How to build light rail in our cities without emptying the public purse

An interesting read and quite pertinent to our transit situation in the lower mainland.

Both the BRT and SkyTrain Lobby’s have so perverted the concept of modern light rail, to support their own projects, that the concept of affordable LRT has all but disappeared from the TransLink lexicon.

The following quote; “……….while cities with rubber-wheeled public transport continue to be dominated by cars and urban sprawl“, is so true of Metro Vancouver, where congestion is on the rise, yet politicians and planners opt for remedies that will further exacerbate the situation.

How to build light rail in our cities without emptying the public purse


Light rail is good for cities, but it’s also expensive, which is why many Australian cities have opted for buses instead. But there is a way to get top-drawer public transport using private dollars.


The way forward? Light rail helps urban development far more than roads do – the challenge is how to pay for it. AAP Image/Dave Hunt


In cities all around Australia, light rail is being considered as a solution to a range of urban problems. Perth, Newcastle, Parramatta, Bendigo, Canberra, Cairns and Hobart have all considered trying to do what many European and American cities have done – create new development around light rail.

Often, though, the high costs of these projects mean that the debate can soon become a question of whether buses might do the job just as well. But what if private financing could allow the preferred option of light rail to stay on the table?

Advocates of the cheaper bus mass transit option might ask whether there is truly any fundamental difference between steel wheels and rubber ones. My answer is that it’s not just a question of trams versus buses – it’s really an issue of rail-based versus road-based urban development. The former can attract private financing, while the latter does not.

Driving development

Most of the world’s urban development over the past 50 years has been road-based. The assumption has been that most people will drive, with the odd bus laid on to pick up those who don’t.

Yet in recent years there has been a revival of rail-based urban development, which brings reduced traffic, creates more walkable and lively places to live and work, and most of all attracts developers and financiers to enable denser, mixed-use development.

Perth’s beleaguered MAX light rail project – now mothballed in favour of a bus rapid transit service – was designed to deliver precisely these benefits. But when the bus lobby sidles in and whispers “we can do exactly the same for half the price”, they get a sympathetic ear from transport planners who are trained to get people efficiently from A to B, without thinking about whether they are also delivering good urban development.

Rubber-wheeled public transport does not create dense, mixed-use urban centres. Having examined examples around the world, I have found none that can be claimed to have resulted in more focused urbanity apart from already dense third world cities where BRT’s have been successful in attracting patronage as they get people out of traffic. In the United States, the past 20 years of dramatic growth in public transport has seen light rail grow by 190% and heavy rail by 52%, while bus transport has contracted by 3%.

It is no surprise that developers, banks and governments in developed cities have returned to light and heavy rail to help regenerate urban centres, while cities with rubber-wheeled public transport continue to be dominated by cars and urban sprawl. On current trends, Perth itself could conceivably turn into a 240 km sprawl stretching from Myalup to Lancelin, most of it made of nothing but car-dependent housing – more Mad Max than MAX.

Perth’s planners know that they must redevelop and create activity centres, but they do not control the decisions on transport. Transport planners, meanwhile, do not seem to see that their choices have impacts that go beyond simple modes of transport.

Enter the private sector

Here is my possible solution, which Infrastructure Australia has previously tried to get state governments to adopt: get the private sector involved in the planning stage, as well as the delivery and operations, of any light rail project. Light rail lends itself to private-sector involvement, but only if the development outcomes being sought are built into the whole project, rather than being an afterthought.

The model for Infrastructure Australia’s approach was the A$1 billion Gold Coast Light Rail, which runs through areas that had lots of potential for redevelopment. Thus the funding was provided by a public-private partnership, with expressions of interest sought from private bidders to design, finance, build, own, operate and develop land as a basis for funding.

Government base funds and a general set of guidelines were delivered and bids were sought. Five consortia from around the world competed on this basis and included most of the world’s main consulting groups with expertise in light rail.

