A letter in the Vancouver Courier.
September 30, 2014 11:28 AM
To the editor:
Re: “Mayors’ Council may expect Vancouver to fund Broadway line,” Sept. 24.
Mr. Geller’s article illustrates a very important point, the region does not have experts in “rail” for rail-based transit systems. Our universities, unlike Europe, do not have faculties of Urban Transport; there are no graduate courses in urban transportation nor is the history of public transportation taught. Currently we have mere amateurs planning our regional rapid transit and TransLink’s operation certainly reflects this.
The first mistake of an amateur transit planner is believing that a transit system only gets better by throwing more money at it. The success of a public transit system is dependent on how user-friendly the transit system is and our current transit system is far from user friendly evidenced from events this summer when SkyTrain stopped working and thousands of customers abandoned SkyTrain like rats leaving a sinking ship.
TransLink’s current financial ill-health can be traced back directly to the SkyTrain mini-metro system, which despite local hype and hoopla, is more expensive to build and operate than its chief competitor: modern light rail transit (LRT). For added insult, modern LRT also has and always had a higher capacity than SkyTrain and, combined with higher construction and operation costs, is the main reason only seven such systems have been built in the past 36 years!
Putting SkyTrain (which was first designed to mitigate the high cost of subway construction) in a subway will only increase construction and operation costs but will not increase efficiency. Increase operating costs, which combined with the fact that subway are very poor in attracting new ridership, will make a Broadway subway a very heavy finical millstone around TransLink’s neck.
The City of Vancouver by demanding a SkyTrain subway may be putting its taxpayers at risk as the cost difference between subway construction could be as much as 10 times more than on-street/at-grade LRT.
Instead of Vancouver taxpayer’s anteing up $500 million (a figure presented by amateur transit planners), they could be on the hook for billions of dollars more!
It should be of interest that despite SkyTrain being in operation in metro Vancouver since 1985, no city in North America and Europe has copied Vancouver’s transit planning, nor have they copied using the proprietary SkyTrain mini-metro.
But then, our amateur transit planners tend to gloss over that singular fact when campaigning for a SkyTrain subway under Broadway.
Our friend from Ottawa, Haveacow, is a transit consultant from Ottawa, he also has studied Vancouver’s transit scene and is a worthwhile read as he makes too much sense.
The following is a reply from Mr. Cow, which I think deserves a post of its own!
I agree that tunneling any rail based transit system very greatly raises its cost of construction. The question that people in Vancouver really need to be asking is about the long term viability of the Rapid Transit system.
1. Translink currently can’t afford even a one third share of funding of the capital costs on any new rapid transit line, be it Light Metro Skytrain, LRT or even Zwei’s current medium and high end Tram-Train proposals, for that matter. New funding sources are desperately needed no matter the rail transit technology choice, or whomever runs the transit agency, the form of the transit agency, regardless if said agency is publicly or privately run or a combination of the two. Translink’s capital and operating funding is actually declining relative to inflation. To afford Translink’s share of the current Skytrain extension, the agency had to seriously divert funding from operational sources to the capital program. Leaving very little money for service improvements anywhere till at least 2016. The current situation is unsustainable not only in the long term but medium term as well. Arguments can be made that yes, the Skytrain and the Canada Line are key culprits historically and currently in the high level of costs associated with the entire transit system but they exist, they are running and have to be dealt with. You could pay all transit employees near slave level wages and run them with the leanest and most efficient management people (public or private) on the planet and it won’t change the fact that, the basic transit system’s operating and capital costs are rising faster than inflation and that the current funding model is increasing revenue slowly but at levels below the rate of inflation.
2. Taxpayers are always claim to be overtaxed but if you want a service you have to pay for it. New funding tools are needed and if you want any money for expansion of the transit system, regardless of the technology its going to increasingly have to come from local tax sources because the amount of money available as grants for rapid transit projects from the province and the federal government are going to decline in the future.
3. Privatizing transit rarely works in the short term and has always failed in the medium and long terms for various reasons (I won’t bore you and bother repeating them again). Most private transit schemes usually end up costing more for the same or declining levels of service.
