The NDP Support “Rail” Transit for the Fraser Valley

Well it tool seven long years for this as it is the first time any of the mainstream political parties have even acknowledged the need for a passenger/commuter rail service for the Fraser Valley.

The main contender?

Rail for the Valley’s Leewood Study provides the the fasted and most affordable service and must be considered the prime contender.

if one wants to stop the BC Liberal’s massive highway and bridge building program, one must logically support the Valley interurban and the NDP.

And remember, what is good for the Fraser Valley, is also good for the E&N!

A Novice’s Guide To Transit…………..

……… or cutting through the BS about light rail, SkyTrain and BRT.

The following is a guide plus definitions about “rail” transit.

ALM: Automatic Light metro, the fourth marketing name given for the SkyTrain family of light-metros, when Lavalin briefly owned SkyTrain before going bankrupt.

ALRT (1): Advanced Light Rail Transit, the second marketing name for SkyTrain.

ALRT (2): Advanced Light Rapid Transit, the third marketing name for SkyTrain, when Advanced Light Rail Transit failed to find a market.

ART: Advanced Rapid Transit, the fifth marketing name for SkyTrain, used by its current owners, Bombardier Inc.

Automatic (Driverless) Operation: A signaling system that permits train operation without drivers. Contrary to popular myth, automatic operation does not reduce operating costs because there are no drivers, because attendants must be hired instead to permit safe operation. Automatic signaling was signed to reduce signaling staff, not operation staff.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT): Generally means “Express Buses”, a true BRT needs a very expensive and land consuming busway or highway or be guided.

Bored tunnel: A tunnel boring machine also known as a “mole”, is a machine used to excavate tunnels with a circular cross section through a variety of soil and rock strata. They can bore through anything from hard rock to sand.

Busway: A route needed for BRT. Busways can be conventional HOV lanes or exclusive roads for buses. Busways can be equipped with raised curbs or rails for bus guidance.

Canada Line: Vancouver’s third metro line which is a grade separated EMU operation and is not compatible with the rest of the SkyTrain system in operation.

Capacity: A function of headway multiplied by vehicle capacity, which in turn is dependent on station station platform length  measured in persons per hour per direction.

Consultation: To sell a transit decision to the public after the decision has been made.

C-Train: The Calgary light rail system.

Cut and cover: A method of building a tunnel by making a cutting, which is then lined and covered over. (Civil Engineering) designating a method of constructing a tunnel by excavating a cutting to the required depth and then backfilling the excavation over the tunnel roof

Evergreen Line: The 11.4 km newly finished portion of the old Broadway/Lougheed Rapid Transit Project. When the NDP forced the SkyTrain Millennium Line onto TransLink, there was not the money left order to complete the line to the Tri-Cities. Now completed.

Expo Line: The first SkyTrain line built, completed in late 1985. The Expo was built in in three sections. The Waterfront to New Westminster section (cost a much as LRT from Vancouver to Whalley, Lougheed Mall and Richmond Centre), the Skybridge section across the Fraser river to Scott road Station, and the final section to Whalley in Surrey.

Grade: The vertical rise of a railway track, normally given in a percentage (1% grade = a 1 metre rise in 100 metres). Industry standard grade for LRT is 8%; Sheffield’s LRT operates on 10% grades; the maximum grade for a tramway is located in Lisbon, where the streetcars operate, unassisted, on 13.8% grades.

Goebbels Gambit: The fine art of repeating a lie often enough that it is perceived as the truth.

Guided Bus: A BRT that is physically guided by either a raised curb or a central rail. Some guided buses are considered monorails.

Headway: The time interval between trains on a transit route.

Hybrid: A transit system that is designed operated as a LRT/light metro mix. Generally very expensive as it uses the most expensive features of both modes.

ICTS: Intermediate Capacity Transit system, the first name SkyTrain was marketed by.

Interurban: An early streetcar which operated at speed on its own R-o-W connecting urban centres.

Light Rail Transit (LRT): A steel wheel on steel rail transit system that can operate economically on transit routes with traffic flows between 2,000 pphpd to over 20,000 pphpd, thus bridging the gap on what buses can carry and that which needs a metro. A streetcar is considered LRT when it operates on reserved rights-of-ways or R-o-W’s for the exclusive use of the streetcar/tram. Number of LRT/tramways in operation around the world over 500; light railways (many use LRV’s) – over 120; heritage lines – over 60.

Light Metro: A transit mode, generally a proprietary transit system, that has the capacity of LRT, at the cost of a heavy-rail metro.

