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Canada Line races toward capacity

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Yaletown Roundhouse Stn

The Canada Line last Sunday midday

The Vancouver Sun (and over the weekend the local press too) has a longish piece on how fast ridership has risen on the newest part of our rapid transit system. While generally a good news piece, there are several comments made by Ken Hardie – the Translink flak catcher – that deserve closer examination.

Hardie said that now, TransLink typically runs 14 of its 20 Canada Line trains, each with two cars, at 3.5-minute intervals, with another two trains added at rush hour.

By August of 2011, the transit authority plans to regularly run 16 trains, which will represent a 12-per-cent lift in service, every 3.33 minutes.

Hardie wouldn’t say how much this would cost.

But he noted that when “we run more transit, we spend more money.”

That is actually only true of the bus system. It is not true of a rapid transit system that has no drivers. Indeed, very early on in my career with BC Transit (as it then was) I was taken on a tour of the SkyTrain depot, and told that one of the great advantages of automatic, driverless systems was their responsiveness to unexpected surges in demand. SkyTrain staff were especially proud of the way they could deal with crowds leaving the stadium after a game. It was, they said, “just like turning on a tap”. They contrasted that with the difficulty and cost of getting operators in and paying them overtime if transit wanted to put on more service to meet a surge in demand from the PNE.

With driverless trains, there really is very little change in cost – some energy (but that is diminished by the ability of trains to produce power during braking) – and some small change in mileage based maintenance. But the system itself requires the same number of people if the trains are full or empty – and running 16 or 20 really costs very little different. What Hardie may be revealing is the impact of the P3 with InTransitBC: they may be able to charge Translink more if they run more trains. Indeed given the following – Translink is thinking about increasing bus operation (which do cost a lot more as 80% of their costs are labour ) – it may be that the secret deal is worse than anyone thought.

having buses scheduled for Brighouse shifted to Bridgeport, where commuters can catch a second, nearly empty train, from the airport.

Now that is expensive – since the schedule has to be revised (means it can’t be done until the next sheet change) and buses added, as lengthening the route increases the vehicle and operator requirement. Not exactly “turning on the tap” is it?

Mark II SkyTrain 329/330

The newest SkyTrain cars between Stadium and Science World

For my years at Translink the biggest constraint on SkyTrain was that there were not enough trains, and there were no capital funds to expand the fleet while there was plenty of theoretical available capacity in the signalling/operating system. We could have run trains at tighter headways, or longer trains, we just ran out of equipment really quickly and could not sustain it all day.

It is possible to run trains more often on the Canada Line and there is spare capacity on the airport branch. But once again the peculiar funding arrangements with YVR seem to preclude a schedule change – for example 2 trains to Richmond for every 1 to the airport. Again that ought to be technically easy to do with the Alcatel system, but seems inconceivable on the Canada Line. It’s our money that is paying for this but we are not allowed to know the details of the contracts Translink has signed. This is not the case in other places where there are private sector contracts to run public services: just look at the amount of detail in the public domain on Britain’s privatised railway – or Transport for London’s battles with its underground system providers/maintainers – recently brought back in house due to the unsupportable demands of the private sector for more cash.

There is nothing in the story at all about what this means in the longer term. The Canada Line is capacity constrained by lengthy sections of single track and short stations: it is feasible to insert an extra car in each train but that is not anticipated for a long time. While most systems hit a physical maximum at a train every two minutes (imposed by the ability of people to get on and off trains at crowded platforms) the single track sections impose a much longer turn around time requirement.  These physical constraints have not yet bitten. It is the contractual constraints that seem to be biting now, but no-one is talking about that either.

Hardie noted he expects ridership to continue to grow, especially as municipalities continue to densify areas around the transit stations.

But all that leads to is the day when Translink does not have to subsidize In TransitBC for ridership under 100,000 per day – one of the few details of the contract we are allowed to know. What happens after that? What sort of system do we have where the demands of the operating entity are more important than the demands of the customers? Ridership won’t grow if the system is unresponsive to increasing demand. Pass ups and overcrowding do not make for happy transit riders, and they start looking at better ways to get around.

UPDATE The story now gets covered by Jeff Nagel of BC Local News. While he reads this blog, he has to talk to me to get a quote. Obviously his employers do not want to provide a link to a blogger. Selective quotation may be standard practice but given the amount of information above I think it is clear that I am aware that there is more than just power costs in train operation. It is also clear that I am pointing to the difference between price and cost – especially when it comes to P3s. But then you read me here and not in your local paper: thank you!

Written by Stephen Rees

June 2, 2010 at 11:21 am

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  1. You’re right, it is all contractual. Its one reason trains are taken out of service at Brighouse rather than at least providing some capacity to Bridgeport, closer to the depot. Because InTransitBC isn’t paid to take passengers to Bridgeport when taking trains out of service, therefore they get deadheaded. Too bad, wait another 6 minutes everyone.

    They’re paid for a set number of trains to be running, so that’s what they run.

