Transit lessons unlearned – Part 2

In the 1980′s there was much debateAi??Ai??between modern light-rail and many proprietary transit systems being offered for sale, which included the SkyTrain ICTS/ALRT automatic light-metro. Many claims were made by the owners of various proprietary transit systems being offered for sale, about the effectivenessAi??Ai??of their transit systems. In 1991, Gerald Fox a noted American transit specialist, produced a study comparingAi??Ai?? light-rail and automatic guided transit (AGT) systems including SkyTrain and the French VAL light-metro system. The study concluded that despite the hype and hoopla ofAi??Ai??the promoters of AGT systems,Ai??Ai??there was no benefit in building with more expensive AGT. These conclusions were not lost on American and European transit planners, who wanted ‘the best bang for the buck’Ai??Ai??and the desireAi??Ai??to buildAi??Ai??prestigious and expensive light-metro systems waned from the mid 90′s untilAi??Ai??the present day.

Conclusions from Gerald Fox’s A Comparison Between Light Rail And Automated TransitAi??Ai??Systems. (1991)

  1. Requiring fully grade separated R-O-W and stations and higher car and equipment costs, total construction costs is higher for AGT than LRT. A city selecting AGT will tend to have a smaller rapid transit network than a city selecting LRT.
  2. There is no evidence that automatic operation saves operatingAi??Ai??and maintenance costs compared to modern LRT operating on a comparable quality of alignment.
  3. The rigidity imposed on operations by a centralized control system and lack of localized response options have resulted in poor levels of reliability on AGT compared to the more versatile LRT systems.
  4. LRT and AGT have similar capacities capabilities if used on the same quality of alignment. LRT also has the option to branch out on less costly R-O-W.
  5. Being a product of contemporary technology, AGT systems carry with them the seeds of obsolescence.
  6. Transit agencies that buy into proprietary systems should consider their future procurement options, particularly if the original equipment manufacturer were to cease operations.

Today TransLink and the provincial government still make unfounded claims of superior operation for SkyTrain (if it doesn’t snow) and denounces LRT as a poor-man’s rapid transit system. Nothing could be further than the truth and it still seems TransLink and the SkyTrain lobby have failed to read and understand transit lessons, taught almost two decades ago!

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One Response to “Transit lessons unlearned – Part 2”
  1. Anja says:

    , there are limits on the capcaity of Union Station to handle a large added volume of trains. This is not just a case of where corridors are on the map but how the lines would operate if we put that level of service on them.Point 2The second major problem facing transit is political revision of historic agreements. Transit in the GTA is overexposed to the political process; the region is constantly in a crisis of confidence because every successive government tries to overhaul what its predecessor set out to do. A glaring example of this is the Sheppard subway, at its heart the Sheppard subway was a bi-partisan agreement that was a fundamental expression of the democratic process. It was researched and analyzed with the same rigor that its predecessors and successors were subjected to. By overhauling it the covenant between the government and the people has been undermined, creating a crisis of confidence. If there can be no commitment to a long term plan that was a fundamental expression of a bipartisan democratically elected government then there will most likely be very little commitment to any other plan that might be developed as a successor. Respect for the past can go a long way to build confidence in the future.Steve: Should we just ignore the fact that some of the research behind the Sheppard subway was based on a premise that was of dubious value when it was written, and of declining value ever since?We must see Metrolinx for what it is, a very young government body that must constantly evolve to meet the growing and changing needs of the region. A stronger more representative Metrolinx will be able to go a long way to harmonize and integrate local and commuter transit, and it can be a very powerful ballast to protect transit projects from political revision. The conflict between Metrolinx and its junior partners (in this case the TTC) represents a type of interaction that must be overcome and internalized within the Metrolinx organization.Steve: more representative is the key phrase here. If Metrolinx were not such a secretive organization run by a board that has no political accountability to the public, then I might feel that anything they choose to take over could be in good hands, or at least hands whose knuckles we could rap if things went wrong.

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