Light Rail Vehicle (LRV): A vehicle that operates on a LRT or streetcar line. Also called a streetcar, tram, TramTrain or interurban.

Lysenkoism: used metaphorically to describe the manipulation or distortion of the scientific process as a way to reach a predetermined conclusion as dictated by an ideological bias, often related to social or political objectives.

Mass Transit: A generic term for heavy-rail metro. See rapid transit.

MAX: The Portland Tri-Met LRT system.

Metro: An urban/suburban railway that operates on a segregated R-o-W, either in a subway or on a viaduct, due to long trains (5 cars+) and close headways. There are 174 heavy/light metros in operation around the world.

Millennium Line:  The second SkyTrain Line built, using the new Bombardier ART cars.

Monorail: A transit mode that operates on one rail. There are two general types of monorail: 1) hanging monorail and 2) straddle beam monorail (not a true monorail). Some proprietary BRT systems are also classed as monorail.

Priority Signaling: A signaling system that gives priority to transit vehicles at intersections.

Proprietary Transit System: A transit system who rights are exclusively owned by one company. Transit operations who operate proprietary transit systems must deal with only one supplier.

Rapid Transit: A generic term for metro. See mass transit.

Reserved Rights of Way: An exclusive R-o-W for use of transit vehicles, can be as simple as a HOV lane (with rails for LRT) or as elaborate a a lawned boulevard or a linear park complete with shrubs.

SkyTrain: An unconventional proprietary light-metro, powered by Linear Induction motors, marketed by Bombardier Inc. Currently there are 7 SkyTrain type transit systems in operation around the world. ICTS – 2; ALRT (1 & 2) – 1; ART 4.

Streetcar: A steel wheel, on steel rail electric (also can be diesel powered) vehicle that operates in mixed traffic, with little or no priority at intersections. Also known as a tram in Europe. Streetcars become LRT when operating on reserved R-o-W’s.

Subway: An underground portion of a rapid transit line. Subways may either be bored or cut and cover or a combination of both construction methods.

TTC: The Toronto Transit commission.

Tram: European term for streetcar, as the Europeans do not use the term LRT.

TramTrain: A streetcar that can operate on the mainline railways, operating as a passenger train.

TransLink Speak: The lexicon used by TransLink to mask problems. Example: medial emergency on SkyTrain means a suicide.

Viaduct: A viaduct is a bridge composed of several small spans.

A letter sent to Surrey Council – LRT in Surrey Part 1.

From the usual suspect, long time LRT and tram advocate Malcolm Johnston.

What has been forgotten by most, is the historical context for our light metro system has been lost, due to political, bureaucratic and academic intrigue.

The illustrations have been removed for brevity.


Dear Mayor and Council;

My name is Malcolm Johnston and I have been advocating for modern Light Rail Transit (LRT) since the early 1980’s. I have been a member of the international Light Rail Transit Association since 1984 and the person who coordinated the Leewood/Rail for the Valley Study, recommending a Vancouver to Chilliwack TramTrain (a variant of LRT) service operating on the former BC Electric rights-of-way. Today I belong to the Rail for the Valley group, promoting the Valley TramTrain.

Except for the odd letter in local newspapers, I have not been involved with the Surrey LRT, until events have forced me to.

I am disturbed with the planning of the Surrey LRT and after consulting with transportation engineers in Canada, the USA and Europe, who are members of the LRTA and/or read the Rail for the Valley blog, my concerns are indeed valid.

Modern LRT combines three concepts, the low-floor tram; the reserved or dedicated rights-of-way, and priority signaling at intersections, which provides a service that rivals today’s much more expensive metro systems.

Ottawa’s low floor trams have the same capacity of four MK.1 cars or three Mk.2 cars.

Modern LRT made the metro variant, light-metro (what we call locally SkyTrain) obsolete by the end of the 1980’s.

Today, there are over five hundred and fifty transit systems that fall in the LRT family, with over two hundred built since the Edmonton LRT (considered to be the first modern LRT built) opened in the late 1980’s. Since this time only seven of the unconventional, proprietary SkyTrain type systems, which has been marketed under the various names including ICTS, ALRT, ALM, and ART, have been built.

Why has modern LRT proven so popular?

The answer is simple economics, as one modern tram (1 tram driver) is as efficient as six buses (6 bus drivers) and for every bus or tram operated, one must hire a minimum of three people to manage, maintain and operate them. When one considers that wages account for about 80% of a transit system’s operating costs, the savings by operating LRT over a forty year business cycle are considerable.

