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

Province pushes Evergreen Line ‘aggressively’

with 55 comments

Vancouver Sun

No it doesn’t. There is absolutely nothing new in this story at all. It is simply a rehearsal of what the current provincial administration has been saying all along.

Transportation Minister Shirley Bond said Tuesday the province expects to start construction on the line linking Burnaby, Port Moody and Coquitlam by early 2011 and have it running by late 2014.

There’s a reference to the use of transit during the previous couple of weeks, but given that those conditions (street closures and a lot more transit service than usual) are not going to be seen from now on, it is not a relevant concern to 2014.

But, she added: “We’re still expecting the region to pay its fair share of this project.”

In other words, there is still a gap that Bond wants filled by property tax – which she knows the Mayors will not go for.

Bond said she is reviewing the comptroller-general’s report on TransLink and expects to find some wriggle room around the governance of the transportation authority. She said that will “shape” how the funding is provided.

Which I see as a not very veiled signal that if necessary the Province will force the funding of the project through over the opposition of the Mayors. This government now feels very secure, can summon a legislative majority if needs be, and is not prepared to listen to anyone who dares to disagree with them.

At the same time the provincial budget concentrates on more road building. The only transit project is the Surrey Rapid Bus – which again is not exactly news. And the huge amounts of money that were added to the debt in recent years – and are planned to be added in the next three years – shows that the BC Liberals are far from reluctant to find money for projects they really care about. And they are still determined to press ahead with gating SkyTrain even though it is quite clear that will be a complete waste of money and can never pay for itself.

Moreover, despite the on going slump in container imports, and the serious prospect of continuing economic recession in the US, the South Fraser Perimeter Road construction will also go ahead. The whole of the Gateway project ought, of course, be subject to a serious rethink, given the changed circumstances – but the Liberals are committed to business as usual. All the rest of the declared intention to tackle global warming is simply greenwash.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 4, 2010 at 8:39 am

Posted in transit

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  1. Welcolm back. 🙂

    I suspect that Victoria is also waiting for the Susan Heyes appeal to be decided to see if they can get a P3 partner to join as well.


    March 4, 2010 at 12:47 pm

  2. This makes no sense. In February 2009 the federal government committed $350 million for Evergreen. Under the funding formula where local, provincial and federal governments contribute 1/3 each, that would mean the provincial share would be $350 million. But now they’re only willing to put up $302 million and that’s described as “aggressive”.

    There’s something rotten in the state of Den—-, I mean BC.

    I second the warm welcome back. In your absence Lewis and voony turned your blog into a fascinating discussion of urban design.


    March 4, 2010 at 4:50 pm

  3. […] some budget announcement concerning transportation [7] and transit observers will have noticed a shortage of funding for “number one priority” transit project when the deep unbalance between transit and road investment could call for a better equilibrium as […]

  4. […] muffle Car Free Days noise [The Vancouver Courier] B.C. pollution tests kept under wraps [CBC News] Province pushes Evergreen Line ‘aggressively’ [Stephen Rees's Blog] INTERNATIONAL Urban Resilience Planning for Dummies [Green Flow] Can We […]

    re:place Magazine

    March 5, 2010 at 8:08 am

  5. More and more it seems the proposed Evergreen Line will do little in alleviating traffic congestion and more and more as a property development tool. Lehigh Cement is in financial difficulty and another SkyTrain mega-project, requiring tons and tons of cement would be welcome.

    A source in TransLink confided in me that they are very concerned with the large amount of concession fares and U-Passes using the metro system – good for ridership numbers but very poor for revenue, especially the U-Pass. Notice too, that while TransLink is crowing about a miraculous rise in ridership on the Canada Line, they are very quiet on the Premier’s promise of 200,000 car trips a day being taken off the road because of the new metro.

    My wifes commute to work (near 4th and Arbutus):

    Car – 45 to 55 minutes going in – 50 to 60 minutes coming home.

    Transit – 50 minutes going in – 60 to 90 minutes coming home!

    TransLink hasn’t provided the bus service to match the Canada line service after 6 PM!

    For the Tri-Cities, more and more, Ron Stromberg’s Maple Ridge to Vancouver DMU service looks far more beneficial to regional transit than the Evergreen Line.

    Malcolm J.

    March 5, 2010 at 8:10 am

  6. … David pitched in some salient points too.

    From the perspective of urban design, the Gateway project will likely attract the lion’s share of development in the coming 10 and 20 years. That is too bad, since it is likely to be auto-oriented sprawl.

    On Evergreen, if a $1 billion SkyTrain project can be done for $300 million as “Olympic Tram”, then now for the first time we have a public demonstration of the two alternatives.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    March 5, 2010 at 8:42 am

  7. ^you can’t get around putting in transit infrastructure and intensifying land use. Otherwise, you will have an underutilized transit line.

    From the get-go, the LRSP has been clear about using transit to redevelop land. The big question, as LNV and Voony will say, what form that will take, where there is success (IMO, richmond by the canada line) or not (metrotown in bby)

    And I’m glad that your wife finds the canada line competitive with the car, at least in the AM (i assume she is commuting from south delta). translink just made a major push with bus service in south of fraser – if we change culture further with more bus use, we should improve bus frequencies in the evening in south of fraser.


    March 5, 2010 at 8:48 am

  8. @ mezzanine

    We are a 1 1/2 car family (the 1/2 is an uninsured truck) and instead of the Canada Line being useful, it isn’t. Her commutes are longer and she has to transfer 2 times, instead of once.

    Three times now I had to drive to Richmond to pick her up because the bus did not arrive. Having people loath a transit system is not a good thing.

    What I also have noticed that there has been a drop in ‘suits’ commuting, but an increase in students and elderly, which will not nothing for revenue.

    During the Olympics, we drove to my sister-in-law’s place, parked and took the family to some Olympic venues, using bus and SkyTrain. got in and out OK, though the buses were few and far between on Broadway at 10 PM.

    This why the Canada Line will fail to attreact motorists, it is just easier to drive. and with no hint of any extension of the Canada Line until I am long dead and buried, it will never attract the motorist from the car.

    The Evergreen line will be just more of the same.

    As for transit infrastructure, I rather pay $20 million or so for light rail rather than $100 million for SkyTrain.

    Malcolm J.

    March 5, 2010 at 10:52 am

  9. @DMJ, you are arguing a few points here and mixing up your arguement.

    You have a preference for LRT (i assume in a surface ROW), yet commuting time is a major problem for your wife. other areas with LRT in north america like portland have poor evening service due to staff costs. the frequency for the green line in portland is every 30 min.

    If the bus portion is the weak link, there certainly is a lot that translink can do to make the bridgeport – ladner exchange connection stronger, as voony pointed out on his blog.


    March 5, 2010 at 12:00 pm

  10. sorry, to clarify, half-hourly service on the green line is after ~ 7 pm. after 6 pm the service is every 15 min.


    March 5, 2010 at 12:03 pm

  11. David,

    the article indicates that the Province ” has committed $302 million to the project over the next three years,…
    Work has been ongoing since a least Feb 2009 when the Project Office was built. Public Consultation occurred in Fall 2009. So money would have been allocated in previous budgets.

    This article from last year (and news release) indicates that the Province has committed $410 million, and also shows (in respect of the Federal contribution) how allocations to the project are split up by budget years “The federal government will kick in $350 million towards the $1.4-billion transit project, in addition to the $66.7 million allotted in last year’s budget.”

    Click to access 090228_NR_project_office.pdf

    Ron C.

    March 5, 2010 at 2:10 pm

  12. @ mezzanine

    You are full of it sunshine. My wifes uncle lives in Portland and find the service in the evening far better than buses.

    Try to invent a new problem.

    Malcolm J.

    March 5, 2010 at 3:38 pm

  13. Mezz is certainly full of it, trying to defend a technology that is clearly only serving Vancouver, and not the region. Malcolm makes a valid point. Why spend 100 million per mile on a system, when you can spend far less, and serve the valley region with DMU, or interurbans?


    March 5, 2010 at 4:59 pm

  14. As probably you have guess, I am not a native English speaker, and have still some difficulties with some expression of this colorful language, so may I ask what the “rail for the valley” folks, as Malcolm or Justin, mean when they say to Mezzanine:
    “You are full of it sunshine” ?


    March 5, 2010 at 6:22 pm

  15. I actually have to disagree with Justin’s characterization of SkyTrain as only serving Vancouver. If the technology of choice had been LRT with closely spaced stops then I could agree with him, but SkyTrain was designed for end-to-end speed with only a limited number of stations. Many of those stations are off the beaten path because the city grew up around the streetcar lines rather than the interurban lines.

    I’ve overheard passengers on SkyTrain from places like New Westminster who spend less time getting to and from downtown than I do and I live in the middle of Vancouver only a 9 minute bus ride from SkyTrain.

    Light metro does a terrible job of “serving” the public but if anyone has gained it’s long distance commuters.

