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The Broadway Tube

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Two items of interest – the first a short piece in the Province which reports on the generally favourable response to an opinion survey released by the Mayor’s office. I think someone needs to tell Sam that he will not be responsible for building this line. As usual it will be built by the province using a project office independent of Translink and almost certainly a P3. The amount to which such projects are responsive to municipal concerns varies – Vancouver gets more attention than Richmond, of course, but it is still well outside the control of the City.

And then there is the same story but spun the other way by CTV, which stresses the impact on businesses.

It has this gem

City Councillor Suzanne Anton said the method of “cut and cover” is actually more effective for businesses because the road is kept open.

“When you tunnel, you actually have to close whole intersections for lengthy periods of time which we’ve seen downtown,” she said. “When you cut and cover, you actually keep the road open the whole time. Cambie Street, with all its challenges has been open the 100 percent of the time.”

I have seen deep bored tubes constructed in more than one city. Only in Vancouver have I seen intersection closures, but that was not due to boring, but to the open cut construction of station boxes. In London, when the new Victoria Line was bored through the central area it included a new underground station concourse underneath Oxford Circus. The intersection remained open throughout as a steel “umbrella” was built over the site. What Susan Anton seems to think is that the way it whas been done for the Canada Line is the only possible way. I can understand politicians wanting to get in front of the tv cameras, but I would caution them from making statements which only reveal the depth of their igorance.

Or, come to that, prejudice.

Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon says with any major project there will be an impact.

But if the line is built down the Broadway corridor, the “cut and cover” option is pretty much impossible, he said.

CTV goes on to note that

The method and the location of the project is yet to be decided, and the soonest the project could be complete is six years from now.

But our Kevin is certain he knows what the outcome will be before the studies have even started. That is because in the final analysis, whatever any objective study might conclude he already knows how he wants it done. And his first concern (as always) is that motorists keep – or gain more – roadspace.

The real questions of course will not be asked at all. There will be no publicly accountable study which looks at the various options and comes up with an objective assessment of priorities. The UBC line has come to the top of the heap by some magic process, not one that we humble mortals will be allowed to question. Just like the Gateway was only ever compared to “do nothing”, such studies that will be done will have forgone conclusions. The Minister does not want any surprises.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 3, 2008 at 7:47 am

Posted in transit

33 Responses

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  1. Is it unrealistic for municipalities to go it alone? Vancouver’s proposed streetcar system, for example, is outside the province’s ken, isn’t it? Why don’t cities like Surrey just start putting in low cost streetcar systems themselves (though it also may require the political will in addition to cash) even a few km at a time? Or are even streetcars too expensive for a single municipality to pay for?


    March 3, 2008 at 8:23 am

  2. Corey said “Why don’t cities like Surrey just start putting in low cost streetcar systems themselves (though it also may require the political will in addition to cash) even a few km at a time?”

    The problem lies with the fact, no one has engaged planners and engineers with a modern knowledge of light rail to oversee transit planning. The majority of city planners in the region still think of LRT/streetcar as a ‘yesterdays’ thing. I haven’t seen the likes of LTK (a major player in LRT planning in the USA) or Gerald Fox (who’s famous study comparing LRT with Automated Guided Transit systems, in the 1980’s showed that driverless transit systems were more to expensive to operate. That AGT systems are more expensive to build is a given) from Portland or even Mr. Rees, head a transit planning process in the region.

    The Arbutus was rejected by transit studies, overseen by Ken Dobell and Jane Bird, both non transit experts and would not know the difference between a “Combino” and a “Flexity”, let alone what a ‘reserved rights-of-way’ is.

    From the Light Rail Transit Association:

    The Spanish town of Véléz Malaga finally opened its tramway for public service on 11 October. Over 15000 passengers were carried on the first two days, but the service was free until 16 October. The 4.6-km line links the town (20 km east of Malaga) with its beach resort of Torre del Mar and cost EUR 18 million (CAD 27 million or about CAD $5.8 million per km. to build!). The fare then became EUR 1. The infrastructure was completed more than a year ago, but in order to provide the three trams necessary to work the initial service CAF had to take them from the production line of a batch ordered by Sevilla (which is running late with its infrastructure). When cars were delivered and tested it was found that power supply to the Torre del Mar end of the line was weak, and additional electrical infrastructure had to be provided. An extension at the northern end of the line is under construction.


    As well, contrary to the TransLink ‘spin’, modern LRT could make an operating profit.

    From the LRTA:

    Luas in profit : It has been announced that Dublin’s Luas light rail system has made a profit a full year earlier than expected, making it the only transport network in the country not in need of Government subsidies.

    The system carried around 60,000 people every day during 2005, a figure which is still increasing, and achieved a financial surplus of EUR200 000 according to the Railway Procurement Agency. This has enabled Luas not to require the expected EUR2.5m subsidy from the Department of Transport.

    Due to its popularity there can be severely overcrowded trams at peak times which has required the introduction of additional services at morning peak hours and from September next the introduction of a four minute frequency on the Green Line, In addition the frequency of service on the Red Line will also be increased and from spring 2007 the overall capacity of the Red Line will be increased by 40% by increasing the length of trams from 30 metres to 40 metres.

    23 June 2006

    And from the BBC

    City tram makes first big profit
    Nottingham’s tram system made an operating profit of £1.2m in the last 12 months.
    The figures come from Arrow Light Rail which designed, built and now runs the Nottingham tram network.

    The city council and the train maker Bombardier are both major partners in the Arrow Consortium.

    The operating profit covers the period from December 2004 to December 2005 – and compares to a profit of £23,000 in the previous year.

