Future Funding Implications Threaten Regional Transit Projects.

With the clear evidence that transportation authorities around the world opting to build with LRT, one must pose, again, the question;

Why does TransLink inflate the cost of light Rail?

The simple answer is, “they don’t want to build with light rail, so they inflate the cost to match that of SkyTrain.

From the Briefing Paper of UK Light Rail Schemes.

Acknowledgements Richard Higgins, Arup Steve Warrener and Daniel Satizabal, Transport for Greater Manchester Roger Harrison, Keolis Rory O’Connor, Rail Procurement Agency, Dublin Alastair Richards, AMRT Consult Limited Mat Taylor and Rachel Timmis, Franklin and Andrews

A clarification: the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), used existing German Stadtbahn cars or light rail vehicles, and was built on existing but abandoned, largely elevated rights-of-ways, in the Docklands area of East London, thus the initial cost is much cheaper, compared to later extensions. The Docklands was going to be a true LRT system, like Vancouver, but then Prime Minister Margret Thatcher wanted a “automatic” (like the French VAL and Canadian ALRT) system strictly for political prestige.

Later extensions were considerably more expensive to build.

As we can see the average cost of light rail schemes was £12.2 or CAD $20.65 million. Yet TransLink’s cost for LRT in Surrey was exceeding $165 million per km.! TransLink’s cost estimate for light rail was eight times more than the average cost of light rail in the UK!

Our friend in Ottawa, Mr. Haveacow is now warning that the old formula at the federal infrastructure bank will give only 33% of the cost in future funding, with the province anteing 33%, leaving the municipal taxpayer left funding the the rest!

Regardless who wins everybody was warned this year the federal infrastructure bank will only give a maximum funding of 33% of the project cost unless, it’s a federal agency project (like VIA Rail) or its a infrastructure project that is so expensive the municipality in question can’t realistically support its 33% portion. Even Toronto will have to pay 20% on the next 2 subway projects (total cost $16.5 Billion), that’s $3.3 Billion for just the residents of the City of Toronto on the combined cost of the next 2 subway lines. For one of the projects, York Region will have to put in $530 Million or 20% as well.

The point is that, Translink is going to have to put in much more than they have been recently. The mayor’s council is going to have to find more for Stage 3 of their 10 year transit plan. The 20% they paid for Stage 2 will grow to a minimum of 33% in stage 3, regardless who wins the federal election. The 40% (Federal), 40% (Provincial) and 20% (TransLink) era for rapid transit capital funding in Vancouver is over. This means overly expensive SkyTrain projects will have to be rethought.

Even American Transportation Engineer, Gerald Fox warned us back in 2008 with his critique of the Evergreen line;

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.

A regular corespondent (a professional) told me in earnest about the funding issues;

It is a house of cards. Madmen are in charge.

To be blunt, the region cannot continue to build with light metro and TransLink has zero credibility planning for cheaper options like LRT. The regional politicians have been groomed by TransLink like a con artist grooming a mark. It now seems the Metro mayors are heading directly into a financial iceberg, by continuing to plan for the much more costly light metro, instead of much cheaper and more effective LRT.

Building SkyTrain today, is leaving a debt bomb for tomorrow.


The $4.6 billion Question


$4.6 billion is a lot of cash, but in metro Vancouver, $4.6 billion (well that is the amount funded) buys you a mere 12.8 km of the decidedly obsolete light metro system, now called Movia Automatic Light Metro, used on the Millennium and Expo Lines.

So much money, for so little transit.

It maybe impertinent to point out that the City of Caen, France opened a 16 km tramway which cost a mere CAD $373 million.

So here is a “reality check” on transit.

The public (taxpayer) has anted up over $10 billion so far for the SkyTrain light-metro system. The province/region could only afford a new transit line every decade or so. So now, we have “funded” (read, taxpayer funded) $4.6 billion, which is supposed to build 12.8 km of line. This is almost half the amount of money spent for the entire system to date.

This means the region will get 12.6 km of light metro for the next decade and counting!

So let us look at unfunded projects.

1) The Expo Line rehab, which is needed before the line is extended to Langley to increase capacity beyond its legal operating certificate of 15,000 pphpd. This cost is between $2 billion to $3 billion.

2) The UBC subway extension from Arbutus to UBC, $3 billion to $4 billion.

3) The Langley extension from Fleetwood, $1.6 to $2 billion.

A honourable mention must also be made for:

1) The Canada line rehab, to increase its capacity beyond 9,000 pphpd, $1.5 billion to $2 billion and must be done before any thought of extending the line.