    True service would require closely spaced stops on streets with high pedestrian levels mixed with express services joining town centres. An example would be LRT operating on street in the city of Langley then switching to main line railway operation stopping only at Cloverdale, Newton, Kennedy, Bridgeview, Sapperton, Sperling and Renfrew before reverting to closely spaced stops from Main to Burrard. The next Langley tram might run as an express to Newton and then head up King George with frequent stops all the way to Surrey City Centre.


    To get the meaning of the phrase “full of it” place the letters “sh” in front of “it”.
    The word “sunshine” is typically used as a term of endearment for someone (usually female) who makes you happy, someone who brightens your day.

    When someone mixes an insult with a term of endearment it usually means the speaker is simply avoiding the use of foul language and the term of endearment should be replaced mentally with a term not suitable for this blog.

    However, it’s possible for individuals to engage in long running confrontations where enemies get a sense of satisfaction from the battle. That might be the case here where Mezzanine tends to make statements that provoke Malcolm into writing a response. Malcolm may enjoy attacking Mezzanine’s statements. In such a relationship the term of endearment is intended as sarcasm.


    March 5, 2010 at 9:58 pm

  16. @Justin,

    “Why spend 100 million per mile on a system, when you can spend far less, and serve the valley region with DMU, or interurbans?”

    Because it sounds like you are putting DMU/interurbans in place just for the sake of putting them in place.

    I would rather the question be: what are the goals/priorities of the valley transit? where are potential transit corridors and what is future zoning like?

    otherwise, you will wind up with an underutilized line, like lrt in san jose.

    @voony and david – actually, I am part of the skytrain lobby. I get a cheque for $10 and a book of 1 zone faresavers from bombardier everytime I post.


    March 5, 2010 at 11:17 pm

  17. Some history is needed about SkyTrain. First conceived by the UTDC, in an age just before light rail, ICTS was supposed to be faster than a Toronto (PCC) streetcar and cheaper to build than a subway.

    The original plan was to build small (3 km – 4 km) loops with trains running at close (60 seconds) headways giving the transit system a cellular appearance. The Detroit LRT was built along these lines.

    At one time there was going to be a massive ICTS network in Toronto, but it never materialized as th huge costs sunk the project.

    When ICTS was first marketed, modern LRT came into the fore and it offered a superior service at a cheaper price. The name was changed to ALRT to compete against LRT, but there was no takers, with the Vancouver and Toronto systems being forced upon the operating authority. And so on.

    The speed issue is an invention by BC Transit and TransLink to mask the problem of high costs, which made BC Transit omit 4 stations on the original Expo Line. (Note: 4 more stations have been designed to be built on the original Expo Line when they are warranted).

    The lack of stations increased commercial speed but also increased the inconvenience factor.

    It is a myth that SkyTrain was designed for speed, the fact is, it has fewer stations per route/km. than comparable LRT lines, thus increasing commercial speeds.

    SkyTrain, like the French VAL are light-metros and the light-metro has been made obsolete by LRT, only a handful of cities operate the mode and only Vancouver uses light-metro exclusively.

    What has happened in Vancouver is that our ‘rail’ transit has been forced on us and there has never been a honest transit debate allowed. I can remember back in the Broadway Lougheed days where I tore apart BC Transit claims so vehemently, that the bureaucrats involved called a recess and called in the lawyers to see if they were not breaking the law by continuing with the governments SkyTrain spiel.

    In Vancouver, we are forever trying to turn lead into gold, doesn’t work. And yes, restrict all parking downtown, close the two viaducts and the Cambie St. Bridge and yes our metro system will be filled to gunwales with riders, but they will be very mad riders and mad customers is not a good sell for transit.

    As one of the UK transit consultants said to me in an email about our transit planning: “Understand the X-Files were filmed in your part of the world, maybe that explains it.”

    Malcolm J.

    March 6, 2010 at 8:23 am

  18. San Jose is struggling because of the massive hit California and San Jose have taken in the recent financial meltdown. Built when the silicon Valley was the epitome of high-teck in the 90’s, the LRT line passes many km. of abandoned or underused office complexes and shopping malls.

    When there is no work, very few take transit. The problems in San Jose are complex and not as simple as not enough density or LRT versus bus.

    About how hard hi California is, I have read that there are over 5,000 abandoned houses with swimming pools in LA alone, which the derelict pools have turned into a nasty breeding ground for mosquito’s and all the diseases they carry. It is a real health concern and there is no money to remedy the situation.

    Malcolm J.

    March 6, 2010 at 8:30 am

  19. Malcolm hits the right point when he compares transit time with car commute…because it exactly like every commuter does!

    …and that is the very reason why our rapid transit is grade separated: to provide commute time competitive with the car…it couldn’t possible otherwise…
    and because it is successful at it, like Malcolm mention, the ridership is there (at the difference of most US cities having adopted some less efficient LRT).

    Note also, that Malcolm in another moment of lucidity say that when it is “just easier to drive” transit “will fail to attract motorists”:

    that is certainly right,and for this very reason: the Gateway project is spelling the obituary of any rail project in the Valley.

    It is sad, the more sad is to see advocate of such project devoting their energy on self destruction…

    That said, David, thank for your explanation, and effort to tune down an unfortunate insulting behavior. I would like also say that I am very impressed by Mezzanine, for continuously bringing documented source supporting her position in despite to be answered in the manner we knows and to see the well of fallacies (like the most recent one on the San Jose), never running out…

    BTW, Mezzanine and David, I am myself lobbying for SNC Lavallin: and get $5 and 2 zones faresaver…I also get a lipstick from time to time 😉


    March 6, 2010 at 11:40 pm

  20. I’ve done my homework, got the numbers out, and “added” as many of the good comments posted here while our host was away. I’m considering “an open letter to the Mayors” sent to Tri-City News. I also heard a spot for the Bill Good Show suggesting “two regional mayors” will be on Monday morning to discuss “transit”. Maybe CKNW gets a copy of the letter too. Have a look, it will not go out until later tonight.

    A letter to Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart; Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini; and the Mayors of the Translink Board.

    Dear Mayors,

    Facing times of economic constraint, here are three new facts to consider regarding the choice of transit system for the Evergreen Line:

    • Thanks to the Olympics citizens in Coquitlam and Port Moody can experience the alternative to “SkyTrain” for themselves. By riding the “Olympic Tram” from Canada Line to Granville Island they can see for themselves whether or not changing the choice of transit system on Evergreen Line would be a good bargain.

    • The resulting quality in the urban space from building “Olympic Tram” has not received due attention. 

    • Half a Billion Dollars will be saved by shifting from outmoded “SkyTrain” ($1.4 billion), to the “Olympic Tram” ($970 million). 

    Switching systems will save $430 million; deliver better transportation; and achieve a better urbanism. Implementation of both systems has been worked out in detail. The following concrete and verifiable facts provide missing analysis:

    1. Urban Blight. Elevated track is only appropriate along rail corridors, highways, industrial zones, and farm fields.

    On North Road, overhead SkyTrain will block the sky, and block the views from apartments on the east side of the street.

    Running at grade on Clarke Street, between parallel barbed-wire fences, SkyTrain will remove eight buildings, turning the Historic District into a “frontage road” only suitable for warehouses and industrial uses.

    On Barnet Highway Skytrain will service big box, auto-oriented shopping, car dealerships, and fast food chains—work places with low worker concentrations.

    2. Inaccessibility. SkyTrain Stations on Barnet Highway, and Clarke Street will be beyond walking distance from neighbourhoods served.

    Tram stations on Guildford Way, and St. John’s will be within a 5 minute walk from neighbourhoods served. Port Moody City Hall, the library, a shopping centre, Eagle Ridge Hospital, and a number of schools, all lie along the tram route.

    3. Number of Stations. The “Olympic Tram” will deliver twice as many stations as “SkyTrain” (12 stations vs. 6 stations). Adding SkyTrain Stations is many times more expensive than adding Tram stops.

    4. Ridership. “SkyTrain” will carry two and a half times more ridership than the “Olympic Tram”. 

    More ridership—and better service distribution—would be achieved by implementing a second tram line. The $430 million saved by switching systems would pay for about half of a new line running on Brunette Street to Braid Station.

    5. Road Space: Both elevated “SkyTrain” and “Olympic Tram” will take away road space.

    The “Olympic Tram” will take away capacity equal to 20,000 vehicles trips per day, but give back 28,000 trips—increasing corridor capacity by 40%. 

    On St. John’s Street, for example, the “Olympic Tram” will absorb half the daily volume of trips without displacing potential revenue from local merchants. 

    6. Traffic Calming. The real consequence of taking away road space is creating safer neighbourhoods.

    Both St. John’s and North Road will be safer for having 20,000 fewer cars on the street. The danger to life presents at night when streets are empty, oversized, and drivers naturally speed up.

    Tram design will introduce tree medians, and centre-of-the-right-of-way stops, creating “islands of safety” for pedestrians, and reducing the pedestrian crossing distance by half.