SkyTrain, an automatic light metro does not see this economy of operation, even though it has no drivers, light metro has many attendants, signaling and maintenance personnel to ensure smooth operation and SkyTrain needs continued bus operation to feed it its customers. This greatly increases operating costs.

When SkyTrain was forced upon the GVRD in 1980, experts of the day opined that SkyTrain would drive up operating costs, which would eventually lead to finical shortfalls and cannibalization of the transit system in the suburbs. These predictions have come true.

The myth that SkyTrain paid its operational costs was exploded in 1992, when the GVRD Study, The Cost of Transporting People in the GVRD found that SkyTrain was heavily subsidized, more than the entire bus system at the time!

Recent studies have also shown that TransLink’s cost per revenue passenger is about one third higher than Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto.

Even though warnings of high costs for SkyTrain light-metro went unheeded by local politicians and planners, those in other jurisdictions did due diligence and have built with light rail instead.

Again, only seven of the proprietary  ALRT/ART (SkyTrain) systems have been built in forty years.

It is important to understand the difference between LRT and a streetcar.

The difference is not the vehicle, rather it is the concept of the reserved or dedicated rights-of-way, which enables a tram to operate without hindrance. LRT does not impede automobile traffic.

The reserved rights-of-way can be as simple as a HOV lane with rails or in most cases, the reserved rights a way is a boulevard for the exclusive use of the tram. In Europe these boulevards are lawned and landscaped, making the tram route a linear park.

Intersections are signal controlled, giving priority to the tram, over automobile traffic and is just like any other light signaled intersection. Those who claim LRT intersections hinder traffic, must concede that all light controlled intersections hinder traffic and the argument is moot.

A streetcar operates on-street in mixed traffic.

Transit planners in Europe consider that a streetcar or tram route with 60% or more of its route operates on reserved rights-of-ways can be considered LRT.

It also should be noted that there is no operational advantage for grade separating LRT on viaduct or in a subway and it only increases the costs, without any real benefit.

Today, the cost for a modern LRT line, should be around $25 million/km. to $35 million/km.

Surrey’s proposed LRT is being planned as a poor man’s SkyTrain, acting strictly as a feeder line to the now almost capacity Expo Line.

This will adversely affect ridership on the proposed light rail line.

According to one transportation specialist; “The Surrey LRT System is just that, it’s entirely Surrey based system and it doesn’t go anywhere else. The benefits only fits a certain subset of the Surrey’s possible transit passenger market. The current route design gives no other connection to the outer region than pouring more passengers on to the SkyTrain system, instead of for example, connecting to the SkyTrain and then by passing it on its own right of way, outwards towards the rest of the region.”

The cost of the proposed LRT has now rumored to have surpassed $100 million/km. If this is true, then I am afraid that those planning for LRT are deliberately inflating costs to make the project unbuildable.

This happened in the 1990’s during the Broadway/Lougheed Rapid Transit Project, where the cost of LRT was deliberately inflated to within 7% of that of SkyTrain, which then made the flip-flop from LRT to SkyTrain, what we now call the Millennium Line, publicly acceptable.

I see the same scenario happening now, in 2017.

I do support modern LRT in Surrey. I do not support the present planning as it both expensive and myopic and I would strongly urge the City of Surrey to engage a company with the expertise in planning, building and operating with LRT, as Rail for the Valley group did, by engaging Leewood Projects of the UK for an unbiased study for the feasibility of a ‘rail’ service from Vancouver to Chilliwack.

In 2010 The Leewood Study found that a 130 km. Vancouver to Chilliwack TramTrain (a variant of LRT), track-sharing with the existing railway line, could be built for just under one billion dollars!

Modern light rail is extremely adaptable in operation as it can be built as a streetcar, light rail, or a tramtrain.

LRT can also carry freight or have ‘Bistro’ cars serving light refreshments and even vintage trams can operate on LRT lines.

Modern LRT has over 125 years of development behind it and there is plenty of scope for LRT’s continued development in the future.

This why LRT is built today, its inherent simple design and operating philosophy enables to mode to operate economically where it is built. Designed right, light rail can provide a user friendly alternative to the car.

Those who advocate for SkyTrain, advocate for a dated proprietary transit system, which costs more to build, maintain, and operate than LRT. ALRT/ART was designed in the 1970’s to cope with 1970’s transit issues.

