Karlsruhe Revisited

Let us not forget, the birthplace of what is now called TramTrain, was in Karlsruhe Germany.

When it comes to denial, the following statistic is greeted with hoots and howls of disbelief from the anti-tram crowd, yet it is the very basis for the success of TramTrain today.

Ridership of the Karlsruhe-Bretton route went from 533,600 per week, when transit customers took a commuter rain and then transferred to a tram, to 2,554,976 per week with the seamless (no transfer) journey provided by TramTrain. A 479% increase in ridership in just six months!

I would not predict such a ridership increase on the Fraser Valley interurban, but I believe the naysayers, both at TransLink and in Victoria and of course the SkyTrain Lobby, are deathly afraid that the TramTrain will prove popular and statistics, will put their transit plans in an unfavorable light.

From 2012…….

A few weeks back, Zwei created a firestorm of denial by the anti-tram crowd, when I reported that the main tram route in the city was being replaced by a subway; “because of the success of Karlsruhe’s regional tramtrain service, the main tram route through the city was seeing 45 second headways“. All Zwei did was calculate the capacity offered by Karlsruhe’s trams and tramtrain and came up with a figure of over 40,000 persons per hour per direction, with 45 second (90 trips per hour) headways, with coupled sets.

Impossible screamed the SkyTrain crowd; Karlsruhe can’t operate coupled sets of trams, claimed a planner from TransLink.

Yet, 45 second headways, with a mix of single cars and coupled sets could give peak hour capacities in Karlsruhe well in excess of 35,000 persons per hour per direction.

Well the following quote from the Light Rail Transit Associations Topic Sheet No 5 – A Question of Capacity tells the story.

THE CAPACITIES of different modes of

transport are generally quoted as

0-10 000 passengers per hour for bus,

2000-20 000 for light rail, and 15 000

upwards for heavy rail.


It is city centres where several routes combine

that the most capacity is required. A typical

situation could be a pedestrian street with six

routes operating at 10-minute headway giving 36

double coupled trams per hour each with a

capacity of 225. This gives a nominal capacity of

16 200 passengers per hour which can be

increased to 25 200 pph in extremis without extra

vehicles. Light rail is unique in this ability to

operate on the surface with its capacity without

detracting from the amenities which it serves

Note Statistics are based on Karlsruhe, using GT8-l00c/2 cars.


Adios, the Shopping Mall?

The shape of things to come?

Transportation planners in Metro Vancouver should take note that when planning very expensive fixed transit infrastructure to shopping malls, if the mall closes in 15 years, the transit system will have very expensive infrastructure to nowhere.

This is very true for SkyTrain and its $80 million/km elevated structure is impossible to move. LRT, with much cheaper costs would also cost about $10 million/km. to $20 million/km. to have the tracks relocated, but still very expensive to do.

A subway becomes a hole in the ground and in Europe, some abandoned subways have become mushroom farms in the middle of major urban centres.

So, with TransLink planning very expensive transit in shopping precincts such a in Surrey or on Broadway, could they be investing in ghost lines in 15 to 20 years hence?

The following is from Australian Broadcasting Corporation.


Dead malls: Half of America’s shopping centres predicted to close by 2030

Debris covers a fountain inside an abandoned mall in Virginia

Amy Ginsberg’s teenage years centred around White Flint Mall in Maryland.

“There were glass elevators and marble and high-end stores,” she said.

“When I was in high school in the 70s and 80s there was nowhere else to go, really.

“The mall was where the stores were, it’s where the movie theatres were.

“You would just go to the mall and hang out.”

But White Flint’s doors closed this month.

Like so many malls in America it had been ‘dead’ for a while – the term used when a mall’s occupancy rate falls below 70 per cent and it is on a downward spiral.

Mark Hinshaw, an architect, city planner and author, has been watching the decline.

“It’s a major phenomenon that’s lasted for six decades and I think people assumed it would just go on forever,” he said.

“The shopping centre was kind of the attack vehicle that went out into the landscape and put down a solid footing and then things grew up around it.

“But that course is changing now; the people are now looking at other ways of living.

“Certainly living in cities is much more popular than it has been in a long time. Millennials are fuelling the economy like never before and they’re not interested in driving.”

At the peak of the shopping centre boom, 140 malls were being built every year in America.

If their fate had not already been sealed, the recent recession marked the beginning of the end.

People stopped spending as much, or started spending online, and then discovered they didn’t need as much.

Executive director of the Shopping Centre Council of Australia Angus Nardi said Australia was a long way off the situation in the US.

But he predicted hurdles ahead for Australia’s shopping centres.

“You can never say never in terms of dead malls and there’s always business risks … a critical and current risk is the Abbott Government’s review of competition policy, which could lead to a less regulated or free-for-all cowboy approach to retail land use planning,” Mr Nardi said.

