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

Subway to UBC still a financial pipe dream

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Miro pretty well nails this one with just the simple math that it cannot be justified in cost recovery terms. 

Let’s suppose 100,000 people would use that $3-billion rail line — a ridership figure far, far in the future. If it was financed at five per cent a year for 30 years, the actual construction cost to the taxpayer would be $5.8 billion.

That means about $58,000 per rider. Put another way, those 100,000 riders would have to ride the rails every day, seven days a week, for $5 apiece, for more than 30 years to pay down the investment. And that wouldn’t even begin to pay for the system’s operating costs.

Actually it is a great deal worse than that. Firstly because most of the people who would use it, already use transit. So while there is a huge incremental cost there is not nearly as much incremental revenue. They don’t just pay to ride the new subway – they need to use the rest of the system to access it. And, of course, out at UBC many of the users already get an incredible discounted fare deal thanks to U Pass. So the average fare paid per rider is going to me much lower than the system as a whole. Yes there would be some savings – or rather it would free up buses for use elsewhere. But that also frees up more road space on Broadway – just as the Canada Line will take buses off Granville – which will quickly fill up with single occupant cars instead. 

What is missing – of course – it always is – is any understanding of how this project would affect the transit mode share. That has not changed much since I arrived in Greater Vancouver 12 years ago. And a UBC subway would not shift it very much either.  Miro does capture the spirit of this by pointing out the need to use transit to shape growth rather than serve existing demand. And what he says is as true if you substitute most of the megaproject spending in this region that has happened in recent years and is in current plans. The opening of the Golden Ears Bridge next month does nothing to solve any real transportation problem – it just encourages more sprawl in Maple Meadows – as does the new Pitt River bridges. The Canada Line costs a bundle but has less capacity than many surface LRT lines. The Port Mann and Patullo Bridge replacements will both help to ensure continued car dependency and increase both traffic and emissions.

None of this will impact the threepeat Premier who is now  even more convinced that he is unassailable and has a mandate to do as he wishes. And it is not that Miro is better at math than the people who work for the MoT. It is that objective assessment of transport project investment does not happen in BC – and never has done. It is not just the Liberals who make this mistake – the NDP were exactly the same. The Millennium Line and fast ferries would never have passed any objective test – but then they did not have to. The Premier of the day wanted them done. Sadly this may well be what happens again this time around. After all he still thinks the Gateway is a Good Idea! 

Written by Stephen Rees

May 25, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Posted in transit, Transportation

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46 Responses

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  1. For a government that harps about the need for a “business case” at every possible opportunity, it’s clear they didn’t do their homework on the business case for this one.


    May 25, 2009 at 6:05 pm

  2. Stephen:

    Good post. But don’t expect anything more rationale to take place when the high-speed train frenzy picks up over the next 2 years.


    May 25, 2009 at 8:30 pm

  3. This is another case of poor business acumen mixed with Campbell and Falcon total ignorance of transit. If a LRT (several actually) is good enough for Toronto, Paris and other towns why isn’t it for Vancouver?

    Has anyone read the Toronto Star issue of May 16,09? it has an article on an announcement by Harper and the Premier of Ontario that both governments are funding the Sheppard LRT line at a cost of $ 950 millions. The article goes on to say that it is the 3rd LRT project for Toronto that has secured funding but that it will be the first one to start, sometimes this year. So when will Harper announce funding for the evergreen line? isn’t Gordon C, a conservative in small l liberal clothing, a good buddy of Harper?
    The article can also be found in Spacing Toronto (link on this site under Biogroll) but was ignored by the Vancouver Sun.

    Talking about TransLink, does anyone knows the actual length of the first 2 SkyTrain lines? I can find the length of each line but because the Expo line and the Millenium line overlap for most of their respective routes, adding them up and saying, as Translink does, that we have the longest ALRT system in the world is another smoke and mirror trick that doesn’t make sense and screw up systems prices and fares comparisons.

    Red frog

    May 25, 2009 at 9:02 pm

  4. What also is forgotten by those who advocate for subways is that they are very expensive to maintain. The piston like atmosphere in the “tube” is highly abrasive to delicate signal/car wiring, etc. In London and Paris they have vacuum trains that roam the subways at night mitigating the damage. Even Toronto’s subway is hugely expensive to maintain. That’s why subways are not planned for unless (according to prof. Condon) traffic flows exceed 500,000 a day on a transit route.