LRT constantly evolves and never becomes “stale-dated”, evidenced by many tramways that can trace their linage over 120 years of operation and now operate as modern light rail.

Light rail transit is truly the transit mode of the 21st century and should be designed as such, which at present it is not.

Malcolm Johnston


The World’s Longest Tram In Budapest

Budapest has been been operating the world’s longest trams for several years but now are taking delivery of even longer trams, the 56 metre CAF Urbos.

The former holder of the longest tram, the  54 metre Siemens Combino Plus.

Why run long trams?

They are cheaper to operate than coupled sets of trams.

These cars are multi-section modular cars, 100% low floor with no internal steps.

Budapest Transport Ltd. operates the trams in peak hours at two minute intervals. To ensure quick and convenient passenger flows eight double-leaf doors on each side with a clear width of 1,300 mm and spread over the whole length of the tramcar.

TramTrain – It’s Time To Have Another Look At The Leewood Project

While local politicians squabble about expensive transit planning and gouging the taxpayer to pay for multi billion dollar transportation vanity projects, economic and user friendly TramTrain construction and operation continue to increase.

Isn’t time for politicians have another look at the Leewood/Rail for the Valley Study?


Stadler selected to supply Szeged tram-trains

19 Apr 2017

Stadler Rail Valencia previously supplied electro-diesel tram-trains to Chemnitz.

HUNGARY: National passenger operator MÁV-Start has selected Stadler Rail Valencia to supply eight electro-diesel tram-trains to operate on the planned route between Szeged and Hódmezővásárhely. The order announced on April 18 includes an option for four more vehicles.

The project is being fully financed by the EU, with rolling stock estimated to cost HF10bn. Services would run on the current alignment of tram Route 1 in Szeged, before using an 800 m connection that will be built to connect the tram route to the unelectrified Szeged – Békéscsaba railway line. A new 3·3 km single-track line is also to be built through Hódmezővásárhely to take tram-trains to the city’s main station.



Weaver and the Greens Haven’t a Clue

Weaver hasn’t a clue about transit and throwing more money after bad will not improve it.

The “road pricing” issue is nothing more than a wet squib; for road pricing to be publicly accepted and successful one must have a viable and user-friendly transit system.

We don’t, not even close and Weaver throwing an extra paltry $25 million annually at transit, will make bureaucrats happy, but that is about all.

I am tired of tax and spend politicians who want more taxes for transit, but are absolutely clueless at what are transit’s ills.

The problems at TransLink are massive and road pricing will not cure it, as a complete philosophical change in providing public transit is needed.

What is needed are politicians who have taken the time actually studying regional transit issues and have a real knowledge about public transit.

The key word in this article is “rapid transit” which  indicates Weaver hasn’t a clue what he is talking about.

Tolls and road pricing are a tax and spend politicians best friends.

Road pricing, transit spending take centre stage in Green transportation platform

Vancouver, BC, Canada / News Talk 980 CKNW | Vancouver’s News. Vancouver’s Talk
Posted: April 20, 2017

Road pricing, transit spending take centre stage in Green transportation platformWidespread road pricing, new transit funding, and de-privatizing B.C. Ferries are all on the menu should the BC Green Party find itself at the head of the table following the May 9 election.

The party is also pledging to press pause on the Massey Tunnel Replacement Project, pending a review of alternatives.

B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver rolled out the platform Thursday, which he says would prioritize regional planning and clean transportation.

Public transit

Weaver says a Green government would boost funding for public transit by $25-million a year with the goal of increasing service and keeping fares low.

He says the Greens would also put up a new $152-million in provincial funding to fully match funds the federal Liberals promised last year as a part of a Public Transit Infrastructure fund.

He adds a Green government would match any federal infrastructure funding dollar for dollar.

“It’s good public policy to match federal investment, and we know that for every dollar we spend we’re getting a dolalr from the federal government that would feed into the B.C. economy.”

Weaver says the spending would be funded by an increase in the carbon tax $10 per year until it reaches $70/ ton.

On top of that, he says the greens would bring B.C. Ferries back into the fold as a crown corporation, arguing it is a public service and key link in the transportation network.


While the B.C. Liberals and BC NDP have been battling it out with duelling toll-slashing policies, the Greens are going the other way.

Weaver says not only would existing tolls be left in place, but that a Green government would toll any new major road project to fund it.

Weaver also opened the door to wider road pricing once better transit is in place, including schemes that look at pricing specific areas (the downtown peninsula, for example), or full network pricing in which all drivers pay, potentially based on how far they drive.

