Stephen Rees's blog

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

Surrey wants lights rail

with 28 comments

Mayor Diane Watts yesterday delivered her “state of the city” address. It got covered by the Globe and the Sun with the latter stressing the demands for light rail and the former setting it properly in a vision for the city. There is no doubt in my mind that she is a far better Mayor than Doug McCallum. And I think she is right in her preference for surface transit. And pushing for light rail is probably reasonable, though I think what will happen is that she will have to settle for B Lines being steadily upgraded to rapid bus for now. Eventually that could become light rail, but probably won’t be.

Mayor Watts and a streetcar

Mayor Watts and a streetcar - from facebook

The reason I say this is that the experience of this region is that it is the province that makes this decision. For a brief period there was a sham of a regional transportation authority, but that has been gone for a while. And every decision so far has been for grade separation and extending what we have. The only new wrinkle being the use of P3s and imported equipment. Richmond wanted what Surrey now wants. It had a rapid bus and quite reasonably thought that it could be turned into surface light rail. They were simply overruled. Local preferences count for nothing – nor do city visions in our system. The province’s preferences for future land uses are clear from yesterday’s post about Tsawwassen: as Meredith Botta observed “it is profoundly disappointing to see the form of development take on discredited and outdated models from the Sixties,” but that is all our development industry understands – and it is the BC Liberals who they pay for and who deliver the outcomes they demand – even if every so often they dress it up in greenwash. Even Stephen Harper can use the need to reduce greenhouse gases when it suits his agenda. Doesn’t mean he actually means to do anything effective about them.

Surrey is going to find – as will the rest of the region – that the current rush to put in more road capacity is the wrong direction. Places which have been building electric railways and streetcars are going to be much more attractive and viable in a future where fossil fuels are going to be sharply restrained. I really doubt that electric cars or even hybrids can revive the low density suburb where you have to drive if you want to do anything. Walkable places connected by high quality transit and high speed rail will be where the investment will be going in future. Just look to our neighbours to the south to see where the distress is currently greatest, and how fast those redundant malls are being turned into something more human in scale.

There actually really isn’t a case for Skytrain – as we understand it – anywhere in this region. Of course, we are stuck with what we have for now, but I do not mind forecasting that in the not too distant future urbanists and others will be calling for the removal of the overhead guideways just as they are calling for the removal of the viaducts now. LIM rails seemed clever once upon a time, but the Canada Line shows that they were not necessary and deliver very little of value at great cost. Automated systems do have advantages, but I think we are going to have to be much more sanguine in future about creating employment. The advantages of surface transit are plentiful and have more to do with place making than saving money – though they can do that too. But it requires an agency that is conscious of the importance of urban design and related land use – not a single purpose transportation agency. If we have grade separation and widely spaced, expensive stations then we get high rises dotted around them at walking distance. If we have slower on street transit with more frequent cheaper stops, then we can have walk up four storey buildings along arterials with townhouses behind them, and detached houses with laneway housing further away. A pattern quite familiar to use and possible within current zoning in most cities – including Vancouver.

But I, as usual, am out of step with municipal politicians. They do not want the regional planning powers we have now. Coquitlam and Port Moody are saying no to the regional plan, not for what it wants to achieve but because it is the region that is saying it, not them. It is much more important, in their minds, that local councillors have no-one to look over what they do and keep them to a broader vision. Though not so long ago it was well understood that unless we had a co-ordinated regional land use and transportation plan, all of our efforts to create something better than the untrammelled market place could produce would be lost. And once again the province will step in and start making the decisions instead. Hardly progress, in my view.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 13, 2011 at 10:47 am

28 Responses

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  1. I agree with your post and Watts’ ideas on light rail. I think Surrey Centre and Coquitlam Centre would be the best places to terminate the regional SkyTrain system. Watts’ should call Coquitlam’s mayor and discuss connecting White Rock to Coquitlam Centre with light rail via King George and Lougheed. I’d bet a toonie a decent transit study would discover good projected ridership numbers to justify the cost.