    Let I also remind Corey that American Transit specialist Geral Fox easily shredded the Evergreen Line business case in a letter to a Victoria transit group.

    D.M. Johnston

    May 26, 2009 at 7:09 am

  5. […] on to end of year: Ballem memo [State of Vancouver] Pender drivers stop for hikers [Times Colonist] Subway to UBC still a financial pipe dream [Stephen Rees Blog] CANADA Gordon Graff’s Skyfarm for Toronto [Inhabitat] Toronto council passes […]

    re:place Magazine

    May 26, 2009 at 9:40 am

  6. Campbell commissions reports that say what he wants them to say and then calls them business cases. The NDP under Glen Clark skipped the “business case” charade and went straight to the RFP stage. Clark’s moves were less deceitful, but by virtue of being even more poorly planned were just as much of a disaster.

    Public projects in BC are all filled with corruption. How else could a $1.35 billion dollar bridge project double in cost in just 4 years when interest rates were dropping like a rock and inflation was under 2%? I’m amazed that anyone with an IQ above their shoe size is willing to accept such obvious lies.

    Ten years from now Canada Line will be seen as the expensive mistake that the GVRD repeatedly voted against until sufficient provincial pressure was applied to ram it through. As Malcolm said, subways are hugely expensive to build, maintain and operate, and Canada Line, with its dinky little 40 metre platforms, will never have the capacity of a simple LRT line running down the middle of the street.


    May 26, 2009 at 10:46 am

  7. There is way too much hate in this post and subsequent comments – and most of you missed the point. Abbotsford, Surrey, Langley and Coquitlam have the most potential for growth (and are growing much faster than Vancouver. As a result, those cities need better transit badly if they hope to shape development with more buses, skytrain and LRT.

    The story is not about increasing transit mode share or the Canada Line or LRT vs. skytrain – it is about getting the best bang for our transit buck. And to do that we have to look at where we will see the most growth.

    The article is certainly not about tearing down every proposed transportation project in the Lower Mainland – Golden Ears Bridge, Pattullo Bridge, Pitt River Bridge, Canada Line, UBC Millenium Line extension, Port Mann, Gateway.

    Come on Stephen. Learn to love.


    May 26, 2009 at 11:05 am

  8. ngwright,
    It it much less hate than a lot of FRUSTRATION. Some of us (like me and also many people in the Valley) have written Minister Falcon imploring him to build transit at grade to service all the Valley, Squamish/Whistler/Pemberton and White Rock.

    This is not a revolutionary concept and has been done all over the world, including in the wide areas around Toronto and Montreal. His response is that we don’t have enough people living there, not exactly an informed answer as everywhere else in the world the trains came first for obvious reasons (it is easier and cheaper to build tracks BEFORE lots of houses are built than after).

    We could accept the B.C Liberal horrible mistakes about transit if no one else in the world had built various types of transit systems BUT we do have the experience of many other towns in many countries and quite a few of us have actually used various types of transit in other towns for years.

    Red frog

    May 26, 2009 at 11:28 am

  9. I’m with you on better at grade rail for the Fraser Valley and White Rock.

    It true we all have within us an infinite capacity to screw up. But politicizing doesn’t get anyone closer to the transit they need.

    The liberals said exactly what their plan for transit was. Do I think we could and should do a lot better, a lot faster? Of course I do. But just because I don’t agree with everythin they say, doesn’t mean I’m going to scream and holler at the top of my lungs.

    We need a better transit system, and I think the best way to get it is with less rhetoric and political venom.

    Feel free to disagree with the government. But don’t make up your mind prematurely. That is the only way to ensure your opinion will not be heard.


    May 26, 2009 at 12:30 pm

  10. First of all, just the fact that a Sun columnist seems to support a position should give one a bit of a pause. He just came out with a poorly researched piece on the Burrard Bridge and I expect he put just about the same level of research into this one. Don’t forget they have also supported just about every highway expansion project imaginable.

    The Liveable Region Strategic Plan defines a transit network to shape growth in the region. The growth concentration areas are to be served by intermediate capacity transit which could be SkyTrain, LRT or busways. The network of intermediate capacity transit includes the Evergreen Line, lines to Newton and Guildford and to mid-Broadway. In spite of the opinions expressed here, the province’s Transit Plan is entirely consistent with the LRSP with the SkyTrain extension to Guildford and rapid bus on King George. Now LRT from Guildford to Newton would also be consistent so that is a discussion worth having.