However, the group of transport experts (mostly main roads engineers) set up by the Queensland Government to deliver the light rail argued that they did not have the expertise to manage the land-development part of the exercise, and successfully appealed to avoid this approach. Instead, funding was delivered through an annual transport levy across the whole Gold Coast local government area.

The private sector consortia were well prepared for the land-development option but of course went ahead without it. Keolis won the tender and delivered a first-class light rail. As soon as the route was announced, developers from around the world bought up all the best sites and are now delivering them, albeit for their own interests rather than channelling back to the project.

This is the way to do it if you have tax funds to provide the capital and the operational expenses, and if you can find the initial public funding. But most politicians today say they do not have sufficient government funds for a light rail so they need to consider the cheaper bus option. Do we have to take second best?

The rubber-wheel option is never going to deliver the regeneration that many of Australia’s cities need. We need to be brave enough to go for the better option, the rail system, and that means embracing the public-private partnership financing model.

Bringing the private sector on board

To go for a full private-sector approach you must integrate redevelopment into every stage of the project. This is how you do it. Call for expressions of interest for private companies to design, build, finance, own and operate the light rail link and, crucially, make sure this includes land-development options (rather than letting in outside developers). This would help to create funds that can be used to finance and to operate the system.

Government needs to contribute a base grant and an operational fund that could be more specifically focused along the areas where the biggest benefits are felt in the corridor itself, where land values will go up most. Private expertise will ensure that the best sites are chosen for the light rail route. These land-value increases will flow through taxes into treasury and can be set aside in a dedicated light rail fund for ongoing operations and/or for raising finance (rather than instituting a city-wide levy as the Gold Coast did).

The approach, called tax increment financing, allows infrastructure to be built where it can be shown that the taxes would not have been generated without it. A bus instead of a light rail would not generate such land-value increases, and hence the extra tax dollars would not flow. For instance, Perth’s southern rail line raised land values around stations by 42% over 5 years and could have raised 60-80% of the capital cost if tax increment financing had been used.

Across Australia we should accept that there is a real choice over steel or rubber wheeled development. We can choose MAX over Mad Max. But are we brave enough to go one step further than the Gold Coast and involve private financing?

Some might object to our public transport being in private hands, but if we manage it well, this kind of partnership with private expertise can deliver beautiful cities as well as beautiful trains.

BRT- “just like light rail only cheaper” – NOT!

For Bus Rapid Transit, to be real BRT is must either have its own road or busway or it must be guided, using an exclusive guideway. Express buses, which operate in mixed traffic, with autos and commercial vehicles suffer the same issues as streetcars only slightly worse. Streetcars are cheaper to operate.

In the UK, transit officials in Cambridgeshire were persuaded by the BRT Lobby to build a BRT line instead of using rail on an abandoned railway formation.

First touted to be cheaper than rail, the Cambridgeshire busway is now looking like becoming a money pit, compared with rail.

What should be remembered is that when politicians and bureaucrats start touting BRT as a “rapid transit solution“, one should consider that what is being offered is a very expensive pig in a poke.

‘Deteriorating’ Cambridgeshire guided busway may need to be ripped up

10 April 2015

Guided bus,

Guided bus,

The guided busway may need to be ripped up and re-done, a county council official has warned.

The busway, which runs between Cambridge and Huntingdon, has had 11 million passengers since it opened four years ago, but it has been plagued with defects.

A technical report six months ago said the busway, which was built by contractor BAM Nuttall, had £31 million worth of defects – in some places the track has risen four inches – which need to be addressed to tackle the “deteriorating” ride quality.

Next weekend, the section from Addenbrookes’s Hospital to Trumpington will be shut for maintenance.

Speaking to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Bob Menzies, service director for strategy and development at Cambridgeshire County Council, said they may be forced to put rubber pads under every beam of the track.

“The ride quality has deteriorated since it opened, and the joints are moving. The last thing we want to do is to have to do this work. But on the other hand we have to make sure it’s maintained and kept safe,” he said.