    As for inserting a middle car, what we’ve heard is a smaller “C” section could be added, however at some of the smaller stations it would mean selective door opening. Meaning, the end doors on the train would not be in the station and not open. At the end of the car and want to get off at those stations? Sorry, push your way through the car to the doors which actually opened.

    Of course one must snicker if the story about the first tests over the Skybridge might happen in this scenario. The story goes, during a test of the Skybridge with dignitaries on board, the train stopped in the middle of the bridge and opened its doors. Oops.

    The sad reality is, to ensure the project stayed on budget and the private partner maintained their contractually obligated profit, we received a lesser system with these single track sections you point out, less crossovers to handle operating issues and smaller trains and stations. We’ve even heard certain service level guarantees were removed from the contract because of these infrastructure cuts on the line.

    We also now have a system with a maximum service interval of 3 minutes 8 seconds. So buying and using more trains actually isn’t even an option under the current configuration.

    Maybe the solution will be to restart the 98 during peak hours. 🙂


    June 2, 2010 at 11:43 am

  2. While it might seem obvious that trains should be shifted from YVR to Richmond, there is a problem with that. A number of routes dump passengers at Bridgeport and if most of the trains arrived there already full wait times could get pretty bad.

    Sadly TransLink has no money to run any more buses so the “solution” is passengers will have to put up with more crowding and longer waits or they’ll simply abandon transit.

    As for the line being built on budget, it’s really easy to achieve that when the budget keeps changing. The GVRD voted for a $1.35B project. A project that differed only a little from the original plan was completed “on budget” for $2.05B.

    Independent observers armed with figures from the Susan Heyes civil suit believe the final cost was much higher than reported, close to double the original amount. That would help explain why there seem to be so many contractual restrictions on service. InTransitBC needs to charge high operating costs in order to recoup the secret construction cost overruns.

    Canada Line counts each boarding and likely gets paid for each one. But how do they know whether that passenger paid cash, used a FareSaver, monthly pass, concession fare, U-Pass, etc.? How do they know whether they used 2 buses to get there or they walked? How do they know if that passenger then transfers to SkyTrain or SeaBus or another bus?

    They don’t and that’s what worries me.

    The private operator of Canada Line is required to count passengers, but they have no way of knowing how many other transit services each passenger uses nor how much they paid for the privilege. Thus they have no way of knowing what fair value they’re entitled to collect for that passenger.

    Example: UBC U-Pass holder from South Surrey. The passenger pays roughly $2 per school day to access transit and Canada Line probably only accounts for 1/4 of their transit usage so the private operator is entitled to roughly 50 cents per trip.

    Example: Nanny with toddler who uses transit for all her travel needs every day of the month. She pays $110/month and likely uses at least 3 different transit vehicles per day. That’s $1/day and Canada Line may only be part of a quarter of those trips. Thus the private operator is entitled to 25 cents for carrying her and the toddler: just 12.5 cents per passenger.

    I’m willing to bet a month’s salary that Canada Line collects far more than 50 cents for each passenger that enters a fare paid area.

    Smart cards have the potential to solve this problem by properly identifying each passenger by class and apportioning their fare to each of the services they use. However, smart cards are still 3 years away and there’s no guarantee that anything will change. It’s possible the secret contract guarantees a certain amount per passenger regardless of who they are, how far they go or whether they even paid to be there in the first place.


    June 2, 2010 at 1:44 pm

  3. Well stated… The system has flaws and the real issues are not being looked at. Keep up the fine work

    Greg Shevchenko

    June 2, 2010 at 5:10 pm

  4. Personally, I would have built the C-line closer to skytrain spec with longer platforms as a public project.

    That being said, looking back I am actually amazed that in the end it was finally built when so many things transpired to stop it.

    Remember 2003/2004 when the decision was being made. All these articles come from the georgia straight:

    1) Cambie versus Arbutus – that was an earnest arguement even thought the COV and CN/?CP were at a stalemate.

    “I am distressed that the RAV is proposed for Cambie Street when the logical route is down the Arbutus corridor… I believe studies have been skewed to show that ridership will be highest on a Cambie line servicing City Hall and hospitals. This is not true! Both are minor contributors to potential ridership on Cambie, as are the few people who will use east/west feeders to catch the Cambie subway.”

    2) Surface LRT versus underground metro. COV staff did recommend against surface LRT.

    “The three top-level bureaucrats–engineering-services general manager Dave Rudberg, director of current planning Larry Beasley, and director of CityPlans Ann McAfee–stated in the memo that imposing a surface LRT system downtown “could have irresolvable physical, urban fit and transportation impacts on the downtown commercial, retail, and residential neighbourhoods”. Their memo also claimed that a predominantly at-grade system “would not be a long range, sustainable transportation solution” to achieve the city’s targets, particularly downtown.”

    3) And for some reason, people started to lose vision when when thinking about RAV. There were concerns about cost over-runs and ironically, gowing doubts about ridership projections.

