Rethink And Introduce TramTrain!

As Covid-19 wrecks havoc with BC’s economy, it is time to rethink the provincial policy of building more light-metro, highways and bridges and instead concentrate on “rail” transport. The Provincial Ministry of Transportation should refrain from building mega projects like subways and massive 10 lane bridges and concentrate on providing proven modes of alternative transportation.

This not to say that the Patullo Bridge should not be replaced, but a government that thinks into the future would have offered a combined road/rail bridge replacing two very dated bridges, the Patullo and the Fraser River Rail Bridge.

The 1970's GVRD plan for a road/rail bridge replacing the aged Patullo and downright decrepit Fraser River Rail Bridge, shows far more forward thinking when compared to the MoT and TransLink today.

Both the NDP and the BC Liberals have discounted rail transit and concentrated on “rubber on asphalt” solutions, simply because “rubber on asphalt” tends to win voted from the motoring crowd.

In the frugal post Covid-19 world, politically prestigious mega bridges and multi lane highways will cease becoming vote getters, rather they will shackle political parties to defeat, as the tax exhausted taxpayer will demand major economies!

Despite the hype and hoopla from the usual suspects, the roads, cycle and bus lobby’s; it is rail that has any hope of achieving the modal shift in reducing autos on the roads and highways.

Trying to drag TransLink and the Mayor’s Council on Transit into the 21st century is near impossible as they stick like glue to 1970”s style of very expensive light-metro. Sadly the world has moved on as light-metro was made obsolete by LRT since the early 80’s simply because it cost more to build, operate and maintain, and lacked operational flexibility! Today there is a very thin line defining light rail and light-metro and is based on the quality of rights-of-ways (grade separated or not) and not the vehicle.

Universality and flexibility is the keyword for 21st century “rail” transit.

Modern light-metro lines like Ottawa and Seattle, use light rail vehicles due to there cost effectiveness and the ability to operate on lesser rights-of-ways at the the outer ends of the the line. This is called “flexibility”, a trait metro Vancouver’s MALM light-metro lacks.

Ottawa's LRT is really a light metro line, complete with automatic train control, that uses light rail vehicles.

There is one transit mode that is ignored in Canada, despite over 30 years of development and that is TramTrain.

A tram-train is a light-rail public transport system where trams run through from an urban tramway network to main-line railway lines which are shared with conventional trains. This combines the tram’s flexibility and accessibility with a train’s greater speed, and bridges the distance between main railway stations and a city centre.

One can board a modern TramTrain, on-street, in a city or town centre and travel far into the suburbs or nearby towns with the TramTrain operating as a streetcar, light rail and commuter train, all in one journey!

Three potential TramTrain projects come to mind in British Columbia:

  1. The reinstatement of a Vancouver to Chilliwack passenger service using the former BC Electric route.
  2. Reestablishing passenger service on the E&N from Victoria to Port Alberni and Courtney.
  3. The Okanagan rail connector, linking Salmon Arm to Kelowna via Vernon.
With costs as low as $6 million/km to install, TramTrain is a proven economic mode that has had stunning results. The first TramTrain to operate in Karlsruhe Germany saw a stunning 479% increase in ridership over 6 months.

Karlsruhe, Germany saw a stunning 479% increase in ridership, over 6 months, on their first TramTrain line!

TramTrain is now used on over 30 lines around the worlds, with at least 30 more being actively planned for. Not bad, especially compared to the SkyTrain light-metro, where only 7 such systems have been build in the past 40 years and no one is asking for it or planning for it anymore – except Vancouver!

A TramTrain in the European countryside.

TramTrain can help solve our endemic traffic issues in metro Vancouver, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan.
TramTrains come in various sizes from small articulated diesel powered vehicles for light service…..
…… large articulated vehicles electrically powered to cope with ridership demands in urban areas.
Currently TransLink is spending $4.6 billion to extend the Movia Automatic Light metro Lines (Expo and Millennium Lines) 12.8 km. One extension includes a 5.8 km subway under Broadway. Both extensions will not attract new ridership because they do not solve any transit choke point issues, rather they just moved the choke points to anew location.
The cost to the taxpayer over 50 years, just for the 12.8 km extension will be in excess of $10 billion!
Can the region afford this prestige project in light of the Covid-19 pandemic fiasco?
A better option would be to invest the $4.6 billion on the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island and Okanagan TramTrain lines, bringing 21st century public transport to the entire province, instead of metro Vancouver and its very spoiled politicians.
It is time for the provincial government to rethink regional transportation planning and rise from the petty rubber on asphalt politics that have driven political policies in the past and plan for an affordable future for regional transportation.


5 Responses to “Rethink And Introduce TramTrain!”
  1. Niall says:

    Good idea to replace the ancient rail bridge between new westminster and Surrey. That is thing is over 100 years old and could collapse. It is used by Amtrak and Via Rail. Who owns it? Government or rail companies?

    A tram could go across river and follow north side of river to Vancouver passing through the big new residential development at boundary road and the little Canada line trains on the way to Arbutus street. It could replace the #100 bus on marine drive.

    Zwei replies: From Wiki: The New Westminster Bridge (also known as the New Westminster Rail Bridge (NSRW)[1] or the Fraser River Swing Bridge) is a swing bridge that crosses the Fraser River and connects New Westminster with Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.

    The bridge is owned by the Government of Canada, operated and maintained by the Canadian National Railway, with the Southern Railway of British Columbia (SRY), Canadian Pacific Railway, and BNSF Railway having track usage rights,[1] as do Amtrak’s Cascades (with service to Portland and Seattle) and Via Rail’s The Canadian (with service to Toronto).

  2. Evil Eye says:

    Yes a rethink is necessary. Covid 19 has exposed the fragility of our transit system and the political dependence on over rated and very expensive rapid transit.

    I find it very sad that most politicians want SkyTrain, yet they never point where it is used around the world.

    Trans link has become a massive anchor around the necks of the taxpayer and they forge new and heavier links monthly.

  3. tensorflow says:

    One might need to note that at the cost of flexibility, Vancouver’s’ tunnel are considerably smaller – thus cheaper – than the one used by Ottawa or Seattle. This is due to the absence of catenary and the small structure gauge permitted by a LIM vehicle, both are impossible for LRV.

    Zwei replies: Only the rebuilt Dunsmuir tunnel has a smaller profile (MALM) as the tracks are stacked one above each other. The Canada line subway has been designed for standard EMU’s and thus LRT can operate in them if desired (3rd rail). The Canada lines so called cheapness, came at the expense of hundreds of small businesses destroyed during cut-and-cover construction, very small stations and many other economies which reduced costs. I have been told, as originally designed, the Canada line would have cost around $2.8 billion.

  4. zweisystem says:

    Just a note, I have been told some years ago, by a chap who worked at Siemens, that LRV’s can operate in the Canada line subway, by using 3rd rail, thus with no need of OHE. Today, 3rd rail current supply is used on several at-grade LRT lines.

  5. Basia says:

    Vancouver had a tram in 2010. Vancouver now own the former CPR rights of way. The current council not interested in trams.

    Zwei replies: An award winning tram service!

Leave A Comment