TriMet public approval rebounding

I wonder how TransLink would fare? I guess we will see after the transit plebiscite.
PORTLAND TriMet which runs the area’s bus and light rail system is seeing is public approval on the rise despite service issues and financial woes, The Oregonian reports:

“Poll: TriMet public approval rebounding despite MAX service problems, ongoing financial challenges
By Joseph Rose
The Oregonian/OregonLive
on February 25, 2015 at 7:03 PM

Even as it deals with criticism over gold-plated executive pensions and millions of dollars in deferred rail maintenance, public opinion about Oregon’s largest transit agency appears to be on the rebound.

Some 76 percent of Portland area residents approve of the way TriMet is being operated, according to the results of new “attitude and awareness” telephone poll.

That’s a sharp acceleration from this time last year, when a similar survey showed the transit agency’s approval rating had slipped to 66 percent after a series of service cuts, fare hikes and controversies stemming from embarrassing safety lapses and secrecy at the highest levels of the agency.

DHM Research ran the survey of 1,000 Portland are residents over 16.

The poll, conducted in November, has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

TriMet’s MAX light-rail system had a rough 2014, with switch and electrical problems causing rush-hour meltdowns and even a derailment.

Still, MAX service showed the biggest jump in public approval, from 69 percent in the last survey to 84 percent in the latest census.

The performance rating for light rail could continue to improve in the coming years.

After deferring millions of dollars in MAX light-rail maintenance and rebuilding during the Great Recession, TriMet is spending $9.5 million on replacing 21 deteriorating rail switches, many of which have malfunctioned and caused repeated service meltdowns in recent years, according to maintenance logs and other records obtained through a public records request by The Oregonian.

Meanwhile, 78 percent of respondents said they approved of bus service, an increase of 13 points compared to survey taken at the end of 2013.

“Both riders and non-riders rated the value of our service high,” said Mary Fetsch, a TriMet spokeswoman.

Fetsch said residents have an understanding of the importance of mass transit as the region grows.

DHM Research said the resurgence in TriMet’s public image is likely due, in part, to the post-recession restoration of frequent bus service and the resolution of the agency’s long, ugly labor dispute.

Of course, TriMet still faces the significant challenge of paying for nearly $1 billion in pension and retirement health-care commitments without cutting service or increasing fares to the point where regular commuters stop riding.

The agency is already struggling to return to the ridership levels that existed before the recession.

Other highlights from the TriMet poll

  • Riders gave higher overall satisfaction ratings – 87 percent in 2014 – than in 2013 (at 83 percent). Meanwhile, most non-riders – 84 percent — said they value the benefits TriMet provides to the region. 
  • Frequent and regular riders used TriMet most often to commute to work and school, with 75 percent saying the fare value was excellent or good.
  • Occasional and infrequent riders used TriMet most often to get to “recreational activities” such as sporting events, with ”personal business” coming in second. About 65 percent of occasional riders were satisfied with the value of the cost to ride.
  • People are well aware of the coming Portland-to-Milwaukie MAX Orange Line. Awareness of the project ranked at 80 percent. “Respondents said the main benefits of the new line included reducing traffic congestion, connecting parts of the city and expanding public transportation,” according to a TriMet report on the survey.
  • 78 percent of respondents knew about the Orange Line’s Tilikum Crossing bridge, which has slowly become part of the downtown skyline over the past three years.

The Myth That Everyone Naturally Prefers Trains to Buses

Actually it is not a myth, transit customers do prefer rail to buses. The study does leave out the fact that rail’s operating costs can be much less than buses because the tram can operate in multiple units, thus with one driver carrying more passengers.

In the end though, transit customers perceive that BRT is just a bus operating on a tarted up rights of way and for all intents and purposes, BRT is just a bus.

If BRT or guided bus had preformed much better in the past, maybe the mode would be seen in a better light, but BRT tends to cost more and carry less customers than what those promoting the mode had promised.

It must pointed out that the so-called BRT mentioned in the Mayor’s Council’s transit proposals is not BRT at all, rather just a B-line limited stop express bus, with no signal priority at intersections nor a proper BRT guide-way.

The Myth That Everyone Naturally Prefers Trains to Buses



Take a look at the image above. This rendering represents modern bus rapid transit service. The BRT vehicle travels in its own separate lane, free from the constraints of traffic congestion or traffic lights. The bus is sleek and the shelter is pleasant. If you could see the boarding procedure, too, you’d find that passengers buy their fares ahead of time, enabling them to enter quickly through any door, just as they do on a train.

Now take a look at the image below, which shows a modern light rail service. The scenes are remarkably similar. This train travels in the same dedicated lane and even has the same style. The only real difference you’ll find, if you look very close, is the faint sign of tracks on the ground.



