Posts Tagged ‘Port Mann Bridge’

Let’s NOT make a Deal – Property tax hike for transit only choice before mayors

November 8, 2010

Is TransLink like the Titanic, sailing full steam ahead into a "financial" iceberg?

TransLink is at it again, playing brinkmanship with regional mayors and I hope the valley politicos see through this tawdry charade, which has become a cliché for TransLink’s haphazard planning efforts.

  • Behind door number 1, you have option A
  •  behind door number 2, you have option B;
  • behind door number 3, you have option A & B.

But here’s the trick, you got to play TransLink’s game because provincial transportation minister, Shirley Bond insists that regional mayors do play. Some regional mayors, including Fassbender from the City of Langley are acting the part of the country rube, easily outwitted by TransLink’s hucksters selling financial snake oil.

TransLink is in deep financial trouble, yet it plans more expensive metro lines; BRT, a transit mode with a poor record in attracting ridership; community buses, which mostly run empty; and continuing with the $1.00 a day U-Pass, a heavily subsidized student fare which clogs up buses and fills metro cars, leaving transit customers who pay full fare standing or just taking the car instead! To pay for this nonsense, the regional taxpayer is once again going to be forced to pay for really amateur transit planning, done by a bureaucracy which cares more about their perks and pensions, than planning for an affordable and accessible public transit system.

So here is the Zweisystem solution for transit funding. Let the municipalities with SkyTrain, pay for SkyTrain and the municipalities who have only bus operation, pay only for bus operation. As SkyTrain and light-metro financing so dominate TransLink’s balance sheet, the cities with one or more light-metro lines should pay more for SkyTrain and associated improved bus operations.

Example:

  • Municipalities which only operate buses are charged a flat fee of $150 on their property assessments.
  • Municipalities with one light-metro line pay a flat fee of $275 on their property assessments.
  • Municipalities with two light metro lines pay a flat fee $400 on their property assessments.
  • Municipalities with three light metro lines pay a flat fee of $525 on their property assessments.
  • Municipalities that operate trolley buses pay an additional flat fee of $50.00 on their property assessments.

This simple formula, taxes those municipalities and cities who benefit from light-metro and trolley buses and provide an incentive for taxpayers to insist getting the biggest bang for their buck!

It is time to stop playing; “Let’s make a Deal” with TransLink and the provincial government and insist that those who benefit in having light-metro actually pay their fair share for light-metro.

Property tax hike for transit only choice before mayors

By Jeff Nagel

Local mayors will not be asked to vote on imposing a vehicle levy to fund transit expansion – at least not this year.

Instead, the only option to finance the Evergreen Line and possibly other transit improvements will be an increase to property taxes.

If approved, a typical $600,000 home will pay $31 in increased tax to raise $465 million for TransLink’s share of the $1.4-billion Evergreen SkyTrain line to Coquitlam and the first phase of the North Fraser Perimeter Road.

Mayors council chair Peter Fassbender said it was too late to contemplate the Transportation Improvement Fee, a levy which would have raised the same amount of money by charging $15 to $55 per registered vehicle each year, depending on their carbon footprint.

“It would require legislative change, administrative changes and a number of elements for that to even be considered,” the Langley City mayor said of the vehicle levy.

“And it’s going to get significant pushback from south of the Fraser.”

Metro mayors meet Tuesday (Nov. 9) to be briefed on the proposed financial supplement for TransLink, which still has to be assessed by the independent TransLink commissioner before it goes to a vote on Dec. 9.

But Fassbender is still hopeful a scenario is possible where the mayors are able to negotiate different TransLink funding sources with the province, in line with an accord struck in September.

In essence, he thinks the property tax hike could be voted in now to satisfy the provincial government’s insistence of funding certainty for the Evergreen Line, which breaks ground next year.

But Fassbender notes the extra revenue from TransLink won’t be needed until 2012.

That means a property tax lift pencilled in now could be erased next year if Victoria agrees to provide alternative sources – such as road pricing, a share of carbon tax or even the vehicle levy – which could flow by 2012.

