Should We Convert The Canada Line to Light Rail? Updated.

First posted by on Thursday, October 11, 2012 ·

Subways & metros cost a lot of money to build and operate.

The proposed new mega bridge that will replace the George Massey Tunnel is back in the news, as there is a good chance that incoming Premier John Horgan will cancel the the hugely expensive vanity project.

Replacing the tunnel with a larger structure, bridge or tunnel will only send the gridlock to the next choke point, Steveston Highway and ultimately the Oak Street & Knight Street bridges, which will see massive congestion if traffic through the ‘tunnelroute were to be expanded.

What is needed is a ‘rail‘ transit solution the works and can be readily and affordably extended to meet the needs of the ever growing population South of the Fraser River.

The proprietary SkyTrain light metro system and the light metro philosophy of operation has done very little in attracting the motorist from the car and its high ridership can be attributed mostly to recycling of bus customers and over 130.000 $1.00 a day U-Passes issued post secondary students in the region. SkyTrain has done little to ease congestion in the METRO Vancouver area.

The proprietary SkyTrain light-metro system is just too expensive to build and it just cannot be extended affordably into the outer suburbs to attract new customers. The extremely high cost to construct SkyTrain light-metro has made the ’blacktop‘ option the cheaper option in improving regional transportation, as evidenced by the many highway expansion projects underway in the Metro Vancouver region. As new highways are built, auto use increases, with the only barrier against increased auto use being road capacity.

What we see is extremely myopic regional planning and shows Metro Vancouver’s complete ineptitude when it comes to regional transportation as the region’s transportation clock has been merely turned back some 50 years when light-metro and subway construction was all the rage.

Sadly, this short sighted and extremely dated planning, which fits in well with  BC’s ‘black-top’ politics practiced by both the BC Liberal Party and the NDP, will only lead to more gridlock and traffic chaos.

The Canada Line is in reality a heavy-rail metro, operating ROTEM’s heavy-rail electrical multiple Units (EMU’s), built as a light metro. The Canada Line’s automatic (driverless) operation and small stations, with 40 metre long platforms has roughly half the capacity of the ALRT/ART lines and much less than a quarter that was carried on the main tram (streetcar) line through Karlsruhe, Germany, before a subway was proposed. It now seems that automatic light-metro has ‘hamstrung‘ light metro capacity, making it somewhat obsolete for tomorrow’s transit demands.

To both increase capacity on the Canada Line (an estimated $1.5 billion alone) and to increase its reach into Richmond in an effort to attract more ridership, would cost about an additional $1 billion for a total of about $2.5 billion. By comparison, $2 billion would buy you about 80 km. (at about $25 mil/km.) of modern LRT!

That $2 billion would be put to better use by:

  1. Converting the Canada Line hybrid heavy/light metro to light rail.
  2. With the money saved by much cheaper LRT construction, extend the the new Canada line LRT across the Fraser river into Delta and beyond.

This is not fanciful musings, rather it very well may be a transit solution that TransLink or a future operating authority may seriously consider.

The Canada line is in a heavy-rail metro and most modern light rail vehicles would easily operate within the Rotem EMU’s Kinematic Envelope (Kinematic Envelope: the space that a rail vehicle could potentially occupy as it moves laterally and vertically on its suspension.), including the subway tunnels.

The expensive and complicated automatic signalling system should be replaced with much simpler and more robust signalling system, doing away with the higher operating costs due to automatic signalling.

Retain ‘third rail’ power pick on the elevated and underground portions of the line by equipping, as done before on other transit lines, the trams with retractable shoes to collect power from the ‘third rail’ and using standard pantographs on non-guideway portions of the line. Simply, the first station the tram stops at on the guideway portion of the line the driver drops the ‘pan‘ and deploys the power collection shoes. Several tram varieties on the market today have dual pantograph/shoe for power pick up on APS ground level contact-less power supply.