Given what we know from these two pictures alone, there’s no reason to suspect these two rides—modern BRT or modern light rail—would be noticeably different experiences. And yet when transport scholars David Hensher and Corinne Mulley of the University of Sydney Business School showed these images to about 1,370 people in six Australian capital cities, the difference in preference was enormous.

For the study, Hensher and Mulley gave survey respondents the two images above, plus two others whose only difference was older-looking vehicle styles (one bus and one train), and asked them to rank the four images in terms of “which one you would like to travel in most.” They found that 55 percent chose the modern light rail image, and another 18 percent chose the older light rail. Only about 17 percent chose the modern BRT. Just 10 percent chose the classic old bus.


For more………

Aussie Companies Ante Up For Trams

Love to see this happen in Vancouver!

I wonder if the Board of Trade would be supporting TransLink’s initiative if their members had to come up with $300 or $400 million for transit improvements or if their members had to pay for the extra cost of subway construction under Broadway?

Powerful corporate syndicate hatch plan to bankroll light rail line from Parramatta to Sydney Olympic Park

Parramatta Light rail

An artist’s impression of the Parramatta light rail, which a group of businesses want extended to Sydney Olympic Park.

A CONSORTIUM of up to 20 high-profile businesses have formed the West Line Alliance, offering to tip in hundreds of millions of dollars to bring the Parramatta light rail link to Sydney Olympic Park.

The business group hopes to bankroll the project and make the Olympic Park line the State Government’s preferred route for stage one, with a final announcement expected before the State Election.

The West Line Alliance includes corporate heavy-hitters such as Goodman Fielder, General Property Trust, Australian Turf Club, Accor Hotels and ANZ Stadium and has brought a number of influential business leaders to the table.

Aerial view of Olympic Park, Homebush, Sydney.

Big business is pushing for a light rail link from Parramatta to Sydney Olympic Park.

Until now, the favoured route for the first stage of the Parramatta light rail link was to Macquarie Park via Carlingford.

The route, one of four options outlined last year, has been the frontrunner because the land corridor to Carlingford has ­already been reserved for heavy rail and could be built faster and cheaper.

Parramatta MP Geoff Lee and Parramatta City Council have championed the Carlingford line.

However, the alliance wants the government to consider moving on the Sydney Olympic Park link sooner rather than later.

Sydney Business Chamber Western Sydney director David Borger.

The government is examining four potential corridors before it choses a light rail route

The government is examining four potential corridors before it choses a light rail route

Convened by the Western Sydney chapter of the Sydney Business Chamber, the alliance wants to use a ‘value-capture’ funding model which sees beneficiaries of infrastructure stumping up money for the project.

Western Sydney Business Chamber director David Borger said the link could be partially funded through contributions from developers along the route.

“If they are going to spend $1 billion building a light rail link, well there could be a few hundred million dollars from the private sector to do two routes rather than one,” he said.

Rosehill Gardens racecourse is on the proposed route to Sydney Olympic Park.

ANZ Stadium, Olympic Park, is part of the West Line Alliance.

ANZ Stadium is part of the West Line Alliance behind the push.

“If they are going to build a link to Macquarie Park, then build one to Sydney Olympic Park at the same time, or bring it forward rather than a stage two project.

“It pushes the public dollar further and makes sense for the beneficiaries of the light rail to make a contribution.

“The Gold Coast has levied all the businesses along the light rail route to fund the build and we need to consider all options in terms of public-private funding.”

Mr Borger has been a long term supporter of a route from Westmead to Sydney Olympic Park via Camellia.

“There is a real opportunity here to connect Westmead, Parramatta and Sydney Olympic Park as one city,” he said.

“I just think western Sydney hasn’t been able to capture a lot of knowledge jobs,” Mr Borger said.

But Mr Borger’s suggested route would require an extension northwest from Parramatta to Westmead, which was not one the four preferred routes released by Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian late last year.

The business chamber said the Parramatta light rail project had the potential to transform the region and support Parramatta as Sydney’s second CBD.

The chamber said the project should be prioritised because of its potential to stimulate economic growth and housing supply in western Sydney.

“A stark jobs deficit remains as 200,000 people leave the region for work each day and this is forecast to grow to more than 400,000 by 2051 without drastic action,” a statement from the chamber said.

Crystal ball department.

This could be the headline for the metro Vancouver Region is a few years hence.


February 16, 2015

York Region pulls back on infrastructure projects in effort to rein in debt

Torstar News Service VIVA Rapid Transit, launched in 2005 to carry residents across York Region.

