Transportation planning has become a bullshit field

Interesting article on Toronto’s transit scene which mirrors Vancouver’s.

In Vancouver, decades of bad planning, based on up-zoning properties adjacent to SkyTrain Lines to obtain higher densities, which benefits the “condo kings” and land speculators more than transit customers has lead to a litany of unintended consequences.

One of those unintended consequences has brought a new word into the transit lexicon: demovictions.

Demovictions is when affordable older apartments are torn down and replaced with unaffordable condos.forcing former tenants to cheaper accommodations, mostly in transit sparse locations. Those who most use transit are chased away.

In Vancouver, the “golden age of transit” was when BC Electric ran the transit system and one was able to travel from UBC or Richmond to Chilliwack by tram and interurban.

Today, transit customers are treated as sardines, forced to take the SkyTrain mini-metro, so planning wonks and politicians can boast of the ridership numbers, while most people take the car instead.

What has gone wrong in Toronto, went wrong in Vancouver three decades ago or more!

Until the 1950's one could travel the lower mainland by tram and interurban.

What has gone wrong since the ‘golden age’ of Toronto transit

Commuters exit a subway onto the TTC subway platform at Bloor-Yonge station in Toronto.


Stephen Wickens
Special to The Globe and Mail

Toronto’s transit system was once such a wonder that, even into the 1980s, people came from around the world to study how it planned infrastructure projects, how it executed them and how it operated.

That so-called “golden age” also produced transit experts so revered, they got to travel the globe in return. For some, their views have been valued well past retirement age – though not so much in their hometown.

Three of them – Richard Soberman, Ed Levy and David Crowley – recently gathered for lunch and a gab. The Scarborough subway, which is to be voted on again March 28, was not the focus, but it came up often.

“We have to be careful; this idea there was a golden age is a bit of myth,” says Dr. Soberman, former chair of civil engineering at the University of Toronto and lead author of many seminal transportation reports dating to the early 1960s. “We did very good things – on time, on budget – but we made big politically driven errors back then, too. Building a subway [Spadina] on an expressway median was a huge one. Putting the Queen subway on Bloor has turned out to be a mistake.”

“Precisely,” says Mr. Levy, jumping in. Mr. Levy, a planner, engineer and author of Rapid Transit in Toronto, A Century of Plans, Projects, Politics and Paralysis, says that great cities that have been able to sustainably expand subways kept building from the middle out (and they didn’t tunnel in low-density areas).

By not doing Queen right after Yonge, “we missed a crucial starting point for network-building. We’ve never been able to get back to a logical order,” Mr. Levy says. “Call it the Queen line, relief line, whatever, the whole GTA has needed this piece of infrastructure for decades, but politicians keep wasting scarce capital on frills and vote buying.”

“Toronto’s biggest transit problem,” says Mr. Crowley, who specializes in data analysis, travel market research and demand forecasting, “is we’ve overloaded core parts of the subway. We’d basically done that on lower Yonge 30 years ago, when I was still at the TTC. We have to relearn the importance of downtown to the whole region, the whole country. We’re in danger of killing the golden goose.”

Noting that trains from Scarborough and North York are often full before crossing into the old city, Mr. Crowley says that, “data and demand patterns are telling us the stupidest thing we could do is make any of our lines longer [before putting another subway through the core].”

“Much as I like the Eglinton Crosstown idea, and it’s overdue, too,” Mr. Levy says, “I fear what it will do to Yonge-line crowding. Again, the sequence is so wrong.”

Are bureaucrats shirking their responsibility to speak truth to power?

“We sure needed [TTC chief executive] Andy Byford to be blunt about this Scarborough subway plan,” Mr. Levy says. “He should have spoken up.”

Might the reticence be what some call “the Webster effect”? (Mr. Byford’s predecessor, Gary Webster, was fired for objecting to then-mayor Rob Ford’s insistence the entire Eglinton Crosstown go underground).

“Unwillingness to speak up isn’t new,” Dr. Soberman says, citing pressure from North York politicians in the early 1970s that spurred two well-regarded TTC executives to vote for the Spadina subway in the expressway corridor “even though they knew only idiots would think it was a good idea.”

The difference is, he says, “back then politicians listened, even if they didn’t always take our advice. They respected facts. Now they only want confirmation of their preconceived ideas, and too many people [bureaucrats and private-sector consultants], who should be providing objective professional advice are playing along with the game.”

“On Scarborough,” Mr. Levy says, “you won’t find a single independent transit professional who can support this, but they won’t say so publicly. The three of us can say this stuff without recrimination; we’re retired.”

“The minute the politicians speak,” Mr. Crowley says, “the civil service and the consulting community are happy to say, ‘Oh, that’s a great idea. Yes, let’s study that.’ I started to see this trend in the 1980s at the TTC. I’d raised serious, fact-based concerns about Sheppard-subway ridership forecasts and the role of the project. It upset people. I was told, ‘You’re never supposed to do that – you have to play along.’ “That’s when I knew it was time to get out,” says Mr. Crowley, who went on to a career with international private-sector firms. “This Scarborough boondoggle, if we were talking about gas plants, it could bring down a government, but transit is ‘special’ for reasons I don’t understand.”

“We’ve also overestimated the potential of these sub-downtowns, especially on jobs,” Mr. Levy says. “It’s twisted our spending priorities.”

“Transportation planning has become a bullshit field,” says Dr. Soberman. “A civil engineer wouldn’t say a bridge is going to be safe if his calculations show it might fall down, but a transportation planner can say anything. There’s no downside other than you waste public funds.”