    Thanks for bringing up linking land use to transit. It is an extremely important point. Converting car-dependent neighourhoods to transit-oriented communities will be perhaps the most important decision made during this century. It touches on so many important considerations, from economics, health and energy security to dealing effectively with climate change. Eighty-five percent of Canadians live in cities and their suburbs, and land use policy will so intimately affect the majority of us.

    I question Watts’ capital cost figures of $27 million / km. That depends on the grades, the density and station size + spacing, number of stops and frequency (i.e. number of trains initially purchased), and the safety standards. It may work out to $27M / km in the less dense areas, and twice or three times that much in Surrey Centre. Grade separation, if required in some sections, will be as much as the Canada Line subway. My point is that you can’t use blanket numbers unless all physical and site circumstances are the same.

    Lastly, Watts’ comments were limited to Surrey where transit technology choice will reflect Surrey’s potential development on its vast tracts of greenfield and open brownfield land (e.g. mall parking lots). Surrey has such high potential, like a clean slate. There are those, however, who will make the leap that what is good for Surrey is good for Vancouver’s Broadway corridor. In reality, it is turnips and mangoes. If King George was as built up and had the density of high-use perpendicular crossings Broadway does, then I’d advocate a subway. This has nothing to do preserving car space at the surface, but in offering a greater potential to increase the surface space for the huge jump in pedestrian traffic a very high-capacity subway line would cause. King George currently has the space to accommodate everything on the surface. Surrey is not Vancouver. The suburbs are not the inner city.


    April 13, 2011 at 12:55 pm

  2. Nice post,

    It seems like a no brainer to me that with its wide roads (King George, Fraser Hwy) and wide grid that Surrey would be ideal for light rail, at least on King George and Fraser Hwy(my memory is a little hazy on 104th…the constraints on this corridor may make the benifits of light rail less obvious). I also second the thoughts of MB on avoiding drawing the same conclusions about Broadway but disagree with his comments about light rail from White Rock to Coquitlam, at this point I can’t see it being viable to connect White Rock with light rail across all the ALR and low density stuff south of 64th.


    April 13, 2011 at 2:23 pm

  3. I think I would make further rapid transit construction in Surrey dependent on land use changes. Light rail won’t be cost effective if we continue to allow single family housing on large lots. That said, I think Translink’s policy of building up ridership on a corridor with B-Lines before constructing rail has been very effective, and I can see them trying it on the three by far busiest bus lines in Surrey – Scott Rd from 72nd to Scott Road Station; King George Highway from Newton Exchange to Surrey Central; and 104th Avenue from Surrey Central to Guildford and potentially all the way to Langley. A light rail line could be constructed along Fraser Highway in conjunction with expanding the road to 4 lanes all the way. I can even see a sustainable, relatively high density “new town” built at Fraser Highway and 176th St. The tremendous operating cost savings due to the automation of Skytrain is something to consider though, as is the transfer penalty that would be required when transferring from a light rail line to the Skytrain.

    I agree with Rico, I can’t really see light rail being built in the south Surrey countryside.


    April 13, 2011 at 3:59 pm

  4. The raw cost for LRT (track and overhead only) is about $6 million/km.; then one must add engineering costs, vehicle costs (1 modern modular LRV, with a capacity of 250 persons, is about $4 million to $5 million a copy, but has a lifespan of over 40 years), maintenance and storage facility $20 mil to $30 mil. With some strict construction parameters, using pre-fab track, the cost could be as low as $20 mil/ km to $25 mil/km.

    There is no need for grade separation at all, rather what is needed is road rationalization.

    Also, for the SkyTrain types, modern LRT can obtain capacities far greater than SkyTrain light metro! In Karlsruhe Germany, the transit authority is digging a subway for the tramway (streetcar) which runs down the main street, because the very high ridership of over 40,000 pphpd being carried on the route!

    In Copenhagen, a recent transit study….

    Click to access Radiallinie-folder3.3-uk.pdf

    ….found that for the cost of one metro line, up to 6 light rail lines could be built. Of more interest, building LRT would see 20% to 25% fewer cars on the road, but with a metro, only 1% fewer cars and travel by metro would only be 2% faster than LRT!

    A bonus, LRT in Surrey, would fit in well with the Rail for the Valley/Leewood TramTrain proposal.

