional trains on the main line can travel over both systems, enabling seamless through journeys. The need to change modes is thereby eliminated: accessibility is improved and end-to-end journey times drop. In Karlsruhe’s case, the city centre, about two km from the main station, was the main attraction, and a through journey from the suburbs with dual-voltage electric trams was made possible.
Factors for success
 Karlsruhe’s success has led to numerous developments and extensions, most recently conversion of the 30-km long Murgtalbahn to tram-train operation, which took only seven years from conception to completion at a cost of Euro75million (£50million). The longest possible journey on the system now takes in tramways in both Karlsruhe and Heilbronn as well as main-line railway over its 150-km route from Achern to Öhringen.But it is perhaps surprising that not more schemes modelled on this apparently thriving example have come to fruition, even in continental Europe. Those that are operational include Saarbrücken in Germany and the Rijn-Gouwe-Lijn through Leiden and Gouda in the Netherlands, with the French city of Mulhouse at the initial stages. An overview of these projects reveals that a certain number of factors typically have to come together for a scheme to work:
  •  a common tram and heavy rail track gauge and a suitable interface point between heavy rail and tramway;
  •  a relatively large but dispersed population, ideally with a strong commuting market – Karlsruhe, for instance, serves 120 communities with a total population of 1.3million people; 
  • favourable urban planning and public transport characteristics – the two must be considered together;
  • existing heavy rail stations some distance from the main centres they seek to serve;
  • an ability to overcome the technological challenges such as providing trams with two sorts of traction equipment, signalling compatibility, and meeting the relevant safety standards;
  • perhaps most importantly, the political will and funding to see the project through.

Kassel TramTrain in the city 

 Latest developments

One city where the balance of factors has been positive, however, is the city of Kassel in central Germany, which is currently developing its own ‘RegioTram’ system, due to open in June this year. A total network of 122km is provided with only 10km of new track, serving an urban population of 220,000 with a further 400,000 in the surrounding area. Although the system is based on the ‘classic’ tram-train principle with dualvoltage trams running on the mainline at 15kV AC and on the city tramway at 600V DC, one very significant innovation is the introduction of diesel trams for operation over non-electrified sections of line. This extends their reach beyond conventional electrified routes to rural single-track branches and diesel freight-only lines. Specifically, these vehicles are diesel hybrids: equipped with a diesel-electric engine, they are also able to work on the city tram network at 600V DC.
Each branch will operate to a regular interval 30-minute frequency, with connecting buses at stations along the route in line with the Taktfahrplan principle of bus and rail integration. Coupled with the enhanced journey opportunities, passenger demand on the network is predicted to grow by up to 50%.


Value for money

The total cost of the whole scheme is Euro 180million (£120million), made up of Euro 100million (£67million) for infrastructure and Euro 80million (£53milion) for new vehicles. 85% of the costs were borne by the Bundesland and federal government, with the remaining 15% contributed by the municipal authorities. Key to the tram-train principle, and to the Kassel plan in particular, is maximum use of existing infrastructure to achieve greatest efficiencies and benefits. Diesel trams help to meet that goal by having the ability to fill in the electrification gaps as ‘go-anywhere’ vehicles, but the decision to choose them came about for three major reasons.



  • Large infrastructure costs were avoided: the loading gauge in Zierenberg tunnel on the non-electrified Wolfhagen route to the west of Kassel did not allow for electrification without substantial rebuilding. This resulted in a capital cost saving of Euro 7.5million (£4.9million).
  •  In addition to the costs of rebuilding the tunnel, the capital spend to electrify the 30-km Wolfhagen route would have been around Euro 2million (£1.3million) per kilometre, not including ongoing operational expenditure, and unjustifiable in this case.
  •  Time and money would be saved in the planning process.

  The above savings on the Wolfhagen route represent upwards of 55% of the total infrastructure costs of the entire project, and demonstrate, how much more expensive a fully electric system would be. Feasibility studies carried out between 2000 and 2003 focusing on whether to opt for electric-only vehicles or a mixed fleet containing dieselhybrid versions as well, favoured the latter and resulted in the authority to proceed. As an additional benefit, a short unelectrified freight-only chord at Kaufungen on the otherwise electrified Hessisch Lichtenau route could be brought into use to save eight minutes on the normal end-to-end journey time without any significant infrastructure work – an easy ‘quick win’.


Kassel TramTrain on the MainLine

Timing is right for Interurban line – A letter in the Surrey Leader

April 1, 2010

More letters supporting valley rail. Sadly, if one links to the original story, one can see the same old anti-LRT rhetoric and unrealistic calls for spending $2 billion to connect Langley with SkyTrain, through “sparsely populated areas“.

