A Light (Rail) In The Piazza

A very welcomed editorial in the Delta Optimist.

Slowly, ever slowly, people are beginning to realize that modern LRT is just not a transit mode, but a transit philosophy!

Here lies the difference between LRT and SkyTrain; as SkyTrain or light metro is designed to give fast service between transit hubs forcing transit customers to transfer at least once, if not many more times to complete their journey. LRT is designed to provide cheaper, yet higher quality service on a heavily used transit routes. SkyTrain as a planning oriented accessory for city planning; while light rail is customer oriented and because of this, modern LRT is far more successful in attracting new ridership.

This basic lesson on providing successful transit has not been learned by TransLink and by most mayors and will lead TransLink into a financial morass and one wonders if TransLink can ever do it right.

 Houston new LRT traveling through a water feature.

Ted Murphy / Delta Optimist

Region not on the right track

January 6, 2015 12:00 AM

I’m beginning to see what light rail advocates are talking about.

Last week I was in Portland with my son to see our beloved Toronto Raptors take on the Trail Blazers and although the visitors lost in overtime, I did enjoy the proverbial moral victory when it came to my choice of transportation.

We were staying at a hotel in the northern suburbs, which also happened to be a long block from a TriMet station. I figured rather than fight rush hour traffic on the I-5 and then try to find overpriced parking near the arena, we would take the Yellow Line on Portland’s expansive light rail system. It took 19 minutes, and cost just $3.75 combined, for the train to drop us at the steps of the Moda Center in the city’s Rose Quarter district.

We had a similar experience in San Diego last summer when we rode that city’s light rail network to get to both the USS Midway and to a Padres game at the new downtown ballpark.

The more I see light rail in action, the more it baffles me why transit planners here have been so resistant to embrace this form of transportation.

What struck me about the Portland experience, and what bugs me about the rapid transit situation in Greater Vancouver, is the scope, or lack thereof, of the network. Light rail in the Rose City serves pretty much the entire region, from Hillsboro in the west all the way to Gresham in the east. It stretches from the Columbia River and the airport in the north to Beaverton and Clackamas in the south.

There are four different lines, with a fifth on the way this fall, meaning it doesn’t matter where you live, you’re never too far from a light rail stop.

Contrast that with Greater Vancouver’s SkyTrain network, if you can call it that, which serves a select few areas, leaving all other transit users on buses that must compete with an ever-growing number of single-occupancy vehicles in the region.

SkyTrain is great if you happen to live/work close to a station, but we’re coming up on its 30th anniversary and we’ve only got three lines (a fourth is under construction), which means huge portions of the Lower Mainland, including this one, still don’t have any type of rapid transit.

Given you can build a kilometre of light rail for a fraction of what an elevated train costs, it’s no surprise many cities are turning to at-grade train tracks as a way to move the masses.

In Greater Vancouver, however, we cling to the prohibitively expensive SkyTrain system as we perpetuate a mistake of the past.


© 2015 Delta Optimist

Comments

One Response to “A Light (Rail) In The Piazza”
  1. eric chris says:

    Wow, fantastic and Ted nailed it. I want to make another observation which came to light about how
    subways, b-Lines and s-trains (hub to hub transit) are the impetus for Vancouver’s unaffordability.

    First an anecdote:

    On January 2nd, I took my car to Midas on West 4th Avenue and Arbutus Street in Kitslilano-Vancouver to repair an exhaust leak. It was closed, and the building was sold to a condo developer in a bidding war. Cranes were taking down the Midas sign for another condo development. I talked to the Midas employee who will be commuting to another Midas location in Surrey to work, now, and he said that the owner was ticked about losing his location, but hey, the City of Vancouver is all about serving the developers even if re-zoning commercial lots for residential condos costs Vancouver scarce jobs and hurts the local economy.

    http://vancouver.ca/green-vancouver/kitsilano.aspx

    Now residents in Kitsilano-”Green”-Vancouver have to drive to East Vancouver for exhaust work, increasing road congestion in the process. Metro Vancouver can’t reduce road congestion if people live in condos in Vancouver and have to work outside Vancouver. This is what high density development wiping out places of work for transit by TransLink does.

    I’m opposed to hub to hub transit (b-lines, s-trains and subways) and especially the subway to UBC for one main reason: it is turning Vancouver into an exclusive enclave for the rich and is making Vancouver unaffordable for all but the rich to live. How’s that? Well, it allows developers to tear down affordable housing in Vancouver and replace it with housing which is more expensive. Hub to hub transit pushes the working class out of Vancouver and into Surrey, mostly. It also results in small businesses losing their businesses to greedy and powerful developers who have no interest in the community or people in the case of Midas in Kitsilano, for example.

    Affluent individuals require peasants to work in menial service jobs and the hub to hub transit is provided to transport the serfs from Surrey to Vancouver to tend to the rich – similar to what has happened in New York, Paris, San Francisco and other cities targeted by the mega-rich. Maybe we can’t stop this inertia but for the working class to be targeted to pay for the hub to hub transit displacing them from Vancouver to me seems utterly perverse and taxing us to pay for TransLink to do it is obscene.

    I’ll fight tooth and nail to let people know what Gregor Robertson (the sham) and his pals at TransLink are doing. Taxpayers paying for all the subway and s-train lines (proposed UBC subway with proposed “sales tax”) here are being suckered for condo developers to get their hands on single family homes whenever a new subway or s-train line is built. Subway and s-train lines open up new “real estate” opportunities for developers who own Gregor Robertson. Developers get rich while the taxpayers paying for the subway and s-train lines get poorer. At the same time, the jet setting rich carve up Vancouver as their playground.

    Pretending that transit is being pursued to reduce congestion just adds to the aggravation. Saying that transit users will drive without transit is almost analogous to saying that people in wheelchairs will become Olympic sprinters without their wheelchairs, well not exactly but pretty close and most transit users take transit because they really have no choice and depend upon it. Of course, if we had trams or LRT, I’d take transit sometimes but there is no way that I’ll step on a b-line or s-train – no way, just like most other drivers.