    The UBC Line does expand rapid transit beyond mid-Broadway but remember, this will not be completed until 2020 or so which was the outer range of the plan. It is a logical extension. Regarding SkyTrain to UBC, lets wait until the process to evaluate the options is actually underway. I suspect one of the main considerations is that there is no particularly good place along the route to transfer 100,000 to 200,000 people per day from SkyTrain to light rail or bus. It is simply much easier though more expensive to extend SkyTrain all the way to UBC. Now, if the Millennium Line was not SkyTrain, there would be a good argument for making the Broadway extension LRT. For better or for worse, that decision has been made. I was against the decision to use SkyTrain and spoke out against it. However, once construction was underway, I realized that really nothing was to be gained by continuing to fight a battle that has been lost.

    I find it curious that people claim to support the LRSP yet oppose transit plans that are consistent with it and support transit plans which are not consistent with it.

    Further expansion of rail-based rapid transit including along Interurban Line is not supported by LRSP. That doesn’t mean it is not a good idea, but lets do the land use planning first before we start pushing expansions that may not help concentrate growth. I personally would love to see it but not at the expense of other badly needed rapid transit improvements that are consistent with the LRSP. The same can be said about a network of trams around the city. Again, that would be great but not at the expense of the regional network.

    Here is the LRSP. The transit network is on page 30.

    Click to access LRSP.pdf


    May 26, 2009 at 1:48 pm

  11. My understanding is that transit on the Broadway corridor is currently carrying 80,000 people… making the 100,000 figure not so distant.


    May 26, 2009 at 3:16 pm

  12. At a public meeting in Abbotsford last week a well placed municipal official in response to a question about transit in the south Fraser region said it was years away because jobs in the region were scattered over the region in business and industrial “Parks” and not concentrated in anyone area to support any form of mass transit and the plan was to rely on the automobile for the next 10 to 15 years.

    A planning problem memtioned on this site many times in the past.

    My guess is that the Broadway Line will get started before the Evergreen Line.


    May 26, 2009 at 9:07 pm

  13. I take the general point, a couple of notes on the calculation…

    1) You’d want to net out inflation, at the very least, from the interest on the project financing.

    2) 30 years is hardly a realistic timeline for mass transit. Expo line is 23 years old already.

    3) Fares generally don’t cover the full benefit to society from transit given widely held beliefs that there are positive externalities to transit use (e.g. lower greenhouse gas emissions, less noise, etc.)

    4) You’d want to reflect the value of time saving benefits for both the users of the line and the drivers on Broadway and the east/west corridor in general.


    May 26, 2009 at 9:22 pm

  14. There is a problem with our current planning; everyone believes that speed of transit alone is the main factor in attracting ridership – not true. There are many factors that attract customers to transit, one of the most important is accessibility and studies as well as revenue service has shown that customers want their transit on the pavement, ready to use. Subways have proven not very successful in attracting the motorist from the car.

    Out transit planning in the region is about 40 years out of date – subways/metro and highways predominate our current transit planning. Won’t work and we can’t afford it.

    As for rail to the valley, we are not talking about mass transit (I would avoid anyone who uses the term mass transit) but a light rail service. Those who do not want the reinstatement of the interurban use terms like mass transit or rapid rail or rapid transit.

    D.M. Johnston

    May 27, 2009 at 6:13 am

  15. It is noon and Susan Heyes has been awarded $600,000 and costs in compensation. “Hazel & Co. is entitled to costs against CLRT, TransLink and InTransit BC. In the absence of agreement, the parties may speak to the appropriate scale or other matters affecting the assessment of costs.”

    Going to make a SkyTrain subway under Broadway even more difficult.


    May 27, 2009 at 11:21 am

  16. There is absolutely no need to transfer 100,000 people at any point. The supply of riders and demand for service along Broadway is spread along most of the 12 km route. If we’re building a system solely to move people from Commercial Drive to UBC, then why bother with any stops along the way? Oh yeah, because Translink tried that, the 99S, and the buses ran half-empty most of the time. Most of the transit users on Broadway board or alight at stops somewhere between SkyTrain and UBC.

    Why would anyone want to build a system, any system, where the first priority is getting people from Commercial to UBC? Adults who pay less than my 5 year old does for transit services and who choose to live far from school should be last on the list of transit priorities.

    Broadway deserves transit that enhances the street, not a system that frees up space for more single occupant vehicles.

