Posts Tagged ‘Rail for the Valley’

Launching our new Rail For the Valley website and blog…….

November 12, 2010

In brief: We have a new website and blog!

From now on, please go to for the main website, or, for blog articles,

Please change your bookmarks accordingly. Thank you!

I am extraordinarily pleased to present to you the new Rail For the Valley website:

Make sure to check out all the sections. In addition to a new professional layout, there’s:
  • lot of new content on our campaign and related issues, that has already been posted
  • Continual news updates posted to much more frequently than before
  • A suggestion: Go to the main page and subscribe to receive more frequent updates from the campaign trail. (you can unsubscribe at any time.)
If you like what you see on the new website, a small donation to our campaign would be greatly appreciated.

Watch for our new blogger

As well, I am delighted to announce that, together with the launch of our new website, we have a new regular blogger we’re adding to the mix: He goes by Cardinal Fang…..

Watch for his first blog entry, at, in the days to come.

By the way, if you’re impressed with what you see on the new website, you’ll be interested to hear that our website was created by local designer Matthew Vogt. You can visit Matt’s website at If you or your business have a project in mind, I highly recommend him. In addition to giving us a top-notch design, he’s been a pleasure to work with.
John Buker
Rail for the Valley

USA: Why the Stimulus Package Failed

November 10, 2010

A commentary by Lyndon Henry, from the Light Rail Now folks in the United States. The question to be asked here is: “Was Canada so-called stimulus funding successful?”

While the commentary below doesn’t directly mention public
transportation, rail transit, or passenger rail, I believe it is
directly relevant to the issue of federal investment in these
services and facilities (now under political attack). Beinhart makes
a compelling case for investing in major projects as the most
effective way to create jobs – this certainly bolsters the case for
investing in urban rail, Amtrak, and other public transport projects
as a way not only to start addressing America’s dire
infrastructure-decay and capacity-insufficiency problems but also to
significantly create essential, productive jobs.

The author presents one of the best explanations I’ve seen of the
job-creation “multiplier effect” of such investments.

The Teapot GOP (and Blue Dog Dems) have derided the Obama
administration’s 2009 “stimulus” program as a “failure” that cost
$787 billion (exaggerated to “$800 billion” and even more exaggerated
to “$1 trillion”). Beinhart lays out a compelling case that the
“stimulus” was actually mostly tax cuts and unemployment benefit
subsidies, with only $154.5 billion of actual job-creating stimulus.
Based on that figure, and the well-documented creation of at least
1.6 million jobs, he calculates an average cost per created job of
less than $97,000 – a figure that compares extremely well with other
government “efforts” at “job creation” (such as “trickle-down”
effects of high-inome tax cuts).

I think this analysis and these figures will be helpful to rail
advocates in making the case for much more, not less, public
investment in rail transit and intercity rail projects (definitely an
uphill struggle in today’s loony, Neanderthal political climate).


Huffington Post
November 9, 2010 05:41 PM

Why the Stimulus Package Failed

Larry Beinhart
Author, ‘Salvation Boulevard,” “Wag the Dog,” “The Librarian.”

The stimulus package failed because it consisted mostly of tax cuts.
Tax cuts are among the very worst ways to create jobs and certainly
the most expensive.

The stimulus package authorizes 787 billion dollars. According to the
official website ( $565 billion has actually been spent
or credited. There are three categories of “stimulus.” Citing amounts
spent, they are:

1. $243.4 billion in tax cuts.

2. $154.5 billion in contracts, grants, and loans. This is what
we actually think of as a stimulus, construction and research projects.

3. $166.8 billion in entitlements. This is mostly money to the
states to help with unemployment insurance.

Estimates of jobs “saved and created” by the package range from
800,000 to 2.4 million (both from the Congressional Budget Office),
with other estimates at 1.25 million (IHS/Global Insight), 1.06
million (Macroeconomic Advisors), and 1.59 million (Moody’s).