He said America had more retail floor space per capita than any other country in the world, and oversupply had been the biggest problem.

In America there are dozens of simply abandoned malls, only good to be used as sets for horror movies.

Others are trying to change tack before it’s too late, incorporating libraries and housing, even city halls, to encourage their survival.

TramTrain for the E&N?

The Talk of TramTrain from other than Zwei is good news, especially from Vancouver Island.

A Diesel powered TramTrain service, both for Victoria and Naniamo is doable and would be affordable.

A 18 km. Diesel TramTrain line from Langford to Victoria, plus a single track 5 km.  loop in the downtown, should cost no more than $350 million for a 30 minute service.

For Naniamo, a 25 km. Diesel TramTrain Line from Ladysmith to Naniamo Harbour, with a 5 km., single track, on-street section to Departure Bay ferry should again, not cost more than $400 million to install.

TramTrain, combined with the heritage Budd Car DMU’s, could provide good transportation for the island at an affordable cost and help keep the venerable E&N in operation.

OP-ED COLUMN: Rail proponent offers another perspective on E&N

Contributed – Goldstream News Gazette

posted Jan 23, 2015

Re: Passenger rail needs teamwork (Our View, Dec. 26)

Your editorial is correct, there needs to be a tight partnership between all organizations involved in planning, owning, financing and operating the E&N before service can be restored. Only then can the railway truly live up to the potential which its advocates argued it has when they campaigned against its threatened abandonment in 2001-02.

The first step is to create an interim framework: Southern Rail providing the commuter and intercity rail for VIA Rail under Island Corridor Foundation auspices. Once the operation has demonstrated its value, a permanent framework can then be formed to plan and execute service expansion.

The second and simultaneous step is to decide on a Victoria terminus. The success of the E&N hinges on the location. The only sound choice is at the west end of the Johnson Street Bridge where the city centre is visible and accessible, including by foot. The site also would permit a future extension of rail into the downtown.

In contrast, having the depot by the Roundhouse or Mary Street in Vic West, as some Victoria city councillors are supporting, will cripple E&N ridership, particularly commuter rail, because such out of the way locations will require time-consuming transfers to shuttle buses and vans. E&N patronage sank after the CPR moved the depot from Store Street to that vicinity in 1972, following the extension of Pandora Street to the Johnson Street Bridge. The subsequent public and political outcry led to the return of E&N/VIA service to Store Street, on a much smaller site, in November 1985.

The third step would be to look at the options for commuter rail, but also rapid transit. The province has balked at light rail transit’s $950-million price tag. The bus option it is leaning toward will not attract many new passengers, nor will it attract green transit oriented development; bus lanes can disappear in coats of paint.

The E&N route is the best option for rail transit because it uses the existing right of way and is the only option to serve the critical Esquimalt dockyards and military employment markets. Unlike Uptown, on Highway 1, Esquimalt has no rapid bus alternatives. The E&N also can serve Victoria General Hospital with a short shuttle service.

But the E&N commuter rail potential is hampered by limited frequency (every 30 minutes) and by its inability to penetrate the city centre, such as to the Legislative Precinct, as the equipment used is typically unsuited for street running. The old Store Street site is too far from most employment and commercial activity.

There is an alternative to commuter rail and LRT: TramTrain, also known as diesel light rail (DLR), which merits study. Using lightweight, low-emission, articulated and accessible vehicles, TramTrain/DLR could safely travel on-street, thereby reaching city centre destinations without transfers. They are equally suited for and are used in commuter, intercity (like Vancouver Island) and rapid transit scenarios. For those reasons, TramTrains/DLR is slowly gaining popularity. It is in service in Ottawa; Austin and Denton, Texas; between Camden and Trenton, New Jersey; and in such European cities as Zwickau, Germany.

On the E&N, TramTrain/DLR could provide LRT-like rapid transit, commuter and intercity rail for a much lower cost – even with a new Johnson Street rail bridge – than building LRT on the Highway 1 corridor. TramTrains could operate four to seven times an hour between Langford and Victoria, using short passing sidings, and two to three times a day from up-Island points.

TramTrains are suitable replacements for the cumbersome 1950s-vintage VIA Budd cars. At least one supplier’s design has been approved by the U.S.  Department of Transportation to share the same tracks as freight trains, and the cars can be specified to include bike racks, toilets and Wi-Fi. Canada tends to follow, but is usually more flexible than the USA.

Should a study recommend TramTrain/DLR, and the province, CRD, and Ottawa agree to fund it, the best framework is an Island-wide transportation authority. This agency would take responsibility for buses and local ferries and integrate them with the E&N. The result would be an attractive and sustainable alternative to car commuting and sprawl by enabling green travel and development.

Brendan Read is a former Victoria and Courtenay resident and co-founder of the SaveRail Coalition.