    I firmly believe that NIMBYism is behind the proposed UBC subway. The rich people of the west side want the “riff raff” buried underground. When LRT was being proposed for the Arbutus corridor (for at least the third time) some local residents identified themselves as the crème de la crème. Such people simply do not take transit and will oppose any system that takes away even one square inch of roadway for their precious BMW and Lexus SUVs. Of course they fail to realize that removing lanes will cut down on through traffic and actually make it easier for them to drive to Capers.


    May 27, 2009 at 11:39 am

  17. In reply to news of Hazel & Co’s victory in court, let’s not forget that Canada Line was originally going to be a bored tunnel and not devastate the surface. Look how that turned out.


    May 27, 2009 at 11:43 am

  18. Because this forum is this forum (and those who post here), the arguments in the article have become a subway/SkyTrain vs LRT argument.

    The argument should be the classic argument:

    – Build rapid transit to shape growth (i.e. under the LRSP as has been done in the past by lnking regional town centres)?
    – Build rapid transit to serve existing demand (and the transit users clamouring about overcrowding)?

    Remember, the M-Line (designated under the LRSP was decried as a line to nowhere – but it’s ridership is steadily increasing with increased development along the line – the expected “growth-shaping” result.

    Ron C.

    May 27, 2009 at 12:02 pm

  19. BTW – regarding the Evergreen Line, the Feds pitched in way back on February 26, 2009:

    The Evergreen Line has been identified as a Building Canada Fund priority by the Canada-British Columbia Building Canada Plan Infrastructure Framework Committee.

    Today’s announcement to set aside up to $350 million in additional funding, under the Building Canada Fund, would bring the total federal contribution up to $416.7 million.

    The Province has committed $410 million to the project, and The South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority (TransLink) has committed $400 million. Construction is expected to start in 2010 and be completed in 2014. The remaining $173 million will be funded by project partners, including a possible Public-Private Partnership and potentially through transit-oriented land development.

    Link to the Province’s Evergreen Line website:

    Ron C.

    May 27, 2009 at 12:08 pm

  20. David, no matter where SkyTrain ends, and LRT or Rapid Bus starts, there are going to be a lot of people continuing on the line, whether it be UBC or a local destination. There are such destinations all along the street. The total passengers, with the Canada Line and the Evergreen Line in operation, will be close to 200,000 per day. Now that is the total for the whole line, so not everybody will be riding it the whole distance. Certainly it is not unreasonable to expect that what ever point the transfer is at, around 100,000 will be making that transfer.

    The NIMBYs actually want the LRT or perhaps even no rapid transit at all. They are worried about increased density and crime.


    May 27, 2009 at 12:09 pm

  21. Actually, there is no such thing as rapid transit and speed of a transit line is determined by the quality of rights-of-way and the number of stations per route km.

    Urban rail transit is broken down into metro (and its variants) and LRT/tram/streetcar, both modes built to satisfy different transportation needs.

    The LRT/SkyTrain debate was cleverly manufactured and sold by BC Transit and several provincial governments to stifle any and all debate about mode.

    Those who say LRT is slow, really don’t know what they are talking about because slow light rail means it has a lot more stations, serving a lot more customers on a transit route.

    The fact in Vancouver is, that the powers that be have wedded the region to metro, with the results of a smaller network, high debt, and expensive fares. Building a subway LRT or SkyTrain, to UBC would be financial folly of the highest order.

    D.M. Johnston

    May 27, 2009 at 9:24 pm

  22. I don’t want to argue about the technology, but I do want to dispute the point that the $3billion is somehow expensive…

    If 100K people/day each paying $5 can pay for the capital cost of the line, this must be compared to the typically $30/day cost of owning and operating a car. (I believe the operating costs are a fraction of the capital costs) (we know the $30/day does not cover the capital costs of the roads, etc)

    If a good quality transportation system can make it possible for people to not own a car (and rent or carshare for the times when transit can’t serve them) the problem seems only to be one of how do we get that $30/day away from the car interests, into the excellent transportation system and let the transit user spend the difference where he or she pleases in the local economy.

    Harping about the cost of quality transit seems to be a red herring to me.


    May 27, 2009 at 11:41 pm

  23. Certainly LRT on Broadway would be slow. For reasons of safety LRT on surface streets (non private right of way) would never be scheduled to travel higher than the speed limit. So imagine a top speed of 50 kmh at the highest, with 40 being more likely. Of the 6 lanes on Broadway 3 would be turned over to the rail line, with 1 lane left in each direction with a left turn lane for motorists / bicyclists / taxis / trucks, etc. No more street parking. While I am sure it would look nice where are all the cars going to go? We have to be pragmatic here. If the current bus ridership on Broadway is 80,000 it would not be unreasonable to expect a new line to carry 160,000 passengers per day. There is still room for mode share to increase at UBC, and there is room for additional densification of the university. I would have to imagine more people would ride a subway to UBC than the current total number of people who ride buses in Surrey on a daily basis.

    The major way to reduce car trips is to make transit faster than driving. A totally grade separated line from UBC to Lougheed Mall would probably take, what, 45 minutes? So with the bus transfer you could go from Port Coquitlam to UBC in 90 minutes? That’s amazing.


    May 28, 2009 at 11:42 am

  24. No matter how good the transit network is, there will always be some trips that cannot be handled by transit. For that reason people will own cars. I do not see car sharing and rentals as complete replacements for the private vehicle.

    Thus the comparative cost Andrew mentions cannot be $30/day for owning a car. The real comparative cost is only the marginal cost of insuring for driving to work versus pleasure plus operating expenses.

    That’s why people think it’s not very expensive to drive to work. The cost to drive to work isn’t much on top of the cost of having the car for everything else in life.

    Getting back to the main point, $3 billion plus financing is a huge amount of money for a single line.

    Look at the bus network. Ridership in Vancouver proper is enormous compared with virtually every other part of the region because there is a frequent bus on virtually every major street. People take transit because it’s close to home, close to work, close to shopping, etc.

    That’s why it makes no sense to pour billions into a single subway when the money would build an entire network of on-street rail. It’s the convenience of the network, the ability to get from anywhere to anywhere with a minimum of transfers and walking, that drives ridership.

    Building multiple LRT/tram/streetcar lines to UBC would not only cost less than a subway it would attract new ridership and limit the number of people transferring at any one point.


    May 28, 2009 at 12:30 pm

  25. Oh look, it’s Chris, another U-Pass holder (i.e. someone who pays less for three zone transit than my 5 year old does for one) wants to get to and from class faster and expects me to pay for it.

    Reducing the number of lanes on Broadway would benefit the people who live and work there. It’s called traffic calming and it makes streets much more pleasant.

    Where would all the cars go? Believe it or not, studies show that many people switch travel modes or simply don’t make the trip. Despite the reduction in cars, merchants on streets with streetcars/trams experience increases in sales.


    May 28, 2009 at 12:52 pm

  26. Shane – Trams in Germany are allowed to travel 10 kph over the posted auto speed limit. Also keep in mind that trams on Broadway will have priority signaling at intersections, but the one reason trams/LRT would have a slower commercial speed than a subway is that tram/streetcar stops will be 400 to 600 metres apart. It is quite conceivable that a tram route on Broadway will have 3 times as many stops than subway.

    Which system will be more user friendly?


    May 28, 2009 at 2:46 pm

  27. It would depend on who the user is? If they are making a longer trip, stops every 400 metres would be painful. Not sure why we would want to spend anything on a service that is slower than the B-Line.

    According to Condon, the average tram trip is only 2km while the average SkyTrain trip is 10km. With some of the highest levels of cycling in North America along the Broadway corridor and high levels of walking in general in Vancouver, not sure why we need transit that will get people off their bikes and off their feet more than out of their cars.

    Signal priority is going to be really tough with pedestrian signals every block. I’m sure it will help but don’t expect it to be really speedy.


    May 28, 2009 at 9:15 pm

  28. David, lots of towns in Europe and the USA have trams (LRT here) running on major streets that have lost a couple of cars lanes. There are also thousands of towns around the world that do not allow cars on their major shopping streets and squares, at least during the day. Yet businesses in these streets are doing fine without cars or with much less cars. This is not a new idea as the first pedestrian areas in modern times go back to the 1960s–1970s.
    As for metros…in Paris there is a station every 500 metres. In London and other towns stations are fairly close too so the metro isn’t really “rapid transit”

    Red frog

    May 28, 2009 at 11:03 pm

  29. Richard, tram operators have not forgotten the longer distance customers and have trams with ‘Saloon Sections’ with no doors and more spacious seating for the longer distance rider. In Germany, transit operators even provide ‘Bistro Cars’ for long distance customers.

