Are traffic flows along Broadway enough to justify a subway?

Are traffic flows along Broadway enough to justify a subway?

Simple answer is no, not anywhere close!

Traffic flows along Broadway are around 4,000 persons per hour per direction in the peak, but because it riders are mostly cheap fare U-Pass holders and operates buses at a far grater frequency than needed off the peak hours, Broadway is the most heavily used transit route in Metro Vancouver. That being said, the most frequent service is the 99-B Line express buses, which operate at 3 minute headway’s during peak hours and at 4 to 5 minute headway’s off peak. The maximum capacity of an articulated bus is about 110 persons and at 20 trip an hour (3 minute headway’s) or 2,200 pphpd in the peak hour!

The bare minimum traffic flow required for a subway, 15,000 pphpd!

Translation, if a Broadway subway is built, kiss goodbye to transit improvements South of the Fraser!

Until the mainstream media, like the Vancouver Sun and NW’98, grow up and start doing some real investigative reporting, the public will never know what a scam the SkyTrain subway is.


Vancouver Mayor says SkyTrain along Broadway will happen

Vancouver, BC, Canada / (CKNW AM) AM980
June 17, 2015

Vancouver Mayor says SkyTrain along Broadway will happen


The mayor of Vancouver is following the example of his counterpart in Surrey in saying he too has a plan ai???Bai??i?? for the city plan to build a Broadway SkyTrain line.

Gregor Robertson says while he is hopeful the plebiscite result will be a ai???yesai???, he says the city needs and east-west line, regardless.

ai???This is just a matter of time, either we build it now, and I think we have great business case, so we spend a lot more money for it sometime in the future when the traffic congestion is even more
In Surrey, mayor Linda Hepner has also said her cityai??i??s plan for three light rail lines will also go ahead, regardless of the transit plebiscite outcome.


11 Responses to “Are traffic flows along Broadway enough to justify a subway?”
  1. Haveacow says:

    I was talking to a colleague of mine earlier this week and he claims to know what a large part of Linda Hepner’s “LRT Plan B” is and if he is correct, and its a big if, I don’t know if I believe him or not, if he is correct, her Plan B won’t work unless the BC government or the Feds kick in a large amount of the required capital funding!

    Zwei replies: Agreed! The Surrey LRT is grossly expensive for what it will do, so expensive in fact, one wonders if it was designed to fail!

  2. Haveacow says:

    Both Montreal and Toronto use a limit of 10-12,000 p/h/d depending on conditions and caveats but, that will be the least of Translink’s worry. The point of whether a new Skytrain Line will have enough passengers and whether it should be a LRT line instead will be decided for you. Remember, Translink had to bend over backwards and do financial gymnastics to build the cheaper Evergreen Line, with its present funding in a declining state and many maintenance projects put off so they could afford their share of the Evergreen Line in the first place, any Skytrain extension will be off as well as any LRT line in Surrey unless the plebiscite was a “yes”. There is just not enough money to build the line as is and still afford to catch up on the needed system maintenance program. Also remember they still have not figured out the cost of the structural upgrades to 30+ year old Expo Line above grade right of way. All the known costs for the current Expo Line upgrades that have been figured out are on the stations and the rail line’s electrical system. The cost to upgrade or replace the actual aging concrete structure has only been guessed at and until they do a full engineering review between the stations they will never now. Those engineering reviews can cost between $3-5 Million by themselves.

    They still have not replaced the software and equipment (cost estimated to be $30 Million or so) that was recommended by their expensive outside consultant investigating last year’s Skytrain shutdowns. This prevents them from having to wait multiple hours to bring back a stalled Skytrain Line back into business. When your transit service has to spend months studying before they act, on a upgrade that would save them potentially a lot of money and down time you know they are short of the funds needed. Having to study which system or part is most broken because they can’t or refuse to can’t immediately on repairs or upgrades is a sign of trouble. Its also a sign that you better put off rapid transit line extensions for the time being.

    Zwei replies: In Toronto it is 15,000 pphpd, while in Europe because of the light rail Renaissance (which has not happened in North America, it is closer to 20,000 pphpd. The 10,000 pphpd is a US measurement based on surface streetcars of the non articulated PCC kind and in fact the same goes for Toronto. Montreal, because of its smaller metro cars has a small er threshold.

    In short, planners and politicians have not learned from the European experience and with all the financial ills of lesser metro systems, there is a good reason to remain ignorant and give future generations the financial headaches of metro maintenance.

  3. Haveacow says:

    Oops, that should be, having to study which system or part is most broken because they can’t or refuse to act immediately on repairs or upgrades, is a sign of trouble, a big sign of trouble!

  4. Derek Read says:

    It definitely makes sense to start with these types of numbers. One thing your argument leaves out are the potential numbers for additional riders.

    I wonder, of the almost 50,000 students + N number of workers at UBC…
    – How many in total travel there from off campus daily?
    – What percentage of those people currently use transit?
    – How many drive despite the U-Pass and high parking rates?
    – How many people cycle into campus?
    – Why do they cycle? I’ve heard a large number of people do so because it is virtually impossible to get onto a bus within a certain distance of the campus. If so, what percentage of those would switch to transit if they could get on?

    Outside of UBC…
    – How many additional people near Broadway might switch to transit if connections to or from other Skytrain stops would allow them to get to work easier (to downtown via Cambie for example)?
    – Are there people that simply do not like riding the bus that do ride Skytrain for any particular reason? Easier access via wider doors and roll-on access makes Skytrain (ignoring the problematic access issues with Skytrain stations themselves) a preference for some people in wheelchairs and mobility scooters. They can get on and off a kneeling bus of course, but doing so during peak hours is practically impossible and at other times it can take several minutes to get on and off with the rigamarole of getting up the ramp, paying, getting into position, putting seats up and locking into place.

    Zwei replies: The problems with subways are many fold but first the subway is only going to Arbutus, which means taking a bus from Arbutus to UBC. As well all Expo Line, UBC bound students will have to transfer to the Millennium Line and Transfer again at Arbutus and Canada Line, UBC bound passengers will have to make another transfer as well. One can lose upwards of 70% of potential ridership per transfer. A Broadway subway will do more to hinder ridership than attract new riders.

  5. Derek Read says:

    I should add that where I say “Skytrain” we could likely replace that with “Light rail”, but since “Skytrain” is a known entity for people in Vancouver and “light rail” isn’t for many people you might get slightly different numbers for “would I switch to using Skytrain” or “would I switch to using light rail”.

    My main point is that these potential riders should be included in any numbers (and if those numbers would be different for different systems then they should be counted differently).

    If your number of 15,000pphpd is correct, and your number of 2,200 is also correct, potential ridership would need to make up a very large difference. I think it is likely worth knowing if that number would even come anywhere near to filling that gap.

    Note as well that we’re also ignoring the city’s “densification” plans for Broadway, Arbutus and elsewhere. The city is allowing new buildings to be built with far fewer parking stalls per unit these days. At present these people are still mostly drivers (they simply end up parking on the streets instead). Some percentage of these people should also be included as potential riders.

    Zwei replies: The problem with densification and transit is that more people are crammed into limited space, which adds more cars. Car ownership is increasing at a rate higher than population growth. Densification is more of a developer/political/make quick profit thing than anything else and now it looks like it is backfiring as the young families are fleeing to the burbs. So much for expensive subways, especially subways which are catering to a deep discounted customer base.

    Skytrian is merely a marketing name and it looks pretty silly to many when a SkyTrain is in fact a subway.

  6. Haveacow says:

    Zwei, 10000-12000 p/h/d is right from their (The TTC’s) planning department manuals I have a copy at home.

    Zwei replies: From an earlier post, the TTC used 15,000 pphpd. I have asked my contacts in Europe and their reply is (let me paraphrase)”50 years ago, when subways were the flavour of the decade, 10,000 + pphpd was the point where subways were seriously considered, but with the advent of the articulated tram and the growing installation of reserved rights-of-ways, 20,000 + is now the threshold for a subway.

    I would wager that the TTC still thinks along the same lines and until they start operating the new Bombardier artic. trams, the threshold for a subway may very well change.

  7. Rico says:

    Derek, Zwei’s 15,000 number is not ‘correct,’ there is no magic number…..but every project can have a number calculated. An actual number would take into account the cost of a project, the ridership of the project and the result on the rest of the system including operations and maintainance. That means in low cost environments like Spain the number of riders for a system would be much less than in a high cost environment like New York. It is not explicitly stated but the Broadway corridor study looked at most of that information and compared different options (remember do nothing is also an option). If you are interested I recommend you read the study (not just the summary). It has lots of good stuff including the various assumptions that went into the various scenarios. Remember Zwei is just an anti transit crank, I used to think he was pro-LRT, but as soon as someone starts to advocate for an actual LRT that may get built, he is against that as well. Oh, and for the record the forecast pphpd in 2041 for the Broadway line as Skytrain would be 13,000pphpd (assumptions used were just the regional forecast growth for population and employment….so if the area gets upzoned (Jerico lands anyone etc)….). Also note Zwei’s history of saying how the forecast would never be reached (oops, I guess everyone is allowed to be wrong once in a while….).

