And How Much $1.6-1.9 Billion of Skytrain Will Buy You in Greater Vancouver?

As the title indicates, in the Waterloo region in Eastern Canada $1.6 to $1.9 billion will buy 37 km of modern LRT plus assorted transit technology and at least 10 km of BRT.

One observation made by Haveacow is; ” this LRT system as it begins will not have the carrying capacity of the Skytrain system………”, which I would like to add that capacity can be increased incrementally by adding more modules to the trams, as in done in Europe or purchasing new vehicles.

Here is how the flexibility of modern light rail is exploited; a new transit system can be made cheaper by purchasing smaller cars and as ridership increases, capacity can be affordably increased by adding more modules to the tram, instead of buying more complete trams.

A note from Mr. Cow.

Just a little note from Haveacow in Ottawa. Officially pre constructionAi?? activities start today in the Region of Waterloo. Waterloo’s 3 main lower tier municipalities, The City of Waterloo, The City of Kitchener and The City of Cambridge (Formerly Berlin: due to a name change during the first world war, for obvious reasons), are beginning construction in several places throughout the region. Just a reminder, they are starting Phase 1 which will includes, 19 km of LRT in Waterloo and KitchenerAi??as well as 17 km of Adapted BRT from Kitchener to Cambridge, in an attempt to build up transit use in the southern part of the region to threshold LRT ridership levels. This willAi??mean during phase 2 that, the LRT line can be extended another 17-18 km to downtown Cambridge.
The LRT line known as theAi??ION Line will be in several different types of Right of Way varying from abandoned and underutilizedAi??rail lines,Ai??private off streetAi??rights of way and segregated on street rights of wayAi??to segregated former traffic lanes. Tracks will run in a double track configuration for most of the line and operate in single track configuration on several, one way street couplets in the denser urban cores in Waterloo and Kitchener.
The Adapted BRT Line will be in on street and highway shoulder lanes. It will include no fewer than 6 intersections with que jumping lanes, specialized stationsAi??and signal control at every intersection on the route to favor transit vehicles. This capability is not just for the ABRT vehicles but all of Grand River Transit’s bus fleet. However the majorityAi??of the ABRT line will operate in mixed traffic in a express bus (Lite BRT) configuration. Grand River Transit already has a lite BRT system of express buses known as the I XPRESS BRT System which has been very successful at building up transit use in thisAi??Region of only 500,000 people. They fully intend to continue this system and have several ofAi??the existing routes feed the LRT system. Some new routes are also planned independent of the LRT system.
During phase 2 not only will the ABRT system be upgraded to LRT but more BRT infrastructure will be added all over the region to aid the express Bus system and transfers to the LRT line. The Grandlinq Consortium will build, maintain and operate the system for Grand River Transit. Phase 1 will include 14 Bombardier Flexity LRV’s (5 section vehicle, 30 meters long)Ai??operating in single car trains with 60m long platforms.Ten of the LRV’s will be operating at peak. Phase 2 will add a minimum of 10 cars and a supplemental orderAi??of up to 20 LRV’s is being planned if 2 car trainsAi??are needed. The cost of the LRV purchases is being kept down because they are piggy-backing on LRT orders from Toronto for the Eglinton, Sheppard and Finch AvenueAi??LRT Lines. Up to 50 ABRT buses are alsoAi??being purchased for the project as wellAi??by Grand River Transit.
The total cost of phase 1 is $818 million and funding from all 3 levels of government has been done and delivered. The expected cost of phase 2 is somewhere between $600-800 million depending on specifics of the design and scope of the project. The Region of Waterloo is raising taxes by 1.2% to cover future costs of operations and supplementalAi?? vehicle and technology purchases. With several tax reductions already on the books the total tax increase region wideAi??is about 0.7 %.
As I have said before, this LRT system as it begins will not have the carrying capacity of the Skytrain system however, it doesn’t need to yet. They will over time more than likely upgrade the system’s capacity and increase the connectivity of the entire transit network. The LRT connection in phase 1 to the Kitchener GO train line to Toronto and the possible connection to the Milton GO Train Line during phase 2 at Delta in Cambridge is part of the province’s connectivityAi??plan for the entire Greater Golden Horseshoe Region, population 8.7 million and growingAi??(the outer commuter region of Toronto). This has been an important plank in the plan trying to keep traffic growth in check in the province of Ontario. Compared to even a decade ago the growth of transit use in this region has been impressive and a good model to follow if you want to grow transit in a mostly suburban location like the area south of the Fraser River in Greater Vancouver. They have done it realistically and carefully and for the most part, cheaply in an area that, has had some very challenging economic ups and downs. They still have a way to go but they are moving forward. By the time phase 2 is complete they will have likely spent upwards of $1.6-1.9 Billion and created 37 km of LRT as well as a great amount of supportive transit technology and no less than 10km of BRT rights of way all across the Region of Waterloo for their express bus network and the transit system as a whole. Compare this to what you are likely to get in area south of the Fraser River during that time (next 25 years)Ai??and how much $1.6-1.9 Billion of Skytrain will buy you in Greater Vancouver.


