Though the Bombardier and SNC owned ART (SkyTrain, they hold the patents) proprietary railway is not mentioned, I would bet the farm that Bombardier and SNC are behind this to build an ART automatic railway.
Bombardier’s home province is Quebec, yet Quebec has never built with the proprietary ICTS/ALRT/ALM/ART (SkyTrain in Vancouver, well not quite) now, with their aero division in financial difficulty and are in negotiations in Ottawa for a bailout; a light-metro project surfaces in Montreal.
The foul odor of Quebec politics, hangs over this announcement like fresh chicken manure.
In a telephone conversation with Surrey’s chief engineer, the chap told Zwei that the cost for LRT in Surrey was about $80 million/km and that for SkyTrain, $130 million/km. yet this ambitious 67 km project, due to be finished by the end of 2020 is estimated to cost a mere $82 million/km!
Yes and I have a shares in the Port Mann Bridge to sell you too!
Something just does not add with a light-metro project over twice as long as Honolulu’s under construction light metro, but costing $2.7 billion less?
Added to this, it will be in full operation in just four years?
Whoa, hold on there partner, something does not add up, but costs never add up in Quebec and now is the first real test for Trudeau’s liberals to say no to a project that is obviously ill planned and poorly costed out.!
This must be the last gasp of ART as it was obsolete before it was born; now ridiculously cheap in its last gasps.
Please could someone put it out of its misery and at the same time, save the Canadian taxpayer a lot of money.
but hugely expensive to build and equally expensive to operate.
$5.5B project funded by province’s pension fund would span West Island, South Shore
By Benjamin Shingler, Steve Rukavina, CBC News Posted: Apr 22, 2016
One of the new commuter rail stations envisioned by the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. (Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec)
The electric, fully automated 67-kilometre rail line would connect 24 stations stretching from the South Shore to Montreal’s Trudeau airport and beyond, to both the West Island and Laval.
Under the proposal, trains would operate seven days a week from 5:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
- New light rail system for Montreal by 2020. Seriously?
- Where would Montreal’s 24 new light rail stations be located?
The Caisse says it’s willing to invest $3 billion in the $5.5-billion project. The province and the federal government would have to make up the rest.
The plan is to have the train running by 2020.
A map of the proposed rail line that would connect Montreal’s West Island, South Shore and Laval. ( Caisse de dépôt et Placement)
Hats off to Bob Mackin, for his continued journalistic investigation of TransLink and SkyTrain.
The cost overruns on the Evergreen Line were expected as TransLink’s Business Case for ART for the Evergreen Line was as phony as the proverbial $3.00 bill.
Also, it is no surprise that TransLink is censoring its Broadway subway and Surrey LRT planning because both projects are ill planned and grossly expensive for what thy will do. TransLink will not admit that both projects are vanity projects to suit the political whims of Vision(less) Vancouver and the former and present mayors of Surrey. Both projects will not improve congestion and reduce pollution, in fact the two projects are so badly planned, the opposite will happen.
For TransLink, this is business as usual and senior bureaucrats still wonder why the voter dealt them a terrible loss at last years plebiscite.
When you have idiots running the show, don’t be surprised at the results.
Evergreen Line delay costs lead to mediation, B.C. government hiding info on costs, changes and challenges
SNC-Lavalin and the provincial government are in mediation over cost overruns at…
SNC-Lavalin and the provincial government are in mediation over cost overruns at the Evergreen Line rapid transit project, Business in Vancouverhas learned.SNC-Lavalin’s infrastructure and construction division took a nearly $27 million hit in 2015’s second quarter, and it laid part of the blame on “challenging soil conditions.” Tunnel boring was stalled for five months last year, delaying plans to complete the $1.43 billion Millennium Line extension from summer 2016 to fall 2016. Last November, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said it would open in early 2017.“SNC-Lavalin does not comment on ongoing mediation or litigation,” said Louis-Antoine Paquin, the company’s media relations manager, who referred BIVto the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.Amanda Farrell, the government’s project manager, did not respond for comment, but an emailed statement from the Ministry claimed the project is on budget and said EGRT Construction, the SNC-led consortium, is responsible for any costs associated with schedule delays.