4. It’s now too late to force a transit funding referendum question to be put on the ballot for the BC Municipal election in November 2014. Your provincial government can now waffle back and forth for at the least 2 more years, on this issue. Regardless of your opinion on whether you want to pay more transit or not, the opportunity to move the whole process forwards is now lost. So whatever direction and answers the vote would have produced regarding the future of transit in the province is delayed. This means nothing can happen and I mean nothing can happen, until the provincial government decides on a promised referendum question and what if any answer they want to provide to it. The entire process for updating and changing the way transit is funded and delivered in the lower mainland of BC is now dead! For the next 2 years at least (or however long the province can legally wait), politicians, companies and locals, like Zwei, can endlessly promote their transit ideas and proposals all they want. Also for the next 2 years, those same people can also endlessly debate what is the best of choice transit technology secure in the knowledge, none of it means anything because the process to decide on a direction can’t move forward till there is a vote. When the public see the opening of the Evergreen Line in 2016 they will ask, what’s next? All your beloved provincial government has to say is “nothing”, because you guys wouldn’t give us any real input on a transit referendum question when we asked about funding transit 2 years ago. The province and feds can throw away any request for capital funding from any lower mainland transit agency (regardless whom it is) because we can’t give you money till you decide how you are going to pay for it!
5. Bombardier has admitted recently that it has too much excess rail production capacity. Although it has not announced it yet, Bombardier will probably be closing many production facilities including their dedicated production facility they have for their Skytrain and Monorail systems division, the Innovia Line of products (the Skytrain and Monorail technology share many common systems and are generally grouped together). Soon after the Mark 3 Skytrain’s are delivered for the Evergreen project (2016) and the extension in Kuala Lampur (2016-17) to their Skytrain like line is complete as well as the new Monorail project in Brazil is delivered (2015-16), the division will most likely be closing down due to the need to rationalize and downsize Bombardier’s massive amount of excess rail production capacity. The Bombardier production facility, several facilities actually, that produce these products don’t have enough future orders coming in compared to other Bombardier product lines (Light Rail, Metro, as well as commuter and long distance mainline passenger railway vehicles) to keep them open as an independent production line. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to build these products anymore but it does mean that, any future orders of say Skytrain technology (Innovia products), will have to wait for a open spot in the production schedule inside the remaining Bombardier rail production facilities. This will increase the cost of future Skytrains because each time a production line changes from another rail product to say a different rail technology like the Skytrain, the effected production line that has been chosen will close down and have to be retooled before work on the new order can begin. These shutdowns can take days or weeks depending on the individual changes needed to the production equipment.
Proposal: As a consultant I can only propose an idea. Since you have in my opinion, a considerable amount of time before the provincial government needs to respond or do anything for that matter, I suggest a summit of internet transit people and other groups like your own. The idea being that, there are many people and groups that promote urban and regional based transit (regardless of the technology choice), I suggest you group together for a common cause. Nothing overly dramatic but a simple task, to force the provincial government to move forward on transit funding by presenting a large wide ranging united front. Get together with Daryl (Skytrain for Surrey) Transport Action Canada (formerly Transport 2000) and anyone who Blogs, complains or writes about transit issues on line, in your region, for a simple but straight forward, positive proposal or series of proposals on transit funding. The local PTB’s and the province are delaying any action to move transit funding forward, I say you should force the issue. Get local papers and radio, especially talk radio involved (they are all dying for content). Have everyone involved contact local TV people and bombard them a message that whatever the transit mode it is time the provincial government act and do something. Just an idea!
Addendum: With the premier’s LNG promises disappearing faster than bad comedy act, all transit and bridge promises will soon be dust in the wind. Look for higher fares and a truncated transit system and massive congestion.
In BC, we are backward.
In fact, we are not just backward, we are literally stone age when it comes to transit planning.