    The company reported the profit figures on a turnover of £27m.

    The first Arrow-backed tram line was officially opened in Nottingham in March 2004.

    Plans for a second tram line to Chilwell and Clifton are still under consideration by the government.

    Here we have evidence, in fact a template for LRT, operating on Broadway, in part as a streetcar, connecting UBC with BCIT with a cost effective and speedy service that would not cost the taxpayer huge sums of money to operate like SkyTrain. SkyTrain is currently subsidized by the provincial government by over $200 million annually.

    Also please note: RAV did not secure private financing, rather the provincial government borrowed public service pension plan money, to full fill the P-3 aspect of the SNC/Lavalin P-3 contract.

    Malcolm J.

    March 3, 2008 at 9:17 am

  3. Gerald Fox is/was advising a group in Victoria, no?

    Anyways, the reason I am interested is because I find it funny that all these disparate groups are needed to secure financing to do ANYTHING rail related, and yet 100 years ago when Vancouver was much poorer we had so many streetcars build, and I’m pretty sure that BCER made a profit to boot.


    March 3, 2008 at 9:27 am

  4. How can a SkyTrain ‘tube’ to UBC be a P-3? Only Bombardier Inc. can win the contract as only Bombardier Inc. makes SkyTrain.

    I hope that the powers that be are not that stupid as to build a ‘conventional’ metro to VCC the force a transfer to the LIM powered SkyTrain, reminiscent of the transfers forced on train travellers in pre 1880’s England from GWR Broad Gauge to standard gauge.

    No, it couldn’t be, could it?

    Malcolm J.

    March 3, 2008 at 9:27 am

  5. Gerald Fox is advisng a group in victoria about LRT, but not in an official capacity. A note from Mr. Fox to myself.

    “The Evergreen Line Report you sent me made me curious as to how TransLink could justify continuing to expand Skytrain, when the rest of the world was building LRT. So I went back and read the alleged “Business Case” (BC) report in a little more detail.

    I found several instances where the analysis had made assumptions that were inaccurate, or had been manipulated to make the case for Skytrain. If the underlying assumptions are inaccurate, the conclusions may be so too. Specifically:

    – Capacity. A combination of train size and headway. For instance, TriMet’s new “Type 4″ Low floor LRVs, arriving later this year, have a rated capacity of 232 per car, or 464 for a 2 car train. (Of course one must also be sure to use the same standee density when comparing car capacity. I don’t know if that was done here). In Portland we operate a frequency of 3 minutes downtown in the peak hour, giving a one way peak hour capacity of 9,280. By next year we will have two routes through downtown, which will eventually load both ways, giving a theoretical peak hour rail capacity of 37,000 into or out of downtown. Of course we also run a lot of buses.

    The new Seattle LRT system which opens next year, is designed for 4 car trains, and thus have a peak hour capacity of 18,560. (but doesn’t need this yet, and so shares the tunnel with buses). The BC analysis assumes a capacity of 4,080 for LRT, on the Evergreen Line which it states is not enough, and compares it to Skytrain capacity of 10400.!

    – Speed. The analysis states the maximum LRT speed is 60 kph. (which would be correct for the street sections) But most LRVs are actually designed for 90 kph. On the Evergreen Line, LRT could operate at up to 90 where conditions permit, such as in the tunnels, and on protected ROW. Most LRT systems pre-empt most intersections, and so experience little delay at grade crossings. (Our policy is that the trains stop only at stations, and seldom experience traffic delays. It seems to work fine, and has little effect on traffic.) There is another element of speed, which is station access time. At grade stations have less access time. This was overlooked in the analysis.

    Also, on the NW alignment, the Skytrain proposal uses a different, faster, less costly alignment to LRT proposal. And has 8 rather than 12 stations. If LRT was compared on the alignment now proposed for Skytrain, it would go faster, and cost less than the BC report states !

    – Cost. Here again, there seems to be some hidden biases. As mentioned above, on the NW Corridor, LRT is costed on a different alignment, with more stations. The cost difference between LRT and Skytrain presented in the BC report is therefore misleading. If they were compared on identical alignments, with the same number of stations, and designed to optimize each mode, the cost advantage of LRT would be far greater. I also suspect that the basic LRT design has been rendered more costly by requirements for tunnels and general design that would not be found on more cost sensitive LRT projects

    Then there are the car costs. Last time I looked, the cost per unit of capacity was far higher for Skytrain. Also,it takes about 2 skytrain cars to match the capacity of one LRV. And the grade separated Skytrain stations are for most costly and complex than LRT stations. Comparing 8 Skytrain stations with 12 LRT stations also helps blur the distinction.

    – Ridership. Is a function of many factors. The BC report would have you believe that type of rail mode alone, makes a difference (It does in the bus vs rail comparison, according to the latest US federal guidelines). But on the Evergreen Line I doubt it. What makes a difference is speed, frequency (but not so much when headways get to 5 minutes), station spacing and amenity etc. Since the speed, frequency and capacity assumptions used in the BC are clearly inaccurate, the ridership estimates cannot be correct either. There would be some advantage if Skytrain could avoid a transfer. If the connecting system has capacity for the extra trains. But the case is way overstated.

    And nowhere is it addressed whether the Evergreen Line at the extremity of the system has the demand for so much capacity, and if it does, what that would mean on the rest of the system if feeds into.

    – Innuedos about safety, and traffic impacts, which seem to be a big issue for Skytrain proponents, but are solved by the numerous systems that operate new LRT systems (ie they can’t be as bad as the Skytrain folk would like you to believe).