Let’s use Moody’s estimate (sort of the high middle, and independent)
and round it off to 1.6 million jobs “saved and created.”

That’s $353,125 per job.

I’m sorry, but that’s ridiculous. It’s obscene.

If you have an essentially unlimited line of credit, as the
government essentially does, it would appear relatively easy to create jobs.

“Hey, you, over there on the unemployment line, wanna work cleaning
up our national parks? Yeah, we’ll give you a twenty dollar rake,
some biodegradable garbage bags, and twenty bucks an hour.” That
happens to be 47 cents an hour over the average wage.

No national parks or monuments in your neighborhood?

All right, there are lots of empty lots and abandoned homes due to
the housing market collapse. “Let’s clean ’em up. Same deal. That’s
forty thousand a year. You can live on that.”

Presumably the government will be decent about it and pay the usual
benefits — social security, unemployment insurance, workman’s comp,
and so on — which adds $8.11 an hour. That’s a little less than
$17,000 a year, making a total cost of $57,000 per year, per job.

Jobs don’t exist in a vacuum, not even sweeping the streets by hand
with a broom. There has to be a certain number of overhead costs. Not
counting salaries of supervisors and such (which would be part of the
job creation numbers), not counting benefits (already in there), 15
percent is a very generous number, for another $8,550, a total of
$65,550 per job.

So that’s what a “created” job should cost. About $65,000.

If you actually want to “create jobs,” that’s how you should do it.
Go out and create them.

But that’s not how we do things. We were not goddamn Communists. Or
even socialists. We’re capitalists. So we give out contracts to
private enterprises and grants to universities and other institutions.

Construction projects, one of the primary forms of job creation has
lots of costs beside labor. They have machinery, materials, a variety
of business expenses (accounting, insurance, legal, etc.), the
purchase of land and so on. Labor accounts for 20-30 percent of a
construction contract. Let’s take the low end, 20 percent, and assume
that a construction job is one of those $65,000 wages plus benefits
for a full year jobs, and the cost of that job then becomes $325,000.

That’s pretty close to the $353,125 per job number we got using the
Moody’s estimate.
Except that all those other construction costs (excluding land
purchase, which should be less relevant here) involve additional
labor. For example, materials are manufactured, a certain portion of
them here, in the US. Truckers transport them. Building supply
company employees handle them. Machinery is built (some portion of it
here), and maintained (all of it here). The construction company pays
it’s staff and the professionals (lawyer and accountants), and so on.
All those people buy food (keeping supermarket workers employed), buy
other stuff, pay their bills, and so on.

This is the famous Keynesian multiplier effect.

It’s also very difficult to calculate how many non-site, indirect
jobs does a construction project support with all its other spending.
In the figures we’re using, that 80% of the costs. It’s reasonable to
say that at least half of that goes into people’s pockets as it moves
down the line.

If we figure it that way, it should probably cost about $130,000 per job.

Let’s go back to the breakdown.

First let’s take out the aid to the states for unemployment insurance
assistance. Obviously that doesn’t add jobs. It helps people. It goes
to keeping the community afloat, but it doesn’t create a whole lot of jobs.

Let’s take out the tax cuts. Just as an academic exercise, for the moment.

That leaves projects, grants, and loans. $154.5 billion.

If we have 1,600,000 jobs created and saved, and divide it into the
money spent on projects, it comes out at $96,562 per job.

That actually makes sense. It’s expensive. But it makes sense.

Direct job creation, or job creation through contracts (like road
building), has a multiplier effect. Each job creates more jobs, both
through the support jobs and through the spending by the people who
are employed.

Job creation through tax cuts works the opposite way.

The price per job is multiplied many times over.

In this last election cycle, Carl Paladino was running against Andrew
Cuomo for governor of New York. One of the charges that Cuomo leveled
against him was that he got $1.4 million in tax breaks but created
only one job from that.

The implication was that Paladino was a sleazy rip-off artist. At best.