Two stories; in Nevada the Boulder rail extension is part of the cost of a new highway and that the CNR sold Georgetown-Kitchener, Ont., rail line to Metrolinx for GO Transit commuter rail service for $76 million, shows that governments in other jurisdictions actually think and plan ahead when trying to solve ongoing transit issues.
Meanwhile, back in the land where time stood still, two rail (one a former rapid transit line) routes in the Metro Vancouver are for sale; the Arbutus Corridor for $100 million and the CNR line in Richmond for $65 million, yet our transit planners remain deaf, blind and dumb about acquiring these railway lines for future transit growth and continue to plan for $200 million/km. plus subways for Vancouver and $100 million/km. plus LRT for Surrey. A bargain in any other city, but not so in Metro Vancouver!
The saddest part of the story is that our regional politicians remain largely ignorant about modern public transit and the role of modern LRT and continue to support dated mini-metro expansion to the detriment of both the transit customer and the taxpayer.
On the island, the same is true for the E&N folks who are working overtime just trying to secure $20 million to they can pay for track improvements do Via can operate a passenger service!
Yet politicians have no qualms what so ever in spending $5 billion on the dangerous and badly planned and built SFPR and a new Port Mann Bridge, replacing the recently refurbished old Port Mann Bridge (at the same time letting the decrepit Patullo Bridge rot!), so friends of the government can collect tolls!
Until the public demand regime change with out current transit planning, stone-age transit planning will continue by the Neanderthals at Ministry of Transportation, TransLink, and the many municipal engineering and planning departments in metro Vancouver.
Micheal Geller has an interesting item in the Vancouver Courier which indicates that Vancouver taxpayers maybe on the hook for a minimum of $500 million for demanding a SkyTrain subway under Broadway.
Predictably, Geller still follows the local line about transit and growth, while ignoring the fact that transit use mainly increases with population growth and the regional transit system has done a very poor job in attracting new customers. The U-Pass is a symptom of this failure by giving deep discounted, ride a will tickets to post secondary students, in a vain attempt to bolster ridership. Well, ridership is at or near capacity on main transit routes during peak hours but after the morning and evening rush hours, transit ridership is, at best, sparse.
The key passage in Geller’s piece…
What most of the audience did not know is that while the Mayors’ Council endorsed a tunnelled line along Broadway, it is contingent upon a partnership agreement with the City of Vancouver, which would be responsible for the incremental cost associated with tunneling “beyond that which was technically or functionally required.”
Stated another way, if an underground line is preferred for aesthetic reasons, something most of us would endorse, the City of Vancouver will be responsible for the additional cost, currently estimated at $500 million.
The mayors, especially those from Burnaby, Richmond and New Westminster, adopted this position since they had to live with elevated lines in their municipalities and questioned why Vancouver should get special treatment.
….. reveals that the Vancouver taxpayer must ante up the difference between elevated and underground or subway construction!
- The cost of subway construction is about double that of elevated construction and if the Vancouver taxpayer were forced to pay the difference, the cost to the taxpayer would be considerably more than $500 million.
- The $100 million the CPR wants for the 11 km. Arbutus corridor looks better and better for transit, when compared to the massive costs of a Broadway subway.
- Should not municipalities who want SkyTrain and/or automated transit pay the difference of the cost of at-grade/on-street LRT and grade separated light-metro?
If the taxpayer were forced to pay the difference between elevated and subway construction, the cost to the taxpayer would be well over $1 billion. It would be a better investment to build a BCIT to UBC LRT on Broadway and a Marpole to downtown LRT, using the Arbutus Corridor, using modern LRT than building a a short 5 km. SkyTrain subway.
I think it is time Vision Vancouver have a frank discussion with the city taxpayers on the subject of LRT, SkyTrain and subways or they may find the city of Vancouver, like most other cities that rashly built subways for vanity reasons, being on the verge of bankruptcy.
has 40m to 50m long station platforms, which severely limits capacity.
In today’s Sun, there is an article by Pete McMartin, bemoaning the current state of the Arbutus Corridor debate.