    8. Faster Travel Times. SkyTrain will be faster than the “Olympic Tram” by 11 minutes on a trip from Lougheed to Coquitlam Town Centers. 

    Because SkyTrain stations will be isolated from the populations they serve ridership will arrive either by bus, or by car, losing the 11-minute time advantage. The advantage of direct connection, without transfer, onto the Millennium Line at Lougheed Station is lost to the bus transfer, or the park-and-ride. The walk from the parking lot to the station can be just as long as the walk from home to the tram stop.

    9. Shaping growth. Mayor Adams of Portland, Oregon, told a Vancouver audience last year that he has no trouble selling redevelopment opportunities along the full length of the tram corridor. 

    High density does not have to mean “tall buildings”. The street-oriented urbanism typical of tram corridors puts doors and windows on the street, creating safer neighbourhoods, and walkable streets.

    Mayors, in light of these facts—including the new opportunity to experience the alternative “Olympic Tram” system at False Creek—I urge you to consult your communities anew about shifting transit system choice on Evergreen Line from “SkyTrain” to “Olympic Tram”, reaping four core benefits: 

    • Protect against possible hikes in property tax; 

    • Achieve a higher quality urbanism on local streets and neighbourhoods; and 

    • Deliver a better transportation system.

    • Implement faster: 2011 or 2012, instead of 2014.

    If the consensus becomes switching to “Olympic Tram”, then your cities will be the go-to-places to see what the future of transit looks like.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    March 7, 2010 at 9:50 am

  21. @LNV “four core benefits:”

    • Protect against possible hikes in property tax;

    IMO, property taxes will rise regardless of mode picked for evergreen. A major reason fro the structural deficit face by translink is the implementation frequent bus service in SOF. I would expect funding from upper levels of governemnt to change with the mode selected. (ie, if capital costs for lrt are less than skytrain, the province and feds will fund less. and the o+M costs are all translinks.

    • Achieve a higher quality urbanism on local streets and neighbourhoods; and

    I would have to agree with this, but then you have to ask what are your objectives are for what was to be a regional line. if move away from tram-service and move towards segregated LRT service, you lose the urbanism.

    and guideways can be implemented in a smart way.

    • • Implement faster: 2011 or 2012, instead of 2014.

    IIRC, Evergreen LRT also included a tunnel portion by clark hill. I would imagine that would be the rate-limiting step (and a major cost driver) for both skytrain and LRT.

    And remember, the olympic line as it ran was an interesting experiment, with pertinent lesions for the downtown streetcar line. I am unsure how much you can extrapolate that to evergreen.


    March 7, 2010 at 12:11 pm

  22. Malcolm J: Those travel times you list for your wife’s commute are truly fantastic and perhaps the best justification for further SkyTrain (or similar grade-separated) development in Vancouver. Unintentional, I’m sure – but since you must live in a part of the GVRD I would label as “low-density urban sprawl” I’m not sure how you can be upset with a total daily commute by transit that is, on average, only 19% worse than driving.

    The Canada Line is, IMHO, the best thing to happen to Vancouver in 10+ years.


    March 7, 2010 at 2:00 pm

  23. Correction: Translink Mayor’s Council.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    March 7, 2010 at 2:25 pm

  24. @Lewis

    A few comments on the points in your letter.

    There would be little cost savings at this point in switching to LRT along the same corridor at this point. Tens of millions of dollars on design work and public consultation work would have to be repeated delaying the project by a year or two so the completion date would likely be 2016 instead of 2014. Note that the completion time is likely driven by the need for a tunnel with either the tram or SkyTrain due to the narrow right of way and the steep grades on the Clark hill. With cost escalation of 3% per year for two years the costs would increase by around 60 million. In the end, little would be saved. Then there is the higher operating costs of the trams, further decreasing any cost advantage.

    There is also a bigger advantage in travel times than you suggest as I suspect the majority of riders will not be going to Lougheed Mall, they will be going in to Vancouver and Burnaby. The transfer from tram to SkyTrain would add several minutes to their travel times.

    I suspect that there would be a greater chance of tree lined medians with SkyTrain than with LRT as more space is required for surface tracks. For an example of this, just go to #3 Road in Richmond to see how nicely an elevated guideway can be integrated. In fact, while there are grassed medians with LRT, I have never seen a treed median. I suspect the trees would interfere with the trolley wires.

    Traffic calming can occur with either elevated or street level transit. Again, look at #3 Road. Street oriented urbanism can just as easily be created with elevated guideways. It can even be better as it is easier for pedestrians to safely cross the street as there is a safe median with no trains to worry about.

    Anyway, the Olympic Tram is along a railway corridor, like the SkyTrain Evergreen Line, not integrated into an urban street so its success tells us very little about what a tram would operate like on the Evergreen Line. If anything, the success Olympic Line would more support the building of transit along the railway corridor than the middle of a road.

    It is time to get on with the Evergreen Line, switch technology yet another time would just delay the project even further. When the decision was made a few years ago to switch from SkyTrain to LRT a few years ago, , while it did seem like SkyTrain would have been a better choice, the difference was not large enough to make a big fuss about. Similarly, now that the decision has been made to go back to SkyTrain, while there are some advantages to LRT or a tram, it is certainly not worth delaying the project yet again with yet another change in direction.


    March 8, 2010 at 1:52 pm

  25. There’s a huge difference in the way the local municipality treats the landscape around an elevated guideway.

    Richmond has embraced it and built a beautifully landscaped user-friendly environment.

    Burnaby still views the guideway as something rammed down its throat and refuses to beautify the medians below the Lougheed Highway guideway – so what you see are concrete Jersey barriers and weeds.

    Ron C.

    March 8, 2010 at 2:59 pm

  26. about tree lined median:

    one would like to look at this rendering: (page 17).

    not sure the Richmond median is designed wide enough to accommodate mature tree, but the idea is to have a canopy cover effect above the street (pretty much like on the 10th parallel to Broadway).

    about tree lined LRT :
    Richard mentioned overhead wire issue: it is one…there are 2 others one:
    -fallen leaves are greasy and grease the rail: that is a problem for steel/rail based system (reduce braking and acceleration ability)…such as the French railway company (SNCF) prune and cut heavily the trees next to its tracks. Furthermore, it install protection net like this one on the RER C (near Versailles: no it is not a Golf practice…) :

    at the end there is a potential issues with the tree root system putting severe constraint on the rail track bed (well see the sidewalk of the 10th avenue to get an idea of the problem).

    All that is probably the reason why you see often tramway on lawn but basically never in middle of treed median (and by the way, when Paris has reintroduced a tramway on its boulevards, it has been at the cost of some row of trees).

    that said track on lawn is nice too.


    March 8, 2010 at 10:28 pm

  27. I refuse to believe that SkyTrain would deliver 2.5 times more passengers than LRT on Evergreen. In fact I refuse to believe SkyTrain would deliver even one additional passenger per day. Convenience attracts passengers, not 11 minute savings that are completely eaten up waiting for a bus to get home. If Evergreen gets SkyTrain the only passengers it will carry are those willing to take the bus and that’s a rare commodity in a car oriented suburb. The trains will run empty for decades and we’ll all pay for it with higher taxes and cuts to bus service.

    LRT does NOT cost more to operate than SkyTrain.

    I have to agree with Richard that the tunnel seems to be an unfortunate reality regardless of the technology chosen. While most of the route could be built in a year, the tunnel would take far longer. I’m not sure why it would take any longer than digging a SkyTrain tunnel though.


    How do you figure that $430 million is only enough for half of a route from Braid along Brunette? How far are you envisioning such a line would go? At $30 million/km you should be able to get almost all the way to Port Coquitlam.


    March 8, 2010 at 11:06 pm

  28. @David
    Most of the people will have to take a bus to get home with an LRT as well. There is just not that much housing along the route. It will take them longer because the travel times are longer due of the increased stops and because the frequency of service will be less. Added a few stops will not have much of an impact on ridership. Both here and in Calgary, people walk an average of between 700 and 900 metres to get to rapid transit stops from home. Adding more stops means, in a lot of cases, the stops just compete with each other for ridership while slowing down travel times.

    And don’t forget that the 11 minute savings is to Lougheed. As most people are travelling further, the time savings will even be greater. Even Malcolm J. will admit that transfers lose customers.

    At this point LRT would take longer because the process including public consultation, and the environmental assessment would have to start all over again. The work done in the last year or so would be lost.


    March 9, 2010 at 11:31 am

  29. @Richard
    I know how to save millions of dollars and another 3 minutes which, according to your logic, will attract even more passengers. We eliminate the Burquitlam, Ioco and Coquitlam stations.

    For the majority of passengers Evergreen SkyTrain won’t reduce the need to transfer. Anyone heading to New West, Surrey or south Burnaby will be forced to switch trains and those heading to downtown Vancouver will choose to switch at Lougheed rather than deal with transferring at Commercial-Broadway.