“It’s a real shame we have this problem, that we’re having to close it over a weekend, having to divert the buses round, and we many have to do more of this in the future.

“Our experts’ view is that eventually we’ll need to fix it all. And it’s a real shame.

“If we (the county council) have to we’ll lift every beam up and put these rubber pads back under each one of them as they should have been done properly in the first place.”

Replacing beams cost several thousand pounds at a time, so replacing 6 million joints could add up to a “very big figure”, Mr Menzies admitted.

The council has already spent £1 million on legal action against Bam Nuttall in a bid to get them to take responsibility over the repairs, Mr Menzies added.

He said: “What we believe should happen is Bam Nuttall should come back and fix it all, and get the ride quality back to where it should have been.

“They’re quite clearly defects. It quite clearly doesn’t comply with the terms of the contract. I’m absolutely clear about that, and so are our lawyers. There’s six thousand joints along the busway – that could add up to a very big figure if you have to fix every one over the course of a number of years. That’s why we’re taking legal action against Bam Nuttall.

“I’d like Bam Nuttall to come clean and accept their responsibilities. But I suspect it won’t. In effect it will take a lot longer than that, knowing the previous history.”


The initial contract between Cambridgeshire County Council and BAM Nuttall was for 130 weeks of work, with the completion date on February 27, 2009.

But the busway construction was not completed until April 2011 and not open for use until August of that year as the council raised concerns about defects along the guideway.

The council instigated the review into the contract after the project ran into problems and delays, resulting in BAM Nuttall, repaying £33million of the £147m costs to settle a long-running dispute about who should pay for the overspend for the concrete route.

The report found BAM Nuttall did not think the design was as complete as it expected it to be when the contract was awarded.

Involving a consultant to review the design was not value for money and removed responsibility from the contractor’s designer, the report added.

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Adios SkyTrain? Bombardier is selling off its rail division.

What would happen if the region continues to plan for SkyTrain, yet there is no SkyTrain?

If a potential buyer for Bombardier’s rail division already has on the market it’s own proprietary railway or railways, they would probably discontinue SkyTrain which has not had a sale in over a decade and with one SkyTrain line due to be decommissioned and replaced with either LRT or a heavy rail metro and another mired in legal problems, prospects for potential sales is minimal.

This could also be the reason for TransLink to repurchase the old MK.2 fabrication plant, in hopes of custom building SkyTrain for future light-metro lines.

All I can say is “I told you so” and let the SkyTrain lobby cry in their beer.

By: Bloomberg, Published on Fri Apr 10 2015

Bombardier Inc. may fetch as much as $5.4 billion if it decides to sell the rail unit that supplies Toronto’s new LRTs and long-delayed streetcars. Its rail unit has played a “stabilizing role” amid the struggles at the company’s aerospace business, according to Alta Corp Capital Inc.

Bombardier is discussing options with bankers about its rail business that could include a full or partial sale of the business or an initial public offering, Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the matter whom it didn’t identify. The shares rose 5.8 per cent at 10:01 a.m. to $2.76 (Cdn.). They have fallen 34 per cent in the past year through Thursday.

The transportation unit is worth as much as $3.50 a share, giving negative value to the aerospace businesses, said Chris Murray, an analyst with AltaCorp Capital, in a telephone interview.

“They are a global player in rail,” Murray said. “It would attract a fair amount of interest.”

RBC Capital Markets analyst Walter Spracklin puts the potential value of Bombardier’s Transportation much lower, at about $1.45 a share, or $3.47 billion.

He bases this on the estimate for 2016 earnings of 10 cents a share from the transportation side, as well as assuming 50 per cent of interest and taxes are applied equally to aerospace and transportation divisions.

“If a more significant portion of the debt is laden” onto Bombardier Aerospace, then the value of Bombardier Transportation “could reach the quoted $5 billion, but we do not view that as prudent nor realistic,” Spracklin wrote in a note to investors.

Isabelle Rondeau, a Bombardier spokeswoman, declined to comment to Bloomberg News on the report and said the company wouldn’t speculate on rumours. She reiterated statements from Bombardier executives who said in February that the company would consider various options and that “everything is on the table.”