York Region is starting to feel the burden of carrying the highest per capita debt load in the GTA, and is pulling back on infrastructure projects to rein in borrowing costs.

York’s debt has climbed to $2.54 billion and is expected to peak at $3.7 billion by 2020.

For years, the region’s debt repayment plan has been dependent on development charges from current and future construction of homes in booming cities such as Markham, Vaughan and Richmond Hill. (Levies collected help cover the cost of money borrowed to build infrastructure such as water and sewage pipes.)

Despite fast-tracking projects and a relatively strong housing market, development charges aren’t keeping up with debt repayment. Almost 85 per cent of York’s debt is based on what it hopes to recover from development fees.

“We assumed higher growth in the early years, followed by slower growth in the later years,” said Edward Hankins, director of the Treasury Office for York. “But because of the economic recession, some of that growth has not occurred as quickly as we thought.”

Officials admit the development charge collection plan is volatile and largely dependent on how the economy fares. Heavy reliance on such fees could leave York taxpayers facing two unfavourable options down the road to cover debt: higher taxes, or more sprawl to keep the development fees coming in.

According to a 2013 report, development levies collected over the past decade amounted to an average of $173 million a year. In 2014, the region reset the rates and collected $250 million, Hankins said. The region is anticipating $330 million annually in 2015 and 2016 — even though such numbers have never been met.

But he is optimistic.

“York is going to grow. It’s one of the fastest growing municipalities in Canada. It’s just a question of how quickly it will grow,” he said.

Yet there have already been consequences to the region’s aggressive build plan and high debt, according to the 2015 proposed budget document, which is up for discussion this month.

S&P recently downgraded the region’s credit rating from AAA to AA+, over concerns the region was spending too much and taking on too much debt. To slow down spending, York Region Council decided to delay certain projects, including the Upper York water reclamation centre and water and sewage projects in Vaughan.

The projects could be restarted if growth proves to be faster than expected, or development charge funds improve.

So, the region’s new focus is building up its reserve funds, Hankins said.

The $1.7 billion currently held in reserves, second in the region only to Toronto’s, is being spent faster than the revenues coming in. By 2017, the depletion trend is expected to reverse, said Hankins.

Critics warn that York’s strategy will put it in much the same straits Peel Region now faces.

“Mississauga was able to collect development fees and use them to subsidize tax freezes,” said Sony Rai, a member of the environmental group Sustainable Vaughan. “Fast-forward 30 years and now Peel Region’s infrastructure replacement and repair bill is causing tax increases.”

Paul Bottomley, York Region’s manager for growth management, believes the growth anticipated in the region by 2031 will surpass what is needed to pay off the debt.

According to a land assessment report from 2009, the region anticipates some 1.5 million people will move in over the next two decades. It also expects to add 229,300 housing units over that period, almost 40 per cent of those single-family homes — the most lucrative type when it comes to development fees.

A single or semi-detached home brings in $37,720 in development charges. A condo of less than 700 square feet brings in almost $15,865.

But some environmentalists worry that York’s debt repayment policy is not sustainable and is a model destined to fuel sprawl.

“They are so far exposed in terms of debt and paying for that with development charges … and the only way they can see forward is to keep doing more of it,” said Tim Gray, executive director with the advocacy group Environmental Defence.

He believes that as the region builds out, there will eventually be pressure on the protected Greenbelt lands, where new development is forbidden.

Gray believes that with the provincial Greenbelt review taking place this year, the region could contemplate actively moving toward a high-density model, instead of “simply digging itself deeper into the hole.”

“They need to figure out how we can modify development charges so that revenue can be obtained from denser development,” he said. “And if you aren’t building new infrastructure that extends far into the countryside, then your costs are lower,” he said.“So you can transition to a new funding model.

“But in the short term, and with so much debt on them, it’s a hard sell.”

And you think TransLink has problems………

Vancouver is not the only city having financial problems with transit.

Toronto is mired in political vanity subway projects and the TTC is steaming full speed ahead into a financial iceberg as well.


The Scarborough Subway and Smart Track are about to collide


Anyone who thinks they can read between the lines of the two sets of council votes this week — about the Scarborough subway and Smart Track — should remember that what we’re seeing now at City Hall is merely political foreplay.

The four quick votes against Josh Matlow’s administrative inquiries into the Scarborough subway cost/corridor questions tell us nothing about council’s ultimate intentions with regards to that $3.4 billion-and-counting monument to Glen de Baeremaeker’s insecurities. Nor does the impressive 42-2 vote in favour of the Smart Track studies reveal evidence of unity of purpose.