    Seriously people, most walking to transit is perpendicular to the route. Few actually live/work on the line. The farther apart the stations the more additional walking parallel to the route becomes necessary. For someone near the tunnel portal in Port Moody, SkyTrain offers only a 5 minute time saving and the walk to the station to get on SkyTrain is more than 5 minutes. So for such a passenger SkyTrain is actually slower.

    Anyone living up near Guildford Drive is going to have to take a bus to Ioco, transfer to SkyTrain and probably transfer again. Is that really any better than a bus all the way to Lougheed?


    March 9, 2010 at 5:02 pm

  30. @David

    That is not my logic just as it is not your logic to have stations every 100 metres. Please don’t mischaracterize other people’s positions. You need some stations for transfers from buses anyway. Some stations are also needed so higher density development can take place around them. As long as stations are within 1-2 km of each other, that should be OK, especially if there is not a lot of density along the line.

    I always see a lot of people walking to the stations along the BC Parkway, which is parallel to the Expo Line. If you have evidence that people don’t walk parallel to the line, please provide it.

    “Anyone living up near Guildford Drive is going to have to take a bus to Ioco, transfer to SkyTrain and probably transfer again. Is that really any better than a bus all the way to Lougheed?”. For the third time, I expect many people will be going further than Lougheed, so for many yes it will be better, for some, it may not be any better.


    March 9, 2010 at 7:07 pm

  31. @David, you can different opinions about station spacing, access and overall travel time. One opinion from the STB is that skytrain spacing is ideal, and is equivalent to portland’s MAX:

    “The ideal station spacing for pedestrian access and continuous linear TOD is roughly two times what an average pedestrian would walk, so roughly ~.5 mile to ~1 mile. Now look again. Magically MAX and Skytrain fall into that range.”

    and although you worry about passenger loss from transfers (which IMO will be minimal due to high train frequencies) you are forgetting about additional growth than is projected due to the network effect – now that there is a uniformly fast and frequent skytrain service to the tri-cities, that will further spur growth for not only the evergreen line, but for the whole network.


    March 9, 2010 at 9:08 pm

  32. Thanks for all the comments. They came too late. I sent the thing off early on Monday. However, before sending, I too realized that the tunnel would be the “critical path” for the project schedule, so I settled for “Faster Implementation” as a core benefit, but gave no dates (not my area of expertise).

    We seem to be on the same page about the resulting urbanism.

    The discussion about the tree medians—and the photo links—are very good. I photographed an LRT in Rome (because I couldn’t believe I had stumbled onto one, somewhere on the outer walls). There were lots of trees. Very lush. But, also, huge. The amount of R.O.W. that LRT had was freeway-scale.

    Since you all keep waxing poetic about No. 3 Road, I’m going to have to go there again sometime soon. I can suspend my disbelief that long…

    I do think that David’s analysis of the SkyTrain station locations, and the effort that will take to get to them, is not appreciated in many of the comments.

    Yes, we are designing for the decades to come, and the landscape will change. However, like the walls in Rome, there are those elements that will not go away.

    Barnet Highway is one. The CPR another. And, Evergreen SkyTrain will be in those places.

    On St. John’s Street, and on Guilford Way, there can be no argument. Take your Google map and draw a 400m line, then take a screen shot. Open the screen shot in Illustrator and draw some 400m diameter circles. These “catchment areas’ you will have under your mouse will tell the tale David put his finger on.

    It is sharp analysis, and we should be able to recognize that here.

    With SkyTrain you get (from memory) three catchments—somewhere along Clarke Street; Ioco Road; and Coquitlam Central (the exit of the tunnel might be station #4).

    With LRT you get four stops on St. John’s, and at four more on Guilford (including one at Eagle Ridge Hospital).

    When you compare three catchments to eight or more, the point is made. The advantage is in two places: on where the catchments are centred; and on the fact that one system has double or more the catchments of the other. If this doesn’t compute, say so, and we’ll go around the block a different way until we can all understand it.

    Now for a tale out of school.

    I spent my teenage and college years in the area. Richard Stewart and I went to the same high school. I was a classmate of his older brother, Paul. And, my first commission in urban design was a revitalization plan for Maillardville. I am not a stranger to the Coquitlam City Manager, either. Thus, the open letter is being read at the hall.

    Thanks to the imput I got here, hopefully it will give them solid facts to ponder.

    The mention of Brunette Street was a wink-and-a-nod to my old clients and friends. I considered removing it. However, it is not entirely an unprofessional move because Brunette has a very interesting quality about it: It was laid out to follow the contours of the land. I call it “isotropic platting” after the “isobar”.

    The ancient Amalfi Highway between Capri and Naples is a far superior example…

    There is a historic house on Burnette that was the home to a dairy farm that took its products to New Westminster on Brunette Street, following the path of the river.

    So, the Brunette-to-Baird-Station run follows the route of that milk run, and provides vivid illustration for the concept of what you can do with the saved millions. It also puts the breaks on the boast about SkyTrain providing 2.5x more ridership.

    However, I have no clue how it might connect to Port Coquitlam, or ultimately Coquitlam Central Station. David is the one that has the best ideas about routes around here.

    If the open letter is actually printed in any of the papers I sent it to, I’ll post a link here.

    The topic is getting some traction. Click the link below and scroll down to interviews—Tuesday March 9—Francis Bula and Frank Luba, The Province (both Francis Bula and the Province received a copy of the open letter).

    Lewis N. Villegas

    March 9, 2010 at 11:15 pm

  33. @mezzanine:
    Transfers to high frequency services have small effects on ridership. Transfers to low frequency services have a much more significant negative effect on ridership. 95% of Evergreen riders north of the tunnel will need a low frequency suburban bus or a park and ride. Oh yeah, there will be no park and ride facilities. That should work great.

    The station spacing wouldn’t be nearly as big a problem if anybody actually lived or worked on the route. Have a good hard look at the Barnet highway and CPR line and tell me that’s pedestrian friendly.

    A quote from the blog you linked: “MAX and Skytrain were built to influence growth patters. They were design to maximize accessibility, area coverage, and TOD opportunities. Now LINK is trying to follow growth not shape it.”

    Maximize accessibility? SkyTrain? What is the author smoking?
    TOD? The Provincial government not only doesn’t know what TOD looks like, they simply do not care.
    LINK isn’t even following growth it’s actively avoiding it.


    March 9, 2010 at 11:30 pm

  34. @David,

    “95% of Evergreen riders north of the tunnel will need a low frequency suburban bus or a park and ride.”

    Like richard said, even if it was LRT, there would be at least some need for bus connections to the LRT stations. And with a rail line in, that would free up some bus service to redistribute for local connections.

    “85 percent of Greater Vancouver residents have conventional “block stop” bus services within 400 metres of their homes. A key objective is to make ten-minute service frequency available to more people in more areas.”

    “Oh yeah, there will be no park and ride facilities. That should work great.”

    But on one hand, you seem to like the urbanism that LRT will bring, but then you lament the lack of park and rides in either skytrain or LRT configuration. IMO a surface parking lot for a P&R is a waste of a 400m station catchment as LNV was talking about.

    “The station spacing wouldn’t be nearly as big a problem if anybody actually lived or worked on the route. Have a good hard look at the Barnet highway and CPR line and tell me that’s pedestrian friendly.”

    Currently, the Barnet/St Johns is not pedestiran friendly, esp on the eastern side, but this is where zoning and land shaping by rail will come in. No 3 rd in richmond used to be very pedestrian unfriendly, but there is new life with the guideway (of all things), let alone the change we will see in the streetscape in the next 15 yrs.

    “TOD? The Provincial government not only doesn’t know what TOD looks like, they simply do not care.”

    Zoning for TOD is not a provincial responsibility, but a municipal one. You can build, say, LRT, but if all you build next to them are park and rides, then IMO that is wasted potential.


    March 10, 2010 at 8:25 am

  35. The key points that are being made about SkyTrain on Evergreen are: 2.5x ridership; 11 minutes faster to Lougheed Mall; and no transfer at Lougheed.

    The key points we uncovered: quality of resulting urban space; spacing and number of stations; location of stations (isolated & removed; vs. along a neighbourhood spine); the need to take a bus or drive to access SkyTrain on Evergreen; and the fact that putting LRT in the centre of the ROW amounts to traffic calming—we give back the trips we take away, and more, but in a wholly different form or mode. Medians provide “islands of safety” and break down the physical barrier of the place (the Granny Test).

    “even if it was LRT, there would be at least some need for bus connections to the LRT stations”

    I don’t agree. When the catchment area overlays the same footprint as the “quartier” the stations are within easy walking distance of the residents, and the advantage shifts to LRT. At high-density, human scale, each “quartier” can house 10,000 people. Equally, every job on the line is also a potential ride generator.

    Add to that the fact that Tram would generate twice as many catchments (120 acres each; 400m or 1/4 mile radius) and you have a far superior urban design.

    Mezz, it would be a mistake to confuse St. John’s Street and Barnet. The St. John’s Street-Guilford Way corridor is an entirely different kettle of fish from Barnet Highway. North Road-Burquitlam has the potential to go either “Metrotown TOD” or street-oriented urbanism, of a kind that we really don’t understand as of yet.