“If there are transportation options available. If there’s rapid transit going all the way out to Abbotsford for example. And you start to recognzie that downtown Vancouver is congested, we could model other jurisdictions. For example, in London, it was incredibly successful to implement congestion taxes.”

Regional focus

Arguing that current transportation planning has been piecemeal and overly road and bridge-focused, the Greens are also pitching a “10-year integrated transportation plan.”

Weaver says the plan would look at any infrastructure upgrades in the context of regional plans and prioritize clean transportation.

That would include the controversial Massey Tunnel Replacement Project, which Weaver says he’d put on hold while it gets a second look.

“Why are we talking about a Massey Bridge? Really it’s nothing more than a jobs creation plan that will kick the problem down to the Oak Street bridge and make it much worse. That’s not a transportation strategy. What we need is an integrated strategy. Why aren’t we talking about rapid transit from say Tsawwassen?”

He says the party will also back the mayors’ “10-year-vision” and match federal funding for it, support their regional transportation plans, and work together on coming up with a “rational tolling system.”

Clean transportation

Weaver says the party would promote private sector investment in clean technology and transportation initiatives to spur job creation.

He says it would also introduce initiatives to promote low carbon transportation and encourage people to get out of their cars.

Ideas on the table include breaks on tolls or parking for electric vehicles, more charging stations, better bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and distance-based insurance.

Weaver says the party would also begin to assess future transportation investments in terms of sustainability and their effects on long-term emissions.

Are SkyTrain’s MK. 1 Cars Safe?

As the Scarborough ICTS cars and Vancouver’s MK.1 cars are the same, one would surmise there are corrosion problems with Vancouver’s cars, especially in Vancouver with airborne salt from the sea.

Does the public have the confidence in TransLink to keep them safe?

Scarborough RT vehicles need repairs to avoid ‘catastrophic’ corrosion failures

TTC asking board’s permission to award $6.8-million sole-source repair contract to Bombardier.

An inspection of the TTC's aging Scarborough RT vehicles uncovered a corrosion problem. The TTC plans to award Bombardier a sole-sourced $6.8-million contract to repair the decaying fleet.
An inspection of the TTC’s aging Scarborough RT vehicles uncovered a corrosion problem. The TTC plans to award Bombardier a sole-sourced $6.8-million contract to repair the decaying fleet.  (Marcus Oleniuk / Toronto Star file photo)  
By Ben SpurrTransportation Reporter
Tues., April 18, 2017

The TTC’s aging fleet of Scarborough RT vehicles has a corrosion problem that could cause “catastrophic” structural failures if not addressed soon, and the transit agency plans to award embattled rail manufacturer Bombardier a sole-sourced $6.8-million contract to conduct the urgent repairs.

The TTC uncovered the corrosion issue during an inspection of its fleet that it undertook after council voted to extend the life of Line 3 (Scarborough RT) until the Scarborough subway extension opens a decade from now.

“When we peeled the floors back, we found that some of the vehicles had holes the size of toonies, and a lot of wear,” said Raffaele Trentadue, the TTC’s head of rail cars and shop.

Trentadue said the problem was caused by decades of snow and salt accumulating near the doorsof the 32-year-old vehicles.

This photo shows corrosion in one of the Scarborough Rapid Transit cars. The TTC has discovered corrosion problems in the cars that need to be repaired, otherwise they could lead to catastrophic structural failures.

This photo shows corrosion in one of the Scarborough Rapid Transit cars. The TTC has discovered corrosion problems in the cars that need to be repaired, otherwise they could lead to catastrophic structural failures.


The corrosion has affected load-bearing joints of the door post and car-body frames. According to a report going to the TTC board on Thursday requesting funding for the repairs, if the decaying parts aren’t fixed “as soon as possible” the corrosion might compromise the vehicles’ structural integrity. That could “potentially lead to catastrophic vehicle failure and put the service plan of operating the system until 2026 at risk.”

TTC chief operating officer Mike Palmer said there’s “no question” that the vehicles are safe but the TTC needs to take proactive measures to ensure they remain that way.

“From our point of view this is a good news story. This is us not ignoring a problem, and (instead) dealing with it in quality way and in a swift way which also will benefit customers for the next 10 years,” he said.

The TTC first discovered the corrosion in 2015, but Palmer said it took until now to devise a fix for the problem.

