Donai??i??t learn from the failure of the subway on Cambie Street ai??i?? copy it for Broadway

Sad to see that the best UBC can do is to copy failed 1950′s planning philosophy for the 21st century for Vancouver.

In North America, subways are seen as the the great transit philosopher’s stone to solve all transportation problems – if you do not have a subway, your transit system is next to useless.

This subway philosophy held sway in Europe from the late 1940′, 50′s, 60′s, 70′s until the early 80′s, when fiscal reality hit with a vengeance.

As subways were built, local surface tram lines were abandoned and though ridership numbers were high on the subway; system wide ridership fell as many former transit customers found that instead of an almost doorstop to doorstop trip with the old tram, this convenience disappeared with the new subway. Taking the car was just easier.

Although a subway replaced the tram lines, an expensive shadow bus service had to be maintained because the subway stations were too far apart to attract customers. Many transit customers thought the switch from tram to bus was unacceptable and again, turned to the car for transit.

The new subways were expensive to operate and maintain, subway stations had to be policed by a small army of attendants. Many subway systems became “no-go” areas after dark as teen gangs outnumbered the security and preyed upon transit customers, something that just did not happen with the old street operating trams.

As the subways aged, they became very costly to maintain as the subway environment played havoc with the infrastructure.

The final straw was that local taxpayers refused to pay for more subways as they were taxed out.

Today in Germany, many cities which built subways are in fiscal difficulty, where cities which avoided subway construction do not.

The fiscal problems with subways helped fuel the light rail Renaissance in Europe, for today, for a subway to be built, a transit line needs to show peak hour traffic flows in excess of 20,000 pphpd, unless that is, there is undue political interference to build a subway. A subway is still seen as a tool for political prestige, especially around election time.

Sadly in North America, most so-called transit experts are not very expert at all, except being expert to jump on the subway gravy-train, when it suits their purposes.

Let us not forget, the Canada Line subway, which construction costs are now put at about $2.5 billion, is a heavy-rail metro, built as a light metro and with its very short 50 metre station platforms has less capacity than a on-street tram! Is this the type of subway that is really being planned for Broadway?

A Broadway subway will beggar Translink and the regional taxpayer and until planning graduates truly understand the science of public transit, the regional transit system will repeat all the expensive mistakes their European counterparts made a half a century ago.

Q&A with Lawrence Frank

Transit expert Lawrence Frank on the health costs of our sedentary lifestyle, and the resale benefits of tunnelling along the Broadway corridor.
Lawrence Frank, UBC Professor of Health & PlanningAi??

Let’s jump right into transit. I commute along Broadway every day. It’s packed! What’s to be done?

We’re in an absolutely horrible situation with transit on the Broadway Corridor. I’m a good example: I used to live near Main and Broadway, tried to use the B-Line-my partner and I both work at UBC-and we were waiting for three buses just to get on. I teach transit, it’s my life, and I gave up. So we moved closer. It was literally taking an hour and a half to get to UBC versus 20 minutes by car. When you have that kind of differential in travel time, you lose people.

How dramatic is the difference between a transit stop being next to my door and a stop being a block away?

Huge. It’s called distance decay. In the ’50s, transportation adapted Newtonian physics-effectively, the gravity formula-to explain our behaviour. The effect is exponential: we’re many times less likely to go to a place two blocks away than one block away.

And your argument is that reluctance to use transit puts a burden on our system, that there’s a financial incentive to augmenting transit?

The best way to build walking into people’s lifestyles is to provide shops and services near to where they live and efficient transit service to get them to work. Transportation investment impacts our health; we need to consider how much it costs us as a society for every chronic-disease onset. There are all kinds of adverse health impacts of sedentary lifestyles, like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, that you can apply a dollar value to. So we need to put all this together-otherwise, there’s going to be no money for transportation. Or for any other ministry. The city manager, Penny Ballem, has a slide-”The Clanger,” she calls it-where you see healthcare costs going up in a straight line and education being held constant and the budgets of all the other ministries just tanking. Because once you provide heathcare and a basic education for your population, there’s nothing left.

This brings us back to Broadway. If we were to free up infrastructure costs by putting a dollar value on healthcare savings, how do we improve that corridor?

Each proposed stop along Broadway from Commercial to Arbutus generates as many trips as most other cities in the region. Without better transit, further densification on Broadway is problematic, so then the question is, Should we tunnel or should it be above-grade like a SkyTrain or a monorail that’s maybe cheaper but you end up in the long term with a less attractive city. We sold ourselves to the world based on being attractive and livable, so that’s not the best solution. For Broadway, you could have a seamless connection between UBC and downtown that would be light rail. So you take the heavy rail at Commercial and bring it all the way to Arbutus, and that stops but then there could be a light rail line that uses the Arbutus corridor to go north/south through Kerrisdale and another west to UBC, as a possible solution.

As a homeowner in that area,Ai??I want to say a monorail above-grade is not the right solution.

Sure. But the problem is people react emotionally and the debate falls apart. We need collective buy-in for a solution, and the technology will follow. Seattle got so hung up and so polarized that they couldn’t build anything for three decades. Are you a couple blocksAi??off Broadway?


It’s the best thingAi??that could happen to you.

So it’ll increase my property values?

It almost always does. Location, location, location.


9 Responses to “Donai??i??t learn from the failure of the subway on Cambie Street ai??i?? copy it for Broadway”
  1. Tram too slow says:

    Some comments:
    1) Tram/street were dismentled in the 60 – 70′s because of the boom of auto industry. Car and tire companies would even bought out tram systems and got rid of them. It wasn’t the competion between subway and tram.
    2) The Canada Line short station example was a result of cheaper solution. Proper planning would have longer station built.
    3) Subway or Skytrain provides much higher capacity, shorter and reliable travel time because it doesn’t have interface wtih road traffic. Read this article from Calgary – three accidents in a few days, and which can shut down the entire system easily.

    Zweisystem replies:

    1) What are you talking about, the last streetcar ran in Vancouver in the mid 50′s. There is no competition between subway or tram, again you don’t know what you are talking about.
    2) AS the Canada Line costs were spiraling out of control, the scope of construction was greatly reduced. Large stations would have increased costs. Today, for a $2.5 billion investment, we have a heavy-rail metro, built as a light metro, which has less capacity than a streetcar costing about one quarter the cost.
    3) SkyTrain does not provide higher capacity, it never did, this is a myth. LRT doesn’t interface with traffic either because it operates on a reserved rights-of-ways, with signal priority. Yes, Calgary has had a bad run of luck, but it is due to drivers running red lights. A simple law change that would ban drivers for 1 year operating a car for running a red light and come into collision with a tram.

  2. Tram too slow says:

    I don’t know your math works. Skytrain has at least 5 times the capacity than a typical tram/streetcar. And you can’t control people’s behaviour no matter what law you have, let alone you are talking about a law that doesn’t exist or would never exist.

    Zweisystem replies: Me thinks you slept through your maths class.

    One modern tram has a capacity of between 250 to 300 persons depending on size.
    A Mk. 1 Skytrain car ha a capacity of 75 persons.
    A Mk. 2 Skytrain car has a claimed capacity of 110 persons.
    A Canada Line Hyundai car has a capacity of 165 persons.

    As the SkyTrain and Hyundai cars operate in coupled sets, capacity is doubled.

    A modern tram operating in coupled sets would have a capacity of 500 to 600 persons.

    SkyTrain stations have platform length of 80 metres and can only accommodate rakes of 6 MK. 1 (capacity 450) or 4 car sets of MK 2 cars (capacity 440); the 50 metre station platforms can only accommodate 2 car sets on the Canada Line (capacity 330).

    Sorry, the capacity of SkyTrain just less than LRT.

    You are confused, are you saying that there is no law for people running red lights? If you are, I think you had better contact ICBC.

  3. Keith says:

    Once upon a time roads were built for the efficient transportation of people and goods. It seems that time is now in fairy tale land. It is not a war against the car . . . we do need the automobile industry. However, not even 2 years ago the LRT/tram technology adapted for North America was not available. It has come of age. Now, roads are about the rapid movement of a few people who can afford cars while the rest of us must wait. some days including walking I can spend 3+ hours on the road. I am an electrical engineering technician . . . I really do like the ICTS (Skytrain technology) but the designers cut it way short. The stations should have been at least 3 times the average length of the current system. The fact that LRT can be installed in less time for less money is proven. The Bombardier LRT vehicles (made in Canada) have a design capacity of 255 passengers per unit x max of 6 units. Toronto is going with a design of 4 units. even at conservative estimates of 200 passengers x 4 units = 800 passengers and every 5 minutes that is more than 9600 passengers per hour/per direction. The move on their own right of way and stop regularly.