2) The North Shore rapid transit transit link, $5 billion or more including a new crossing.

We are looking at a minimum of $6.6 billion to extend the light metro network to UBC and Langley

Not going to happen any time soon, as the current rate of spending around $2.5 billion every decade to build and extend the light metro network, one can see the current plans completed in about four decades! This is the fools game, the Provincial NDP and Liberals, metro mayors and their various bureaucracies and TransLink is playing with the public!

And what about the Fraser Valley, Vancouver island and the hurtlands, which is just about everywhere else in the province?

Well, it seems they can whistle in the wind, the majority of seats for the legislature are in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

As our most decidedly dishonest Mayors and bureaucrats promise transit nirvana, the reality is that Vancouver and surrey will get light-metro extensions which will do little alleviating congestion and will further balkanize our bus system which now is designed to feed the light metro to pretend it is successful!

As the current light metro system has done little in attracting the motorist from the car, building more and expecting different results, for the taxpayer , is scary stupid.

And then there are the operating costs, which is about $400 million annually for the light metro system, no one has given a thought to that. Extending the light metro network to UBC and Langley  will add at least another $100 million to the annual SkyTrain subsidy

Climate change be damned we are building light metro to placate land speculators and land developers by building light metro to act as a driver for condo towers and easy profits for political friends. Political payoffs come before the taxpayer’s ability to pay and Climate Change in BC.

I am gobsmacked at the base hypocrisy, or worse dishonesty by our regional and provincial politicians on transit.


Could the Broadway subway become another Charleroi? Huge costs to build, no money to operate it and is left to rot unused for decades.


Mott MacDonald To Study Major New Bridge For Vancouver

Interesting news indeed and maybe the proposed bridge will supplant a new tunnel across the Fraser by a few more years.

From the Global Construction Review.



Mott MacDonald to study major new bridge for Vancouver

7 October 2019 | By GCR Staff

UK-headquartered engineering consultant Mott MacDonald has been picked to study the technical feasibility of a major infrastructure scheme in Vancouver, Canada: a high-capacity fixed-link transit crossing over the Burrard Inlet.

Politicians believe such a link is needed to ease traffic congestion building up between Vancouver and the growing cities on the inlet’s North Shore, including West Vancouver and North Vancouver.

Urbanisation there has historically followed a single-family dwelling model with the car assumed as the dominant mode of transport. But as the cities have grown, congestion has increased on the inlet’s two road bridges, including the famous Lion’s Gate Bridge.

“Traffic is a significant problem for people on the North Shore and finding solutions is important to our government,” said Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure for the province of British Columbia (BC). “This feasibility study will explore ways to connect our communities better, shorten commute times and cut down on carbon pollution.”

Expected to finish in 2020, Mott MacDonald’s study will be undertaken in two stages.

The first will look at possible options for a new fixed link considering topography, geotechnical and structural aspects, as well as its cost and ridership projections. Out of this will emerge a short list of alignment options for the link.

The second stage would provide a more detailed engineering and planning review of the short-listed options. Affordable housing will also be evaluated.

“Years of hikes in housing costs have forced people to live further from where they work, resulting in longer commutes and traffic congestion issues,” said Bowinn Ma, a local member of BC’s legislative assembly and chair of a transportation planning committee.

Mary-Ann Booth, mayor of West Vancouver, said: “A fixed link for rapid transit will take years to implement, so we need to start thinking about it now.”

Image: Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, with its two existing road bridges including the Lion’s Gate Bridge in the distance (Flying Penguin/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Massey Tunnel In The News

(Courtesy Integrity BC)

Here we go again department.

Once again the Massey Tunnel is in the news and every political hobby-horse is in play!

Delta South MLA, farmer Ian Paton, wants the original Liberal inspired 10 lane bridge, which somehow will magically fix gridlock, while at the same time ignoring the fact that there is no new bridge crossing the North Arm of the Fraser river to South Vancouver/Burnaby. This means highway 99 in Richmond will be turned into a massive parking lot.

So, for three or four billion dollars we will have moved gridlock about 5 km.

It does not matter a bridge or tunnel unless another bridge or tunnel is built from Richmond to South Vancouver/Burnaby, gridlock will reign supreme.

The following map is nothing more than a conceptual idea what should be done as what the Ministry of Transportation wanted to do back in the 90′s before the Liberal kow-towed to the Port Authority to remove the perfectly good tunnel so Cape Max. tankers and colliers  could travel up the Fraser to load Montana coal and Braken oil.