“As with any ongoing contract of this size and complexity, we remain in discussions with the contractor during the project in order to ensure the taxpayers’ interests are represented and the project follows the contract,” according to the statement, which was sent by spokeswoman Trish Rorison.
The B.C. government hired the troubled Montreal engineering and construction firm in 2012 on an $889 million fixed-price contract after SNC-Lavalin accepted the risk of geotechnical conditions in the tunnel. The project geotechnical report in 2011 by Golder Associates said there were variable soil conditions, clays, minerals, boulders and groundwater on the route.
The ministry is also blocking attempts to determine the cost impacts of project delays and scope changes.
It censored all dollar figures from the construction change order log released under Freedom of Information, claiming it feared disclosure would harm government finances and third-party business interests. The more than 75 changes to the project include additions to bus loops, extra costs for public art installations at stations, removal of Compass fare gate barriers at five stations and a dual 700MHz/800MHz radio band to be compatible with E-Comm requirements.
The ministry is also demanding payment of $960 before it will release all monthly project status reports since January 2014.
Meanwhile, TransLink is withholding nearly all content from 683 pages of expert reports it commissioned about the proposed Broadway subway and Surrey light rail projects.
The reports are about the design and business case for the projects, but TransLink claimed the information is subject to change and disclosure could harm commercial negotiations.
Among the seven partially visible pages in a November report by Stantec about the Broadway plan is a description of the work.
“(Phase 3A) includes exploration of environmental and First Nation issues, potential issues below grade along Broadway including geotechnical conditions, utilities and a crossing/connection to the Canada Line, issues surrounding transfers to the station locations, operations considerations, station design, accessibility, safety, level of station head-house intrusion at the surface onto the public space and the future extension of rapid trains to UBC. The study includes intermodal transfer challenges at Arbutus and Cambie stations.”
Experts have met regularly with TransLink and City of Vancouver staff. Officials from the University of British Columbia, the transport ministry and PartnershipsBC were invited to key meetings.
“The level of design of project components varies and is commensurate with the Phase 3A objective to ensure a reasonable level of confidence (+/- 30%) in project cost and revenue estimates and to progress essential business case inputs,” the report said. “Subsequent phases of work will further advance this design to inform funding and procurement decisions.”
The Broadway proposal was budgeted at $1.98 billion in 2012. In March, Surrey city staff told council that the Surrey project cost had increased by $500 million to $2.6 billion. Steer Davies Gleave and Hatch Mott MacDonald are leading that study.
TransLink CFO Cathy McLay would not provide new cost estimates after the March 30 board meeting, but said officials were wrestling with the rising cost of real estate and the drop in the Canadian dollar. Experts were given another three months, until the end of June, to finish their final reports, she said.
First published in 2009. Updated 2014, 2016.
A Wee Bit Of Local History
In early 1996, during BC Transit’s meaningless public consultation period for the Broadway Lougheed Rapid Transit Project which later morphed into the Millennium Line, Zweisystem received a phone call from an European Transit specialist, who worked for Asea Brown Boverai (later absorbed by Bombardier Inc.) regarding the project.
The European transit specialist, wanting to make contact with those planning for light-rail, had phoned BC Transit to arrange a meeting regarding the then proposed Broadway/Lougheed LRT project and was given Zwei’s phone number instead!
After his initial shock and displeasure being fobbed-off by BC Transit, the transit specialist entered into a long conversation with me on transit issues in the region and how modern light rail could help solve them. To make a long story short, he proposed a classic European style tramway for Broadway, with stops every 500m to 600m, going from BCIT to UBC, replacing all Broadway bus services and a second line via Main Street, Hastings St. to Stanley Park, that, he claimed would double present bus ridership on the two routes within two years, providing enough fare revenue for the tram to operate without any subsidy, with fares covering not only operating costs but most or all debt servicing costs as well. By doing so, a private company could build and operate the light rail line at no or little cost to the taxpayer.
The rest is history as they say and the SkyTrain Millennium Line was built instead and is subsidized by over $80 million annually!
The Light Rail Committee Proposes the BCIT to UBC and Stanley Park Light Rail Project.