    I’ve no desire to get drawn into the Vancouver transit wars, and anyway most of the rest of the world has moved on. To be fair, there are clear advantages in keeping with one kind of rail technology, and in through routing service at Lougheed. But eventually Vancouver will need to adopt lower cost LRT in its lesser corridors, or else limit the extent of its rail system. And that seems to make some Translink people very nervous.

    It is interesting how Translink has used this cunning method of manipulating analysis to justify Skytrain in corridor after corridor, and thus suceeded in keeping its proprietary rail system expanding. In the US, all new transit projects that seek federal support are now subjected to scrutiny by a panel of transit peers selected and monitored by the federal government, to ensure that projects are analysed honestly, and the taxpayers’ interests are protected. No Skytrain project has ever passed this scrutiny in the US.


    But the BIG DEAL for Victoria is: If the BC analysis was corrected for fix at least some of the errors outlined above, the COST INCREASE from using SkyTrain on the Evergreen Line will be comparable to the TOTAL COST of a modest starter line in Victoria. This needs to come to the attention of the Province. Victoria really does deserve better.

    Please share these thoughts as you feel appropriate.”


    Malcolm J.

    March 3, 2008 at 9:32 am

  6. Meredith,

    SkyTrain runs an operating profit every year (except for 2002 to 2004 when the Millennium Line was still building ridership). I assume your $200+ million is financing for capital costs.


    March 3, 2008 at 11:27 am

  7. Sorry, I meant Malcolm, not Meridith. And do you think the Dublin and Nottingham figures include financing?


    March 3, 2008 at 11:56 am

  8. Notice how everyone – whether the City or the Province seems to be avoiding the mention of the generally accepted (and lesser impact) route under 10th Ave.? All mention of the preferred (and City approved) 10th Ave. allignment has disappeared from the City’s website.

    Apparently, the City shied away from the 10th Ave. route after outcries from owners of houses in the Mt. Pleasant area, but that would pale in comparison to the disruption of building under Broadway – whether cut and over or bored. I think that even a bored tunnel duirectly under Broadway would cause bottlenecks at station excavations (even if it is built in half sections like the King Edward Station).

    The Millennium Line extension (and the Evergreen Line) – both as kytrain – can still be a P3 – it just would not include an “operate” aspect. i.e. instead of “design, build, finance, operate and maintain”, it would just be “design, build, finance and maintain”.

    For example, the 3 Docklands Light Railway extensions for Lewisham, London City Airport and Woolwich were each separate P3 projects added to the existing DLR in this manner. The concessionaire receives payments for “track availability” – i.e. designing, constructing, financing and maintaining the track and providing it for use by DLR. The Woolwich extension is only 2.5 km long with a tunnel under the Thames – not the sort of “line” that could could be self-supporting as a separate “operation”.

    “The concessionaire, WARE, will be responsible for designing, financing, constructing and maintaining the Extension and DLR will make payments to WARE for every day that the Extension is available for DLR to operate train services. WARE was selected in December 2004 as the preferred bidder following a competition between four consortia.”

    Ron C.

    March 3, 2008 at 1:06 pm

  9. Just to add – you will note that for the DLR extensions, each of the 4 bidding consortia would have been required to build a guideway that confiorms to the existing technology used by the DLR (which, I think, happens to be a Bombardier system – or a system (not MKI/MKII linear induction) by a company taken over by Bombardier).
    The P3 would not likely involve the purchase and maintenance of vehicles since the concessionaire is not responsible for operations.

    Ron C.

    March 3, 2008 at 1:12 pm

  10. Anyways, the reason I am interested is because I find it funny that all these disparate groups are needed to secure financing to do ANYTHING rail related, and yet 100 years ago when Vancouver was much poorer we had so many streetcars build, and I’m pretty sure that BCER made a profit to boot.

    I suspect that the fact that everyone was poorer is what enabled the transit system to be profitable – people did not have alternatives.

    Ron C.

    March 3, 2008 at 1:19 pm

  11. Please, no more nonsense that SkyTrain makes an operating profit. Translink doesn’t apportion fares between bus, sea bus and metro, so there is no real ability in determining what transit revenue actually belongs to SkyTrain. Apportioned fares, are the portion of fare or money paid for the portion of the trip ones makes on bus or metro. Example: If I were to use a day pass in Vancouver, there is no method to determine what portion of the fare is paid to the bus system or SkyTrain. In London, with a multi zone ticket, fares are apportioned to modal use and trip length using each mode.

    Translink’s spin doctor’s assume that the total ridership on SkyTrain is paying full fares, thus keep making such erroneous statement. Unlike other transit operations, Translink doesn’t include debt servicing costs with their accounting. In the USA, where the total cost of the Transit system are used and is the reason many transit projects seem so costly. Seattle’s hybrid light rail line has a very high cost per km., but that includes all costs, including debt servicing, for the next 50 years.

    Dublin and Nottingham do include debt servicing because that is part of the (real) P-3 arrangement. In fact no bank or financial agency would ever lend money to build SkyTrain in Vancouver, without guarantees and the RAV/Canada Line is a good example of that. The huge cost of debt servicing is one of the main reasons SkyTrain has been rejected by transit planners and no SkyTrain system has ever passed public scrutiny in the USA.

    Docklands was the British entry into the automated train game, behind the UTDC’s ICTS, later ALRT, still later ALM, and now ART, and the French MATRA VAL rubber tyre system. By using off the shelf German Statbahn (light rail cars) and using already existing railway viaduct, Docklands was built quite cheaply. Not so for later extensions. The original Dockland cars were retired and sold to (I believe) Hanover for use on their S-Bahn system.