“And the more we waste public funds, the harder it is to raise tax revenue for transit needs,” Mr. Levy says. “We’ve badly underfunded transit, but people don’t trust politicians to spend money well. When was the last time we did anything good? The Kipling and Kennedy extensions? That’s nearly 40 years ago. Most people recognized Sheppard was a mistake, but people who learned from it are ignored. It’s often impossible to even get good ideas considered. Politicians have a role to play, but …”

“It’s always been political – always will be – but we need to get smarter about where politicians join the process,” Dr. Soberman says. “If you don’t generate good ideas, you’re guaranteed bad results. If you generate good ideas and they’re ignored, you won’t do any better. Current politicians are comfortable ignoring the people most likely to generate the best ideas. And the media, you guys, haven’t always helped. This subway-versus-LRT debate was simplistic and maddening. Scarborough deserves better transit, but the best options aren’t even being considered.” (Dr. Soberman would simply buy new rolling stock for the SRT and rebuild a bend to accommodate new vehicles.)

“Maybe we’re part of the problem,” Mr. Crowley says. “If the professionals had done a better job diagnosing problems, identifying prescriptions and educating politicians and the public on issues and options, politicians wouldn’t have moved into the vacuum.”

Getting in the last word, Mr. Soberman says, “too many people in positions of power don’t seem to know what they don’t know. Whether it’s at the province and Metrolinx or at the city and TTC, if we don’t figure out new governance models, we’ll never regain the public trust and Toronto will suffer for generations.”

Subway or LRT? The Debate In Toronto That We Are Not Allowed In Vancouver

This article is a must read for those in Vancouver who want to debate the proposed Broadway SkyTrain subway.

Three items that need attention:

  1. As Toronto does not operate with LRT, their capacity numbers for LRT are inaccurate. Since the 1980′s the capacity of a modern LRT line can be in excess of 20,000 pphpd.
  2. The article restates that the minimum threshold for a subway are traffic flows in excess of 15,000 pphpd.
  3. “RT is just a short form of “light rail transit.” It is technology widely used in European and North American cities and in its own right-of-way can run just as fast as a subway.” As Zwei has stated over and over again, LRT when it operates on a reserved R-o-W (which makes a simple tram LRT) is as fast as a subway, at a cheaper cost.

The proposed ALRT/ART SkyTrain Broadway subway does not and will not have the ridership to justify its construction, which will means precious transit monies that were to be spent elsewhere, instead will be spent to subsidize the Broadway subway.

The subway debate in Vancouver should be about costs and funding and not how many high rises the ‘condo kings’ can build at station sites.

Subway, LRT, SRT? What we know about transit in Scarborough

As council looks to finalize an alignment for a one-stop subway extension, it has left some residents questioning if they’ll be left on the bus.

By JENNIFER PAGLIAROCity Hall reporter
Wed., March 15, 2017


The debate over the future of transit in Scarborough returns to city hall with a council meeting that begins March 28. As city staff look for direction to continue studying a subway plan — one that Mayor John Tory says will bring needed growth to the urban centre — rising costs have raised questions about whether Scarborough is getting the most transit with the money available. With $3.56 billion in funding committed, a town hall Monday night left some residents with lingering questions about the plan on the table and whether they’ll be left on the bus. We break down the options and answer some of the major questions.

So, how many new transit stops will Scarborough be getting?

With the current funding, Scarborough will be going from five SRT stops (in addition to Kennedy) to just one subway stop at the Scarborough Town Centre. If more funding can be secured, council is looking to build an 18-stop LRT along Eglinton Ave. East. There are no additional funding commitments for that line right now. A request has been made to the federal government.

Who’s paying for the subway extension?

The province committed $1.48 billion (in 2010 dollars, with the province responsible for inflationary costs), originally pledged to the seven-stop LRT, the federal government committed $660 million, and the city will contribute $910 million for a total $3.56 billion. Of the city contribution, the majority is being raised through a special property tax from all Toronto residents that began in 2014 and will continue for the next 30 years. If instead of a subway, the seven-stop LRT was to be built with provincial money, the federal and city contributions that have been committed to Scarborough transit would almost cover the cost of the 18-stop Eglinton East LRT.

How many people will ride the subway extension?

Ridership during the rush hour in the busiest direction is expected to be 7,400 an hour in 2031 — well below the accepted minimum threshold for a subway of 15,000 people and the maximum capacity of 36,000 people. The capacity of an LRT is 2,000 to 15,000 an hour depending on the configuration. The daily ridership of the planned subway extension is expected to be 30,800 in 2031 — less than the SRT’s current daily ridership of nearly 39,000.

Will I get where I’m going faster?

City staff confirmed with the Star this week that replacing the SRT with the proposed subway extension “would save customers approximately eight minutes for travel from Scarborough Centre Station to any station west of Kennedy.” But that doesn’t factor in the bus trips for individual users, who may spend more time on a bus getting to a rapid transit station with the one-stop plan. It also doesn’t consider the time that could be saved compared to the LRT plan.

What is an LRT?

LRT is just a short form of “light rail transit.” It is technology widely used in European and North American cities and in its own right-of-way can run just as fast as a subway. Though the Scarborough LRT has been compared to the existing streetcar network, the LRT had more in common with the Eglinton Crosstown line under construction now, using longer, higher capacity, low-floor vehicles. It would have run in the SRT corridor and never interacted with traffic. An improved transfer with a single flight of stairs was originally planned at Kennedy Station. With changes to the redesign of that station, the connection could be made by simply crossing the platform on the same level, which staff has not studied.