What the Vancouver Sun and the City of Vancouver are dancing around, yet never mention is that that the Arbutus corridor should be used for transit, particularly light rail transit. $100 million for 11 km of rights-of-way is a steal, when one compares it with the cost of $$200 million plus, for 1 km. of subway construction!
By promoting transit use for the Arbutus corridor, would make the Sun, TransLink and the city of Vancouver admit that the $2.5 billion Canada Line was built with extremely limited capacity 9for a metro) and the cost to upgrade the Canada line so it could carry as many people as a simple streetcar line would be in excess of $1 billion!Metro Vancouver, the formerly named GVRD, should purchase the Arbutus corridor, build LRT from downtown Vancouver to Steveston and Ironwood Mall (the CNR R-o-W in Richmond is up for sale for $65 million) and hire a private operator to operate it and ignore TransLink all together.
The photo clearly shows the small Canada Line stations.
For public transit to be successful, it must be user friendly, but recent experiences using transit have proven otherwise. Taking transit on purpose three times this summer, found the transit service greatly underwhelming. The forced transfer from the Canada line to South Fraser suburban buses, is just plain stupid, especially at weekends, where many services run at 30 minute headway’s. The transfer station at “Casino Junction” (Bridgeport Station) is hard to use and damn cold, in non summer months.
If the current transit operations is the best that TransLink can do, all I can say it is time for regime change.
and dangerous for commercial vehicles.
The multi billion dollar South Fraser Perimeter Road is nothing but high farce; poorly designed and poorly sign posted, the SFPR only shows how incompetent our current provincial Ministry of Transportation is. Designed as a speedy truck route from the Delta Super Port, East up the Fraser Valley, the SFPR is largely avoided by truckers by it’s ill design, especially at important junctions where roll-overs are common.
Added to this gross incompetence, getting on or off the SFPR from Hwy. 99 or any major junction by the uninitiated, is akin to a Mensa test; fail and you are off to destinations unknown. More and more, BC’s Ministry of Transportation is nothing more than a repository for people who could not get jobs in the real world.
More and more it seems the SFPR is nothing more than a taxpayer paid sop to the McQuarie group, who owns the South Fraser Docks and wants the province to dredge the Fraser and replace the Massey Tunnel, so it can bring Panama Max bulk carriers up the Fraser to load American coal bound for South Asia.
The world’s busiest metro’s, mostly operating in subways, in an ascending order.
By comparison, the 68.6 km. SkyTrain mini-metro system carries a mere 361,500 passenger a day and TransLink’s ridership numbers are guesstimates with actual ridership about 10% to 15% lower.
BC’s population is now just over 4.61 million and all the below metro systems, except for Paris and Mexico city carry more than the entire population of BC daily! Seoul’s metro system carries more customers than the combined population of BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan!
The proposed Broadway subway is a mere pygmy when compared to the great metro systems elsewhere and the small comparative ridership will mean massive subsidies will have to made to operate the subway and the monies for those subsidies will have to come from other areas of TransLink’s fragile transit system; most likely south of the Fraser..
to justify a $3 billion+ subway.
Daily ridership: 4.2 million
The oldest metro system to appear on this list, the Paris Métro opened in the year 1900, and has today grown to include more than 300 stations across the great French city. The least expensive single ride ticket for the Paris subway, which allows you to travel one zone of the massive system, costs about $2.43.
Daily ridership: 4.4 million
Only one other North American metro system can claim to be busier than that of Mexico City, where 12 lines service nearly 200 stations across the metropolis of the sprawling town. A single fare ticket onboard the Mexico City Metro costs five pesos, which, for a Canadian rider visiting Mexico, would be a steal. Five pesos equals about 42 cents, making the subway in Mexico City among the world’s least expensive rides.
Daily ridership: 5.2 million
Hong Kong’s rapid transit system has only been open since 1979 — for reference: the CN Tower was completed in 1976 — yet it has already grown to include some 218 km of track, stretching to more than 150 stations. Hong Kong may be a pricy place to live, but public transit use is reasonably priced. A full day pass aboard the MTR costs less than $8.
