Civic Maturity Comes With Light Rail

Light Rail, brings with it, civic maturity.

This civic maturity puts the transit customers before political friends; it puts financial reality ahead of political prestige; it puts the public interest as a whole, ahead of car drivers and even business owners. Light rail focuses on good transit and good planning, which in the future will make the city vibrant and livable.

Metro Vancouver sees no such transit maturity at all.

The anti-LRT crowd, offer cliched “fake news” and “alternative facts” about modern light rail ad naseum, but fail to mention that no one actually wants to build with their pet Innovia SkyTrain and/or the classic white elephant, Canada Line, also lack the maturity to understand modern public transit philosophy.

Metro Vancouver builds transit because of political deals made by the Premier of the day and executed by a neutered TransLink, for the benefit of Bombardier Inc., SNC Lavalin, land developers and land speculators. In Metro Vancouver, the transit customer does not count as transit is designed to move money, not people.

In Toronto, with the introduction of new low-floor modular trams, comes the next step of upgrading the heritage streetcar network to a 21st century light-rail standard and already, ridership has increased, as transit customers like the changes.

Of course there will be problems and of course some businesses will find the changes challenging. Car drivers are finding out that they also must give way to better transit, a lesson that is unheard of in Vancouver, where car drivers are forced off roads, without any noticeable improvement in transit at all!

The result, gridlock reigns in Metro Vancouver.

As for TransLink, their puerile “rah-rah” media friendly news releases claims are just that, claims, as evidence point to the opposite, people are avoiding transit.

The continued abysmal planning for SkyTrain; the continued planning for ‘rapid transit’ on routes that do not have the traffic flows to support it, shows a genuine immaturity with transit planning.

TransLink, the City of Vancouver and the metro Vancouver mayors have shown no signs of maturity, in fact they treat transit like a child’s Christmas train set, very expensive for what it does and then lose interest soon after ‘daddy’ sets it up Christmas Day!

Memo to metro mayors: Grow up and be adults;  do what is right and not what your political bagmen tell you to do.

City planners dreamed of transforming the crucial roadway in the core, but some ideas were later shelved for being too radical

Passengers prepare to board a westbound streetcar on King St. West near John St., on Feb 8 2018.

When the King Street pilot was first envisioned, it was about more than speeding up streetcars. City planners dreamed of transforming the crucial roadway, discouraging drivers in favour of transit and adding dynamic public space that would reshape the corridor.

Instead, the city “shelved” broader plans to improve the look and feel of King Street, nervous that being too radical would bring political and public opposition. The project was launched as a transit initiative that did little to improve what planners call the public realm.

The city then found itself on the defensive as business opposition mounted, forcing staff and politicians to scramble for ways to head off critics and add elements that would bring life to the street.

Observers say the response – including escalating offers of free parking and a restaurant promotion announced, then discarded – could have been avoided if the city had started with more comprehensive changes.

“There are components of the public-realm plan that were sort of shelved, and very clearly those components of the public-realm plan are a critical part of the success,” said former chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat, who left the role two months before the project launched.

“I think that there was some fear about taking the pilot too far too quickly, but it’s kind of like one of those situations where you can’t just dip your toe in the water. You’re either in the water or you’re out of the water, but you can’t be halfway in.”

In November, the city eliminated street parking and prohibited continuous vehicle traffic on King Street from Bathurst to Jarvis. Transit ridership is up, but some businesses complain of big drops in customers. Now, after three months, the year-long project is entering a pivotal period.

The worst of winter should end soon, likely bringing more people outside to use the street. The financial district’s business improvement area (BIA) has been surveying its members before it takes a public position on the pilot. A coalition of civic and residents’ groups has begun promoting King Street.

The popular musical Come From Away returns to a King Street theatre next week, and is expected to draw thousands. Around the same time, the city is planning to release credit card sales data that will help show whether businesses are, in fact, suffering.

The Globe and Mail canvassed more than 140 businesses throughout the pilot area and the responses did not suggest the street is deserted, as some opponents insist. But impacts vary widely. While most respondents said business dropped after the pilot launched, around one-third reported it being flat or improved.

For the rest of the story……

Comments

3 Responses to “Civic Maturity Comes With Light Rail”
  1. tensorflow says:

    I do have to defend that rapid transit is still the right choice for Asian style cites.

    For most Asian sytle of cities, stops has to be made within walking distance (< 1.5km on average) because most areas near the main transit line are dense, and it shouldn't interfer road travel because otherwise the buses (always needed for area away from main transit line) are screwed.