Those plans are now dead and so should the push for replacing the Massey tunnel!

The real issue is that TransLink, as incompetent as ever, has failed to provide a user friendly bus service from South Delta to Vancouver and the same is also true about buses from South Surrey/Whiterock. This is because of a very questionable agreement between TransLink and the SNC Lavalin lead consortium operating the Canada line P-3. This secret agreement forces all Richmond, South Delta, South Surrey and Whiterock buses to forcefully transfer customers onto the Canada Line at Bridgeport Station to pretend the under-built, grossly expensive Canada Line is somehow successful.

That’s right, SNC Lavalin involved in another transit fiasco. Is there not one politician who not afraid to rid ourselves of this loathsome company?

Maybe a daily 15 minute 602 service, from 6 am to midnight  from Tsawwassen to downtown Vancouver, would attract a portion of car drivers from South Delta, as it is the kind of service transit customers want!

At present, TransLink and the mayor’s Council on Transit and the provincial NDP (as well as the Liberals) have shown zero interest in improving South Fraser bus service. All they care about is building a politically prestigious bridge for photo-ops before an election.

(Courtesy  Integrity BC – green is the George Massey tunnel))

As one can see, the demand for traffic using the Massey tunnel has hovered around the 80,000 for over thirty years. This should pose some very interesting questions for the Bridge Lobby, which has been so successful in deliberately misstating their case to the mainstream media; especially the old saw that gridlock is growing yearly, which it is obviously not!

Is it not time for honest debate and just as honest planning?

The SkyTrain Dream Collapsing

So, despite the hype and hoopla of SkyTrain being a driver for increased density, it is now being seen as the harbinger of urban sprawl as affordable housing is demolished and in its place unaffordable condos in towers are built.

As rents exceed income and combined incomes of families (one now needs an income of $140,000 a year to afford an average new downtown condo), poorer families escape to the transit  poor ‘burbs’, where housing is affordable.

The city it seems, can only get more market rentals at presumably unaffordable rates and there is no real benefit, except low income families fleeing the City Vancouver.

So, what do metro mayor’s do, they double down build more of the hugely expensive MALM proprietary light metro of course, to be used as a driver to tear down more affordable housing to build more unaffordable housing. This is called renoviction in polite society; in not so polite society it is called profiteering.

$4.6 billion to build 12.8 km of light metro on routes that do not have the ridership to sustain it, only shows the complete ignorance of our regional mayors, the Minister of Transportation, the minister responsible for TransLink, TransLink’s CEO and TransLink’s planners, and the Engineering society as a whole!

Such wilful ignoring of the facts boils down to malfeasance on a grand scale.

In just a short decade from now,  civic and provincial politicians are going to wake from their transit stupor, too late, and see the City Vancouver as a vast wasteland for the very rich and the very poor, with roads and highways choked with commuters driving from where living is affordable to work where it is unaffordable and the $20 billion of taxpayer’s money spent on the light metro system  will be seen as another politically driven mega-project gone wrong.

We must go back to the basics, only seven of the now called MALM proprietary railways have been sold, with only three being seriously used for urban transport. Not one has been sold in over ten years and Metro Vancouver is the only region in the world that exclusively uses light metro for urban transport.

In an age of unprecedented investment in urban transport, no one has copied Vancouver or its exclusive use of light metro and now it is embarrassing apparent why!



Lewis N. Villegas

Mr. Villegas has a degree in architecture from UBC (B Arch); a diploma in Building Technology from BCIT; and a bachelor in Liberal Arts from SFU. He has practiced since 1985, completing several downtown revitalization projects in the Lower Mainland and throughout British Columbia worked 3 years as a consultant to LCA Portland, a new urbanism firm.



The City of Vancouver led the way on Regional Planning for maintaining ‘our high quality of life’ building the Skytrain-and-Towers; hosting a Class B Expo (1986) and the Winter Olympics (2010). Now we are feeling the blows of serious errors in planning:

  • Business counts are the lowest in 10 years;
  • There is an out-migration of middle-income families looking for affordable housing;
  • Mentally ill, street-involved citizens are being housed in tents at Oppenheimer Park;
  • Streets and the sidewalks almost everywhere are in a bad state of disrepair; and
  • The school system is ‘sputtering’ at the elementary and high school levels for lack of funding.
  • … Could bankruptcy be next?

