Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Mayors go to Victoria seeking transit promises

with 8 comments

Vancouver Sun

I suppose on the assumption that Bill 43 will get through, they are all in there trying to get something for their cities. Kevin’s response

“There’s no doubt that we can’t do everything all at once. And we need to make decisions that are thoughtful.”

Now that would be a novelty. Does the decision to install gates on SkyTrain meet that definition? In fact, is Bill 43 itself the result of actual thought? Or are both simply off the cuff, instant sound bite type decisions?

He also insists that the new TransLink board structure the province is creating will take the politics out of decisions and ensure the wisest transportation choices are made from an overall regional perspective.

Like the Canada Line – the decision that was rammed down the region’s throat and gave rise to Bill 43 (which, of course, came with a promise to build the Evergreen Line at the same time and construction is nowhere near even now). Or the twinning of the highway that will increase traffic and greenhouse gas emissions and lock the South of Fraser area into car dependence for another generation? And of course there is nothing political about the Gateway is there: it is just the best advice that self interested “professionals” could come up with.

Here is a useful check list to go back to once the announcements start rolling. Expect the rate of announcements and the size of commitments to increase as the date of the next election approaches.


– Vancouver wants:

An extension of the Millennium Line from where it ends now, Clark Drive, out to the University of B.C.

Length of line: 12 kilometres.

Approximate cost: $1 billion to $2 billion.

Commitment so far: $2 million from the city for planning; $1 million from TransLink for planning; nothing for construction.

Earliest completion date possible: 2016.

– The northeast sector wants:

The Evergreen light-rail line from where the Millennium Line ends now, Lougheed Centre, out to Coquitlam Centre.

Length of line: 11 kilometres.

Approximate cost: $1 billion.

Commitment so far: $400 million from TransLink for construction; $170 million from the province for construction.

Earliest completion date possible: late 2010, early 2011.

– The south of Fraser sector wants:

The same level of transit service that Vancouver and Burnaby have — 2.42 hours per capita per year, instead of the .6 they now get — well before 2031.

Also, rapid-bus service on 200th, King George, 104th and 152nd.

Also, rapid-transit along the Fraser Highway from the King George SkyTrain station to Langley town centre.

Approximate cost: Unknown.

Commitment so far: TransLink has committed to a King George rapid bus by 2013, frequent service (every 15 minutes) from Langley centre to Golden Ears Bridge by 2021, and Vancouver-level service for all of the south-of-Fraser region by 2031.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 23, 2007 at 12:18 pm

Posted in transit

8 Responses

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  1. Great post!

    Would it be fiscally wiser to implement a lightrail track down Broadway from Commercial? I read about the interest in not having an extra transfer but would it really be so bad to get off at Broadway and jump on a streetcar? If they’re looking for faster solutions, there’s little difference between transferring to a bus as they would now, and transferring to a streetcar. The reasoning for no transfer would require a continuation of the expensive SkyTrain technology.

    2031 is a joke. My once-every-half-hour morning rush hour bus didn’t even show up on Wednesday so I was a half hour late to work… no explanation, no bus replacement. The last time I bothered to call them the answer seemed akin to saying a car crashed in Italy therefore your bus is late.

    Perhaps we need to take some officials and “professionals” on a tour of the Valley over the course of a week, including a rush hour commute to and from Vancouver. And make sure to fit in at least one hour-long attempt at getting from Langley Centre to Cloverdale by bus on any given day. Nothing like first-hand experience 😉


    November 23, 2007 at 8:29 pm

  2. In general, I would like to see the money spread out as much as possible. You get a lot more kilometres per unit of spend if you go for light rail/streetcar type systems. Most cities that adopt this approach try to use existing railway tracks if they have them. Where they don’t, the tram goes down the middle of the road and the automobiles get moved out of the way.

    This region needs better transit across the region – not just in the centre. the only way we can do that is to go for “ICTS” in as many places as possible. Not expensive grade separated systems for the privileged few.

    Stephen Rees

    November 23, 2007 at 9:18 pm

  3. regarding Erika’s comments about running a lightrail track down Broadway from Commercial…

    The Millenium line extension to the Canada Line should be consider part and parcel as part of the Evergreen line, ideally all using the same technology (which is defacto SkyTrain). What is done after that on the way to UBC is fair game.

    It is possible to look at the Millenium line extension to Canada Line + Evergreen line as Coquitlam’s connection to VGH, Richmond and the airport (and visa versa). Or as an alternative routing to downtown.

    We need to look at our rapid transit systems as a network and not just as linear routes between points A and B. (general comment, not directed at Erika)

    Andrew Feltham

    November 24, 2007 at 1:45 am

  4. The City of Vancouver really, really wants its rapid transit grade separated. I think one solution is to let city taxpayers pay the difference between light rail and SkyTrain. And chances are, they’ll vote for the capital spending.