    Planning TOD and transportation together needs to be more than just “zoning”. That’s part of the conundrum. And, whether it is provincial, or federal, there is a role for senior levels of government to bring together experiences across Canada to bear on new projects and transportation corridors. After all, it is our wealth we are investing, and generating.

    We have to say that Metrotown, Edmonds, downtown New West, Surrey, and Richmond are TODs after a fashion. They may achieve the vehicular use reductions TODs aim for (25% trip generation of typical suburb). But, the quality of the resulting urban space is not what TOD was supposed to bring. Metrotown and Surrey, to take the two most developed areas, are not walkable neighbourhoods with safe streets.

    In this sense, I have called “tower development” high-density sprawl. If it turns out that there is 25% fewer vehicular trip generation, then I may have to eat some crow.

    However, the problem that confronts us is that we really don’t understand “street oriented urbanism” or even the regeneration of neighbourhoods, as I believe would take place along the Tram corridor, but not along on SkyTrain routes. Just some of the product I see out the window going to Metrotown from Surrey makes me I cringe.

    That is the future of Canada we are building, and the quality could not be worse. When I say “we don’t understand”, I include in that “we” the development community, by the way.

    That is what makes Vancouver’s historic neighbourhoods, including the DTES, such an important project. The recently completed HAHR (Historic Area Hight Review) shows the level at which we are currently practising urbanism: a debate about building heights. The FSR 5.0 product HAHR is recommending is even worse than the aforementioned stuff on view outside your Millennium Line.

    The historic neighbourhoods were platted as street oriented urbanism. If we went in there to do intensification with the mandate to “follow the historic form”, then we would be discovering new lessons every day.

    For example, the relationship of the quartiers themselves to Hastings Street. That ROW really acts like an urban spine, and quartiers plug into it all the way to Burnaby. By the way, Port Moody was platted in much the same era, and that is why, Mezz, St. John’s is such a different animal. Decades of suburban sprawl not withstanding, the DNA of the street oriented neighbourhood lives on.

    With these urban spines, the final advantage lies with the fact that people may well walk up to 10 minutes or 800m to get to LRT. That creates an intensification pattern all along the Tram corridor that really can’t be beat. We have Vancouver to prove it with the arterials spaced at half mile or 800m centres. We have Toronto to measure along, say the Queen or King Streetcar lines.

    Perception and fact. That is the dialectic of consensus building.

    It is our job to know the facts, and learn how to express them in ways everyone can relate to. Then, we go, gather people’s perceptions, and show them facts that point in a different direction. The response, typically, is of wonderment and discovery. It really works. People develop a sense of belonging to their place and neighbourhood, and are thrilled to learn new things about it that rather than be whimsical, are grounded in concrete realities. Stuff they can experience for themselves.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    March 10, 2010 at 9:39 am

  36. Great posts, Lewis and mezzanine.

    Skytrain is just about the ideal transportation system for a number of reasons: the seamless flow into the Millennium line at Lougheed as well as the speed, automation, and reliability that comes from it being grade-separated. But Skytrain can’t run on the surface in the middle of streets, it doesn’t take a lane away from cars, and it can’t have the surface stations in the middle of St. John’s or Clarke that would help to generate a better urbanism, at least in the station areas.

    The ideal urbanism cannot follow from an otherwise ideal transportation technology. There seems to be no easy way around this, maybe no way at all, but how about an idea that should satisfy nobody, but at least tries to bridge the conflicting points of view.

    In Burquitlam, there is a planned transition from elevated to subway. Within the length of one block, the route could go from elevated to surface, then have a streetcar-like station in the middle of Clarke Road before dipping underground. Can such a surface station be designed, ugly tunnel portals and electrified third rails included, in a manner that may generate a good quality urbanism?

    With this question, I’m trying to get at what really is the reason for the low quality of urbanism around most Skytrain stations. What if a Skytrain station is built in a way that is as similar to a light rail or streetcar station as possible? The Montreal Metro rises at stations to save on energy costs. The train’s kinetic energy is changed to potential energy then back again. What if the train rises from a subway to a surface station in the middle of the street, fitting within the typical length of a block?

    The photo is from Rome, a streetcar on a tree-lined street. Yes, it is centre-running, but the trees are on the side.


    March 10, 2010 at 12:39 pm

  37. @LNV, I am assuming that you are highlighting the difference between a tram ROW on guildford verus barnet. St Johns from clark to ioco is barnet hwy.

    looking at google streetview, i can see how a tram would enhance the streetscape on that section of guilford, but much of the area already along guilford in that stretch is medium density housing (ie. you might be able to convert SFH to medium density on some sites, and that’s it, short of towers.) On barnet, the bad section of barnet with automalls, it’s bad for pedestrians, but there is a lot of potential for intense TOD.

    Another issue is that guilford street itself is somewhat disconnected to the street grid system. it would be hard for pedestirans and buses to reach the stations. I suppose you can say it’s similar for barnet as they run parallel, but all traffic is currently funnelled to barnet and of course using barnet’s auto-oriented land for TOD.


    March 10, 2010 at 1:07 pm

  38. Barnet certainly has potential since it’s mostly low density auto-oriented business now, but it’s still on the edge of town. Apart from new demand centres located directly on the line, everyone has to come from the north.

    Guildford, being in the middle of the valley, would attract passengers from both north and south.

    Re: park & ride or lack thereof.
    The terrain and road system up in Westwood, Eagle Ridge, etc. encourages multi-car families and does not lend itself to effective collection of passengers by bus. Making matters worse, many residents of such areas wouldn’t be caught dead on a bus even if there was service outside their door.

    In order to get the residents of the hills onto rail transit you must accept that they will be driving to a station and thus you must provide them with a place to store their vehicle. If the SkyTrain project included parking it would have a chance of attracting drivers, but the cost for such facilities would be high and there are far better ways of using land immediately adjacent to a station. Thus, the benefit/cost analysis says you should make no attempt to lure them.

    Instead you should focus on people who are willing to take a bus and those who could potentially walk to rail transit. Thus you locate your service in relatively flat terrain so the only challenge to walking is the maze like street system. You also include plenty of stops so those who have successfully negotiated the maze don’t have to walk too far along the route to find a stop.

    Having turned this flat terrain into a pedestrian and transit friendly area and restricted the flow of auto-traffic there is still a need for drivers to get to work. Some are destined for downtown Vancouver and may take the WCE or whatever future (hopefully bi-directional) service replaces it, but many others are going elsewhere. If the goal is to get them out of their cars then additional express services with parking must be provided. The CPR line from PoCo to New West is the obvious next step. Service to Braid would be mostly unhindered, but would force Surrey bound passengers to transfer twice. Make no mistake, Surrey will be a major destination in the near future so better solutions must be planned.

    Ever since a new Port Mann bridge became a fait accompli I have advocated for rails on the bridge so a direct non-stop service between PoCo and Guildford could be established. I envision two routes over the bridge: one from Ioco to Fleetwood via 152nd and one from PoCo to Newton via 104th and King George Highway. The latter could be extended to Maple Ridge once demand warranted it.


    March 10, 2010 at 4:45 pm

  39. “Guildford, being in the middle of the valley, would attract passengers from both north and south.”

    But then you make access for people that live on Chineside park/mundy park side of the valley more difficult. If you have LRT on guilford, people coming in on bus 143 and 151, among other buses have to ride the bus longer to get to station (versus if it was on barnet) and now they have to take a slower surface LRT.

    “The terrain and road system up in Westwood, Eagle Ridge, etc. encourages multi-car families and does not lend itself to effective collection of passengers by bus.”

    that’s true, it is not that transit frendly as it is on a mountain side. but to translink’s credit, they have community shuttles every 15 min in that area. LRT and skytrain will not be an option there period, but the fater times skytrain provides will be a plus.

    “Making matters worse, many residents of such areas wouldn’t be caught dead on a bus even if there was service outside their door.”

    I would have to disagree there. I think there is more support for buses in metro vancouver than we realize, but if there is still some stigma wrt the bus, that has to change. again translink has made a lot of work wrt renewing the bus fleet, having GPS-linked automated stop announcers and low-floor buses. I heard this about richmond too, prior to the canada line and if anything, brighouse station is among the busiest stations due to bus transfers.


    March 10, 2010 at 5:51 pm

  40. […] not returning the Mayors’ calls. Instead heavy hints are being dropped – as I noted in my most recent comments. It does seem to be a very odd way of going about a big decision making process. Conducting an […]

  41. I like pretty much the post of mike0234

    and the underlying message is : “let’s get the best urbanism of what transportation mode impose on us”.

    I think this is very wise: for the Evergreen line, like mentions Richard, let’s move on…we have the Skytrain for some reasons, try to get the best urbanism of it: what we can learn of experience? which are good example to follow? which are the bad?

    Now, mike0234 assume that a trade-off need to be done between “ideal urbanism” and “ideal transportation”: the question is, toward which we should tilt?