The Regional Plans singled out for special attention the single family house—denigrating it as the agent of sprawl—and the private automobile—berating it for polluting the air and causing congestion. Yet, the drafters of the Regional Plans completely missed identifying the electric car as the ‘Urban Innovation of the Century.’ A new technology that will clean the air and make of the ‘Age of Combustion’ a bygone era.

Cities looking to succeed in the present climate must embrace the new technology and leverage it into a bright, green future. As well, the failed ideologies of the Regional Plans must be let go.

Following on the direction of the regional government, for over 30 years, Vancouver councils went about finding ways for discouraging automobile use—including taxing fuel, hiking parking fees, and closing road lanes to cars. They also set about redrawing neighborhood plans to identify potential tower sites. The concrete-and-glass behemoths are energy hogs with huge carbon footprints that cannot compete with the vernacular building forms in the new, combustion-free era. City initiatives based on the failed Regional Plans have rained unwanted results in the neighborhoods while failing to reduce traffic congestion, or deliver clean air. Then, there is the problem that the Regional Plans—far from sustaining ‘our high quality of life’—have driven us head-long into a housing crisis. There is more pollution everyday, and more traffic congestion. Sometimes the arterials are choked all day long. But, now—and for over 20 years—median income households cannot afford to own a house in this city. That condition has now spread from the centre to blanket the entire region.

The effects of the failed Regional Plans are clearly visible in Downtown Vancouver. Here, the new restrictions and closures have hung up a big metaphorical sign proclaiming, “Downtown is Not Open for Business.” If you can’t get here by walking, or on transit, then don’t bother to come at all. In response, people have stayed away in droves. The loss of affordable housing in the downtown core has further stymied business growth. The empty luxury condominiums pay city-tax, but they don’t spend dollars at downtown shops.

Turning downtown into a residential and hotel concrete tower Nirvana for the tourism and convention trade—complete with casinos for Chinese money laundering—has caused the regional capital to lose its competitive advantage. Save for tourists and conventioneers, and office workers at lunch hour, visitors arriving downtown feel unwelcome and many have simply stopped coming. One visible result is papered-over storefronts in increasing numbers on Robson Street and Gastown.

The bars from the 2010 Olympics never closed down after the crowds went home. Granville Street Mall today is an unrecognizable mutation of its former self. Block after block of Granville Street is host to booze joints and boozers. Not exactly an exemplary model of supporting high levels of social functioning; not exactly a place to take the family. The sidewalks and the streets around Granville Mall are filthy. The trees were cut down for the Olympics. The new trees are small and scrawny. And everywhere the traffic is a mess. We did all this to build towers—to add density! Yet, Downtown the residential towers are mostly dark, setting the mood for the entire place.

Meanwhile, the same animus driving against private transportation has government falling behind on building Modern Tram and automobile infrastructure—including new highways and bridges. These missing projects are now the new drag on the economy.

The Canada Line P-3, A Template for Graft and Corruption in Montreal

As we all should know, the Caisse is the main finical backer of the Canada Line faux P-3 and using the BC Liberal P-3 process as a template, the Caisse is now funding Montreal’s highly controversial REM light metro project.

As built, the Canada Line is a dwarf metro system that uses electrical multiple units running in pairs and with the station platforms are a mere 40 metres long (half the length of the Expo and Millennium lines), gives the Canada line roughly half, the capacity as the other two light metro lines.

Has Vancouver’s mainstream media done any investigative reporting on who owns the property along the Canada line? What profits were made and by who,by building a substandard metro.

Has there been any investigation of property deals being made on the Broadway subway? Who is making substantial profits on the $3 billion transit line?

In short, NO! Our media does not do any investigative reporting on transit issues and pretends they don’t exist.

There is more investigative reporting done by the Montreal Gazette on this one issue than the Vancouver Sun has done on the SkyTrain light metro system since it was forced upon the taxpayer in the early 80′s.

Sadly, light-metro lines are built for one reason only, land development. Translation, quick profits for political insiders, land developers and land speculators.

What is being exposed in Montreal, is kept well hidden by our media.


Caisse’s stake in A40 REM station troubling, probe finds

Deep financial ties in St-Laurent industrial enclave leave critics asking: Was the stop chosen to serve transit or real estate priorities?

Updated: September 23, 2019

The future A40 station of the Réseau express métropolitain will rise on a site where its builder, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, lost money in a multi-million-dollar real estate boondoggle it tried to conceal in the mid-1990s.