Whatever happened to the future? From the BBC

An interesting item from the BBC.

Whatever happened to the future?

By Matthew Wall Business reporter, BBC News

Whatever happened to interplanetary travel, hover cars, and hypersonic jets?

Once it seemed as if there were no limits to how far or fast we could travel, such were the leaps in technological development in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Inventors dreamed up all sorts wonderful vehicles, from rocket-propelled bicycles to flying cars, propeller-powered railways to monowheels.

In 1895, HG Wells even imagined a machine that could travel through time.

Steam power, the internal combustion engine and flight promised unprecedented levels of mobility and freedom.

Nation competed with nation to travel further, higher and faster by land, sea and air.

Speed was king.

Rocket-propelled bicycle Richter’s 1931 rocket-propelled bicycle was never likely to gain mass appeal…
1924 flying car driving through Times Square, New York Is it a car or a plane? An AH Russell flying car concept from 1924

Nuclear dreams

And when the nuclear age dawned it seemed as if we had another, almost limitless power supply at our disposal, prompting thrilling designs for nuclear-powered rockets, cars, planes, trains and boats.

“On that train all graphite and glitter; undersea by rail; 90 minutes from New York to Paris… What a beautiful world this will be, what a glorious time to be free.”

So sang Donald Fagen in the song I.G.Y. [International Geophysical Year] from his 1982 album, The Nightfly, evoking the technological optimism of his childhood in 1950s America.

In 1957, the year the song is set, the USSR launched the world’s first earth-orbiting satellite, Sputnik 1.

1950s artist's impression of future monorail system A 1950s vision of what future commuting might look like
Model of Couzinet 'flying saucer' The 1952 Couzinet Aerodyne RC-360 “flying saucer” failed to get government backing and never flew
Thunderbird 2 The 1960s TV programme Thunderbirds continued the idea that technology would help us master gravity

Mankind seemed to be one step away from becoming Masters of the Universe.

“People were looking at the pace of technological development and as we got into quantum physics it even seemed that the notion of teleportation was plausible,” says Glenn Lyons, professor of transport and society at the University of the West of England.

“There were certainly some leaps of faith.”

Commercial reality

So why did so many of those wide-eyed visions for tomorrow’s transport never come to pass?

“The reason they didn’t happen is the same reason why they won’t happen in the future – technological utopianism,” says Colin Divall, professor of railway studies at York University.

Concorde taking off Concorde, the Franco-British supersonic passenger jet was noisy, polluting and expensive

“There’s always a vested interested in overhyping new transport schemes, because inventors are looking for investment.”

And there’s the rub – money, or lack of it.

George Bennie’s Railplane – a suspended carriage driven by propellers fore and aft – made it to the prototype stage in Glasgow, 1930, but did not then get commercial backing. Bennie went bust in 1937.

“Bennie’s train did work as did other prototypes, such as the hovercraft on a track in the late 1960s, but they were never commercially viable,” says Prof Divall.

Bennie Railplane The Railplane failed to attract backers and never made it beyond the trial stage – Bennie went bust in 1937

Rene Couzinet’s elegant and intriguing Aerodyne RC-360 “flying saucer” failed to win government support and never got off the ground – literally.

Concorde, the elegant delta-winged supersonic passenger jet capable of 1,350mph (2,173kph), was noisy, polluting and pricey. It made its last flight in 2003.

Space travel in particular has proved astronomically expensive – pun intended – which is why no-one has revisited the Moon since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

Nasa’s 1972-2011 space shuttle programme cost nearly $200bn (£132bn) in total for 135 missions – or about $1.5bn per flight.

Gravity, it seems, is a very tough nut to crack.

Alan Bond, founding director of Oxfordshire-based Reaction Engines, believes his company has developed a jet engine capable of powering a passenger plane at Mach 5 – five times the speed of sound – meaning a flight from London to Sydney would take under five hours.

“But at the moment no-one has moved on that because it’s going to be very expensive to develop – there has to be a strong commercial incentive,” he says.

Innovation costs, and if the invention doesn’t solve a pressing problem for the majority of people at a price they can afford, it’s unlikely to take off.

Electrically-powered pram Why don’t we see electrically powered perambulators (1923) on our streets?

Crash and burn

It also doesn’t help if your futuristic transport project ends up killing people.

The sinking of the “unsinkable” Titanic in 1912, with the loss of more than 1,500 lives, did little to increase the popularity of luxury ocean liners.

But it did usher in a number of new maritime safety regulations and ultimately did little to halt the mid-20th Century boom in ocean travel.

Hindenburg exploding The Hindenburg zeppelin disaster in 1937 led to the end of airships as passenger transport

However, when the majestic Hindenburg, the largest hydrogen-filled zeppelin ever made, caught fire and crashed to the ground in 1937, killing 36 people, the disaster effectively ended the use of airships as passenger transport.

