Is TransLink Admitting the Canada Line is a White Elephant?

It is not an either/or situation. As built, the Canada line has small stations with 40 metre long station platforms, while the ALRT/ART Expo and Millennium/Evergreen lines have 80 metre long station platforms.

The Transport Canada operating certificate for the ALRT/ART lines allows capacity no more than 15,000 pphpd.

It is reasonable to suspect that the Canada line has about one half the legal capacity of the Expo and Millennium/Evergreen Lines.

The Canada line costs TransLink about $110 million to operate, while the operating costs for comparable light rail lines is around $25 million annually.

The reason why the Canada Line has 40 metre long station platforms is that former premier Gordon Campbell and Transportation Minister insisted the Canada line be a light metro, with subway construction in Vancouver. As the costs started inching towards $3 billion, the scope of the project was reduced by allowing cheaper cut-and cover construction; half size stations; single track stub terminus at YVR and Richmond and more.

The cost to enlarge the Canada line to increase capacity is now put at $1.5 billion, meaning the real cost of the Canada line will be almost $4 billion, which also happens now to be the projected cost of the proposed Broadway SkyTrain subway.

The real story is of course is that the Canada Line is a classic “White Elephant”, under built, under capacity, and extremely expensive to operate, needing a least $1.5 billion in additional investment just to match the the capacity of the rest of the light-metro system.

This begs the question: “Why are we building more expensive light metro in the region!

Larger stations or more trains? Canada Line faces tough choice as demand increases

By Online News Producer  Global News

As Metro Vancouver’s population grows, its transit authority is facing more SkyTrain struggles.

TransLink’s CEO is admitting they were short-sighted when building the Canada Line — and now faces a tough choice about how to combat the problem.

The service has taken a step towards addressing demand by ordering at least 22 new train cars specifically for the Canada Line, which are set to be in place by next year at the earliest.

But the stations along the line, which connects downtown Vancouver to Richmond and the airport, were only built to handle two-car trains, meaning TransLink has two expensive options: dig out and expand the platforms, or add more frequent service.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond says that in the short term, adding more cars is just about all they can do.

“It’s a little bit of a challenge, ultimately, how much throughput we can get on the Canada Line,” Desmond said at a recent Surrey Board of Trade luncheon.

“At least in the near term, in the next 10, 15 years, we think just adding cars” will curb demand to an extent, he added.

But the problem is expected to only get worse in the years ahead, as massive condo development along the Cambie Street corridor — which the Canada Line runs underneath — will soon lead to a spike in ridership, due to people moving to the area partly for easy access to transit.

Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson said poor planning and limited foresight are largely to blame for what TransLink is facing now.

“My sense of the Canada Line was that it was kind of scrimping and saving and not thinking long-term,” he said.

“There were a number of decisions at the time made like that. The planning in the corridor wasn’t done in advance. We’re doing that [kind of planning] differently now.”

Dresmond is promising TransLink will avoid making the same mistake when construction begins on the upcoming Broadway extension of the Millennium Line, which could begin as early as 2019.

Robertson said the city needs to do a better job of planning for the long-term future when undertaking massive projects.

“When we do these larger projects… we have to think 100 years out,” the mayor said. “We have to think big picture.

“We have a million people coming [to Metro Vancouver] in the next 20, 25 years. We have to be thinking longer-term and building infrastructure that makes sense for the future.”

Comments

11 Responses to “Is TransLink Admitting the Canada Line is a White Elephant?”
  1. Dondi says:

    The 2014 article below discussed what is possible and not.

    One point is that adding more trains is “complicated by the need to amend the terms of the concessionaire agreement with ProTransBC”, and “The contract with InTransitBC mandates that higher frequencies beyond the agreed upon fixed schedule in the concessionaire contract comes with exorbitant fees to TransLink.”

    Does anyone know exactly how exorbitant those fees are?

    http://www.vancitybuzz.com/2014/08/short-platforms-trains-skytrain-canada-line-built-nearing-capacity/

    Zwei replies: TransLink is paying between $1oo million to $120 million annually for the Canada Line, operating costs for comparable LRT lines is about $20 million to $25 million annually. There is no wonder no one has copied the Canada line format, heavy rail metro built as a light metro.