    But stops every 400m to 600m is mitigated by the fact that dwell times for trams in Europe is about 15 seconds and not the 30 sec. to 45 sec. dwell times frequently on SkyTrain. As well the customer wants convenient transit stops every 400m to 600m and that is what a transit system should do, cater to the customer.

    D.M. Johnston

    May 29, 2009 at 7:34 am

  30. All that is fine for a downtown area that is near the end of line. Broadway is a linear corridor with regional destinations all along it. There will always be the trolly buses for the shorter trips. People would much rather have faster transit and enjoy a coffee at the end of the trip rather than have a “Bistro” car. Anyway, for a mass transit system, the rolling stock costs are going to be huge due to the high trip time and all the special cars with low capacity. These would be more suited for the Valley than Broadway.


    May 29, 2009 at 8:32 am

  31. “People would much rather have faster transit”. This is false. People want ACCESSIBLE transit. People want a station or stop close where they live. What is the point of shaving 3-4 minutes, when you have to ascend to the surface and wait for a trolley? The time savings is lost. Spending 3 Billion just to service 100,000 riders to one location is poor use of funds, especially when you can build a surface LRT that can handle those loads easily. The Queen Streetcar used to handle loads of 80,000 riders before the TTC screwed up the operation of the line.
    Out of those 100,000, how many are actually “long distance”?
    I know “regional travel” is the need buzzowrd these days. Let’s not forget the majority of trips are local trips, and a system should be built to attract local travel. Spending 3 Billion to provide a “one seat ride” is just silly.

    Justin Bernard

    May 29, 2009 at 11:08 am

  32. People have a lot of options for local travel: cycling, walking, bus. Already around 10% of people commute by bike in many of the neighbourhoods around Broadway. In the future, small inexpensive, neighbourhood electric cars will likely be an option as well. It is not apparent that electric vehicles will be a good option for longer travel. Why spend hundreds of millions of dollars on trams that are no faster than cycling? The road space would be better used for creating separated bike lanes down Broadway.

    For longer travel, the best options are rail and car. By getting the longer trips onto rail, traffic and demand for road space is decreased throughout the region. By reducing demand for road space in peak periods, this space can be reallocated for wider sidewalks, separated bike lanes or bus lanes for that matter.

    According to Condon’s numbers, with the average tram trip being 2km while the average SkyTrain trip being 10km, a tram would have to attract 5 times the number of passengers to have the same impact in reducing the demand for road space.

    Anyway, the stations along Broadway for rapid transit along Broadway would only be 1000 metres apart. The distance people are willing to walk to a station ranges from 400 to 900 metres. People are willing to walk further if it is a nice walk. Most of the residential streets around Broadway are quite nice walks, so stations 1000 apart are fine. Along Broadway, there are wide sidewalks and shops, cafes and restaurants that people might want to stop by on their way to the station.


    May 29, 2009 at 1:08 pm

  33. Actually studies have shown that most transit users come from a 300 metre radius from each station or stop, thats why the maximum distance in very transit friendly Europe is about 500m to 600m apart maximum.

    I think you have confused yourself with far too many statistics which, in the end, justifies an obsolete transit mode that has been judged obsolete by transit planners elsewhere.

    As for rapid transit, any transit system can be as rapid as it is designed to be, thus speed is not inherent to any one system. Thus if TransLink says LRT is slower than SkyTrain, TransLink has designed LRT to be slower.

    D.M. Johnston

    May 29, 2009 at 2:23 pm

  34. One of the reasons why average tram journeys are shorter than those on SkyTrain is that cities with well developed tram systems have high densities of housing, shops and services. People simply don’t need to make long trips in such an environment. Broadway is the closest thing we have to a pedestrian centred street and it would be a shame to screw that up.

    Some people keep coming back to speed of travel for long journeys. Sorry, but if a system with closer spaced stops serves more people then the long distance folks will just have to deal with it. A Broadway tram with 600m stop placement would be roughly equal in speed to the B-Line, yet be able to handle several times as many passengers. I think it’s worth it to serve more people and reduce crowding.

    Not only does a subway add a couple of minutes at each end for able bodied people to get between street and platform level, those who need an elevator (elderly, disabled, people with small children, etc.) will find a subway slower than a tram. Look at the Canada Line stations for proof. Some passengers will need to use 3 separate elevators to get from Oakridge Mall to a train.