Will there be new stations at Centennial College or the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus?

There will be no station at Centennial. The seven-stop LRT gave the college its own station, before that plan was scrapped.

There is a station planned at UTSC on the 18-stop Eglinton East LRT, but that line is currently unfunded.

Will there be a stop at The Scarborough Hospital?

No. Former mayor Rob Ford’s three-stop subway plan proposed a stop at McCowan Rd. and Lawrence Ave., but that stop has been eliminated in the revised subway plan.

Hasn’t council already voted to build a subway?

Since May 2013, there have been at least seven key votes on Scarborough transit. But the subway project is not a done deal with funding agreements yet to be signed, design yet to be advanced and construction contracts yet to be tendered. Though subway proponents have tried to blame a delay on advocates for the LRT alternative, the delay has been exclusively related to staff reports not being ready on time, additional review of subway options recommended by staff and regular processes involved with billion-dollar infrastructure projects. Staff are recommending they return to council again in “late 2018” with a more concrete cost estimate after more design work.

When is the subway extension expected to be finished?

City staff estimated construction would take approximately six years and that the earliest it could be done is the second quarter of 2026.

And just in, the following article should put to rest the notion that all transit investment is good investment. Sometimes after billions are spent to suit politcal wishes and not customer wishes, the customer stops taking transit and takes the car instead!

Metrolinx study finds Tory’s Smart Track could spur auto commuting


The Globe and Mail

Published  Thursday, Mar. 16, 2017 4:10PM EDT

Last updated  Thursday, Mar. 16, 2017 8:20PM EDT


Parts of Mayor John Tory’s Smart Track plan will slow down transit enough to push a large number of users to drive instead, initial business cases for the regional transit agency Metrolinx has found.

The long-delayed reports undermine the argument for the three transit stations proposed for outside the city core and raise new questions about a plan that has been heavily revised since it helped win Mr. Tory the mayoralty.

The consultant reports show that stations proposed on the GO lines at St. Clair, Lawrence East and Finch East would make the trains less attractive to current users. This would push down net GO ridership over the next 60 years, resulting in more than a billion kilometres of additional driving over the same period. None of these stations – which have an estimated total construction cost of $162.6-million – would attract enough passengers to cover even day-to-day operating costs, the reports conclude.

The mayor’s office did not respond specifically to questions about whether these stations were good transit policy or at odds with his goal of reducing congestion.

“Metrolinx and City Council have voted to move ahead with Smart Track. It is an investment … that will provide much-needed transit for residents,” mayoral spokesman Don Peat said in an e-mail.

“City staff have also made it clear that the Smart Track stations in Scarborough along with the subway extension and the Eglinton East LRT form a network that help address local transit and long-distance travel needs in that area.”

The other three proposed stations for GO lines within the city – at Liberty Village, Unilever and Gerrard – do much better in the Metrolinx analysis. Liberty Village appears to perform best on paper, attracting about 5,000 daily users by 2031 and preventing about 600-million kilometres of driving over the next 60 years.

The stark difference between the stations that emerged in the analyses could lead to questions at council about the wisdom of proceeding with all six.

“It’s almost like if you treat transit like a slogan instead of a network, it doesn’t work well,” said Councillor Gord Perks. “This is just further evidence that, for the last six years, transit planning has focused on glamour projects instead of an effective network.”

A spokeswoman for Metrolinx stressed that the analyses released Thursday were “just one metric” for assessing the projects, and that work would continue. “In every initial business case, emphasis is placed on both a project’s benefits and obstacles so those obstacles can be addressed as the project is refined and designed,” Anne Marie Aikins said in a statement. “All stations are moving forward to the next stage of our work.”

A potential caveat about the findings is that the analysis was done assuming the current GO fare.

“TTC fare at the new station may increase the ridership (boardings and alightings) at the station; however, the net impact to new revenue may be negative and requires further study,” reads the report dedicated to Lawrence East station.

Mr. Tory promised that people would be able to use Smart Track for a TTC fare, something the province has not agreed to. Metrolinx is currently pushing toward some form of fare integration, meaning that it is unclear what the cost to ride any transit in the city may be by the time any of these stations were to be built.

Smart Track was proposed by Mr. Tory during his election campaign. He pitched it as a 22-stop transit service running largely on existing GO rail tracks, taking advantage of provincial plans to electrify these lines and move to more frequent service. The plan has been whittled down repeatedly.

Plans for a heavy rail extension along or under Eglinton were jettisoned in favour of a light rail line on the surface. The number of stations on the GO corridors has shrunk. And the frequency of trains will be what the province decides to put on for its regional express rail plans, with no additional service because of Smart Track.

A Useful Idiot

In political jargon a useful idiot is a person perceived as propagandist for a cause whose goals they are not fully aware of, and who is used cynically by the leaders of the cause.

Former premier Mike Harcourt continues to regale anyone who will listen, that subways are the only transit solution for Vancouver. Who is he speaking for?

Vision Vancouver?

Bombardier Inc./SNC Lavalin, who own the patents for the proprietary SkyTrain system?

John Horgan?

BC Liberals?

He is not speaking to real engineers, who would give him the real costs of subway construction.

Harcourt and his former NDP friends, really never understood the costs associated with light-metro and with subways they remain utterly clueless about subways.

Cost for a subway to UBC, about $5 billion to $6 billion, but hey, what else does the failed city of Vancouver going to do to pretend it’s world class?

As there is no money budgeted for subway construction, the chances are slim to none that a Broadway subway will be built anytime soon.


