Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for December 31st, 2009

Canada Line delivers a smooth ride

with 43 comments

The Globe and Mail is publishing a series called “Things that Work”: this is the 7th in the series “on a better BC”.

As you would expect from such an introduction, there is very little other than praise in this piece. Certainly no critical appreciation – except for this snide paragraph

Critics focus on the fact that the Canada Line came before the much-needed Evergreen Line to the northeast, the devastating impact of street-gouging construction on businesses in the Cambie Village area of central Vancouver, and that some bus routes were trimmed or eliminated as a result of its opening.

Actually critics have quite a large number of issues – but I am glad they mentioned the bus routes. Because while the piece concentrates on the ridership, nowhere does it mention that many of the “100,000 riders per day” were already transit users. Given the amount spent on this line, surely the one thing that is really important – how many new transit users did it attract – should have been given some mention?

My main concern now is capacity. (It is too late to talk about how a much more cost effective surface alignment could have been used to the same effect – or possibly better if land use in Vancouver really is going to densify.) Because the line specification was sharply trimmed to stay within the bid price, the rapidly rising ridership which is now so wonderful will soon be a problem. Firstly because the number of trains was reduced. They are going to need more sooner than they thought. Secondly because there is only  scope for a 50% increase in train capacity before station capacity is reached. One car can be inserted into each train – with selective door opening at some stations. If more capacity is then needed, stations must be rebuilt to accommodate longer trains. Alternatively, the line at each outer end needs to be rebuilt to two tracks with a scissors crossing at each terminal. This would allow train frequency to be increased – and will also not be cheap.

There is also the on going secrecy which shrouds the project – the Canada Line is one of the agencies using the courts to try and fend off a decison by the office of the information commissioner. We have to pay for this line for years to come: they want public money but they do not want public scrutiny.

Of course this blog has also noted other deficiencies – like station designs that increase the number of pedestrians crossing major roads – and doubts that any of the possible “future stations” will ever be built – following the example of the SkyTrain. But then I have never pretended to be a cheer leader for “the best place on earth” and it annoys me that the Globe and Mail should become one. That, it seems to me, is not a suitable function for a quality newspaper.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 31, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Posted in transit

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