In late 1996 the Light Rail Committee (now defunct) proposed a bold Broadway light rail plan: a tram/light rail line from BCIT to UBC via the Lougheed Hwy., Broadway, 10th Ave. and University Blvd. with a second line via Main street to Hastings Street to the Aquarium in Stanley Park. The plan consisted of lawned reserved rights-of-ways and on-street running; priority signaling on traffic calmed Broadway and Hastings Streets; tram/streetcar stops every 500 metres; a single track Vancouver General Hospital Loop via Fraser St., 10th Ave. and Cambie St., providing front door service to the hospital.
Commercial speed would be about 20 kph to 25 kph (depending on the number or tram-stops per km.) and the construction costs in the region of $25 million/km to $35 million/km; maximum hourly capacity of 20,000+ persons per hour per direction using modern low-floor trams.
Signaling would be line of sight with intersections and switches protected by local signaling. Headway’s could be as low as 60 seconds in peak hours.
What the LRC’s plan would do is service many important transit destinations (UBC, BCIT, VGH, downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park, etc.), while providing economy of operation by replacing all bus services on Broadway and many in Vancouver, thus reducing operating costs by about half. Further economies are made by using existing masts and span wires along the proposed transit routes. The new LRT would be merely seen as the reinstatement of ‘rail’ service by modern streetcars, operating on 21st century rights-of-ways.
The concept of a private operator, by securing financing to build the line at no or little cost to the taxpayer must be looked at by politicians. This type of P-3, not to be confused with the Canada Line scam, would see little or no subsides from government, unlike the Canada line which is subsidized by TransLink by over $110 million annually.
The plan would reduce Broadway to one lane of traffic in each direction (passive traffic calming) except in areas of mixed operation, while keeping the all important on-street parking for local merchants. The plan would have offered a minimum of five transit routes: BCIT to UBC; BCIT to Stanley Park; UBC to Stanley Park; UBC and BCIT to VGH loop.
The plan incorporates modern European light rail and tram practice; lawned reserved rights-of-ways, modular cars, high capacity, passenger comfort, and affordable cost. It was not to be, as the Glen Clark NDP government, for reasons that can only be speculated, dismissed LRT out-of-hand and went for a truncated SkyTrain light metro line, the only metro in the world that went nowhere to nowhere.
The half completed Millennium Line, will only see full service to the Tri-Cities in election year 2017, in the guise of the $1.4 billion Evergreen Line.
Now the City of Vancouver and TransLink are demanding a $3 billion dollar subway under Broadway.
It is time to again to consider again a BCIT – UBC – Stanley Park light-rail network, that could cost the taxpayer little or no money instead of a $3 billion subway to Arbutus or a $5 billion plus subway to UBC that ignores transit concerns East of commercial Drive.
Freight trams have been used almost since the first passenger carrying tram trundled down cobblestone streets. Today, except for a few cities, carrying freight by tram was a lost art, but no more.
to help reduce auto congestion and pollution in city centres.
many with dedicated freight-motors.
tram and trailer converted to carry long loads of rails or poles.
the CarGo Tram, carrying containers from one Volkswagen factory to another.
For advocates of the Broadway light rail, with UBC at the terminal end of the line, the CarGo or freight tram concept, reducing trucks on the roads by carrying freight by tram to the university complex may well be the tipping argument in favour of LRT, as the SkyTrain subway folks have no retort.
LRT is an extremely flexible mode and it is time to let our single minded politicians and bureaucrats know this.
Not well reported in the mainstream media is the fact that the $200 million Compass Card/Fare gate system is now next to useless because not so honest people can hack through the system.
The Compass Card is old tech, sold to TransLink after an orchestrated campaign by the mainstream media that fare evasion was rampant and that fare gates were needed; and yes former premier Gordon Campbell’s best buddy, and senior bureaucrat at the City of Vancouver,Ken Dobel, just by coincidence was the lobbyist for Cubit Industries, trying to flog their dated wares.
This debacle is not TransLink’s fault, rather it is the BC Liberal’s fault forcing yesterday’s tech on today’s transit system.
