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.
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