He may be, but it is only a particularly vivid example of how the tax
cuts to job creation equation actually works.

We are still arguing about extending the Bush Tax Cuts.

The Bush Tax Cuts cost about two trillion dollars.

They were originally labeled and promoted as “jobs and stimulus”
packages. Let’s take him at his word. Over the course of his two
terms 1.1 jobs were created. That didn’t even keep up with population
growth. It also cost $1,818,182 per job.

Close to the same numbers that Paladino was working with.

The Obama White House, a prisoner of the prevailing ‘tax cuts
stimulate the economy and create jobs’ theology, passed a stimulus
bill that was 40 percent tax cuts, 30 percent unemployment insurance,
and only 27 percent actual stimulus.

That’s why it didn’t work.

That’s not even the bad news.

Here’s the bad news. The tax cuts are still in effect. The odds are
they will be extended, even for the very wealthiest.

Here’s worse news. There’s only one thing stupider than cutting taxes
to create jobs. It’s to cut spending. In the recent NY governor’s
race, for example, both leading candidates promise to cut spending.
That means cutting jobs. That’s happening state by state all around
the country. Not only does cutting jobs mean, in a very direct
one-to-one way, fewer jobs, it has a negative multiplier effect. It
means there are fewer people with money to spend on the things that
create jobs for other people.

The future of public transit in America – will Canada Follow?

November 7, 2010

The following is from Lyndon Henry, from the Light Rail Now folks, who is an avid supporter of public transit and light rail in the United States.

I fear, as many do in Ontario, that our current populist politicians will lead us to a new public transit dark age, where precious transit monies are spent on glitzy, politically prestigious projects like subways on routes that do not have the ridership to sustain them and highways, creating more gridlock and land use chaos. Transit advocates must stand alert for political inference and “take no prisoners” on politically inspired and expensive transit initiatives that will do little or nothing for the transit customer.

I find it a very sour irony that, after 8 years of a far-right
administration hostile to rail transit and intent on dismembering
Amtrak, the replacement of the “nightmare” regime by the “Hope and
Change” regime has led to prospects for rail transit, Amtrak –
indeed, all public transport – that may be even more dire than ever.

Even more disastrous than the outlook for a Congress more
dysfunctional (and malicious) than before is the clear trend toward a
blanket renunciation of virtually all socially beneficial public
investment, and the new Fear campaign now emerging focused on the
potential takeover of the USA by China as a consequence of deficit
spending (have you seen the latest TV ads promulgating this?).

As far as I can tell, the prevailing mindset in the top echelons of
America’s ruling circles has embraced a renunciation of significant
public investment in favor of a policy focus on near-term profit
engorgement, a Gilded Age business vision, and basically a fairly
brutal, barren YOYO (You’re On Your Own) world. I believe this
explains the billions now being funnelled into ongoing political
campaigns to further the new objectives of this mindset.

I would not expect public transport to fare well in this emerging
political climate. Public transport advocates should be ready for
some very rough times.


Ottawa’s troubled tram.

November 4, 2010

The light rail saga in Ottawa continues with the realization that monies spent on a politcally prestigious subway tunnel comes from extending the transit line to servcie transit customers.

Zweisystem is in complete agreement with the following and I have posed about Ottawa’s LRT escapades earlier.

Ottawa transit authorities had need not look any further than Vancouver, where TransLink hat the behest of the City of Vancouver and the former provincial premier (a former Vancouver mayor) forced a light-metro subway for the RAV/Canada Line. As the costs for the politically prestigious subway climbed, the scale of the project was reduced to a point where Vancouver is the only city in the world that has a $2.5 billion truncated subway designed to have less capacity than if a $1.5 billion cheaper and much longer LRT line were to have been built instead!

This foolhardy notion that subways somehow are better at attracting new customers to transit than a surface system is a hangover from the 1950’s transit bumf that is taught in Canadian and American universities.

Ottawa taxpayers will learn soon enough a subway’s ability to gobble up precious taxpayer’s dollars earmarked for public transit!