A breakup could be the best way for Montreal-based Bombardier to overcome the struggles facing its aerospace business, analysts and investors have said. The rail unit, which includes subway cars, signaling and control equipment, is the healthier part of the company, with 2014 earnings before interest and taxes of $429 million compared with a loss of $995 million at the aerospace unit.

“The transportation group plays a stabilizing role on the earnings profile of the company,” Murray said.

Alain Bellemare, who became chief executive officer in February, is shaking up Bombardier’s leadership team. He announced the replacement of two senior executives Thursday just after new doubts emerged about one of the largest orders for the CSeries.

Repeated delays have pushed the CSeries’ commercial debut to 2016, after an initial target of 2013, and ballooned the development cost of Bombardier’s largest-ever plane to $5.4 billion, at least $2 billion over budget.

A sale of the rail unit would raise questions about how the aerospace businesses would fare on their own, Murray said.

“Short term, it’s maybe a great thing for investors,” he said. “The issue is longer term and what that says about their intention of future project development.”

Light Rail questioned by Langley Township planner – Yesterday’s planning at work!

The same old cliched arguments about modern light rail have surfaced in Langley Township.

What old Zwei finds so tiresome is that the some planners remains so uninformed about SkyTrain light-metro and modern light rail, think both are “rapid transit“.

Transit is only as ‘rapid’ as it is designed to be.

Sadly, the term “rapid transit” is now a catchall phrase that can describe about anything, which TransLink has used with great success in confusing politicians to OK building more SkyTrain.

Of course modern LRT crosses road traffic at intersections, but those intersections are protected by lights and major intersections will include a station or stop for the tram (transit is to pick up and transport customers) and it is the auto and truck drivers, who disobey traffic signals and cause collisions.

This can be rectified to a great extent by having CCTV and red-light cameras at major tram/road intersections, fining those drivers who disobey a traffic light and if one causes a collision with a tram, a one year ban from driving, would deter many people from disobeying a red light. A tram driver who disobeys a red light normally gets sanctioned or fired.

Today road/rail intersections are about ten times safer than road/road intersections.

The Leewood/Rail for the Valley study’s time matrix showed that the travel time from Langley to Scott Road Station, via TramTrain, would be 25 minutes and the time to travel to downtown Vancouver would be another 25 minutes, thus giving a Langley to Vancouver travel time of 50 minutes, unbeatable, even with TransLink’s planning.

It is time for our regional planners to step out of the ‘rubber and asphalt‘ world they live in and join the 21st century as modern light rail in its various forms, is very friendly indeed.

A Alstom Citidis diesel TramTrain in action.

Rapid transit proposal questioned by Langley Township planner

The proposed LRT line to Surrey, set to be in place in about 12 years, will run at street level and won

The proposed LRT line to Surrey, set to be in place in about 12 years, will run at street level and won’t speed up commute times, Langley Township council has been told.

— image credit: TransLink graphic

A TransLink proposal that would use a ground-level light rapid transit (LRT) line to connect Langley and Surrey, rather than extend the elevated SkyTrain system, has been questioned by a senior Township planner, who says the line may not help Langley commuters get to Vancouver and could mean delays for riders and a higher risk of accidents.

In a letter to TransLink obtained by The Times, Langley manager of transportation engineering Paul Cordeiro expresses a number of concerns following a March 9 workshop to begin “Phase 3” planning of proposed light rail lines to Langley and South Surrey.

Based on the discussion at the workshop, it appears commuters won’t be able to use the Langley line to take rapid transit to Vancouver, the Cordeiro letter states.

During the March 9 meeting, “comments were made about the LRT serving a local function” that appear to indicate the line is “not to facilitate Langley to Vancouver regional trips, but instead to predominately serve local trips,” the letter states.

“The framework guiding the design of this project does not appear to be consistent with a regional serving rapid transit line” the letter adds.