Mike Harcourt’s train of thought: Build a subway to UBC

Published on: March 14, 2017
Former B.C. premier Mike Harcourt at Clean Energy B.C.'s Generate 2016 conference, where he delivered a speech on Nov. 7, 2016 declaring the $9-billion Site C dam project an 'economic, environmental and aboriginal disaster' that should be mothballed. (Photo credit: Derrick Penner, PNG) [PNG Merlin Archive]
Former Vancouver mayor Mike Harcourt will speak on Thursday at a public lecture on where the city is going. PNG


Harcourt and Robertson, Two Mayors on Vancouver Past, Present and Future

Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.SFU Vancouver Campus, Fletcher Challenge Theatre

Tickets: Free admission

Imagine the Millennium Line running all the way to the University of B.C., alongside a limited-stop express subway connecting Coquitlam’s United Boulevard to the planned new development at Vancouver’s Jericho Lands.

Former B.C. premier and Vancouver mayor Mike Harcourt says transit authorities are thinking too small with the current plan to extend the Millennium Line underground to Arbutus Street.

“It’s crazy to end it there,” Harcourt said. “You should take it to Jericho and out to UBC.”

Harcourt, honoured last month with the Freedom of the City, is to join current Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson on Thursday evening for a public lecture on where the city is going.

We’ve really done some things badly (in Metro Vancouver), like having a referendum on transit

Wherever that is, the city needs more trains to get there, Harcourt said. The Broadway subway, “should be like the Sixth Avenue line in New York — two trains, four sets of tracks.”

Even under current zoning, the Broadway corridor from Main to Burrard could be built up to accommodate 100,000 new workers and 50,000 residents, Harcourt said. As well, the 36-hectare Jericho lands are poised for development after the federal government struck a deal turning the bulk of the land over to three First Nations. And UBC is always growing.

Harcourt’s express-train idea envisions stops at Burnaby’s Willingdon, and along Broadway at Commercial and Cambie to connect with existing trains. He has pitched it to TransLink, the province and First Nations, with no one biting just yet.

“Not right now, but I’m a persistent guy.”

The 74-year-old Harcourt was mayor before and during Expo 86, served a term as premier in the 1990s, and has since advised cities on sustainability.

“We’ve really done some things badly (in Metro Vancouver), like having a referendum on transit,” he said, noting that the original Expo Line took just three years from proposal to completion.

“The minute they built the Canada Line, it was over capacity and the stations were too small,” he said. “We’ve had to expand and keep expanding the Expo Line since it was built. You say, well, maybe we can learn from that. We’re going to have another two million people in the next 40 years or so, to add to the two and a half million people already here.”

More trains south, north and east would be needed to meet that growth, he said.

Harcourt first got into politics when he was a lawyer in the 1960s, and he was approached by community leaders to join the fight against a freeway that would have carved up east Vancouver. Next year, work is scheduled to start demolishing the last vestiges of that failed freeway plan — the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts.

He will be talking with Robertson on Thursday about his ideas on other subjects ranging from high-tech industry to post-secondary education, housing and child care.

But transportation has always loomed large for Harcourt. He credits that early battle against freeways with aiding the later emergence of Vancouver’s downtown as a place where people could both live and work, unlike most North American cities.

“We danced to a different drummer on urban renewal and freeways.”

The Cambie Street Bridge was built under Harcourt’s tenure as mayor, so he is not entirely against bridges.

But asked about the worst-case future for the region, he cited “this really stupid idea of the bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel.

“If it gets built, all it does is shift the congestion from the tunnel to Richmond and the Oak Street Bridge. And then some blockhead is going to say, ‘Oh well, we can fix that. Let’s just build an eight-lane bridge and freeway down Oak Street.’”

A DMU Service, Not Gondolas, Best Option to Link North Shore!

Gondolas are a niche transit system used for solving unique transit problems. While transit servicing SFU may  present niche transit problems, especially in winter, crossing Burrard inlet does not.

The SFU gondola has been reported in this blog several times; in May 2011; in June 2011; and in October 2011.It is now six years later, 2017 and no funding has been made available for this project.Sadly, the article is inaccurate about the capacity of the La Paz gondola as it can carry only 6,000 pphpd and not the 18,000 pphpd as reported in the article. In Bolivia, the gondolas solve unique transit problems in a city with steep hills and numerous slums as the gondolas just glides over problem areas.In October 2011, the cost for the proposed SFU gondola soared over 50% from $70 million to $120 million and I would assume the cost would be much higher for a gondola to the North Shore in 2017, especially with the weak Canadian dollar.

Gondolas also have unique problems, like emergency evacuations and vulnerable to  high winds; not to mention neighbours would protest vehemently against and aerial tramway.

As I indicated in 2011, spending $1,000 on chains for buses is a lot cheaper and $120 million for a gondola.

The one solution, of course could be TramTrain or a light Diesel DMU service from the North Shore to Vancouver, using the existing 2nd Narrows Rail Bridge, which could be built and in operation within a year for under $200 million.

Simple solutions are often ignored.

The Ottawa "O" Train is legal to operate on existing railway lines and could provide service to the North Shore

Opinion: Gondola best option to link North Shore

Published on: March 14, 2017
NORTH VANCOUVER, BC  --  Mayor Darrell Mussatto announces a large donation to the new art gallery  in North Vancouver on November  24, 2014.  Trax #00033241A  and Trax #00033241B
North Vancouver City Mayor Darrell Mussatto. Wayne Leidenfrost / PROVINCE PNG


City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto has started an interesting conversation about improving transportation to the North Shore, suggesting the region should consider running rapid transit through a tunnel under Burrard Inlet. But maybe there’s a better option.