    Oh yes, Surrey does have the population to support a properly designed light rail network.

    @ Chris – the automatic (driverless) SkyTrain system costs 10% to $205 more to operate than comparable LRT (with drivers) systems and is the main reason that very few SkyTrain mini-metro systems sold. Too expensive to build and too expensive to operate than its chief competitor, light rail.

    D. M. Johnston

    April 13, 2011 at 5:57 pm

  5. Oops!

    Typo – should say 10% to 20% more to operate……

    D. M. Johnston

    April 13, 2011 at 5:58 pm

  6. I wonder if they plane to lay down streetcar track toward Tynehead or Campbell Height ?

    I don’t know if and where streetcar is appropriate or not in Surrey…but I know that its advocates don’t know too…in fact they don’t care…

    Reading the news report, it is clear that the transit rider is not on the Diane Watts radar…It is not surprising. She is conveniently ignoring all the investment in bus service done by Translink in her jurisdiction, which according to the auditor general is bankrupting our transit agency and as i have already noticed in my post , it looks people SoF are much less interested to improve Transit in their area, than to promote pet project.

    As Diane Watts advocates, she is not looking at addressing transportation needs with her LRT agenda but try to achieve something else which is certainly legitimate…
    the problem is that Translink is a transportation agency, supposed to address transportation needs, and not have a Disneyland vision of Transit.

    Both are not necessarily incompatible, but you have to identify the need first and then select the appropriate answer to it…not the reverse…

    here Surrey believes it has an answer: streetcar.. they have even some track laying down somewhere in their backyard they claim…but where and what are the needs?


    April 13, 2011 at 9:35 pm

  7. Voony, LRT is a transit mode that can economically deal with passenger flows between 2,000 and 20,000 pphpd, thus effectively bridging the gap of the traffic flows that can be carried by bus and that which require a metro.

    Light-metro (SkyTrain) was supposed to be faster and carry more people than a Toronto (PCC) streetcar. The advent of articulated streetcars or trams and the concept of reserved rights-of-ways, enabled modern LRT to reach and in some cases, surpass the operating parameters of light-metro.

    LRT made SkyTrain obsolete over two decades ago, only the news hasn’t reached Vancouver yet.

    A Disneyland version of transit? No, the monorail has that ticket!

    D. M. Johnston

    April 14, 2011 at 7:03 am

  8. The opposition to Mayor Watts’ vision for Light Rail system for Surrey and particularly the Translink/Skytrain kiddies will persist with their two principal arguments in order to derail any proposals:-
    Surface Light Rail systems cause traffic congestion by reducing available road space for the private car – is the first world not attempting to reduce town & city care usage by providing affordable, environmentally clean & reliable public transport systems?
    Surface Light Rail systems are dangerous –has nobody studied the most recent statistics for BC automobile accident fatalities & injuries?


    April 14, 2011 at 7:34 am

  9. […] Surrey wants lights rail [Stephen Rees's […]

    re:place Magazine

    April 14, 2011 at 9:00 am

  10. Good to see a nice discussion, one thing I was not clear on is I support an investment like LRT (or RRT for that matter) in Surrey not necessarily for its transportation advantages but for its ability to shape the community (hopefully while providing excellent transit at the same time). If we were looking just at transit values I assume all of the corridors we are talking about would be best suited to BRT….but sometimes we just need to make that investment and get away from the ugly Surrey strip mall. LRT certainly makes more sense than Skytrain to Langley. By the way if the proposal does not include dedicated lanes, signal priority etc. (ie streetcar) it won’t be worth it.
    Can’t believe I am about to write this but….a line on Fraser Hwy and a line on King George may start to make the ‘Interurban’ coridor viable as a S-bahn type service from Langley to Scott Road (I am just spouting off, I do not know what the respective travel times would be but…).


    April 14, 2011 at 10:28 am

  11. I like to remind everyone that LRT and SkyTrain are two different types of ‘rail’ transit designed to satisfy different transit problems.

