Stephen Rees's blog

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

New Light Rail Line for San Diego

with 7 comments

Union Tribune

This is the sort of thing that I would like to see here. We have a lot of railway track in this region – most of it has plenty of spare capacity. Upgrading it is not cheap but is much cheaper than new build. This particular example came in at “$21 million a mile …the lowest-cost new-start project in the nation by far.” The train is a diesel multiple unit built by Siemens and called by them a “Desiro” – of which many examples are in use – and will be operated by Veolia : there is a bit more information on wikipedia

I tried to find a decent sized image of one of the new trains but it turns out that my own picture of one used in Ottawa is better than anything else available at present. I can envisage these running on Arbutus or the old BCER line in the valley

Otrain approaching Bayview 2006 0608

Written by Stephen Rees

December 29, 2007 at 9:41 am

7 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. What’s the difference between heavy and light rail? Wikipedia notes that these DMU are used for passenger service on main lines in Germany, which I would have thought make them heavy rail, no?

    In any case, I fully agree with you on putting our unused rail lines to work. I walked over the Oak St bridge on my way home from work yesterday, and am always saddened to see the two lines running through that industrial land (imagine the train frequency on those!) largely unused, all the way from Arbutus out to New West.

    They’ve also unwrapped the (tiny) Canada Line train sets and had them sitting in the maintenance yard. I hope capacity doesn’t exceed their projections, because those little guys could get awfully cramped…


    December 29, 2007 at 10:15 am

  2. Yes Desiros appear on the “heavy rail” section of the Siemens web site.

    The difference is mainly regulatory – “light rail” in North America is applied to any passenger service not covered by NRAA standards. In the UK there is even a different legislative process for light rail, but even so most of the track miles covered by LRT in Britain used to be part of the (heavy) national rail system.

    I am not too worried about the trains on the Canada Line – it is the stations that are my concern. They have not been built (as all SkyTrain stations are) to accommodate longer trains later on. So the only way to get capacity increases will be through service frequency. While people like to talk about the Alcatel system’s ability to cope with tight headways, the real issue gets to be how long it takes passengers to get on and off the trains. So 30 trains per hour is a pretty common upper limit. Add to that extensive single line working and you have a pretty fragile system when it gets close to capacity – and one that will be very expensive indeed to upgrade.

    Stephen Rees

    December 29, 2007 at 11:28 am

  3. Didn’t know about that limitedcapacity on the CanLine – thanks for that (btw – what is the latest estimated cost/mile on that thing anyway?).

    Regarding the capacity of a Desiro-style system along Arbutus……don’t you have to factor in possible delays caused by slogging through all that creme?



    December 29, 2007 at 12:17 pm

  4. According to the Canada Line web site the total cost of the project is $1.9 billion ($2003). The line is 19km or a bit less than 12 miles – so that’s $158m per mile BUT that would include all sorts of costs which may have been left out of the San Diego calculation like rolling stock, operations and maintenance centre and so on. Digging tunnels is much more expensive than refurbishing existing surface track.

    If the creme don’t like a diesel Desiro, we could ask them to pay for the upgrade to electric traction through a special levy on their property taxes. In fact I think they would quite like a local streetcar to get them downtown – just as long as it didn’t carry oiks from the suburbs through Kerrisdale.

    Stephen Rees

    December 29, 2007 at 1:27 pm

  5. It’s so cute!

    I was in Agassiz for Boxing Day with some extended family and it sounded like the grandma there was interested in a rail line to Vancouver. I said at first that it would end at Scott Road — she was disappointed — but corrected myself to say Main St later which got her excited. I think she lives in Chilliwack. They were suggesting we move to Mission and take the WCE in, but I mentioned it doesn’t run on weekends, and how was I supposed to get to North Vancouver from there? If they put in a little LRT from Mission to Vancouver with more stops in between, I think that would be a great draw for customers along that route, don’t you think?

    I wish the Province/TransLink would up and get this started right now… I could take a comfy train from home all the way to a 3-minute bus ride away from work!


    December 29, 2007 at 2:14 pm

  6. Erika, starting on Jan. 5, WCE will be starting weekend trainbus service:


    December 29, 2007 at 9:42 pm

  7. […] have written about dmus on existing tracks before – and this project in particular. It opened, finally, […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: