Rapid Transit to the North Shore – 4 to 6 Billion Reasons Not!

I see politicians are floating trial  balloons about transit, before the upcoming election and from the North Shore it is extending rapid transit to North Vancouver and beyond.

The cost to extend the Canada Line or the ALRT/ART Lines (both lines are incompatible in operation) to North Vancouver is around $4 billion to $6 billion, yet is there the passenger demand for this investment?

I doubt it.

Yet a 35 km tramtrain could be built, extending as far as Horseshoe Bay for about $500 to $600 million, using, in part,  existing railway infrastructure.

The most practical transit route is, of course, the Leewood/Rail for the Valley Vancouver/Richmond TramTrain to Chilliwack, which a deluxe version could be built for $1.5 billion and an economy version as low as $750 million.

What is practical and cost effective is seldom done in Metro Vancouver, where transit is built strictly for political prestige.

Chemnitz Electro-Diesel TramTrain

Will rapid transit one day make it across Burrard Inlet? North Van mayor weighs in

by Brock Hunter

Posted Mar 5, 2017

(Courtesy TransLink)

NORTH VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Should there be a SkyTrain to the North Shore? One local mayor is calling for TransLink to look into adding a crossing.

North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto is calling for a feasibility study to be done into connecting the network across the Burrard Inlet, from Waterfront Station and Lonsdale Quay.

He says there are several factors to consider.

“Is there enough density in the lower-Lonsdale area on the north shore? What would be the options if we were going to do it — would we do a tunnel.. cut and cover? Or would we maybe look at doing some rapid transit on the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge?” says Mussatto.

“Also, take into consideration the future growth of the Sea to Sky Corridor, which is the Squamish to Whistler area.”

He says they haven’t seen an increase in the nine lanes of traffic in and out of North and West Vancouver in 57 years.

Mussatto says SkyTrain options needs to be looked at ahead of a third crossing for vehicles, which would only add to the gridlock on the North Shore.

“We’re seeing a tonne of that traffic coming through our municipalities and we can’t cope with it anymore. So, if we don’t do these kinds of studies and start looking at it now, we’re going to be making poor decisions. And we may be looking at a third crossing, which I don’t think people realize the effects, both positive and negative, that it would have on the North Shore.”

Comments

5 Responses to “Rapid Transit to the North Shore – 4 to 6 Billion Reasons Not!”
  1. Mischa says:

    I don’t get where you possibly get the tram train for 500 million figure from. There is mostly a singe track from the north shore along to horseshoe bay and up to Squamish and whistler. The tracks are frequently used for freight operations and couldn’t possible provide quality transit service to those on the north shore. Maybe if BC rail was still around a north running west coast express, would be more feasible.

    Zwei replies: It is called signalling and works well.

    I would take some time and read up on TramTrain

  2. Matcha says:

    I rather see more sea bus added and newer ones too. Two of the sea bus are getting very old. There should be at least 4-6 sea bus and with higher speed limit would help. Current sea bus travel to slow. It should not take more than 5 minutes to cross burrard inlet. A street car from Lonsdale to Park Royal would be nice with possible extensions Dundarave and phibbs exchange. Marine Drive would be best route for this. There might be a problem with the bridge traffic.

    I agree with other comment. The rail line is used for freight and passengers to Whistler and Prince George. It is not good for frequent commuting. The Rocky Mountaineer currently serve that rail line. I wish BC Rail would come back and be operated by VIA Rail. It would complement their other rail lines between BC coast and Alberta.

    Zwei replies: Depending how much signalling is required, we could easily operate two trains an hour per direction on the single line.

    The Rocky Mountaineer is not a passenger train, it is a hotel train at best or a tourist trap at worst.

  3. Matcha says:

    True two trains per hour maybe possible in West Vancouver. Beyond that, not much demand. VIA rail should have at least 1-2 round trip per day to Prince George, it would complement their other routes. Lilooet is asking for it for their economy because there is no bus.

    Agree Rocky Mountaineer is a tourist train. There is nothing wrong with that.

    Zwei replies: As a locomotive hauled tourist train it is slow and expensive, the Budds were far more nimble on the twisting R-o-W

  4. Matcha says:

    The track near Horseshoe bay is in a tunnel so there is no where to put a station. The old line near horseshoe bay is a walking trail.

    Zwei replies: With TramTrain, it can act as a streetcar if need be or it can use the walking trail, which was once a railway.

  5. Haveacow says:

    I can add to this debate because many years ago I was working for a group that was trying to bring rail, Commuter Rail/Regional Rail like service from Toronto to the Blue Mountain Ski Resort near Barrie. Climate issues aside, the problem was getting data from similar operations world wide, especially in the North American operating environment. The whistler to Vancouver train line was one of our big data sources. we became very familiar with its case. The problems/issues were aplenty but it was doable if certain conditions could be dealt with.

    1. The Rocky Mountaineer is a tourist train and has special operating costs and conditions that apply just to its service and would have to be part of the final solution but not as the main passenger operator.

    The problem/issues for any active passenger rail service operating on the Vancouver-Whistler line would be unique.

    2. First abandon any thought for any Skytrain/ light metro type operating technology for any portion of the trip. The line would not be useable by freight or any mainline railway passenger equipment if the Skytrain operates on it.

    The Canadian Railway Operating and Safety rules do not allow a rapid transit type rail vehicles, light rail vehicles, light metro or full scale heavy rail/subway/metro operating technology, Skytrain included, to operate on a class 1 freight or passenger railway operated line (CN/CP & VIA Rail) or any class 2 regional or branch line railways in Canada(there are numerous new branch line and regional freight railways as well as regional or commuter passenger railway owned and operated rail lines operating in Canada). There are similar rules in the USA. This also means the same in the opposite as well that, freight trains as well as national or regional passenger/commuter rail trains can’t operate on LRT, Light Metro, and Heavy Rail/Subway/Metro railway rights of way. The various types of rapid transit rail operating technology are also forbidden to operate on each other’s right of way as well.

    The economics of building a Skytrain type line over even a small portion of that line to Whistler would be too expensive or economically restrictive, for an effectively operating line of this technology.

    3. The first exception to these railway operating and safety rules:

    The original O-Train Line (now called the Trillium Line) in Ottawa, uses the lightest possible mainline passenger rail vehicle called a diesel multiple unit (DMU or an electric powered version called an EMU) to operate a diesel powered LRT like service, which I had a small role in helping to create. I still think of it as my own baby and like many others are extremely proud and protective towards it. Legally speaking, as far as Transport Canada is concerned anyway, its not defined as an LRT Line but as a Commuter Rail Line similar to your West Coast Express. Due to the specialized gearing in the motor it can accelerate enough to be able to do the short distances between stations (down to a distance of 500 metres between stations) unlike most commuter or mainline passenger railway trains. This important operating definition tells legally the difference between different rail services in Canada. What can or can’t operate on a Commuter Rail Line or a legally defined Light Rail Transit Line. These and other differences help legally define to Transport Canada what your rail service is and how it operates.

    The Trillium line does allow the rare freight service operating along it but it must have Temporal Separation for freight equipment.

    This means any freight vehicles must operate after the operating hours of the passenger service (over night hours) and get special operating permission from its owner the National Capital Railway (a class 1 federally inter-provincial regulated railway owned and operated by the City of Ottawa). Special day time freight passage has been also given to one location on the unused portion of the line, to allow access to the National Research Council/Transport Canada Static and Dynamic Rail Vehicle Testing Facility, north of Leitrim Road in southern Ottawa.

    This is where, all new rail vehicles designs and rail vehicle designs modifications planning to operating in Canada as well as ALL NEW TRANSIT VEHICLE DESIGNS (INCLUDING BUSES), must go to be tested so that they are safely and legally able to operable in Canada. This process can take anywhere from 1 to 24 months depending on how busy the facility and how much budget they have left (due to Conservative government cuts).

    4. The second exception is a new one. Zwei uses, when he talks about the term, “Tram-Train” but it specifically applies to any new form of combined railway operations of multiple rail operating technology. Created in Europe this type of operation combines several types of rail operations using part of or all of the same defined rail corridor. The trains are separated by the use of signaling usually, expensive and extensive newly installed systems over the length of the railway corridor. Strict adherence to schedules, pre-arranged by the rail line’s owners and the individual operators using the line is a must. Financial payments are usually involved as well as strict adherence to new combined operating rules and heavy oversight by railway safety agencies.