It goes on to request that TransLink “clarify the role and function of this major capital project …”

The letter says that the line was originally described as a “rapid transit alternative with slightly longer trip times as compared to the SkyTrain model.”

The letter notes the line would run along Fraser Highway from Surrey into Langley at ground level, requiring the trains to cross several major road intersections, including Highway 15, described as a “high speed” major route and 200 Street, with an estimated 40,000 vehicles a day.

It describes the busy intersections as “major conflict points” and warns  “there is a potential for vehicle-train collisions.”

Cordeiro calls on TransLink to hire a road safety auditor “for assessment of risks at conflict points based on the traffic volume, traffic speed, probability of a collision and the consequences of a collision.”

Cordeiro also expresses doubt about the TransLink estimate that the Langley-to-Surrey trip would take 29 minutes on a ground-level LRT.

“Township staff would like to discuss what steps will be taken to ensure that this travel time is met on a consistent basis,” Cordeiro says.

“Specifically, we would like to review what policies and procedures will be put in place when considering additional stops or other items that may impact the travel time of the system, which is of primary importance to the Township, due to our geographic location.”

A copy of the letter was distributed to members of Township council on March 19.

TramTrain for Hungary

From the International Railway Journal.

As TransLink and the regional mayors still champion hugely expensive vanity projects for the region, TramTrain makes very good economic sense.

A basic, bare-bones hourly service, using diesel light rail vehicles, from Vancouver to Chilliwack, would cost about $750 million. A more intense electric service, with a 20 minute service would today cost just over $1 billion, provide faster commute times from Langley and South Surrey to Vancouver and probably attract more new transit customers than the present Mayor’s council and TransLink’s plans.

A combined new road/rail bridge replacing the aging Patullo Bridge and the decrepit Fraser River Rail Bridge, plus with the full build Leewood/Rail for the Valley TramTrain plan, combined would cost no more than $2 billion; attract more new customers; and most likely would win public approval in a referendum.

The real problem is that it is a Rail for the Valley plan and not a TransLink plan and that makes a lot of people working at TransLink very nervous.


Planning begins for Hungary’s first tram-train line

Written by  Ferenc Joo

PLANNING began on March 18 for Hungary’s first tram-train project, which will link the tram network in the city Szeged and a planned light rail line in Hódmezővásárhely via Hungarian State Railways’ (MÁV) Szeged – Békéscsaba line.

Utiber, Hungary, is responsible for planning the Forints 20bn ($US 72m) project and will complete detailed feasibility studies by the end of the year. Detailed planning and approval will take place next year and construction will begin in 2017 with the project due for completion in 2018.

The project involves linking Szeged tram Line 2 to the main line network at Szeged-Rókus station. Tram-trains will run on the MÁV line as far Hódmezővásárhely-Népkert, continuing on a new light rail alignment through the town centre before rejoining the heavy rail line at the city’s main station. The alignment of the light rail line in Hódmezővásárhely has yet to be finalised.

MÁV is planning to electrify the Szeged – Békéscsaba – Gyula line by 2020 although there are doubts over when this project will be completed, which means the Szeged tram-train may initially operate with dual-mode vehicles.

It is also possible that a second track will need to be constructed between Szeged-Rókus and Hódmezővásárhely to accommodate the increase in traffic.

Less expensive options?

Sounds familiar? One could ask the same for our regional transit planning.

HS2: Government has no ‘convincing case’ for £50bn rail line

By Chris Johnston Business reporter

The government has no convincing case for spending £50bn building the HS2 rail link between London and the North, a report by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee says.

The government’s main arguments in favour of HS2 – increasing railway capacity and rebalancing the economy – were still to be proven, Peers said.

There are less-expensive options than HS2, they said on Wednesday.

A government spokesman said HS2 would deliver big benefits.

Lord Hollick, chairman of the Lords’ committee, said overcrowding on the West Coast Main Line was largely a problem on commuter trains and on long-distance services on Friday nights and some weekends.