Nix the tunnel! (There, I’ve said it)

By Ken Gray, Ottawa Citizen

Ottawa’s new rail plan is too long, too short and ineffective.

It’s too long because the project has taken far too much time to build. Calgary’s C-Train started operation in 1981, almost 30 years ago, on the surface and through downtown. And many critics say the C-Train is the most successful light-rail system in North America. By the time the light rail-tunnel project is completed, Ottawa will have light rail almost four decades after Calgary. Anybody want to bet it will be a half-century?

Yet the line is too short because it just does not travel far enough. It stretches from Tunney’s Pasture to Blair Road. Know anyone who is travelling from Tunney’s Pasture to Blair Road? Anyone? Just one.

I don’t have any scientific evidence but I bet most of the commuters coming by Transitway to the huge federal employment complex at Tunney’s are coming from the west, rendering the light-rail line useless.

I could be wrong, but years of taking the Transitway to the Citizen’s downtown bureau led me to believe that. The standing-room only bus at morning rush hour became much easier to ride once it passed Tunney’s.

Because of the new plan’s short nature, Tunney’s and Blair will be enormous transfer points from buses to trains. That adds a transfer to everyone’s trip downtown … unless OC Transpo continues to run buses along the Albert and Slater corridor. That causes one of two problems. If buses run down Slater and Albert, will the rails be without riders? And if buses don’t run downtown, imagine the transfer delays and mess at Tunney’s and Blair stations. They weren’t built to handle that kind of traffic.

So there you have it. The new rail plan is too long, too short and a hindrance to fast travel. Other than that, it’s fine. All this for $2.1 billion (or $2.6 billion giving the city’s public servants the wiggle room they said they needed) while the north-southwest route cancelled wrongly by council stretched from Barrhaven to the University of Ottawa was a bargain $884 million with a fixed top-end cost guaranteed by the Siemens consortium. Now that was a real transit line. Anyone want to put money down on a possible overrun on the rail-tunnel project for which the city is on the hook?

The really smart move would be to can the tunnel because it takes too long to build, and convince Siemens to construct the original project. The original plan would be running now if council had not been so shortsighted and killed it. My guess is that building the north-south route is politically unpalatable but would be faster than constructing the current plan. North-south is right transit-wise, but wrong politically. Politics will win.

Because the new project is too long, too short and ineffective, we need real transit in this city — certainly before the end of this decade. And that’s because of intensification. The municipality has built an urban boundary beyond which development cannot cross. Accordingly, downtown areas are filling up with condos and cars. Highways 417 and 174 are parking lots at rush hour, while regular intersections are failing. Buses aren’t the answer because they are trapped in the same traffic jams as cars.

So what to do? Our auto traffic is increasingly unmanageable with no relief in sight. The current rail plan has lines to Orleans and Barrhaven in 2031. Will much of the boomer generation be alive then? Certainly almost all of them won’t be commuting.

I’d recommend what I’d call the Scramble System because we need to scramble to serve current transit needs. Until Ottawans can construct a great light-rail system, we need to take advantage of the infrastructure already in place. It’s an adaptation of the plan Alex Munter offered in the 2006 campaign. Temporarily use rail lines in place now for transit until the municipality can build a real light-rail system. Take advantage of wide streets where demand might exist for bus-only lanes. We’ve already begun a Scramble System with the “demonstration project” O Train that looks increasingly permanent. There is a huge opportunity with the old Prince of Wales Bridge at Bayview for cross-river transit. Might some of our old rail lines be converted to commuter rail? Should shuttle buses be instituted between the Transitway and major work nodes?

None of this is perfect. A uniform light-rail system should still be the ultimate goal (it reduces maintenance costs because there’s one set of very durable rail cars) but the Scramble System might help us move in the short term in our newly intensified city.

But this is what happens when your major transit project is too short, too long and ineffective.

