MLA says TransLink priorities are wrong

From the Oh what a suprise Department

Look after south of Fraser before considering UBC


The Delta Optimist April 20, 2011


TransLink better get its priorities straight and look at improving services south of the Fraser River before looking for money to build a SkyTrain line to UBC.


Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington wasn’t impressed to hear about the transportation authority’s latest plan exploring the possibility of rapid transit to the UBC, even though it still doesn’t have the money to pay for the Evergreen Line to Coquitlam.

Wrapping up its latest public consultation period this week, TransLink recently released several potential designs for expanded transit to the university, ranging from more buses to rapid transit. The most expensive would be rapid transit at $3.2 billion, but would have the capacity to carry the greatest number of passengers.

“As far as TransLink building out to UBC, TransLink and the province owe the Lower Mainland the Evergreen Line, that should come first, and then they should turn their attention to south of the Fraser,” Huntington told the Optimist.

“Our bus system is below standard. We’re being forced to pay for the Canada Line by shipping us all in there and taking away our own decent transportation systems, and they need to start looking at some kind of rapid transit out in the lower Fraser. None of this expensive stuff, but let’s get some light rail going,” she said.

Saying TransLink is failing to pay attention to where the growth is occurring in the region, Huntington is a supporter of the concept of light rail, which she believes should be a high priority project.

However, the Evergreen Line has to be dealt with once and for all, said the independent MLA.

“I can see why they look at UBC. You’ve got something like 80,000 people and you can see where they’d think it’s a cash cow and would help in the movement of people. But sorry folks, the Evergreen Line has been promised for years and it’s time they got on with it. Then look south of the Fraser. Put more buses to UBC if you have to,” Huntington said.


TransLink, meanwhile, is still looking for options to fund its $400-million share of the $1.4-billion Evergreen Line, linking Burnaby, Coquitlam and Port Moody. The regional mayors’ council on transportation rejected TransLink’s proposal to increase property taxes. They mayors are meeting with the province to discuss various alternatives, ranging from road tolls to vehicle levies.

Huntington said any attempt to impose tolls on existing roads and bridges would penalize residents living south of the Fraser and would be met by an overwhelmingly angry response.


Earlier this year, Delta council talked about a scenario in which communities south of the Fraser split from TransLink to form their own transit authority.

That suggestion came up during council’s discussion on TransLink’s funding proposals, which drew the ire of local politicians and bureaucrats.

who complained they provide nothing for the community, other than taking even more money out of taxpayers’ pockets.

“This isn’t a plan, it’s a way to finance major construction projects, and bear in mind there’s no improvements for south of the Fraser,” CAO George Harvie told council.

“There is no hope on the horizon for TransLink to improve our bus service and it’s very sad.”

According to Delta staff, TransLink introduced a couple of different transit expansion plans that would provide little, if any, benefit for local transit users, but hit taxpayers’ nonetheless. One plan would see the average local property tax bill increase by $36 per year, while another more deluxe plan would see Delta property taxes go up by $62.


One Response to “MLA says TransLink priorities are wrong”
  1. Zweisystem says:

    The following is the Gerald Fox Letter, commenting on the Evergreen Line business case.


    The Evergreen Line Report made me curious as to how TransLink could justify continuing to expand SkyTrain, when the rest of the world is building LRT. So I went back and read the alleged “Business Case” (BC) report in a little more detail. I found several instances where the analysis had made assumptions that were inaccurate, or had been manipulated to make the case for SkyTrain. If the underlying assumptions are inaccurate, the conclusions may be so too. Specifically:

    Capacity. A combination of train size and headway. For instance, TriMet’s new “Type 4″ Low floor LRVs, arriving later this year, have a rated capacity of 232 per car, or 464 for a 2- car train. (Of course one must also be sure to use the same standee density when comparing car capacity. I don’t know if that was done here). In Portland we operate a frequency of 3 minutes downtown in the peak hour, giving a one way peak hour capacity of 9,280. By next year we will have two routes through downtown, which will eventually load both ways, giving a theoretical peak hour rail capacity of 37,000 into or out of downtown. Of course we also run a lot of buses.