“The Government have not carried out a proper assessment of whether alternative ways of increasing capacity are more cost-effective than HS2,” he said.

“In terms of rebalancing, London is likely to be the main beneficiary from HS2. Investment in improving rail links in the North of England might deliver much greater economic benefit at a fraction of the cost.”

‘Satisfactory answers’

Lord Hollick called on the Department for Transport to provide detailed answers to the questions set out by the committee.

“Parliament should not approve the enabling legislation that will allow HS2 work to begin until we have satisfactory answers to these key questions,” he said.

The peer sets out arguments against the investment in a YouTube video.

A Department for Transport spokesman said the case for HS2 was “crystal clear” and claimed it would have a “transformational effect”.

“It is a vital part of the government’s long-term economic plan, strongly supported by Northern and Midland cities, alongside our plans for better east-west rail links confirmed in the Northern Transport Strategy last week.

“Demand for long distance rail travel has doubled in the past 15 years… it is crucial we press ahead with delivering HS2 on time and budget and we remain on track to start construction in 2017,” the spokesman said.

‘No blank cheque’

Shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher said that Labour supported HS2. However, he added: “It’s vital that ministers win public confidence for this important investment and ensure that the economic benefits are felt as widely as possible. We have said there will be no blank cheque for the project under Labour.”

Rhian Kelly, CBI director for business environment, said a modern railway was needed to deal with lack of capacity on the West Coast Mainline.

“HS2 will better connect eight of our 10 biggest cities, boosting local economies along and beyond the route together with complementary road and rail investment. It’s vital we avoid any further delays to the project,” she said.

The Lords report echoed a similar report published by the Commons Public Accounts Committee in January.

The MPs said that ministers lacked a “clear strategic plan for the rail network” and were “sceptical” about whether HS2 would deliver value for money.

The £50bn price tag included a “generous contingency” that could be used to mask cost increases, they added.

The first phase of HS2 will be between London and Birmingham opening in 2026, followed by a V-shaped section to Manchester and Yorkshire.

It promises to reduce journey times to London from 81 minutes to 49 minutes, and slash the trip to Manchester by an hour to just 68 minutes.

The Compass Card – Another Gordon Campbell Fiasco!

The Compass Card fiasco is not really a TransLink problem, rather it is the epitome of why TransLink has problems; TransLink is a tool of the Premier’s Office and it must do the Premier’s bidding or face serious repercussions.

Premier Gordon Campbell’s best friend, Ken Dobell, was the lobbyist for Cubit Industries makers of fare card systems and fare-gates and what Ken Dobell wants, Ken Dobell gets! TransLink was compelled to purchase the compass fare-card and fare gate system, even though TransLink did not want it.

With help from the mainstream media, in particular the Vancouver Sun and CKNW radio, the propaganda campaign, using perceived rampant fare evasion as the ‘raison d’être ‘ for fare-gates succeeded wonderfully. The Compass Card and fare gates were soon forced upon TransLink by popular public demand, even though fare evasion was well within industry norms!

The problems now associated with the Compass Card resides with concession fares, the U-Pass and the antiquated tap in – tap out method of using the fare card. In fact Zwei has been told by a whistle blower working at TransLink that the Compass Card and fare gates may be never put into revenue service!

The Compass Card debacle is just another, in a long list of  of Gordon Campbell’s ill conceived meddling forcing a rather complicated fare card/fare gate system on a very uncomplicated paid fare zone method with open access stations, which has cost the tax payer dearly, much more than was lost due to fare evasion.

TransLink stays mum as Compass Card problems point to further delay

By Dan Fumano, The Province March 26, 2015

Back in November 2007, B.C.’s then-transportation minister returned from a trip to Europe, and announced sweeping changes to Lower Mainland transit.

Minister Kevin Falcon was impressed by transit systems in London and Rotterdam, and he envisioned electronic fare gates and smart cards for Metro Vancouver.

The smart card, Falcon said, was “very easy to use,” and a key part of the plan.