Sometimes the old way to collect fares is the best way and really, $200 million would have been better spent improving transit, rather than financing another boondoggle.
CTV reporter Jon Woodward shows that hackers can bypass SkyTrain fare gatesby Charlie Smith on April 9th, 2016
- TransLink officials are facing another controversy over the Compass card.
A Vancouver journalist has demonstrated that the $194-million Compass-card system can be hacked to gain free access to SkyTrain.CTV’s Jon Woodward ran an expired Compass ticket by his smartphone, showing how this simple act could open the closed fare gate at a SkyTrain system.
You can see how he did it here.
“They look like paper tickets but inside is a chip that keeps track of how long you can ride,” Woodward told his viewers. ”These are for single trips but CTV News was alerted to an apparent security flaw, one that allows anyone with a smartphone and two free apps to use the tickets more than once.”
This is accomplished with the help of NFC technology, which rewrites the data on the ticket. According to Woodward (a UBC mathemetics grad), NFC is widely available, including on Google Wallet and Apple Pay. And he noted that similar ripoffs have occurred on transit systems in other cities.
TransLink announced in 2010 that it had selected San Diego-based Cubic Transportation Systems and IBM as its supplier of a new smart-card-operated fare-gate system. Cubic’s lobbyists included former TransLink CEO Ken Dobell and former Millennium Line project manager Lecia Stewart.
At the time, the regional transportation authority said that the smart-card system would be operational by 2013. Delays prevented it from being completely rolled out on SkyTrain and SeaBuses until this year.
Kirk Lapointe was chosen by the Non-Partisan Association, to be the party’s nominee for Mayor of Vancouver in the November 15, 2014 municipal election. Lapointe received 40% of the vote, coming in second behind incumbent mayor Gregor Robertson who received 46%. Following his defeat, LaPointe said he intends to put politics “in the rear view mirror” and is uninterested in running in being a candidate in a future election saying “I recognize it comes with a physical, emotional toll, and I’m not sure I want to experience that any time soon.
LaPointe is currently an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia Graduate School of Journalism teaching ethics and leadership and publisher and editor-in-chief of Self-Counsel Press. He is also the host of the Our City daily morning program on Vancouver’s Roundhouse Radio
This is a major, make no mistake, Kirk Lapointe speaks for businesses in Vancouver and businesses along Broadway are extremely leery of a cut-and-cover subway, lest it does the same financial damage that the Cambie St. cut-and-cover did.
The chilling costs of this project are beginning to sink home, especially with families fleeing Vancouver due the massive inflation of housing causing major demographic change. Building a $3 billion plus subway to carry mainly cheap fare, $1.00 a day, U-Pass students to only Arbutus, just does not make economic sense.
Rich people do not take subways, but they just might take a tram as they do in Basel Switzerland to show confidence in the city’s tramway and affordable transit planning. It’s seen as good business sense.
As Churchill is quoted from events in North Africa in 1942; “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
For our future’s sake, I hope it is as well.
Last stop for the city’s $2 billion Broadway corridor subway line
It is time to take stock of what was once the unthinkable: that the Broadway subway line might not be wise to build any longer.
The brave faces of city leaders would have us believe they’re heading out to the hardware store to get the shovels to start the work. The shovels would be better suited for what they’re saying.
The cheques are not in the mail. The money isn’t even printed, much less in the bank. The real financial reckoning for this project is into the next terms of the federal, provincial and municipal governments.
The proposed $2 billion extension of the Millennium Line from VCC-Clark over to Arbutus has been years in the touting and planning and many more years in arrears and inertia to serve the needs of a corridor choked by stop-and-start traffic and cheek-to-jowl buses. It may be a better idea for yesterday than for tomorrow.
Our viability and livability depend on better public transit – not in a decade, but today, because we have waited a decade. Trouble is, the line has taken only one teensy step forward and some significant steps back since it was identified as one of several core projects in the Mayors’ Council report on transportation in 2014.
Here we are in 2016, nearly mid-term for the Metro Vancouver governments, nearly a year after their plan to impose a 0.5% personal sales tax was smited in a regional plebiscite.
That there was not an immediate Plan B to the setback, that there is radio silence still, suggests at best indifference and at worst incompetence.