The TTC sent one car each to Bombardier and a Montreal-based company called CAD Rail to test each vendor’s repair methods. Third-party consultants determined that only Bombardier was capable of developing a repair that would last 10 years, which is why the TTC is recommending awarding the repair contract to the company on a sole-source basis.

Although Bombardier has faced fierce criticism for its repeated failure to deliver new light rail vehicles for the TTC and Metrolinx, Palmer said comparing the company’s ability to fix corrosion with those projects would be “a bum steer.”

A company that Bombardier later bought built the Line 3 cars, and Bombardier still owns proprietary information about the vehicles. Palmer said the company was best positioned for the repair job, and added that the consultant determined that the price Bombardier quoted for the work is fair.

If the TTC board approves the contract, the vehicles will be shipped by truck more than 300 km to a Bombardier facility in Kanona, New York that specializes in refurbishing rail cars.

The Line 3 fleet consists of 28 vehicles, and all 26 that haven’t already undergone repairs will likely need work.

The TTC has few vehicles to spare however, which means there will be reductions in service. Until the repairs are completed sometime next year Line 3, which carries about 3.4 million people annually, will be down to five trains of four cars each, instead of the usual complement of six trains.

The Scarborough RT was originally supposed to be decommissioned and replaced by an LRT line, which would have necessitated replacement bus service for about four years while the LRT was being built.

That changed in 2013 when council voted to build the controversial Scarborough subway extension instead, and to spend $170 million to extend the Scarborough RT’s life and then tear it down once the subway opened.

At the time, the subway extension was expected to enter service in 2023, but that has now been pushed back to 2026, meaning the TTC will have to keep the SRT system running for even longer than expected.

Asked whether the Scarborough RT will last that long, Palmer responded “I don’t have a crystal ball.” But he said he was “reasonably confident” that the latest round of repairs will keep them in service for a decade.

The TTC has already repaired the vehicles’ steel-and-fiberglass bodies, overhauled their mechanics, and upgraded the line’s track, signalling, and civil structures. Palmer said the work is paying off and delay minutes have been reduced by a whopping 79.2 per cent since 2014.

“You can keep any vehicle going for as long as you like,” Palmer said, “but obviously, the older they get the more you spend, and the more you have to be innovative.”



German public transport sets new record

No surprise here!

After the “locust years” of the 70′s and 80′s, German tramways have reinvented themselves and very successfully too. German tramways have set the standard for modern efficient and cost effective operation.

The key for this success?

German tramways are very user-friendly!

On another note, buses only made slight gains in ridership, when compared to the tram.

German tramways have done very well attracting the motorist from the car.

German public transport sets new record

Written by  Quintus Vosman

Use of both local and long-distance public transport services in Germany grew by 1.5% in 2016 to reach a new record of 11.38 billion journeys, according to provisional results published by the German Federal Statistics Office Destatis, which attributes the growth to an increase in population, employment and students.

Local public transport accounted for the majority of the traffic with 11.2 billion passengers, a 1.4% increase. LRT saw an increase of 2.2% to 3.97 billion passengers, while rail including S-Bahn services also recorded a rise of 2.2% to 2.63 billion journeys. Bus transport was almost stagnant with only a 0.5% increase to 5.3 billion journeys.“The number of passengers using local services has steadily increased since 2004, the first year for which comparable data are available,” Distatis says. “In 2016, passenger volume was almost 1.3 billion higher (+12.7%) than 12 years earlier. Particularly strong growth was recorded in rail traffic (+34.6%) and in tram transport (+18.1%). On the other hand, local bus services recorded a slight increase of 0.9%.”

Long-distance rail transport saw a 5.3% increase to 138 million passengers, which Destatis says is due to an expansion of services and special offers.

The boom in long-distance bus transport, created by the opening up of the market, appears to have come to an abrupt end, with only moderate growth of 4.3% in 2016 to 24 million passengers.

Edmonton LRT – To Be or Not To Be, That is The $220 Million Question

The question Edmonton transit planners are being asked; “Does transit need to be user friendly or auto friendly ?” In Edmonton to be auto friendly means adding at least $220 million to the cost of the project.

What this article illustrates is the cost difference between LRT and a light-metro and I think that the planners are under valuing the cost of building an elevated light-metro.

A fully elevated LRT light-metro would cost at least double of that of an at-grade/on-street LRT. A fully elevated line would also ill serve low-floor cars and a one minute shorter journey time is hardly worth $220 million.

There are hidden costs with elevated construction, including extra maintenance costs to  and fewer stations, thus making an elevated light-metro less user-friendly and user friendliness is the top reason why transit customers take transit.