    “Danish planning professor Bent Flyvbjerg has examined hundreds of large projects in more than 20 countries. He discovered that in 90 percent of the cases, costs soared after final approval. Don’t forget that TransLink is also on the hook for any ridership shortfalls.

    “For rail projects, for example, half of all projects have cost overruns of 45 per cent and higher,” Flyvbjerg wrote in the June 2003 issue of Eurobusiness . “When this is combined with patronage [ridership], which for half of all rail projects is more than 50 per cent lower than forecasted, it becomes clear why so many projects have financial problems.””


    June 2, 2010 at 5:20 pm

  5. 4) When the P3 operator did take on the risk of construction, the decision was made to open up C+C to 4 sites to meet deadlines and save on costs. Was it worth it? I’ll hold my judgement until the heyes cases gets decided in the court of appeal – I would think more detail of the contract will be revealed then.

    “Two years and two court cases later, Rand Chatterjee is still convinced there is “no possible way” the $2-billion Canada Line can be finished on time.

    InTransitBC, the TransLink subsidiary overseeing the project, must be finished tunnelling in the spring of 2008. By November 30, 2009, the Canada Line rapid-transit trains have to be in service.

    “I don’t know how they can do it,” Chatterjee, director of the doRAVright coalition, told the Georgia Straight on December 8. “They finally started [construction] the first week of December [2005]. According to their own reports, they are behind in almost every area.””

    5) For some reason “progressive” politicians and politcal groups (and i mean that in quotes) were the main drivers to drive costs down on RAV.

    “Various grassroots groups, such as the ReThink RAV Coalition, have warned that TransLink will be financially liable for cost overruns for a transit tunnel underneath the downtown core and Cambie Street.

    They argue that these cost overruns, as well as ridership shortfalls on the RAV line, will jeopardize TransLink finances, inevitably leading to sharply higher property taxes, reduced bus service, and higher transit fares.”

    Now the problem is too much ridership.

    I agree that the P3 prevents flexibility. I do agree that the richmond leg needs more service, even though YVR did put up $300 million for construction. But in the end, we have what we have, and i think it will provide future service and growth.




    June 2, 2010 at 5:41 pm

  6. And our C-line compares quite favorably with other metro project costs in North America. If anything cost per rider mile is tenfold compared to Seattle’s LINK and also cheaper per rider mile than Phoenix’s LRT.


    June 2, 2010 at 5:49 pm

  7. I guess, it is an orchestrated communication operation in sync with the preparation of transit plan, which main message is “we run more transit, we spend more money.” eventually at the attention of the folks whose has crafted the P3 contract, which secrecy is certainly justified by the hiding of not so pretty clauses.

    A second message is to prepare Richmonites to a re-hauling of their bus network, what in my opinion is certainly overdue in the wake of the Canada line.

    (Richmond bus network is the one of a Vancouver’s bedroom community offering very poor connection from Richmond with other major destination/origin. e.g Airport, 351, 601, 620 routes…)

    As change could be disruptive to some existing users, the eventually preferred BC method is to first frustrate people, this to foster the case for the preferred change.

    As shown by the Mezz links, the $2 billions price has been established long time ago given the inflation ($1.8B in 2003). I guess you have mistaken the public contribution of $1.35 B to the project with the total cost of it.

    [moderator’s note: the above paragraph has been reformatted to improve readability]

    Also, during the Olympic games, the line was running train every 2mn or so, so there is a significant capacity margin, before the need to extend the platform for a “C car”.


    June 2, 2010 at 10:35 pm

  8. I stand corrected on the price tag.


    June 2, 2010 at 11:48 pm

  9. I do have to laugh at the City of Vancouver for their characterization of at-grade rail transit as horribly disruptive downtown. Isn’t this the same city that for more than a decade has wanted to run trams through Chinatown and Gastown, along Pacific Blvd and out Georgia street all the way to Stanley Park? Isn’t this the city that has a dedicated transit only street (Granville) begging for more passenger and retailer friendly transit? Isn’t this the city that will disrupt a thousand drivers for the sake of 50 cyclists?

    If you get off the Canada Line in Vancouver some time have a look at where the passengers go when they leave the system. A quick glance at the bus stops shows more waiting to go east than west. Thus a more easterly route would have been beneficial. Main street had close to triple the number of local bus passengers as Cambie, is closer to Langara College and would not have required a tunnel or bridge to reach downtown. It also offered more “under-developed” land for friends of government to buy up cheap and make a killing on.

    The sad reality is we could have had LRT on both Arbutus and Main for the price of the mini subway. Such a system would be serving more passengers more efficiently and there would be plenty of room for growth.


    June 3, 2010 at 12:33 am

  10. @David.

    Or better yet why not have all three. Why do we have to choose between one or the other. I realize there are costs for everything. But nothing says we have to have everything built today. But we should aspire to build everything.

    Although I’d probably but a line down Victoria before Main. Main is too close to Cambie.