    LRT is used on routes when using buses becomes expensive and impractical and metro is built where ridership on a transit route exceeds about 15,000 to 20,000 pphpd. (Note my previous post)

    SkyTrain is a light metro, which costs almost the same as a heavy rail metro to build, yet has only the capacity of LRT. A good reason why after 32 years on the market only 7 SkyTrain type systems are in operation around the world and not one of them were allowed to compete against LRT for the job!

    Transit is to move people, not shape land use. This is the mistake we have made and continue to make with our transit planning.

    SkyTrain is a light-metro and light-metro is a niche transport system, except in Vancouver, where we have built SkyTrain strictly for political reasons.

    The difference between LRT and a streetcar is the quality of rights-of-ways, as a streetcar operates on-street in mixed traffic, where as LRT is a streetcar that operated on a reserved rights-of-ways, or a right-of-way for the exclusive use for LRT, The Arbutus corridor is a perfect example of a reserved rights-of-ways. Operating on reserved rights-of-ways, increases commercial speeds to that approaching a metro operating on an extremely expensive segregated R-0-W’s, either on a viaduct or in a subway.

    Today, there is little difference between what we call a streetcar or what the Europeans call a tram and light rail; the vehicles are one and the same, except a streetcar may have smaller motors due to its lack of need for high speed operation.

    BRT, from busways to guided bus, has been more than disappointing in revenue operation as the traveling public still perceive the mode as a bus. Buses have proven very poor in attracting the all important motorist from the car. If this were not so, there would be no discussion of LRT or SkyTrain today.

    For travel times along the interurban route the Rail for the Valley/Leewood TramTrain report has estimated travel times along its route.

    The fact is, the region can only afford one metro line a decade and Surrey wants ‘rail’ transit now, not 10 or 20 years from now. If we can build up to 10 times more LRT per km. than SkyTrain, isn’t it better to build what we can afford and lots of it, than waiting for a train that may never come.

    D. M. Johnston

    April 14, 2011 at 11:49 am

  12. Malcolm

    You wrote “Transit is to move people, not shape land use. This is the mistake we have made and continue to make with our transit planning.”

    This is one of the most foolish statements I have ever seen you make here. Transit – or the lack of it – shapes land use. That is inevitable. You cannot have transit oriented development unless that transit is provided – and the better that transit is, the more transit oriented it will be.

    Transit planning is not the problem. Currently we do not have transit funding. It does not matter what was planned if you cannot afford to build or operate it.

    Land use planning continues to be dominated by a 1960’s mind set. Most planners understand that the world has changed. Many voters, and far too many corporations have failed to understand what climate change and peak oil mean – but they are now learning that at great cost. Yet even now they are reluctant to change – and somehow think that we can continue with business as usual.

    Communities are very resistant to change – whether it is higher density development or a tram running past their front door. But that does not stop them deploring the development of farm land or the loss of green space to sprawl. Traffic is everybody else’s car!

    Stephen Rees

    April 14, 2011 at 1:59 pm

  13. “Transit is to move people, not shape land use. This is the mistake we have made and continue to make with our transit planning.”

    What an unbelievably backwards statement, one given without any authority, reference, peer-reviewed research or citation.

    Take that one up with the SFU City Program or the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning, or just about anyone with a modest home library on urban issues or elementary skills in on-line research into transit and urban planning.

    Cars move people too, and have had more impact on industrialized cities than any other element short of war.

    Though I lack the time to back up that statement with specific references, I urge readers to Google Jeff Kenworthy who does have loads of research on the impact of cars on cities and ecology, and how transit does indeed heavily influences and shapes urban form — for the better.


    April 14, 2011 at 2:13 pm

  14. “Transit planning is not the problem. Currently we do not have transit funding.”

    Hear hear!