    I personally believe “transportation is blood”, and could tend toward it…
    I could favor function over aestheticism… and would like bring some example to support it:

    Paris is a much celebrated city: what is celebrated is in fact Haussmanian Paris: a very functional conception of the city. and it is because it is functional we find it beautiful
    (one could read the writing of the time to find that study on the building form is not new, building aligned on long Boulevard has been questioned at the time, and lot of creative idea came up in the 1850’s and you see them pop up like new in different contemporary urbanism/architecture contest. The one selected has been the one maximizing the density in pre elevator time…the “diagonal” grid, then preferred to the “rectangular” one, has been so because it also minimized horses accident…and I discount all the talk and fear risen by the “iron horse destroying the city”)

    the tale of this is that you shouldn’t compromise functionality over “estheticism” and we see this “Stark syndrom” too often (

    urbanism is not estheticism, but more often than not you see urban planner selling “esthete life” where people are supposed to sip a cappuccino on the coffee patio before boarding the sleek streetcar…

    People like it, they gonna vote for it, but the coffee patio will sit as empty as the streetcar…

    To come back on the Lewis idea:

    I don’t think that a collection of “quartier” of 10000 residents or so is sufficient to justify a LRT…This one to be economically viable need to be feed by external means (other than pedestrian), that is to say preferably bus, though that cycling should be way more developed (since you reach a 4km radius pretty easily, means before you start to sweat).

    So in the case of the Evergreen line, I think, whatever the technology, this bus feeding should be a given…

    Now look at another approach: and consider Coquitlam as a city center:

    * today all the bus routes are going East, toward Vancouver (Millenium line)…it is not healthy for the suburb city: commuter living in Coquitlam can and do ignore its “civic realm”.

    * You can have the bus routes routed toward the city center (like in “true” city): the commuter will get a sense of place: a real city center, where life can happen because people have a prior reason to go there…

    …A bit like what is now happening in Richmond at N3 and Westminster…

    How to make this possible without losing the functionality of the transportation system?

    For the Evergreen line, It looks the Skytrain provide a better answer than an LRT because the former allow rerouting of bus route that the later doesn’t allow.

    (Also, note that all the bus rerouting can save operating cost to the transit agency, and should be factored in the equation leading to the best choice (in in the case of tricities, you can expect a complete overhauling of the bus routes)

    Given this macro view of “cluster center around some skytrain station where most of people come by bus”, what is the best urban form we can give to it…

    How the station should relate to its neighborhood?…


    March 10, 2010 at 9:12 pm

  42. Mike, great pic of Rome. The cross-section of the street is worth a look. Reading from left to right:

    1 Continuous row of mature trees + 6″ curb
    1 lane (say 12′ or 4m wide)
    1 station platform with railing, no rain cover (2.5 to 3m wide: we are suggesting 5 meters)
    2 lanes (22′ or 6.6 m; two LRTs)
    1 median (3′ or 1m)
    1 lane (12′ or 4m)
    1 continuous row of trees + cub + sidewalk (15′ or 5m)

    Add a second side walk off picture to the left and we have a 28m ROW or 90 feet, which is 10′ more than a historic width for avenues in, say vancouver, at 80 feet. We can get that extra 10 feet by claiming land as part of the redevelopment process.

    Wouldn’t it work better to put the platform in the centre of the ROW?

    The centre portion including the station platform is about 11m wide, from outside face of platform curb to outside face of narrow median, or 36 feet. That’s the kind of “plug in” we are discussing at street level for Evergreen, Broadway and Hastings street.

    Note the built form. Perimeter block massing; four to five stories; the same building all over Rome; generous space at mid-block. In many cases, you enter through a portal at the sidewalk to reach middle of the block courtyard, where you go into any of several apartment lobbies to reach your flat. Courtyards I have seen are many more times larger than the Haussmann type. The apartments are dual aspect when they are of generous size.

    “Skytrain is just about the ideal transportation system”

    We’re going to have a divergence of views here. Let me just note at the start that the conclusion we seem to reach following this statement is that the “transportation choice” dictates the outcome of the quality of the urban space. A statement I fully support. However, in the case of SkyTrain, it is the “wrong” kind of urban quality that results. Ergo, change systems.

    I have no objection to a system that can run elevated when needed. I like David’s ideas about a system that can enter the RR ROW and run as a commuter train, adding facilities for long journeys like bathroom and cafe. But, the SkyTrain technology is a neighbourhood killer. And, bad for humans too. You can’t touch it with your foot or any other part. That makes it a bad urban application.

    The best place to see this is at Begbie Square in New West where Skytrain does do something like Mike suggests for Burquitlam. It is the parallel chain link fences with barbed wire on top that kill the urbanism, in my humble…

    [I see voony is willing to mess with the proper sequence of cart-and-horse: “let’s move on…we have the Skytrain for some reasons, try to get the best urbanism of it”… Voony, I hope you can talk to the lions. The Romans would linch you, and make a spectacle of it at the Coloseum. We have to do both “good transit” and “good urbanism”. It’s a legacy thing.]

    Mezz, St. Johns and the Barnet are a bit of a mind storm. But if you follow the historic development of it, the clouds dissipate. There is a long run of St. John’s that is not really “Barnet”, but was platted in 1885. The plan has some remarkable characteristics, all of which would be exploited by intensification driven by a streetcar in the centre of the ROW.

    My consultant’s report for revitalization of St. John’s Street, and intensification of the historic neighbourhoods dates to the early 1900’s. I was proposing a green median in the centre of the street wide enough to avoid T-bone crashes with cars waiting in the median. I was pushing for 30′ feet, I think the locals wanted half that much.

    As we can see from the discussion about Rome, something near 33 feet would give us LRT.

    Guilford Way, we are told, was planned for LRT on the right-of-way and the product built either side just shows us where the planning was in the 1980s and 1990s (about where they are today). We weren’t ready to consider Montreal-style houses at the Tri-Cities (although we were showing examples in our reports). Having the LRT option would have been a strong force for change.

    However, as you say, even on Guilford, if you stretch for 800m south you get to the Barnet, and if you stretch for 800m north you capture a whack of SFR (single family residential lots). So, that would be the intensification footprint.

    It would require investment in infrastructure, but “thru block pedestrian and bike links” are possible. The City of Coquitlam responded very favourably when I suggested that along the commercial blocks of Austin Avenue, north of Maillardville… but never implemented.

    If the dollars work out, the auto-oriented Barnet would redevelop as street oriented urbanism. David has this pattern in the cross hairs. Redevelopment on Barnet would work better orienting to Guilford as the urban spine, and turning a back to Barnet as the highway.

    David, I love your ideas about rail networks.

    Voony, I would not suggest mixing “aesthetics” and “good”. The latter is a kind of “cultural consensus” about practical reality. What is “good” is what “works”. How does it look? Let’s leave that to the aesthetes sipping latte.

    However, let’s not forget that the “human experience of place” can be measured, coded and classified. The 5 minute walking distance; the 20 minute “resistance time” for trip length; the human eye’s ability to detect a moving human form at about 800m; the fact that outdoor open spaces that are proportioned according to simple ratios are perceived differently than the K-Mart parking lot; all of these yardsticks are “real” and have been used since before the time of Vitruvius to build “good” urbanism. Places that inspire us even today, when we stumble upon them.

    Are we really prepared to use “bus routing” as the new yard stick of good urbanism?

    Lewis N. Villegas

    March 11, 2010 at 10:11 am

  43. voony, there is something that we gotta get to, that doesn’t involve wearing a toga.

    Line population. At full buildout, I can get 10,000 people in a “quartier” measuring 400m diameter. If the station is in the center, then greatest walking distance is 5 minutes. Use that along the Interurban corridor and we have….

    So, how many of these station-populations would be required to justify a new tram line (and SkyTrain if you wish)? Are there industry numbers for “population per line”?

    That’s part of what we are going to be looking at by studying streetcar lines in Toronto.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    March 11, 2010 at 10:37 am

  44. I’ll backtrack a bit and say Skytrain is the ideal transportation system because it can interline into the Millennium Line at Lougheed. If we didn’t have this line already there, maybe a system composed of a mix of regional rail and light rail/streetcar would be better. A model to follow might be the Rhine-Ruhr region, which also has many centres, with grade-separated very-limited-stop regional express trains and surface light rail routes that turn into subways in the city centres.

    Following this model I mentioned, if we build a streetcar line in the Evergreen corridor, we would also eventually end up looking for a (somewhat frequent, all-day, bidirectional) regional service, one that could be extended to Maple Ridge at a reasonable cost.

    The system we have been building tries to combine these local and regional roles into one system. It is possibly cheaper to build just the one system instead of both of the others. But this leads to problems where only one of the roles is needed in a particular corridor. There are many corridors in which we only want the streetcar role, and there are some centres that are very far from the others, some with farmland in between, and in these corridors we only want the regional role. In the former case, Skytrain is not optimal for generating good urbanism, and in the latter it is too expensive.