    In regards to the Canada Line. It simply is a victim of its own success. There is no doubt that it is the contract and the terms in the contract that is stopping them from running more trains. They “estimated” that there would be 100,000 people per day by 2013. I’m guessing they would only have about 70,000 at this point in time. So running 14-16 cars at 70,000 probably would have been just fine. What they did not anticipate is that they would hit almost hit the 100,000 mark long before 2013. The biggest mistake is that they did not put provisions in the contract to anticipate such an out come.

    But I’m glad the system is being used. Rather than having practically empty trains and people clamouring about how we spent all this money for nothing.

    Paul C

    June 3, 2010 at 3:21 am

  11. […] names [The Province] Vision supports political protests in our community centres [City Caucus] Canada Line races toward capacity [Stephen Rees's blog] INTERNATIONAL Is It Actually Green? [The Stranger] 10 ways cities and towns […]

    re:place Magazine

    June 3, 2010 at 10:24 am

  12. @David

    There is a big difference between a street car that comes every 10 minutes and a rapid transit line with trains every couple of minutes. Cities with high demand surface lines downtown including Calgary, are planning on building tunnels on their downtown segments to handle the demand. In Ottawa, they actually cancelled a contract for surface LRT to build an underground line to handle the demand.

    Placing transit underground also gives cities much more flexibly on surface streets. Reallocating street space for wider sidewalks, bike lanes, patios and other uses is a lot easier when transit is underground. Pedestrian streets are easier as well as are temporary closures for festivals, street parties, etc. The great street parties would have been much more difficult or even impossible if the Expo and Canada Lines were surface LRT. As the street party and the success of transit were the big surprises and successes during the Olympics, this alone makes a strong case for underground transit.

    Regarding cycling, do a bit of research before making flippant statements. Even before the separated lanes on Dunsmuir have been completed, bicycle traffic on the Viaduct increased from 100 to 1000 cyclists per day. When the separated lanes are completed, this could increase dramatically. As cyclists benefit all day seven days a week while drivers will likely be only slightly inconvenienced for one or two hours a day, the number of people benefiting will likely be greater than the people inconvenienced. Also, safety should be more important than travel time.

    Also, as the separated lanes are likely to encourage some people to switch from driving to cycling, this reduces the number of vehicles on streets throughout the city which decreases congestion and travel times for drivers which might compensate for any increased travel times on Dunsmuir.


    June 3, 2010 at 12:51 pm

  13. I read the article as passengers complaining about not getting a seat – not pass-ups on a 99 B-Line scale.

    Remember that many of the passengers on the line previously enjoyed gold-plated service via coach line bus from South of Fraser – so it’s all a matter of perspective. Squeeze in like the rest of the transit system.

    As for InTransitBC having a “say” in the operation of the system – they contributed $750 million to the system – more than any single government agency. So if you want complete control – you’d have to do it on your own dime – in which case we’d probably have a line that stopped at Bridgeport (like the SkyTrain stopped at Scott Road when first extended to Surrey).

    Ron C

    June 3, 2010 at 2:57 pm

  14. @ David: “I do have to laugh at the City of Vancouver for their characterization of at-grade rail transit as horribly disruptive downtown. Isn’t this the same city that for more than a decade has wanted to run trams through Chinatown and Gastown, along Pacific Blvd and out Georgia street all the way to Stanley Park?”

    There is a huge difference in regional vs local mobility, speed, technology, tourism-orientation, and safety separation between a tram and rapid rail. I’m surprised that this keeps getting regurgitated here for years on end. There is a role for both, but the roles are apples and bananas and cannot easily be interchanged.

    “The sad reality is we could have had LRT on both Arbutus and Main for the price of the mini subway. Such a system would be serving more passengers more efficiently and there would be plenty of room for growth.”

    In the case of Main Street, you propose replacing the very efficient articulated electric trolley service with a tram at great expense. This will not likely produce an appreciable increase in ridership (that’s a claim repeated over and over and never backed up), but will impose greater inflexibility and delays in service compared to the trolleys which can disconnect from the wires and move under battery power several hundred metres around accidents and breakdowns.

    Moreover, people like you and Patrick Condon keep harping on the theory that trams will be very inexpensive without producing one realistic construction cost estimate adapted to Vancouver streets. Why should the public pay hundreds of millions merely to replace already efficient bus service on Main?

    But I do agree that there is a role for surface rapid rail in the Valley and elsewhere as well as trams in communities without well-established and far-from-peaked-out bus service. I just think we need to complete the existing regional rapid transit system first.


    June 3, 2010 at 2:58 pm

  15. Ron: InTransitBC did not “contribute” – they borrowed money at rates far higher than the province of BC would have paid. They will be able to pay off those loans, and the interest, and make a profit all at our expense. While we are not permitted to see the agreement, it is clear that Translink is on the hook for a lot more than $750m over the life of the agreement. InTransitBC bears no risk in terms of revenue since Hardie states Translink picks up any shortfall below 100,000 passengers.