TramTrain in the Black Forest

Re: “Transit at a crossroads,” The Leader, March 24.

I have been following with interest those who for years have advocated a restoration of the old Interurban line. Based on what I have read, it looks like the whole Fraser Valley had a superior transit system in 1910 to we have today.

Unfortunately, with the “progress” of SkyTrain, the entire bus system was re-worked so that most buses now lead to SkyTrain. Nice for those who live or work near SkyTrain, but not for South Fraser commuters going other places.

The Interurban would serve many areas that are presently poorly served by transit. Let’s bring it back. The price is right. The timing is right. The technology exists to make a light rail system run faster and cleaner than ever. If it worked 100 years ago with a tiny population, it should work even better now. Existing tracks and rights of way mean a minimum of construction, avoiding traffic delays, noise, cost overruns, and disruptive property acquisitions. Unlike a bus system, light rail is not Dependant on smooth-flowing traffic. As much of the system runs through ALR and less-dense areas, traffic pattern changes would be minimal. The sticking point for some seems to be that it doesn’t go everywhere. True, but neither does SkyTrain and lots of people ride that.

Developments along the existing track corridor are growing exponentially. Coming from Langley, stops could be Cloverdale town centre; at 152/Panorama Ridge shopping centre, with buses going north and south to Guildford and White Rock; stops at King George close to City Centre with buses connecting to SkyTrain; and further on to the Surrey-Delta border.

Let’s give it a try! There are several organizations working to restore old rail cars already. Give them some funding, get a prototype going ASAP and if it works why not eventually resurrect the whole thing, Chilliwack to Vancouver. The rail of the past can be the rail of the future.

Talking transportation – From the Chilliwack Progress

March 31, 2010

More conversation about ‘rail‘ transit from the Fraser Valley. For very little money as compared to the SkyTrain light-metro, we could have a Diesel LRT demonstration line up and running from Chilliwack to Langley by the end of the year.

It is time that BC’s regional transportation policies reflect the 21st century, where building ‘rail’ transit as cheaply as possible, affordably servicing as many destinations as possible is far more important than building very small but expensive ‘trunk‘ metro lines that must be force fed ridership from buses to achieve symbolic high ridership, while at the same time bankrupting the transit authority.

Bombardier's Flexity-Wide TramTrain

Talking transportation

Greg Knill – Chilliwack Progress

The problem with so much of the talk around transportation issues in this region is that it’s backwards. It starts with a “solution,” then lines up the obligatory evidence to prove why that solution would work.

What’s needed is a discussion that starts fresh – a discussion that begins with the broad objectives of how we want our transportation system to evolve, then looks at what technology would best suit getting us there.

Last week the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce brought in one of the more outspoken advocates of a community rail link between Chilliwack and Abottsford. His presentation drew a large turnout, indicative of the interest in this issue.

Talk about a rail link in the Valley is nothing new, of course. Unfortunately, that is where the discussion has centered. Rather than talk about transportation connectivity, the discussion has been about the viability of a train on the old Inter Urban rail line.

But the issue should be about more than a revival of an old rail link. It should be about a regional transportation plan that delivers the maximum economic and social benefits, at the lowest cost to the users and the governments that will inevitably subsidize the venture.

As Peter Holt told the Chamber on Thursday, far too much of the transportation talk in the Lower Mainland has centered on Vancouver.

What’s needed here is a way for the various municipalities outside that sphere to develop a model that serves their interests. The object should be connectivity, based on the assumption that greater worker mobility will enhance economic opportunities throughout the region.

That will take more political will and direction.

We’ve seen it around issues like air quality. Let’s see it around issues like transportation.

Rail advocate quotes Gretzky to push plan

March 29, 2010

Another fine article on the proposed ‘valley’ rail. There is an ever growing support for the ‘return of the interurban’ but please, there is really no such thing as ‘community rail’ and it would sad if the proposed interurban project were to be side-tracked by an unproven transit philosophy. Any form of rail transit is expensive and it must be built to cater to to specific customer demands and wants, if not the public (the customer) will not use it. Community rail is a figment of an academics imagination, which makes good copy, but has little substance. The modern development of the interurban, is now ”TramTrain‘ and is built to satisfy longer distance travel, rather than a short distance travel and definitely should not be seen as a feeder to the SkyTrain metro system.