Rather, what really matters is that point off in the middle distance where these two sets of transit mega-project proposals, and their respective price-tags, intersect. Because they will, and that collision will likely occur approximately a year from now – a kind of supercollider for Toronto’s latest transit ambitions.

City and Metrolinx officials will spend much of the rest of 2015 analyzing the various configurations, how the two routes interact with one another, and how Smart Track fits into the province’s $15 billion Regional Express Rail plan. At the same time, the Scarborough subway scheme will be subject to an accelerated approvals process that will look at corridor configurations, lengths, stations, etc.

But the crucial money/financing questions won’t hit council until next spring, at the earliest, and that’s when the bonfire of the vanities will begin in earnest.

As an aside, one of the reasons Torontonians are chronically confused about transit is that transit reports wash up on council’s agenda so frequently, and repeatedly, that it’s often difficult to identify genuine decision moments. As the councillors well understand, those moments occur when they agree to spend or borrow money, and vote on motions that end in phrases such as, “authorize city officials to enter into agreements…” We had one of those moments in the fall of 2012 – when the City, the TTC and Metrolinx signed a master agreement to build the four LRT lines. We’re now facing the $75 million consequence of reneging, which is how you can tell it was a real decision.

Problem is, it’s not always easy to determine where in the process the money vote will occur. Sometimes, what feels like the ninth inning is actually only the seventh inning (Exhibit A: the Scarborough subway vote last spring). But as I said, the councillors all know.

While city officials laid out a process and rough time-table at council this week, several externally-imposed financial imponderables could derail the process – most notably the federal contribution to Smart Track. No one, including John Tory, has the foggiest idea how that one will play out. Until we all know the answer to said riddle, the rest is up in the air. After all, the quantum of the provincial contribution to Smart Track is obviously a function of the size of the federal investment. As long as we don’t have answers, sit back and watch for more foreplay.

Amidst all those question marks, my sources tell me that city staff, once they turn their attention to the money issues, will make sure that council is presented with the full financial picture. After all, the combined price tag for Smart Track and the Scarborough subway could easily exceed $12 or $13 billion — a substantial, though undetermined, portion of which will come from property taxpayers, development charges and city-issued debt.

Given that the city’s debt-service ratio will be perilously close to the mandated 15% ceiling by 2020 (the current level is 12%), it’s clear that decisions on the two lines can’t be made independently, both for financial reasons and also in terms of transit effectiveness.

Another piece of analysis we won’t see until next spring is city staff’s take on the revenue potential for Tory’s tax increment financing (TIF) scheme, which involves borrowing funds for infrastructure investment and paying down the debt using taxes generated by increased property assessment. During the election, candidate Tory claimed TIFs along the Smart Track corridor would bring in $2.6 billion.

What City officials will do, over the next year, is develop various scenarios for what kinds of revenues the City can actually expect, based on low, average and high-growth development projections on the corridor. They’ll also quietly canvas the bond markets to see whether TIF notes will sell, and for how much.

The politically expedient move for Tory and his backers would simply be to believe the most optimistic revenue scenario, and choose accordingly. But the reality is that the capital markets will have to absorb a massive release of City of Toronto debt, which is secured against investment decisions that may not happen for decades and are subject to macro-economic unknowns. Indeed, investors have never seen City of Toronto TIF bonds before. The markets will price accordingly, but it’s safe to assume the City will pay a premium – i.e., higher servicing charges on the operating budget — because it will be pushing out so much speculative debt on top of all the other borrowing the City does in normal course.

Bottom line: if council wants to limit the City’s exposure to costly debt charges, it may have to consider additional revenue tools to finance Smart Track.

All the while, more granular cost estimates on the Scarborough subway will come into sharper focus, and I fearlessly predict those numbers will go up every time de Baeremaeker and Scarborough’s newest grievance-monger, Jim Karygiannis, open their mouths.

In the past, council has tolerated project budget inflation due to mission creep or unexpected complexities, e.g., St Clair right-of-way, Queen’s Quay, Union Station. But the foregoing mega-projects pale in comparison to the Scarborough subway, raising the spectre of mind-boggling budget overruns.

Consider the yelling about the Union Station revitalization, which has seen its cost jump by $80 million, to $795 million. But a 10% increase or overrun on the Scarborough subway budget, a figure that is significantly less than the contingency on the Queen’s Quay revamp, could top $350 million or more, enough to pay for half the Queen’s Quay East LRT. And that number may only be part of an equation that includes additional outlays for Smart Track due to higher borrowing costs, lower-than-expected federal transfers, etc.

Point is, the financial uncertainties associated with one will affect the viability of the other.