“Can this get us far enough down the road that it gives us time to find other solutions?” Fassbender asked, referring to temporary approval of a property tax hike.

“If we can take pressure off one way or another so we have some breathing space, let’s do it.”

That scenario would require trust – several other mayors fear no such deal with the province may be forthcoming once they sign off.

Transportation minister Shirley Bond has also hinted the government may take unilateral action to ensure TransLink raises the money if mayors vote down the supplement.

Then there’s the resignation of the premier and the ensuing Liberal leadership race that clouds the political landscape and will distract some of the players.

Fassbender said even that could work in favour of a deal.

“We’re in a very interesting time because of the changes,” he said, suggesting the government and leadership contenders will likely want to preside over good news, not discord.

More time to negotiate would provide a better chance to consider the how to implement something like the vehicle levy, he said, noting there’s been talk of options like adjusting the rate depending on the level of local transit service.

Fassbender said TransLink’s plan to introduce smart card payment will also open up intriguing options like rebating vehicle levy or road pricing fees collected back to motorists in the form of transit credits, encouraging them to switch modes some of the time.

“When you pay that fee you get an equivalent amount of transit fares built into that card,” he suggested. “That way we not only raise revenue but also help to shift behaviour.”

Mayors will also have the option to vote on a larger set of transit upgrades, including bus service increases and various SkyTrain station upgrades. That would cost an additional $338 million, lifting the property tax hit to $54 for a typical home.

PROPOSED TRANSLINK INVESTMENTS

OPTION A:

Evergreen Line – $412 million

(TransLink capital contribution, bus and facilities integration, wayfinding and Broadway-Commercial station)

North Fraser Perimeter Road phase 1 – $53.2 million

(United Boulevard extension)

OPTION A TOTAL: $465.3 million, requiring $39 million per year

PROPERTY TAX IMPACT: $31 per $600,000 home or $5.20 per $100,000 value.

OPTION B:

Bus service boost to accommodate U-Pass expansion: $85.1 million

Bus service boost to meet minimum service standards: $51.3 million

Highway 1 Bus Rapid Transit: $40.9 million

(Linking Lougheed Station- Surrey Central-Walnut Grove with buses every 10 mins)

Minor Road Network minor capital: $37.9 million

Bus service boost to keep pace with population growth: $36.7 million

Cycling projects: $17 million

Main Street Station upgrade: $16.3 million

Metrotown Station upgrade: $12.9 million

King George Boulevard B-Line Bus service: $12.6 million

New Westminster Station upgrade: $9.2 million

White Rock to Langley bus service: $7.5 million

(community shuttles every 30 mins)

Surrey Central Station upgrade: $5.9 million

Lonsdale Quay upgrade: $4.2 million

TOTAL FOR OPTION B: $337.6 million

TOTAL OF OPTIONS A + B: $802 million, requiring $68 million per year
PROPERTY TAX IMPACT OPTIONS A + B: $54 per $600,000 home or $9 per $100,000 assessed value
 

Why there is antagonism towards at-grade Light Rail/Tramways & streetcars (North America + Canada)

October 26, 2010

The following was sent to Zwei by a very concerned urban transportation advocate.

All the SkyTrain lobby has is fear to debate light rail and spread fear they do. All technical debates between LRT and SkyTrain/light-metro have been won or lost decades ago and SkyTrain has been relegated to the history books. Like uber Regulus fanatics, the SkyTrain Lobby and its ilk, well entrenched in TransLink, desperately try to keep building with the aging SkyTrain system with any argument they can muster.

Zweisystem predicted over a decade ago, if TransLink persisted in building with SkyTrain/light metro, it would bankrupt itself and that prediction has come true, with TransLink, balancing on the knifes edge of financial peril. It can not fund the $1.4 billion SkyTrain Evergreen Line, it can’t fund the proposed $2 billion plus Surrey/Langley extension and TransLink certainly can’t fund the proposed $4 billion UBC/Broadway subway; yet TransLink still wastes the taxpayers money, playing the same games planning for light-metro that no one can afford.

Like a slow motion train wreck, TransLink skirts with financial oblivion, ignoring all danger signals, until it finally crashes into a brick financial wall.