No doubt, with the municipal hands economically tied, the hard work necessary to effect the regional transportation plan has been awaiting a saviour at senior levels of government. On this, it seems Justin Trudeau is the chuckles, Christy Clark is the knuckles.
Still, a step forward: the federal government has said that, when the time comes for the project to be reviewed, it will finance half of its cost instead of the traditional one-third. With the province in for one-third, that leaves the region holding a 17% obligation.
First step backward: the 17% obligation weighs much more than earlier thought. The project cost was last estimated when the dollar was near par and the Canucks were above par. Imported components of the project now come at a 30% to 40% premium, thanks to the devalued currency, and that doesn’t include inflation, which in the infrastructure business is a term to describe the amount that can be pumped into the price.
Second step backward: the land that the region needs to buy was last scoped years ago. You might have read it in the news, but in case you haven’t: local real estate has been appreciating in value, roughly at double the rate of infrastructure inflation. This is not lost on TransLink, whose chief financial officer asserts there will be a “dramatic” impact on the cost of acquisition.
It may be that the mayors are awaiting the next TransLink project estimate at the end of June to determine the most survivable method to extract blood from a stone. It seems mathematically inconceivable they can turn up the tap on property taxes or bleed developers of community amenity funds to finance their share through any existing method within their purview, so they will need to get the province’s blessing through a supported plebiscite to tap a new revenue vein.
Whatever the case, the price tag is being taped over with a new one. And we should worry about the ultimate cost. Put it at closer to $3 billion than $2 billion now. Is that the best we can do – in the swiftest time – with the money? Let’s see now. A provincial election. A plebiscite. Project definitions. Public hearings. Environmental assessments. Procurement. Selection of a construction contractor. Federal funds. Building and building and building. The mayor, in whatever capacity he finds himself then, can use his seniors’ transit discount when the ribbon is cut.
On the other hand, if we’re serious about significant improvement in shorter order and not just a development play, about an environmentally shrewd move that isn’t exhausting our resources and inconveniencing our community as it’s built, streetcar….
Kirk LaPointe is Business in Vancouver’s vice-president of audience and business development.
Ontario could get half of Ottawa’s $3.4B transit infrastructure money this year
Ontario could expect to receive $1.5 billion for transit infrastructure from the federal budget, Trudeau announced Friday.
Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday during an announcement at a bus depot in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., that money for transit will roll out this year.By: Terry Pedwell The Canadian Press, Published on Fri Apr 08 2016
SAULT STE MARIE, ONT.—The $3.4 billion included in last month’s federal budget for transit infrastructure will begin rolling out to municipalities this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday as he expanded on his government’s plan to invest the money.
The prime minister didn’t specify how much individual communities would receive, but he did say Ontario in particular could expect to receive about half the money — $1.5 billion.
The federal government will also pay a larger share of the cost of projects, and provinces and municipalities can spend the money as they see fit, Trudeau told a news conference at a transit headquarters building in Sault Ste. Marie.
“To get projects moving quickly, the federal government will fund up to 50 per cent of the eligible costs of projects,” Trudeau said.
“We’re giving provinces and municipalities the freedom to invest these funds in the way that makes the most sense for their communities.
“They’re the local experts. They know what needs to be done better than anyone else.”
Like many communities with largely resource-based economies, Sault Ste. Marie has been struggling with low commodity prices around the globe.
The city’s bus services were cut recently as city council grappled with a budget shortfall. And the biggest employer in town — Essar Steel Algoma — has been under bankruptcy protection since last fall.
Our American friends down south are beginning to understand the Light Rail Renaissance in Europe.
For too long, the ‘old ways’ of commuter trains and subways were considered the only ways to provide quality transit and except for a few bold cities, such as Portland, light rail has been deemed a second rate transit service when compared to a subway, with Seattle being a good example with over 70% of its route grade separated either on viaduct of submerged in a subway.
This lead to huge costs for ‘rail’ transit, for little, if any real benefits.
This myopic view has also created the “streetcar craze” in the USA, where short streetcar lines are all the rage, with most new streetcar lines either being upgraded tourist trolleys or political vanity projects where the short line drive up costs and the real benefits of tram service are ignored.