Is $220 million for a minute faster trip a worth while expense?

For Edmonton, it is the $220 million question.


Edmonton is weaning itself from German style S-Bahn to classic Style of European LRT, complete with low-floor trams

Raised track would cut wait times at the Whyte Avenue intersection by 20 or 30 seconds

By Natasha Riebe, CBC News Posted: Apr 14, 2017

The Valley Line LRT could be elevated from the 83rd Street and 82nd Avenue intersection to 85th Street and 90th Avenue through the Bonnie Doon area.The Valley Line LRT could be elevated from the 83rd Street and 82nd Avenue intersection to 85th Street and 90th Avenue through the Bonnie Doon area. (City of Edmonton)

Plans for a neighbourhood-friendly commuter train running at street level through Bonnie Doon could be at risk if Edmonton city councillors entertain a new proposal to change the Valley Line LRT design.

A report released Thursday presents the option of elevating the track along 83rd Street, east of Bonnie Doon mall, from north of 90th Avenue to south of Whyte  Avenue at a potential cost of $125 million to $220 million.

Neighbouring communities that would be affected the most by an elevated train include Idylwylde, Holyrood and Strathearn.

The current plan is to build a 27-kilometre low-floor tram-style train running at street level from Mill Woods in the southeast to Lewis Farms in the west.

Dave SutherlandDave Sutherland with the Holyrood Community League, pictured on a train in London, England, says a metro-style LRT would be a visual and psychological barrier. (Supplied)

“One of the goals is to have it integrated with the neighbourhoods where you can just walk up to the station and catch the train,” Dave Sutherland, civics director with the Holyrood community league, said Friday.

“Elevating it changes that perception to a metro system where it’s fairly disconnected from the community,” Sutherland argues.

A raised track would look similar to Vancouver’s SkyTrain and create a visual and psychological barrier, Sutherland said.

“It wouldn’t feel like it’s a neighbourhood streetcar anymore, it would feel like you’re getting on to a major metro system.”

The raised track would speed up LRT trips by about one minute and shorten wait times for vehicles at intersections, according to the report.

“The wait times they’re looking at would only vary by 20 seconds or 30 seconds,” Coun. Ben Henderson said.

‘What they’re proposing right now seems like overkill to me.’ - Coun. Ben Henderson“For that we would be spending up to $220 million.”

Henderson recognizes the ongoing headache of heavy congestion at intersections such as Whyte Avenue and 83rd Street.

“I don’t think we can make that go away by raising the LRT,” he suggested. “I think that’s in the nature of the amount of traffic that tries to go through there at rush hour.”

A big reason to build the LRT, he pointed out, is to give people an easier way to get around the city and reduce the number of vehicles on Edmonton streets.

He suggested only a portion of the track should be raised around the heaviest intersection at Whyte Avenue, not for seven or eight blocks.

“What they’re proposing right now seems like overkill to me.”

Learn from past mistakes, avoid delays

It’s safe to say nobody wants delays and technical problems similar to those that beset the Metro Line, which opened two years after the initial deadline.

Henderson said he wants the city to get the Valley Line right.

“I suspect they’re being extra cautious after the Metro Line decision was made, which was made without good information,” Henderson said of the recent report.

Building the $1.8-billion southeast portion of the Valley Line between Mill Woods and downtown is expected to take another two years.

Adding an elevated track would drag out construction for at least another six months, Sutherland pointed out.

“Plus it would be much more intensive construction, with building piers and overhead stations and things like that,” he said.

The option to raise the track alongside Bonnie Doon mall is not in the original budget for the project.

The company building the line, TransEd, said if the city decides to go ahead with the grade separation at Bonnie Doon, the company could finance it and increase monthly payments on the 30-year period.

City councillors are scheduled to discuss the report at a committee meeting Tuesday.

Update, April 19.


Our politicians’ transit shenanigans are causing civic suicide

The Mayors Council on Transit is doing the same thing here, the huge costs of the poorly designed Surrey LRT and the insane and politically prestigious Broadway subway, which will burden the taxpayer with huge tax increases.

The only difference is that the Toronto Star newspaper is actually doing good reporting on the transit issue, unlike our mainstream media which has never offered an honest story on transit and the transportation scene for almost fourty years!

Sadly, our local media would rather support SkyTrain light metro to curry political favour than report the truth.

The taxpayer has been misinformed on transit and ill served by the mainstream media, where a little honesty in reporting transit issues is sorely wanting.