    April 14, 2011 at 2:16 pm

  15. M.D. Johnson just like roads shape the urban fabric so to does transit, if we ignore that fact we will end up with a city that will not be pleasant to live and work in. Transit (or lack of transit) shapes land use, ignore the reality of that at the city’s peril. Just to be clear I believe I am agreeing with you re:streetcar/LRT (tough to tell sometimes), Surrey LRT would have to have dedicated ROW, signal priority etc (LRT in a N. American sense) or it does not make transit sense over a bus. My vision for the ‘interurban’ is different than the TramTrain report and would have many fewer stops (maybe Langley, Cloverdale, Newton and 96th ave). Users looking to travel within Surrey would likely not be a significant ridership, the majority of users would probably use it to connect to Scott Road skytrain/Vancouver (maybe extending to Vancouver with a Patullo bridge replacement?). Users looking to travel within Surrey would use the proposed LRT routes (unfortunately from what I can see the interurban route would not be all that effecient in connecting destinations within Surrey leaving its value as a longer distance limited stop route).
    Also note all of my discussion is off the cuff as I don’t claim to have any hard ridership numbers, obviously some due dillagence with regards to ridership would be required on any of the projects (and in the end some may not have the ridership to justify building).


    April 14, 2011 at 2:21 pm

  16. looks like lots of people weighed in while I was writing. I support the view that Transit funding is a crucial problem for the region. I also reread my post, sorry for sounding like a poster in a ‘transit fantasy’ tread….of course I guess it is kind of like what Dianne Watts did as well.


    April 14, 2011 at 2:35 pm

  17. Stephen I think you are dead wrong and making a mistake comparable to the Admiral Tryon HMS Victoria fiasco.

    We have spent over $8 billion on three metro lines in the region, which have increased densities along their routes, but to what avail, as we have all but abandoned lesser transit routes because there is no money.

    Our transit system is fractured and non user-friendly, we have completely forgotten about the transit customer and their wants or needs.

    As for foolish statements, I just reflect what real transit experts have told me, thus they must be equally foolish, which somehow I doubt.

    D. M. johnston

    April 14, 2011 at 4:35 pm

  18. Malcolm your view is restricted to transit – and your bias is at least outspoken. But transit does not exist in a vacuum and must be understood as part of the human ecology of urban places. Transport is not desired for its own sake but rather to make other activities possible. It is – in the economist’s term- a “derived demand”.

    You are mistaken if you think that density has increased along all three lines. The lack of change in density in the suburban part of the City of Vancouver has been one of the many concerns addressed on this blog. And the nature of the density that has occurred – high rises at transit stops – is one of the reasons that further density increases are being resisted by neighbourhoods. It is also central to Patrick Condon’s arguments in favour of streetcars. Obviously transit technology choice does have an impact on land use and the type of development. That is not an opinion, it is an observable fact.

    It is also a fact that this region has been starved of adequate transit funding and prevented from developing a regional vision and structure. The province has instead invested far more in new and expanded freeways – and the car oriented development that brings in its wake. I respectfully suggest that your efforts and that of the organizations you represent would be better directed at the need for more transit – and less freeways – rather than getting mired in the SkyTrain versus LRT debate which you enjoy so much.

    Stephen Rees

    April 14, 2011 at 5:40 pm

  19. not sure why fans of a specific technology alleviate to answer to the question on the pertinence of it as an answer to a specifc problem and prefer reframe it as a skytrain/LRT fight. Where I have suggested that Skytrain is better than LRT?

    but since Malcolm mentions that LRT is for 2,000 and 20,000 pphpd : I am curious to know which bus route/corridor in Surrey has a transit ridership high enough to justify an LRT by his own metric?

    That said: the nice video shows eventually what Surrey has in mind when it talks of LRT:

    a bld looking not unlike Esplanade Bld At Lonsdale in North Vancouver: I have been there and didn’t see any LRT…not sure why Surrey believe it needs one to do the same.

    Skytrain viaducts go thru land of desolation in Surrey….construction crane are all bustling around number 3 in Richmond…

    That is, I also believe that Transit is not shaping land uses as much as it is supporting certain land use policy choice…

    …and the later is not in the hand of Translink, which whatever the outcome of the next Surrey election and/or mind change of its civic leaders, will have to live with an investment based on the vision of today.

    How to ensure that Surrey will effectively favor the urbanization of 104th avenue? not only up to the next election but also after…many election after…

    Toward it, it is eventually useful to remind here that the Portland streetcar has been built on city fund, as well as OV on Canada line in Vancouver.
    …if like mentioned by Rico a BRT could be the preferred choice from Translink viewpoint, but Surrey prefer an LRT for urban development purpose, will the city prepared to finance the upgrade?