Slowly our American friends have begun to realize that the European LRT Renaissance tram can operate at subway headway and capacity and hopefully our SkyTrain minded planners do the same.
They run on the surface on private right of way in the center of a very busy street with subway headway and capacity. With good design and signal preemptions they are able to do this. We can learn a lot on how to run an efficient high speed street car system from BKK. (like Los Angeles)
The “railway gazette international” site reports that what is claimed to be the world’s longest tram at 183.3 feet for on-street operation has entered public service at BUDAPEST, the capital city of Hungary:
“Longest tram enters service in Budapest
01 Apr 2016
HUNGARY: March 31 saw the entry into passenger service of what is claimed to be the longest tram in the world.
The 55·9 m (183.3 foot) long nine-section CAF Urbos tram is in operation on the recently modernised Route 1 in Budapest, and will be joined by 11 more by mid-year.
Budapest transport authority BKK ordered 37 bidirectional low-floor trams in March 2014 with options for 87 more, and later placed a firm order for a further 10.
The cost of the 47 trams is HF46·5m (USD $168,867m), of which 99·3% is being met through EU funds and the remainder through the government and Budapest municipality.
The initial order included 12 of the 55·9 m trams, with the remaining 35 being 34·2 mm(112.2 foot) long five-section vehicles.
The first of the short trams entered service in late 2015 on Route 3, with routes 17 and 19 following in January.
All of the trams are equipped with air-conditioning, an audio-visual passenger information system, CCTV, an event recorder and an onboard passenger-counting system.
The vehicles have the capability of being retrofitted with on-board energy storage for catenary-free operation in sections of the city centre.
VIA Rail would be the operator.
The return of the North Vancouver to Prince George passenger rail service is a good idea, both for travelers and for tourists. Leaving from downtown Vancouver would, I think, seal the deal.
The Gordon Campbell BC Liberal Party sold BC Rail in a sweetheart deal to the CNR, whose CEO just happened to be the party bagman! The Railway was sold, in part, to kill the passenger rail service so another political friend who owned the Rocky Mountaineer could operate expensive tourist trains on the run.
As the CNR is a federally mandated railway and, VIA Rail would operate the passenger service and those who want passenger service must petition their MP’s.
How a Talgo ’tilt’ train on the run or even a TramTrain service to Whistler?
North Vancouver wants passenger rail service
Regular train at Lillooet station on a winter West Coast Rail Tours trip. Photo by Gordon Hall
North Vancouver city council is joining the chorus asking for a new passenger rail service from Prince George to the North Shore.
Lillooet Mayor Margaret Lampman sent a letter to all the municipalities from Prince George to North Vancouver requesting support for the idea.
“The hope is that we can get some passenger rail entity to come forward and put into service the passenger rail line,” she said.
“I think it’s a fantastic idea and I fully support it, as does this council as well,” said City of North Vancouver mayor Darrell Mussatto,adding he hopes CN Rail will let the project use a freight line, which according to him “is not as much as it used to be in the past.”
“Hopefully there’ll be a business opportunity. An entrepreneur might want to come forward to purchase some cars,” said Mussatto.
“The loss of the ‘Budd Car’ in 2002 was a loss of economic and social investment in the future of British Columbia,” stated the letter signed on March 7.
Todd Stone, minister of transportation and infrastructure, said in a statement that relatively low ridership and the loss of “several million dollars every year” caused the service to be discontinued.
“Given the fact that market demand for passenger rail service along this route remains marginal, the provincial government is not considering reinstating this service,” said Stone.
Lampman said she’s not asking the province to reinstate the passenger rail service. “I’m asking the premier for help in facilitating talks with CN who has the lease on the line.”
According to Lampman, since Lillooet doesn’t have transit system or a Greyhound station, it’s difficult for people without vehicles to reach other areas.
“If you have a medical appointment with a specialist in Vancouver and you don’t have a vehicle, you have to hire someone to take you down and that is a lot of money for some people to pay up just to go down to access medical care.”
CN Rail declined to comment on this story.
This letter went out to all the usual suspects, MP’s, MLA’s, and Mayors and Council.