In the end, as noted American transit expert, Gerald Fox: “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.”

Why there is antagonism towards at-grade Light Rail/Tramways & streetcars (North America + Canada)

The title could be for a doctorate or thesis on public attitudes & political psychology, towards public transport.

The anathema is not always or usual directed towards cost of a project. Over the last ten years or so of Light Rail advocacy, I has noted a number of key arguments which I have listed below.

  • The road lobby fear at-grade Light Rail/Street Tramways, because of the reduction in road width/road capacity for cars.
  • The road lobby and dedicated motorists don’t like  Light Rail/Street Tramways, because it means that junction/intersection signals will be prioritized for Light Rail
  • Buses & BRT are tolerated because it is known that these modes will not offer modal shift comparable to Light Rail/Street Tramways
  • Downtown & suburban/out of town retailers fear Light Rail/Street Tramways will give shoppers a reliable transport service into the city centre to shop & by so reducing their trade.
  • Politicians & business leaders in suburban townships & rural areas, fear Light Rail/Street Tramways will turn their communities into dormitories as residents find that a commute to  the big city is feasible.
  • Politicians, civic leaders & established residents fear Light Rail/Street Tramways, will bring developers & an influx of newbie’s into their communities.
  • Big city politicians & civic leaders fear Light Rail/Street Tramways will mean citizens moving out further into the suburbs to live, work & shop.
  • Planners & politicians fear Light Rail/Street Tramways will bring urban sprawl.
  • Contrary to many expressed views, major private bus operators are remarkably tolerant of Light Rail/Street Tramways, in Europe many of them operate the Light Rail/Street Tramway systems. With public bus operators, competition with Light Rail/Street Tramways cannot be an issue. There may be a number of small existing public transport operators such as cab firms that fear a loss of trade, but often they readily adapt to the changing patterns.

 To put this into a Fraser Valley/Vancouver/BC context.

  1. TransLink fears Light Rail/Street Tramways, because its likely popularity with the general public will undermine their business model for SkyTrain & their credibility.
  2. Likewise the TransLink apparatchiks on Skyscraper, for whom urban transport is ART running through densely populated cities on elevated segregated tracks surrounded by ….. wait for it……Skyscrapers….of course! What they would actually like to see is a Dan Dare year 3000 scenario with thousands of PRT pods flying around.
  3. Gordon Campbell fears Light Rail/Street Tramways, because it will destroy his credibility and his power base.
  4. Civic politicians  fear Light Rail/Street Tramways will turn their communities into dormitories as residents find that a commute to  the big city is feasible and will bring developers & an influx of newbie’s into their communities.
  5. Civic politicians would support buses or BRT, cos they know that mode will not offer a comparable modal shift.
  6. Langleyapparatchiks  fear Light Rail/Street Tramways, cos it wasn’t their idea and they didn’t think of it first.
  7. Mike Archer & others of his ilk fear Light Rail/Street Tramways, because he’s a journalist & it’s his job & nature to write negative articles about what he doesn’t really understand.

Build Murray-Clarke — or Evergreen support goes: PM council

October 23, 2010

An interesting little spat is taking place in Port Moody, where the city council want TransLink to chip in with the Murray-Clarke Connector project and if they don’t, they will pull their support for the Evergreen (Nevergreen) Line. This confirms two of Zwei’s opinions about the $1.4 billion light-metro project:

  1. The Evergreen Line is front for more road and highway construction and for massive up-zoning of residential and light-industrial lands for high density, shoe box style of apartments.
  2. The Evergreen Line will not take cars off the road.

The artist’s rendering says it all, SkyTrain and the West Coast Express are almost hidden away by a massive new highway interchange, designed to handle large volumes of traffic.

Zweis thinks it is time for a moratorium on all transit (highway and rail) contraction and planning and the provincial government hold a Royal Commission on regional transit to get  a proper foundation for the implantation of an affordable regional transit system.

Build Murray-Clarke — or Evergreen support goes: PM council

By Sarah Payne – The Tri-City News

Port Moody council may pull its support for the Evergreen Line if the Murray-Clarke Connector isn’t built.