Air travel in particular demanded stringent global safety standards to win public trust, leading to a conservatism in design and a cautious, iterative approach to technological development.

The iconic Boeing 747 “Jumbo Jet”, first flown commercially in 1970, looks almost identical to the 747s flying today, 45 years later.

Similarly, motor cars of the early 20th Century were more distinctive and diverse than they are now, but the need for global safety standards saw a gradual homogenisation in design.

VW Beetle factory 1956 The Volkswagen Beetle hasn’t changed its shape much in over 70 years

Low carbon future?

Of course, global warming caused by manmade greenhouse gases has imposed severe strictures on all future transport projects.

Transport contributes about about 25% of global carbon dioxide emissions, yet the global population continues to rise along with demand for mobility.

Car technology may have come on in leaps and bounds, but our potholed roads are gridlocked and many megacities around the world are wreathed in lethal pollution.

Our wantonness with hydrocarbons has become self-destructive and cannot continue, argue many.

So the race is on to switch to alternative low-carbon fuels – conventional electric batteries, hydrogen fuel cells, and compressed air to name a few.

There is also a lot of work going on to make our existing vehicles more efficient – using more lightweight materials, for example – and making use of data analytics to improve how we operate and integrate our urban transport systems.

Artist's impression of driverless cars in Milton Keynes Will electrically powered driverless cars change our attitudes to urban transport?

But in the digital age, are we beginning to think differently about transport?

“Our cities will increasingly function through the mass movement of information rather than the movement of vehicles,” argues Prof Lyons.

Others disagree, believing the human need to travel, explore and trade will always keep us on the move.

Over the coming weeks our Tomorrow’s Transport series will be exploring how we are responding to these challenges and featuring forthcoming innovations in planes, trains and automobiles.

I Told You so Department.

Old Zwei told you so that the Compass Card was old kit as are the fare gates!

The Compass Card and the fare gates deserve a criminal investigation but that will never happen, not in BC, where the police and courts shy away from political interference.

Fare evasion was not a problem, yet the mainstream media, notably radio ‘NW went on and on about fare evasion to such an extent (the old repeat a lie often enough routine) that the public became enraged at fare evasion and demanded fare gates, which by the way, don’t really curb fare evasion.

Now, TransLink is struggling to install old kit that in all probability will only be used for a short time because they are not cost effective.

Translation: It will cost more to operate the Compass Card and fare gates than what was lost due to fare evasion.

Hate to say it but; “I told you so”.

Will Compass Card technology be obsolete when rolled out?

Other cities have adopted mobile passes

Anita Bathe January 22, 2015

ANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – With TransLink’s Compass Card system not rolling out until at least the end of the year, a digital expert says the technology will be a lot closer to becoming obsolete.

Richard Smith with Vancouver’s Centre for Digital Media says mobile phone payment is really the future.

“The smart phone is becoming the thing that people have in their hands and they don’t want to use it to do transactions. To the extent that you can accommodate it, you’re better off.”

He’s not sure how hard it may be to change TransLink’s system once it’s implemented but he says the technology is in demand.

“Tokyo’s system uses a separate card and what people have done is they stick them to the back of their phone so that could be an interim solution. A challenge arises there if you have too many things stuck to the back of your phone then either they mix each other up or they don’t work.”

In London, people can use their credit or debit card to get through fare gates and some forms of mobile phone payment are also available.

TransLink would not confirm whether smart phone payment is something it is currently looking at.


What is a plan “B”? TransLink Will Spend $4 Million To Find Out

One has to laugh at the imperious TransLink and the gullible mayors trying to sell this dud to the public and the old adage seems to be true: “Those who do not read history, are doomed to repeat the same mistakes”.

Trust us says TransLink. Trust us say the regional mayors.

Sorry no, Zwei would not trust TransLink with a wooden nickle as this ponderous and imperial behemoth, lumbers on, doing the best it can to earn more lucrative stipends, bonuses and higher car allowances. Better transit? Nope!

The Vancouver Sun, which is trying to massage the YES side printed an article by Kelly Sinoski about TransLink and the mayors not having a plan “B”, while in the Province, Mike Smyth has a better read of the public’s mood and why the plebiscite may fail.

But there is a joker in the deck for the No side, TransLink is going to spend $4 million on the YES side for their money grab. Yup, the imperious bureaucracy, ever worried about themselves, rather than transit customers, are going to spend $4 million ($4 million that they don’t have, rather $4 million of the taxpayers monies to do a slick-willy advertising campaign to shore up the faltering YES side.

A plan “B”, I guess it is spending $4 million to try to win the plebiscite because a NO vote will show that there wasn’t really even a plan A.

