January 2013

The Cardinal sends greetings & fraternity to all for the new year.

The Cardinal concludes with conviction, that 2013 will mark a watershed forAi??@ grade Light Rail, Trams & Streetcars in Canada & BC in particular.

So, Mr Daryl Dela Cruz, LIM, Rico & Richard be afraid, be very afraid for the day of street level Light Rail has come.


7 Responses to “January 2013”
  1. Haveacow says:

    Less of reveloution but more of a slow but steady change towards rail transit and LRT in particular. For example, the next big project in Toronto will be a full subway line not LRT, the much talked about Downtown Relief Line. The articles did miss Calgary’s next big project which has to be built if any future extensions on Line 201 and 202 are to proceed. The tunnel under 8th Avenue. 7th Ave. is near the limit of it’s carrying capacity and Calgary Transit as well as the people of Calgary do not want a Calgary version of what happens every business day in downtown Ottawa with the Transitway and it’s buses. But, all in all a good series of articles my only complaint would be the massive amount public debate each of these projects was subject too was really glossed over. I wish road projects got this much attention.

  2. eric chris says:

    @Haveacow, it is good to read your posts and they’re always informative. After working in Seattle for five years and living in Vancouver for the past 18 years, Seattle where few people take transit is a much better city to live and commute – thanks to the freeways in Seattle.

    I’d prefer to be living in Seattle rather than in Vancouver. Our office in Redmond which is a suburb of Seattle was next to Microsoft which allowed us to use the Microsoft gym. After work, I would go to the gym and at 7 pm the freeway home was clear. It took me 10 minutes in the comfort of my Corvette to travel what would take 30 minutes crawling in hellish “sustainable” Vancouver, lacking freeways, with traffic lights every two blocks.

    Most of the congestion in downtown Vancouver is caused by diesel buses loading and unloading “sustainable” transit users from the SkyTrain hubs, Burrard Street SkyTrain Station, especially. If a tram line were running downtown in Vancouver, the buses would not be necessary and cars would be impeded less than by the buses clogging up the roads. In addition, the cost of transit with the tram line would be one-quarter to one-half of what it is with TransLink operating its SkyTrain debacle.

    Vancouver with the buffoons planning transit and roads is a basket case. Vancouver is a beautiful city ruined by SkyTrain zealots who deserve to be strung up from the Space Needle:


  3. the Ragnore Brothers says:

    Hear hear Eric, I am continually suprised by the number of disfunctional retards, employed by or supporting Translink and Vancouver City departments.
    Unfortunately much of the chaos is down to the city councils committment to the the private automobile.
    Business & political pressure is against any restriction on the car; thus the decision to build underground Sky Train subways rather than street level Light Rail.

  4. Richard says:

    Well maybe 2013 will be the year for on-street LRT in Canada because 2012 certainly was certainly not as indicated in your last post, Canada’s light rail renaissance. If anything, 2012 was the year of pricey partially underground LRTs that probably would have been less expensive if they had just had the courage to go with light automated metro from the start.

    Starting with Ottawa, it is not street level at all. It is underground and essential grade separated along the old busway. They say its a $2.1 billion for 12.5km but with contingency and a required highway widening for the buses during construction, the real cost is more like $2.5 billion. Then there is the $37 million they lost when they cancelled the contract for the surface level LRT and $64 million they had already spent on the project. So, that is $2.6 billion, almost the cost of the UBC Line which is almost all underground. Ironically, there is a good possibility that the next extension will be grade separated as well. By the time they can afford further expansion, the demand will likely dictate that they need to do further extensions grade separated as well.

    Now, they are stuck with expensive 120m stations and 3 minute headways. With 90 second headways with an automated system, the stations would only have to be 60m to get the same capacity (or higher if they used wider heavy rail metro cars). The stations would be around half the cost or they could have built 70m or 80m stations and increased capacity. Even if on the off chance they could get the headways down to 2 minutes with LRT, there still is a significant advantage of an automated light metro.

    Then there is the Englinton LRT in Toronto. The cost is up to almost $5 billion! They are planning on adding another 2km of tunnel and an underground station making 12km of the 19km underground. This is costing almost $1 billion more than the Evergreen Line and the UBC Subway together for about the same amount of tunnelling and lower capacity. The parts of Englinton that are street level seem to be very suburban and wide and could easily be elevated to gain total grade separation. There are probably parts of the planned underground section that could be elevated as well to save money.