But that isn’t the only thing the Caisse, the province’s largest pension fund investor, hasn’t told Quebecers about the location for the station on the $6.3-billion, 67-kilometre automated transit network it will own and operate.

Unbeknownst to the public, which is paying half of the cost to build the REM, the Caisse has been investing in the industrial enclave that surrounds the future “Station A40” for decades, an investigation by the Montreal Gazette has found.

In fact, the Caisse’s real estate ties in what’s known as the Hodge-Lebeau neighbourhood, an area hemmed in by Highways 40 and 15 and the railway tracks on the edge of St-Laurent borough, run long in terms of time span, far in terms of square footage and deep in terms of financial investment.

And yet three transportation experts consulted by the Montreal Gazette agree that the A40 stop, which the Caisse plans to shoehorn in between the existing Mont-Royal and Montpellier stations of the Deux-Montagnes rail line, isn’t even necessary. The Caisse plans the new stop as a transfer point for passengers on the Mascouche commuter train line, but the experts say the transfer can be done without adding a station.

The newspaper’s findings raise a troubling question, say critics of the REM and its model as a publicly funded, privately owned public transit project: Did the Caisse choose the path for the REM and the A40 station to serve mass transit priorities or to maximize real estate gains?

“I think there are hidden real estate interests,” said Jean-François Turcotte, a rail transportation specialist who presented a brief opposing the project at the 2016 public hearings on the REM held by the province’s independent environmental-impact assessment board, the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement.

“You can ask whether there were other places to put a transfer station. The answer is yes. And in terms of distance, it’s much too close to the Mont-Royal and Montpellier stations to have a third station. It’s not efficient.”

“Paradoxically, in the West (Island), no REM stations are planned at St-Jean and St-Charles Blvds., two major transportation corridors. No way to develop real estate in these areas, I suppose?”

No one would guess at the Caisse’s omnipresence in the Hodge-Lebeau neighbourhood to look at the sprawling lots occupied by low-rise buildings dating mostly from the 1960s and 1970s — and neither would anyone checking the current ownership of the buildings.

Yet a property search reveals the Caisse once owned about 20 buildings in the 1.5-square-kilometre enclave through numbered companies and other subsidiaries. It has also dabbled in mortgage-lending on some others.

The records also reveal the Caisse transitioned in the late 1990s from ownership to background involvement as a mortgage lender or shareholder — or both — for the area’s two most prolific building owners.

Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust, one of the largest owners of non-residential properties in Canada, owns a numbered company that in turn owns nine of the properties that once belonged to the Caisse on the east side of the Deux-Montagnes railway tracks that cleave through the neighbourhood. The holdings include a row of buildings on Deslauriers St., directly across the street from the future station that will straddle the tracks.

The Caisse, meanwhile, owns a nearly five per cent stake in the publicly traded Cominar.

The Caisse sold the Deslauriers buildings to Dundee Real Estate in 1999 and financed Dundee’s purchase. Cominar became the owner in 2012.

The other major owner in the enclave is Olymbec, a private company with properties across Quebec and Canada. The Caisse financed Olymbec’s purchase of nine buildings in the enclave, most of them on Stinson and Hodge Sts. and on Montpellier Blvd. on the west side of the tracks, in 1996, 1997 and 1999.

Olymbec received new financing in 2016 and 2017 from the Caisse and its mortgage-lending subsidiary, Otéra Capital, for all but one of the buildings.

Olymbec also bought a building on the west side without Caisse financing in 2015.

Besides the Olymbec properties, the Caisse has had financial interests in four other buildings on the west side of the tracks near the future A40 station that its subsidiary, CDPQ Infra Inc., will build for the REM.

And SNC-Lavalin, which counts the Caisse as its largest shareholder, also owns a building in the Hodge-Lebeau enclave, on the east side. SNC-Lavalin is part of the consortium that won the engineering and construction contracts for the REM.

The upshot is that the Caisse has had financial interests in 37 buildings in the neighbourhood over the years, about one-third of all of the properties in the area.

Currently, the Caisse has financial interests in 18 buildings in the enclave through its mortgage-lending and shares in companies, including properties that are as close as can be to the future A40 station without being expropriated for it.

In real estate parlance, that’s known as “synergy.”

And a major redevelopment of the enclave tied to the REM is indeed being quietly planned, the Montreal Gazette has learned.


Osaka – The City of Rugby And Trams

Osaka, a Japanese city famous for rugby and trams.