    Zwei replies: Rico is one of the more ignorant of the SkyTrain and big ticket metro supporters in the region. Actually Rico, the ridership on the proposed subway under Broadway will be 6,000 to 7,000 past Cambie St. Subways are so 1950’s, when no one cared about the costs, well we are concerned now, yet Rico and his ilk are just tax and spend types who really haven’t a clue about transit. Old Zwei has talked to and still is in communication with many transit officials, who have a vast knowledge of public transit.

    No one today build with SkyTrain and very few transit agencies can afford subways and those cities that are building subways are going to face horrendous maintenance costs in the future.

  8. Rico says:

    Zwei, I am not a tax and spend type. I believe in transit investment, there is a difference. I believe transportation is important and we need a robust transit system. To that end I believe we should be looking at the cost/benefit of all our transportation options. To that end something like the tunnel replacement would have a poor cost/benefit and all of the Broadway options would be worthy projects (but as the Broadway corridor study showed the Skytrain option would have the best cost/benefit case). An expensive project can and often has a better cost/benefit than a cheap option. This is clear in a situation like tram train to Chilliwack. It does not cost that much, but it has very few benefits. or to take the analogy further, a bus from Langley to Chilliwack going through the back roads on a twisted winding route that misses most of the places people live and work would cost even less…but have even fewer benefits.

    Zwei replies: If you support Skytrain and a SkyTrain subway, you are a tax and spend type. You can’t hide from the facts. The cost per revenue passenger on TransLink is a third higher than Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton. Tax and spend, tax and spend, tax and spend.

  9. Rico says:

    You do understand WHY cost per revenue passenger is higher for Translink than TTC and Edmonton transit don’t you? If you understand that you should realize why that number is only good for attacking transit in Greater Vancouver….and since I actually don’t know if you do realize WHY I will tell you. The service area covered by Translink is twice the size of the TTCs service area….but the TTC service area has more people than Metro Vancouver. Same for Edmonton, Edmonton Transit just covers the city proper. Even the same within Metro Vancouver, the cost per boarding in Vancouver is $1.08, the cost for South Delta is $2.67. So lets see Translink covers low productivity routes that the others don’t have to…and it costs more, what a surprise….Maybe you would like to compare operating costs per service hour to even out the comparison? All that number means is translink is providing more service hours to transit hostile areas….because of the service area it has…and that is actually something of a good thing if we want to change places like Surrey into more transit friendly areas we need to provide service people can use.

    Zwei replies: Rico, you are so full of it. Yes the cost of transit is higher, on the unproductive bribery routes. Vancouver on the other hand has masses amounts of subsidies for the trolleybus system and the Three mini-metro lines. TransLink has Balkanized the region, operating unproductive routes, pitting region against region, providing piss-poor transit while pretending Vancouver needs a subway. Want to see full buses, come on a Weekend and see up to 5 620’s going from the Tsawwassen Ferry to Bridgeport, up to 5 crammed articulated buses per hour, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holiday Mondays. It is routes like the BC Liberal forced 609 Wally wagon from SDRC to TFN which carries at best 15 people a day, that should be terminated. If you really want to ramp up bus usage from Delta, reinstate direct express bus service to downtown Vancouver as the locals, especially the elderly hate the transfer at Bridgport.

    No Rico, TransLink operating costs are a third higher because of very bad management and the huge costs to operate the trolleybus and mini-metro systems. Tell your friends at TransLink it is time to face facts

  10. eric chris says:

    @ Derek,

    “On a hot summer day in Vancouver, Truth and Lie are skinny dipping at Wreck Beach. Suddenly, Lie jumps out of the water; puts on Truth’s clothes and starts running down the road. Truth sees this and jumps out of the water in hot pursuit: what’s happening is well dressed Lie being followed by the naked Truth. Yet, to the casual and ignorant observer, this isn’t apparent.”

    That’s what TransLink is, one well dressed lie and the naked truth has finally caught up to the lies by TransLink. During debates over the transit plebiscite, more people became informed to realize that TransLink is a sham; the plebiscite raised awareness about TransLink being nothing more than a provider of transportation for the small segment of society leading very structured lives which are conducive to travel by transit. Having transit by TransLink (subway, s-train and b-line) just increases costs and results in more road congestion than not having transit by TransLink.

    “Empty transit buses reduce carbon emissions?”

    On average, almost 100% of the carbon emitting diesel buses going to UBC (12 or 13 routes) are empty about 80% of the time. I’ve lived by UBC for 15 years and know. Diesel buses operated by TransLink (very frequent peak and non-peak service to prop up the s-train and subway lines) guzzle 10 times to 100 times more fuel than low emission personal vehicles do. Transit by TransLink does not cut carbon emissions. If you have proof to the contrary, forward it.