    The official opposition in Ontario announced that they only want to support subways for Toronto and to build them when we can afford them. Judging by what I have seen the past 30 years that means that since we have never really been able to afford them nothing will get built. So, that is why nothing has been done until our current federal government combined with the current Ont provincial government got their act together and things are really shaping up . . . commuter trains, LRT plans, some subway expansion, Busways/transitways . . . Wow these are exciting times for some parts of Canada. I really feel for Vancouverites (having lived there myself). Maybe they could learn a thing or two from Metrolinx?

  4. Tram too slow says:

    To Zweisystem,

    You only look at one part of a formula while I was sleeping. Capacity of a transit is train capacity times frequeny like Keith showed you. Skytrain has a design headway of 90 seconds, which means menas 40 trains per hour. LRT typically can only go down to 5 minutes headway, which means 12 trains per hour. You can do the rest of the math to have a capacity difference.

    It is not practical to have LRT less than 5 minutes even it has the right of way. Please take some time to study the actual LRT system in the US and else where you will find that out.

    It is not about the color of red or green of lights. The truth is you can’t tell a impaired driver to see pretty much any thing. Deadly accidents do happen on LRT, none on SkyTrain! A little more study you can do! Keep on learning.

    Zweisystem replies: OK. let’s expose this myth once and for all that LRT can’t operate at less than 5 minute headways. LRT can and does on hundreds of LRT/tram systems around the world. It is all about signalling and the headway’s the signalling will accommodate; the more frequent the headways, the more expensive the signalling kit. (the downtown portion of Calgary’s LRT is signaled at 90 second headways) But there is more, because LRT has driver’s, it can operate by “line-of-sight”, with the driver maintaining a safe breaking distance from another tram. This means a tram can operate safely, even at 30 second headways and in fact, scores of LRT/tram systems do operate at 30 second headways on portions of their lines.

    Sorry to again burst your bubble, but the annual death rate on SkyTrain is more than Calgary’s LRT. So accidents happen on LRT lines but more people die on SkyTrain Lines.

  5. Tram too slow says:

    A preface from Zwei: I really do not understand the SkyTrain Lobby. Once you expose a misconception, they start calling me names or make misleading statements. I do not teach transit, in fact no university teaches transit in BC. Sorry, I am not misleading the people, but exposing serious flaws with SkyTrain’s ability. In fact both modes are railways and as such, adhere to the same principles of operation, but Skytrain is hampered by the rigid control of being driverless. Sadly, it has been the Skytrain Lobby that has been misleading the people and that after being on the market for 35 years, with only 7 such systems built and only three are seriously used for urban transit, supports my comments about light rail.

    Somewhere you said you teach transit – get a better life – stop misleading more people!!

  6. Daniel says:

    Zweisystem, your existence on the internet and spreading stupid and unscientific ideas are very dangerous man.

    Zweisystem replies: Am I really that notorious? Here is a fact, this blog has several engineers and transportation professionals who do read the various posts. Some reply in the comments and others reply privately, if I am off the rails, so to speak. My main opposition to SkyTrain is the cost, as SkyTrain costs about 3 times more to build than light rail; where is the money coming from? Portland is has built 2 LRT lines a decade, plus two streetcar lines while Metro Vancouver has built a Skytrain line every decade. You get far more bang with your buck with LRT.

    So, just what ideas are stupid an unscientific? Again, the SkyTrain Lobby loves to smear people, but to not have the facts to debate the subject.

  7. eric chris says:

    When you compare the capacity of the tram (LRT) to the capacity of the sky train, you have to consider the physics. To illustrate, let’s look at a 20 kilometre round trip distance (common). Let’s define a bus as a 12 metre standard diesel bus having a capacity of 60 people and a tram or sky train as a 35 metre piece of rolling stock with a capacity of 240 people – very typical.

    “People” on the tram or sky train refers to the “steady state” number of people on board the tram or sky train and does not refer to the number of people moved by the tram or sky train over the round trip. That is, if 240 people alight and 240 people board at each tram or sky train stop, the steady state number of people on the tram or sky train is 240 people. So:

    X = bus having a capacity of 60 people
    Y = tram having a capacity of 240 people
    Z = sky train having a capacity of 240 people
    Z = 4X

    For the sky train design, the sky train runs at a speed of about 40 kph (typical). In one hour, the sky train can make two round trips to move 480 people (steady state).