He said at the time: “It actually grows your ridership dramatically. It’s really convenient.”

A few months later, Falcon was asked about fare gates, or turnstiles, at SkyTrain stations, and he told The Province: “It’s going to happen.”

That was seven years ago this month, and passengers are still waiting for those fare gates and smart card system, now known as the Compass Card, to happen.

Many have wondered: Did the Compass lose its way?

With Metro Vancouver currently in the midst of a plebiscite about a 10-year transportation plan, TransLink’s reputation and efficiency has become a major issue in the campaign, and the delayed Compass rollout has been one of the most frequently cited examples of the regional transport authority’s supposed challenges.

Target dates have come and gone, budgets have ballooned.

Only a handful of transit passengers are using the cards now — about 10 per cent of TransLink’s goal — and it’s unclear when the system will be fully operational.

The first fare gate was installed in August 2012. Now, gates are installed at most stations, but they remain unused.

TransLink’s media office was unable to make someone available for an interview for this story between Monday and Thursday this week.

In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman said that by the end of summer 2015, TransLink expects to have about 215,000 Compass Cards on the system — about one quarter of their end goal of 800,000.

Questions about the expected timeline for the Compass’ full implementation were referred to TransLink’s website.

On the Frequently Asked Questions section of TransLink’s website, the first entry asks: “When can I start using the Compass and fare gate system?”

The response does not answer that question, but begins with “Excitement is building for the launch of Compass!”

In December 2010, an American company called Cubic Transportation Systems was awarded the contract to design, build, and operate the Compass system. However, calls to Cubic’s San Diego headquarters this week were not returned.

As debate over the transit plebiscite continues, a lack of trust in TransLink has become a huge issue for the Yes campaign, according to a poll carried out earlier this month by the Angus Reid Institute for The Province.

Even high-profile campaigners for the Yes campaign, such as Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, have said they have “concerns about TransLink.”

Still, they have tried to remind voters, the vote is supposed to be about transportation, not about TransLink.

Jordan Bateman, the B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Foundation and the de facto head of the No campaign, said he hears from “TransLink apologists” who say the Compass problems are “not TransLink’s fault,” because the program was thrust upon them by the provincial government.

Bateman’s response to that is: “Look, anyone who has a boss has been forced at times to do something in their job that they didn’t want to do … That doesn’t excuse gross mismanagement. TransLink is over-budget, years late, they’re nowhere near getting these things up and running.”


TransLink’s website says: “the Compass system uses a simple tap-in/tap out process.”

But in reality, it’s so far been less “simple” than envisioned.

The system is supposed to work like this: Transit customers “load” up a Compass Card with funds to pay for trips.

As passengers enter a bus, SkyTrain station, SeaBus terminal or West Coast Express platform, they swipe the Compass Card against a reader, “tapping in.” They will then swipe the card again at the end of each trip, “tapping out.”

But, as the TransLink website notes: “Failure to tap out means the system will charge you for a three-zone fare, so it’s crucial that you tap out!”

Indeed, the “tapping out” process has reportedly been one of the sticking points with the Compass technology.

Compass testers reported trouble getting the reader to recognize their card after repeated attempts to “tap out.”

This can result, testers say, in log jams at SkyTrain fare gates, agitated passengers on busy buses, and customers getting over-charged.

One tester said: “If they ever they get this thing up and running, I think it’s going to be a bit of a gong show.”

Replacing the Fraser River Rail Bridge

Interesting item from the Netherlands.

Dutch Engineers have been at the forefront at lift bridge technology for over a century, due to the many canals that traverse the country.

The “tilting lock” would be especially beneficial to railways as there would no need for a lift span at all and trains could cross the bridge at faster speeds in complete safety.

The two bridges that are in dire need of replacing is the crumbling Patullo Bridge and its neighbour, the downright decrepit Fraser River Rail Bridge.

Instead of a complicated and expensive lift span for trains, boats and barges could pass using the “tilting lock” technology, which would both reduce the cost of a lift span, yet at the same time increase railway efficiency.