Questions for Postmedia, the Black Press, Glacier, CORUS, CBC, GLOBAL, etc.:

  1. “Why has only seven of the proprietary and often renamed  transit systems have been built in fourty years?
  2. Why has ALRT/ART have been rebranded (ICTS, ALRT, ALM, ART)  four times in fourty years?
  3. Why has, what the region calls SkyTrain, never been allowed to compete against LRT?
  4. Why has no other transit authority copied Metro Vancouver’s exclusive use of light-metro?
  5. Why has there been no serious public consultation on building with light-metro?

Is everyone in the mainstream media afraid to ask tough questions?

Our politicians’ transit shenanigans are causing civic suicide: James

The very government closest to the people has proven to be the one most corrupted by the politics of transit planning. The Scarborough subway is the latest example.

By Royson JamesToronto Politics Columnist
Mon., April 3, 2017

Transit decisions of all kinds, including this week’s city council vote to push ahead with the Bloor-Danforth line extension to the Scarborough Town Centre, provide further evidence that you can’t fight city hall.

The very government closest to the people and most susceptible to pressure from the masses has proven to be the one most corrupted by the politics of transit planning.

The political apparatus, once ramped up and placed in the hands of a mayor, becomes a marauding force capable of delivering the vilest conclusions in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Instead of going where the evidence takes him or her, our mayors declare a position on the campaign trail, get elected, claim the mandate of the electorate, marshal the city’s compliant bureaucrats, commission studies that support the prevailing position, ignore evidence to the contrary, trumpet every smidgen of supporting document and bury conflicting findings, repeat the campaign dogma ad nauseam until the very falsities become ingrained as fake truths — and before long the very citizens believe the lies and clamor for the very solution that is destined to destroy the very enjoyment of their city.

Such is the case of transit planning in Toronto. It’s been trending this way for decades. It is particularly galling now, in 2017, because the region is on the cusp of a grand transit expansion and massive expenditure. And we are deliberately making critical and costly “mistakes” that will bedevil commuters for generations.

In a sense, we get what we deserve. But it’s almost as if we are all stuck in this vortex, unable to disentangle, destined to self-destruction. Civic suicide.

Deliverance normally rests with politicians. Or civil society, including opinion leaders and the media — dismissed by demagogues as the elite. Or the masses. Or a combination, in desperate times. It will be a while before we fully realize how our guardians spectacularly failed the city region in this critical era of transit building. The extent of the damage depends on how much Torontonians care to learn about their real needs and insist on getting transit right.

The base principles that should guide transit planning are readily available.

  • Good transit provides a network of options that moves masses of commuters effectively where they need to go. Most jurisdictions can’t afford a subway to everywhere so the wise course is to provide movement along the essential corridors where citizens connect.
  • In a tight economy, decision makers do cost-benefit analyses and deliver the best bang for the buck.
  • And they use universal, tried-and-tested measurements to evaluate options, striving to remove partisan and parochial and political influence from polluting the outcome.

Unfortunately, most of our transit debates start and end with technology. Streetcars and bus bad, subways good. This prevailing view forgets a key element of successful transit systems: they provide the appropriate transit mode for the appropriate needs, always looking to future demands and growth. So, for example, at some point in the future, Highway 7 will have a rapid transit system running there — either a subway, or the subway equivalent of the year 2095. But, for now, a BRT is the appropriate choice.

To patiently wait for the evolution from bus to rail requires much civic maturity. This is especially difficult, given our history of largesse, political back-scratching, immoral decision-making and brutal choices that force the aggrieved to say, “If they can get a subway, what about us. What are we chopped liver?”

Sheppard jumped the queue. The line is nowhere near capacity and the promised jobs and densities far from realized.

The University-Spadina extension to Vaughan corporate centre was greased by political patronage and private deal-making, admitted former Ontario deputy premier Greg Sorbara in his memoirs.

Next, watch for this: Richmond Hill and York Region will find a political white knight to propel the Yonge subway extension north of Steeles, ahead of essential fixes downstream that are to alleviate overcrowding on Line 1.

So, what to do?

The agencies (Metrolinx and TTC) and their boards, hired to provide uncontaminated reports, too often succumb to political pressure. And media is too often distracted and prone to reflect public impatience to the point of adopting the attitude of “just build something.”

Is there a better system? Are there democratic jurisdictions that have managed to plan transit according to real needs, not political exigencies? We need to learn from these.


Royson James’ column appears weekly.