Hankai Tramway Co., Ltd.  (Hankai Denki Kidō Kabushiki Gaisha) is a company which owns two tramway lines in the cities of Osaka and Sakai, Osaka, Japan. The parent company is Nankai Electric Railway Co., Ltd.

Osaka prefecture’s last remaining streetcar, known affectionately as “Chin Den,” is still used by the people of Osaka today. There are two lines, the Hankai Line, which runs from Ebisucho, just steps away from Tsutenkaku to the area in front of Sakai’s Hamadera Station, and the Uemachi Line which links Tennoji Station with Sumiyoshi. The Hankai Line’s predecessor, run by the former Hankai Tramway Co., Ltd. began operation in 1911. Meanwhile, the Uemachi Line’s predecessor began running in 1900 under the operation of the Osaka Carriage and Tramway Co., Ltd. As the name suggests, at the time, horse-drawn carriages ran along the rails. Along the line is Abe no Seimei Shrine, said to be the birthplace of Abe no Seimei, a famous ‘onmyoji’ yin-yang diviner, as well as Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine, also known as Settsu Ichinomiya. Along the route, you’ll also find Akiko Yosano and Sen no Rikyu’s Sakai Plaza of Rikyu and Akiko, the Sakai City Traditional Crafts Museum, Nanshuji Temple, Daianji Temple, and many other famous temples. Also recommended is the one day “Teku Teku Kippu” free pass, ¥600 for adults and ¥300 for children.

Ottawa’s LRT Is Opening

Ottawa’s LRT is Opening.

The term choo-choo, used by ill informed opponents of light rail is standard across the country but really has no basis as LRT remains one of the most effective way to move people.

The problem in North America is that our universities are still mired in the 1950′s and all subjects pertaining to urban transport support almost mythical solutions. Canadian Universities to not teach modern public transportation, nor to they offer degrees in urban transport and sadly most graduates from Canadian universities, with engineering and planning degrees largely remain ignorant of light rail.

If modern public transport was taught at universities, there would not be the misinformed angst by Engineers and Planners.

Today, light rail, in its various forms from streetcars and trams, light rail itself or tramtrain is both the most popular and safest mode of public transport in the world. Built properly the modern tram has a proven record in attracting the motorist from the car: a record envied but not matched by those championing various proprietary and more expensive transit modes.

Alas, in Vancouver our blinkered and inept band of  politicians, still living in the 1950′s, continue to pursue gadgetbahen, such as Movia Automatic Light Metro (was once called ICTS; ALRT; ALM; ART; Innovia) and not allow the much cheaper and more flexible LRT from being built.

Congratulations to Ottawa on its opening of light rail.



LRT’s early champions mark bittersweet victory

‘Cuckoo choo-choo’ finally arrives, but advocates ponder what might have been

CBC News ·

As politicians cut the ribbon on Ottawa’s Confederation Line on Saturday, there were dozens of public transit advocates quietly watching from the sidelines, knowing they’d all had some small part to play in the decades-long struggle for light rail in Ottawa.

“It’s hard to believe, but it has taken 30 years,” said longtime LRT proponent and former city councillor Peter Harris, who remembers when the crusade began.

Attitudes change. It’s just an evolution of thinking.- Peter Harris, former Ottawa city councillor“That was back in 1989. The region of Ottawa-Carleton had a whole different philosophy on transportation. They were sold on the bus transitway. They had plans in the works to do expressways for cars.”

Harris believes LRT’s arrival could have come much sooner if there had been the political will.

“I opposed the bus tunnel, and I was told at the time I should know better.”

Unsung heroes

David Jeanes is the former president of Transport 2000, later renamed Transport Action Canada. (CBC)

David Jeanes, another early proponent of commuter rail, helped launch Transport 2000, later renamed Transport Action Canada, and was front and centre in 1997 when the former regional council finally decided to explore the possibility of LRT.

“Despite the 22 years that have elapsed … I am pleased that we are finally getting a viable system,” Jeanes said. “It includes many elements that I have been one of the first to promote, including the airport extension, which I had proposed back in 2000, the Parkway-Richmond Road routing, which I proposed in 2008, the location of the tunnel portals which I proposed to the task force in 2007, and the retention of a Trillium Line maintenance facility in the vicinity of Walkley Yard.”

There were others along for the ride, Jeanes said, and they became known as Friends of the O-Train.

“Tim Lane, Michael Richardson and Steven Fanjoy were the driving force behind the Friends of the O-Train opposition to a combined bus transitway/LRT across downtown, instead promoting east-west electric LRT only in the core.”