It seems the mandarins at TransLink are so stupid, that they don’t realize how stupid they are.

Gerald Fox’s 2008 Letter – First posted in 2012.

“It is interesting how TransLink has used this cunning method of manipulating analysis to justify SkyTrain in corridor after corridor, and has thus succeeded in keeping its proprietary rail system expanding.”

Posted by on Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Today, in 2015, construction of the Evergreen Line is under way, yet saga continues with moving guideways and sinkholes causing much disruption. So, it’s time to enter the Way-back machine and once again look at TransLink’s business case for the Evergreen Line.

In, 2008 Gerald Fox, a well known American transit and transportation expert shredded TransLink’s Evergreen Line business case and found it grossly biased in favour for SkyTrain.

In other jurisdictions such comments would lead to legal action or an inquiry, but not in BC, where TransLink’s deliberate manipulating of certain facts may have lead to a police investigation of TransLink and its bureaucrats!

I would like to remind Surrey’s new mayor, a one Ms. Hepner, that the very same TransLink bureaucrats are now planning for LRT in Surrey are the very same anti-LRT ~ pro-SkyTrain bureaucrats that worked on the Evergreen Line and it is for certain the very same pro-SkyTrain arguments are still being made for Surrey!

Nothing less than an audit of TransLink, West coast Mountain Bus and SkyTrain including the Canada line, by BC’s Auditor General, will clear the air. Both the provincial government and TransLink are deathly afraid of this happening as they continue to steamroll one SkyTrain or light-metro project after another on the BC taxpayer.

The following is the Gerald Fox letter of 2008……………..

Update: The auditor General did indeed audit the Evergreen Line and found LRT was more expensive to build and carried fewer people. So sad to see such incompetence in the AG’s department, especially we know that LRT has a higher capacity than SkyTrian and the cost to construct LRT cn be one tenth of that of SkyTrain. So bloody embarrassing!

From: A North-American Rail Expert

Subject: Comments on the Evergreen Line “Business Case”

Date: February 6, 2008


The Evergreen Line Report made me curious as to how TransLink could justify continuing to expand SkyTrain, when the rest of the world is building LRT. So I went back and read the alleged “Business Case” (BC) report in a little more detail. I found several instances where the analysis had made assumptions that were inaccurate, or had been manipulated to make the case for SkyTrain. If the underlying assumptions are inaccurate, the conclusions may be so too. Specifically:

Capacity. A combination of train size and headway. For instance, TriMet’s new “Type 4″ Low floor LRVs, arriving later this year, have a rated capacity of 232 per car, or 464 for a 2- car train. (Of course one must also be sure to use the same standee density when comparing car capacity. I don’t know if that was done here). In Portland we operate a frequency of 3 minutes downtown in the peak hour, giving a one way peak hour capacity of 9,280. By next year we will have two routes through downtown, which will eventually load both ways, giving a theoretical peak hour rail capacity of 37,000 into or out of downtown. Of course we also run a lot of buses.

The new Seattle LRT system which opens next year, is designed for 4-car trains, and thus have a peak hour capacity of 18,560. (but doesn’t need this yet, and so shares the tunnel with buses). The Business Case analysis assumes a capacity of 4,080 for LRT, on the Evergreen Line which it states is not enough, and compares it to SkyTrain capacity of 10400.!

Speed. The analysis states the maximum LRT speed is 60 kph. (which would be correct for the street sections) But most LRVs are actually designed for 90 kph. On the Evergreen Line, LRT could operate at up to 90 where conditions permit, such as in the tunnels, and on protected ROW. Most LRT systems pre-empt most intersections, and so experience little delay at grade crossings. (Our policy is that the trains stop only at stations, and seldom experience traffic delays. It seems to work fine, and has little effect on traffic.) There is another element of speed, which is station access time. At-grade stations have less access time. This was overlooked in the analysis.

Also, on the NW alignment, the SkyTrain proposal uses a different, faster, less-costly alignment to LRT proposal. And has 8 rather than 12 stations. If LRT was compared on the alignment now proposed for SkyTrain, it would go faster, and cost less than the Business Case report states!

Cost. Here again, there seems to be some hidden biases. As mentioned above, on the NW Corridor, LRT is costed on a different alignment, with more stations. The cost difference between LRT and SkyTrain presented in the Business Case report is therefore misleading. If they were compared on identical alignments, with the same number of stations, and designed to optimize each mode, the cost advantage of LRT would be far greater. I also suspect that the basic LRT design has been rendered more costly by requirements for tunnels and general design that would not be found on more cost-sensitive LRT projects.

Then there are the car costs. Last time I looked, the cost per unit of capacity was far higher for SkyTrain. Also,it takes about 2 SkyTrain cars to match the capacity of one LRV. And the grade-separated SkyTrain stations are far most costly and complex than LRT stations. Comparing 8 SkyTrain stations with 12 LRT stations also helps blur the distinction.

