Will TransLink Overly Invest In Subways In Vancouver?

Interesting article from Toronto.

In Germany in the 1960’s and 70’s many cities started building subways and replacing their surface tramways. The first noticeable change was that ridership dropped and for many, journey times increased. This was due to many more km. of tramway being abandoned compared to the very few km. of new subway built. The subways became somewhat user-unfriendly for many and taking the car was just easier. In the 90’s the subways built in 30 or more years ago needed very expensive refurbishment, which for many transit authorities created harsh financial problems, which retarded the operations and any though of expansion became a pipe dream.

The German cities that did not build subways did not have the financial problems associated with subways and in an era of high transit demand were able to refurnish their tramways with modern low-floor articulated trams and expand their transit systems to meet an ever growing demand.

By overly investing in subways, many transit authorities found themselves cash strapped to improve and modernize their transit systems because available funding went to either subway construction and/or maintenance.

TransLink, which is also under great financial stress, is demanding ever new subsidies to fund their grand plans for a $4 billion subway (Broadway/Commercial to UBC) under Broadway, which, if history is anything to go buy, will put massive financial pressure on TransLink, which is already burdened with the large extra costs to operate its mini-metro system.

So here is the question: “Will TransLink’s subway plans retard the growth of the rest of the metro transit system?”

The Toronto Star in an editorial questions whether the city is being overly invested in subways. The issue of subways versus light rail has been one item of contention among mayoral candidates in the upcoming Oct. 27 city election:

“Toronto has over-invested in subways at tremendous cost: Editorial
A Pembina Institute study shows Toronto has over-invested in subways at tremendous cost while Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa created more transit for less money.
Published on Mon Sep 08 2014

Bernard Weil / Toronto Star Order this photo

Report by Pembina Institute says Toronto has over-invested in subways at tremendous cost.

Torontoai??i??s decades-long fixation on subways has left it ai???stuck in its tracksai??? compared to cities that are more open to other rapid transit options.

Canadaai??i??s largest city spends far more per kilometre on new rapid transit and gets a lot less for its money.

That depressing verdict comes in a new report comparing transit across Canada by the highly regarded Pembina Institute.

Torontoai??i??s mayoral candidates, and voters, would do well to pay close attention to these findings. Obsessing on subways carries high costs.

Researchers examined commuter systems in five cities: Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa. They found the two oldest centres, Toronto and Montreal, lag far behind in launching new rapid transit lines.

The comparison is striking. In the last 20 years Toronto managed to open just 18 kilometres (11 miles) of rapid transit, less than one kilometre a year.

In contrast, over the same period, Vancouver opened 44 kilometres, (27 miles)Ai?? more than twice as much.

Calgary opened 29 (18 miles) and even Ottawa delivered 23 (14 miles).

Thatai??i??s a shamefully poor showing for a city like Toronto which aspires to be a leader in public transit.

Itai??i??s small consolation that Montreal did even worse, opening just 5 kilometres (3 miles) of line in the past two decades.

For the purposes of the study, ai???rapid transitai??? was defined as subways, light-rail lines, Vancouverai??i??s SkyTrain, right-of-way streetcars travelling in their own separated lane, and right-of-way bus routes.

Toronto and Montreal lag because, unlike other cities, theyai??i??ve been slow to invest in ai???quick-to-deploy rapid transit technologies.ai???

Instead, Toronto has focused on slow-to-deliver subways that come at a heavy cost.

Thatai??i??s why itai??i??s stuck paying an average of $236 million (USD $215.8 million) per kilometre for new rapid transit ai??i?? more than any other city in the study.

By failing to deliver effective, low-cost alternatives such as light rail and bus rapid transit Toronto has, for years, shortchanged its riders.

There have been attempts to do better.

Authors of the study note that a 120-kilometre (74.5 mile) network of Transit City light-rail lines was proposed in 2007.

But only one line, the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, is currently under construction and a lot of that involves expensive tunnelling.

In a ruinous flip-flop, underlining this cityai??i??s infatuation with subways, city council killed a seven-stop Scarborough light-rail route and replaced it with a three-stop underground line.

In doing so, it delayed construction for years and raised the cost of this route to $468 million (USD $427.9 million) per kilometre, up from $194 million (USD $177.4 million) for the original LRT.

ai???Toronto is stuck in its tracks,ai??? warned Cherise Burda, Pembinaai??i??s Ontario director. ai???Itai??i??s busy debating transit technology. The other cities debate transit technology, but it doesnai??i??t stop them from actually building.ai???

Furthermore, when they do invest, it isnai??i??t in expensive subways but in light rail and other rapid transit options.

As a result, ai???theyai??i??ve been able to build more transit, more quickly,ai??? Burda said.

All this is utterly lost on incumbent Rob Ford, running to return as mayor.

His dismal transit plan, released this past week, calls for putting even more subways in areas where other rapid transit would make more sense.

ai???You bore, bore, bore until the cows come home,ai??? is his succinct agenda.

The other main candidates are at least open to alternatives.

John Toryai??i??s SmartTrack plan calls for running more commuter trains on existing surface tracks.

\And both Olivia Chow and David Soknacki would kill the ill-judged Scarborough subway extension and return to the original light-rail plan.

This makes eminent sense.

Overinvesting in subways, to the detriment of all else, is not the better way.

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