A transit gondola would be a fraction of the cost, easier to build, cheaper to operate and have a lower environmental footprint, forever.

I anticipate that this idea may inspire a certain amount of eye-rolling, but there’s evidence that a gondola could be a practical and affordable option. Let’s consider both obstacles and possibilities.

The first obstacle is distance: the SeaBus (which connects the two most obvious passenger transportation centres in Vancouver and North Vancouver) plies a 3.24-kilometre crossing. The Sun recently quoted University of B.C. engineering professor Erik Eberhardt, estimating that the cost of tunneling “a few kilometres” under the habour would be about $1 billion. And that, presumably, is just for the tunnel; never mind the expensive rail links, passenger infrastructure and rolling stock.

But the Peak2Peak gondola at Whistler, which runs 4.4 kilometres with a single span of 3.06 kilometres, cost just $51 million in 2008. It can be done.

What of capacity? The SeaBus daily ridership is around 17,000. Whereas, the $234-million, 11-kilometre Mi Teleferico transit gondola, which opened in 2014 in La Paz, Bolivia, can carry 18,000 passengers an hour.

A better example might be found in the 2011 why-isn’t-that-built-yet business case for an SFU transit gondola, connecting from the Production Way SkyTrain station in Burnaby up to Simon Fraser University and the mountaintop community of UniverCity. In a study conducted for TransLink, the consulting firm CH2M estimated the cost for a 2.7-kilometre “cable-propelled transit system” at $120 million. Cabins carrying 35 passengers each would depart every 34 seconds, covering the distance in seven minutes (less than half what it takes a diesel bus to grind up the mountain). That would deliver 3,341 persons per hour per direction, or 48,600 daily boardings. With such a system, you could park all the SeaBuses and triple service to the North Shore. And no waiting. Ever.

What about height? You can’t have gondola cables hanging in front of cruise ships and (heaven save us) oil freighters. Okay, here’s where it gets tricky, and potentially a lot more expensive. On the plus side, the minimum required height would only be 61 metres, which is the clearance under the Lion’s Gate Bridge, a permanent limiting factor for all Burrard Inlet shipping.  That doesn’t seem so bad. One of the Peak2Peak towers is 65 metres and Doppelmayr is currently working on a 7.9-kilometre system to Hon Thom Island in Vietnam that has towers as high as 160 metres.

But there’s the wrinkle; gondola cables sag. And the longer the span, the greater the sag. The Peak2Peak, for example, sags 400 metres.


The Peak2Peak gondola.


So, now you have to start talking about dropping a very tall tower (or two) into Burrard Inlet, which is technically feasible (the inlet is only 45 metres at the deepest point), but unlikely to win any applause from the shippers, the Harbour Air pilots and the port authoritarians who would prefer to keep those waters clear. Still, everyone involved might ultimately find a couple of stationary obstacles easier to manage than having to navigate around an increasing number of SeaBuses running back and forth every 15 minutes.

The bottom line is that, relative to all the alternatives, gondolas are cheap to build and cheaper to run. Annual budget for the Burnaby Mountain version was estimated at between $3 million and $5 million. Compare that to the 2017 SeaBus budget of $11.6 million. CH2M also found that the all-electric, low-resistance gondola system would reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 7,000 tonnes, give or take.

So, imagine walking through the old train station on Cordova straight onto a gondola and landing, nine minutes later, on the roof of Lonsdale Quay, for a quick elevator ride down to the buses or a reduced climb up to your condo in Lower Lonsdale. Quick, clean, beautiful and reliable in all weather.

CH2M already identified the SFU gondola as a slam dunk. TransLink might hurry that one into service, and add this one to the list.

Richard Littlemore is a Vancouver writer, consultant and policy analyst.

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Have Christi’s Liberals Washed Their hands of Public Transit?

Two items in the Tyee, How BC Taxpayers Ended Up Paying for the $3.5-Billion Massey Bridge and To Critics, Massey Bridge Is an Environmental and Planning Disaster underscore the present governments reluctance to plan for a usable and affordable public transit system in Metro Vancouver.

The Liberals have always been a “blacktop” political party with “rubber on asphalt” being the big election vote getter. The South Fraser Perimeter Highway and the rebuilt Port Mann Bridge are a testament to this election strategy.

Public transit is no different.

Like he NDP in the 90′s with the Millennium Line, Gordon Campbell built transit to suit his electoral needs. The Canada Line was supposed to be a showcase P-3 project, but instead it is a truncated white elephant, virtually useless as rapid transit as it has increased journey times from Richmond South Delta and Surrey to Vancouver for the hapless customers as they are forced to transfer from bus to the Canada line.

TransLink may chortle about high ridership, but the Canada line has limited ridership and costly to operate, with TransLink paying over $110 million annually to the operating consortium. The Canada Line is no showcase, instead it has become a classic ‘White elephant’.

The present government is not interested in public transit at all and has left a squabbling “Mayor’s Council on Transit”, to fight over which vanity project they want, without any funding for any ‘rail’ project.

The BC Liberals, like their federal brethren will only spend money on transit if they believe it will garner them votes and sadly for BC, the ‘sad sack’ TransLink has made regional transit a vote loser as last years plebiscite showed.

Transit will be all but ignored by the BC Liberals, with only vague promises of rapid transit here or commuter rail there will be heard in the coming election campaign.

The BC Liberals have washed their hands of public transit.