Harris added to the list of citizens who helped shepherd in the LRT era in Ottawa.

“I teamed up with Michel Haddad and Greg Ross, and we formed Citizens for Alternative Transit,” Harris said. “We did our research and had a meeting right in regional headquarters. It had about 200 people. And CP Rail sent a representative, Bombardier, Siemens, on what we could do with rail, what had been done in other cities, and I was impressed with the number of people in Ottawa that really knew about rail.”

‘A cuckoo choo-choo’

While the movement had political allies including Coun. Pierre Bourque and Mayor Bob Chiarelli, there was no shortage of opponents, among them Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Gord Hunter, who was concerned about the cost.

“I thought it was a cuckoo idea, a cuckoo choo-choo. It just didn’t make sense to be doing it,” he said.

The City of Gatineau was planning to expand its bus network despite the opportunity to tie into Ottawa’s proposed rail system, and the National Capital Commission said it had no interest in the plan. The head of Ottawa’s airport authority showed a similar lack of enthusiasm.

“Eventually the faces changed, people retired, the head of OC Transpo moved on,” Harris said. “And now the Ottawa airport is for rail. So things change. Attitudes change. It’s just an evolution of thinking. I think support was always there, but you had to somehow facilitate the discussion, and I think that’s what the volunteers and the community have done over the years.”

Still, Harris can’t help thinking about what might have been. Growing suburbs such as Barrhaven and Greely continue to grapple with gridlock, with no relief in sight. Scrapping the previous light rail plan, which cost the city millions in legal penalties, has put any solution even further out of reach.

“The route was already there. It would have been finished a long time ago,” Harris said. “In hindsight, I think that was a mistake. But there’s not much we can do about it now.”

Caen Opens Its New 16km, $373 Million Tram/LRT System

The new 16.2 km tramway in Caen, France has opened after a nineteen month build.

Granted the new tramway has used the the previous trouble prone, 15.7 km,  TVR rubber tire guided bus line, which opened in 20o2 and abandoned in 2017.

The Euro €260 million (CAD $373 million) tramway opened six weeks earlier than forecast and now carries over 64,000 passengers a day. The previous TVR guided bus system carried 42 thousand passengers a day.

The Caen tramway operates three Lines and serves 37 stations.

Twenty of the twenty-six, 33 metre Citidis 305 are used at one time, providing a 10 minute service throughout the day on the three line system.

The 26 vehicles cost €52 million ($73.3 million) and the OHE and substations were reused from the previous TVR operation.

And just to think, Metro Vancouver is spending $4.6 billion to build 12.8 km the dated Movia automatic Light metro system.

Streets Paved With Gold – Transit Planning is Driven By Politics

Footnotes: The author,  Adrienne Tanner,  was city editor at the Sun, a newspaper that prevented any real reporting of our regional transit issues and took orders from back east to report “SkyTrain” in a positive light. As well, there was little investigative reporting on SNC-Lavalin’s B.C. operations.

Detroit’s ALRT system officially called a People Mover (locally known as the “Mugger mover”) is a 4.73 km single track loop sold as an ICTS system. Today, only about 4,300 people a day use the system.

So, what else is new.

The decision to use the then renamed ALRT system instead of LRT on the first “rapid transit” line in Metro Vancouver was a crass politcal deal between then Social Credit Premier Bill Bennett, to obtain the famous Bill Davis Blue Machine, to win an election. The Social Credit Party, at the time, held a one seat majority.

The Big Blue Machine, a cadre of advertising, public relations, and polling professionals who advised the Ontario premier during campaigns and in government and in turn, the Bill Davis Conservative government sold BC the Ontario Crown Corporation Urban Transit Development Corporation’s obsolete and unsalable Intermediate Capacity Transit System, renamed Advanced Light Rail Transit for the benefit of the Premier of BC.

The Social Credit won the next election and we have been building with ALRT or its variants ever since, except for one exception, the Canada Line, which was a Gordon Campbell driven faux P-3 project.

The NDP were induced to build more of ALRT, now called ART with the promise of jobs, jobs, jobs, with a fabrication plant built in BC.

The Canada line was phony BC Liberal P-3 project which in the end, seemed more like a giveaway to SNC Lavalin and the Quebec Caisse.

Politics dictated that LRT was not to be used.

The Evergreen line was again ART because it was the unfinished portion of the millennium line, as the mini-=metro was far too expensive to build to the Tri Cities.

More politics, more squandering of money.

