Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for December 15th, 2007

Canada Line cars unveiled

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The following report was written by Ian Smith and sent yesterday to RailsNorthWest a Yahoo newsgroup. He also writes for Branchline and The Sandhouse. He was kind enough to provide two photos and rewrote part of the story to be more accurate. Please note that he retains the copyright on the written material and the pictures and they should not be copied without his written permission. 

The Canada Line cars were unveiled this morning at a news conference at the OMC in Richmond.

Canada Line new train launch

The first surprise is that the cars do not wear the livery shown on the project billboards and publicity material.

The basic carbody is finished in brushed stainless steel, with a vinyl wrap at the outer ends. The colours take their cue from the current Canucks uniform — green and blue, with some white flashes. Quite attractive, in my opinion.

The official in charge of engineering for the operator told me this was done consciously because the cars will carry advertising wraps, which will adhere better to a flat-textured surface rather than a shiny painted one. Given that the cars are owned by the private-sector operator, InTransitBC, it should be no surprise that maximizing revenue will take priority over appearance. That said, the corporate branding on the car ends is visually very strong (whereas SkyTrain does not use the car ends for branding purposes).

There were no fleet numbers on the two cars on display, but they carried the logos of the many parties involved – the Canadian and B.C. governments, YVR, and the cities of Vancouver and Richmond.

Among the features are illuminated LED signs both outside (for the ultimate destination) and inside (for the next stop).

The larger dimensions of the cars were apparent and various people, including Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan, were quoted as saying how much better they are than SkyTrain vehicles. B.C. transport minister Kevin Falcon went on at some length about this, and it was duly picked up in the TV news reports. In Sullivan’s case, the comments came from the perspective of someone who is wheelchair-bound, and there certainly seemed to be a lot of open space for wheelchairs, bicycles and luggage.

A two-car set seats 88 but can hold 394, which gives some idea of the standing space.

The seats are upholstered in dark blue vinyl and are adequately padded.

At the “cab” ends, the seating arrangement is different from the Mark II SkyTrain cars. There is no “driver’s” seat. Instead, there is a small retractable T-shaped perch on a single leg that can be pulled down to serve as a “hostler’s” seat, and this is concealed when the lockable cover is closed over the manual control panel.

Facing the control panel and windshield, there is a double passenger seat on either side of the aisle. The passengers in the aisle seats will have a fine forward view through the large windshield, but those next to them in the seats up against the side wall will be staring directly into the bulkhead that forms the corners of the car end — and they don’t have a side window either, as this is where the front surface wraps around to join the side panels. Claustrophobes beware!

While the cars were fit for unveiling, they had not had their onboard control system fully installed, and can only be operated manually at present. The pair on display were expected to have this system installed in the coming week.

Unlike the SkyTrain cars, the Canada Line cars use conventional traction motors and will operate on a third-rail power collection system (unlike the fourth-rail system used on SkyTrain). It will be interesting to see if the Canada Line acquires a public identity of its own. Most laymen I know think of it simply as the third SkyTrain line, but perhaps the car’s larger dimensions and more spacious ambience will overcome that.

Canada Line New Train in Operations and Maintenance Centre

In addition the official Canada Line website has three press releases on the new cars and logo, and News1130 has small pictures including one of the car interior.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 15, 2007 at 12:55 pm

Posted in transit, Transportation

Tagged with , ,

Looking beyond gridlock

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The Toronto Star, December 14 2007
Christopher Hume
Urban Issues Columnist

Whatever the appeal of the car may be, mobility has little to do with it.The truth of this lies not just in the extreme congestion and epic commutes documented this week by Star correspondents, but as they also made clear, in our mind-boggling capacity to put up with it.

He does not say very much that is either new, nor apparently backed up by anything other than his own opinions.

I am also very wary of using the “punish the drivers” line. As his own commute record adjacent to the story shows, transit is not “the better way” even for someone with a short commute. Until we commit ourselves to making the other ways of getting around better than they are now – not just transit, but walking, cycling and other shared ride systems – cars will still be the first choice of many even as gas prices increase.

