Tram operator proposes $2.8b Kai Tak line
Hong Kong Tramways has proposed building a HK$2.8 billion tram system for the Kai Tak site.
Under the tram operator’s proposal, there will be 23 stations in the system, which will link Kai Tak pier, Ngau Tau Kok and Kowloon Bay MTR stations in 2018. The fare is expected to be HK$3 a trip.
The tram will be barrier free and able to shuttle along roads, said a spokesman, adding the “modern tramway” is the most efficient road space user.
CNR Tangshan streetcars for Samsun
Samsun tram flown from China to Turkey
The first of five trams which Samsun Metropolitan Municipality ordered from CNR Tangshan Railway Vehicles has been delivered from China to Turkey onboard the world’s largest heavy freight aircraft.
The €7·5m contract signed on December 17 2012 required the first tram to be delivered by December this year, with the last due by February 2014.
The trams were due to be shipped by sea, however Typhoon Haiyan would have caused the deadline to be missed and so CNR Tangshan selected the faster but more expensive option of flying the initial vehicle from Shijiazhuang Zhengding International Airport to Samsun-Çarsamba airport onboard the Antonov Airlines An-225 Mriya, which was originally developed to transport the USSR’s Buran spacecraft.
Edinburgh trams: first Princes Street night test complete
One of Edinburgh’s new trams has completed the first test run along the city’s most famous shopping street.
Tram 264 made the journey on Princes Street late on Wednesday night, flanked by teams of engineers.
It travelled from the tram depot at Gogar on Edinburgh’s western outskirts to York Place in the city’s east end.
The tram crew and engineers completed the necessary track tests ahead of schedule, returning to the depot in the early hours of the morning.
It was the first time since 1956 that a tram has run on Princes Street.
TransLink is renovating several stations on the Expo Line and as always, the real news is what one reads between the lines.
The Expo Line is near its life expiratory date and no, the Expo Line will not disappear in a cacophony of dust and debris, but extensive and expensive renovations and renewals must be made. One of the factors leading the TTC to replace the Scarborough ICTS Line, was that it is getting close to its life expiratory date and it would be cheaper to replace the ICTS line with LRT in the long term. Recent decision to replace the Scarborough ICTS with a subway was crack smoking Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s driven decision.
The claim that the renovation is a; “bid to ease platform overcrowding and accommodate an increase in passengers expected when the new Evergreen Line starts rolling in 2016“, is somewhat over stated as the Evergreen Line will not generate the ridership increase that would warrant such an expense. If TransLink really was sincere in increasing capacity, they will have to lengthen the 80 metre station platforms at all SkyTrain stations and that will be a considerable cost.
The claim that peak hour capacity of the Expo Line is 14,000 persons per hour per direction is debatable, but the contracted capacity of the Expo Line was 15,000 pphpd. The often quoted 30,000 pphpd capacity of the Expo Line was based on rakes of 8-car trains of MK 1 stock, operating with stations having platforms 110 metres long. The maximum theoretical capacity of the Millennium ART Line was claimed to be 26,000 pphpd, by Bombardier literature of the time of construction.
The claim that the Broadway/Commercial stations sees; “150,000 bus and SkyTrain passengers daily“, again is debatable. What TransLink should say is that there are 150,000 boardings, which translates to 75,000 actual bus AND SkyTrain passengers a day. TransLink likes to double count SkyTrain customers transferring to buses to give the impression that more people are using SkyTrain and the Broadway B-Line than there really are.
The real story is that TransLink is spending large sums of money to renovate older metro stations, not to increase capacity or customer comfort, but because they have to and with a TransLink referendum coming soon, TransLink is trying to impress the taxpayer, with questionable statics and manipulated figures.
The preceding chart shows the ridership of all bus services going to UBC. Note Broadways bus ridership (highlighted).
As TransLink builds for a busier future, Main Street station access will be temporarily limited
Haveacow is a transit professional from Ottawa and his most recent post in the comments section is again worthy of a post of its own. The information contained within this post should give insight to the real transit issues that face TransLink, employee’s costs and the main reason why LRT is built. One modern tram (1 driver) is as efficient as 6 to 8 buses (6 to 8 drivers) and as wages account for about 70% to 80% of operating costs, the savings using LRT over a 25 year business cycle of a transit line may pay for the transit line itself.