At a special meeting Tuesday, council again discussed the 32 requirements it says are critical to its support for Evergreen. Among them is building the connector before construction of the rapid transit line.

But with TransLink struggling to cover the funding gap just to get Evergreen built — and pay for other needed transportation projects throughout the region — Murray-Clarke has fallen off the radar once again.

“It’s one of the prerequisites of us going along with the Evergreen Line,” said PoMo Mayor Joe Trasolini of the connector. “We’re very concerned that now it seems the Murray-Clarke Connector is being orphaned again. It’s nowhere on the priority list of TransLink” even though the previous board not only approved the project in 2008 but also allocated $50 million for its construction.

Costs for the connector, which will have to be extended to reach over the SkyTrain line, are now estimated at more than $70 million. PoMo has set aside $4 million for the project.

“Today, when we’re expecting it to be completed, all of a sudden TransLink doesn’t have it on its priority list,” Trasolini added. “It’s a great concern to us and should be to everyone east of us. It throws doubts on our support for construction of the Evergreen Line.”

TransLink must come up with $400 million for its share of the $1.4-billion Evergreen Line and Metro mayors have recently balked at suggestions to hike property taxes to pay for Evergreen and part of the North Fraser Perimeter Road (Option A: $465 million) or a handful of regional projects including expanded bus service and station upgrades (Option B: $338 million).

Trasolini says Murray-Clarke must be built regardless of those funding issues.

“With the narrow corridor in Port Moody, if the Murray-Clarke Connector remains undelivered when construction for the Evergreen Line starts, you can see the disruption we’ll have. This is not just a Port Moody problem, it’s a northeast sector problem.”

Trasolini maintains the connector is not a new TransLink expansion project but the completion of an existing project — the Barnet Highway — that was promised by the province more than 20 years ago.

But TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis sees it differently, noting earlier this month that the original justification for the connector was to protect Moody Centre businesses when the Evergreen Line was planned as an at-grade LRT system down St. Johns Street. With the switch to an elevated SkyTrain system, the Murray-Clarke Connector is no longer an urgent priority, Jarvis said.

Trasolini said it’s “absurd” that a one-lane overpass that causes rush-hour back-ups stretching for several kilometres is part of the inter-municipal corridor, echoing an earlier council discussion that suggested PoMo may withdraw the Murray-Clarke from TransLink’s major road network — and block access to it for commuters coming from outside Port Moody.

He also wants to know whether the new, provincially appointed TransLink board, whose meetings are closed to the public, rescinded approval and funding for Murray-Clarke.

Trasolini and city manager Gaetan Royer were to meet with TransLink executives today (Friday) to discuss the issue. Royer said it’s unclear what effect Port Moody’s withdrawal of support for Evergreen would have on the project or who will cover the increased cost of the Murray-Clarke Connector.

“We have a tougher job getting support for the Murray-Clarke Connector because now it’s going to cost more, it’s going to have to be a longer bridge,” Royer said. “We want the province, which is the lead of the Evergreen Line, to pay for the longer bridge… because it would be a smaller project were it not for the Evergreen Line.”

spayne@tricitynews.com

— with files from Jeff Nagel

http://www.bclocalnews.com/tri_city_maple_ridge/tricitynews/news/105477778.html

Trains get streetwise

October 18, 2010

The following link from the Professional Engineering Magazine …..

http://www.profeng.com/archive/2010/2311/23110053.htm

….. is well worth the read as it neatly sums up the German city of Karlsruhe’s success in integrating transit.

Karlsruhe, it must be remembered, pioneered the TramTrain concept and with stunning results. When the first TramTrain line (which replaced a commuter train & one transfer) opened in 1993, ridership exploded from 533,600 per week to over 2,555,000, (almost 480% increase) in just a few month! Karlsruhe now operates over 410 km. of TramTrain, including lines in the environmentally sensitive Black Forest, with the longest route being over 210 km.