  2. Haveacow says:

    I was having a conversation about this issue with an acquaintance from Translink who is familiar with the situation. One of the major problems is that the single track sections very much limit the future peak frequency. Currently the line runs about 20 trains per hour at peak, those single track sections limit the ultimate frequency to a maximum of 26 trains per hour. The signalling and turnout at the “Y” is also of inferior capability and needs upgrades now. When I used several modeling techniques to estimate the line’s high end realistic functional capacity limit. Out of the 4 models I used with the current peak frequency (20 trains per hour) the median value was 8200 p/h/d and with maximum frequency (26 trains per hour) about 9600 p/h/d.

    What is the most amazing thing about this story, especially the Global news story was that, essentially as far as we can currently surmise within the current and expected future budgets, this line’s infrastructure can not be expanded in the near or medium terms at all. In fact only a massive tear-down and rebuild will fix this line’s issues and the wildest thing is that, Translink openly agrees! Put a restrictive P3 agreement on top of this and wow, you guys have a really big problem!

    Zwei replies: TransLink’s capacity numbers are greatly suspect as TransLink upped the capacity of the ROTEM Cars on paper. ROTEM’s capacity for one of their metro cars is rated at 163 people, yet TransLink reports the the capacity for the same car as 200 people. The single track stubs termini are a great problem. I have been told by several US transportation experts that the Canada line is a very good example on NOT HOW TO BUILD A TRANSIT LINE.

  3. Dondi says:

    Yeah, yeah, Zwei, but please try to stay on topic.

    We know the Translink payments are for some combination of the private partners’s $750 million? contribution to capital costs and and the costs of operating. The fact that we don’t know the combination is a scandal, but it is misleading to compare it to operating costs elsewhere.

    What about the point raised by the article – that although it is technically possible to increase capacity by increasing the frequency of trains, how much is this going to cost Translink?

    Zwei replies: Cost of cars and extra maintenace or haven’t you figured that out yet.

  4. Vanmetro says:

    Canada line was designed for 3 car trains. An extra 10 meter tap are can be inserted in middle. If you look at station, they are about 10 meters longer than train. The subway was under built, stations should have been designed for 8 car trains. Even if you only use 2 car trains, it gives you room to add capacity when needed. Higher capacity lower the cost per person. Now the mayors want to build an lrt to Langley , that will be waste of money.

    In 2005, Vancouver had a good plan to build streetcar around false creek for $100 million. That was very cheap and connect the high density neighbourhoods.

    Zwei replies: Even though the stations can be extended by 10 metres, there is no 10 metre long car available, nor is one being designed. The three car train is a local myth and nothing more.

    As for your logic regarding LRT, there is none. You forget that LRT made SkyTrain obsolete back in the 1980′s, verified with no sales in North America and only 7 built world wide, all by private deals, with no systems tender, except in Kuala Lumpor where local politicians though SkyTrain was a monorail!

  5. zweisystem says:

    TransLink has always arbitrarily increased the capacity of its vehicles on paper, to make their stats. look good.

    The ROTEM cars used on the Canada Line have a stated capacity by ROTEM of 163 people, thus at 3 minute headways,(20 trains per hour, capacity would be 6520 pphpd. At 26 trains per hour, 8476 pphpd.

  6. Vanmetro says:

    The skytrain is a type of LRT without the drivers. Isn’t LRT short for light rail transit. It makes more sense to extend the skytrain to Langley than build a new line.

    Zwei replies: SkyTrain is not LRT, not even close. It belongs to the family of light-metro, like the VAL system. LRT has made light-metro a niche transport system. Par of the definition of LRT is the “ability to operate in mixed traffic” and ALRT/ART, by its very nature cannot.

    SkyTrain’s names that it was marketed by:

    1) ICTS or Intermediate Capacity Transit System; then
    2) ALRT or Advanced Light Rail Transit, wasn’t and the name was soon hastily changed to:
    3) ALRT or Advanced Rapid Transit, no sales either and the lot was sold to lavalin, which changed the name to;
    4) ALM or Automated Light Metro, which Lavalin went broke trying to sell ALM to Bangkok and from the ashes, Bombardier and SNC Lavalin resurrected ALM as;
    5) ART or Advanced Rapid Transit, which by todays’s standards isn’t.

    Only seven of these things have been built and no sales in over 10 years.

    To be blunt, only fools would extend SkyTrain to Langley, but it seems fools run TransLink.

