Posts Tagged ‘Port Moody’

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.

Advertisements

Is it time to replan the Evergreen Line? Could diesel LRT be the answer for the Tri-Cities?

September 29, 2009

tricities-map

Both the provincial and federal government want TransLink to build SkyTrain on the Evergreen Line and it is clearly evident that the decision to build with SkyTrain is purely political to keep Ontario and Quebec jobs secure in Bombardier owned plants. With the ongoing propaganda campaign of the SkyTrain lobby, combined with the complete ignorance of Transportation Ministers, both provincial and federal on the subject of regional transit, TransLink persists in planning for unworkable and unfordable light-metro. Despite clear indications that after the huge investment in SkyTrain and RAV light-metro (SkyTrain was too expensive for the Canada Line) TransLink’s ridership share has only risen with population increase. There has not been a modal shift from car to transit. Yet, TransLink and provincial and federal governments still want to squander billions of dollars more on SkyTrain and light-metro, in the vain hope they will get different results on the next metro line they build.

They won’t. Then the question should be asked: “should there be complete rethink on both mode (light-rail & light-metro) and TransLink’s role in transit planning in the region that is free of political interference.”

Regional Mayors want light-rail to be built on the Evergreen Line at a supposedly $400 million cheaper cost, but the provincial Transportation Minister and her federal counterpart will hear none of it. It’s SkyTrain or nothing.

Why?

Simple, to keep jobs in Ontario and Quebec. Further proof that the regions rapid transit plans are geared for Eastern Canadian politicians using local taxpayers subsidize jobs in both Ontario and Quebec.

This further gives credence for the call for TransLink to get out of transit planning altogether and shed the ponderous bureaucracy that is fixated on SkyTrain and light-metro and rejects light-rail out of hand. By rejecting light-rail, TransLink’s planners rejects modern public transit philosophy based on almost forty years of proven and affordable light-rail, in revenue operation in over 600 cities around the world.

One must remember American transit expert, Gerald Fox’s comments on the TransLink’s Evergreen Line business case:

“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.”

Fox sums up with:

“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.”

A different plan for the Evergreen Line

The Light Rail Committee proposed a different plan for light-rail in the Tri-City area which is based on modern light-rail philosophy that has proven so effective elsewhere in the world.

The plan also takes into account the advice of several transit consultants, would use use diesel and diesel-electric light-rail vehicles, combining track sharing with existing railways and the use of on-street operation where practical. The plan consisted of on-street operation from Port Moody to Coquitlam Centre, with a spur line using the Ioco freight branch to the Esso refinery line to 1st Ave. in Ioco. The line would then travel South along Lougheed highway till it connected to the  CPR rail line paralleling the Lougheed highway, connecting to the BNSF/CN mainline until it reached Pacific Central Station in Vancouver.

This would give very fast journeys for people living in the Tri-Cities to Vancouver and visa versa. The Light Rail Committee estimated that the cost of this line would have been in the neighbourhood of $400 million to $600 million and giving a superior and direct service to downtown Vancouver. For a fraction the cost of SkyTrain or TransLink’s grossly over engineered light-rail plans, we could get a much larger usable ‘rail’ network that would be available to far more transit customers than a truncated light-metro line.

TransLink officials quickly shot down the plan because: “We had just built a $1.2 billion metro line and we had get get as many passengers on the new rapid transit line as we can.”

Maybe the time has come for TransLink to get out of the business of transit planning and hire independent consultants to compete to provide plans for the best and most affordable transit solutions for our endemic regional transportation chaos. The taxpayer can no longer afford TransLink’s grandiose gold-plated rapid transit lines that, in the past, have not attracted the motorist from the car and at best, gives the bus rider a questionably faster, yet more inconvenient journey.

regio-sprinter