Read more:

Rail for the Valley in the news – November 3, 2010

November 3, 2010

The Common Sense Canadian

Bringing Back the Interurban Line: Key to our Transportation Future Lies in the Past

Aldergrove Star

Rail for the Valley not giving up

Chilliwack Times

Careful what you wish for

Langley Times

TransLink has become a virus

Surrey Leader

Tax on tax is not enough for TransLink

International Transit News


Rail Life

Metro light rail ridership numbers – September 2010

 Birmingham, England


Spending Review backs Midland Metro and New Street plan

Leaving Lotus Land

November 1, 2010

I find it strange that Vancouver politicians, past and present, still view themselves as the centre of the universe and whatever is built or done in Vancouver is considered immediately as being good or the delightful local phrase, “world class“. Of course, Vancouver’s internationally notorious downtown Eastside is conveniently forgotten by everyone, throw away people are always conveniently forgotten. This myopic view is leading the region down a dangerous road of high debt and questionable planning practices, yet very little is done and everyone carries on as if they were “the best place on earth“. Those who question the status quo are instantly labeled naysayers and derided. Because of this, those who live outside Vancouver and its environs, refer to the city and its citizens as “Lotus land“.

In the afternoon they came unto a land
In which it seemed always afternoon.
All around the coast the languid air did swoon,
Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.”

— Tennyson, “The Lotus Eaters

The unelected METRO Vancouver Regional Board and the similarly unelected TransLink Board, both dominated by Vancouver politicians, have insulated themselves from public scrutiny which has greatly eroded the regional publics faith in the two institutions. What support is there for both METRO and TransLink is swiftly eroding.

There are solutions to alleviate the problems associated with METRO and TransLink, but politicians, ever fearful of loosing political power, reject reform out of hand. In BC, according to the local spin, public involvement diminishes democracy.

Where is this leading………

On September 21, 2010, Rail for the Valley released a ground breaking report for ‘rail’ transit for the Fraser Valley.

Despite wide media exposure, the response from TransLink has been deafening; there has been no response – no acknowledgment of the report by TransLink. This speaks volumes about the planning bureaucrats in their insulated ivory towers on Kingsway; they do not want to address any transit plan other than their own, especially the RftV/Leewood TramTrain Report.

TransLink, which can’t find the $400 million to pay its share for the yet to be started Evergreen SkyTrain light-metro line, is busily planning for a $4 billion subway under Broadway to UBC and a $2 billion plus SkyTrain light-metro extension to Langley! TransLink, refuses to recognize that the same amount of money spent on a light rail construction program would provide about five to ten times more route mileage that what can be had with SkyTrain!

Without public oversight, TransLink’s planning managers refuse to address real transit and transportation problems that have beset the region and spend countless hours, days, weeks (and spending countless taxpayers dollars as well) in the arcane world of light-metro planning and trying convince the public with outright propaganda that the TransLink way is the right way; the only way!

Even TransLink’s ‘trolls of war’ are finding harder and harder to bamboozle the public on various blogs, etc.

Until TransLink is made to plan for affordable transit options, the ponderous bureaucracy will carry on producing one SkyTrain plan after another and the METRO Vancouver region will wallow in traffic chaos, expensive public transit and ever higher property taxes and transit fares without any light at the end of the tunnel.

What politician in BC, civic or provincial, is not afraid to bell the TransLink Cat!

None it seems, except for Mayors Dianne Watts of Surrey and Rick Green of the Township of Langley!

The time has come to speak of many things and leave the city of the Lotus, to dream dreams of SkyTrain and subways; it is time for the South Fraser region to leave TransLink.

The Budapest HÉV System – Budapest’s Interurban

October 30, 2010

Although not a classic tram or light rail system, the Budapest HÉV system deserves a mentioning, because the rail line combines on-street operation (on a reserved rights-of-ways) in downtown Csepel, as well as classic railway operation.