    April 14, 2011 at 11:50 pm

  20. Voony brings up a good point about cities paying extra (over preferred transit technology) to achieve their land use goals. It makes sense to me….but I believe will be politically difficult to sell. He and several others also make the point that Surrey land use policy changes could go a long way to improving Surrey. Is there really still a need for parking between the street and stores instead of having stores along the street? Maybe, but along major corridors? Seems like an easy fix. Not to mention controlling the growth of those business parks into a more urban friendly form…or encouraging denser housing choices….wow the list could go on and on…..of course transit is part of the package so…


    April 15, 2011 at 9:00 am

  21. It’s logocal that Surrey can have an LRT network fanning out from its downtown core. Ditto for Richmond and a streetcar/LRT to Steveston). LRT can feed into the backbone rapid transit network (SkyTrain and Canada Line) from less dense areas.

    I think the main issue that Surrey will need to consider in designing an LRT “for the future” is the characteristics of the line in its downtown.
    i.e. with a view to future capacity, do you tunnel (like Edmonton, at the risk of eating up scarce funding and delaying expansion) or do you keep it at grade (like Calgary, which is now seeing limitations in capacit and proposing a parallel LRT tunnel)?
    Given the current density in Surrey Central, I think that an at-grade system would serve Surrey for many years before reaching capacity.

    (I also think that “Combo 1” for the Broadway Line provides a reasonable alernative to SkyTrain all the way to UBC, since there are few north-south arterials west of Arbutus and West Brodway is paralleled by several alternate roadways.


    April 15, 2011 at 2:18 pm

  22. Surrey may not have enough bus passengers to justify LRT, but they should be commended for looking for something around which to build future density. Many arterials in Surrey already sport medium density housing and commercial space. Growth is taking place now and the road system is straining to cope. Rail provides capacity for the foreseeable future and attracts a demographic that would not otherwise take public transit. The bus simply isn’t as comfortable, reliable, “cool”, or green.

    I’m saddened to see people continuing to advocate LRT as a feeder system to SkyTrain. Surrey is trying to build something to serve Surrey. The goals are to connect a bunch of disparate town centres and re-inforce the importance of Surrey City Centre as this region’s second “downtown”. It may have the side effect of making trips to the north side of the river easier, but that’s not the goal.

    It surprises me that even transit advocates and planners cannot conceive of putting at-grade rail transit on two parallel streets in Calgary.

    If money were no object Combo 1 for Broadway would make sense:
    – it treats Central Broadway as the priority destination,
    – it recognizes that more UBC and Kitsilano bound passengers come from Expo than Millennium,
    – it gives Millennium a vastly more sensible endpoint than the current middle-of-nowhere spot,
    – it removes a transfer for Millennium to Central Broadway passengers.

    That last point is being pushed strongly by TransLink even though the current passenger figures are relatively low. They realize that changing the journey from bus-train-bus to bus-train or bus-train-train will attract new passengers.

    Unfortunately the way transit is funded here combined with the $2.4B price tag virtually guarantees it won’t be built before 2040.


    April 16, 2011 at 10:53 pm

  23. @ Ron: Given the current density in Surrey Central, I think that an at-grade system would serve Surrey for many years before reaching capacity.

    (I also think that “Combo 1″ for the Broadway Line provides a reasonable alernative to SkyTrain all the way to UBC, since there are few north-south arterials west of Arbutus and West Brodway is paralleled by several alternate roadways.”


    I agree with the first statement, but disagree with the latter. It bears repeating what I’ve written a few times before on this blog.

    There are 17 intersections in the 2+ km stretch of Broadway between Arbutus and Alma, 13 of them are signalized and experience very significant pedestrian cross traffic volumes.

    Surface rail with a dedicated fenced median west of Arbutus will, in my opinion:

    1. Sever all pedestrian, bicycle and commericial cross traffic at every intersection except at three arterials where stations will be placed.

    2. Permanently eliminate a significant portion of the important walk-in West Broadway foot traffic that is so essential by making it extremely difficult if not impossible to cross the road except at stations / arterials. Adding more stop lights to a dedicated line will dilute its frequency ansd speed.