    Any system can be automated, if one is prepared to pay the costs. Dockland’s survives because of its unique location and the massive redevelopment along the North side of the Thames river. Also, docklands is not LRT, rather a light railway, which was built under the unique British Light Railway’s Act.

    The real question is the UBC ‘Tube’ and why. Certainly there isn’t anywhere near the ridership to justify subway construction, also subways are poor in attracting new ridership. Subways also suffer from high maintenance costs and with light ridership (for a subway) would mean the taxpayer would have to pay a whole lot more to subsidize it.

    The real question that should have been asked is:

    1) Do you want a bored SkyTrain subway @ $230 million/km.
    2) Do you want cut-and-cover SkyTrain subway @ $125 million/km.
    2) Do you want on street light rail @$25 million/km.

    Keeping in mind, all three options would be able to handle expected traffic loads in the future and that commercial speed of the three choices would be about the same, if each choice had the equal amount of stations or stops.


    March 3, 2008 at 4:23 pm

  12. Malcolm,

    Two questions for you,

    How do you see Street Light Rail matching SkyTrain system on Broadway in terms of speed?

    How would Street Light Rail on Broadway be better than the existing rapid bus service?


    Dejan K

    March 3, 2008 at 7:11 pm

  13. The speed of the trains would depend upon the degree of separation from other traffic. Exclusive rights of way and signal priority at intersections would make speeds comparable. Journey times, especially for short trips would be much better since there access time would be faster: on street is much easier to access than any grade separated system.

    The existing service is not “rapid bus”. It is a bus which stops less, and has no signal priority or exclusive bus lanes.

    But neither of these questions is important. What we need to look at is what would produce a higher transit mode share in the region as a whole. My view is that nearly everywhere needs more bus service – and that would be my first priority. LRT is the preferred solution mostly on grounds of cost – and you can do BRT initially to help build demand. We also need real; transit priority on densely used corridors and that means taking road space away from cars to allow the bus to escape from congestion. that way the relative speed of transit becomes more attractive.

    The reason I oppose bored tube under Broadway is that it repeats a formula that has not worked here since 1986, and i do not see any reason to expect a different outcome now.

    Stephen Rees

    March 3, 2008 at 7:34 pm

  14. In Portland, it has been found that 1 light rail vehicle (1 driver) is as efficient as 6 buses (6 drivers) and for every bus or LRV operated, one must hire at least 3 people to drive, maintain, and manage them. It can be easily seen on heavily used transit routes, the economy of ‘rail’ over a long (20 years?) period of time.

    Example: On a transit route that requires 60 buses (60 bus drivers), only 10 LRVs (10 drivers would be needed. Add on the extra staff needed and one can see the large cost savings operating LRT.

    But what is LRT? What is the difference between light rail and a streetcar?

    It is the concept of the ‘reserved rights-of-way’ or a right-of-way for the exclusive use of a LRV, which can be as simple as a HOV lane with rails. The Arbutus Corridor is an excellent example of a ‘reserved rights-of-way’. It has been found that using Reserved R-O-W’s and priority signalling at intersections, streetcars could obtain the same commercial speeds as a metro using a segregated R-O-W.

    Now many LRT systems have slower commercial speeds and the reason is, because of much cheaper construction costs, there are more stations per route/km. and many LRT systems revert to streetcar status in city centres, sharing the roadway with cars.

    I would say LRT on Broadway would have a lower commercial speed than a subway, but would attract more ridership because the light rail is right there, on the pavement, ready to use. Subways have proven poor in attracting new ridership and (except for Vancouver) are only planned for when there is a mass of ridership, far exceeding what is presently using Broadway, to cater to.

    One item often forgotten about LRT operating on Broadway is that the R-O-W is there in the median, where the streetcars used to roam. All the major services, sewer, water, gas are all located in the gutter lanes as they came after the streetcars. Moder ‘slab’ or ‘raft’ track construction makes the installation of LRT far less disruptive to street merchants. Also not mentioned here is that LRT tends to boost business along the route by about 10%. In Portland, city merchants fight to get a ‘streetcar’ down their street!

    There has been no honest debate about LRT and metro in the region and the public have been subjected to a massive anti-LRT propaganda campaign by Translink, the city of Vancouver, and the provincial government.

    There are some 550 LRT/streetcar operations around the world, with well over 100 built in the past 25 years. Not bad, when compared to about 5 SkyTrain operations built in the same period.


    March 3, 2008 at 8:18 pm

  15. Why should one believe the claims of an lrt being as efficient as six buses? One has to question why the reader should believe Tri-Met any more than you believe Translink.

    Jonathan Richmond, a PhD candidate at the Taubman Centre for State and Local Government wrote in “New Rail Transit Investments – A Review”, that the Tri-Met claim that operating costs were much lower than buses was specious. “Rail should only be compared to bus routes performing a similar sort of function, since those are the routes it has replaced … the average cost per passenger on radial and crosstown bus routes comes to $1.77” (compared to rail feeder bus lines – $3.12) per passenger and compared to $1.53 for the rail. “What is becomes clear … is that the Eastside bus routes which were changed at the introduction of light rail lost efficiency. … it is clear that adding the high feeder bus cost/subsidy to the light rail cost/subsidy makes for a high cost/subsidy compared to that needed to support a direct radial bus line. Light rail is, of course, located in a corridor of above-average market potential, and when we compare light rail performance to that for better bus routes serving markets of high potential we see that there is no evidence that light rail operating costs are less than for equivalent bus service. The costs of light rail feeder bus operations suggests that on a total journey basis, light rail costs are higher.”