Daily ridership: 5.5 million
North America’s busiest subway system is also surely the continent’s most notable. In the Big Apple, 5.5 million riders churn through the famous metro turnstiles each weekday; even on weekends, nearly six million total riders use the subway each Saturday and Sunday in New York City. A single ride ticket on the New York metro costs $2.75 as a base fare.
Daily ridership: 5.6 million
The first of three Chinese entrants on this list, the Guangzhou Metro is a baby in the metro world. The system opened in 1997 — even in Quebec it couldn’t yet legally order a beer — though despite its young age the transit outfit has ballooned to meet demand. Already busier than the metro systems in major cities like New York, London and Paris, the Guangzhou Metro, where the minimum single ride fare amounts to just 36 cents, accommodates annual ridership in excess of two billion.
Daily ridership: 6.4 million
The oldest of all the Asian metro systems to appear here, Tokyo’s subway opened in 1927 and has undergone countless extensions, the latest in 2008. Now there are some 180 stations in service in the Japanese capital, covering nearly 200 km of track. The minimum single ride fare on the Tokyo Metro comes to about $1.75.
Daily ridership: 6.7 million
Europe’s busiest metro is not in Paris, nor is it in London or Berlin. Instead, Moscow reigns subway supreme, boasting 6.7 million daily riders (on one record-setting day in 2012, some 9.3 million riders passed through the system’s turnstiles). A single ride on Moscow’s subway comes cheap; the minimum fare comes to about $1.17 per ticket.
Daily ridership: 6.9 million
The largest metro system on this list by a wide margin, Shanghai’s metro snakes through the Chinese city with an incredible reach. With track length of 538 km, Shanghai’s subway system is more than double that of Paris, and more than 70 km longer than the second-largest metro system in the world. A full day pass on the Shanghai Metro costs just $3.25, nearly the single ride cost of subway fare in Toronto.
Daily ridership: 9.75 million
A massive jump in daily ridership from third to second place on this list, Beijing’s metro system boasts nearly 10 million customers per day, a 42 per cent hike over the numbers aboard the Shanghai Metro, featured on the previous slide of this gallery. The Beijing Subway is huge — in total, there are 19 subway lines in its network — and incredibly cheap to ride. The base single ride fare works out to just 36 cents.
The world’s busiest metro system is not the largest (that would be the Shanghai Metro, at 538 km of track length), nor does it have the most total stations (that would be New York City, with 421). Yet Seoul’s subway is always packed, featuring nearly 10 million daily riders and annual ridership of some 2.6 billion. A base single ride fare onboard the Seoul Subway costs $1.23.
It now has been four years since the historic release of the Leewood/Rail for the Valley report, yet except for sparse political support, very few people actually know that the study exists, let alone that it is “shovel ready”.
The Leewood study is just too simple, too cheap, and too practical compared to other politically inspired transit initiatives now blundering along, such as the ever shrinking Broadway subway.
The monies invested in the yet unworkable Compass Card, now exceed $250 million, which is about one half the of a BASIC diesel LRT service from Chilliwack to Scott Road or about one quarter the cost of a Vancouver to Chilliwack interurban!
The $500 million for the leaky retractable roof over BC Place could have funded the entire Scott Road to Chilliwack Diesel LRT or even fund about two thirds the cost of an hourly Vancouver to Chilliwack DMU!
The November civic elections, now going to be held every four years, is a very good time to quiz candidates about their knowledge on urban transit and remedies to the ever increasing traffic congestion in the Fraser Valley, because if we do not get transit savvy politicians elected on the various councils, better transit will be delayed by at least four more years.
Groundbreaking report on Interurban light rail
The Rail for the Valley/Leewood study is indeed historic, for it is the first time in over 30 years that a truly independent transit study, free of political and bureaucratic influence, has been done in the region. The study shows that the region can build a large ‘rail’ network cheaply, with an affordable vision for future, cost effective extensions.
SkyTrain’s Achilles heel is cost and when one compares the per kilometer cost of the RftV TramTrain and SkyTrain, a full build TramTrain is less than 10% the cost per km. to build than SkyTrain light metro.
Being affordable to build, enables TramTrain to penetrate to areas, that would otherwise remain unserved by ‘rail‘. The ‘density’ argument, used successfully by TransLink and the provincial government to deter ’rail‘ expansion South of the Fraser, disappears as TramTrain easily uses existing railway lines, without any any need for expensive ‘greenfields’ construction (like using the median of the Number 1 Hwy.). If on-street operation is desired in town centres, TramTrain can play the role of a streetcar or LRT, yet retaining the ability of cost effective operation to widely spaced population centres using existing rail lines.
The Evergreen Line has demonstrated that funding for SkyTrain is becoming harder and harder and if we look at the ‘full build’ RftV/Leewood Study, a Vancouver/Richmond to Rosedale TramTrain would cost less than one billion dollars or put another way, for the over $1.4 billion Evergreen line, we could build the ‘full build’ TramTrain, plus a Vancouver to Port Moody TramTrain service as well! More rail service, servicing more customer destinations, is the best recipe for achieving a true modal shift from car to transit.
One hopes that the ‘powers that be’ understand that planning for expensive, ‘pie in the sky’ metro is becoming a fools game as there is just not the money to fund such grandiose schemes and in todays economy, TramTrain becomes a most viable option. The RftV/Leewood Study paves the way for a real and cost effective alternative for transit expansion in the METRO and Fraser Valley Regions and one hoped that the politicians will jump on board TramTrain, lest they be left at the station platform, waiting for a SkyTrain that will never come.
Not much transit news about with the school strike and the lead up to the November civic elections, but old news is still news.
The CPR want $100 million for the land and the City of Vancouver wants to pay only $20 million, yet $100 million is a bargain if one wants the land for a transit corridor, considering the cost per km. for a subway starts at about $200 million.
Metro Vancouver (GVRD) should by the land and put an end to this nonsense once and for all and use it for a tram service.
Memo to the CPR: Why not run a DMU service from New West Minster to Vainer Park on the line. a 30 minute service with a pair of GTW’s or alike would be feasible without doubling the track and you may even get a subsidy from metro Vancouver and/or TransLink.
Memo to gardeners using the Arbutus: If the city or metro Vancouver pay for the Arbutus, kiss goodbye any thought of using he land for truck gardens. You best have a plan B and use it.
Arbutus Corridor talks break down, CP to resume clearing work on rail line
By Jeff Lee, Vancouver SunSeptember 12, 2014 3:32 PM
VANCOUVER — Negotiations between the City of Vancouver and Canadian Pacific over the future of the Arbutus Corridor have broken down, the railway said Friday.
As a result, CP will resume work to return the 11-kilometre line to operating standards.
In a statement CP said it had met with the city earlier Friday to discuss the future of the line and to explore “a number of options to reach a fair market settlement” but was unable to get the city to move significantly on its offer.
It had agreed earlier to suspend line-clearing work, including the removal of gardens encroaching on its right-of-way.
“Despite exploring a number of options to reach a fair market settlement, the parties were unable to arrive at an agreement,” CP said in the statement.
“CP remains extremely disappointed that the City of Vancouver continues to significantly undervalue this corridor.”
Mayor Gregor Robertson’s office said he was unhappy with the breakdown in negotiations and still believes the railway is using the threat of returning the line to operating status as a way to pressure the city to pay more.
Vancouver, which won a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that it had the right to control zoning of the line, had offered CP $20 million for it. The city had previously designated the corridor for transportation and greenways, and had resisted CP’s attempts to have it rezoned for residential and commercial development.
CP has never indicated what it wants for the land but in press releases the mayor has suggested it is upwards of $100 million.
Interesting article from Toronto.
In Germany in the 1960′s and 70′s many cities started building subways and replacing their surface tramways. The first noticeable change was that ridership dropped and for many, journey times increased. This was due to many more km. of tramway being abandoned compared to the very few km. of new subway built. The subways became somewhat user-unfriendly for many and taking the car was just easier. In the 90′s the subways built in 30 or more years ago needed very expensive refurbishment, which for many transit authorities created harsh financial problems, which retarded the operations and any though of expansion became a pipe dream.