    Express Bus south of the river is not exactly “gold plated” either – unless you are just referring to the yellow paint. The seat pitch is set to maximize capacity which means for most average size adults there is not nearly enough knee room.

    Stephen Rees

    June 3, 2010 at 3:22 pm

  16. Here’s TransLink’s response to the Vancouver Sun article:



    June 3, 2010 at 3:25 pm

  17. What I said, for those whose reading comprehension leaves something to be desired, is that LRT on Main would have been better and much less expensive than a subway under Cambie. Of course putting LRT on Main NOW makes no sense because it’s too close to Cambie.

    Personally Cambie suits me much better than both Arbutus and Main would, but I’m definitely in the minority. For the city as a whole Cambie was an expensive mistake we should be learning from, not repeating.


    June 3, 2010 at 4:34 pm

  18. I wonder if one of the reasons why Canada Line ridership is above projections and the Golden Ears Bridge usage is below projections is that young people are driving less.

    If so, this certainly bodes well for future transit projects.


    June 3, 2010 at 7:17 pm

  19. Actually Richard my point was that Vancouver wouldn’t allow road space to be taken for something that would significantly increase people moving capacity yet they seem willing to close lanes for other things that don’t.

    I wasn’t attacking cycling, but I’ll admit my exaggeration made it look that way. I don’t believe cycling will ever account for more than a small percentage of short distance commuters, but it’s still good to see relatively safe routes being developed.

    Street parties and festivals are no reason to spend too much sticking transit underground. Street parties should target streets used by cars not transit vehicles. If you want to have a big street party start with the lawn outside the Art Gallery and close Georgia. It’s a bigger street so more people can attend and it’s way greener because you block 6 lanes of traffic instead of the transit mall.


    June 3, 2010 at 11:35 pm

  20. The important thing is that we can’t underbuild for the evergreen and broadway lines. Remember, this was a major concern while specs for the RFP were drafted:

    “”There is no rational reason why we should risk the entire public-transit system–80 percent of which is buses–on an expenditure where there is dubious assurance that the ridership will arrive,” [Vancouver councillor] Cadman told the Straight .

    TransLink bears 100 percent of the cost of ridership shortfalls. (Pitt Meadows mayor] MacLean told the Straight that he questions RAVCo’s claim that the number of transit passengers in the Vancouver-Richmond corridor will have increased from 40,000 to 100,000 per day by the time the RAV line opens in 2009.

    “If people were going to move in those numbers, you would have seen them on the 98-B [bus] line,” MacLean said. “It didn’t happen.””


    Also, it is interesting to note that the first poster, Matt, seems to dislike waiting 6 minutes more than expected for a train. People are sensitive to speed, frequncy and reliability.


    June 4, 2010 at 8:41 am

  21. Richard,

    you could be up to something, there is a general trend toward less driving since 2004-2005 (see US stats on my blog)
    never mind that Translink itself blame transit use for the shortfall on GEB among other: Yes that is pathetic to speak the less but the real reason is somewhere else:

    the real reason could have applied to the Canada line, but eventually, the project has been the object of considerably more scrutiny than the easy to sell Fraser crossing bridge in the suburbs…


    June 4, 2010 at 8:48 am

  22. Sorry, to make the above clear, overbuilding the C-line was a concern of Cadman, MacLean and others.

    BTW, an except of the COV memo recommending against street LRT for the C-line is here:

    “A surface alignment on Granville Mall would require an elevated guideway between Cordova and Hastings because of the steep grade. This would have significant visual impacts and be out of scale with the narrow street right-of-way and would negatively impact the adjacent heritage buildings. Connections with the EXPO line and SeaBus would be longer than the existing RAV proposals.

    At-grade on Granville Mall Only (also applies to all options for at-grade Downtown)

    -ne option TransLink staff have presented is for LRT at grade in the Downtown and in a tunnel to King Edward. This would require a long tunnel portal in the middle of Granville Street, between Smithe and Nelson Streets. The portal would be visually intrusive, occupy the length of the block, and would be impossible to mitigate satisfactorily. It would also likely require sidewalks to be narrowed in the central block of the City’s entertainment district, raising concerns for pedestrian safety. In addition, the strategy for revitalizing Granville Street and the pending redesign of the street would be compromised in terms of urban fit, programming capability, accessibility, ambience and other factors that are key to a successful regeneration of the street.

    -ignal priority for trains would have significant impacts on Downtown pedestrian, bicycle, bus and vehicle crossings on streets like Robson, Georgia, Hastings, etc. This would be especially problematic during rush hour. Train reliability generally along the line would be affected by pedestrians, buses and other vehicles that might be caught in an intersection that a train wishes to pass through.

    -RT on Granville Mall would require relocating local buses off Granville on to Howe and Seymour. This creates a confusing and less effective local bus network and eliminates Granville as the primary transit corridor in the downtown. Transit connections and transfers between the local buses and the LRT as well as the Expo SkyTrain line would be poor, resulting in reduced ridership. It would also impact the liveability of developing residential areas in Downtown South particularly along Seymour, with unanticipated noise and traffic.