    For the tram design, the tram runs at a speed of about 20 kph (typical). In one hour, the “tram” can make one round trip to move 240 people (steady state). To match the capacity of the sky train merely means adding a second tram to move 480 people (steady state) in one hour.

    In other words, both the tram and sky train designs have the “same capacity“. You just have to run two trams for every sky train. Even so, the cost of the two trams is still much less than the cost of the sky train to move 480 people.

    Here is where it gets tricky. On the surface, the driverless sky train has eliminated two tram drivers and one tram (at a premium cost of an extra $100 million to $200 million per kilometre to segregate the sky train from traffic, above or below grade).

    Sky train stations along the line are miles apart and you have to design for the little old lady who can’t walk miles. So you require buses to shuttle sky train users to the sky train stations. Because the sky train (Z) holds four times the number of people of the standard bus (X): you have to run four buses with drivers to make the sky train operate at its capacity.

    According to TransLink, these buses are part of the frequent transit network (FTN) and don’t count as far as the cost to operate the sky train. Nope, sky train has forced TransLink to operate its FTN. To conceal this, TransLink uses specious accounting which excludes the cost of FTN required to make sky train work.

    Now do you understand how the sky train design is not less expensive than the LRT or tram design when you relate the price to the capacity for the physics? If you do, you‘re smarter than most individuals who don’t.

  8. Haveacow says:

    As a professional transportation planner and someone whom has worked with Skytrain technology and the real experts who maintain them, I can tell you that Eric Chris is correct but also you have to understand that any rail system that puts its stations as far apart as this are designing the system for the commuter who has to travel great distances. This comes at a cost of now owning an expensive rail system (both operationally and capitalized) like the Skytrain technology that, will not attract as great non commuter rideship because locals cannot use it to do short range trips like quick trip to the store for groceries for example and now have to use the bus that shadows their part of the Skytrain route.

    The TTC in Toronto have this issue with the Yonge St. Subway Line. South of Eglinton Ave. the stops are 800-1000 metres apart on average (which the long distance commuters hate because it slows them down) which the TTC loves because it gets a very high level of use at all times by people who live in the area and use it for many short range trips. These people do not have to drive and can walk. The TTC also doesn’t need a Yonge St. bus here and thus saves money. Developers love it because this becomes ideal for high density development on the main streets and keeps the condo towers away from peoples homes. The city benefits because of the higher tax base and no one persons home has to be torn down which means problems for everyone.

    North. of Eglinton Ave. the stations are 2 km. apart on Yonge St. (which the long distance commuters love because the trains move very fast) development is somewhat less and the TTC is forced to run a parallel bus service on Yonge St. The area with the heaviest development on this section of Yonge St. is in fact where they added a instill station in the late 1980′s

  9. Haveacow says:

    Sorry I hit the submit button before I finished. The last line should be, the area with the heaviest development on this section of Yonge St is in fact where the TTC added a infill station in the late 1980′s, North York Centre. The TTC is always trying to build more non commuter ridership on this section but the great distance between stations makes this very difficult.

    The Skytrain will go down in history as great Canadian technology but, it is hampered by a operating system that forces expensive and time consuming repairs. Engine components and servicing that is 3 to 4 times as expensive and time consuming as the standard electrical rail vehicle engines and components. Operating tolerances of components that are very exact and require adjustments that the more standard rail technology just doesn’t need. Ironically, a system that just doesn’t run well in cold snowy weather, especially when you consider the country of origin. All of this on top of all normal headaches that come from operating a rail based transportation system makes this a somewhat questionable choice. Worst of all, it is essentially a proprietary system that makes all its needed spare parts really costly. If you don’t believe me just ask maintenance people who have worked with not just Skytrain technology but others as well. When referring to the Skytrain technology words like challenging or difficult are often used and if the bosses aren’t listening you here phrases like, “a big pain in the ass”.

    I said this before here on this website, I attended a talk given by rail wear engineering expert. The Skytrain had unusual wheel wear problems and the answer found was a special type of asymmetric track grinding. He said that done properly, this solved the excessive wheel wear issue. Upon returning to Vancouver (working with another client) he discovered that through original wheel wear issue had returned. When he inquired about the rail grinding solution he found that Translink officials had stopped the rail grinding solution not because it didn’t work but because it was easier to just replace the wheels. So you have a technology that makes it easier to just replace wheels at increasing rate instead of turning off the automation system at night and manually adjust your rail grinding vehicle and then reboot the automation operating program in the morning.

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