Transit Planning in the Vancouver Region – The Years The Locusts Have Eaten

 

 

 A repost from 2012 and is as pertinent today as it was three years ago; even more so.

Transit Planning in the Vancouver Region – The Years The Locusts Have Eaten

Posted by on Sunday, June 24, 2012

In the beginning, Vancouver was serviced by a sizable streetcar network and several interurban lines, but by 1960 the streetcars were long gone and the last interurban route saw its final service. There was a last ditch attempt to operate a New Westminster to Vancouver interurban service on the Central Park Line using coupled pairs of PCC cars but it failed due to union demands for  two man staffing (one driver per car) of the car trains.

In the 1960′s and 70′s many new regional highways and bridges were built to contend with the growing population and greatly increased car use. In the late 1960′s a line is the sand was drawn in Vancouver preventing a US style freeway bisecting China Town in Vancouver’s growing seedier East side, and the provincial penchant for new highway construction went elsewhere in the province to build new infrastructure.

Without a highway to cater to increased traffic flows, the Vancouver region started planning for ‘light rail’ and in the late 1970′s a three pronged light rail scheme was almost approved connecting Vancouver to Richmond, Surrey and Lougheed area on the Burnaby/Coquitlam boarder. The LRT plans were to utilize as much of the old interurban rights-of-ways as possible as the ridership potential was very high along these routes.

In a crass political deal the then Social Credit Government purchased a proprietary light metro or Advanced Light Rail Transit  (ALRT) from the Ontario government’s crown corporation, the Urban Transportation Development Corporation or UTDC. The automatic (driverless) ALRT light metro system was renamed from the UTDC’s unsuccessful ICTS or Intermediate Capacity Transportation System, which failed to find a market in North America. ICTS, being elevated, was to have a greater capacity than a Toronto PCC streetcar, built at a much cheaper cost than a Toronto subway, or in short, a transit system with the benefits of a heavy-rail subway at a fraction of the cost. It wasn’t to be. The Toronto Transit Commission found that ICTS could cost as much as ten times more to built yet have the same capacity as modern LRT or cost about the same as a Toronto subway which had four times the capacity! ICTS was quickly renamed to ALRT and only one system was sold – to Vancouver.

In total, only seven proprietary SkyTrain systems have been built, marketed under five different names.

Later Bombardier purchased the design rights to ICTS/ALRT and now sell the package as ART or Advanced Rapid Transit. SNC Lavalin retained the engineering rights to SkyTrain, guaranteeing them work whenever a SkyTrain ART system was built.

With ALRT, now renamed SkyTrain for the local market, came all the sales rhetoric for the light-metro and thus began the massive anti-LRT campaign the reverberates still today.

In the 90′s, again saw light rail on the drawing board again for the region, but the then NDP flip-flopped on transit mode, again forcing the SkyTrain light metro system on what was to be the Broadway-Lougheed transit project, now renamed the Millennium Line.

Light Rail for the Canada Line was given the toss, by former City manager and close confident of then Premier Campbell, Ken Dobell, for strictly political prestige. The Liberal supporters along the former BC Electric Arbutus/Richmond Interurban Line, raised such a fuss that the public were conned by the BC Liberal government and TransLink that LRT was not viable and only a SkyTrain light metro could be built.

The Canada Line, planned for in the early 2000′s, saw its costs rise dramatically, from $1.3 billion to an estimated cost that now may exceed $2.5 billion. The result; a drastically scaled back mini-metro that, as designed, has less than half the capacity than if LRT had been built on any route from Vancouver to Richmond. The result of this scaled down design was devastated businesses along Cambie Street, who suffered a design change from bored tunnel to cut-and-cover construction. Even SkyTrain was too expensive for the Canada Line and a generic heavy-rail metro was built to a light-metro standard. SkyTrain and the Canada Line are incompatible.

Predicted 30 years ago by the experts of the day, the operating authority has run out of funds and needs new taxes to build the long waited Evergreen SkyTrain Line. TransLink wanted and received a gas surcharge and still wants further extra taxes to complete the funding for the locally called (N)Evergreen Line. The problem is the regional taxpayer is maxed out and is digging in its heels with ever increasing gas taxes.

In 2015, the Evergreen Line is nearing completion, but the deferral of maintenance to fund TransLink’s share of the line is telling on the rest of the transit system with many SkyTrain and bus breakdowns during revenue service.

Zwei predicted this over a decade ago in a presentation to the then new TransLink board, but predictions of a funding crunch for a metro system that costs three to four times more to build than a light rail alternative fell on deaf ears, as it still does today. The taxpayer will always have enough money to fund a new metro line, or does he or she?

Still the SkyTrain Lobby peddle their diatribes as they were fact, yet ignoring no one else wants the proprietary SkyTrain system. With this in mind, the slogan today is SkyTrain is for Vancouver and light rail is OK for Surrey, but of course all of Metro Vancouver’s taxpayers pay for SkyTrain and if it was just Vancouver ratepayers fronting the bill for SkyTrain want to pay for expansion in their city, so be it, but they do not and still want valley taxpayers to subsidize an obsolete metro system in their city.

It has been now 36 years since SkyTrain was forced upon the regional taxpayer and the bureaucratic, political, and academic prestige that has been invested in SkyTrain and the Canada Line light metros, will ensure that SkyTrain will be built for future transit expansion, but with SkyTrain expansion comes higher and higher taxes and user fees to pay for light metro. 36 years of extremely bad transit planning by both BC Transit and TransLink, to ensure the continuation of SkyTrain expansion has left TransLink on a financial precipice, yet no one will admit to it.

Rail for the Valley has offered TransLink a life-line with the Leewood Report, a major transit study done by a bona fide transit expert, but it has been rejected by TransLink with any excuse they can think of. TransLink is planning, sort of, for light rail in Surrey, but it is the old story, design light rail as a poor man’s SkyTrain and design it to fail. Simply, TransLink does not want a light rail solution for our transit woes and instead plan for pie in the sky SkyTrain expansion such as the $1.4 billion Evergreen Line; an up to $5 billion SkyTrain subway to UBC ($3 billion now to Arbutus) and up to $4 billion SkyTrain to Langley.

The Leewood/Rail for the Valley Study

The $1 billion, 130 km. RftV Vancouver/Richmond to Chilliwack TramTrain service certainly looks a better deal than TransLink’s proposed SkyTrain lines, as there would be nearly $9 billion left over to fund a BCIT to UBC LRT; a Marpole to downtown Vancouver streetcar; a White Rock to Surrey Centre LRT; a Hastings St. to Coquitlam LRT, LRT to SFU, a new Fraser River Rail Bridge; LRT for Langley on 200th; and several other LRT/streetcar lines in the region. Again, TransLink is so blinkered, the bureaucracy would rather bankrupt itself planning for prestigious mini-metro, rather than a consumer driven, user friendly regional light rail network.

When the time comes that TransLink is forced kicking and screaming to plan for modern LRT instead of light metro, future transit and transportation planners will call the SkyTrain years; “The Years The Locusts Have Eaten.

Comments

4 Responses to “Transit Planning in the Vancouver Region – The Years The Locusts Have Eaten”
  1. Rosanne says:

    I currently live in surrey close to Central Station. What a lovely place to enjoy.

  2. eric chris says:

    Thanks, for the great synopsis of how greed and politics have gotten in the way of designing an affordable, safe and user-friendly transit system for the region and people. As the s-train system ages and expands, it will become more and more unwieldy. Eventually fatalities will occur.

    TransLink has been lucky with near misses (kills) and it is just a matter of time before statistics catch up with the fools at TransLink. Having riders confined in coffins suspended 10 metres in the air with no safe egress is not prudent.

    When the deaths mount, the public will become outraged and tear the feckless deadbeats at TransLink to pieces. TransLink will be dissolved. The farce will end. Unfortunately, until then, the greedy and corrupt pigs at the trough (making money from s-train) won’t stop.