The present plan to spend $4.6 billion for 12.8 km of now called MALM (Movia Automatic Light Metro, the most recent renaming of the now obsolete ICTS/ALRT system) is all about civic penis envy, as the former NDP MP, and now Vision Lite mayor of Vancouver continues the city’s quest to build subways.

“Because subways make Vancouver world class.”

The argument that there is not the ridership to justify a subway anywhere in Metro Vancouver is politely ignored, unless one works for TransLink, then you are fired if you are an employee or sent to Coventry by the mainstream media.

Tut-tut, facts you say, pity.

The Mayor of Surrey want light metro because Vancouver has three and as to the cost, who cares, he is the civic potentate and believes he can stop the tide and light rail for that matter.

Zwei was told some years ago by a European transit specialist;

“Vancouver’s approach for planning regional transit was unprofessional and extremely expensive. From our viewpoint, it seems your politicians truly believe your streets are paved with gold.”


The LRT plans for metro Vancouver. For the cost of LRT from downtown Vancouver to Richmond, Lougheed Mall and Whally, the region got ALRT to New Westminster.

Adrienne Tanner
Special to The Globe and Mail

In late August, at the beginning of the pre-federal election hype, TransLink’s Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation is raising a second rallying cry for a traffic congestion relief fund.

The idea, originally pitched in the spring by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, makes infinite sense. It calls for the federal government to stop project-by-project transit investments and instead contribute $3.4-billion annually to a fund that would be divvied up among Canadian cities based on ridership.

For TransLink, it would amount to a contribution of $375-million each year.

That amount of stable funding would allow TransLink to deliver on long-term plans and essentially strip the politics out of transportation funding. While this may

sound reasonable by any measure, it’s unlikely to happen.

Transportation funding has forever been driven by politicians seeking headlines for projects in ridings they hope to keep or win. And that’s too bad because it leaves municipalities continuing to scrounge to pay for less glamorous transit necessities from other sources.

TransLink is required by law to plan 10 years ahead, which is far longer than any election cycle. The lengthy horizon is necessary because transportation projects are so expensive that funding for any region typically only allows for one or two at a time. The SkyTrain line from Surrey to Langley is expected to cost $3.12-billion; Vancouver’s train to the University of British Columbia could top $4-billion. The price tags on both projects are so high that so far, funding is only in place to build both to the half-way mark.

While they are being built, those plum projects for Surrey and Vancouver will suck up most of the available cash, leaving other Lower Mainland mayors waiting for their turn. The mayors are only willing to be patient if they can look at a long-term plan and see their projects moving higher in the lineup.

However, transit planning is predicated on contributions from municipal, provincial and federal levels of government. And when the higher levels of government jump the queue to pick and choose projects, long-term plans fall by the wayside.

This presents challenges for the less sexy necessities, like maintenance centres for transit lines — items which need funding, but don’t lend themselves to flashy ribbon-cuttings, says Johnathan Cote, who chairs the mayors’ council. And that’s where the trouble lies. Big ticket transit projects, like trains and SeaBuses, are big hits with the public – you might recall the lineups of riders keen to try out the Canada Line on opening day in 2010. It’s understandable that federal and provincial politicians, who always have their eye on the next election, like nothing better than to announce an attention-grabbing new train line.

Buses, which form the backbone of the transit system, don’t have the same cachet, so garner less federal investment.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart points out the opportunity for municipalities to pull together any kind of big transit or housing deal is far shorter than the four years between elections.

“It’s a very short window when all three levels of government are stable enough to sit down and plan without thinking about, ‘who’s going to vote for me.’”

Mr. Stewart supported the FCM congestion fund request even though he doubts it will come to fruition, and feels transit is still secondary to housing on Vancouver’s needs list. He lobbied for the FCM to launch a pre-election push on housing but lost because outside of Vancouver and Toronto, housing isn’t top of mind for most Canadian cities.

To be sure, transit is a key election issue in the Lower Mainland – total ridership increased by seven per cent in 2018, to reach an all-time high. Mr. Stewart, himself a former NDP MP, is using this pre-election window to meet with all parties to stress how much Vancouverites depend on transit.

The parties have all been receptive, he says. However, the real work will come post-election to make sure promises are kept.

It would be nice if the money was delivered through a beefed-up congestion relief fund. But it’s more likely that the politically motivated announcements will continue. And perhaps it doesn’t matter that much. Ultimately what counts is that transit investment continues so we can keep moving in ways that simultaneously reduce congestion and greenhouse gasses.