    The Seattle hybrid light rail is a poor example of lrt efficacy. The Seattle lrt projected ridership of the 42,500, at a length of 15.6 miles and 13 stations, is lower than that of the current Broadway 99 B-Line. It was largely tunnelled, and thus has the astronomical cost of $148 million a mile, or $92 million per kilometre. What is light about that? The overhead catenary, pantograph, and drivers? Seattle voters just rejected a massive transportation spending opportunity. I wonder why.

    Don’t hold your breath for lrt to be welcomed by merchants on Broadway. (Likewise, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed at seeing the tunnel boring machine headed for Broadway to tunnel a UBC line; the Broadway line was promised in 2001 and still hasn’t come to fruition).


    March 3, 2008 at 9:59 pm

  16. Nottingham is making periodic payments to Arrow for the construction costs with funds it received, mostly from the British government. I don’t think that pointing to a PFI in the UK or Ireland, for which we don’t know all the financial details is much of an argument for LRT. I’m sure that InTransitBC will be reporting operating profits in the near future, too. After all, why would they have even participated if they could not get an acceptable return on investment.

    It is not incorrect to exclude capital costs when determining operating profit or loss. It may be deceptive to use it for the general public, but strictly speaking, it’s a matter of direct revenue vs. direct expenses.

    The City of Vancouver, with its Downtown Streetcar initiative is hardly anti-LRT.


    March 3, 2008 at 10:17 pm

  17. Always the anti-LRT crowd come to the surface, citing questionable studies, downplaying LRT’s success, yet more and more light rail systems are being planned and more and more are being built.

    If one wants to really study the issue, may I recommend Professor of Public Transportation systems, University of Wuppertal, four internationally acclaimed studies starting with “Bus or Light Rail, Making the Right Choice”, Vol.1 & 2; “Future of Urban Transport”; and “Economic Impact of Light Rail”. Here we have a series of intensive international studies, that compare bus & LRT, operational costs and total impacts of the transit systems.

    I would think a $200 million annual subsidy is a cost that has burdened SkyTrain sales, even in France, the massive debt servicing costs of the VAL (automatic metro) has made LRT the number one choice of transit planners. Even in Paris, the success of LRT has changed the attitudes of Parisian transit planners and the city will soon boost of 100 km. of LRT.

    Nottingham’s LRT project cost a total £200 million (approximately USD $280 million), financed by a public-private arrangement with the British government providing £167 million over ten years. Thus the cost of Line 1 comes to about $14.3 million per km., well in the ballpark for major new LRT installations designed for both in-street operation and relatively fast suburban running.

    The line’s developer and operator is a private-sector grouping, the Arrow Consortium, in partnership with worldwide railway systems engineer Bombardier, civil engineering contractor Carillion, Transdev (a French company operating 60 tramway networks, including five in France), and local bus operator Nottingham City Transport. The consortium has been awarded a 27-year concession to operate the NET system.
    [Railway Technology, 2004/01/07]

    What this means is that the the Nottingham consortium had to get short term financing from (mostly) international banks as the governments financing is over 10 years. The international banks wouldn’t touch RAV “with a 10 foot pole”, and the Campbell government had to raid the provinces public sector pension plan to finance the P-3 part of RAV. A P-3, RAV isn’t; a ponsie scheme, maybe.

    A subway to UBC will bankrupt TransLink; likely bankrupt ‘Metro’ Vancouver; massively increase property taxes in the region; and severely constrain transit in the region for many generations. Yet for all this, a SkyTrain subway to UBC probably won’t take a car off the road!

    As I have said before, “Those who do not read transit history, are doomed to repeat many expensive mistakes.”

    [Moderator’s note: some of this comment has been removed]

    Malcolm J.

    March 4, 2008 at 7:45 am

  18. Oops! I should have said Professor of Urban Transportation Carmen Hass-Klau!

    Malcolm J.

    March 4, 2008 at 7:48 am

  19. For full details of Nottingham’s LRT scheme, the following link gives the full details. Happy reading!

    Malcolm J.

    March 4, 2008 at 7:53 am

  20. Missing from any of the lively discussion above are the words “land use.” These two little words when connected to “public transit” become one of the most powerful forces in the planning and building of any metropolis.

    Instead, we’ve been subjected in my view to a very narrow, singular review of rail technology / mode, and some comments on cost. A larger perspective is required.

    Here’s a few other crucial considerations when planning rapid transit on Broadway:

    – the 13.5 square kilometres covered within 750 metres (a 10 minute walk) of Broadway from the Broadway / Commercial Station to Alma includes four dense predominantly multi-family neighbourhoods, several large institutions with large work forces and daily visitation rates, a population roughly equal to any other city in the Metro region save Surrey and the second largest Central Business District outside of downtown

    – the ingress / egress of over 100,000 people to the Broadway corridor and UBC from several other cities by all modes of transportation

    – the limited population of Point Grey, and the growing resident, student and employee population of UBC, the largest employer in BC outside of the provincial government

    – the 40+ surface intersections, the majority of which are signalized (not just at the main roads), a hefty portion of which enable thousands of pedestrians and cyclists to cross Broadway safely every day

    – the narrow physical nature of the corridor (especially Main-Alma) where the concern about surface rail need not focus on taking away space for cars (go for it!), but on designing stations in a 30m corridor without removing sidewalk space, dynamiting buildings, and accommodating the ability of dis/embarking passengers, pedestrians and cyclists to cross Broadway safely and efficiently in the advent of one train every 3 minutes in both directions in a shared corridor … those who disagree, try designing a station to scale there

    – contintuity with the existing regional rapid transit system, one that we are stuck with for better or worse

    – additional passenger service induced over the years with an efficient line, vital connectioins to other lines, and by a likely massive new burst of transit-oriented development

    – the principle of providing very real competition to the private automobile (i.e. drawing existing car commuters in this area out of their cars, and therein increasing ridership) — would this be called induced passenger traffic?