    May 29, 2009 at 3:17 pm

  35. David,

    would you care to venture what percentage of current trips would still be necessary by private car once an excellent transit system were in place and people had ready access to car sharing, taxis and rentals? and thus forcing most people to continue paying $30/day of after tax money on private vehicle ownership… Would they continue to need 2-3 vehicles/household when maybe only one would suffice?

    There are already many households in metroVan which are car free (by choice). Access to quality transit, walkable, complete communities, and car sharing are enablers of this trend. To remove 100K cars from a region with > 1million cars is not a big stretch…

    I maintain that transit investments, as well as community/regional design should be planned and financed with a view that reduced car ownership is a net economic benefit to our region (one which produces no cars). It is also a net economic and social benefit to the people who are no longer forced to buy a car (or 2nd or 3rd car) to carry on their normal life. I expect they would then be able to be able to pay a little more for a high quality transit service.

    Don’t forget, there are many people who love cars, and many people who find them an anchor around their neck and would give them up at a whim if they only had a decent alternative.


    May 29, 2009 at 10:39 pm

  36. David

    Most cities with trams have other forms of rail based transportation for longer regional trips.

    The couple of minutes access time for subways stations is not an average. It is a worse case. I agree that the Oakridge station for one of the tracks is quite excessive. There is a knock-out panel however, so when the site on the east of Cambie is redeveloped, an entrance will be constructed on the east side of Cambie.

    I’ve actually timed the access for some of the Expo Line stations. I can’t remember, but even Burrard was no more than a minute. I don’t think, with the possible exception of Oakridge, that any of the Canada Line stations will be worse.

    For Broadway, if the subway is bored down 10th, the access times should be pretty quick as 10th is higher than Broadway, so the access won’t have to go as far down from Broadway.

    Anyway, the longer access time is more than made up by the frequency of trains in off peak hours.


    May 30, 2009 at 1:11 pm

  37. Andrew,

    I’m simply being realistic. Sure there are people who consider their car a necessary evil, but most North Americans will give up their car keys when they’re pried from their cold, dead fingers.

    I live in East Vancouver one block from both N-S and E-W bus routes operating every 15 minutes or less. We’re about 9 minutes from SkyTrain by bus. You’d think car ownership would be relatively low, at least compared with a place like Surrey where transit mode share is a paltry 4%. It’s not.

    If you were to walk around my neighbourhood you’d see two car garages, paved back yards to provide additional parking and streets lined with vehicles. Granted there are a lot of secondary suites in East Van, but it looks like the average is 3 to 4 cars per house. I know for a fact that some places on my block have more vehicles than licensed drivers.

    Richard, I accept that you have some valid points, but still don’t believe a subway is the right thing for Vancouver. Cost per passenger km is too high. Whether it’s local, provincial or federal funding, ultimately the money is coming from my pocket and yours. We simply cannot afford to build the kind of network that will allow people to reduce their auto dependence if we go with the most expensive technology.


    May 30, 2009 at 8:57 pm

  38. That’s why subways are not planned for unless (according to prof. Condon) traffic flows exceed 500,000 a day on a transit route.

    i have to say that stupid argument right there. Waiting for that much is a joke. If we want to be up there with some of the worlds greatest transit systems in the world then skytrain is the way to go. waiting for that number would just put us down there at the bottom. it would take to long.

    Erik from Surrey

    May 30, 2009 at 10:57 pm

  39. David

    Ironically, using Condon’s favourite tram, the Portland streetcar, the cost per passenger km is actually much lower for a SkyTrain subway to UBC than for the Portland streetcar.


    May 30, 2009 at 11:37 pm

  40. So Richard, how did Condon conclude that the estimated cost to build the UBC subway (12 km) would allow construction of 175 km of light rail?

    Erik can’t be from Surrey or he’d want money spent on transit there. There really is only so much to go around and Surrey has been getting screwed for decades. Aren’t you upset about that? Don’t you want something better?

    Why is anyone thinking about spending $2.8 billion on a corridor that’s growing very slowly and terminates at a campus that stopped growing 10 years ago? Shouldn’t we build an $800 million system to serve demand on Broadway and put the remaining $2 billion to use in those parts of Metro Vancouver that are growing rapidly, areas with terrible transit service?

    Makes sense to me.