    When they looked into the subway, they estimated the ridership would be 30% greater. The problem in TO is that they think something either has to be LRT or a full blown subway. Why on earth they did not seriously consider mini metro is beyond me.

    Now onto Edmonton. The NAIT 3.3km extension is mostly on the surface with only 700m underground but the cost is a shocking $755 million, almost $250 million per km. The extension beyond NAIT is clocking in at $1.1 billion for 11km. As little, if any of Edmonton’s (most of it is underground or along a rail corridor, in the long run, they would have been better off going with totally grade separated.

    Lastly, Calgary’s recently opened $1.4 billion 8km West LRT, has sections elevated, underground, in a trench and along highway right of ways. There are a few at-grade crossings of minor roads but, really, none of it is really on-street LRT. Even more expensive per km than the Evergreen Line.

    As it is, these projects are pretty much the worse of both worlds. They are pricey, slower, lower capacity and less frequent than they would have been if they were properly designed light metro.

    Zweisystem replies: Sadly the light rail Renaissance has not reached Canada and except for Toronto which still has streetcars, what is called LRT is really 1950′s planning, reintroducing interurbans. They are a variant of LRT, but not modern light rail as practiced overseas. This is true for North America where gross over-engineering of transit schemes is seen as good planning.

    Sorry Richard, LRT does not have a lower capacity, nor is it slower than SkyTrain, unless it is designed to be. In fact, in the C-Trains early days it was called pre-metro, just as the Belgians call LRT pre-metro. The Calgary C-train has a larger theoretical capacity than SkyTrain.

    What I see with the SkyTrain lobby is gross ignorance of railways, railway history, and railway operation and stubborn belief in SkyTrain fairy tales. Read a book on the subject (start with Prof. Karmen Haas-Klau’s Bus or light rail: making the right choice) and it just may open your eyes to the science of modern public transport.

  5. zweisystem says:

    Also remember Richard, the real cost for our three light-metro lines is almost now $9 billion, yet TransLink refuses to calculate or even offer to the public the long term costs of light metro to the taxpayer. More about this will be in a future post, when we will get more information on German tram subways (light-metro), where cities that have built subways are facing financial chaos, like TransLink, while cities that rejected subways and light-metro have a much better economic record, with much cheaper fares and higher ridership.

  6. Haveacow says:

    Points of Clarification Richard,
    The total cost paid out to the North-South Light Rail Line fiasco to Siemens was $36.54 Million. The $64 Million was part of the Law suit that was put forward by Siemen’s sub contractors they got nothing from the suite! The Central Section Queensway highway widening was part of a seperate project that has been on going for about a decade (they are still in the bridge widenning stage). The MTO (Ministry of Transport of Ontario) had asked Infrastructure Ontario (The Queensway and LRT Project Managers), to merge the management of the Queensway widenning and the LRT project so that they did not have 2 series of provincial managers tripping over each other. The extra 2 lanes from the Queensway project will temporarily be used to make up for the loss of the of the Transitway. Once the LRT is finished the lanes will become general trafic lanes. The LRT was always going to be grade seperated because the Transitways expensive construction cost was due to the right of way being rail friendly so it could be converted sometime in the future (like now). The high cost of conversion has been due to the fact that, the powers that be waited till nearly all of the original transitway sections and associated infrastructure was almost 35 years old and in desperate need for total replacement. This is the by-product of decisions made by the people that did their level best to stop any conversion to LRT and when it was going to happen, make it as difficult as possible. Like the coming end of the Sky Train Program, (which I give a decade and a half of life at best) many people`s carriers and reputations were based around the Transitway Programs sucesses all of which are now being either erased or relegated to support technology for LRT. The next extension will be grade seperated because it is in the Transitway system as well, again fullfiling it`s original destiny to be converted to LRT in the future.The larger platforms 120 metres outside the tunnel and 150 metres inside the tunnel are just good planning for the future so that, extremely expensive platform upgrades(like the EXPO line upgrades in the report) will not have to be done for mediocre increases in system capacity. The eventual expansion to 150 metre platforms or larger, are more easily done beacause 1, the tunnels and surface platforms are designed to be expanded and 2, someday Ottawa will outgrow the need for LRT and want a real Subway/Metro this makes conversion a good deal easier unlike the mostly above grade tiny 80 metre platforms that the Sky Train system is stuck with. These will forever trap the system to adding expensive new platforms which are really 2-3 story building extensions (like Broadway Station- EXPO Line Upgrade Study). To further increase capacity you will forever be forced to increase frequency which, if you ask your system maintenance people drastically increases maintenance and operating costs. Consider that, the Sky Train system is having to cut frequencies in non peak hours to keep your peak hour system running at it’s existing frequencies. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is bad way to increase ridership.