    -alternatively, to accommodate both local buses and LRT, Granville would need to be widened to add two transit lanes in the mall area, taking away sidewalk space on Vancouver’s second busiest pedestrian street. This would be problematic in the Entertainment District between Nelson and Georgia Streets and would particularly diminish attempts to create a sense of place between Robson and Dunsmuir Streets, one of the principal objectives proposed for the street.”


    June 4, 2010 at 8:49 am

  23. Sorry Mezz but all the important decisions on the Canada line were finalized by Ken Dobell long before anyone else was “consulted”. It did not matter what anyone said – including the City of Vancouver. He had made up his mind what the “right” answers were – and was determined that nothing would be allowed to get in the way of his vision.

    Stephen Rees

    June 4, 2010 at 9:01 am

  24. @ Mezz

    Quote: -RT on Granville Mall would require relocating local buses off Granville on to Howe and Seymour. This creates a confusing and less effective local bus network and eliminates Granville as the primary transit corridor in the downtown

    Several European cities operate both trams (LRT) and trolley buses on the same street.

    I also believe San Fransisco does as well.


    June 4, 2010 at 9:33 am

  25. In the end, Mr Rees, political will on many fronts is what builds transit infrastructure. Perhaps Dobell/Victoria had the most weight and I certainly wasn’t privy to his decision-making. But throwing-your-weight-around was also the case the the previous NDP administration with the M-line.


    SFUVancouver on SSP has some insight on this story:

    “Now Translink has been on the defensive and in 24 hours it has released more details about the concessionaire agreement than has come to light in the past five years.

    Now the collective ‘we’ know the number of trains that the concessionaire agreement allows to be put in service on a regular basis, we know that there is a fixed number of service hours that may be open to reallocation and we know that next summer two more trains enter regular service when the “initial service plan” transitions to “regular service plan”. We also now know that 75% of all Canada Line traffic is within the municpal borders of the City of Vancouver, with the remaining 25% boarding and departing on Sea Island/YVR and in the City of Richmond. We know that 15% of all traffic is tied to the Richmond leg and 10% to the Sea Island leg. The Canada Line is overwhelmingly about serving the transit needs of the City of Vancouver and it is impossible to imagine that the exponentially more built up Broadway Corridor will be any less of a success from day one should SkyTrain be built there.”


    June 4, 2010 at 9:45 am

  26. Did that memo make a difference?

    “Eight days after staff wrote the memo, TransLink director and North Vancouver City Mayor Barbara Sharp cited Vancouver’s opposition to street-level light rail as justification for reversing her two previous votes killing the RAV project. Sharp’s motion, which passed 8-4, allowed two finalists to submit “best and final” offers to build the RAV project, which would include a tunnel under Cambie Street to 46th Avenue.”


    June 4, 2010 at 9:54 am

  27. @ mezzanine

    Can you provide a link (URL) to the “SFUVancouver on SSP” quote?

    If you use initials – like “SSP” – it helps a lot if you explain what they mean

    I must also insist that you use a genuine email address on all your comments to this blog. I do not like to publish admonitions like this one and prefer to communicate with posters directly. Your email will NOT be published or passed along to anyone else.

    If you cannot abide by this requirement your future comments will be made subject to moderation.

    Stephen Rees

    June 4, 2010 at 10:41 am

  28. nothing in my inbox, try sending again.

    SFUVancouver is a contributer on the vancouver forum of SkyscraperPage (SSP). The above post was from here:


    June 4, 2010 at 12:27 pm

  29. I remember when the RAV Line was initially rejected because a number of board members wanted to examine “cheaper” LRT technology (thinking that funds could then be applied to the Evergreen Line).
    When it came to light that surface LRT was a “non-starter” in the City of Vancouver – votes changed at the board – you wonder why they didn’t know that from the start, huh?

    Ron C

    June 4, 2010 at 12:42 pm

  30. WRT InTransitBC’s funding of the Canada Line – there’s still value associated with having the money in hand as a result of that loan.

    Look how long the Evergreen Line has been waitng for funding (whether as an LRT line or as a SkyTrain line).

    Ron C

    June 4, 2010 at 12:48 pm

  31. @David

    “I don’t believe cycling will ever account for more than a small percentage of short distance commuters, but it’s still good to see relatively safe routes being developed.”

    Well, it already is accounting for a significant percentage of commuters in some neighbourhoods. Several have mode shares around 10% including South Cambie at 10.6%, West Point Grey at 9.6% and Mount Pleasant at 8.3%. These are all from the 2006 Census so the mode shares have likely increased due to improvements in bike routes and higher gas prices.

    In all but the largest cities, many of those who have significantly lower levels of car usage than Vancouver have high cycling mode shares. In Copenhagen, for example, 40% of people commute by bicycle.