Zwei was told that the reason that SkyTrain technology was not included in the Canada Line proposal was because Premier Gordon Campbell wanted a “showcase” transit P-3 and with SkyTrain, no other consortium would have bid on the project. The Canada Line P-3 would be a template for P-3 operation of the transit system if the BC Liberals privatized TransLink. Evidently Campbell did not understand that SkyTrain was a proprietary railway.
I should be noted that both Alstom and Siemens recommended LRT for the Canada Line but LRT was rejected outright by Translink, who were ordered to do so by then Minister of Transportation, Kevin Falcon, under orders from former Premier Gordon Campbell.
The Canada Line was not a true P-3 as the winning consortium never assumed risk for the project.
In the end, SkyTrain proved more expensive to build than a ‘cut-down’ heavy-rail metro, which costs were further reduced by cut-and-cover subway construction; truncated stations; and not paying compensation to businesses who were disrupted by prolonged cut-and-cover construction. The judge overseeing the Susan Heyes lawsuit called the Canada line bidding process a “charade”!
Oh Daryl, here’s a little information for you to think about. SNC Lavlin. used to own all the vehicle technology and engineering patents for the Skytrain. They bought it from the real creators of it The Urban Transit Development Corporation of Ontario or UTDC (these guys were the ones who also created the bilevel commuter coaches that Bombardier sold to the West Coast Express and many others). SNC LAVLIN then sold the vehicle but not the engineering patents to Bombardier 5 years later because they couldn’t get anyone to buy it. So even if Bombardier’s consortium had won the Canada Line contract and used Skytrain technology, they would have been involved, so either way they were going to make a lot of money.
You are correct the P3 agreement is really about government not wanting to pay the whole deal and spreading the risk, so to speak. It is becoming quite common to do this in North America because it spreads the cost when someone tries to sue you and they win. The lie that this giving better value to taxpayers is something the financial conservatives have been screaming since the 1980′s and really is pure bunk! It does not give better value or help taxpayers and often does quite the opposite.
If Skytrain technology was so good and saved so much money, Translink should have included it specifically in the call for proposals process regarding the Canada Line contract. Montreal did that for their new Metro Trains, they had to use the rubber tire technology already in use no other options please. The fact that this was not the case shows that someone along the line when the call for proposals went out really doesn’t have full confidence in the technology. Toronto had to issue the call for proposals twice regarding the new legacy streetcar replacement program when only 2 companies answered the original call (The head of Siemens Transportation Division in North America got fired over it back in 2008 because he did not want to alter a design specification for a mere 204 vehicle contract, while Siemens worldwide was just beginning to recover from their massive restructuring to prevent bankruptcy). So why was the technology not enshrined in the contract proposals by Translink, no was one pointing a gun at their collective heads? They really had many options so what’s the Deal?
Regarding the manpower issue over route inspectors and their high numbers compared to other options transit operations. This is a huge issue because when it comes to buses and operations manpower requirements are the majority of operating budget. There is a remarkably consistent fact across the whole of the first word’s transit operations, between 70-80% of the cost of surface transit is the driver. One of the biggest reasons, Ottawa is changing to LRT from BRT is because the manpower costs for moving 10500 people per hour per direction by bus is slowly crushing OC Transpo’s operational budget (between 185-200 buses per hour per during peak periods). Ironically, the Skytrain’s driverless technology should reduce this cost but it doesn’t. The advantages are negated by high maintenance costs and for paying a small army attendants in-case the system breakdown. Not to mention one of the most manpower heavy rail transit operations control room I have ever seen, anywhere.
Daryl its cheaper in the long run to buy more trolley buses for the UBC routes than buying more diesel buses. Trolley buses have a higher purchase cost but a lower system operating and maintenance cost because you already have a huge trolley bus network. The old saying of being, penny wise but pound foolish applies here.