    The new Seattle LRT system which opens next year, is designed for 4-car trains, and thus have a peak hour capacity of 18,560. (but doesn’t need this yet, and so shares the tunnel with buses). The Business Case analysis assumes a capacity of 4,080 for LRT, on the Evergreen Line which it states is not enough, and compares it to SkyTrain capacity of 10400.!

    Speed. The analysis states the maximum LRT speed is 60 kph. (which would be correct for the street sections) But most LRVs are actually designed for 90 kph. On the Evergreen Line, LRT could operate at up to 90 where conditions permit, such as in the tunnels, and on protected ROW. Most LRT systems pre-empt most intersections, and so experience little delay at grade crossings. (Our policy is that the trains stop only at stations, and seldom experience traffic delays. It seems to work fine, and has little effect on traffic.) There is another element of speed, which is station access time. At-grade stations have less access time. This was overlooked in the analysis.

    Also, on the NW alignment, the SkyTrain proposal uses a different, faster, less-costly alignment to LRT proposal. And has 8 rather than 12 stations. If LRT was compared on the alignment now proposed for SkyTrain, it would go faster, and cost less than the Business Case report states!

    Cost. Here again, there seems to be some hidden biases. As mentioned above, on the NW Corridor, LRT is costed on a different alignment, with more stations. The cost difference between LRT and SkyTrain presented in the Business Case report is therefore misleading. If they were compared on identical alignments, with the same number of stations, and designed to optimize each mode, the cost advantage of LRT would be far greater. I also suspect that the basic LRT design has been rendered more costly by requirements for tunnels and general design that would not be found on more cost-sensitive LRT projects.

    Then there are the car costs. Last time I looked, the cost per unit of capacity was far higher for SkyTrain. Also,it takes about 2 SkyTrain cars to match the capacity of one LRV. And the grade-separated SkyTrain stations are far most costly and complex than LRT stations. Comparing 8 SkyTrain stations with 12 LRT stations also helps blur the distinction.

    Ridership. Is a function of many factors. The Business Case report would have you believe that type of rail mode alone, makes a difference (It does in the bus vs rail comparison, according to the latest US federal guidelines). But, on the Evergreen Line, I doubt it. What makes a difference is speed, frequency (but not so much when headways get to 5 minutes), station spacing and amenity etc. Since the speed, frequency and capacity assumptions used in the Business Case are clearly inaccurate, the ridership estimates cannot be correct either. There would be some advantage if SkyTrain could avoid a transfer. If the connecting system has capacity for the extra trains. But the case is way overstated.

    And nowhere is it addressed whether the Evergreen Line, at the extremity of the system, has the demand for so much capacity and, if it does, what that would mean on the rest of the system if feeds into?

    Innuedos about safety, and traffic impacts, seem to be a big issue for SkyTrain proponents, but are solved by the numerous systems that operate new LRT systems (i.e., they can’t be as bad as the SkyTrain folk would like you to believe).

    I’ve no desire to get drawn into the Vancouver transit wars, and, anyway, most of the rest of the world has moved on. To be fair, there are clear advantages in keeping with one kind of rail technology, and in through-routing service at Lougheed. But, eventually, Vancouver will need to adopt lower-cost LRT in its lesser corridors, or else limit the extent of its rail system. And that seems to make some TransLink people very nervous.

    It is interesting how TransLink has used this cunning method of manipulating analysis to justify SkyTrain in corridor after corridor, and has thus succeeded in keeping its proprietary rail system expanding. In the US, all new transit projects that seek federal support are now subjected to scrutiny by a panel of transit peers, selected and monitored by the federal government, to ensure that projects are analysed honestly, and the taxpayers’ interests are protected. No SkyTrain project has ever passed this scrutiny in the US.


    But the BIG DEAL for Victoria is: If the Business Case analysis were corrected to fix at least some of the errors outlined above, the COST INCREASE from using SkyTrain on the Evergreen Line will be comparable to the TOTAL COST of a modest starter line in Victoria. This needs to come to the attention of the Province. Victoria really does deserve better. Please share these thoughts as you feel appropriate.