  3. eric chris says:

    Secretly, there is resentment even by some of the editors (who don’t say so publicly) at The Vancouver Sun over the fraud and corruption at TransLink. During the plebiscite, The Vancouver Sun only printed one anti-tax story for every 10 pro-tax stories. Still, the one that The Vancouver printed did immense damage to TransLink and showed that transit spending does not reduce road congestion:

    “Since the sales tax was first introduced, it has delivered billions in revenue to the MBTA [Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority]… The push to expand the MBTA at all costs left it unable to maintain its system to a high standard and saw it having to issue debt to pay for its maintenance and modernization programs. The more than $2.2 billion in debt that the agency has incurred to pay for routine maintenance has failed to keep its trains and buses in good working order.

    The sales tax proposal was supposed to give the agency a firm, reliable source of revenue that would ultimately see it produce an operating surplus. But since that time, the MBTA’s deficits have only increased and it has failed to maintain its system to a high standard. Transit customers have literally been left out in the cold… Meanwhile, congestion in Boston is nearly as bad as it ever was. Commuters currently spend 53 hours a year stuck in traffic jams — up from 33 in 1990.

    One critic called the sales tax a classic bait and switch, pointing out that much of the sales tax money has been used to fund existing operations… Congestion in the city is no better.”

    http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Opinion+Transit+ease+congestion/10953067/story.html

    Today, The Vancouver Sun came through one more time. I’m impressed.

    “Editorial: Voters had right to reject transit tax”
    Vancouver Sun July 8, 2015 2:03 PM

    http://www.vancouversun.com/Editorial+Voters+right+reject+transit/11198161/story.html

    … “Citizens of Metro Vancouver are, for the most part, thoughtful people who doubted TransLink’s ability to deliver needed projects on time and on budget and rejected a regressive sales tax increase that would purportedly be devoted to improving transportation.

    Their concerns about how the money was to be spent seemed validated [VALIDATED] when the mayors warned that rejection of their transportation plan made service cuts inevitable. TransLink acknowledged that a portion of the new revenue was needed to pay for cost increases on existing infrastructure [SIPHONED MONEY FOR S-TRAIN MAINTENANCE] with union contracts to negotiate next year, rising MSP premiums and sinking gas tax revenue. Voters clearly had good reason to assume a tax increase with no sunset clause was a guarantee of hikes down the road to fund transportation expansion this proposed tax increase — the one they resoundingly rejected — was supposed to fund.

    The No campaign championed by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation didn’t create the public’s mistrust of TransLink. That was well-established by the agency’s bumbling over breakdowns, executive compensation packages and the Compass fiasco, and the province’s forced restructuring that took TransLink out of local control.” …

  4. eric chris says:

    How does SNC Lavalin which is a technically inept engineering firm (I use this term very loosely) find work? Does it bribe crooked politicians and engineers? I mean, you don’t usually hire an engineering firm based on its previous failures.

    Look who botched another transit job in Edmonton: SNC Lavalin, what a surprise.

    http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/edmonton/Postscript+stalled+transit+project+leaked+report+uproar/11208425/story.html

    Look who created the hazard and sink hole mess on the current over priced s-train line which is behind schedule in Metro Vancouver: SNC Lavalin.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/evergreen-line-sinkhole-closes-clarke-road-indefinitely-1.3103583

    Look who screwed up the last s-train line on Cambie Street in Metro Vancouver and got sued by 200 merchants: SNC Lavalin.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/canada-line-lawsuit-trial-begins-for-cambie-street-merchants-1.2849206

    Look who based on its lousy performance is being tapped to build the subway to UBC: SNC Lavalin.

    http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/story.html?id=da834c71-e3da-4143-adb4-1dd576df9703

    http://www.straight.com/news/777826/how-gregor-robertson-and-linda-hepner-can-bring-rapid-transit-vancouver-and-surrey

    Is Gregor “fare cheat” Robertson being bribed? He is a politician, and SNC Lavalin does bribe cheats and politicians.

    What’s wrong with the tram line paying for itself to UBC? It does not require concrete for concrete firms to profit, and SNC Lavalin is not necessarily going to get the tram line job, that’s what.

    http://thetyee.ca/News/2008/06/05/UpWithTrams/

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