    3. Fail any urban planning test that puts pedestrians first, and also the Octogenerian Grandma Test (use your imagination).

    4. Suffer from a huge transfer penalty at Arbutus where passenger volumes and frequency of trains will be mismatched between RRT and LRT.

    5. Require a very large and ineffcient land assembly at Arbutus for a larger-than-normal LRT terminus (i.e. lots of sidings and additiopnal platforms) for surface trains making the Arbutus-UBC run separately from the Arbutus Olympic Village run, and eventually an extension of light rail service to Kerrisdale.

    Surface rail placed in traffic west of Arbutus will, in my opinion:

    1. Result in no appreciable increase in existing B-Line service for such a huge expenditure.

    2. Result in major UBC-bound passenger backups at Arbutus with an exceedingly large transfer penalty due to an even larger mismatch between RRT service levels and much lower surface LRT service in mixed traffic.

    3. Become notorious for deaths, injuries, delays and lawsuits due to accidents at crossings.

    Either surface light rail option has real difficulties on Broadway, even the shorter stretch west of Arbutus where the density still exceeds 6,000 people per km2 and totally justifies a subway.

    To rail (pun intended) against RRT to UBC because of lower densities west of Alma ignores the tens of thousands of daily UBC commuters. If the small city at the end of the line didn’t exist, then I’d say terminate the subway at Alma, not Arbutus. But it does exist, and the existing circumstances (plus decades of experience) lead me to conclude a subway is necessary.

    In all RRT cases, I maintain that the significant number of shorter neighbourhood trips can be very nicely accommodated by an improved Number 9 trolley service with generous and permanent curb extensions … even in Central Broadway once RRT is in place.

    Ahhh yes, the cost. Somehow there’s $9 billion for freeways(captital and financing), and $3.5 billion for indirect ANNUAL car subsidies just in Metro Vancouver. There’s money, folks, but it exists in a fog of skewed priorities. Two dollar gas will do a lot to bend said priorities in a more equitable direction.

    Lastly, human scaled urbanism is often tied to trams. I believe the evidence in Europe and other places reveal that rail mode has little to do with it. Urbanism can be human-scaled with RRT AND trams. There is no law that says Kitsilano must to tower up if a subway appeared on Broadway. Just because the Expo Line paid for itself with high rise transit-oriented development doesn’t mean that Vancouver planners have to follow suit. They could just as easily want low rise with fee simple row houses extending one km either side of a Broadway tube. But I’d bet Patrick Condon will still get his knickers in a knot.


    April 18, 2011 at 1:12 pm

  24. Correction:

    1. Result in no appreciable increase OVER existing B-Line service for such a huge expenditure.


    April 18, 2011 at 1:35 pm

  25. Of interest – posted by golog at SSP:

    Harland Bartholomew’s “A preliminary report upon transit (mass transportation) : Vancouver, British Columbia” from 1945:


    April 19, 2011 at 12:27 pm

  26. It was also becoming apparent that it would be financially and physically impossible to widen or improve enough streets and to provide parking facilities within or near the central business area to accommodate all of the private motor cars
    in a large urban area. Thus the most logical alternative solution was to improve transit facilities which required far less street space in transporting large volumes of passengers. The provision of fast, comfortable vehicles leading directly from residential sections to places of employment, shopping and recreation is imperative.

    Harland Bartholemew & Associates, 1945.


    Thanks for the link, Ron. The Bartholemew Plan, which also addressed much more than transit, was not realized. Bloomin’ pity, that is.


    April 20, 2011 at 9:03 am

  27. […] “The advantages of surface transit are plentiful and have more to do with place making than saving money – though they can do that too… If we have grade separation and widely spaced, expensive stations then we get high rises dotted around them at walking distance. If we have slower on street transit with more frequent cheaper stops, then we can have walk up four storey buildings along arterials with townhouses behind them, and detached houses with laneway housing further away.” […]

  28. […] like to comment on a statement launched by Stephen Rees in a blog article he released last year. Richmond wanted what Surrey now wants. It had a rapid bus and quite […]

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