Is TransLink’s financial ‘house of cards‘ ready to collapse? It seems the independent commissioner overseeing TransLink thinks so.
Certainly the ‘self proclaimed‘ transit experts are circling TransLink like vultures seem to thinks so, by advocating more onerous taxes on the public with ‘road pricing‘ and even a ‘border toll’.
Zwei has not heard of one academic and very few politicians advocating for a restructuring of TransLink and a rethink how and why we provide public transit.
The cabal of ‘self proclaimed‘ transit experts, really want their day in the sun, like those who advocated for the (non) carbon tax, so they too can pick up lucrative public speaking engagements, extolling the virtues of their pet tax.
TransLink’s problem is simple enough, it is not providing a consumer based product and expects ever increasing subsides to continue to do what doesn’t work. It’s like selling black and white TV’s in the 21st century.
As always, it is the transit customer who is left at the bus stop and the taxpayer taken for a long expensive ride.
At the top of independent commissioner Robert Irwin’s concerns, found in his report of the 10-year-plan, is TransLink’s reliance on real-estate revenues as a major source of revenue and the timing of some of these sales — something he described as not prudent.
Photograph by: Jason Payne, PNG
TransLink’s independent commissioner has red-flagged three “areas of concern” in the transit authority’s 2014 financial operating plan, warning they have the potential to dramatically affect programs, investments and operations.
At the top of commissioner Robert Irwin’s concerns, found in his report of the 10-year-plan, is TransLink’s reliance on real-estate revenues as a major source of revenue and the timing of some of these sales — something he described as not prudent.
Irwin noted that TransLink has pushed back the sale date of major assets — like the Oakridge transit station for example — by a year and also scaled down total projected revenues by $90 million due in part to “a reduction of projected gains on some properties.”
“Any further delay in the sale of major properties pose a significant risk,” Irwin noted in his report. “The commission again points out that the sale of assets to support operations is not prudent fiscal policy, while recognizing that the only other recourse for TransLink would be fare increases or service reductions in the absence of additional funding sources.”
Irwin also warned that if TransLink doesn’t continue to receive 100 per cent of the Federal Gas Tax that some $367 million in planned capital expenditures will be put at risk, including the authority’s vehicle replacement program.
The current deal with Metro Vancouver expires in March 2014 and the Metro Vancouver Board has “signalled that it may wish to change the agreement,” Irwin noted.
Labour costs were also underlined by Irwin as something that dramatically impact TransLink’s finances. Earlier this year, the authority’s bus drivers and other unionized staff agreed to a three-year deal that will expire in March 2015.
“A major portion of TransLink’s operating costs is labour … the potential impacts of higher labour costs on TransLink’s future financial results are significant,” Irwin wrote, noting that he otherwise found the plan to be “reasonable” in its economic assumptions.
TransLink’s base plan projects total revenues of $1.44 billion in 2014 and $1.6 billion by the end of 2016. The money will come from existing revenue streams such as property tax, fuel tax, transit revenues and tolls.
The funds should allow TransLink to deliver the same level of service as outlined in the 2013 plan, meaning there will be no overall service cuts. However, Irwin noted that current funding levels don’t allow TransLink to keep pace with long-term population growth.
“Service hours per capita are projected to decline to 2007 levels by 2016 and continue to decline to 2004 levels by the end of the outlook period,” he wrote.
NDP transportation critic George Heyman said Irwin’s report underscores the need for a new TransLink funding model. And he called on the government to stop delaying. A provincial referendum will be held next year on potential funding options for TransLink.
“Every day hears more about the human impact of this waiting game,” Heyman wrote in a statement. “The B.C. Liberals need to stop delaying agreement on a new funding model and act now to maintain this critical transportation system.”
A statement from the Ministry of Transportation noted Transportation Minister Todd Stone continues to work the Mayor’s Council to find new funding sources. The statement also noted that the government has provided TransLink with $2 billion since 2001.
“Metro Vancouver has an excellent transportation network,” the statement said.