    I’m fine with transit and support transit. I’m just not fine with individuals lying about subway or s-train lines reducing road congestion and carbon emissions to tax non-users of transit to fund transit by TransLink to increase road congestion and carbon emissions. Last time that I put $40 of gasoline in my car, $6 went to TransLink: for what, for monkeys to receive up to $500K/year for jobs requiring a grade six education, at TransLink?

    If I were mayor in Vancouver, I’d have one tram line up and running along Broadway and West 16th Avenue within 18 months. It would be self-financed from the 10 bus routes replaced by it. I’m not mayor. Gregor Robertson, an idiot is.

    In Vancouver, the subway to UBC will require billions of dollars in added taxes and take at least another decade to extend s-train in a tunnel to Arbutus Street (~ seven kilometres shy of UBC). In the meantime, the 99 B-Line diesel buses which are predominantly empty most of the time will continue to operate – until 2:30 AM (even in the summer when UBC is closed). Remember, during peak hours, the odd 100% full 99 B-Line arriving at UBC in the morning regularly departs empty (deadheads) to Commercial Drive.

    Few 99 B-Lines arrive at UBC with any passengers during the summer, holidays and weekends (50% of the time). No passengers on transit buses = no CO2 reductions. Do the numerical integration to compare CO2 emissions from transit buses to CO2 emissions from cars which only emit carbon emissions when they have passengers. Does transit reduce carbon emissions?

    I’ve been waiting for the calculations showing how transit by TransLink cuts CO2 for three years. What’s taking TransLink so long? Do you work for TransLink? Can you get me the “calculations”?

    “Example calculation comparing the time to commute to UBC by tram and subway”

    Certainly, the tram line can carry just as many people as the planned subway line along Broadway. As well, the tram turns out to be much faster than the subway for the median distance of five kilometers traveled (one-way) in Vancouver. As the following real life example shows for someone living 100 metres off Broadway and commuting approximately the median distance traveled in Vancouver to UBC; the tram is from 21% faster to 93% faster than the subway to UBC, depending upon the time of day and traffic:

    By tram during peak travel, it takes about 1 minute to walk 100 metres to the tram stop, 3 minutes to wait for the tram (three minute service frequency) and 15 minutes to travel 5,000 metres at 20 kph to UBC. In total during peak hours, it takes 19 minutes to reach UBC.

    Similarly, by tram during off-peak travel, it takes about 1 minute to walk 100 metres to the tram stop, 3 minutes to wait for the tram (three minute service frequency) and 10 minutes to travel 5,000 metres at 30 kph to UBC. In total during off-peak hours, it takes just 14 minutes to reach UBC.

    Now look at the travel to UBC by subway. By subway during peak travel, it takes about 1 minute to walk 100 metres to the bus stop, 10 minutes to wait for the bus (10 minute FTN service frequency), 3 minutes to travel 1,000 metres at 20 kph to the subway station, 3 minutes to wait for the s-train (three minute service frequency) and 6 minutes to travel 4,000 metres at 40 kph to UBC. In total during peak hours, it takes 23 minutes to reach UBC.

    By subway during off-peak travel, it takes about 1 minute to walk 100 metres to the bus stop, 15 minutes to wait for the bus (15 minute FTN service frequency), 2 minutes to travel 1,000 metres at 30 kph to the subway station, 3 minutes to wait for the s-train (three minute service frequency) and 6 minutes to travel 4,000 metres at 40 kph to UBC. In total during off-peak hours, it takes a whopping 27 minutes to reach UBC (about twice as long as the tram during off-peak hours). By the way, this illustrates the reason for the 10 minute peak and 15 minutes off-peak FTN service (bus service transferring riders to s-train) for s-train and subway lines – it is the futile attempt to try to reduce the commuting time by s-train or subway in order to make the travel by s-train or subway appear less slow.

    Incidentally, about 400 additional FTN “Green” carbon emitting diesel buses are required for s-train after the Evergreen Line starts. TransLink does not include the operating costs of the FTN service in the operating costs of the s-train, of course.

    During peak hours for “most transit users”, travel by tram is 21% faster than travel by subway: (23 – 19) / 19 = 21%. During off-peak hours, travel by tram for most transit users is 93% faster than travel by subway: (27 – 14) / 14 = 93%. Of course, the planners (monkeys) at TransLink might disagree.