    – the principle of full-cost accounting where cost comparisons are made over the lifespan of a system to the costs of car dependency, not just between two or three different transit options … even a subway would be peanuts by comparison

    – the principle of designing entire communities increasingly around transit

    For the above reasons and more, I don’t mind the idea of a tube under Broadway. Likewise, because the above reasons don’t fully apply yet to other communities, and because there is more space to make high quality surface pedestrian spaces (which every rapid transit station should become), I also am a proponent of light rail throughout suburban cities provided pedestrians come first in every consideration. I also feel that neighbourhood streetcars would help preserve and enhance communities as an urban design tool, as well as improve transit service.

    Buses would serve them all and are key to suburban livelihood during the upcoming throes of peak oil.

    Any discussion on transit must not, in my opinion, be out of the land use and community context.


    March 4, 2008 at 4:45 pm

  21. If anyone seriously thinks that building more hugely expensive subways in Vancouver will solve our transit woes, think again, it will exacerbate them.

    LRT can fit almost anywhere, certainly in the narrow stretches of Broadway, it could operate as a streetcar. Instead of our dismal ‘carrot & stick’ approach to transit, we should consider ‘push pull’; where the ambiance of a surface transit operation pulls new customers to it, restricting car use by passive means, pushes new customers to it.

    Continuing with SkyTrain is fraught with problems and not firing a ‘silver’ bullet into means someone else in the future must. Consider:

    1) What happens if Bombardier stops production of SkyTrain, which is a very real possibility. What then? Our proprietary transit system just becomes that more expensive.

    2) If Vancouver sucks all the transit monies for their grand subway schemes, outer suburban municipalities may rebel and TransLink splits, leaving Vancouver, Tri-City, Burnaby and Richmond ratepayers stuck paying the metro bill. (look for property taxes to rise 200% to 300%!)

    3) By building more metro, means a much smaller metro network which will encourage more highway construction, even into Vancouver.

    4) As taxes Skyrocket in the region to pay for metro construction, look for major businesses to move their head offices, warehouses, etc. outside the region. With ‘Gateway’ most companies can easily relocate to Edmonton or Calgary but still keep their rail connections to Western ports.

    5) Watch also for major fare increases to keep pace with higher operating and maintenance costs of the small metro system.

    I am not making this up, but these are real problems associated with metro, especially a proprietary metro system. Building more and more SkyTrain is making Vancouver one of the most user-unfriendly transit systems in North America.

    Malcolm J.

    March 4, 2008 at 6:38 pm

  22. As a daily Sky Train user I am very happy with this system thank you very much. In fact, I wouldn’t live in the part of town (Metrotown) I live if it was not for SkyTrain.

    Malcolm, I do not understand your point of “making ambiance of a surface transit operation pull new customers to it”. I don’t care about ambiance dude if I can get from point A to point B in X minutes as opposed to 2X minutes. And I don’t see what’s wrong with Sky Train ambiance to begin with. The fact that I have to take an escalator? I’ll happily do that every day if it means that I can get to where I want quickly and without delay.

    As for the cost, if we can spend money on building high speed ferries (1/2 billion), rescuing some sorry pulp mill in the middle of nowhere (1/2 billion) or hosting Olympics then I want my “Cadillac” public Sky Train system so I can enjoy my life in style. The public owned stuff does not necessarily have to be crappy and cheap. In essence, what I want is Japanese style train/subway system (seen it, used it and loved it) and not some Euro style slowpoke tram on steroids.

    There – that’s my rant for the day…

    Dejan K

    March 4, 2008 at 9:48 pm

  23. Well Mr. D., I hope you pay your fair (fare) share for SkyTrain, not heavily subsidized tickets. I hope your property taxes reflect a metro system that costs a lot more than LRT to build and operate and not rely on others to subsidize your perceived cheap transit. I hope you like lots of new highways, because with SkyTrain, that is the only transit option left for other people.

    There is only one taxpayer.

    Your ‘public’ that uses SkyTrain may be as few as 80,000 actual people, out of a population of over 2 million!

    I have always said, “if one lives next to SkyTrain and it takes you where you want to go, without transfer, one will use it. For the rest SkyTrain is a disaster.” SkyTrain is not a “Cadillac” transit system, rather it is the “Edsel” (the analogy between SkyTrain and Ford’s Edsel is correct) of transit systems, as it is now considered obsolete.

    European LRT is not slowpoke when compared to Japanese transit systems; go to Karlsruhe, Germany, where their streetcars share the railway track with mainline railways at mainline speeds. Oh, by the way, Japan is now building 10 of these ‘slowpoke’ European LRT systems for their cities, because they can no longer afford to build hugely expensive and heavily subsidized metro systems.

    The problem with SkyTrain is a 28 year history of one of the most successful propaganda campaigns ever. Myth is now fact; deceit is now doctrine; and incompetence is rewarded with promotion, such is the legacy of SkyTrain.

    Malcolm J.

    March 5, 2008 at 8:28 am

  24. Counting the jelly beans in a jar does have its place. But one can also become obsessed with microscopic analysis of the jar, its qualities of glass, the font size of the label text, dividing the beans into separate colours, comparing it to other jars of beans on the shelf ….