TransLink and METRO transit planners have singularly ignored Karlsruhe’s continuing success and busily chase their holy grail of densification and SkyTrain planning. The mandarins in charge of the regions transit planning haven’t even a clue what light rail is, or for that matter, what a metro is and try, like fitting a round peg in a square hole, cobble SkyTrain planning, making the metro fit a job far more suitable for modern light rail. The result is predictable, a disjointed and very extremely expensive ‘rail‘ transit system that is too expensive to extend, while at the same time has failed to provide a viable alternative to the car.

Today there are 14 cities with TramTrain operation (only 7 cities have SkyTrain), with a further 20 TramTrain operations being planned for and no one is planning to build with SkyTrain at this date. This is the message that is being ignored by TransLink, METRO Vancouver and provincial politicians. Remaining blind, deaf and dumb about light rail and TramTrain translates in to ever increasing taxes to pay for questionable transit expansion.

Who is not afraid to bell the SkyTrain cat?

The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree – TransLink’s Regional Transit Planning

October 13, 2010

Fruit of the poisonous tree is a legal metaphor in the United States used to describe evidence that is obtained illegally. The logic of the terminology is that if the source of the evidence (the “tree”) is tainted, then anything gained from it (the “fruit”) is as well.

TransLink’s planning officials still maintain that modern light Rail has a limited capacity of about 10,000 persons per hour per direction and refuse to entertain the fact that they are wrong. All of TransLink planning, including the RAV/Canada Line, the Evergreen line, the Broadway/UBC rapid transit line, and Fraser Valley transportation have assumed LRT’s seemingly inferior capacity and despite the fact that modern LRT can carry in excess of 20,000 pphpd, have portrayed LRT as a poorman’s SkyTrain.

The assumption that light rail has only a capacity of 10,000 pphpd is wrong.

The Light Rail Transit Association [ www.lrta.org ], which can trace its history back 63 years, which has continually campaigned for affordable and efficient public transit, defines light rail transit as:

“a steel wheel on steel rail transit mode, that can deal economically with traffic flows of between 2,000 and 20,000 passengers per hour per direction, thus effectively bridging the gap between the maximum flow that can be dealt with using buses and the minimum that justifies a metro.”

The following study from the LRTA, shows that even in 1986, it was generally understood that modern LRT could carry 20,000 pphpd.

https://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/the-1986-lrta-study-bus-lrt-metro-comparison/

More recently, (2006) Calgary Transit LRT Technical Data page claims that the maximum theoretical capacity of the C-Train is 30,700 pphpd!

Maximum THEORETICAL single direction capacity (pass./hr/dir) at 256 pass./car and 2 min. headway:
3-car train 23,040
4-car train 30,720

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

If TransLink’s basic assumption about light rail (including streetcar) is wrong, then TransLink’s entire planning history, regarding bus, LRT, and SkyTrain is wrong and is not worth the paper it is printed on. Yet TransLink, without any public scrutiny and very little political oversight, continues to plan for hugely expensive SkyTrain light-metro projects, which supposed support for, has been heavily biased by questionable studies and even more questionable tactics – all fruit from the poisonous tree!

Noted American transportation expert Gerald Fox, summed up his observations on the TransLink business case for the Evergreen line;

” 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.”

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

Has TransLink’s regional transit planning over the past ten years nothing more than “Fruit of the poisonous tree?”, based on the fact that TransLink’s bureaucrats desired that light rail (LRT) be seen inferior to SkyTrain, on paper, to ensure further planning and building of their cherished light metro system?

Rail for the Valley would welcome TransLink’s clarification on this issue!

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

    Greenville SC Southern Connector toller files for bankruptcy

    July 12, 2010

    From Toll Road News

    Greenville SC Southern Connector toller files for bankruptcy

    Connector 2000 Association developer and operator of the Greenville Southern Connector tollroad filed for bankruptcy today in US Bankuptcy Court in nearby Spartanburg, South Carolina. The filing done under chapter 9 of the US Bankruptcy code that handles broke government entities has been expected for some time.

    The Association defaulted on debt service in January.

    Moves in the state legislature to bail out the lenders went nowhere.

    Revenues from the Southern Connector are not sufficient to service the debt, the Connector 2000 Association toiler says in its US Court filing because actual traffic and revenues are “substantially less than projected.”