By converting the Canada Line to LRT would make the cost of extending the Canada Line, first to Steveston and Ironwood Mall an affordable option. It would also be much cheaper to build with LRT for a new crossing of the Fraser River to serve both Ladner and South Delta; then onwards to South Surrey. As well, it would also be a viable option to extend the Canada Line, via at-grade operation to UBC a much cheaper option than bored subway tunnel.

The cost to extend the Canada line to Steveston and Ironwood Mall (about 11 .3 km.), should cost no more than $300 million and the CN rail line bisecting Richmond is up for sale for a reported $65 million, probably much cheaper if it was used for transit. It is conceivable that for the cost of the Canada Line extending to Steveston and the Ironwood Mall, we could build LRT to both Steveston and the Ironwood Mall, then through a tunnel under the Fraser River to Ladner  and  theTsawwassen ferry terminal!

It is time for TransLink to start planning for ‘rail’ transit for the region and not just for a small cluster of municipalities that surround Vancouver. SkyTrain, with construction costs exceeding $130 million/km. just cannot be built economically into the ‘burbs‘, but modern LRT, with construction costs as low as $6 million/km. (TramTrain) can. It is time for regional politicians declare that building with SkyTrain and/or light-metro has been a mistake and that we must plan future transit on the light rail model. The regional politicians who make up METRO Vancouver should tell TransLink either change their transit planning direction and for a start, seriously look at converting the Canada Line to LRT and extend it across the Fraser River to Delta and beyond.

 

Comments

2 Responses to “Should We Convert The Canada Line to Light Rail? Updated.”
  1. eric chris says:

    “Why would you build a house that is smack-bang in front of a bus shelter? … A spokesman for Burchell Edwards said: We have already had quite a bit of interest in the property. It is a new build and has a beautiful interior so it would make a great starter or rental property.”

    http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-derbyshire-40529083

    “In many cities … e-commerce is a major cause of city gridlock, as unprecedented numbers of delivery vans shuttle packages to homes and offices in central locations … From self-driving buses to flying pods, this is how the commute of 2040 might look.”

    http://www.bbc.com/storyworks/future/airbus-travel-2040/how-will-you-travel-to-work-in-2040

    Now with that out of the way: Massey Tunnel is a death trap with the kamikaze third lane alternating direction by time of day. It isn’t safe. At least one more lane for two lanes in each direction of travel is way past due.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/truck-fire-leaves-one-driver-dead-closes-hwy-99-south-of-massey-tunnel-1.2934951
    http://www.vancouversun.com/news/driver+dies+fiery+truck+crash+highway+delta/10767538/story.html

    There’s the irrational notion adopted by transportation planners here that if driving is made really, really, really lousy, everyone is going to switch to public transit which is really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really lousy. Uh, okay, how about the following, instead:

    Freight trams could be used to remove many of the trucks log-jammed on the highways and bridges, especially the Alex Fraser Bridge in Delta. They could run between 1 AM to 5 AM (in between passenger transport) to transport goods to warehouses throughout Metro Vancouver for small “electric” delivery trucks to distribute goods to businesses. Trams would transport passengers during the day and maximize the utilization of the rail lines which could generate income from fees charged to transport goods on the rail lines.

    http://www.railforthevalley.com/latest-news/zweisystem/freight-tram-trials-in-st-etienne-france/

    This creates the ideal opportunity to advance the very well done study by Leewood (tram transit or Rail for the Valley) and break the vicious cycle of spending foolishly on elevated and buried trains recycling passengers from mostly empty diesel buses (clogging up the roads, causing road congestion, degrading the air quality and exacerbating climate change). I bet; Andrew Weaver of the Green Party is already on it or will be soon.

    http://www.railforthevalley.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/chilliwacktosurreyinterurbanfinalreportr.pdf

  2. John says:

    Unfortunately Richmond’s corrupt CEO George Duncan and vision-less City Councillors built a subdivision on top of part of the Railway/Steveston rail corridor.

    Zwei replies: With LRT one can opt for on-street operation around the affected areas.

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