Listen To The Experts

Mr. Havacow is, what I call, a transit expert. He has worked in the field for decades and has a wealth of knowledge on all forms of transit.

Cutting through the hype and hoopla of politcal and bureaucratic promises, claims, and what can be best called, propaganda, Mr.Cow calls it as it is.

Why is he anonymous?

Simple, in Canada and the USA, telling the truth can get one or one’s company blacklisted, thus if one wants the truth to be known, they post under pseudonym. Mr. Cow, the Major, Cardinal Fang and a few more can comment without fear of retribution from provincial, federal or corporate entities.

The following is in answer to a chap who uses the moniker of Legoman, which by his posts, is associated with TransLink.

The following comment by Mr. Cow, deserves a post of its own because of the vast amount of misinformation presented by politicians and bureaucrats, who, quite frankly, don’t give a damn about transit, and only invest in transit to win elections.

BRT bus-jam in Brisbane, Australia.

BRT bus-jam in Brisbane, Australia.

@Legoman0320 in North America you are never going to see fully enclosed BRT stations anymore, they are just too expensive unless you have winters like Ottawa. The same for off board fare payment, this means expensive fare gate devices in each station, most likely unmanned stations (absolute waste of time). You do that in China, or South America with their truly gigantic passenger numbers. In a European or North American context, that’s just too much like a light metro (Skytrain) or a heavy metro (Toronto subway, Montreal Metro). Remember, politicians build real BRT to try and save capital and operating costs, compared to rail based operating technologies.

Lastly Bi-articulated buses still aren’t road legal in North America (Canada,USA). Ottawa tried in the 1990’s and Transport Canada & MTO (Ministry of Transportation Ontario) were forcing O.C.Transpo to jump through multiple hoops to allow them. This is a transit agency with the most extensive heavy BRT system in North America and by far the most experience in running BRT and still they were forcing limitations on them that would have made even basic operations with Bi-articulated buses difficult.

Bi-articulated buses are difficult to maneuver in anything but absolutely clear roads, Ottawa’s Transitways were very busy making maneuvering difficult. Like standard articulated buses, they are easily humbled by moderate amounts of snow or ice. Most models still have hill climbing issues on wet or icy roads.

Bi-articulated buses are twice as expensive as standard articulated buses, currently no North American companies produce a model, this means foreign suppliers with wickedly expensive part packages. Even Nova Bus, the Quebec based but mostly Volvo owned company, uses GM parts for its North American vehicles, due to the fact that even their own European Volvo parts are far more expensive than GM and GM look alike parts. Bi-articulated buses have far more non standard parts and components, like their entire engine and drive train system, braking systems and transmission. Non standard systems and components means higher maintenance and training costs. They also don’t last any longer than standard articulated buses, sometimes appreciably less than standard buses, although that is design dependant.

Even Ottawa is moving away from articulated buses and switching to the newer North American friendly double decked buses. They hold more passengers, more stable on hills, they are not humbled by just 10-12 cm of snow, their easier to maintain and most important, they won’t spontaneously fish tail like articulated buses can.

Although double-deckers have their own serious issues it seems the industry has turned away from articulated buses in general lately, we will see. Ultimately though, the main issue with BRT is still its perceived savings in operations vs. actual savings in operations. BRT works as long as passenger numbers are below a certain level. That level changes with each new system and it’s own operating and physical characteristics. Generally, at what level does adding another bus to carry more passengers stops saving money and starts costing extra money to operate. BRT has some interesting issues:

1. At some level of passenger demand the BRT infrastructure needed to handle greater passenger demand, more and larger buses, forces said infrastructure to be more robust and or physically larger, thus more expensive, than the infrastructure needed to move the same number of passengers with rail based technology. At their core, buses don’t always make great rapid transit vehicles compared to rail based ones.

2.BRT works best in environments where people costs are low and infrastructure costs are high. This limits their effectiveness in first world countries. At higher passenger levels, the operating costs of BRT get higher than rail because you can’t connect the vehicles together into a train, all with one operator. Buses also require more mechanical equipment and staff for maintenance, than rail based vehicles.

3. BRT is not like a rail line with buses. If your so called experts spout this more than once, run for the hills. BRT and Rail operations are fundamentally different. Good BRT design can do things that rail just can’t or more precisely, shouldn’t do and or even attempt to do. Many things that BRT supporters claim that BRT can do as well as rail technology end up as spoiled opportunities because buses can’t generally operate in the same way, especially economically efficiently, as a train.

I could go for days on this last point, entire volumes of books have been written on this issue. You will just have to trust me on this. 30 years of working in this industry and 30 years as a BRT passenger in Ottawa teaches you a few things. I would suspect that, many long time Ottawa transit passengers know and understand a lot more about the advantages and disadvantages of BRT operations than many of your B.C. based experts do.


4 Responses to “Listen To The Experts”
  1. legoman0320 says:

    I am a Translink rider, not a translink employee and Hello to the other fellow readers and commenters on Rail for The Valley Bolg.

    Thanks for being noticed on this blog.

    Mr haveacow

    Check fall with information Transportation Mode and planning. We have links that reference what he’s talking about. To set you straight on Bus parts. GM/GMC bus Off-the-shelf components from their heavy duty semis. New fiyer Industries, nova bus and Vicinity bus quite unified with their parts: Engines, transmissions, air conditioners.