3 Responses to “And How Much $1.6-1.9 Billion of Skytrain Will Buy You in Greater Vancouver?”
  1. Haveacow says:

    I agree with you Zwei that modern LRV’s built with modular sections does make adding sections easier, it does not make it cheap unless you plan for the possibility of being able to do it. Its extremely complicated for any number of reasons, some political most are technical. You only have to look at the Siemens website. The Avenio model Tram/Streetcar/LRV is completely modular you can build a 2 section vehicle up to a 8 section vehicle. No one has ordered the 8 section version, although some considered it. Budapest Hungary has a 6 section version and that LRV has been well used as well as a great vehicle for showing how the local transit company is finally updating, after years of promisses, Budapest’s crumbling post communist streetcar network. These vehicles are currently the longest operating single LRV in the world, at 54 meters each.

    The rumor was they wanted the 8 section model but their storage facility’s track length actually favored the 6 car length. The Avenio design meant that each section has a single truck underneath it, meaning each 9 metre long low floor section has to have a partially raised portion of floor to accomidate the truck. This reduced the seating capacity as well as the available standing room. Customers were concerned because of the need of so many of the trucks having to be powered thus increasing maintenance costs and the extra current draw on the overhead needed to power it. You see many orders for 3 section, 4 section and some 5 sections models but the need to produce 6,7 and 8 section vehicles has been low.

    The very large capacity does limit purchases. Its impressive to have a large 8 section vehicle that can hold at crush levels 700 + passengers (all seats full and 4 people per square metre standing) during peak periods or special events but it might not be a great vehicle to have operating at 10 pm or some low passenger off peak period, especially if you have a connected and somewhat skeptical public pointing out that these enormous vehicles might be running mostly empty.

    When you look at the Siemens website now you see a new product, the Avenio M model. Its available in 3,5 & 7 section models up to a length of 42 metres. So bigger LRV’s have their place but its often easier to just operate a second LRV in a 2 car train when you need it instead of taking LRV’s out of service and sending them back to the builder for extended periods to have them lengthened. What’s interesting they seem to have copied the vehicle architecture of Alstom and Bombardier in their new model. Instead of each section having a truck, as in the original Avenio model, you have 2 sections with trucks and a slightly larger 3rd section with no trucks bridged between them. This has the advantage of increasing length capacity without having to maintain a powered truck. Siemens still offers a 18 metre 2 section vehicle as well. The ability to add sections I agree is a big advantage for LRT technology but you have to design your stations, storage and maintenance facilities with that in mind. The frustrating thing is that, in the US and Canada we can’t use the Avenio, we have to order the S70/S200 if we want a Siemens vehicle due to the fact that it doesn’t meet our crash worthiness standards. The S70 can only be extended from its 2 section to a 3 section vehicle aprroximately 42 metres in length. If you didn’t already know the S200 is the high floor model of the S70, of which Calgary has ordered to replace its U2 fleet which will be totally retired by 2020.

  2. Haveacow says:

    Oops, made an error. Sorry the city of Kitchener was named Berlin and Cambridge was known as Galt, also a German name. The area still has a strong German heritage. It hosts one of the Largest Octoberfest festivals in the world. I believe its the 3rd largest festival of its kind in the world. I highly recommend going if you ever get the chance.

    Zwei replies: Zumwhere in ze past Herr Zwei had zum relatives from der Berlin Ontario.(With apologies to my German ancestors!)

  3. Scott says:

    Found your article randomly while looking for some information on something else, it is interesting to read an outside perspective of our transit project (I live in Kitchener, born and raised in the Region of Waterloo). It has shovels in the ground and is progressing. We are entering a municipal election this month and there are a few who are bound bent to cancel it, they see it as a waste of money and unmaintainable going forward.

    One quick note about your comment.

    Cambridge was created in 1973 by an amalgamation of the City of Galt, the Town of Hespeler, the Town of Preston and a small hamlet calle Blair. Kitchener used to be called Berlin and changed it’s name just after WWI broke out.

    Oktoberfest is a great thing to visit!