    On a countrywide basis, many European countries have much lower levels of car use mainly due to higher levels of cycling and walking as transit use in Canada is equal to that or even higher than many European countries. That said, there is still much that needs to be done to improve transit in the region but it would appear that improving cycling is where a lot of the “low hanging fruit” likely is regarding providing people with cost-effective transportation choices.

    In many ways, cycling and transit are complimentary, allowing people to live car-free or car-light lifestyles. Cycling is particularly good for trips from 2-5 km (Note that half the commutes in the region are 5km or under) while transit is a good option for longer trips. This is one of the main reasons why I tend to favour faster limited-stop rapid transit as a transit over slower transit with more stops for regional transit lines.


    June 4, 2010 at 2:02 pm

  32. Surface LRT on Cambie should never have been considered because Cambie itself should never have been considered. Like I said the only routes that made economic sense were the one with the existing railroad RoW (Arbutus) and the most direct route that doesn’t cross False Creek (Main).

    Ron is right that private money, even if it’s at a higher rate of interest, can be the difference between something going ahead in 2 years or going ahead in 6. Shorter delays increase the value of the project and reduce inflationary increases in cost.

    I think it’s very telling that no private company has ever wanted to build and operate Evergreen. If the route make economic sense there’d have been numerous expressions of interest.

    On the other hand an LRT line on Broadway has a very real possibility of turning a profit.


    June 4, 2010 at 2:37 pm

  33. @ Stephen

    My source for 75% of Canada Line traffic being within Vancouver is from a Richmond News article on May 28th.

    The YVR line carries an average of 9,300 passengers per day, Hardie said. That’s about 10 per cent of the total daily number of 94,000. By contrast, about 15 per cent of riders use the Richmond segment (Bridgeport to Brighouse).

    Read more:


    June 4, 2010 at 7:13 pm

  34. @Richard

    Those cycling numbers are impressive and surprising. I live near some of the designated cycling routes on the east side and despite traffic circles and barricades there are far more cars on them than bikes. It’s great to hear other routes are being better used.

    I’m also rather surprised that fully half of all commutes are under 5km. You’d think that would translate to short average commute times. I guess a few people with really long commutes skew the average. Such is the nature of the arithmetic mean.

    On the topic of regional lines I think you’ve heard my position many times. Each community should have a web of transit lines with stops close enough together to prevent the formation of auto-dependent gaps between them, but far enough apart to provide decent system speed and encourage people to walk a few blocks before their sedentary lifestyles make heath care in this country impossible to deliver.

    The communities should then be linked by non-stop express transit. Thus everyone gets a transit stop near their origin, access to all local amenities and a very fast trip to another city where its local network offers a stop near their destination. On particularly popular routes the same vehicle can do the entire job: local pickup, express jump to another city and local drop-off.

    The old South Delta and South Surrey express bus routes operated on this model, but they lacked a protected right of way and thus reliability suffered.

    According to the Richmond News 75% of Canada Line customers are from Vancouver. So my argument that Canada Line should have been on the street with the most Vancouver passengers (Main) is upheld by actual usage data.

    The maximum peak direction Canada Line trip in Vancouver is 17 minutes and actual trips will be a distribution across all possible shorter ones. The majority of passengers only spend 10-12 minutes on a train.

    Surface LRT with more stops would increase typical on-train time by 3 minutes, but the combination of stops closer to peoples’ origin, destination or both and reduced system access times for surface stops would reduce total travel time for at least half of the passengers. If LRT had longer headways the access time advantage would be lost and the main difference between the systems is cost.

    For the longer distance traveller I would have offered two types of express service:
    1. Express rail on the Shell Road corridor to get passengers from south Surrey, south Delta and south Richmond into Vancouver quickly.
    2. Express rail on the Arbutus corridor to get passengers from the frequent stop local Richmond line to major transfer points in Vancouver quickly. Portions of the right of way are very wide making it possible for express trams to pass those making more frequent stops along Arbutus.


    June 4, 2010 at 11:43 pm

  35. @SFUVancouver and David

    The statistic cited in the Sun and Richmond News does not say that 75% of ridership is within Vancouver. The Sun noted that 10% of ridership is on the Airport Branch and 15% is on the Richmond Branch.

    The remaining 75% is on the main trunk from Bridgeport to Waterfront. Bridgeport, of course, is in Richmond, not Vancouver, and it’s the station used by most of the south of Fraser bus riders whose bus routes formerly went all the way downtown. Those people cannot be described as being “from” Vancouver.

    That aside, the articles did not clarify what those percentages are measuring. Do the percentages pertain to the stations where passengers enter or exit the system?


    June 5, 2010 at 1:05 am

  36. @David

    My apologizes. A correction for my last post. Half the commutes in the City of Vancouver are 5 km or under while 36% in the region are 5 km or under. Still a fair size market for cycling.