The Liberals Dangle A Very Stale Carrot

The BC Liberal election BS machine is now in full swing.

The Liberals announced a “commuter rail working group” to confirm the viability of commuter rail for the Capitol Region. This begs the question: “Who has the capability and knowledge to come to an answer on commuter rail?

What should be done, is what Rail for the Valley did and engage a professional, such as Leewood Projects to asses the viability of rail transit, but this will not happen, simply because the BC Liberals don’t want a rail solution for Victoria!

By engaging a transportation professional may give the government an answer they do not want, which is a commuter train would not be viable, but a TramTrain solution would not only be viable but affordable and the BC Liberals do not want affordable LRT in the province.

Added to the electoral BS, the E&N route has been promised to the very powerful cycling lobby, whose sole existence is sucking off the public teat!

C-Fax Radio

Commuter rail working group announced for Greater Victoria

Ryan Price

The BC Government is getting on board to produce a business case for commuter rail in Greater Victoria, due in the summer.

“I’m very pleased to announce that we have formed a working group that… the province will lead. We will complete the business case with the goal being to finally get on with commuter rail here on the E&N line from Langford into Vic West.” That was the announcement from Todd Stone as he stood with local mayors beside the currently unused E&N rail line.

There were no details on items such as cost, stops, ridership numbers, or what kind of train would be used. Minister Stone said those are the details they’ll have once the business case is done. If it adds up, the province can take it to the federal government to seek their support.

“We haven’t been at this place… where you have the full support of all the mayors in the region, the province at the table, the federal government interested,” said Stone, “we are on the cusp of something pretty special, but we’ve got to finish the work together.”

Many spectators were hoping for more solid news, not just another study, but Langford Mayor Stew Young told the crowd it is still a big move forward, “the missing link in this whole thing, to move commuter trains forward on this corridor, is the provincial government. This is the first time we’ve actually had the provincial government here saying ‘you know what? We like the idea, we’re going to move forward.’”

Young also says another piece of the puzzle is that the owner of the E&N rail line, the Island Corridor Foundation, has agreed to let them use the Victoria area stretch of the rail corridor.

This all comes after the developers of the Bayview Place condo project already put their own money into a study of a rail link between the West Shore and the Roundhouse property in Vic-West – a property they’re developing. They’ve had municipal governments and BC Transit at the table for that study and Bayview Place Development Manager Chris Reiter says what they found is “promising.” It’s their study that is going to the BC Government and Reiter says it’s part of the reason the province is coming to the table.

While the developer wouldn’t say much more, in the past they’ve said they think it’ll take about $10-million dollars to repair the tracks and get the service started and that a further three or four million dollars annually would be needed to help subsidize the train.

Now we see if the province also finds the results “promising.”


TramTrain, the only viable solution.


Why TransLink Can’t Be Honest

Why can’t TransLink be honest with its customers and the taxpayer?

Like B.C. Transit before, honesty is not in TransLink’s lexicon, why and why can’t TransLink be honest about SkyTrain?

The answer lies with he fact each SkyTrain Line has been a political decision, with the final decision made by the Premier of the day. Thus SkyTrain has become a political transit system and not a customer oriented transit system.

This continues today with SkyTrain being built to the needs of the government’s friends, including concrete manufacturers, land developers and land speculators.

The federal government loves ALRT/ART SkyTrain because it financially helps two political friends, Bombardier Inc. and the SNC Lavalin as they hold the patents to the proprietary ART system.

By being a political transit system, it is imperative that the public sees it as good investment, as the SkyTrain Lobby tries to do with “man of straw” arguments, “alternate facts”, and pure “fake” news.

Funny then, no one builds with ART (ALRT has been made redundant) and only seven ICTS; ALRT; ALM; ART proprietary light metro’s have been built, with one, the Toronto ICTS Line to be soon torn down because it is “life expired”.

Mr. Haveavow, who is a transportation professional from Ottawa, has been upfront and honest  commenting on our transit scene. We may not see eye to eye on some subjects, he he is a professional and deserves to be listened to.

SkyTrain has some very expensive issues to rectify before it can increase its capacity, something that TransLink is keeping very quiet about. So much so, that I call it dishonest because what renovations needs to be done to the ALRT/ART system, needs to be done before a Broadway SkyTrain subway is built!

As TransLink’s utterly dishonest planning process continues, abetted by Vision Vancouver and the SkyTrain Lobby, the truth is leaking out and it is very bad news for the taxpayer, which in turn, is very bad news for the sitting Premier.

From Mr. Haveacow, with some slight editing.

This cartoon is from 1988 and in 20 years, nothing has changed!

I hate to be the s*** disturber here but many of the needed upgrades are just not going to happen for the Skytrain Network. Currently according to Translink the Expo Line maxes out at around 15,000 passengers/hour/direction. A 75 Second headway is possible but Transport Canada would have to sign off on quite a few improvements before that can happen. The report you mentioned, although sounds exhaustive, is really meant for public or political consumption. Its not a real professional upgrade plan in any serious form. I know after talking with the head of operations during our little tour of the SkyTrain a few years ago, he outlined possibly hundreds of individual upgrades that would be needed. The reality he argued is that, the people who run TransLink really don’t want to implement these upgrades unless a massive wholesale tear-out and tear down from the bottom up is approved and considering the state of transit funding in BC right now, its not likely to occur. Here is a few things off the top of my head that Transport Canada said must be done before any service improvements occur on the Skytrain network from their current operating regime of 109 second headway’s.