  7. Haveacow says:

    Further clarification,
    The Eglinton LRT EA did consider light Metro technology like Sky Train but rejected it on high cost, low realistic capacity and the total unsuitability of a ugly raised R.O.W. that in Toronto’s harsh freeze-thaw climate would cost greater and greater sums to maintain as it got older. The tunnel section is being lenghtened because the Don Valley’s land profile made it very expensive to go to the surface were it was planned and still construct the next series of surface stations. They made a decision and cut a station (Leslie Street) and with money that was saved extended the tunnel. The surface LRT lines in Toronto are expensive but consider that 30 km Eglinton-Scarborough Line (also replacing the Scarborough RT as well) , the 14 km Finch and Sheppard Lines will be the begining of a whole integrated network of tracks totalling 150+ km’s. The 3 car Eginton Trains (90 metres) and the 2 car Sheppard and Finch Trains (60 metres) will replace over 250 buses in regular service. with less than 40 peak hour trains, consider the massive operational savings over a decade or two. Other high costs are due to the fact that, each line has to have a seperate carhouse. As the newer lines get built those extra carhouse spaces can be filled as the system links up and connects with each other. The surface LRT system will have much higher speed than surface buses and almost the speed of subway lines. Each new line eliminates more buses or gives more buses to other existing lines. Best of all, these vehicles will have massive extra capacity which Toronto’s existing surface fleet is desperately short supply of. The TTC is trying to build it’s ridership from 470 million to 630 million a year by expanding service hours and market penetration in non peak times (already done), then use LRT’s and the new Legacy Streetcars as surface bus replacements to increase system capacity (which is presently maxed out) and then increase rushour capacity by building needed extensions to existing subway lines and new subway lines only were needed. The Skytrain system is a desperate attempt to build rapid transit with little forethought about how much real extra ridership will actually be created each time the system is added too vs. the high cost of construction and the not so cheap operating cost. Even your own planning staff when asked on our recent tour, lamented that the driverless system requires so much extra infrastructure that although cheap when it was new is now becoming quite expensive as the Sky Train system ages. The unusual technology makes infrastructure upgrades very expensive compaired to more conventional systems and the poor basic system capacity, electrical and passenger of the original Expo Line, forces more and more expensive upgrades as the need to increase capacity continues. Where as more conventional surface LRT systems like Toronto’s have plenty of capacity for the forseable future and has much lower capacity upgrade costs. More expensive R.O.W. seperated LRT systems like Ottawa have extra capacity by design and make those future upgrades easier again by design.

    Keep in mind I like the Sky Train system but it is a technological orphan. Other systems may use L.I.M. but they are not compatible in any way with the Sky Train nor are the L.I.M’s even mounted in the same place or the same way. The wide variety of opertional capabilities with the various L.I.M. systems indicate different voltages, currents and electrical components and arrangements. Now LRT is not perfect in this regard either but, the more conventional technology makes finding spares easier (faster) for the operator and therefore most often cheaper. For example, the steerable trucks on the Sky Train vehicles cause a very unique track and wheel wear problem. A complex system of asymetrical track grinding was required for the system to fix the problem. The engineering firm that found this answer for TransLink was upset when they returned to Vancouver later to find that, the maintenance people stopped doing this because the Managers at TransLink were not interested in continuing this complex new maintenance regiment and the staff were never fond of it because it forces a big change to exisiting maintenance routines. The managers were more than happy to pay higher than normal operating expense because no one was forced to compare these costs to other rail systems. So the Skytrain has higher than normal track and wheel wear and is only addressed when excess noise is produced and they can not hide it anymore.