© Copyright (c) The Province
Our friend Haveacow, is a transit professional and his comment, I believe’ gets to core of TransLink’s woes. When you add in the extra costs of operating the Canada Line and SkyTrain ALRT/ICTS Lines, one can easily see why TransLink’s costs are a third higher than Edmonton and Calgary.
From Haveacow and please forward this to your mayor and council and provincial MLA’s.
Daryl Delay Cruz, I was told by my friend Scott who actually works for Translink that yes Zwei’s numbers from CUTA are correct. Now before everyone goes all “rangy” as my wife says, please listen as to why the costs are so high. Remember this is conventional transit costs only, no rapid transit B routes or Skytrain are included. Translink through union agreements has to provide a certain amount of positions that are managerial in nature but are still frontline workers. They go by different names in different transit operations, but the term Driver Route Supervisor or Inspector is often used. Well you guys are loaded with them, he did not give exact numbers but it is about one third more than the national average (ironic isn’t it). They are very expensive because they are all senior positions in the bus driver pay scale. Most are not even visible to the public because they work in your bus garages and depots (whatever you call them there).
Due to the way transit is provided in Vancouver through shell companies and divisions each company, division whatever you want to call it, seems to handle a different transit mode. Unfortunately that means that, each group has its own management and separate physical requirements and therefore very little effort to combine budgets to reduce duplication of certain services. They still have to pay their employees as well but, here you do have commonality with other divisions because of expensive union agreements. I am not against Unions they give workers a fighting chance but it does come at the cost of the public dime. Keep in mind it is actually quite difficult. to drive a bus when you are dealing with the public and bus mechanics are worth their weight gold. Very expensive to train and therefore very expensive to have on hand to fix your buses. Each division or company has to have its own instead of one pool of maintenance people which is what many other transit operations do. Scott (not his real name in case you didn’t figure it out yet) also tells me that the dispatching of buses requires a high number of miles traveled “deadheading” and this is the fall out from one group handling bus management. In these types of operations when someone contracts a single company to run all the buses mostly to save money, there is a desire to centralize the control and dispatching of said bus fleet, again to save money. What has often happened is that it actually is cheaper, to have multiple areas each with its own dispatching control because of the control issues and the inefficiency of providing centralized dispatching over a large geographic area. It seems counter intuitive but its often true and again Vancouver with heavily centralized dispatching system fails miserably here.
Lastly, when you have so many divisions handling individual operations, one company is just the buses and another just the Skytrain and so on, you get very poor internal communication. Unless you hardwired a system together that forces certain groups to talk to each other as a matter of operational need, the natural tendency is to stop communicating with each other, especially if problems occur. Think about it, you have a division that just operates the Skytrain network and the Canada Line but, the Canada Line is actually paid and administered through a private consortium. Regardless who physically. runs and staffs the Canada Line resources have to go to the consortium to set up some to administer their side of the agreement for the line. Now you have 2 groups doing administration duties and they are most likely not in the same building so emails, phone calls and text become there main form of communication with each other. Face it, this website shows just how difficult it is to communicate ideas even when there are only small disagreements between people let alone a massive complex agreement to administer.
Not before another dime is spent on TransLink, some fiscal sanity must come to TransLink.
TransLink has operating expenses which are about one-third greater than the transit industry norm in Canada. For the present annual $1.5 billion operating budget of TransLink this works out to $500 million annually in unexplained operating expenses. How can the taxpayer be expected to pay higher taxes and user fees to fund TransLink when spending far in excess of what the rest of the transit industry in Canada spends?
There is something radically wrong. when TransLink screams poverty, yet spend more money per passenger on a transit system that has not generated a modal shift, from car to transit, in almost 20 years.
How can Metro Mayors condone more taxes and user fees, especially the oft proposed congestion charge or road pricing, when TransLink is seemingly squandering vast amounts of money on a transit system that does not attract much new ridership?
So TransLink, where did the $500 million go?
Well, Toronto’s crack smoking Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford wants Ottawa to fund his multi billion dollar subway dream, I guess Surrey feels the feds should ante up for transit projects out west.