1. Translink has to upgrade the electrical carrying capacity of the system, by either adding many new electrical transformers and or improving the others that are already there dramatically. The current handling capacity of the system is the prime limiter right now in regards to increasing passenger capacity. The cost is around $500-800 million, that also includes upgrading the existing 3rd rail power cable connections and adding new ones. Major upgrades are needed to the electrical panel control system in many stations and work is only slowly occurring on this front. At current rate work is progressing, it will take 12-15 years before they are complete. There also has to be a major master electrical panel upgrade so that it can be accessed in many places, right now there is only 2 master panel access points. By the way, it was the short circuiting of the master electrical access panel located at the commercial drive station by a worker using a non insulated screw driver when doing work for connecting the Evergreen Extension in the summer of 2015, that caused one of the large system wide, day long service interruptions on the Expo and Millennium Lines.

2. The Expo Line’s signaling system needs upgrading and many km’s of cabling needs replacement and or wholesale upgrades. Much of this cabling is 30+ years old and is desperate need of replacement. Many of the signal units are not working up to specs anymore. They are safe, but they need to be replaced entirely before a 75 second headway is possible.

3. Many of the turnouts (switches) on the main parts of the Expo Line need to be replaced with high speed models not the low to medium speed turnouts that are presently there. The turnout control units will also most likely be needing replacement as well before higher service frequencies are possible. The replacement costs can be excessive if they are not done in a pre planned way. Each turnout conversion can take 3-6 hours per turnout per crew. It is also required to switch out the existing turnout tower and control unit. Keep in mind just one double crossover track area has 4 turnouts. Then the double crossover track centre module (the place where all the tracks cross) will need replacement as well. These can take 5-6 hours by themselves and are very expensive and tricky to switch out. One of the reasons many new LRT and Rail rapid transit systems are reluctant to use double crossovers is the high cost of maintenance and their sensitivity to damage when heavily used.

4. As per an earlier post, the track grinding regime at Translink needs to improve especially on high traffic parts of the system. Translink used to have an asymmetrical grinding profile needed to stop the excessive wheel damage and squeal that is common with the Skytrain system. It was abandoned because it was too troublesome to maintain and continue implementing. Your maintenance staff didn’t like the extra work and Translink’s management didn’t like the bother of having to schedule and pay for the time consuming work. However, when you stopped doing it your maintenance costs went up and stayed there. I know this because the company that created the rail grinding regime is staffed by some school friends of mine and they were going to sue Translink at one point over this issue. They decided not to due to cost but if frequency of service is going to increase something better be done or maintenance costs will get even higher.

5. Many platform and station capacity upgrades are needed because the existing system just doesn’t have enough capacity, especially at certain key stations. There is very little money for this work but they appeared to be ready to start on one or two stations. They were the last time I was there anyway. I don’t believe any of this work has started yet though. (Zwei replies: Evidently a few stations, including Main Street and Metrotown have been renovated or are being renovated with longer platforms and more entrance/exits)

6. The last Transport Canada Report that was issued when Translink was allowed to operate at 109 second frequency of service, noted that, Translink did not have enough operating funding to increase peak hour service without having to cut weekend and late evening service. This was a great concern to them. They were essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul. They also noted that without an overall increase in maintenance and operational spending as well as other non sexy operational upgrades, any future service upgrades would not be possible to be considered. The age of the Expo Line was also concerning in that, the line could as it ages, suffer from “block-obsolescence” in many operational areas and operating components, unless major funding increases for maintenance and equipment upgrades was allowed.

7. As Zwei mentioned before there is no budget to upgrade the Skytrain’s aging concrete above grade right of way between the stations. The current track network configuration is really outmoded and needs upgrades, which is also expensive and extremely time consuming. This will require weekend and or weekday closures for extended periods of time to implement these improvements.

In fact, many of these upgrades I mentioned will require large portions of their respective lines to be temporarily closed during weekday or weekend regular operating hours.

Cowardly TransLink Hides The Truth

This is a rather strange story.

A dog is scared by fireworks and ends up on the SkyTrain’s tracks, how, TransLink isn’t saying.

I would wager Transport Canada would like to know.

SkyTrain is a driverless light-metro and when it operates at-grade it must be completely fenced off to prevent egress by people and animals.

Obviously it is not and thus operating illegally and TransLink would really not like that broadcasted, thus TransLink redacted the complete report.

Cowards, but then TransLink has always acted cowardly.


Note fence to prevent egress

CKNW Exclusive: Owner of dog killed on SkyTrain tracks still looking for answers

Vancouver, BC, Canada / News Talk 980 CKNW | Vancouver’s News. Vancouver’s Talk

Posted: March 07, 2017

It was a tragic story last year when a dog spooked by fireworks was hit and killed by SkyTrain.

It’s been almost five months since “Maggie” died, but a CKNW investigation reveals many questions remain unanswered.

“We’ve been in the dark for this so much and… I really just, all I want to know is what happened,” says Ali Fluevog, Maggie’s owner.

Fluevog was shocked to see a Freedom of Information request filed by CKNW about the events leading up to Maggie’s death was returned almost completely blacked out.

“I just…I think it’s very strange. I don’t know why, I don’t know what could’ve happened that we don’t already know, but I don’t know…it just seems really weird. I guess they’re just covering themselves really well against any legal ramifications that’s my guess.”

READ MORE: Questions remain after dog’s death on SkyTrain tracks

She says TransLink has been outwardly cooperative, but says the trust was broken a while ago.

“They must have a good reason for doing this. Their lawyers are probably quite savvy about how to deal with these sorts of things. I’m not a lawyer, I don’t know how these sorts of things work.”

