TransLink’s Fear Of The Future And “The Interurban”

Early advertising for the proprietary ICTS/ALRT rapid transit system. In the end, only seven were built, including Vancouver, all with huge government subsidies. Modern light rail made ALRT rapid transit obsolete overnight. Question: Why does TransLink plan for obsolete rapid transit?


From Wiki:

Rapid transit or mass rapid transit (MRT), also known as heavy rail, metro, subway, tube, U-Bahn, metropolitana or underground, is a type of high-capacity public transport generally found in urban areas.Unlike buses or trams, rapid transit systems are electric railways that operate on an exclusive right-of-way, which cannot be accessed by pedestrians or other vehicles of any sort, and which is often grade-separated in tunnels or on elevated railways.

Notice, no mention of light rail as LRT is not rapid transit.

This so called fact sheet is designed to misinform, yet the City of Vancouver, abetted by TransLink, continue to make false claims about SkyTrain and light rail without any government or media fact checking.

False claims include:

  1. SkyTrain rapid transit has a limited capacity of 15,000 pphpd, as per Transport Canada’s Operational Certificate.
  2. LRT can travel as fast or even faster than SkyTrain rapid transit, if designed to.
  3. LRT has proven to obtain capacities in excess of 20,000 pphpd
  4. Streetcars can obtain huge capacities; example Karlsruhe Germany, where one streetcar line obtain capacities in excess of 30,000 pphpd.
  5. Speed for rapid transit is higher, because it has fewer stations per route km., thus overall travel times tend to be higher using rapid transit, rather than light rail.

What TransLink doesn’t mention is that light rail, offers all the benefits of rapid transit but, without the huge costs associated with subways and elevated construction.

TransLink’s planners should understand this, but it is not reflected in current transit planning.

Much of the success of urban transport in the past 40 years in weaning the car driver from his or hers car is due to light rail and not rapid transit.

This is TranLink’s rapid transit dirty little secret, by continually planning and building ruinously expensive rapid transit on routes that modern light rail would have been just as successful, if not more so, in attracting new ridership.

Our friend Haveacow raised five points about TransLink’s rejection of an interurban style passenger rail service from Vancouver to Chilliwack.

1. If Translink keeps to narrowly defined geographically limited rail planning corridors, and continually offers nothing but a hugely expensive, built from scratch rail lines that, travels the dead centre of the corridor, then that’s all you ever get and anything else always looses when comparing against it.

2. If the planning agency, in this case Translink, doesn’t do anything but this same approach you never get new ideas and all your rail planning and the lines you end up building will at some point suffer from the same basic flaw or series of flaws.

3. Arguing that Translink should use a different type of train doesn’t change their limited focus when planning. It’s their focus in design and planning that really needs to change. Things like operational cost vs. service scale, the geographic scale of the service area and passenger catchment areas are just a few the many issues that the endless horizontal expansion of the current rail technology makes worse.

4. A simple well designed rail system can make up for initially starting with a more limited capacity and operations by being more adaptable and cost effective. This is where Skytrain as a technology, isn’t anywhere as adaptable or cost effective compared to the planned operating technology for the Interurban Line, given the vast area it will operate in.

5. Translink doesn’t seem to understand that unless new ways of planning and especially in their case, implementation processes are looked at, new solutions never happen. Yes, the Interurban Line would require negotiations with railways. I don’t think there really against the Interurban Line, they just don’t want to ever have to negotiate operations agreements. It’s so much easier to just own everything they operate, they set the rules. They just don’t get many new ideas this way.

TransLink’s continued planning for light-metro has left the region in a transit deficit and the taxpayer paying much more than he/she should (an estimated three times more), to keep TransLink’s ossified planning continuing.

Metro Vancouver has now become immune to new ideas and new operating philosophy and instead keeps planning and building the same thing, ever hoping for different results. This has been designed as madness.

Reinstating a Vancouver to Chilliwack rail service using 21st century versions of the interurban, which has proven extremely successful elsewhere, is ignored.

The rot at TransLink has been there too long and sadly the entire operation is sinking into a planning and financial morass, where there is no escape and the the big question is is, how much taxpayer’s money will bleed from ill designed and dated transit projects before regional, provincial and federal politicians will take notice?

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