    “The debtor is insolvent” their lawyers say bluntly in the Ch 9 filing.  $500m was borrowed. Equity was zero of course because the 6320 form allows no equity.

    Court papers note Wilbur Smith Associates projected 21k/day in the opening year but fewer than 7.5k showed up. (pro-rated for 10 months we put the number at 8.7k – editor)

    Traffic has remained between a third and a half of that forecast by WSA when the association launched the tollroad project in this small South Carolina town in the late 1990s.

    Revenue has been even lower and is now under a third of WSA $s.

    No purpose

    The highway on the southern/southwestern fringe of the city only made sense as an access and development road. The road is too indirect to provide any time savings for long-distance traffic which has stuck to the free interstates. To provide an alternate to I-85 it needed to cross the Saluda River in its western portion to provide a much straighter shot easterly for traffic from Atlanta. It was designed however as an access road to local commercial developments – most of which never happened.

    A semi-belt route, 2×2 lanes and 16 miles, 26km long the Southern Connector tollroad gained interstate designation I-185 – totally unwarranted.

    Tolls for 2-axle vehicles are $1.00 cash, 75c transponder and 50c at the ramp plazas which are unattended. Tractor trailers pay $3.00/$2.25 sat the mainline plazas and 50c at the ramps.

    Trouble is for most trips through the Greenville area the main drag untolled I-85 remains much more direct and quicker. And even for east-west trips traversing the Greenville area to points south  the old I-85/I-385 combination was quicker than transiting I-185. It swings too far out.

    The pike failed also because it was conceived as catering to continued development of Greenville as a light industrial and warehousing hub on the Atlanta-Charlotte corridor in the mid-1990s, just when that particular bubble was bursting. Most of the land on either side of the Connector remains undeveloped.

    Revenues are running at barely $5.5m/yr and toll transactions 12.5k/day. Tolls are taken at two mainline and two pairs of ramp toll plazas along the road so vehicles on the road are substantially less than the transaction number. The mainline plazas have two lanes of open road electronic tolling and two or three cash lanes alongside each direction – state of the art for the time.

    The last annual financial report available is for 2008.

    COMMENT: 

    The road opened Feb 27, 2001. First tolls were collected March 13, 2001.  It continues in operation using toll revenues to pay for operational expenses. Traffic at 12k or so vehicles/day would barely justify a 2-lane signalized road, let alone a 4-lane expressway.

    No equity investment is involved since this was one of a bunch of not-for-profits that were all the rage as “innovative finance” in the 1990s. They got a special tax advantage and were called 6320s after the tax exemption clause that treated them as a kind of charity.

    No-skin-in-the-game ventures encouraged by US tax code

    All these unsound no-skin-in-the-game ventures have now crashed.

    They were championed by a former federal highway administrator Bob Faris, a former VDOT commissioner Jim Atwell and other prominent officials who came to believe their own salesmanship. ARTBA the DC lobby group were cheerleaders.

    And they were eagerly embraced by a road development crew – a motley crew of consultants, engineering firms, financiers and construction firms – who made their money in the development, design and construction and had no interest in the viability of the roads as ongoing businesses.

    The Greenville Southern Connector was ill-conceived as an interstate standard expressway. Designers, engineers, lawyers, consultants and construction companies made their money in the development and construction and left the resulting mess to Connector 2000 Association a phony public-private entity without any real owners. So much for “innovative finance” as touted by ARTBA and other DC lobby groups.

    Lehman Bros NY which collapsed in Sept 2008 was the principal promoter of Southern Connector bonds.

    see http://www.southernconnector.com/

    filings

    http://www.southernconnector.com/Zfilings.htm

    http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/4808

    And Now: The Green With Envy Award – Washington to get $590 million for high-speed rail improvements

    January 29, 2010

    In BC and Canada, there is little money for railways to improve passenger service, yet there are billions of dollars for new highways and bridges. The sad fact is, in BC and Canada new highways and bridges win votes, while the railways are considered a ‘yesterdays’ transit mode. Just $500 million would buy us a Vancouver to Chilliwack interurban.