  7. Haveacow says:

    Legally and operationally speaking Skytrain is an Automated Light Metro (think diet metro or subway system) not a Light Rail Transit System.

    According to Transport Canada (the people who give rail rapid transit and bus rapid transit systems their operating licenses in Canada), CUTA, APTA and the UITP (Union Internationale des Transports Publics in french or The Internantional Association of Public Transport Agencies in English), Skytrain which was once marketed as Advanced Light Rail Transit, is actually an Automated Light Metro Transport System, the LRT part of Skytrain is just a marketing name folks. i

    Back in the early 1970′s the APTA (American Public Transit Association) defined LRT as a Rail Transit System powered by electric batteries, overhead catenary wire or by a 3rd rail in completely physically segregated operating sections as well as a smaller diesel prime mover (engine), and looks similar to but significantly larger than a tram/streetcar. These systems can operate in tunnels below grade, operate at grade on physically segregated rights of way or in mixed traffic (very rare) or can operate above grade on bridges or viaducts. They can operate in single or multiple vehicle consists (trains), picking up passengers at surface stops similar to the bus or streetcar, or anything up to and including, large fully functional, mainline railway like stations with transfer areas for other modes of transit vehicles.

    Skytrain doesn’t fit this model because of its automated nature can’t physically or legally operate on roadway rights of way due to its automation, it must be totally physically or grade separated from other traffic to legally operate, its 3rd rail power collection system and the 4th induction rail also legally don’t allow for road surface operations unless its in a physically segregated and totally private surface operating right of way. The high passenger platform height requirements also makes at grade stations more difficult and expensive for the Skytrain. Most of the motors and operating equipment raise the vehicle floor very high enough into the air requiring high level passenger platforms unlike true LRV’s (Light Rail Vehicles) which can be 70% or 100 % low floor.

  8. Haveacow says:

    Zwei you have to allow for people leaving their seat and not traveling the full hour when calculating passenger capacity. Its called passenger turnover. There are multiple methods but the simple system of multiplying the maximum number of people on each train by the number of trains per hour is just plain wrong! Its easy and people do it all the F..KING time but it can usually, severely underestimate the actual capacity numbers. However, as I said before, what is really important is how many are actually ridding it in peak hours and how severe the actual crowding is. Most North American transit systems in regular daily peak rarely (unless there are special travel conditions or reasons) reach 80-85% of their stated capacity before people start to leave and try some other option or just delay their trip to less busy travel times, if possible.

  9. Haveacow says:

    The problem with the 10 metre long Canada Line vehicle insert is that, the cost to Hundai-Rotem is very high. Not just the design cost but the manufacturing cost as well. Only a small number of these vehicles were initially supplied and unfortunately, they were a one-off design guaranteeing high costs for everything from spare parts to these planned vehicle inserts. An entirely new vehicle is what should be provided considering the age of the vehicle when replacement is actually going to occur. Get it done now with the phase 1infrastructure money from the federal government. Then they can start on the Canada Line’s “Y” turnout issue and it’s signaling inefficiencies.

    Zwei replies: That’s why I have advocating to convert the Canada line to LRT, then use the Arbutus Corridor and the CN Corridor in Richmond (it is for sale)

    Most of the government money has been pissed away because the big prize is “road pricing”, which somehow will make TransLink function again. The local propaganda machine has been tuned into road pricing, to fund the Broadway subway and renew the ALRT/ART Lines This is why the likes of Dondi and anti-LRT ilk are in full throttle, with their fake news and alternative facts.

    I have been made aware that some very bad transit news will soon happen and why everyone is glad handing SkyTrain. The Canada line story is but the tip of the iceberg.

  10. Haveacow says:

    The final thing I will say about the Canada Line is that, it’s a perfect example of a rapid transit line design that gave little thought about upgradablity and scalability. There was so much of a rush trying to just finance and build it on time, very little serious thought was used to figure out what came next. This is one of my feelings regarding the SkyTrain network as well. The operator is so tied into the whole concept of the Light Metro, very little thought is given to it’s lack of affordable scalability and it’s high costs of upgrading operationally.

  11. Haveacow says:

    Bad news? Oh, do tell!

    Zwei replies: I have been black-listed by local media for so long, that when a reporter does phone, it is just short of a jaw dropping moment. Having three phone calls within a week is, well more than interesting, I send you an email after I confer with some locals of recent events!

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