Congestion tolling in Central London simply removed through traffic that did not need to be there. Those people diverted to the ring roads and found that although they were less direct they were, in fact, quicker. The amount of parking in London did not change so the number of people driving into the centre and stopping there was probably not a lot different, although some of the drivers were – those with money to spend replacing those with time to waste.

The other thing Ken did was make sure that buses got a lot better – since building more railways takes too long! (Although they are doing that too.) So he increased the size of the bus fleet and got really serious about bus priority. People have responded – and ridership on buses has grown significantly. So much for all those who say that only rail can win people to transit!

I am indebted to reader Paul Holden for bringing this piece to my attention. He writes

It’s the kind of article that if it was written by someone flogging the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge, I would dismiss it as being without substance. It is interesting that he’s writing in support of transit, given the nuisance he endures daily. The interesting thing to me is that you don’t often see this kind of article in the mainstream press. Usually the assumptions rest in favour of the car, and the author feels free to offer opinions without basis. Yet in this instance, the assumption is in favour of transit, even though his own evidence kind of speaks against him. I guess it makes me wonder if this is a sign of some shift in thinking. Or maybe it just happens to be a pro-transit and eco-minded reporter.

It comes at the end of a week of articles about commuting in Toronto in the Star and significant announcements of increased spending on transit there, based on new federal funding being matched by the province.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 15, 2007 at 11:24 am

Posted in Traffic, transit

The New SoCoBritCA Board

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The Vancouver Sun’s columnist Pete MacMartin is showing some considerable independence these days. Normally the Asper family’s retainers are expected to toe the party line – and since they control a lot of the media in the region that means that the BC Liberals and their associates in local government tend to get a pretty easy ride.

But the Cambie Street merchants have got Pete’s sympathy, and he is caustic about the latest “shop the line” shnennanigans. But he is even better when it comes to this new board – very few of whom would talk to him.

But Derek Corrigan did – and I think I should just stand back and let Derek speak

“They are a hand-picked group of Liberal flunkies, that’s what they are … that will be receptive to do whatever the Liberals want them to do.

“It’s really quite pitiful. They’re almost all business people. I see this board meeting in private and doing whatever [TransLink CEO] Pat Jacobsen wants them to do, and getting their direction from the Board of Trade and (Transportation Minister) Kevin Falcon.”

But it was the man behind the scenes whom Corrigan saved his ire for.

“It’s just beyond comprehension that Gordon Campbell, who was a mayor, could do this to the municipalities. When he become Leader of the Opposition, he said every time the provincial government interfered in local transit affairs, it ended in disaster. And he promised to give the municipalities autonomy to make transit decisions when he became premier.

“The sheer hypocrisy!”

He spit that last word out, as if he had eaten something distasteful.

I think it is actually too early to tell, but the one person who admits to being a transit rider is also an NPA member. It could be that the Board will take its responsibilities seriously – although Kevin has made sure that they will not have enough finance to do very much and is requiring fare increases and property tax hikes as a condition of more gas tax. None of which is going to win them any friends. I have my doubts, which I have expressed – and I have yet to hear from Ken Hardie who jumped on me for my predictions on who the Board would be. I am not surprised.

In 2009 we will have a provincial election and at present the BC Liberals are ahead in the polls – mostly because the economy is doing well. But 18 months is a long time in politics and the BC Rail scandal has yet to be aired in court. They seem to be riding out the cost overruns for the convention centre and the Olympics – and, so far, we do not have any bags of cash changing hands on hotel rooms. But people in Delta are angry (about the SFPR, the port expansion, the hydro lines, the ALR and Burns Bog) – and that has been a Liberal safe seat even through the Hospital issue last time. I expect that there will be many more announcements leading up to the election as more transit funding arrives from Ottawa – that’s already happening in Ontario. And Gordon Campbell does not poll well among women – yet he is the government and the strong women he brought in to balance the ticket are leaving – Carole Taylor and Olga Illich most recently. But I do not see any signs of an electoral alliance between the NDP and the Greens which, in a first past the post system, is the only way to unseat this lot short of a major upset. Which do you think is more likely?

Written by Stephen Rees

December 15, 2007 at 9:59 am