    November 24, 2007 at 7:04 pm

  5. For some reason a lot of people in this region are in love with light rail (trams, really). Can somebody please explain to me the difference between the tram and rapid bus? I don’t won’t to be ignorant, but I don’t see much difference at all (aside from trams being somehow old world and thus sexier I guess). The Evergreen line cost estimate (with a lot of tunneling) for light rail has reached 1.1 billion, with cost per km = 100 million. That is virtually the same cost we are paying per km for Canada Line. So what is the benefit? If you do trams at grade then they are slower and not much better then buses. If you don’t do them at grade then they cost as much as subway. How about we do something new and use the technology – for example, rapid buses equipped with traffic light changing devices? Then once the rapid bus cannot handle the load – build the subway/grade separated rapid transit and move the rapid busses elsewhere. Also, how about the use of commuter trains to address long distance commuting (how about West Coast Express trains to the Abbotsford with stops in Surrey and Langley?) – that is where existing rail beds come into play.

    My point is that we should not do this half-assed and build something that makes sense long term (i.e. for when this region has 3-4 million people). I think that we have fine basis for expansion in terms of SkyTrain and we should persue that instead of going with trams.

    Dejan K

    November 25, 2007 at 11:03 am

  6. Everything being built here, now, costs way more because of the rush to get projects completed before the Olympics. So current project estimates distort comparisons.

    Rapid Bus (BRT) is the cheapest option in capital cost terms, but because of the limitation of bus sizes, tends to have lower capacity than light rail. Since 80% of transit operating costs are labour, one driver can be much more productive driving a train than bus (measured as passenger kilometres per shift).

    Light rail (LRT) is a very broad range of service – but the main advantage is regulatory. The construction and operating regulations are much less restrictive than heavy rail – but it obviously varies between administrations.

    Segregation from other traffic is critical in either BRT or LRT – and it depends how it is achieved. A bus tunnel for instance will be more expensive than a rail tunnel, since with buses you must clear the diesel exhaust. On the other hand a B Line can be quite cheap – though I was staggered to see the recent estimate of cost for a short length of queue jumper lane on Russ Baker Way.

    In other cities there are often abandoned railway rights of way that can be utilised cheaply. Here, of course, you have pay CP. That’s the problem with commuter rail. You are hostage to the commercial railways, who enjoy screwing governments for all they can get because they always have.

    Finally, the most important measure is the journey time on the new system (or whatever type) against the car. I favour measures that both slow cars down and make parking really, really expensive. This means the comparison for transit works better: it does not have to be very fast, just faster than the car for the same journey. Most of what the City of Vancouver does is to protect cars from transit, which is especially stupid. Other cities have realised that moving people, and creating a good urban environment, depends on reducing car traffic.

    Stephen Rees

    November 25, 2007 at 11:29 am

  7. The Northeast Sector rapid transit plans of the provincial government have been painfully slow, showing that, sadly, transit really isn’t a priority for them. That said, if a large announcement were made which also included South of Fraser rapid transit plans, I could still applaud, and been proven wrong.

    The merits of lrt versus Skytrain versus guided light transit have been argued elsewhere. I do have a question however, about upgrading a brt-like system to 80′ units, as are used in Switzerland as electric trolley buses and have been pondered upon for use on the Orange Line in Los Angeles. Would it be difficult to amend the Code for use of longer buses on separate lanes or perhaps shared lanes?


    November 26, 2007 at 9:20 am

  8. One of the main advantages of BRT is that feeder service can operate into the suburbs just like an ordinary bus – which is the way that Ottawa runs its busway. This eliminates a lot of transfers, which is a significant improvement in service quality and one that cannot be achieved with any fixed route system. BC Transit tried to operate the 98 B-Line that way and it was very unpopular – “express” buses reappeared on the old routes with a different number and none used the No 3 Road bus lanes.

    Double artics are not built here yet, so they would either be imported (good use for the higher dollar) and built here from foreign designs (worked for New Flyer and their Dutch bus). But I cannot see them getting an easy ride from regulators. And even single artics are viewed as the “killer bendys” in London. Nor can I see them easily working ordinary streets. In Curitiba they are confined to the exclusive busways – but that is due to high floor loading platforms.

    One thing I should have put is that steel wheel on steel rail is more energy efficient than tire on concrete. Trolley buses cannot overtake, but I still want to see the “plug in hybrid” bus – a hybrid with poles on – which in my view would overcome a lot of the “inflexible” argument directed at trolleys.

    Stephen Rees

    November 26, 2007 at 10:03 am

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