See the HÉV System

News About the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway

October 27, 2010


Oct 26, 2010


“We’ve made formal application to VIA Rail to move the terminus from Victoria to Nanaimo and initiate an early morning southbound rail service from Nanaimo to Victoria. This would tie in to the daily service that then runs from Victoria to Courtenay, and provides a more friendly service for people on the rail, moving to the southern sector of Victoria” 



A comment by Zweisystem
$15 million is chump change for a transit project these days and I hope that Federal and provincial politicians look “three minutes into the future” and fund this worthwhile investment.
Zweisystem believes that two TramTrain services on the E&N are both feasible and practical.
TramTrain option 1.
Shawnigan Lake to Victoria, with a 3 to 4 kilometer streetcar loop in Victoria for the use of both TramTrain and heritage trams.
TramTrain option 2.
Duncan to Nanaimo Harbour, with limited on-street (streetcar) operation to the BC Ferry Depot.
The cost to provide an hourly schedule for both options would be well under $250 million or about 1 km. of a Broadway/UBC subway.

Rail for the Valley on the Radio

October 26, 2010

On CKNW radio this morning, Fraser Valley transportation was discussed. Sadly, the mayor of Abbotsford, seems to be quite out of his depth on the issue.

For a listen, please follow the link and set at October 26, 10:00 am

Abbotsford Today Doesn’t Like the Rail for the Valley/Leewood Report

October 22, 2010

A new valley magazine and web site, Abbotsford Today doesn’t like the RftV/Leewood report and one wonders why? What do they want, more new highways or a SkyTrain that will never come?

Issues: Costs Still Make Light Rail A Pipe Dream

As stated before, the report was a feasibility study for the implantation of a TramTrain service using the old BC Electric (now Southern Railway of BC), route. Using existing railway rights-of-ways, greatly reduces the cost of providing rail transit for a region. Unlike the West Coast Express, which must purchase pathways from the CPR at onerous costs, the valley TramTrain has a statutory right to providing passenger rail service on the existing route.

It is hard to take the article seriously, when the author compares the report with the “………feasibility of an underground subway to Whistler……..”.

The issues of fares is important, but I don’t think the $25, quoted is correct;  one way fares on a full build (Vancouver/Richmond to Rosedale) should be in the $5.00 to $10.00 range depending on distance traveled. 

A comparison with the $2.5 billion Canada line is in order.

The standard fare on the Canada line is $2.50 for one zone and $3.75 for two zones; there is a $5.00 supplement for customers leaving from YVR, but the numbers using the $8.75 fare leaving YVR is very small. About 80% of the fares are also apportioned between RAV/Canada line, the SkyTrain line, Seabus and the buses and many customers are using the heavily subsidized U-Pass, thus the real revenue for the Canada line is much less than the actual fares paid.

TransLink was/is singing hosannas about how the Canada Line’s ridership was near 100,000 boarding a day and soon the metro was to be able to pay its operating costs; so lets compare fares and ridership on the Canada Line with the prosed RftV TramTrain.

The full build, 138 km.  RftV/Leewood TramTrain is said cost about $1 billion or about $1.5 billion less than the 19.2 km., $2.5 billion Canada line, meaning that the RftV TramTrain would only less than 40,000 boardings (remember those apportioned TransLink fares & deep discounted U-Pass), charging the same fares as the Canada Line a day to obtain the same ratio of income that TransLink is presently cheering about on the Canada Line. If the TramTrain aims for only 20,000 boardings a day, then fares should be in the $5.00 to $10 dollar range, depending on the distance traveled, a far cry from the $25.00 quoted in the article.

It also should be noted that a new Vancouver to Chilliwack rail service will open the door to a host of new tourist and travel opportunities, where people who would not otherwise travel via car would take the train.

Yes there is a lot of questions remaining about the RftV/Leewood report, yet on the basis of the report, the taxpayer will get more than 10 times more rail transit per km. compared with SkyTrain, providing ample new travel opportunities for potential transit customers at affordable costs and maybe even be the catalyst for improvement of local bus services in Chilliwack and Abbotsford.