    Rapid transit are the only way to reach an average travel speed of 35kph & above on it, considering the two constrains I listed above
    e.g. Expo line Waterfront-Metrotown section, 21 minutes, 11 stops, 12.5 km, average speed = 37.5kph.

    Trams can't reach a speed like this with that many stops, unless they have priority at crossing, but then they will have a strong negative affect on road travel if they do so.
    I don't have good tram example here, but let's use BRT which have essentially the same speed as trams do & also don't share traffic with other vehicle, except they don't carry as many passengers as tram:
    Beijing's BRT 1, 40 minutes, 17 stops, 16 km, average speed = 24kph.

    As for whether Vancouver should be treated an Asian style city is another story. Whether it should become an Asian style city, which it has increasingly had this trend, is also another discussion.

    Zwei replies: Asian cities use heavy-rail metro because they have large populations that demand long trains and stations with long platforms to accommodate them. But even cities like Bangkok, find it difficult to provide ridership for their metro lines due to the high cost of tickets.

    If you have read the Hass-Klau international study, “Bus or Light Rail – making the Right Choice”, you would find that in North America and Europe, the most ridership for a transit line comes within a 300 metre radius, thus why light rail in Europe have stops 500m to 600m apart.

    Actually, your argument forgets that with stops 1.5 km apart, ridership sharply declines ans and total travel time increase for those using R/T for journeys under 7 km.

    Your BRT examples forget the fact that real BRT cost only sightly less than a tram; has much less capacity; slower and is poor at attracting ridership. You have fallen into the trap of comparing basically streetcars and not LRT with both buses and metro. TransLink has done the same as they do not have the wit to understand the difference.

    You have made too many false assumptions.

  2. tensorflow says:

    Thank you for your reply. I appreciate it.

    You are right about the fact that for shorter travel, rapid transit system is not preferable due to less frequent stops & longer time to get to the station, compare to a non-grade seperated system like LRT/Trams. That’s indeed the case for European cities where shorter travel are more common.

    But for most Asian cities, medium distance travel is happening very frequently – and I would argue that it is the same for Vancouver.

    Just like the example I give above, we all know that Metrotown is already a major urban center right now. But it’s 10km away from downtown Vancouver. Just imagine how many people are there that is needed to get between these two area. There is also Edmonds, another major urban center in Burnaby, that’s 15km away from Downtown. People living in the two major urban area wouldn’t be willing to accept a LRT service that is not fully grade seperated, even if such system is much cheaper – just look at how many people are willing to take bus 19 instead of the Expo line in between Metrotown and Downtown Vancouver, where bus 19 is significantly chaper than the Expo Line.

    That’s also the reason why UBC students are predominantly pro Broadway subway extension. Because a lot of them live to the east of highway 99, 7.5km away from UBC bus loop. Also there is a lot of collaboration going on between UBC and SFU, but the two school is ~20km away from each other.

    And, just for your reference, speed is also the reason why Asian cities will prefer to use rapid transit, even if sometimes they may face a lower projected ridership. Examples includes:

    Hong Kong MTR South Island Line
    (Car length 67.5m, average distance between stop 1.85km)
    Taipei Metro Yellow Line
    (Car length 68m, average distance between stop 1.7km)
    Singapore MRT Circle Line
    (Car length 70m, average distance between stop 1.3km)

    Zwei replies: It is a mistake to compare Asian cities with Vancouver, as huge populations create major traffic flows on transit lines which demand long trains which need large stations which again demand grade separation.

    In North America, Asian transit practices would not be tolerated, especially in the USA where transit customers expect seats.

    What happens is that again, we come down to traffic flows along Broadway and it is less than 4,000 pphpd in the peak hour. The North American standard for subway construction is traffic flows in excess of 15,000 pphps to justify construction.

    You can build the subway (presently there is absolutely no plans to extend Broadway to UBC and the CoV is talking tram) but the huge costs involved and little return will pauper the rest of the transit system.

  3. Haveacow says:

    It’s also important to keep in mind that, when comparing different rapid transit operating environments the difference in policy around that transit system has big outcomes attached to them. For example, it’s been my experience that in the US, the federal government under the FTA, puts a lot more emphasis on capital spending compared to Canada. Which means more new LRT and BRT lines in more cities (before Trump anyway). However, when it comes to operational spending which is mainly local and state financed the money spent on transit drops dramatically compared to Canada. A transit blogger here in Vancouver thought that LRT couldn’t operate with a frequency of less than 5 minutes because he used US LRT lines as his base for research.

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