    Zwei Is that odds with anything that translink Media Releases. There’s not a lot of optimism on Translink to execute BRT full/Real. BRT vs/or LRT word used as more of a general term until people specify what type BRT or LRT.

    1 or 2 ways Translink is either getting bullied or Taking advantage Political climate. Getting the capital out of the provincial and federal governments to the support public transit infrastructure.

    Translink media is for transit customer on updates information and progress on projects.

    Only way I know Details is with the Projects/Reports PDF that translink releases.

    When you have Transit planners experts disagreeing on BRT or LRT. Typically leads to delays on implementation and eating available funds on more studies. Translink has a difficult to get operation funding for expansion. The infrastructure funding has been a bit more straightforward.(In my opinion) BRT Temporarily or Upgraded to lRT or SkyTrain.

    Zwei replies: Over 25 years experience with TransLink tells me not to trust anything they say in a news release or any long term planning. Anyways, this will all be moot if Pollieve gets elected in the next election, kiss goodbye to federal transit spending and even a claw back of current funding!

  2. legoman0320 says:

    BRT Temporarily to Upgraded LRT or SkyTrain.

  3. Haveacow says:

    I’m not against BRT, considering I worked on the basic set up of the VIVA BRT Network, so many years ago.

    I’m not against Skytrain, believe it or not. I know LRT will work better because the technology is more adaptable and can be applied to dizzying array of rail deployment options, where Skytrain just can’t.

    1. What I’m against is the quite obvious high capital cost and mediocre capacity of Skytrain versus many other types of rail based technology. As a automated system it has the appearance of low cost operations but it just appears, that way. Having worked at and with Bombardier I know that the technology has issues and its not that cheap anymore, compared to other rail technologies. Operations on the Expo Line get more costly mainly due to the line’s age. Line extensions are great but the core part of the Expo is in serious need of an upgrade, an expensive and time consuming upgrade, especially if you want keep running during those upgrades. Translink isn’t telling you that.

    Why extend the Expo Line 16 km for a staggering $4 Billion (no OMC#5) upto $5 Billion (with OMC#5). This Operations and Maintenance Centre needs to be built because Translink doesn’t tell people they are running out of Skytrain storage space and are especially running low on maintenance space capacity. Could the extension operate without OMC#5 yes, but it will produce big operations issues (something Translink is also not telling people).

    2. I’m against Translink not saying, “look Skytrain lines are really expensive for what they actually do and there’s going to be far less money coming from senior levels of government, for future extensions in the next decade or so to pay for them. So we decided to build with BRT instead because it’s cheaper and the expected rights of way will be carrying too few passengers to warrant such expensive rail transit technology, in the first place.”

    3. I’m against extending a Skytrain line (the Expo Line) to what really amounts to regional distances and destinations like Langley, when the so called experts at Translink perfectly know that the Skytrain technology isn’t designed for regional distances. The operational cost savings of automated Skytrains will be lost because the shear distance will greatly add to its operating costs and take an hour to travel to downtown Vancouver, the line’s primary passenger destination. A distance that will force riders who presently can get a seat at places like King George to stand for 40 minutes or so, potentially, seriously effecting ridership.

    The distance will force the trains to travel great distances, at the least, the first 16 km or about 18 to 20 minutes, at passenger levels well within easy BRT or LRT capacities. Due to time and distances involved it is unlikely that passenger demand would really need an overly expensive Light Metro for a very long time. Regional rail, diesel or hydrogen street level LRT, Zwei’s Tram Trains, actual BRT or some type of protected right of way for long distance express buses are all far more usable and scalable operating technologies for this environment, and Translink knows it, they just aren’t saying that publicly.

    Zwei replies: If ALRT or ART had worked as promised and if 4 or 5 American cities built systems comparable to Vancouver, there would be no great issue about ALRT/ART, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Again, ad nauseam, only 7 system sold in almost 45 years, with now only 6 in operation and 2 of the last 4 system sold (ART) 2 were built with Bombardier and SNC Lavalin bribing politicians in Korea and Malaysia to build with it.

    2 were forced on unwilling transit authorities, the TTC and BC Transit ; one was refused funding by the federal American government and one was built to acquire technology. Yet, Metro Vancouver and the province keep building with it!


  4. Major Hoople says:

    Doppelgelenkbus or as you would name them, bi-articulated bus is a niche solution for cities which have bus routes with a little more room at peak times.

    The are expensive and difficult in inclement weathers, especially snow, using Doppelgelenkbus is somewhat cheaper than building a tram.

    They are also expensive to maintain and tend to tear up the pavement and damage the underground utilities, which in many cases are not included in operational costs.

    Having been in Vancouver with the Canada Line effort, I do understand the politcal climate, but the essential for good public transit is missing.

    Your SkyTrain mainly operate on a there and back diagram on a segregated route which is very simple but very expensive, We understand that our customers, yes customers, want transit to be on the pavement and ready to use and they absolutely hate transfers. This is what we have to work with on this side of the pond.

    It is all very easy to operate a transit system if you do not cater to the customer, but your low ridership numbers certainly point to many issues your politician are afraid to deal with.

    Deciding to operate Doppelgelenkbus without any investigation of its operating characteristics, will, to make a point, be a fiasco. But we observe your desire for SkyTrain, which raises many red flags with us, which makes me glad I am now retired and just say We told you so.

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