    Monkeys at TransLink prefer to make disingenuous and hypothetical claims about s-train being fast based on someone living at the s-train station in Surrey and working at the s-train station in Vancouver. How many people live and work at s-train stations located about 40 kilometers apart in Metro Vancouver? Heck, how many people even commute 40 kilometres to work, 5% to 10%? Like I’ve said many times in the past, there is only one solution to the s-train disaster: get rid of TransLink and s-train. Call out the helicopter gunships and blow everyone and everything at TransLink to bits (in a figurative sense, not literal). Lay me doon in the caul caul groon… staun my gun, staun my gun…

  11. Haveacow says:

    Zwei, not to over state the point, 10-12000 p/h/d is the amount used because that takes in the cost of any underground transit in Toronto’s common geological conditions. The amount is continually upgraded so to count for any big changes in technology. Rico is correct that the exact amount always changes up or down depending on the particulars of the line in question but that is the basis they start from because it works for just about any rapid transit technology that exists and the TTC has been doing this for awhile. Will it work for Vancouver maybe yes maybe no. The fact is that Vancouver really doesn’t do much tunneling for many different reasons. The Tunnel for the original Expo line was a pre-existing railway tunnel. The tunnel just needed to be structurally altered and upgraded.

    The TTC have formulas for basic underground transit cost/capacity for every part of the City of Toronto, because back in the 70 & 80’s they (The TTC) did an exhaustive Metro Toronto wide (Formerly Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto now the City of Toronto) geological survey to make sure they never got any big geological surprises when digging a subway. This happened when digging the first subway when a massive underground spike of super hard pre Cambrian rock was discovered in the soil layer of Toronto about a mile in diameter coming up from below that was completely unknown. This caused an on the fly design and route change, which added $5 Million to the end price of the subway. This was big deal back in 1954 when the subway opened at a cost of $63 Million instead of 58 as originally budgeted. These geo surveys were complete so no big geological surprises would ever be a big issue again. Now its not perfect and there are always are some surprises when you dig but not a massive unknown issue like the first one.

    As for the Broadway Subway Skytrain Line, I stand by my original assessment. The original transit studies for the project uses the transit numbers for all close parallel transit lines and adds them together. So when you see numbers like 150-200,000 passengers a day they are counting all close parallel transit routes not just the routes on Broadway itself. This is a common way to organize data when you do a corridor study like Translink did, its not done because they are corrupt, it is actually quite common and has some validity to it. It has been my professional experience that, when that is done it has 2 effects, it over estimates riders and because of the way the study was done forces out other answers like adding capacity or building cheaper lines on one or multiple routes that cross the corridor especially at perpendicular angles to the corridor. The other problem with Corridor studies is that they have a habit of looking at the study area so close up in isolation that, they do not take into account that this corridor is not alone in space but acts and reacts with other areas of the city all at the same time. I stand by my numbers for the corridor because it doesn’t look at the study corridor in total isolation but as a one functioning part of the larger city and area. So right now I still believe there are better, cheaper, answers that in the interm period, will deal better than with the problems faced by the area than, over spending Billions of dollars on a underground corridor that as designed, uses a rail transit technology system with very low capacity and high costs associated with it, especially when you consider spare parts and maintenance.

    A technology that may not be owned by its parent company for very long because it is not a big seller. With the coming split of the Rail Transport Division from the Aerospace Division into 2 separate but wholly owned operations of Bombardier International. The rail Division is going to be shedding as many of the underperforming rail technologies and factories as possible to make them attractive for investors. Bombardier remember does not sell the Skytrain technology as a separate vehicle technology anymore but as a complete transport system. This means that they don’t care as much for the people whom already own the technology they are looking to unload the whole system on new customers. All this points to the promise that, the technology will not disappear but will become more expensive if you are just buying the cars to replace older models. I repeat, the technology will not disappear but replacement vehicles and technology upgrades will become more expensive because unless you are buying the whole system, you will be purchasing expensive one off orders of individual technology pieces.

    Zei replies: I defer to you, but I suspect that the TTC are redefining the ridership needed for a subway.

    From the Subway Realities from Toronto Post; From the Toronto Star: “In 2013, the TTC first said the ridership was 9,500 per peak hour — a standard calculation for planning transit. That number was later changed in a city staff report to 14,000 — just outside the necessary ridership to justify a subway, widely accepted as 15,000. (This number did not come from me!)

    Obviously the 15,000 figure is now being used by some in Toronto, who disagree with the TTC number.. As I have stated before, in Europe, where there are many unhappy financial issues with subways, the threshold is over 20,000 pphpd, while in the USA, where many transit planners still pine away for the PCC car, the threshold for subway construction is around 12,000 pphpd. This figure is strongly supported by the US Engineering fraternities and one can say self serving as the Engineers stand to make a lot a money building subways.

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