Ridership. Is a function of many factors. The Business Case report would have you believe that type of rail mode alone, makes a difference (It does in the bus vs rail comparison, according to the latest US federal guidelines). But, on the Evergreen Line, I doubt it. What makes a difference is speed, frequency (but not so much when headways get to 5 minutes), station spacing and amenity etc. Since the speed, frequency and capacity assumptions used in the Business Case are clearly inaccurate, the ridership estimates cannot be correct either. There would be some advantage if SkyTrain could avoid a transfer. If the connecting system has capacity for the extra trains. But the case is way overstated.

And nowhere is it addressed whether the Evergreen Line, at the extremity of the system, has the demand for so much capacity and, if it does, what that would mean on the rest of the system if feeds into?

Innuedos about safety, and traffic impacts, seem to be a big issue for SkyTrain proponents, but are solved by the numerous systems that operate new LRT systems (i.e., they can’t be as bad as the SkyTrain folk would like you to believe).

I’ve no desire to get drawn into the Vancouver transit wars, and, anyway, most of the rest of the world has moved on. To be fair, there are clear advantages in keeping with one kind of rail technology, and in through-routing service at Lougheed. But, eventually, Vancouver will need to adopt lower-cost LRT in its lesser corridors, or else limit the extent of its rail system. And that seems to make some TransLink people very nervous.

It is interesting how TransLink has used this cunning method of manipulating analysis to justify SkyTrain in corridor after corridor, and has thus succeeded in keeping its proprietary rail system expanding. In the US, all new transit projects that seek federal support are now subjected to scrutiny by a panel of transit peers, selected and monitored by the federal government, to ensure that projects are analysed honestly, and the taxpayers’ interests are protected. No SkyTrain project has ever passed this scrutiny in the US.


But the BIG DEAL for Victoria is: If the Business Case analysis were corrected to fix at least some of the errors outlined above, the COST INCREASE from using SkyTrain on the Evergreen Line will be comparable to the TOTALCOST of a modest starter line in Victoria. This needs to come to the attention of the Province. Victoria really does deserve better. Please share these thoughts as you feel appropriate.

The Failure To Understand Modern Light Rail = Public Transit Chaos – From May 2010

The Failure To Understand Modern Light Rail = Public Transit Chaos

First published in May, 2010

From, May 25, 2010 – five years later, the song remains the same.

‘Zwei’ has been taken aback by the viciousness of the SkyTrain Lobby and the great lengths they have taken in discrediting the LRT, while at the same time refusing to acknowledge the marketing failure of the proprietary (ICTS/ALRT/ALM/ART ) light-metro system, known in Vancouver as SkyTrain.

‘Zwei’ is also taken aback by abject refusal by many supposed experts to take the time to clearly understand modern light rail and/or modern LRT philosophy,  instead treating it the same as a glorified bus or a poor-man’s metro.  As well, ‘Zwei is dumbfounded, by many of the same supposed transit experts who do not understand the fundamentals of transit and or rail operation, especially from a customers point of view. In Metro Vancouver, many planning bureaucrats abjectly refuse to acknowledge that  modern light rail is a very strong tool to mitigate congestion and pollution, which only exacerbates our regional transportation planning ennui.

A good example of not understanding ‘rail‘ operation are those who continue to pontificate that automatic transit systems have fewer employees, therefore cheaper to operate than light rail. This simplistic view is wrong and except when traffic flows are in the order of 20,000 pphpd or more, then there are noticeable cost savings in automatic operation. The notion that automatic metros can operate 24/7 is just that, a notion as driverless metro need daily ‘down time’ to adjust and check the signaling system for if something goes wrong, the driverless metro stops and until a real persons checks the system to see why the metro stopped and if it is safe to continue operation, will operation be started again.

Unlike LRT, with an on-board driver, automatic metros need a full complement of staff to operate at all hours to ensure the safety of passengers, on trains and in stations. Many LRT operations have service 24 hours a day and with the simplicity of the transit mode, very few staff are needed. Contrary to what many ‘bloggist’s’ post, modern light rail is much cheaper to operate than metro and driverless metro.

The hysterical wailing’s of those wishing grade separated transit systems also ignore the fact that modern LRT is one of the safest public transit modes in the world. The fact that SkyTrain has a higher annual death rate than comparable LRT operations is forgotten in their zeal to discredit modern trams. Yes, cars do crash into trams. Yes, car drivers do disobey stop signals and deliberately drive across tram lines in the path of an oncoming trams, with predictable results. Yet tram/LRT/streetcar road intersections are about ten times safer than a road – road intersection. In Europe, if a car driver ignores a stop signal and is in an accident with a tram, the car driver is heavily fined and may lose his right to drive. In Europe, autos seldom come to grief with a tram, as the legal consequences colliding with a tram is a strong deterrent.

