LRT plan for Victoria has mayor nervously eyeing bill – From the Vancouver Sun

An interesting item in the Vancouver Sun. It should be noted that BC Transit, who oversaw the Victoria light rail planning, has a vested interest in keeping construction costs for LRT high as BC Transit was also the organization thatAi??oversaw the implementation of the first SkyTrain line in Vancouver and their anti-LRT bias has carried on with TransLink.

TransLink, like BC Transit before, has always treated LRT as a poor-man’s SkyTrain and planned it as such, making their version of light rail, expensive and poorly planned. This must change before the Vancouver and Victoria regions will be able to take advantage of modern LRT’s cost effectiveness and general success. Compare Portland’s MAX LRT with Seattle’s SkyTrain clone and it is easy to see that real light rail and not a light-metro clone is the successful way to plan for 21st century transit.

I will add comments to this opinion piece in yellow highlighted italics.

A modern lawned LRT route built on a former road – quality transit, built inexpensively.


 

Opinion: LRT plan for Victoria has mayor nervously eyeing bill

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Opinion+plan+Victoria+mayor+nervously+eyeing+bill/4917237/story.html#ixzz1Oshzwu6N

ByJune 9, 2011 -Ai??Craig McInnes, Vancouver Sun

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard easily concedes he supported light rail over bus service in a motion before council last year.

So why is the mayor of the largest municipality of the 13 that make up the greater Victoria region now warning taxpayers that they need to look askance at light rail after a detailed proposal has finally come down the planning track? Leonard told me that it was an easy decision last year to support a statement of principle that his council would prefer rail to more buses as a solution to what’s known in Victoria as the Colwood crawl. That motion didn’t deal with cost.

Light rail is always a crowdpleaser in principle. Clean, green and even a little bit romantic, the modern versions of street cars have become the symbol of forward-looking urban planning.

This is a triteAi??understatement, modern LRT is the favourite choice of transit planners around the world because it has proven to attract more new customers to transit, especially the motorist from the car, than either bus or metro like SkyTrain. Since SkyTrain was first marketed in the late 1970′s, over 150 new LRT lines have been built or are now under construction around the world, which compares very favourably with onlyAi??7 SkyTrain type systems built in the same time.

Not only does it take cars off the road, but an electrified system does it without the nasty emissions put out by diesel buses. And a single LRT vehicle can ferry twice as many passengers as the biggest bus.

A modern tram or streetcar, both LRT vehicles is as efficient in operation asAi??6 toAi??8 buses or put another way, one tram driver is as efficient as 6 to 8 bus drivers.

Before it gets rolling, however, it has a big hill to climb -the capital cost of building an entirely new system.

The Victoria Regional Rapid Transit Project looked at three options to get more people onto transit between downtown, where the jobs are, and the western communities, where most of the population growth in the capital region is happening.

The consultants picked a light rail system over trying to put more buses on the existing road network and creating a dedicated bus lane. Even though the LRT was the most expensive option, it was judged the best, a recommendation that was subsequently approved by the board of BC Transit, the Crown corporation that owns the bus system in Victoria, the Regional Transit Commission, of which Leonard is a member and the Capital Regional District.

Like the Evergreen Line in Vancouver, however, which everyone seems to like but no one wants to pay for, the proposed 16-kilometre line from downtown Victoria to the western communities comes with a price tag -now estimated at $950 million -that only seems affordable if someone else picks up the bill.

Modern LRT costs anywhere from $6 million/km to build (TramTrain) to about $25 million/km. The cost of $60 million/km. for Victoria’s planned LRT isAi??far too excessive and demonstrates BC Transit’s and TransLink’s anti-LRT bias, where unnecessary costs are added to the project to make it look more expensive than it should be. Old bureaucrats are still very afraid if LRT is built cheaply, that unpleasant questions would be asked about the SkyTrain mini-metro system. In the real world, Victoria’s proposed LRT should not cost more than $25 million/km. to build with a total cost around $400 million.

The estimated tab for the 11-kilometre Evergreen Line at $1.4 billion is higher than for the Victoria line, but the potential ridership is also much higher. The Evergreen Line is anticipating 70,000 trips a day by 2021; the Victoria line would only be generating a third to half that number -if people use it as much as planners hope.

Anticipating is the key word, the Evergreen Line is anticipating 70,000 boardings a day, with many continuing their trip from the present Millennium Line. The real question is: “How many new transit customers will the Evergreen line attract?” This is the same question that TransLink refuses to answer with the Canada Line, where about 90% of its ridership are bus customers now forced to transfer to the Canada Line. Trans Link also admits that at least 80% of the SkyTrain’s ridership first take a bus to the metro. 100,000 boarding a day doesn’t justify the now $2.5 billion price tag of the orphan metro line.

The report recommending the light rail option estimated that if the traditional funding formula were used, under which just over two-thirds of the cost is raised locally, the transit portion of residential taxes would more than triple. “I’m trying to engage taxpayers to pay some attention to this,” Leonard says.

Leonard was part of a delegation from the Regional Transit Authority that met last week with provincial Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom.

Leonard says Lekstrom told them that the province is still committed to the $14-billion transit plan outlined by then premier Gordon Campbell three years ago, but it depends on local residents coming up with their share of the costs.

As with the Evergreen Line, any carbon taxes that go to pay for a Victoria LRT will be new taxes, above the increases that are already scheduled to go into the province’s general revenues. Leonard is concerned that BC Transit can decide to go ahead with the LRT, without approval from municipalities, and local taxpayers will get stuck with the bill whether or not they favour the transit system.

He raised similar concerns earlier this year when Victoria got new buses that had been purchased for the Olympics, along with increased debt-servicing costs.

Leonard would like to have a plebiscite on the November municipal election ballot, but because of uncertainty about funding he doesn’t know what the question would even be.

As with most projects the provincial government undertakes, there is no requirement that taxpayers approve the Victoria LRT line they will be expected to pay for, either through property taxes or higher gas taxes or more likely a combination of both.

Maybe that should change.

What should change is who you get to plan for LRT in BC and like the Rail for the Valley group, engage real consultants with expertise in modern LRTAi??such asAi??Leewood Projects of the UK and/or LTK from the USA!

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