    Others prefer to not just count beans but to widen their perspective and test the ability of shelf to hold jars full of beans, and to guage the qualities of the room the wall is attached to. Is it a well-appointed kitchen, or does the jar of beans sit on a dusty unused shelf in the garage?

    Beancounting, though important, isn’t everything, and certainly shouldn’t dictate alone how cities are built.


    March 5, 2008 at 9:14 am

  25. Well, yes Malcolm – this world is built on lies. Always was and always will be. Your problem seems to be that nobody (that matters) is buying yours.

    The problem that I have is that every time there is a proposal to build something there are groups that are entrenched in their way of thinking and insist on ramming their stuff through no matter what. Cyclist would like all the roads to be bike paths (they would also like not to obey any traffic laws either and act either as vehicles or peds – whichever is more convenient at given time). Tram lobby would like their trams running everywhere – whether or not technically feasible or whether or not it will have capacity to support future growth. P3 lobby wants everything P3 (even if it means building Canada Line with 40 meters platforms and 2 car trains that are going to be overcrowded in 5 years and really expensive to expand). Enviro Nazis want nobody to build anything and everybody to join them in the Pol Pot fantasy land. The author of this site wants reduction in road surfaces on yearly basis – that must look great being a professional blogger and working at home, but some of us have jobs and more to it, some of us like to go places for fun (so shoot me). And my definition of fun is not waiting for a bus. Incidentally, most of these ideas have been acknowledged and even successfully implemented in the past: Cyclist – see China from 1950-1990; Environmentalist –see previously references Pol Pot; Anti Road/Card advocates – See communist Russia – in particular see “needing a government permit to leave your home city/gulag.

    Dejan K

    March 5, 2008 at 9:41 am

  26. Actually, no in in Vancouver deals with real issues, but soon the ‘thud’ of property tax increases will soon have many more people believing what I am saying. What is missing in Vancouver is a honest LRT – metro (SkyTrain) debate; the public have never been allowed to have one as it is always, “you are going to get SkyTrain whether you like it or not.”

    Vancouver is not an island unto itself and the realities of modern public transport philosophy will hit home with a vengeance. Right now we are all living with ‘rose coloured glasses’. pretending that SkyTrain will solve all our congestion problems. Even in the USA concerned transit specialist are sounding alarms for Vancouver and hopefully wake the populace from its transit stupor, before the financial excesses of metro construction hamstrings the city.

    All I repeat her is what the real transit experts are saying or teaching, that we don’t have transit experts planning for transit, rather career bureaucrats, all legends in their own minds, wasting the publics money on unsound and expensive transportation initiatives.

    I predict that by 2014, the transit debacle will explode, with TransLink going bankrupt, while still claiming its making a profit! I will wager you will change your tune as well!

    Malcolm J.

    March 5, 2008 at 12:14 pm

  27. Stemming from 27 years experience living within a 10 minute walk of Broadway, I know that the transit service and community ‘fit’ should idealy be people-oriented first in any new intitiative. Because political interference and bottom line beancounting have traditionally put people lower on the list, it is not an ideal world. Nonetheless, it is important to have such ideals that are higher than the currently acheiveable goals, otherwise lower standards inevitably develop. After all, we’re talking about a development that will last a century and influence the city greatly.

    If a light rail service merely replicates the express B-Line service, then why bother spending a billion+ dollars on it? And it WILL cost at least a billion in today’s construction market, somethig else I have a quarter century experience in.

    Getting down to some detail (I’m reluctant because of the potential for debate to go in circles, but here goes), I don’t see how it is possible to improve on the B-Line service with LRT without some kind of dedicated median or other device that will act as a barrier to crossings at all intersections except the ten major ones in the 9-kilometre stretch between Commercial and Alma.

    The problem is, Broadway has already achieved considerable density and almost EVERY intersection is now a signalized crossing, many of them very well used at high levels by non-vehicular traffic as well as delivery trucks. I can’t think of any other road in Western Canada outside of downtown areas that run over 40 blocks in a similar fashion.

    Broadway is unique. Propose light rail in a median down King George or St John’s, or Barnet, or Lougheed … no problem because of the limited number of ped crossings. Propose a neighbourhood tram on the Arbutus corridor and many arterials like Kingsway, Main or Granville … still not a problem. They fit, and would respect or enhance the pedestrian regime.

    I bet a loonie that seriously proposing surface rail on Broadway with the goal of improving transit service over current levels will result in removing the signals at every crossing between stations, and therein a fight between pedestrians, cyclists, transit passengers, stores, medical offices, city officials — those who see the potential ruination of north-south pedestrian / cyclist / commericial access — and light rail propoents. How ironic.

    The only other possible surface rail-based mode would be a milk-run tram without a dedicated median / barrier. At least the vital N-S ped crossings would be maintained, but then financial accountability goes out the window with any hope of improving service. In that case, why not save the taxpayers yet another needless hit and just stick with the B-Line, maybe give the B-Line signal priority?

    Lastly, I experienced years of milk-runism with the blatantly dismal bus service to UBC in the early 90s. Transferring from the #9 to #10 bus in the winter months with thousands of other students was especially bleak, notably because the route was straight as an arrow, yet supremely overcrowded. The need for an express bus service was comically obvious as a minimal level Too bad it appeared well after my UBC days! But when the B-Line appeared, the passenger service became exponentially better overnight.

    I still maintain that a subway (I don’t give a flying donut about SkyTrain technology) on Broadway is a justified expenditure. Because the feds have been criminally absent from participation in transit planning and implementaiton, except for a few crumbs thrown at a few projects, and because the provincial government is as guilty of much the same (they download costs), this not a reason to provide cheap therefore inadequate service. In the end you get what you pay for.


    March 5, 2008 at 12:52 pm

  28. What Meredith said. SkyTrain or no Sky Train technology I think it’s obvious we need a subway like system.

    Seems that tram lovers are going to get their beloved toys after all – although in a slowpoke version. What is this going to accomplish is beyond me, but here it is…

    Dejan K

    March 5, 2008 at 2:38 pm

  29. A Strasbourg-like tram on almost any arterial route in Vancouver and any other city would work, even if mixed with other traffic in a lot of cases. The one the city proposes may actually result in a measureable increase in tourist revenue and such.

    The one exception to me is Broadway which is a different creature altogether.


    March 5, 2008 at 4:07 pm

  30. It is very odd indeed that people want a subway, when the ridership isn’t there to sustain it, this means high subsidies which means higher and higher taxes to pay for it.

    Europe went through ‘metro madness’ in the 60’s and 70’s, with many cities abandoning or on the verge of abandoning their surface tramway’s for faster subways. But a strange thing happened, in the few cities where the trams were abandoned after the new subways opened found that over all transit ridership dropped. Many people found the new subways inconvenient.

    This lead to much research on why people take transit and the one conclusion that became apparent is that transit customers wanted their transit, on the pavement, not in tunnels or on elevated guide-ways. The result of the many studies into transit ridership resulted in the Renaissance of modern LRT, where the concept of reserved rights-of-ways with priority signalling at intersections and the introduction of the low-floor car, set the standard for new city transit.

    The light-metro (such as VAL of SkyTrain) was a product of the metro age, trying to bring metro like service at light rail prices. The concept of light-metro has failed, made obsolete by LRT, which to date out preforms light-metro in both cost and service.

    Our planners at TransLink are afraid of light rail, simply because it will show that the for the past 28 years, great sums of money have been wasted on poor planning and operation. Broadway poses a number of unique attributes that would lend itself to LRT and certainly a ‘tram’ service would be cheaper in the long term to operate than buses.

    And please, let us not confuse LRT with streetcars, as LRT, operating on reserved rights-of-ways, can obtain commercial speeds of that of a metro. On Broadway though, LRT would have a stop (station) every 400 to 600 metres as per urban practise. Such stop spacing would provide the best station spacing to attract customers, while at the same time, give the ‘tram’ a good run at speed.

    It’s so sad to see that the loyal SkyTrain types still sneer at light rail, especially as no one is building with the mode, yet new LRT system after new LRT system are being opened across the world.

    Malcolm J.

    March 5, 2008 at 8:47 pm

  31. You obviously missed the very important principle of connecting land use to transit. Land use is not some dispensible appendage. It is the living flesh hung upon the transportation skeletal frame. And the transit framework is with or without SkyTrain technology — who really cares? Only a tiny minority are obsessed with train tech.

    With the information you provided, you can kiss the majority of the heavily-pedestrianized signalized intersections west of Main goodbye because they occur every 120-160m, (not 400-600m), not to mention Vancouver’s unique bicycle greenway system.

    Further, the abiity for pedestrians to cross at every single intersection from Main to Arbutus (the most dense portion of the Broadway corridor) is one of the most beneficial existing features of Broadway. Protecting that ability must be included in any plannnig process for tjhis corridor, including transit planning. Remove the ability of pedestrians to easily access both sides of the street, a great diminishment of Broadway’s vital economic services will occur, and a huge disservice will befall seniors and others with mobility challenges going to appointments at any of the hundreds of medical offices near VGH.

    If it’s surface rail or nothing, then save the money and stick with the B-Line.


    March 6, 2008 at 11:36 am

  32. My proposal: Build the M line extension to Maple. Lease the IGA lands for 20-25 years and build ‘cut and cover’ under 10th from Main to Maple. Build a bus loop at Broadway and Maple and revist the UBC line in the 2030s, when we’re all dead 🙂

    Yes, this will mean some temporary inconvienience for those on 10th, but so what? I lived on 7th Ave in Kits for 18 years, and twice during that period the street was dug up for weeks at a time for sewer, then years later it was water. We had no back lane acccess, but we just sucked it up and dealt with it until it was done. Several years later, who remembers?


    March 20, 2008 at 10:56 pm

  33. I’m a year late to this, but wanted to voice my opinion.

    I think anyone who sits down and thinks about it realizes that modern LRT is cheaper than systems that require guide ways or tunnels. So yes Malcolm we agree with you that LRT is the way to go in general. It’s appalling how the Evergreen line business cases were manipulated and the whole LRT plan thrown out the window by Commandant Falcon.

    At the same time this blog isn’t about wasting billions putting SkyTrain in Coquitlam it’s about moving people along and across Broadway and I’ve heard nothing from LRT proponents that addresses the inherent pedestrian nature of the street or the massive amount of traffic that crosses it. Meredith has presented a number of reasons why a system designed to move quickly along Broadway simply isn’t compatible with the street.

    The B-Line cannot cope with current passenger volumes so I think the priority has to be relieving the crowding even if the replacement service is no faster. I think a modern streetcar is a good solution that would be very inexpensive to build. It wouldn’t be fast, but it would provide increased customer comfort: fewer pass-ups, less crowding, smoother ride, convenient stops.

    The money saved could be used to build light rail on other heavily used corridors.


    January 20, 2009 at 5:55 pm

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