The German cities that did not build subways did not have the financial problems associated with subways and in an era of high transit demand were able to refurnish their tramways with modern low-floor articulated trams and expand their transit systems to meet an ever growing demand.
By overly investing in subways, many transit authorities found themselves cash strapped to improve and modernize their transit systems because available funding went to either subway construction and/or maintenance.
TransLink, which is also under great financial stress, is demanding ever new subsidies to fund their grand plans for a $4 billion subway (Broadway/Commercial to UBC) under Broadway, which, if history is anything to go buy, will put massive financial pressure on TransLink, which is already burdened with the large extra costs to operate its mini-metro system.
So here is the question: “Will TransLink’s subway plans retard the growth of the rest of the metro transit system?”
The Toronto Star in an editorial questions whether the city is being overly invested in subways. The issue of subways versus light rail has been one item of contention among mayoral candidates in the upcoming Oct. 27 city election:
“Toronto has over-invested in subways at tremendous cost: Editorial
A Pembina Institute study shows Toronto has over-invested in subways at tremendous cost while Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa created more transit for less money.
Published on Mon Sep 08 2014
Bernard Weil / Toronto Star Order this photo
Report by Pembina Institute says Toronto has over-invested in subways at tremendous cost.
Toronto’s decades-long fixation on subways has left it “stuck in its tracks” compared to cities that are more open to other rapid transit options.
Canada’s largest city spends far more per kilometre on new rapid transit and gets a lot less for its money.
That depressing verdict comes in a new report comparing transit across Canada by the highly regarded Pembina Institute.
Toronto’s mayoral candidates, and voters, would do well to pay close attention to these findings. Obsessing on subways carries high costs.
Researchers examined commuter systems in five cities: Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa. They found the two oldest centres, Toronto and Montreal, lag far behind in launching new rapid transit lines.
The comparison is striking. In the last 20 years Toronto managed to open just 18 kilometres (11 miles) of rapid transit, less than one kilometre a year.
In contrast, over the same period, Vancouver opened 44 kilometres, (27 miles) more than twice as much.
Calgary opened 29 (18 miles) and even Ottawa delivered 23 (14 miles).
That’s a shamefully poor showing for a city like Toronto which aspires to be a leader in public transit.
It’s small consolation that Montreal did even worse, opening just 5 kilometres (3 miles) of line in the past two decades.
For the purposes of the study, “rapid transit” was defined as subways, light-rail lines, Vancouver’s SkyTrain, right-of-way streetcars travelling in their own separated lane, and right-of-way bus routes.
Toronto and Montreal lag because, unlike other cities, they’ve been slow to invest in “quick-to-deploy rapid transit technologies.”
Instead, Toronto has focused on slow-to-deliver subways that come at a heavy cost.
That’s why it’s stuck paying an average of $236 million (USD $215.8 million) per kilometre for new rapid transit — more than any other city in the study.
By failing to deliver effective, low-cost alternatives such as light rail and bus rapid transit Toronto has, for years, shortchanged its riders.
There have been attempts to do better.
Authors of the study note that a 120-kilometre (74.5 mile) network of Transit City light-rail lines was proposed in 2007.
But only one line, the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, is currently under construction and a lot of that involves expensive tunnelling.
In a ruinous flip-flop, underlining this city’s infatuation with subways, city council killed a seven-stop Scarborough light-rail route and replaced it with a three-stop underground line.
In doing so, it delayed construction for years and raised the cost of this route to $468 million (USD $427.9 million) per kilometre, up from $194 million (USD $177.4 million) for the original LRT.
“Toronto is stuck in its tracks,” warned Cherise Burda, Pembina’s Ontario director. “It’s busy debating transit technology. The other cities debate transit technology, but it doesn’t stop them from actually building.”