What the likes of UBC professor Larry Franks doesn’t realize or refuses to realize is that Skytrain is obsolete, a yesterday’s transit system for yesterdays era of massive transit mega projects. The BS (and I mean BS) about the Broadway SkyTrain subway is breathtaking, as there is no pent up demand, just very bad management on the part of TransLink in not providing adequate bus service to meet customer demand. Simply, traffic flows on Broadway do not warrant a SkyTrain subway or any subway for that matter.
It also looks like Surrey wants to freeze Translink out of the LRT planning, which would be a wise thing to do as Translink doesn’t want to build with light rail and will do anything and everything to ensure that LRT will not built. TransLink’s CEO, Bob Paddon sounds scared and he should be. Paddon’s and TransLink’s fear is simple to understand, a LRT operation in Surrey will expose TransLink’s rapid transit planning as nothing more than smoke and mirrors, providing hugely expensive transit to cater to routes with less than stellar ridership. When Paddon speaks about a business case for Skytrain, he is talking out of his hat, for only seven SkyTrain type operations have been built since the late 1970′s and only three can be seriously considered as “rapid transit”.
In the real world, there is no business case for SkyTrain, that is why no one builds with it!
“If you tell a SkyTrain lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The SkyTrain lie can be maintained only for such time as the province and TransLink can shield the people from the political and economic consequences of the SkyTrain lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the province and TransLink to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the SkyTrain lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the province and TransLink.” A reworked quote from the father of modern propaganda, the notorious Joseph Goebbels.
Direct appeal bypasses normal process, could lead to planning chaos; prof says
METRO VANCOUVER — Surrey is skirting the traditional route for regional planning by appealing directly to the federal government for $1.8 billion in funding to build three light rail lines across the city.
The pitch, made under the Building Canada Plan, underscores years of frustration by Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts and other regional mayors over TransLink decisions that have pitted municipalities against each other for transit projects.
It also comes at a time when TransLink is financially hamstrung, with no money to expand transit services while facing demands from B.C.’s largest cities — Vancouver and Surrey — for expanded rapid transit.
Watts and other mayors also argue a looming referendum on potential transit funding options is doomed to fail, leading to further delays on much-needed transit projects.
Surrey argues its pitch to the Building Canada Fund, which is offering $53 billion over 10 years for infrastructure improvements in Canada, including transportation, is necessary for goods movement because it will get people out of their cars and taking transit, freeing up the roads. If approved, the project would likely be based on cost-sharing between the federal, provincial and local governments.
“We’re coming at this from all fronts. We’ve had no expansion since Expo (1986) and 70 per cent of the future growth is coming south of the Fraser,” Watts said. “We’ll work with TransLink and work with the province, but at the same time we still have to move the city forward. Keeping the status quo or doing nothing is not an option.”
City officials plan to lobby federal transportation minister Lisa Raitt, as well as local MPs, the province and TransLink, which is responsible for transportation planning in Metro Vancouver and receives funds on behalf of municipalities, to press its case for light or at-grade rail.
This isn’t the first time the city has tried to bolster support for light rail. When TransLink said it preferred to extend the rapid transit line with SkyTrain technology, Surrey spent taxpayers’ dollars on a cost feasibility study on at-grade light rail.
Watts argues at-grade rail — and not the monolithic concrete SkyTrain — is desperately needed to shape the city, which is expected to see its population swell from half a million today to more than 750,000 in the next 30 years. Surrey also contributes $41 million annually to TransLink’s coffers, yet this money has been spent on projects such as the West Coast Express and the Millennium Line, and not in the city itself.
Coun. Tom Gill says if Surrey does get federal funding, the city may go so far as to challenge legislation in the South Coast Transportation Act to ensure that TransLink honours its plans for light rail stretching from City Centre to Guildford, Langley and White Rock.
“Surrey has been ignored, there’s no question,” said Gill, chairman of the city’s transportation and finance committees. “This council has been very respectful of TransLink and the province but we have short fuses now. The No. 1 issue in Surrey, by far, is transportation. We feel we should be next in terms of priorities.”
Given Surrey’s status as the region’s second-largest city, the move could be a significant blow to TransLink, which is responsible for transportation planning across the region.