    Technically, this type of operation is ILLEGAL presently in North America. HOWEVER, recent evidence from Europe show the advantages in cost savings is high but many challenges remain. Chiefly, privately insured railways like CN and CP in Canada as well as many (but not all) of the Class 2 branchline railways nationally are resisting this move. The Southern railway of BC for example is very interested in this type of operation because it potentially means more operating revenue for their line. The former Ottawa Central in the National Capital Region was another big believer in this type of operation, as long as they ran the passenger equipment themselves.

    Most railways are resistance because insurance costs can go up for several reasons. Most can be boiled down to the phrase, “FREIGHT CAN’T SUE” then there is the problem/cost of installing the new signaling equipment and the troublesome issue of sticking to a very tight and unforgiving operating schedule. The level of control over the operating schedule is usually another big issue.

    HOWEVER, all that being said currently, the City of Toronto is planning to run a surface subway of sorts on technically 2 existing Go Transit Lines, which are presently being upgraded to a true, regional electric railway service called GO RER (Regional Express Rail). The City of Toronto’s 40 km Smart Track system would run as a regional surface subway line (what the Germans call a S-Bahn Line) operating every 5 minutes, all day, in both directions, between GO RER trains operating every 15 minutes, all day, in both directions, on the same corridor. The Smart Track line will also stop at more frequent stops than the GO RER lines. This is a combined service of 17-18 trains per hour, all day, in both directions. Both the federal Government, GO Transit and the Government of Ontario, are highly supportive of the project because it greatly maximizes the usage of the line. The fact that the line in question, is completely owned by GO Transit and the provincial transit planning and operating agency called Metrolinx makes things a lot simpler.

    Zwei’s Tram-Train, an LRT like service which can leave legally designated LRT tracks and operate on a legally defined section of the national mainline railway system is a very important and potentially game changing type of operation. If GO Transit and the TTC can operate a legally defined combined Surface Subway/Metro service on a legally defined on an extremely actively used Commuter/Regional Rail Line, all while maintaining an extremely intense service schedule on a section of nationally connected railway line, in the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area (Toronto’s official provincial transportation planning area) then, a Tram-Train operating on a relatively, lightly used, legally defined, mixed use mainline regional passenger/freight served rail line, reaching out of Vancouver to Whistler BC, shouldn’t be that difficult.

    5. Other issues we encountered with a Whistler-Vancouver Line is that of access. Without a crossing into downtown Vancouver, any transit service, no matter how far a distance and well planned, will be severely limited in effectiveness.

    The transit component of the line’s operation will have great difficulty travelling north past Squamish to Whistler attracting riders unless they are going directly to Whistler. Then there is the matter of the type of passenger that will be using the service. Outside of certain peak service hours, most of the passengers will be going skiing/site seeing in Whistler and or coming back to Vancouver from Whistler, not commuting or making daily transit rips. The passengers will be carrying ski equipment, luggage and other baggage that will be difficult to put on a transit oriented rail vehicle, unless a large amount of space (per passenger car) is set aside for baggage or an extra (maybe multiple) baggage car or cars, combined with some type of baggage loading service, will need to be provided. All this adds great complexity and or costs to the operation of the passenger portion of the line. This means 2 different passenger services may be required one moving commuters much closer to the centre of Vancouver and another operating a service that exclusively travels to whistler and is allowed to drop off passengers north of Squamish. Integrating one passenger service mixed with existing mainline passenger and freight service will be complicated enough, integrating what amounts to a second passenger service, could multiply the potential number of operating issues to extraordinarily high levels.

    Then as always there is the issue of operating and capital funding (money), where will it come from, what type of equipment will need to be purchased, what type or types of passenger service, who runs it and who controls the schedule? Capital needs may be different for each type of service, complicating matters. The line is mostly single track therefore, passing tracks will need to be installed, the length of the passing tracks depend on the type of service chosen and the length of operating trains involved. The number, length and operating rules around these passing tracks, will greatly effect the possible service schedule. This was just a short list of the many issues our research group encountered when we were reading up on the Vancouver to Whistler Line.

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