Sobering Thoughts

The future may not be as transit friendly as many would have wished.

The preceding chart should send chills down TransLink’s collective spine.

Metro Vancouver’s transit system is based on the “Spoke and hub” theory of transit practice where major “transit hubs” are connected by light-metro and fed by a network of bus routes (spokes). This works fine if one lives near a ‘hub’ and wishes to travel to another ‘hub’, but if the transit journey is to somewhere not on the established hub system, then tedious and user unfriendly transfers must be made to and from various spokes, to get where one wants to go.

Our current transit model has extremely expensive light-metro spokes connecting major transit hubs, fed by expensive to operate bus spokes, which currently provides the ‘mass’ of passengers to justify the cost of light-metro.

But, what if there is a dramatic changes in transit customer’s travel habits and traffic flows on current light-metro spokes drop?

The example would be consumers changing buying habits would mean fewer shops at transit hubs, with fewer consumers traveling to transit hubs and fewer employees using transit to transit hubs, with the end result of fewer people taking transit.

If there is such a change and transit ridership drops, then the operating authority is left with a very expensive transit mode and routes that still requires much money to keep in operation. Unlike LRT or streetcars, operating at-grade or on-street, where changes of route are affordable to meet customer demands, light-metro is extremely inflexible. If transit customers abandon today’s expensive established transit routes in favour of more user friendly alternatives, what then? Cast in stone (well cement) transit decisions made two or threeAi?? decades ago may not meet tomorrows transit needs.

The key to success of today’s modern public transit system is the ability to adapt to the customer transit needs, which spoke-hub transit just cannot do.

So here is a very important question to ponder for the Vancouver Metro region; “Is it better to spend $5 billion plus on less than 40 km of rail transit including subway under Broadway and poorly planned for LRT (in reality a poor man’s SkyTrain) in Surrey or build over 300 km of light rail, connecting many destinations as possible from UBC to Chilliwack?”

Which would better serve future needs?

Is the modern tram and its many variants the key to transit success in the future?


One Response to “Sobering Thoughts”
  1. eric chris says:

    Going with inexpensive trams or LRT at grade for hundreds of millions of dollars per line is the right transit solution. It just is not the political solution to keep the cons at TransLink employed and out of jail.

    TransLink only has one interest right now and it is to pay off its $3.6 billion in debt and other yet to be disclosed billions of dollars required to refurbish the rotting concrete viaducts. In truth, TransLink has no possible way to pay off the stated and unstated billions of dollars of crushing debt without more taxes.

    “TransLink has one of the highest debt and interest burdens among similar rated global peers, but benefits from more diverse revenue sources … (its) wider responsibilities and status as a taxing authority allow it to sustain a higher debt burden than other public mass transit enterprises at the same rating level,” reads the report, dated Oct. 23, by the analysts.

    “We expect that future expansionary capital investments will likely lead to a further modest increase in debt over the next few years. However, we expect debt to remain below 300% of revenue.”

    TransLink’s net debt in the 2014 calendar year was $3.58 billion — its interest payments make up 12.4% of revenues.”

    So, TransLink has concocted billions of dollars in hub to hub transit projects (UBC subway, for instance) to trick Ottawa into giving TransLink billions of dollars. Ostensibly, this is to cut road congestion. Yes, TransLink is going to convince drivers traveling at 100 kph on freeways to save time on s-train traveling at 40 kph. Whatever.

    ““The investment profile in transit has been ridiculously poor in the last 25 years and we’ve fallen behind many other cities in North America,” said Richard Soberman, a professor at the University of Toronto… So, what do other municipalities in North America fund their transit systems? TransLink is Metro Vancouver’s transportation network. Revenue comes from users, provincial and federal funding, as well as revenue from property, fuel and parking taxes. Our revenue sources are broad and diverse, which is a benefit because it makes us better able to weather a changing economy, and gives us the capacity to deliver stable and predictable transportation services,” said Jiana Ling, Media Relations for TransLink, in an email.”

    Oh yes, Ms. Media Relations of TransLink, whatever you say. Both TransLink and TTC have about the same annual operating budgets ($1.5 billion). TransLink reports about 200 million per year in ridership and TTC reports about 500 million per year in ridership. To pad its ridership figures, TransLink recycles riders and reports system boardings for ridership – to grossly inflate the number of actual people taking transit.

    All you see on the roads are a few crowded 99 b-lines and lots of empty other buses going to UBC; yet, TransLink claims that the subway is needed for UBC. What’s needed is an investigation into the fraud that TransLink has created about the subway being needed. This is on the way.

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