Furthermore, when they do invest, it isn’t in expensive subways but in light rail and other rapid transit options.
As a result, “they’ve been able to build more transit, more quickly,” Burda said.
All this is utterly lost on incumbent Rob Ford, running to return as mayor.
His dismal transit plan, released this past week, calls for putting even more subways in areas where other rapid transit would make more sense.
“You bore, bore, bore until the cows come home,” is his succinct agenda.
The other main candidates are at least open to alternatives.
John Tory’s SmartTrack plan calls for running more commuter trains on existing surface tracks.
\And both Olivia Chow and David Soknacki would kill the ill-judged Scarborough subway extension and return to the original light-rail plan.
This makes eminent sense.
Overinvesting in subways, to the detriment of all else, is not the better way.
The Federal NDP have never really cared about regional transit and desperately need some sort of policy to try to show the public they care and and have a plan in time for the 2015 election.
Throwing more money at transit won’t solve transportation problems and will drive up transit costs. Canadian cities need a sensible public transportation policy using buses, light rail and even metros, if the ridership supports the investment.
What the region doesn’t need is more SkyTrain of the Canada Line, which has drastically driven up costs, yet have not attracted ridership.
A good start would be funding a new Faculty of Public Transport at major Universities across Canada, so we have people who actually understand the science of public transport and not the cadre of planners and engineers who do not what the difference is between an articulated or a gangwayed vehicle.
How about a “two rooms and a bath” car?
What we do not need in the region is another subway because subway eat up precious transit dollars, yet provide no benefits except when ridership on a transit line exceeds what can be carried on-street. Subways are not a cure all for transit woes, rather they are a hindrance to affordable transit expansion.
I hope followers of this blog, let the NDP know that we need transit funding for projects that will improve the livability of the region and not just be a multi billion dollar project built strictly for political prestige, such as the Broadway Subway.
Metro Vancouver a much higher cost per revenue passenger than other Canadian cities.
Federal NDP vows to make transit a plank in 2015 platform
By Derrick Penner, Vancouver Sun September 8, 2014
They haven’t attached a dollar figure to it, but the Federal NDP on Monday promised to make a long-term national public transit strategy part of their platform for the 2015 general election.
While not long on specifics about how such a strategy would contribute to TransLink’s 30-year, $7.5-billion capital plan for Metro Vancouver, NDP trade critic Don Davies vowed it would be 15 to 20-year commitment and an improvement on the federal Conservative government’s Build Canada infrastructure plan that has earmarked $2.76 billion of the federal gasoline tax to B.C.
Standing outside the Broadway-City Hall Canada Line station in Vancouver, Davies described the Conservative plan as “an ad hoc (program) on a short-term time frame” that is difficult for municipalities to work with.
“Municipalities and provinces have repeatedly said, and continue to say that they can’t plan long-term, large-scale infrastructure projects unless they have a commitment from the federal government over an extended period,” said Davies, the MP for Vancouver Kingsway.
Infrastructure critic Finn Donnelly added that Canada is the only G8 country without a long-term public transit plan.
Donnelly added that the NDP will reveal a dollar figure for the program closer to the election date, but the NDP would look to see if they can improve upon their promise from the last election campaign to devote $420 million a year of the federal gas tax to transit funding.
In June, the federal government said 53 per cent — about $1.5 billion — of the $2.76 billion committed to B.C. over the next decade and most of that would go to TransLink for capital projects, such bus replacements, the purchase of new rail cars for the West Coast Express and upgrades of transit centres.
However, at the time, Metro Vancouver vice-chairman Raymond Louie said the region will need more funding for system expansion plans, such as the proposals for a $2 billion subway on the Broadway corridor towards the University of B.C. and $2 billion in light-rail extensions of transit in Surrey.
TransLink unveiled its 30-year plan in mid-June, which included a $980-million replacement of the Pattullo Bridge in its $7.5-billion mix.
The federal NDP’s B.C. caucus staged the announcement along with a canvassing campaign at the station that saw party volunteers circulate a petition in support of better national funding for transit.