The only downside I can see is that there would be a size limit for water craft traveling Eat past the bridge.

Innovative Tilting Lock Concept – Bridge Doesn’t Open But Ships Submerge To Pass Under

A major road bridge with no need to open because ships ‘submerge’ under it – this is the new Tilting Lock invented by Dutch engineers at Royal HaskoningDHV.

Major bridges that move to allow sailing yachts to pass beneath them, like the Zeeland Bridge in the Netherlands, are causing daily traffic congestion when they open for the boats, peaking during the summer season. To resolve this problem, Royal HaskoningDHV has invented the Tilting Lock – designed to allow boats to ‘submerge’ under the bridge instead of it opening for them to pass under.

The Tilting Lock (Kantelsluis) is a floating structure which has two separate water filled channels with space for five yachts at a time. When the lock is level, the water surface in both channels is 4 metre lower than the water in the river. To start service the lock will tilt in order to raise the level of one of the channels to meet the water level outside the Tilting Lock

tilting bridgeSailing boats enter the Titling Lock. © Royal HaskoningDHV

Adding 8 metre vertical clearance

Mr Carolus Poldervaart, a Royal HaskoningDHV designer: “Once the yacht is in the channel, the lock will tilt and ‘submerge’ the boat by 8 metre. After the boat has passed under the bridge the lock reverts to its original position to level the water inside and outside the channel again. This way almost all yachts will be able to pass under busy movable bridges without the bridge having to open. No more waiting traffic, no more waiting boats.”

The Tilting Lock does not pump water and no weight is being displaced. It remains in position, with tilting being the only movement. Mr Poldervaart explains: “The tilting motion is restricted, mainly to guarantee that the sides of the lock do not touch the mast of the boat.”

© Royal HaskoningDHV© Royal HaskoningDHV

Energy use: equivalent to four hours light from an ecolamp

The energy used by the Tilting Lock is extremely low. Mr Poldervaart continues: “The lock tilts 32 degrees in three minutes and it takes 30 seconds to set the tilting ‘in motion’. In normal weather conditions this uses 0.04 kWh – as little as an ecolamp needs to burn for four hours.” Stopping the tilting produces energy, as do the solar panels on the lock. This energy will be used to tilt the lock and for lighting, as well as opening and closing the lock doors.

The lock will be made of steel and will be built at a wharf and then transported to its final location, enabling 15 to 30 ‘oversized’ yachts per hour to pass the bridge without it opening. Capacity may vary depending on width and length of the lock. Smaller sailing and motor yachts will still be able to pass the bridge as normal.

 © Royal HaskoningDHV© Royal HaskoningDHV

Benefits higher than the costs

The investment for building such a lock is €60 million (CAD $81.60 million), depending on size, but the benefits will be enormous. A cost/benefit analysis predicts that the Titling Lock at another busy Dutch opening bridge, the Haringvlietbrug, will yield €100 million (CAD $136.44 million) over a period of 25 years, with a pay-back time of 12 years.

Applicable as ordinary lock

The Tilting Lock can also be used as an energy efficient ordinary lock with no water being lost when moving ships from higher to lower water levels – a persistent problem in canal systems that are dependent on rainwater to maintain sufficient water depth.

The $14 billion transit plan the B.C. Liberals conveniently forgot about

How soon we forget, the BC Liberals had a $14 billion transit plan for Metro Vancouver and what ever happened to that?

The following from Vancouver Buzz explains events from seven years go.

A discussion about TransLink

A new transit blog is in town and I think it is well worth a read.

Called Inside TransLink, it gives an insider’s view of the organization and the many problems the exist, culminating with this rather destructive transit plebiscite.

The ways to improve TransLink, from a voice that saw the inside.  There are a lot of critics of TransLink, and they are commenting on the obvious and visible symptoms of the issues Inside TransLink.   It takes an outsiders, inside view to know exactly what is happening at TransLink and where the root causes of the problems are!