    June 5, 2010 at 2:27 am

  37. @ Melfort, points taken. The article doesn’t define what the percentages are. The 75% remaining passengers are from bridgeport and vancouver. The bridgeport passengers at least can wait for another train from YVR if one from brighouse is full. And IMO it is a safe assumption that of the 75% passengers, the majority of them are from vancouver.

    I suppose we can’t get exact stats until we get smartcards. And I suspect when the Heyes case gets a verdict, we will know even more about the P3 agreement.

    And those highway coaches are premium rides…

    “-high floors for views above the traffic;
    -23% more seating;
    -air conditioning;
    -overhead reading lights and package racks”


    June 5, 2010 at 1:55 pm

  38. @ Stephen and Mezzanine

    Upon further consideration I agree with the assessment that 75% of the line’s ridership is from Bridgeport to Waterfront, as opposed to Marine Drive to Waterfront as I previously stated. Point taken.

    What tripped me up was the inclusive statement of “Bridgeport to Richmond Brighouse”. On my first several passes that seemed to me to be describing the ridership of all of the stations on the Lulu Island/Richmond leg of the line in the same way that the article quoted the ridership of the Sea Island leg of the line. Had the article quoted the ridership at the stations from Marine Drive to Waterfront I certainly would not have excluded the former or latter from the count. Anyway, the article would have been clearer if it had simply said “the Aberdeen to Richmond Brighouse stations”.


    June 7, 2010 at 11:04 am

  39. Hey, saw this extra info at the buzzer blog and thought it might be related to this conversation. They talked about some of the contract details, for instance:

    “Service and capacity
    – within first two year period an initial service plan will be run
    – specifies frequencies run with the shortest headway 3.75 min and longest is 10 min – that’s for main branch of line between Waterfront and Richmond-Brighouse
    – trip times by contract are 25 and 26 minutes (longer time is to YVR)
    – and capacity initial service plan is 6400 at 400 per car”

    So apparently the service level is locked into the service contract, thus why it would cost more money to run extra service. Absolutely lame if you ask me.

    More tidbits regarding where people come from/go to:

    “Jason: I want to add that if you look at the graph there are certain hotspots broadway city hall is a major connection to cmbc system for the east west corridor again

    Rider distribution
    – downtown 32% (destination of many commuters)
    – cambie st corridor 35%
    – city of richmond 23%
    – yvr airport 10% — expected to rise further as we get into cruise ship season

    They also said average ridership was around 105,000 now. Not sure if that’s padded numbers or not.”

    Also, this was really interesting, though unrelated, from the people at the airport:
    “Transit access pre Canada Line was a local bus connection that met up with a BRT
    Transit mode share 3% of passengers, 9% of employees

    after the Canada Line opened, you could see the impact on ppl mode split
    red circle
    transit mode split for passengers went from 3% to 15% – a remarkable change

    but we’ve seen impacts on parking revenues
    people parking fell from 41% to 38%”

    They actually said they deferred a project to expand parking, which is interesting and quite good.

    Also: “we are looking at 3,000 fwere cars coming to the terminal to drop people off, park”

    Check out the entire blog entry:


    June 8, 2010 at 12:08 am

  40. Capital out lay for Canada Line is given in North Shore News as $2.2 billion. (middle of the article)

    And per Translink’s 2009 Annual Report, p 46:
    “The capital cost recorded by Translink for Canada Line … was $1.9 billion (excluding the airport segment and bike bridge).”

    But elsewhere (e.g. voony June 2, 2010 at 10:35 pm above) cost of Canada Line is given as $2 billion. What gives ?

    And does cost include rolling stock etc. ?

    Jon Petrie

    June 10, 2010 at 11:33 am

  41. The cost is supposedly inclusive – but the figures quoted usually are the public sector costs. Anyway, $2.2bn for the whole lot and $1.9 for somewhat less are not necessarily inconsistent. The actual cost ought to include the private sector “contribution” – essentially we the taxpayers are also paying that on the instalment plan

    Stephen Rees

    June 10, 2010 at 12:37 pm

  42. Thanks Stephen for your response above — I am still puzzled.
    I quoted Translink’s 2009 Annual Report, p 46:
    “The capital cost recorded by Translink for Canada Line … was $1.9 billion (excluding the airport segment and bike bridge).” The same annual report also states (p. 39) “the deferred concessionaire credit represents a non-cash contribution to TransLink.” So, if I understand correctly, the concessionaire credit happens to be circa the same amount as the cost of the airport segment. That is total cost (including ?? rolling stock) was 2.2 billion which can be arrived at in two ways: 1.9 billion (includes concessionaire non-cash) PLUS airport segment OR 1.9 billion (includes airport segment) PLUS concessionaire non-cash.

    And it does seem strange that the TOTAL cost of the delivered Canada Line including the “mortgage” provided by an institution acting like a bank (that is the private sector “contribution” that will be paid off in monthly installments) is not readily apparent/ is often misrepresented.

    Jon Petrie

    June 11, 2010 at 10:19 am

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