Larry Frank, a professor in sustainable transportation at the University of British Columbia, maintains it’s very unusual for a municipality to make a direct application to the federal government. Such a move could lead to an ad hoc and chaotic process, he said, with any available money going to the first municipality to cut a deal and leaving the others with nothing.
The Broadway corridor, he added, has huge pent-up demand and is just as important as Surrey, as are other projects on TransLink’s priority list.
“There’s been a lot of waiting for investment in other parts of the region. Surrey is not the only one waiting for transportation funding,” Frank said. “What’s to keep others from doing that? It further symbolizes the erosion in regional planning process.
“They’re giving up and saying ‘we just want to do it any way we can.’ I’m worried about other projects in the region that are needed. We need a coherent regional planning process and framework and buy-in, so this is just more problematic.”
Gill said he agrees that both Vancouver and Surrey are deserving of their transit projects, but the city can’t wait around for TransLink to come up with the money.
“From an equality perspective the folks in Vancouver are served much better than the folks in Surrey. The transit opportunities should have some equitable base for both municipalities,” Gill said. “We are not getting value for money in terms of our contribution to TransLink and we would like to see that improved drastically.”
Both projects are on TransLink’s priority list along with a new or refurbished Pattullo Bridge, a gondola up Burnaby Mountain to Simon Fraser University and upgrades to the Expo Line.
TransLink’s Bob Paddon, vice-president of strategic planning, said he hasn’t seen the application from Surrey and it’s not yet known how much of that money would come to B.C. He noted TransLink hasn’t made a decision yet on what technology to use but acknowledged there are compelling cases for both light rail and SkyTrain.
“We have not landed on a rapid transit plan for the region,” he said. “What I believe this comes down to is Surrey stating its preference and it’s anxious to see rapid transit investment. It’s always helpful to have municipalities say to the Government of Canada we’d like to see an investment in transportation.
“We need to reach a collective decision on what’s best for the region as a whole and how we’re going to best apply the dollars that are available to us.”
B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone was unavailable for an interview.
Every fifteen years or so, the good burghers of Whiterock and South Surrey agitate for the removal of the BNSF tracks that run on the shoreline from the international boarder to Crescent Beach. Not going to happen.
Though safety is the supposed concern, Zwei thinks that property values is the real reason as people living adjacent to the tracks wanting the line moved and of course, at someone elses expense.
The question no one will answers of course is the cost of relocating the, including building a 6 km or more tunnel. The cost for the proposed diversion would be over $1 billion and not the claimed $350-450 million, by the time the project was completed. If a high speed passenger service is envisioned to use the new line, it will be double tracked, further increasing costs.
From Zwei’s point of view, $1 billion could by us a Vancouver to Chilliwack TramTrain, which would be money far better spent than relocating tracks used by four passenger services and a few freights a day. Sorry folks, the train was there years before the majority of people moved there and there it will stay.
When one moves next to railway tracks it is ‘caveat emptor‘.
Cities present four rail-route options to bypass White Rock
It was standing-room-only at Tuesday’s community forum on railway safety, as more than 300 people packed the Pacific Inn in South Surrey to learn more about ongoing research into relocating the train tracks off the Semiahmoo Peninsula waterfront.
Four possible options for realigning the BNSF tracks – including three that would move the line along routes east of 176 Street – were presented in what was described as an opportunity for public feedback.
While most attendees appeared to be in favour of relocating the tracks, the possible new routes did not sit well with everyone. Anna Dean said she was “seeing red” at the suggestion to move the problem from one community to another.
“We don’t want your problem in our neighbourhood,” Dean told a panel that included Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin and City of Surrey staff. “Whatever the alignment is, it will affect another neighbourhood.”
While the idea of relocating the tracks is not new – it has been raised many times in recent decades – the cities’ officials said, and many attendees agreed, the time is right to push for making it a reality.
“There is a much faster, safer and viable route available,” Baldwin told the crowd, to applause.
“If we were starting from scratch, the present route would be the last we would take.”
The issue of the line’s safety has been in the forefront in recent months, following derailments in other areas of the country and the death of a White Rock jogger who was struck by a passenger train.