    Elsewhere in the region, we have built Skytrain lines in corridors where we see a need for both roles, so there is already a network that a Skytrain Evergreen line can plug into. In this context, Skytrain is the ideal transportation system, even though I agree with the criticism of the system from an urban design point of view.

    In the likely case that we stick with our Skytrain model (or until the region starts working on corridors that are either just regional or just local), we should look at ways to improve station designs, to better adapt them to the places we have.

    Here is one of the ideas I mentioned earlier, like the Montreal Metro the line rises up into the station, but in this it rises to the surface in the middle of the street. And maybe it is not St Johns but Broadway or some other street. I apologize in advance for any errors, I’m sure there are some.


    March 11, 2010 at 4:09 pm

  45. I like mistakes, and I like “dumb” questions in a learning, or ideas sharing environment, which is what I think we’re trying to do here.

    Looks like that diagram is showing feet measure. The problem with it, and I think the plan view shows this very well, is that for the entire block of the station, you can’t walk from one side of the street to the other.

    In calmed traffic environments (not St. John’s today, Broadway or Hastings) frequent crossings by pedestrians energize the street bustle.

    The best example is Granville Island, where I have actually observed drivers able to respond to the unpredictable changes in direction of distracted pedestrians. It works because the speed is very, very slow.

    That may not be our “urban spines” during peak period, say. But it might be the spines on weekends, or on long summer nights, when volume, congestions, and cruising combine to change the character and function of the street. We can see this at work late nights on Robson Street, when it would be safe to sit on the road and sip a latte—just about.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    March 11, 2010 at 6:05 pm

  46. While Granville Island may “work”, I and many other find it less than ideal. Especially after enjoying the ped streets during the Olympics, I find all the cars on GI really annoying. The bottom line is “mixed space” is really just a big parking lot where most of the cars are covered by old industrial buildings. It “works” no better or worse than any other parking lot.


    March 11, 2010 at 6:23 pm

  47. @LNV:

    “Are we really prepared to use “bus routing” as the new yard stick of good urbanism?’

    that’s rather perjorative of the bus. i would ask why can’t we implement good urbansim with the bus. even if our existing skytrain nwas LRT, and we use the capital savings to build more lrt, lrt would not reach the majority of people and the majorty would still have to take the bus.

    I think that the improvements along main street are a local example of buses integrating into the neighbourhood and enhancing the pedestiran realm.

    This very blog espoused how buses are an important, but often overlooked part of the urban fabric…

    “There used to be many bus passengers getting off buses there to walk to their homes. The surrounding streets being mainly four storey walk up apartments. The removal of bus services has also meant that many parking spots have been “restored” on Granville.”


    March 11, 2010 at 9:18 pm

  48. Richard, GI is a hell of a lot better than any “other” parking lot we care to visit. In the American Graphic Standards edition, five years ago or so, Andres Duanny authored a section on site layout. Very good. And, as if to mock him, the very next section was on laying out parking lots.

    Here are some GI stats that the Safeway parking lot can’t touch. There is one tree for for every three cars. Each tree has a bollard, and an up-light beside it. There are no barrier curbs. The ground plane is continuous “wall to wall”. The areas where cars cannot go are set off with bollards, which are “transparent” to pedestrian flow. If you are a parent with a child in a stroller, you are in wheel heaven. And, finally, yes, there is a mix of pedestrians and cars where no one gets hurt. The reason is that drivers respond to cues in the design (quality) of the urban space.

    However, at CIP last year, I presented a list of urban design principles that GI gets wrong. Including “street end vistas”; “linked urban rooms”; and “streetwall continuity”. All in all, it is still probably the best urban space in North America. Score one for Norm Hotson and Joost Bakker.

    Mezz, I have never met a bus I liked, and I grew up in Montevideo, a city that is still “bus & trolley dreamland”. However, it is also very much urban density, not suburban.

    When the Barret government introduced buses in the suburbs, the 152 stopped about a 3 minute walk from my house. I could see it go by from my kitchen window, and knew to stay behind for another 25 minutes to wait for the next one if I had missed it. I shouldn’t blame the bus though, neighbourhoods should be required to meet a population threshold per footprint before they get transit service.

    And, if it is going to be “bus”, it should be trolley on dedicated R.O.W., preferably with signal control.

    I think Vancouver is the classic example for us to debate. Removed the trams and put in buses. Result? 10% ridership? The problem is the low threshold of acceptance for the bus ride, on the one hand, and the ride you get, on the other. Buses are just afterthoughts in a road system tailored for the private automobile.

    Once you get the hang of “good” urbanism being predicated on the 5 minute walk, or 400m, then you realize that you can space arterials on a 800m grid (half mile) and you can service a population twice the size of Vancouver today with trams.

    My sense is that buses were better than trams in 1940 because they took up less R.O.W. from the cars. 70 years later, it’s time to flip the tables back.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    March 11, 2010 at 10:59 pm

  49. Lewis, you say “The Romans would linch [me], and make a spectacle of it at the Coloseum”

    Are you talking of the Roman building “aquaductus” everywhere, or of those patricians not wanting to see those urban blight in the “caput mundi”, and gossiping on a retractable roof for their coliseum : I heard of some Gauls that their empire has fallen before that can happen, isn’t sad?

    To answer your question about sustainable population: I don’t know, it is just a godfeeling from observation:

    1/ Vancouver downtown is ~60,000 according my source, so the size of 6 quartiers, and still 40 footer bus on route 5 and 6 looks good enough to move all those people around.

    2/ I have found this which could may be match your idea:

    It is a pdf document, showing a collection of 6 “quartier” for the city of Rennes in France, totalizing 40,000 residents + 40,000 jobs (<- that is important) on 500ha (not sure they count the green space for it).

    I count 3 stations for it, but one is obviously to be feeded either by P&R or buses (the one on the North East), and the line is connected to the down town…

    Interestingly enough, this line has been decided to be a very light metro (VAL), and in fact there is no actual plan to serve the quartiers for it (extension limited to the south-west district)…I put this example also to show that "skytrain" and similar metro, doesn't necessarily means bad architecture/ planning. this not to say that the example shown is good but to say that you can't tied tower/podium to Skytrain.

    Now, just some god feeling math:
    10 000 resident, let's count 40% of them "active" (job, students,…), 50% of them will not use transit, because they cycle, walk, drive (basically it is a figure we see in downtown, with huge part of cycle).
    you end up with 2000 customer per station, providing 4000 ride to the system…
    a typical "sustainable" bus line average 20,000 ride, so you need 5 neighborhoods to achieve it…
    …you could add more, but now, you got a long line, and in fact you don't necessarily need more "pphpd" capacity, due to the dispersed nature of the trip (people not using the line on its full length) you could be still doing very well with a bus line…
    and people need to go farther away, they will find the number of stop an impediment, and would like try alternative if the local system is too slow…

    To refine comparison, let's see Le Mans in France:
    a city of 160,000 people (so look like the size of Coquitlam but way more compacted), surrounded by 160,000 more: they have a a tram line (10km + 5km spur) carrying close to 50,000 people a day:

    …the tram ride the 10km line in…40mn! (15km/h average speed). but the tram connect huge traffic generator: Hospital, University and railway station (the Mans railway station is connected to Paris by 17 TGV,…)…so here we are an ideal case where modal split is already tilting heavily toward public transit, but what make the ridership of the tramway is not the people "walking to the station", but the people "walking from the station": in other term, it is not the residential, but the trip generators which support the line.
    …also the city like most European city doesn't offer many alternative: basically not much route possible to go from let's say the railway station to the hospital, no room to put express/local bus…it is where the streecar come in the picture (narrower than bus, but carrying more people, so freeing some space for pedestrian, and still addressing capacity issue, but not mobility issue per sei, because he doesn't have competition)

    Coming back to the Evergreen line: its purpose is not to shuttle people from Coquitlam to Port Moody,
    you envision a certain urban form with streecar, which is respectable.and seems inspired of European model what is certainly good…I have mentioned some number like 10km in 40mn for a tramway evolving in pedestrian friendly steet: is it something resident of Coquitlam gonna use to go to work to Burnaby or further west?

    If it go faster, it arises some new problem and eventually at the time it starts to address transportation need here, become less pedestrian friendly…
    (Oh, by the way, I have posted some stuff on streetcar safety on my blog, hopefully of interest for people here).

    It looks you can't overcome Skytrain. but my proposition is to say, "it is here, let's get the best of it".

    You mention tunnel portal is bad in Westminster: sure, how we can improve it on Evergreen line?