About a year or so from now, council will be asked to cast votes on reports that include numbers with dollar-signs, and they’ll likely be requested to make choices about how to mitigate those very large costs. Among those choices will be service scenarios generated by the city’s expert transit advisors that reveal the redundancy writ large on these two parallel sets of rapid transit schemes.

So ask yourself this question: if Tory and the rest of council have to choose between these two megaprojects in order to mitigate the city’s long-term financial risk, which one will they throw overboard?

From where I sit, it seems almost inevitable that we’re barreling down the tracks towards a political either/or moment.

Trams that never stop at traffic lights

Trams that never stop at traffic lights could be part of Melbourne’s people-moving future

By Loretta Florance

ABC News

Trams that never have to stop for traffic lights could be the norm in Melbourne in the future, under plans being developed to deal with population growth in the city.

For the past seven years, VicRoads has been using mathematical modelling to figure out how changing conditions – such as traffic light frequency and clearway times – affected traffic flows.

VicRoads director of network policy and standards Andrew Wall said public transport was the focus of future planning because of its ability to carry far more people.

“We’ve used the model to assess what happens if we for example give absolute priority to the tram, which means that when a tram gets to a set of traffic signals, it never has to stop,” Mr Wall said.

“The model lets us look at those sort of situations, so it’s giving us some insights into how hard we can push the traffic signal system to give priority to trams.”

With Melbourne’s population projected to hit just under 8 million by 2053, Mr Wall said the roads authority had to look at “clever ways to move people around the network”.

“The focus on moving people is probably the critical thing for us,” he said.

“We want to set the road network up and the traffic signals up so we’re maximising how many people we move, not necessarily how many vehicles.

“Over time we have given more and more priority to trams, and we’re likely to give even more in the future.”

The mathematics of being stuck in traffic

Professor Jan De Gier and Dr Tim Garoni began working with VicRoads in 2008, as part of an internship with the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematics and Statistics of Complex Systems.

Since then the University of Melbourne researcher has been applying the basic principles of mathematical physics and statistical mechanics to roads in a unique way.

“We studied simple particle models in mathematical physics and noticed that some of these ideas were actually applicable to traffic flow, so we could use very efficient models and intuitive ideas that we learned over the years, in the modelling of traffic,” Professor De Gier said.

“You can view cars and buses and trams on a traffic network as simple particles, so you ignore a lot of the details that are inessential for traffic.

“If you model particles flowing through on a graph … and you set up the rules properly, you’ll see that they behave very much like traffic, so they spontaneously form traffic jams, and other things.”

Mr Wall said Professor De Gier’s team had essentially created “a sandpit” that allowed the authority to try out any number of traffic scenarios.

“So they’ve provided the tool, it’s up to us to use the tool to help inform decisions on how we operate the road network,” he said.

He said mathematics was being used in similar ways in European countries like Germany and Switzerland because it was a cheap and effective alternative to tradition modelling.

Mr Wall said using mathematical modelling was actually more informative than conducting real world traffic tests.

“We did a [real world] trial around Kew, a network of around 50 intersections, over four weeks, where we ran the traffic signal system differently on a day-on, day-off basis,” he said.

“What we found with that is that the variability in traffic from day to day made it really difficult to assess whether we were having an impact.

“So that sort of pointed us to that there’s got to be another way to analyse and assess the changes, which led us to a discussion with some mathematicians on a different approach to how we might do this.”

To develop a sophisticated traffic model of each individual road, intersection and vehicle in detail would cost between $500,000 and $1 million, Mr Wall said.

“This model can be set up for that same network for a fraction of that cost and lots of different options tested.”

Professor De Gier said the method meant that they could see how changing parking policy, tram frequency and traffic light intervals affected the network several kilometres away.

“VicRoads didn’t have tools to model traffic on a network, so all they could do was model in a few intersections or very global origin-destination modelling,” he said.

“What we can do with them is simulate suburbs or collections of traffic intersections of about 100, and see how traffic evolves on such a network if we change certain things.”

Street parking benefits trams

One of the surprises that has come from his research came from when his team modelled the effect of clearways on tram times, Professor De Gier said.

“The traditional thought was that if you have clearways all day then that would be good for cars and trams,” he said.

“It turns out that [with clearways] cars overtake trams and can obstruct the tram at the next intersection.

“So having parking provides a gating effect for trams who can then move through the network better.”

For the first time this year, Professor De Gier’s team will not be looking at generic traffic models, but will be looking at a specific area – Melbourne’s inner north.

Much of this research will be done at Monash University by research fellow Joyce Zhang of the new ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers.

“They’re extending the use of this model to look at the road network in the inner north,” Mr Wall said.