The speed issue is another ‘man of straw’ argument as those who want SkyTrain. They bang the ‘speed‘ drum loudly proclaiming that SkyTrain is fast and speed trumps all in attracting ridership. Speed of ones journey is just one facet of the many reasons why people opt to take public transit. What is true, it is that the overall ambiance and convenience of a ‘rail‘ transit system has proven more important attracting new ridership. Contrary to what many believe, elevated and underground transit stations tend to deter ridership. The speed issue is a non-issue and fact is, if the Vancouver to Chilliwack tramtrain comes into operation, it will have a much faster commercial speed than SkyTrain, yet Zwei would never make the claim that tramtrain would be better because it was faster!

Studies have shown (Hass-Klau Bus or Light Rail, Making The right Choice) that in urban areas the most beneficial distance between transit stops is 450m to 600m and with any greater distances between stops tends to deter ridership and stops closer than 450m tend to be too slow. Those want a fast subway under Broadway are commuting from the far reaches of the SkyTrain and or bus network and one would question why they would live so far away to commute to UBC, if they are at all?

In the real world, transit systems are designed and built to economically move people, not so in Vancouver where transit is built to cater to the needs of land use, thus we continue to build hugely expensive metro lines on low ridership routes (for metro), where selected property owners make windfall profits from up-zoning residential properties to higher density condos and apartments. This is a ‘fools paradise’, because we are spending up to ten times more to install a metro on transit routes that don’t have the ridership to sustain a metro, while at the same time failing upgrade many bus routes to LRT to cater to higher passenger flows, which now demand greater operational economies. Much needed transit upgrades and improvements in the region go wanting to fulfill the extremely expensive and questionable SkyTrain/land use dream on only a few routes.

Please note Zwei’s prophetic paragraph!

The failure to understand modern light rail is leading the region into a massive financial black hole, by continually building extremely expensive metro while at the same time treating LRT as a yesterday’s transit mode. Today, Vancouver’s transit fares are some of the highest in North America and fares will continue to rise, largely in part due to SkyTrain and light-metro. TransLink will continue to be in financial peril if planning bureaucrats continues to plan and build with metro on the Evergreen Line and the Broadway subway.

Modern light rail has been crafted, with over 125 years of public transit experience, to fulfill  human transit and transportation needs, unlike our automatic SkyTrain light metro, which original design and selling point was to mitigate the massive costs of heavy-rail metro in an age before modern LRT. To put SkyTrain in a subway is an oxymoron and demonstrates the modes proponents gross ignorance of transit history; to continue to build SkyTrain on routes that do not have the ridership to sustain metro demonstrates complete fiscal irresponsibility.

As Zweisystem has always observed, “Those who fail to read public transit history are doomed to make the same very expensive mistakes.”

The failure to understand the role of modern LRT, streetcars and trams, will lead the region into transit and transportation chaos, where the much needed ‘rail‘ network will be but patches of expensive politically prestigious metro lines linked by buses: impractical, unsustainable, and fool-hardy.

Chaleroi light-metro station – Too expensive to complete and never used!


TransLink’s Ridership – An Independant Calculation

Eric Chris has done some calculations ascertaining TransLink’s ridership numbers, independent of what the many pundits and instant experts that are pontificating on the YES side of the TransLink congestion plebiscite. A well known pundit stated on the radio that one million people took transit last year, but recanted on Facebook when faced with overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

There is much evidence that TransLink pads ridership figures because lower ridership numbers not only would embarrass management, but their political masters as well. We must remember that the Expo Line (replaced a much larger LRT plan);  the Millennium Line (again replaced a much larger LRT plan); and the Canada Line were political vanity projects and had little to do with providing an affordable transit network in the region. The region now suffers endemic gridlock, yet current transit plans will not even make a dent in congestion. The current political practice that “rapid transit” is built as a vanity project, pretending to successful by forcing bus riders to transfer to the new rapid transit must end. This sort of pyramid scheme can only last so long until it collapses and our regional transit system is on the verge of collapse, by building more expensive light metros, and subways without having the real ridership to sustain them.

What must now concern TransLink is that ridership is falling, which may have more to do with an aging population and the user unfriendliness of the transit system. Building vanity subways and light rail will only deter more ridership on a disjointed and fragmented transit system.

Eric Chris, by using TransLink’s own statistics, shows that “on average about 315,000 people take transit currently in Metro Vancouver based on all transit users making two trips daily, and the number of people taking transit ranges from about 99,000 to 397,000.”

I had some time on the road and redid the calculations (attached) in Excel based on the latest ridership data reported by TransLink.  It checks with the 14% of the population taking transit in 2011 and reported by TransLink.  Many students make more than two trips daily, and I used two trips daily.  This gives the most optimistic prediction of the number of people taking transit.