Rail For The Valley supports a Vancouver to Chilliwack TramTrain, a 21st century transit philosophy that has proven to be not only affordable and successful and is now used in over 20 locations around the world. The term, Community Rail, like the SkyTrain light-metro are only mentioned in the METRO and Fraser Valley region and it is time that we join the rest of the world in designing and building proven light rail transit.

TramTrain in the country

Rail advocate quotes Gretzky to push plan

By Brian Lewis, The ProvinceMarch 28, 2010

If more of our federal, provincial and municipal politicians who represent constituents south of the Fraser River thought like Wayne Gretzky, then moving throughout this vast and fast-growing region would be as enjoyable as it once was watching the Great One score hat tricks.

“Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it is now,” was Gretzky’s advice to fellow hockey players.

But his straightforward lesson still applies to far more than jocks chasing a little rubber disc on the ice. It’s also tailor-made for public transportation planning, for example.

This is why engineer and community-rail guru Peter Holt used the Gretzky analogy in his recent presentation to the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce when he spoke about why he and many others strongly feel that the Fraser Valley’s best long-term transportation solutions are riding on the rails.

The eloquent ex-Brit and former Royal Navy engineering officer has an extensive professional background that includes a number of senior roles in Canadian aerospace programs and with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Since moving his family to Surrey in 1997, Holt has focused on regional issues and served as executive director of the forward-thinking Surrey Board of Trade between 2004 and 2007. That’s where he also furthered a keen interest in urban and regional growth, public transit and, of course, trains.

On the nostalgic side, he’s an enthusiastic spokesman for the Surrey-based Fraser Valley Heritage Rail Society, which is well along in restoring one of the original cars from the old B.C. Electric interurban rail line that ran from downtown Vancouver and up the Fraser Valley to Chilliwack from 1910 to the early 1950s.

On the practical side, Holt sees the “Fraser Valley Heritage Railway” and its refurbished vintage rolling stock as an excellent medium for creating awareness of the potential to fully restore the 103-kilometre right-of-way, which is still owned by the B.C. government, to accommodate a new, state-of-the-art community rail system.

Not only is the interurban right-of-way a wholly-owned public asset, Holt points out, but the legal authority to use it for public transit has also been established.

An introductory “heritage tourism” service during the summer on part of the line could be introduced by late 2011 for as little as $700,000, he suggests, and the City of Surrey is very serious about backing the initiative.

But the primary goal for Holt, his rail-heritage pals and a number of Valley rail advocacy groups, is a full community-rail service that would link SkyTrain in Surrey with Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack.

Holt told the Chilliwack business group that about 20 years from now, another 400,000 people will be living in the Fraser Valley. That’s equal to another city roughly the size of Surrey today.

But, he warns, expanding the road system to accommodate this growth will be much more expensive and far more environmentally damaging than choosing a community-rail option.

“Of course cars are more convenient today, but as our roads become more congested and expensive to expand, people will have to look at other transit options,” Holt says.

In other words, plan transit based on where it’s going, not where it’s at today.

That’s how politicians can score with taxpayers.

Transit at a crossroads – From The Surrey Leader

March 28, 2010

Well here we go again, TransLink is planning for ‘rapid’ transit for Surrey and the Fraser Valley. Zwei has seen this all before and I’m afraid I am not at all enthused with the process, nor have much faith in TransLink to do an honest study. Zwei hates the term ‘rapid transit’ as it refers to metro and only metro and I must remind everyone concerned that a transit system is as fast as it is designed to be, with TransLink in the past, deceitfully planning LRT to be slow!

The picture of the supposedly Eugene BRT, is in fact a guided, rubber tired Guided Light Transit (GLT) vehicle that costs almost as much to install than a tram, yet has far less capacity. GLT, must operate on a dedicated rights-of-ways and cannot operate on-street in mixed traffic. The Eugene BRT uses standard articulated buses, busways, signal priority, high level loading platforms and greatly reduced stops to increase commercial speed. With BRT comes lots of new road construction as well.

With 10 minute peak headways (approx. 700 pphpd), there was little scope to plan for light rail.

Zwei also hopes that the light rail consultant has indeed worked on completed light rail projects, but what Zwei has read so far, there is little hope with this.

It just seems to me the same well oiled TransLink ‘dog and pony show’, done many times before, to keep the locals happy, while in reality doing nothing until the provincial government orders them to build another SkyTrain light-metro line.


Transit at a crossroads

By Jeff Nagel – Surrey North Delta Leader

There’s no timetable or money yet to build anything, but TransLink has begun asking local groups what shape an eventual rapid transit extension in Surrey should take.