“So while we’re using this as a generic tool to look at networks, it’s actually being applied to look at the whole road network in the inner north and how that might work in the next 10 or 20 years.

“There’s a lot of north-south tram routes in that area, there’s a lot of population growth happening on those roads and to able to cater for that population growth, we need the north-south tram routes to work really well in terms of moving people.”

You have sat too long ……………..

TransLink CEO Ian Jervis has been made to “walk the plank” in an attempt to appease the No side of the upcoming plebiscite.

A quote from Oliver Cromwell comes to mind, when he dismissed the rump parliament.

You have sat too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!

Many will see this as merely rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic and one wonders how many more people will forced to “walk the plank?”

TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis steps down ‘to restore public confidence’

 The board decided to replace Jarvis ahead of a controversial plebiscite in Metro Vancouver this spring that will ask the public to approve a 0.5 per cent sales tax to fund transportation expansion
By Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver SUN

TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis has stepped down, effective immediately “to restore public confidence” in the transportation authority, said board chairwoman Marcella Szel.

Photograph by: Jenelle Schneider, Vancouver Sun


METRO VANCOUVER – Ian Jarvis has stepped down as TransLink CEO, effective immediately, in an attempt “to restore public confidence” in the transportation authority, said board chairwoman Marcella Szel.

The decision was made to replace Jarvis ahead of a controversial plebiscite in Metro Vancouver this spring that will ask the public to approve a 0.5 per cent sales tax to fund transportation expansion across the region.

Doug Allen, who most recently served as president and Chief Executive Officer of InTransit BC, will replace Jarvis on an interim basis.

“The decision was not taken lightly,” Szel said. “We believe it’s the right thing to do. We need to build public confidence at TransLink.”

A search committee has been established by the board of directors to undertake a comprehensive search for a new CEO. This search is expected to take several months.

Jarvis, who has served TransLink since 1999 and as CEO since 2009, will act an advisor to the board until the conclusion of his contract in June 2016. He will continue to be paid his salary, while Allen will also be paid $35,000 per month for the next six months.

“We are not particularly happy paying two CEO salaries for a year-a-half,” Szel said. “But it was the board’s view to change leadership and change leadership now.”

She said the board has been concerned about public confidence at TransLink for some time, especially over complaints about SkyTrain breakdowns and the Compass Card, and “is listening to customers and the public regarding the need for change and has taken action.”

TransLink will use Jarvis’s expertise while counting on Allen to bring “fresh eyes” and more accountability and transparency to the transportation authority, she added.

She said new leadership is needed both before and after the plebiscite, which will determine whether TransLink will have more funds to expand the system or continue as it is now.

“We need new vision and new strength to lead us through that phase,” she said.

The new CEO will oversee a $10-billion transportation system and $1.5 billion dollar operating budget, 6,700 employees, and

TransLink’s operating companies: Coast Mountain Bus Company, BC Rapid Transit Company, and Transit Police. Building a better relationship with customers and key stakeholders will be paramount.

Allen recently served as president and Chief Executive Officer of InTransit BC, the company that built and operates the Canada Line.

Allen is not a candidate for permanent CEO and will work directly with the Board of Directors in recruiting and selecting his successor.

“During this transition period, Mr. Allen will provide excellent leadership on all priorities, including meeting aggressive targets on the Compass program, implementing recommendations from the independent review of the SkyTrain outages, and moving forward on actions to improve safety and service for our customers,” said Szel.

A Brief Primer on Toronto’s Trolleybuses

The following brief history of Toronto’s Trolleybuses was provided by Avrom Shtern in the LRPPro blog and is worth a read as it somewhat mirrors Vancouver’s trolleybus situation.

Trolley Buses operated in TO between 1921 and 1993.

Frequently Asked Questions about Toronto’s Trolley Buses

(Last Modified on September 6, 2013 11:46 PM)

Why did the trolley buses disappear from Toronto’s streets?

Why did the trolley buses disappear from Toronto’s streets?

Bad timing, mostly. Electric vehicles have longer lifespans than their diesel counterparts (at least 30 years versus 12-18 for the average bus), but even these vehicles have to be rebuilt or replaced sometime. The most recent fleet of Toronto’s trolley coaches started operating in the year 1947. In the late 1960s, the TTC had the entire fleet rebuilt by Western Flyer, and that added another twenty or so years to the trolley buses’ lifespan. That brought the fleet to 1992.

By 1992, the fleet was showing its age again, and the infrastructure was also on its last legs. To retain trolley coach service, the TTC was looking at either rebuilding or replacing its fleet, and spending millions to upgrade aging infrastructure. The price of oil was also very low at this time, and the electric trolley buses had become the most expensive surface vehicles of the fleet to operate. Add to this a budget crunch and shrinking ridership from the recession, and the TTC decided that the trolley buses weren’t worth it, anymore.