Baldwin announced plans for the forum at last week’s White Rock council meeting, explaining Watts contacted him in August to invite his city’s participation in Surrey’s efforts – an invitation Baldwin said added much-needed clout to the argument.
“It wasn’t 20,000 people talking,” he said Tuesday, referring to White Rock’s population. “It was over half a million.… This is a great thing.”
Watts noted 15 of the 19 kilometres of rail line eyed for re-alignment run through Surrey. From the border, it passes through the Douglas area, along four kilometres of White Rock’s coastline, then through Ocean Park and Crescent Beach before heading across Mud Bay and joining the main line at Colebrook Road.
Watts cited a number of studies since 1995 that have looked at the feasibility of moving the rail line. Surrey staff revisited the 2002 Delcan Report this past June, and “realized very quickly that we needed to resurrect” the effort, she said.
Watts said a memorandum of understanding signed last year for high-speed passenger-rail service between Vancouver and Seattle further supports the argument.
“As I looked at that, I felt, ‘you’re going to have a problem,’” Watts said. “This current alignment will not support that in any way, shape or form.”
She said safety issues with the existing route include population growth in the area; slope stability and erosion that increases the risk of landslides; pedestrian risk; access; and the transportation of dangerous goods. Predictions of a two-metre rise in sea level and more wet weather must also be considered, she said.
Realignment is estimated by the cities to cost $350-450 million.
One option presented Tuesday parallels King George Boulevard and Highway 99, and would see the line tunnelled between 16 and 36 avenues. Two of the three options for east of 176 Street are envisioned as largely elevated routes.
Attendees were given “10 to 12 minutes” to formally comment or ask questions. Cost and where the funds would come from were among concerns raised. One attendee wanted to know how many fatalities have occurred along the line in its history; another asked Watts to “dig in your high heels” to help move the concept forward.
An online survey on the project is at www.cityspeaks.ca/saferail
What the SkyTrain and subway lobbies fail to mention, is that Paris transit authorities are also investing heavily in light rail or tramways. Something that planners should consider, when planning for new transit lines in Vancouver.
Paris inaugurates tram Line T7
FRANCE: The latest tram line in Paris opened on November 16 with two days of free travel. Line T7 runs from Villejuif-Louis Aragon, the southern terminus of metro Line 7, to Athis-Mons with 18 stops and a depot at Vitry-sur-Seine. The end-to-end journey time on the 11·2 km line is 30 min.
In addition to metro Line 7, interchange is provided with the Orlyval peoplemover serving Orly Airport. Interchange will also be provided with several planned lines: RER Line C, lines 15 and 18 of the Grand Paris Express programme and the planned extension of Line 14 to Orly.
Peak frequency is currently 6 min, which is planned to increase to 4 min once an extension to Juvisy-sur-Orge opens in 2018. Ridership is expected to be 30 000 passengers per day.
The line is operated with a fleet of 19 Alstom Citadis trams, including the 1 500th Citadis delivered by Alstom. Each 32 m long tram has a capacity of 200 passengers. Ile-de-France transport authority STIF ordered the vehicles in February 2011 together with 20 trams for Line T8, which will link Saint-Denis with Epinay-sur-Seine and Villetaneuse. The order includes an option for a further 31 cars.
Not quite a “FastFerry” debacle, but the hydrogen bus scheme was one of dreams, by a premier with very little “cred” in providing affordable public transit.
Zwei knew that the hydrogen bus would flop, because the major companies that provide buses, trams and trains, backed off hydrogen fuel cell powered transit vehicles almost a decade ago. The problem was the same as now being experienced in Whistler, the hydrogen powered bus costs a lot more to operate than conventional diesel buses.
Until major public transportation suppliers perfect an affordable platform for hydrogen fueled transit vehicles, the hydrogen bus will remain a pipe dream.
‘It is expensive to maintain and expensive to fuel,’ BC Transit says of the buses in its hydrogen fuel cell fleet in Whistler.