There is a general naivete about Light Rail Transit or LRT in the media, due in part to TransLink’s and previously BC Transits thirty five year war on LRT, with their well advertised preference for light-metro.
Today, except for “niche transit” solutions, public transport is divided into three modes, bus, tram, and metro; with each mode built to economically deal with traffic flows on an individual transit route. Transit is to move people, not to subsidize development, a grand mistake being made by TransLink, the Ministry of Transportation and the Mayors Council.
Generally, buses can deal with traffic flows up to 6,000 to 7,000 persons per hour per direction; trams (LRT) can economically cater to traffic flows from 2,000 pphpd to over 20,000 pphpd; and metro with traffic flows exceeding 15,000 pphpd.
LRT is built as an economic solution on heavily used transit routes because one modern tram (1 tram driver) is as efficient as four to six buses (4 to 6 bus drivers) and for every bus or tram operated one needs four or more people to drive, manage and maintain them. The modern tram can remain in service for over forty years, while the average bus lasts about fifteen years in revenue service; the scale of savings can easily seen in a long term business plan.
Properly built, light rail greatly reduces the operating costs of a transit system.
Currently, TransLink operates both unconventional and conventional light metro, which needs scores of bus lines to feed it customers. This drives up costs because light-metro is much more expensive to build, maintain and operate, when compared to LRT, plus the many extra buses needed to feed the light-metro passengers..
There is a myth, often, repeated that SkyTrain pays its operating costs out of fares. This is false, as GVRD’s 1993 study “The Cost of Transporting People in the BC Lower Mainland“, clearly shows a $157.63 million subsidy paid to just the Expo Line, with more SkyTrain having been built since, this subsidy has greatly increased.
It is no surprise to the astute observer that LRT made light-metro obsolete decades ago.
From the Cost of Transporting People in the BC Lower Mainland – GVRD
Metros are only built when traffic flows along a transit route exceed 15,000 pphpd, where long trains and stations with long platforms make at-grade operation very difficult and/or impossible with the transit line needing to be grade separated either in a subway or elevated on a viaduct. By their very nature, metro are extremely expensive to build, operate and maintain.
There is really no such thing as “rapid transit” or “mass transit” as they are a catch phrases used by unknowledgeable people to describe anything other than a bus. Beware of those who say rapid transit can do this or mass transit can do that because, in most cases the transit line is built to suit political and bureaucratic needs and not the customer needs and achieves very little.
A good example is our own light-metro network that despite around $10 billion now being invested, mode share by car in the region has remained at around 57%, for over 20 years.
In Europe, a new LRT or tram line is not built unless many conditions are met, including a minimum modal shift of about 20% from car to transit, thus it is imperative that new tram line must meet a transit customer’s needs.
Today, there are close to six hundred transit systems around the world that are in the light rail family and the mode is the first choice of transit planners in providing affordable transit solutions for mobility troubled cities.
Modular trams can grow with ridership
Today, modern trams are extremely versatile:
- Low-floor trams are 100% accessible by the mobility impaired without the need of expensive lifts, elevators, and escalators to operate and maintain.
- The industry standard for trams climbing grades is 8%, though trams can easily handle 10% grades. In Lisbon, their heritage trams climb grades of 13.8%.
- Modern modular trams can grow with ridership, thus saving on initial start up costs and new modules can be added when needed
- The “reserved” rights-of-way and priority signalling at intersections enables trams to obtain commercial speeds near of that of a metro.
- Today, trams can operate as streetcars in mixed traffic; as light rail on dedicated rights-of-ways; and regional commuter trains, operating on mainline railway tracks, all on one route.
- Trams are interchangeable, as one companies tram will work with another companies tram in a coupled set, which is impossible with light-metro.
- Historic or heritage trams, restaurant trams, or special use rental trams (weddings, etc.) can be used in with regular service, which is a boon to the tourist industry.
- In Dresden, German, special cargo trams are used, carrying standard containers, which helps keeping commercial trucks off city streets.
- Construction costs range from as low as $5 million per km. for TramTrain or as high or higher than SkyTrain if the tram is built as a light metro like in Seattle, Washington, which over 70% of its route is grade separated either on viaduct or in tunnels.