    Viaduct is not good, OK- what are the alternative? is a trench doable? I have read that for the Alaska highway replacement in Seattle, a lidded trench could be only marginally more expensive than a viaduct: is it a valid figure for the Evergreen line?

    have people questioned it? have people questioned the design/location of station to favor good urbanism, location of viaduct, design of them, all this kind of things: in lack of public involvement on the ground that "anyway skytrain is bad urbanism", you let the civil engineer in rein of the thing with little regard for urban integration…

    These thing should change (by the way it is the reason why streetcar has evolved toward what they are now: because they get positive input of public, urbanists, everything is touched, including the overheadwire and pole are attention of design for good urbanism: yes those are considered as urban blight in Europe, and the Rennes city I have mentioned before didn't want streecar for this reason, like lot of other cities up to constructor come with alternative)

    Well, it looks you don't like the bus, but people can develop a very passionate relationship with them: the bus design has been a bloody battle ground in the last London election (Ken Livingston was wanting to replace the iconic double Decker by more efficient "modern" bended bus…A blaspheme! his opponent won on the ground to preserve the double Decker, and a contest has been organized, where Foster come with pretty interesting design): In a post, I mention how the french innovate in bus design (( ).

    Bus are today a very efficient transportation mode. they are here to stay for the foreseeable future as the irrigating transit mode and are improving…streetcar, come in picture to compliment them, and LRT/skytrain should be provide rapid regional type trip.

    Trolley are certainly good and have their area of relevance (heavy, frequent service, frequent stop route) but diesel bus make lot of progress (see latest hybrid generation on 99B: as fast acceleration as a trolley)…
    Well why do you like trolley? are you like this Londonian loving their double Decker?


    March 12, 2010 at 12:52 am

  50. The Romans built empires, not just cities, and even in their slum quarters or corruption, they are fascinating. The aqueducts (slope 1:1000 if memory serves) did present some discontinuity in urban space. But, where possible, they went underground. Rediscovering the “Aqua Urbis” in the 1400 kicked the Renaissance into high gear.

    When they go through a valley, the aqueducts are very beautiful. Strangely enough, the one that encircles the town of Segovia, Spain, about 1.5 km left, did not seem to serve an urban function. Touristic yes. But, it did not “shape” an urban square, or a shopping district. Very strange. Dried laid stone construction, though, a wonder to look at.

    Good bus info. The Canadian “quartier” or TOD might start life at about 5,000 people and reach full build out in 10 or 20 years. One would hope that having a transit link would help its development. And, yes, we recognize that employment areas, and jobs, are important trip generators. However, we’ve mentioned that on Barnet, for example, that job base is also in a “sprawl pattern” that makes it automobile friendly and transit averse.

    So, station spacing is between 0.5 and 1.5 km? That gives you the “quartier” spacing as well, for the purposes of transit analysis. Line spacing, if we think streetcar in Vancouver, was 0.8 km (half a mile).

    European urbanization was shaped by late 19th century railway technology. That is what Haussmann was charged with. His tenure was approximately 1853-1870. By that time the road system in London (mostly private?) was already causing the construction of the underground on the north side of the Tames where the soil conditions, I am told, are excellent.

    However, the pattern I see in Renes, and you describe as well, of a dense core with a “suburbanizing” periphery, may well turn up to be what we can expect in our own region. I accept suburbanization as the post WWII phase of development in North America. However, I see the advantage of creating intensification patterns in the suburbs. Might LRT corridors be the best way to achieve that?

    Both suburbanization and suburban intensification, were it to result, would be examples of great generators of Canadian wealth.

    So, for discussion purposes (I’m trying to sort out if your “good feeling math” is a direct translation from the French—mathematiques a bonne….?)…

    If at maturity, a “quartier” represents 4000 rides to the system, a 10km/40mn tram might service suburban or rural population patterns at one end (turning into a commuter on RR ROW), and urban or “corridor” densities at the other. Then, connect to a main trunk subway, skytrain, or RR.

    Quartier spacing is 1 per km on the low density end, and Vancouver-arterial or 0.5 km on the urban end. A30/70 split realistic?

    6 stations at the urban end. 6 rural stations. 12 Quartiers, 48,000 rides to the 10km/40mn system.

    You report Le Mans (5km spur added) gets 50,000 riders.

    “people “walking from the station”: in other term, it is not the residential, but the trip generators which support the line.”

    This is important to grasp, and we’ve been counting jobs as generators, not just homes. However, these people, surely, are getting home at the end of the day, and leaving home in the morning.

    On the Evergreen, on of the issues that was clear was that the tram would be used for going shopping on Ioco Road and along St. John’s. Once you have a monthly pass, you might just use it.

    “you envision a certain urban form with streecar, which is respectable.and seems inspired of European model”
    Roman, voony, that’s why the toga comments were not out of whack. The Roman castrum is a “quartier” with blocks, streets and squares infinitely walkable. The old centre of most European centres is the castrum, morphing over the centuries… but never “redeveloped” out of existence.
    “You mention tunnel portal is bad in Westminster: sure, how we can improve it on Evergreen line?”
    I don’t think you can, because I can’t move pedestrians over SkyTrain technology. Safety issue of high voltage. The solution is even more expensive: subway tunnel.
    I could like the bus. I use them in Rome for example. But, as a component in an overall system. And, since it is likely to be a component at a low-density end of the system, the reality may be that what I don’t like is the cultural assumption we have made that there is really only one residential choice: high density sprawl (tower and podium) or low density sprawl (suburb).
    If the numbers for “quartier” transportation jive, then we can design or redesign the city to support that, one lot at a time. In Vancouver, we can double the existing population simply by redeveloping SFR lots fronting on arterials. But those folks are not going to want to have buses driving past their front door yards.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    March 12, 2010 at 8:03 am

  51. “In Vancouver, we can double the existing population simply by redeveloping SFR lots fronting on arterials. But those folks are not going to want to have buses driving past their front door yards.”

    I would think that if you live on an arterial with ++ car traffic, regular bus service would not make that much of a difference wrt living realm. And of course people living there would have access to transit. (eg, knight street, king edward.)


    March 12, 2010 at 8:34 am

  52. No, no, Mezz. We are saying that taking up 33′ or 10m or ROW makes ++car traffic into calmed traffic. There is tree planting, and local access lanes that can combine local parking functions, bikes, and walking. It is a re-design of the arterial at the same time that there is intensification underway.

    However, you can look at row-house like project going up in the last two years on Oak and on Granville, say south of 16th and north of 49th, to see that we are putting in the high-density form as strata, not free-hold, and we are doing nothing about the design of the fronting street.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    March 12, 2010 at 10:01 am

  53. While the Millennium Line took several years to grow, the highrise district surrounding Holdom, Brentwood, and Gilmore stations has flourished in recent years. Platforms that were empty in 2005 now are full, and there are many passengers getting off AND on at these stations in both the AM and PM Peaks.

    On the other hand, highrise districts in Port Moody and Coquitlam already exist _before_ the line has been built,-95.677068&sspn=39.184175,79.013672&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Port+Moody,+Greater+Vancouver+Regional+District,+British+Columbia,+Canada&ll=49.278165,-122.822642&spn=0.015791,0.038581&t=h&z=15&layer=c&cbll=49.278054,-122.827095&panoid=74DVLvyD8OOa6AUzWNCpwg&cbp=12,322.71,,0,-13.32,-122.790467&sspn=0.003773,0.009645&ie=UTF8&split=1&filter=0&rq=1&ev=p&radius=0.22&hq=coquitlam+centre+bc&hnear=&ll=49.279872,-122.790467&spn=0,359.990355&t=h&z=17&layer=c&cbll=49.280726,-122.793253&panoid=uJWZJQ6UONgT85pLDDmWEw&cbp=12,356.59,,0,-11.92

    I’m sure the Evergreen Line will be well used the day it opens.

    Dave 2

    March 12, 2010 at 10:19 pm

  54. dave2, interesting GoogleStreet: its look like people expect nothing good from the street…may be a viaduct could improve the urbanism here 😉 anyway could not make thing much worse: at least it will give some legitimacy to how building turn their back to the street: haha !

    Lewis, I like the “intensification patterns in the suburbs.”, but where we could disagree, is that you see it along a corridor, (what I could venture to say could be not much different that the “faubourg” we had on the main axis entering the french cities and probably elsewhere in Europe) where I could prefer secondary node or cluster…(not necessarily connected by a dense urban corridor, and preferably not).

    I say it may be because I come from a country where the urbanism has been done organically like you describe, and think it is not necessarily suitable for a million+ urban area, but can work very well for a cluster in the hundred thousand+ range.

    A LRT could certainly achieve the first (well it is more or less the “interurban”). But the corridor concept involve relatively “frequent stop” which conflict with the notion of “rapid transit” what people could look after to go to the central city.
    all this come down to the sustainable length of the corridor…


    March 12, 2010 at 11:18 pm

  55. On most corridors you can build both a standard tram service with frequent stops and express LRT to the next town centre for 1/3 to 1/2 the price of SkyTrain.

    Evergreen is special because the hill requires either a tunnel or massive land acquisition, but LRT on the North/Clarke/St. Johns/Ioco/Guildford route plus some sort of express light rail on the Lougheed Highway/CPR corridor would be the same price, serve more people and cater to both inter-city and intra-city passengers.


    March 13, 2010 at 11:28 pm

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