The future of the Whistler’s hydrogen fuel cell buses — the largest fleet in the world — is in doubt after BC Transit said it cannot afford to continue to run and maintain the fleet when the $89-million demonstration program wraps up next spring.
Information obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request by the Canadian Autoworkers’ Union 333 suggests Whistler’s 20 hydrogen fuel cell buses cost three times more for maintenance and fuel costs than the conventional Nova diesel buses they replaced in 2009.
BC Transit deployed the hydrogen bus fleet in 2009 as part of a grand scheme by Gordon Campbell’s Liberals to showcase fuel cell technology during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and have a “hydrogen highway” stretching from Whistler to California.
That didn’t happen and hydrogen is now trucked from Quebec every 10 days, instead of from a hoped-for fuelling station in B.C. Much-hyped plans for growth in the fuel cell market, which would have pushed down the costs for infrastructure and parts, also didn’t materialize, which means BC Transit is paying a higher price for maintenance and labour for hydrogen buses compared with the diesel buses.
The buses — which cost $2.1 million each, about four times the price of a diesel bus — are powered by hydrogen fuel cells provided by Burnaby’s Ballard Power Systems. They produce no greenhouse gas emissions and can be twice as energy-efficient as conventional buses. Eight hydrogen tanks hold in total about 60 kilograms of hydrogen, on which the bus should be able to travel 500 kilometres.
But a midterm evaluation included in the FOI information suggests the average fuel range is below the amount specified in the contract and is worse during the winter months, when water in the fuel cells can freeze and prevent the buses from starting or running efficiently. It notes hydrogen fuel costs, at an average $2.28/km, are three times the cost of diesel, while maintenance costs $1 per kilometre, compared with 65 cents/km for diesel buses.
“It is expensive to maintain and expensive to fuel,” BC Transit spokeswoman Meribeth Burton said.
The hydrogen fleet has been integrated into the regular operations of Whistler’s transit system, accounting for two-thirds of all buses in the resort municipality. Whistler and BC Transit, which is responsible for transit systems outside Metro Vancouver, share the fleet’s operating costs. The province pays another $1.8 million annually to cover the incremental costs of the hydrogen fuel cell project over the five years.
The resort municipality pays about 46 per cent of the fleet operating costs through property taxes and fares, which cost $2.50 per passenger ride.
Burton noted that while her organization had “anticipated surprises” when the program started, it isn’t sure what is going to happen next March, especially if the province decides it will no longer contribute the additional $1.8 million. If that happens, she said, the hydrogen buses could be sold and replaced with diesel or other alternatives because the hydrogen costs are too much for BC Transit and Whistler to bear.
“Without the annual support for the incremental costs, it would not be feasible,” Burton said. “We will not be able to assume those costs. It will be up to the province to decide what we do next.”
Burton maintains BC Transit was excited about the scope and size of the project, which has recorded three million passenger trips since it started. But while many parts of the system were successful, she said, others fell short.
“On many levels it has been a success story,” she said. “We’ve learned a lot about the technology and it was an opportunity to do something really unique in the market. We’ll have to see what the future holds.”
Ben Williams, president of CAW 333 in Victoria, maintains the hydrogen buses should be scrapped and the money used to provide transit in other areas of the province, such as Victoria. It added it doesn’t make sense to haul fuel from Quebec when the idea is to run the buses to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.
“I wasn’t surprised to be seeing this unbelievable cost when they’re actually trucking the hydrogen from Quebec,” Williams said. “As it stands now it’s not viable … even though it’s in Whistler, it affects riders in Victoria. Money is so tight when it comes to transit systems in the first place.”
Whistler municipal officials declined to comment, referring any questions to BC Transit.
Burton expects a decision will be made soon on whether to keep the buses after next spring, noting it will take time to order new buses, if that’s the route the province wants to take.
B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone was not available for an interview Monday, but ministry spokesman Robert Adam said in an email that more information should be available in a couple of weeks.
“We are working with BC Transit and industry partners and reviewing the demonstration pilot,” he wrote.
TransLink, which runs Metro Vancouver’s transit system, does not have any hydrogen buses, according to spokeswoman Jiana Ling.
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