She says her family won’t have closure until they know what happened.

“My job as a dog owner, when I adopted her, is to take care of her and protect her. She protected me and I protected her, and that was our deal. So, I’m not going to take it lying down.”


But Chris Bryan with TransLink says the information was withheld due to an ongoing investigation.

“The BC SPCA has its own investigation and in order to protect the integrity in that investigation we have to withhold our report until that’s finished.”

READ MORE: Dog owner cautions after dog spooked by fireworks killed by train

He says they’ve been updating the family about the progress.

“We know that for the family it’s really important that they get the information. We know that they would like a sense of closure with this particular incident, so it’s our hope to get that information to them as soon as possible.”

But Fluevog says she doesn’t understand how a BC SPCA investigation changes what happened that night.

She says TransLink’s internal report was finished months ago, but they still haven’t shared its findings with her.

The BC SPCA says they continue to work on their investigation and will be making recommendations once it’s over.


Rapid Transit to the North Shore – 4 to 6 Billion Reasons Not!

I see politicians are floating trial  balloons about transit, before the upcoming election and from the North Shore it is extending rapid transit to North Vancouver and beyond.

The cost to extend the Canada Line or the ALRT/ART Lines (both lines are incompatible in operation) to North Vancouver is around $4 billion to $6 billion, yet is there the passenger demand for this investment?

I doubt it.

Yet a 35 km tramtrain could be built, extending as far as Horseshoe Bay for about $500 to $600 million, using, in part,  existing railway infrastructure.

The most practical transit route is, of course, the Leewood/Rail for the Valley Vancouver/Richmond TramTrain to Chilliwack, which a deluxe version could be built for $1.5 billion and an economy version as low as $750 million.

What is practical and cost effective is seldom done in Metro Vancouver, where transit is built strictly for political prestige.

Chemnitz Electro-Diesel TramTrain

Will rapid transit one day make it across Burrard Inlet? North Van mayor weighs in

by Brock Hunter

Posted Mar 5, 2017

(Courtesy TransLink)

NORTH VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Should there be a SkyTrain to the North Shore? One local mayor is calling for TransLink to look into adding a crossing.

North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto is calling for a feasibility study to be done into connecting the network across the Burrard Inlet, from Waterfront Station and Lonsdale Quay.

He says there are several factors to consider.

“Is there enough density in the lower-Lonsdale area on the north shore? What would be the options if we were going to do it — would we do a tunnel.. cut and cover? Or would we maybe look at doing some rapid transit on the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge?” says Mussatto.

“Also, take into consideration the future growth of the Sea to Sky Corridor, which is the Squamish to Whistler area.”

He says they haven’t seen an increase in the nine lanes of traffic in and out of North and West Vancouver in 57 years.

Mussatto says SkyTrain options needs to be looked at ahead of a third crossing for vehicles, which would only add to the gridlock on the North Shore.

“We’re seeing a tonne of that traffic coming through our municipalities and we can’t cope with it anymore. So, if we don’t do these kinds of studies and start looking at it now, we’re going to be making poor decisions. And we may be looking at a third crossing, which I don’t think people realize the effects, both positive and negative, that it would have on the North Shore.”

Subway Costs Rise – Chill Financial Winds From Scarborough

As the cost of the Scarborough subway escalates, senior TransLink officials are desperately trying to find money to build Vision Vancouver’s massive “vanity” project, the Broadway SkyTrain Subway.

Subways are hugely costly to build and hugely costly to operate, but the regional Mayor’s Council and Provincial Politicians and TransLink remain absolutely blind to this fact.

TransLink is paying over $110 million in operating fees annually to the Canada line P-3 and the real scope of subway operational costs are lost to the very small print or not released at all.

It is time for real transit experts, to give real opinions on subway operation or light rail operation on Broadway, and not listen to career bureaucrats who fear for their jobs if they offer an honest opinion as what happened to TransLink’s two best planners.


Cost of Scarborough subway extension rises to $3.35B (USD $2.03 billion)

Price of adding one station is up $150 million (USD $91.0 million) from an earlier estimate as the plan heads back to council for a vote.

Cost of Scarborough subway extension rises to $3.35 billion as number of new riders fall

Mayor John Tory defends the project. New price raises questions about whether or not there will be funds for a promised LRT line.

By Jennifer PagliaroCity Hall reporter
Ben SpurrTransportation Reporter
Tues., Feb. 28, 2017

The cost to build a one-stop subway extension in Scarborough has climbed to at least $3.35 billion as the estimate of new people expected to be drawn to the line has fallen.

Those numbers — updated in a new city staff report released Tuesday that had previously been delayed for months — have drawn fresh questions of value for money and providing the most transit for Scarborough residents as Mayor John Tory continued to defend the project Tuesday.

Though Tory and allies pitched that an additional light rail line could be funded amid accusations the subway was a boondoggle, the updated cost leaves that LRT line $1.4 billion short on funding, putting that promised project in limbo.

According to the new report, the subway extension is now expected to attract 2,300 new daily riders, if aligned as recommended along McCowan Ave., compared to the existing Scarborough RT, which needs to be replaced. That means the city would be paying approximately $1.45 million for every new rider to build the subway extension.

The overall updated cost is a $150 million increase over the earlier $3.2 billion estimate, and doesn’t include the cost of financing.

The new estimate includes significant changes to a planned bus terminal at a new Scarborough Town Centre station which staff said requires 34 bus bays — the largest bus terminal in the entire TTC network.

For the rest of the story, please click here!