The final straw was the natural gas buses. At the time, this new technology promised quiet, smooth operation and reduced pollution, and the builders marketed these buses as ideal replacements for trolley bus service. The TTC did not stop to think that these improvements only appeared when natural gas buses replaced diesels; instead, it pushed for a change of technology from electric trolleys to natural gas. The natural gas design has shown its flaws, since then, and the TTC are no longer as interested in the technology.

In general, trolley buses were the poor siblings of transit agencies’ streetcar and bus fleets. While theoreticially combining the advantages of streetcars and diesel buses (lower emissions, greater flexibility, less likely to be blocked by traffic), practically they also combined the disadvantages of both technologies (less capacity, more infrastructure required). In Toronto, the trolley buses were usually assigned to lower-demand residential ex-streetcar routes. Except for Bay and Ossington, they were never assigned to transit corridors where frequent service was required. Their adept handling of steep hills was never displayed in flat Toronto. In general, they were never given a chance to prove themselves.

Why did trolley buses use two trolley poles and streetcars only use one?

Electrons are charged particles and are repelled from negatively charged surfaces and are attracted to positively charged surfaces. For electrical components to work, they must stand between this flow from negative to positive. If anything prevents electrons from running to the positive surface (e.g. the positive outlet of a battery or plug) from the negative surface (e.g. the ground or the negative outlet of the battery or plug), then there is no current, and electrical motors won’t operate.

Streetcars take power from a charged trolley wire. The electricity travels through the trolley pole and the inner workings of the streetcar and is channelled out of the wheels and into the rails and the ground. Trolley buses have rubber-tired wheels, however, and rubber is an effective insulator against electrical current. To have a current, the trolley bus must either string a metal chain from the motor to the ground, or return the power to a differently charged wire. Guess which is safer and more practical.

There are streetcars which operate using two trolley poles. Cleveland is one example. This is done when the transit agency wants a more controlled circuit, rather than routing the electricity into the ground via the rails.

Why were there two separate divisions of trolley bus routes in Toronto?

Eglinton Division and Lansdowne Division remained separate because the route that was to connect them together was never converted to trolley bus operation. The TTC had serious plans to convert the 32 Eglinton West bus to trolley coach operation (going as far as to construct a rollsign for it), but never followed through. It is possible that this was due to opposition by Forest Hill residents to the stringing of overhead wires along Eglinton Avenue.

So, how did trolley buses get transferred from one division to the other?

They were towed.

Seriously, that’s probably how the TTC did it. Fortunately, they didn’t have to do this very often, as both the Eglinton and Lansdowne Garages had the facilities necessary to perform all of the necessary maintenance. Without the trolley wires, there was no other option in moving the trolley bus around. Well, you could try batteries, but batteries are the reason why Toronto’s Last Trolley Bus rots in a parking lot instead of runs on city streets.

So, how do you know this stuff?

We look it up. Here are the sources we’ve consulted in building these web pages. You may be able to find these publications in your local library…

Bromley, John F., and Jack May Fifty Years of Progressive Transit, Electric Railroaders’ Association, New York (New York), 1978.
Filey, Mike, Not a One-Horse Town: 125 Years of Toronto and its Streetcars, Gagne Printing, Louiseville (Quebec), 1986.
Filey, Mike, The TTC Story: The First Seventy-Five Years, Dundurn Press, Toronto (Ontario) 1996.
Roschlau, M.W., ‘Adieu, Mt Pleasant’ Rail and Transit, Sept-Oct 1976, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario), 1976.
Scrimgeour, Pat and Scott Haskill., ‘Toronto Trolley Coaches Stored’, Rail and Transit, January 1992, p3-4, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario).
Toronto Transit Commission, Trolley Coach CC&F and Flyer Coaches, The Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto (Ontario), January 1987.
Wickson, Ted, ‘TTC leases 30 Edmonton trolley coaches’, UCRS Newsletter, July 1990, p19, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario).

Le Mans A tram for a small city

While both BC Transit and TransLink gold-plate LRT planning with millions of dollars of extras, making tram projects almost as expensive as SkyTrain, the new Le Mans LRT/tramway demonstrates that light rail is affordable for smaller cities.

The new 15.4 km Le Mans Tramway total cost is about CAD $450 million, including cars or about CAD $29 million/km² per km. to build. Compare this with a Broadway subway and or Surrey’s proposed LRT.