    Washington to get $590 million for high-speed rail improvements

    By Mike Lindblom

    The Seattle Times

    The federal government will spend $590 million in stimulus money to improve rail travel times from Blaine to Portland.

    The money represents the Northwest’s piece of an $8 billion stimulus package for high-speed rail, to be announced Thursday in Florida by President Obama.

    Only two-thirds of passenger trains run on time on the 3 ½-hour trip between Seattle and Portland, and the state is trying to boost that number to 90 percent. A series of small projects throughout Western Washington — some but not all of which the stimulus money would pay for — would save an estimated 833 hours of delays annually, according to the state. Ridership peaked in 2008 with 775,000 riders.

    “Anybody who travels the I-5 corridor in our state knows that we need to find new, efficient options to get commuters and commerce moving. And anybody interested in boosting our state’s economy knows that now is a great time to take action,” said a statement from Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

    Murray, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Committee, has talked at least four times with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about funding the Pacific Northwest Cascades corridor — stressing that rail could reduce congestion on nearby Interstate 5, a spokesman for the senator said Wednesday.

    Thirteen high-speed-rail lines serving 31 states will receive money, including $8 million for Oregon to improve trackways and Portland’s Union Station.

    Five round-trip Amtrak trains run between Seattle and Portland each day. Only two go between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., so buses fill out the route. Delays caused by freight-train traffic, and various accidents or obstructions, are common.

    Washington state had sought $1.3 billion to fund 26 rail projects from border to border, to prepare for eventually running eight round-trip trains to Oregon. Several projects already include at least partial funding from state tax increases in the 2000s.

    The federal stimulus money is devoted mainly to corridors of 100 to 600 miles, in hopes the trains become fast enough to substitute for airplane and car travel.

    In the Cascades corridor from Blaine to Eugene, the long-term goal is speeds in the 90 mph to 120 mph range, said the administration’s national rail plan, published last year.

    Years ago, Washington and Oregon purchased Talgo trains capable of 125 mph, because of advanced suspension systems that lean into curves. But they are constrained to 79 mph because of congestion, street crossings and flaws in the trackways.

    Examples of the many proposed high-speed upgrades include:

    • Blaine: a siding track where freight trains can be inspected at the Canadian border without blocking passenger trains.

    • Blaine to Everett: reconstruction of tracks, ties and ballast to improve ride quality.

    • Seattle King Street Station: seismic retrofits.

    • Tacoma: new and upgraded trackways through the city, so Amtrak trains can head directly south instead of looping around Point Defiance. (This will seem like a drawback to many Amtrak riders who love the Puget Sound views and passage beneath the Narrows bridges, but the new Tacoma route also would shave six minutes from the trip and allow a Sounder commuter-train extension to Lakewood.)

    • Kelso: a new siding track where grain trains entering the nearby Port of Kalama can wait without obstructing the mainline.

    • Vancouver, Wash.: bypass tracks to avoid a large freight yard, moving passenger trains through 2 ½ times faster.

    The $8 billion in federal spending is only a fraction of last year’s $787 billion stimulus plan, and several regions have rail desires that far exceed the stimulus money.

    For instance, California voters in 2008 approved $10 billion in bonds toward a $45 billion bullet train from the Bay Area and Sacramento to Los Angeles and San Diego, to be a public-private partnership. This week’s award adds $2.25 billion, leaving a huge gap. California had asked for twice that much stimulus, arguing that its project is the only one aspiring to world-class, 220 mph train speeds.

    Florida is getting $1.3 billion to start a line between Tampa and Orlando that is supposed to reach 168 mph, a White House project list says.

    The administration will add $1 billion for each of the next five years, calling that money “a down payment to jump start the program,” said a statement, which notes that the interstate highway system took four decades to complete.

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2010910788_highspeedrail28m.html

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

    January 14, 2010

    Athens tram - note simple on-street construction

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

    http://straight.com/article-280315/vancouver/transportation-activists-mobilize-thwart-south-fraser-perimeter-road-and-broadway-skytrain

    Please attend the meetings.

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

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