Various corridors will be examined that could see rapid transit lines connect the existing SkyTrain stations to more town centres in Surrey and on to Langley and White Rock.

“We’re not just talking about SkyTrain here,” TransLink project planning manager Jeff Busby said.

“We’re looking at light rail and Bus Rapid Transit, where you’d use buses but you’d run them in their own lanes so they’d have some of the advantages of rapid transit.”

He said the Olympic streetcar demonstration line to Granville Island is a good example of what light rail could look like south of the Fraser.

TransLink is not locked in to routes that have been bandied about previously.

The Provincial Transit Plan included a map suggesting lines be built heading south on King George Highway and also east on 104 Avenue to Guildford, then southeast via Fraser Highway to Langley.

The South of the Fraser Area Transit Plan also flagged the same routes for further study.

 But consultants hired by TransLink to examine routes and technologies for the Surrey extension are also directed to look at the old Interurban rail corridor that many light rail fans say could be quickly used to launch a modern service.

Even Hydro rights-of-way that cut across Surrey could be potential routes, Busby said.

“It’s a blank slate at this point,” Busby said. “Everything is on the table.”

He mainly wants to know what local residents want to get out of a rapid transit expansion.

“How important is it that all the centres get connected? Are there some that are more important? What land-use and other planning goals should we be aware of?”

So far, TransLink is meeting with local stakeholder groups, with full public meetings to come in the fall.

The aim of the process, Busby said, is to shortlist options and then develop a preferred solution for the Surrey area that can be ready to launch if TransLink gets more sources of funding.

But Busby said the costs have to be weighed against performance factors, like the speed, frequency and carrying capacity of the various options.

SkyTrain carries the most people – 10,000 to 25,000 per hour – compared to 6,000 to 10,000 for light rail and 2,000 to 3,000 for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

The region has existing B-Line express bus routes – including Vancouver’s busy Broadway corridor to UBC – but none are as advanced as the type of BRT service Busby envisions.

BRT would feature permanent stations rather than stops and routes largely separated from traffic, potentially using traffic signal priority or else special bridges or trenches to scoot through congested intersections.

“We like at-grade street car-type light rail,” countered Surrey Coun. Marvin Hunt, who sits on the city’s transportation committee.

He said King George Highway is a natural for the route as is 104 Avenue, and said there’s ongoing debate over whether Fraser Highway or the old interurban rail route should be used for the southeast corridor to Langley.

Hunt said Bus Rapid Transit doesn’t inspire public confidence and spur denser development in the same way as rail because buses seem temporary and can be easily changed.

“Once you get something that’s solidly in the ground, people respond to that a whole lot better,” he said.

Local transit advocate Paul Hillsdon also likes light rail as a long-term solution, but thinks it’s better to back less-costly BRT than get nothing or wait.

“Considering TransLink is broke and we need change now, the cheaper, more affordable short-term solution, I think, is creating a Bus Rapid Transit network.”

He envisions a network of seven fast, frequent lines that would connect all Surrey town centres (using 104, 72 and 64 Avenues and Scott Road, King George, 152 Street and the Fraser Highway) as well as the entire north-south 200 Street corridor through Langley Township and 24 Avenue from Crescent Beach to Langley.

“It would service areas that are going to grow by leaps and bounds over the next decade,” he said.

Surrey is expected to take a quarter of the region’s growth by 2041, when the population is to hit 750,000.

Allen Aubert, who was one of Surrey’s representatives on the South of Fraser Area Transit Plan, says time is of the essence and something must be built within five to 10 years.

That’s why he says the old Interurban route has a critical advantage: it already exists.

“It goes to Cloverdale, to Sullivan, to Newton where there’s a big exchange,” he said. “And lo and behold, it can connect to SkyTrain at Scott Road. What’s not to like?”

Past estimates suggest modern light rail cars – similar to Bombardier’s Olympic Line trams – could be put on the Interurban route from Scott Road all the way to Langley City for about $150 million, barely a tenth of the planned Burnaby-to-Coquitlam SkyTrain extension.

“It’s so cheap,” Aubert said, adding a spur line could easily be built running up King George from Newton to City Centre.

Aubert and others agree that whatever comes must serve local town centres, rather than be designed primarily to move commuters to Vancouver.

They say that’s the only way transit-oriented communities will develop and would reflect the reality that 80 per cent of trips south of the Fraser stay in the region.

 For more on the Surrey Rapid Transit process see:

Not a picture of the Eugene Oregon BRT, rather a GLT guided bus that must run on a dedicated ROW.

Eugene Oregon Emerald Express BRT