Lawned rights-of-way and simple station,
the hallmark of a modern European tramway.
Both of TransLink’s major transit projects in the Metro Vancouver are “vanity” projects and both will be very expensive for what they will do. The Broadway subway is being built on a route with traffic flows well under 5,000 pphpd, less than one third the traffic flows needed for a subway, which makes Broadway a candidate for LRT and not a subway.
Surrey’s proposed LRT is nothing more than a poor man’s SkyTrain, designed to feed the already at capacity SkyTrain light-metro system and seemingly being designed for failure!
Both projects, the Broadway subway at about $360 million/km and the Surrey LRT at an astonishing $80 million/km to build are hugely expensive, yet as planned will not reduce traffic congestion, while at the same time drive up the cost of transit in the region!
If the chief goal of LRT development in Surrey is to extend to Langley, there is a much cheaper way in connecting Langley to the Expo Line and that is a diesel multiple unit (DMU) service from Langley to Scott Road Station (via Cloverdale, Johnston Road; King George Highway; and Scott Road) to Scott Road Station. Such a service could be had for under $10 million/km., using Transport Canada approved DMU’s.
This of course makes many at TransLink nervous as it comes very close in duplicating the Rail for the Valley group’s Leewood Study for the reinstatement of the Vancouver to Chilliwack interurban, only using modern signalling and vehicles. As per the 2010 Leewod study, we could connect. Scott Road Station to Chilliwack, providing a three train an hour both ways, service for about $500 million; a Vancouver to Chilliwack service would cost about $1 billion.
I find that many of the people who complain about light rail are ill informed and I find it shocking that many who plan for LRT in the region are equally ill informed about the mode.
The five faux arguments against modern LRT are:
- LRT is slow. No, LRT operating in urban areas has stops or stations every 500 metre to 600 metre apart, optimizing customer demand and as such, tends to have lower commercial speeds than comparable light-metro stations which has stops about twice as far apart, which generally increases total commute times, due longer times to access stations. The maximum speed that LRT or light-metro can operate is around 90 kph.
- LRT causes havoc at intersections. No, LRT must adhere to all signals pertaining to intersections and if a tram driver passes a red light and causes an accident, he/she would be charged criminally and lose his/her job, while a car driver who ignores a red light and causes an accident, merely gets his wrist slap and maybe a moderate fine. Adding ‘red light cameras’ to LRT/road intersections will greatly reduce accidents. U.S. studies show that LRT/road intersections are about ten times safer than road/road intersections.
- LRT is expensive to operate. No, the opposite is true, it is light-metro that is expensive to operate.
- You need more density to build with LRT. No, this argument is based on the B.C. Crown Corporation’s Secretariat’s appraisal of SkyTrain light-metro and erroneously classified LRT as the same as SkyTrain, as rapid transit. Density & LRT are not an issue, it is about traffic flows on a transit route.
- LRT does not have capacity. No, light rail is able carry more people than light-metro. Presently the Expo Line is at capacity, carrying around 15,000 pphpd in peak times; the Canada line, with trains and platforms half the length of the Expo and Millennium Lines, has effectively half the capacity. Light rail, as noted above can handle over 20,000 pphpd if need be.
A comparison of Ottawa’s new LRT and Vancouver’s SkyTrain.
If the Metro Vancouver region wants an affordable public transit alternative to the car, it must abandon all planning for subways and light-metro, as the huge costs involved to build, operate and maintain light-metro greatly increases the cost of ‘rail’ transit, while at the same time, giving the region and transit customer a smaller, expensive and user unfriendly transit system that will do little to alleviate traffic congestion and pollution in the region. It is the failure of light-metro, in part, that is driving the province into building new bridges and highways to accommodate the expected traffic increases, because the regional transit system is deemed little more than a conveyance for the poor, the elderly and students.
The following quote from American transportation consultant and transit expert, Gerald Fox, sums up TransLink’s planning dilemma; ” 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.”
TransLink is deathly afraid of a local “apples to apples” comparison between LRT and light-metro, A.K.A SkyTrain.