    May 31, 2009 at 9:09 pm

  41. David, look out at UBC, there is a lot of construction going on out there.

    Regarding the point about the Portland Street car. It is free for most trips and only gets a bit over 12,000 passengers per day travelling an average of 2km while the UBC Line would get between 150,000 to 200,000 per day travelling an average of 10km. The cost of the streetcar is around $90 million Canadian so the cost per passenger km is $4506. Assuming the low estimate of 150,000 for the UBC Line, the cost per passenger km is $1866. While you can buy more length of street car line for your money, you also attract far lower levels of ridership. Now I’m not sure if the Portland streetcar is really a fair comparison but that is what Condon choose to do.

    The reason that Surrey doesn’t have good transit and the rest of the region is way behind is because the politicians in Surrey lobbied to defeat the vehicle levy. Ever since, transit has been underfunded by around $100 million a year. These same politicians also supported a lot of sprawling development that is very difficult to serve by transit.

    As well, the transportation dollars in the Valley have been used to build roads instead of transit.

    So please, drop this “Surrey has been getting screwed for decades” stuff.

    I have no problem with improvements out it Surrey, but please, don’t suggest taking the money away from badly needed improvements in Vancouver. The Provincial Transit Plan allocated over a billion for the Guildford SkyTrain extension. That could be used for light rail instead. Then everyone is happy.


    June 1, 2009 at 1:47 am

  42. UBC is building three things: high priced market housing on the fringes of campus, student housing and specialized research buildings. None of those things is going to increase the number of passengers on transit. I think the only noticeable change will be the number of $60,000+ vehicles leaving the area in the morning and returning in the evening.

    The general student population is not growing because BC made the rather smart decision to expand post secondary opportunities on Vancouver Island, in the interior, up north and throughout Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

    Given that 80,000 people already use the bus on Broadway and many of them travel more than 2km, I think the Portland streetcar is a lousy comparison.

    I agree that short sighted land use planning has hurt transit in Surrey, but even the plans for the future like the Fleetwood SkyTrain extension are still focused on getting people to New West/Burnaby/Vancouver despite the fact that over 70% of trips originating in Surrey never cross the river and many of those that do end up in the tri-cities or Maple Ridge.


    June 1, 2009 at 11:28 am

  43. Anything that increases jobs or the number of people living in a place is going to increase transit usage. Sure, many will drive but many will chose transit if it is fast and convenient.

    Yeah, you are right, it is a lousy comparison but that is what the champion of the streetcar, Patrick Condon used.


    June 1, 2009 at 5:14 pm

  44. For the record, the T1 Tramway in Paris(a 11km line) has a daily ridership of 100,000 riders. And it’s on the surface with it’s own ROW. You do not need to spend 3 Billion to build an underground, just to move 100,000 people.

    Justin Bernard

    June 2, 2009 at 4:09 am

  45. That is 50,000 people. The UBC Line will have around twice that amount when it opens, nearly 200,000 riders or 100,000 people per day. Anyway, one way or the other, you can’t do transit planning by choosing an example from somewhere else. Lets wait until the process is underway and we get a better idea of the costs and the tradeoffs of each of the options. Who knows, maybe LRT will turn out better or maybe in the end, SkyTrain will be worth the extra money.


    June 3, 2009 at 2:08 pm

  46. This 500,000 minimum daily ridership for subway efficiency – who came up with that? The Bloor-Danforth subway in Toronto barely exceeds that but features people crammed in like sardines every 2 minutes during rush hour. Probably a long term expectation of around 200,000 people would be more like it.

    How many people could fit on a surface LRT on Broadway? We know that signal priority doesn’t work well if the transit service operates more frequently than every 5 minutes. So we could have 12 LRTs an hour. Assuming we could use 3 car trains on Broadway (I don’t know if that’s feasible) and each 3 car train can carry 500 people, we can have a capacity of 6,000 passengers per hour (500 per train * 12 trains per hour). Any more than that and we would have to have it grade separated.

    The point of the speed is to allow a transit trip from the outer suburbs to UBC to be feasible; otherwise they will just drive. Not everyone can afford to live on the westside. Certainly a surface LRT will make lives better for people who live in the corridor – but I feel we should be thinking about the region as a whole.

    Now in Surrey taking the money for the SkyTrain extension and instead using it to pump up the existing bus service would be much more bang for the buck. Obviously Guildford or Fleetwood is hardly the destination that UBC is. How about a bus route from Guidford to Coquitlam over the Port Mann bridge?


    June 5, 2009 at 11:15 am

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