Shockingly, transit use is down for all modes of transit in 2013 (2% total drop from 2012 to 2013) and fell further by 1% from 2013 to 2014 according to Global TV.  I don’t recall TransLink mentioning this anywhere.  Censorship?



On average about 315,000 people take transit currently in Metro Vancouver based on all transit users making two trips daily, and the number of people taking transit ranges from about 99,000 to 397,000.

Liz James Gets It Right!

Liz James, who pens op-ed pieces in the North Shore news has a very good grasp of our local transit ills.

Liz’s Jan. 7th article is well worth a read as she has a full grasp of the transit situation, which is more than I can say about the Vancouver Sun and many other reporters.

“I will never buy the pig in the poke; there’s many a foul pig hidden behind fair cloak.”  – playwright John Heywood, Proverbes and Epigrammes, 1497-1580

Unlike John Heywood’s pig, the problems in TransLink’s pre-referendum poke are not well hidden — they’ve been accumulating for 16 years.

But before I launch into the issues surrounding the vote, I need to state my position: Although I wish that, collectively, municipal politicians would stand up to the provincial government, my comments here are not directed at specific individuals but at what West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith and Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan rightly called the “dysfunctional, flawed governance model” of TransLink.
I agree we need an efficient, regionwide transit system and that, provided low-income families are protected, a small addition to the sales tax may be the fairest way to provide TransLink with more funding for its $7.5-billion plan.

So what are my beefs?

Firstly, the mayors’ council made eight commitments in return for additional revenue; Transportation Minister Todd Stone’s watered-down version had only seven. In blending the mayors’ references to crowded and/or deficient bus services, Stone removed their specific commitment to 11 new B-Line routes that would be faster and make connections to town centres. Why?
Secondly, the mayors referred to a “new earthquake-ready” Pattullo Bridge, the minister omitted that descriptor. Why?
Thirdly, Stone also removed the mayors’ reference to light-rail transit for Surrey’s planned connections to Guildford, Newton and Langley. That leaves the transit mode and routes open to Victoria’s meddling fingers.
Fourthly, for Vancouver, the mayors talked of extending the Millennium Line in a tunnel along Broadway whereas, Canada Line-style, Stone just said “rapid transit along Broadway.” Neither question mentioned UBC. That’s because the line will end at Arbutus and students would still need to transfer to B-Line buses if they actually wanted to attend classes.
Lastly, where the mayors said they would improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists, Stone specifically mentioned extending “the region’s cycling and pedestrian walkway networks.” Neither side appears ready to upset the cycling vote-block by suggesting cyclists over age 19 share the cost via annual licences and insurance.
So having read the preamble and because nothin’s done for nothin’ I’m left with the most important questions of all for the minister: Why did you amend the mayors’ references to a 0.5 per cent increase to the sales tax to read, “A new 0.5% Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax,” why change “referendum” to “plebiscite” and why omit the mayors’ commitment to independent audits and public reporting?
Were the changes just a thinly disguised marketing ploy or is it that you couldn’t risk any comparison with local government referendums which require dollars approved to be spent only on the projects specifically described in pre-referendum advertising?
The final point concerns the chamber of commerce: We all know efficient transportation is essential to business but it needs to be affordable. Did you survey your regional members before rushing over to the “Yes” side? If not, why not?
Now for the dysfunctional and flawed governance model: There is no more glaring example to cite than the outright conflict of interest in which the system has placed District of North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton.
Newly elected members of council swear an oath under the Local Government Act to foster the economic, social and environmental well-being of their (own) communities. Trouble is, any of those members who are named to un-elected Metro Vancouver committees are required to remove their municipal hats when serving on a regional committee, such as the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation (TransLink) that Walton chairs.
I hope you’re keeping track of the conflicts because there’s a significant one yet to come:


Last September two members of the council were appointed to the TransLink board, one of whom is
also Walton. So what happens to the best interests of the constituents the mayor was elected to serve when they collide with (a) the wishes of a Metro Vancouver board or committee; (b) a TransLink decision; (c) a mayors’ council decision, or (d) the highly politicized and provincially manipulated TransLink board?
Apart from the five or more fiduciary conflicts created for incumbents in that system, regional taxpayers did not need more politics on the TransLink board. What they do need and have a right to hear are the voices and advice of internationally experienced transportation professionals — individuals capable of evaluating the transit needs of the region at arms-length from 16 years of political and corporate interference and influence.
Unless and until that happens and we can read the results of a pre-referendum, independent, value-for-money audit, I will never buy the pig in the poke — not as originally drafted by the mayors’ council, nor the non-binding mail-in ballot written by Transportation Minister Todd Stone.