Photo’s Courtesy Jack May

Le Mans:  Population:  City 150,000; Metro Area 295,000
Distance:  125 miles west-southwest of Paris, 1 hour

System Length:  15.4 kilometres
No. Lines:  2
No. Stations:  29
Year Opened:  2007
Rolling Stock:  23 Citadis 302

Construction costs: €229m (CAD $326.8 million), excluding the planned fleet of 19 LRVs. Ile-de-France would fund 42·5% and the national government 25·5%, Val-de-Marne council 15% and RATP 17%.

Cost per Citadis 302 tram: Approximately CAD $5 million per unit (including spares).



Bombardier Transportation accused of corruption in South Korea

A single car train on the Yongin Everline Line

The following is from CBC Radio Canada.

Even though the date of this news item is Jan. 28, no news outlet in Vancouver has mentioned it.

It also answers the question why TransLink has ignored the Yongin Line, it only has one car!

So let us revise the SkyTrain list, there are only 6 1/4 SkyTrain lines in operation around the world.

Bombardier Transportation accused of corruption in South Korea

Bombardier offered gifts and trips to win lucrative contract, South Korean officials allege

CBC News

Posted:Jan 28, 2015

Bombardier Transportation was investigated in South Korea over corruption allegations but never charged, CBC’s French-language service Radio-Canada has learned.

A task force led by Korean prosecutors alleges that Bombardier, based in Quebec, offered gifts and trips to Canada for civil servants and politicians who decided to choose Bombardier’s technology for an elevated train system.

When the project was first announced almost 15 years ago, it was said to be worth more than $1 billion.

Train with 1 car

(A note by Zwei: The Yongin line operate cars singly, yet Bombardier claims that the Yonguin ART could carry 25,000 ~ 30,000 persons per hour per direction, the same sort of nonsense his peddled here!)

The train system that began operating in 2013 is now a financial burden for the taxpayers of Yongin.

‘The Yongin train has only one car.’- Hyun Geun-Taek, lawyerYongin, the 12th biggest city in South Korea, has an impressive elevated train, which runs for 18 kilometres linking the Seoul subway system to a large amusement park named Everland.


Bombardier South Korea trainThe elevated train in South Korea, made up of a single car, will cost taxpayers about $3.5B over the next 30 years. (Radio-Canada)

The train is similar to Vancouver’s SkyTrain but there is a major difference – it only has a single car.”We thought it was going to be a metro, but the Yongin train has only one car, so we could say it’s more like a bus,” said Hyun Geun-Taek, a lawyer who filed legal action on behalf of the citizens of Yongin.

The “bus” is expected to cost taxpayers $3.5 billion over the next 30 years, including maintenance.

The city chose the elevated train, proposed by a consortium led by Bombardier, because a government agency predicted a ridership of 183,000 passengers a day.

That projection was exaggerated, according to a Yongin city councillor.

“[It's] a ridership so inflated, we can say it’s a joke,” said Yoo Jin-Sun.

It turned out the ridership prediction was way off. When the train entered service in 2013, there were fewer than 10,000 passengers a day.

Police probe for corruption

The public-private partnership between the city of Yongin and the consortium prompted prosecutors to launch an investigation.

A special investigation unit alleged that Bombardier offered gifts and trips to the civil servants who made the ridership forecasts and recommended the company’s technology.

“Between 2003 and 2005, Bombardier paid three trips to Canada to 37 people — flights in business class, luxury hotel, golf, sightseeing,” alleged Geun-Taek, adding that 18 Yongin city councillors also travelled to Canada for so-called “LRT [light rail transit] field trips,” courtesy of  Bombardier.

The company has consistently denied the corruption allegations.

“They were not pleasure trips. There is a need to convince the people that our technology works well … If it had been corruption, they would have charged us,” said Serge Bisson, the vice-president of systems in northern Asia for Bombardier Transportation.

The prosecutors also alleged that Bombardier created a $2-million slush fund for an employee, Kim Hak-Pil, who is a high-ranking executive in South Korea and a Canadian citizen.

Korean investigators suspected the slush fund money was used for lobbying civil servants and business partners on other projects in South Korea.

“What I know is that we didn’t make illicit payments. We did not bribe anyone,” Bisson said.

A white elephant

No charges were laid at the end of the investigation due to the statute of limitation according to prosecutors, while Bombardier said it was because there was a lack of evidence.

The city had to make drastic budget cuts in education and welfare programs, such as heating for seniors’ community centres.

“It’s a scam on the edge of legality. That’s what I think,” said Korea national assembly member Kim Min-Ki.

As the city of Yongin struggles to repay the debt associated with the train system, Bombardier is still making money. The company charges the city about $26 million a year in operation and management fees.

Bombardier has an operation and maintenance contract that can last 30 years.