Stephen Rees's blog

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

Translink funding

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It is with some reluctance that I blog on this issue – because it has been covered here already extensively. And though there is a lot in the local media this morning in reaction to yesterday’s meetings between the Mayors, the Premier and the Minister of Transport – and the MoU – really nothing much has changed. And most of the reaction you can read is simply driven by which side of the political spectrum the speaker is on. Many Mayors are closely allied to the right wing – or the elite or whatever else you may call them. They may not be very keen on Gordon Campbell any more, and they know they have to be seen to be defending their turf and the people who pay property taxes, but they all stress the party line about working together and “only one tax payer”. The event was carefully stage managed. As was the decision to announce public consultation as the next step. A bit of hubris over the HST  - not the tax itself, of course, just the way it was done. As though public consultation is going to make the revived vehicle levy any more popular this time than it was last time.  A few Mayors – and the NDP transport critic – simply rubbish the whole thing: of course.

Nothing much has actually changed. Everything is now on the table – except the carbon tax. Or the idea that the province should cancel its massive road building program – that was not even mentioned. The main thrust is still that people who live in Metro Vancouver have got to pay more taxes – some way or another – if they want more transit. The idea that the province should pick up more is not on the table either. The MoU is very specific about what the municipalities must do – much vaguer on what the province is committed to. Translink has access under the legislation to a few sources – property tax, parking taxes, a vehicle levy – and gets a share of the locally collected gas tax that the province collects. Anything else would require legislation – so the province gets to decide if that gets time in the house and a whipped vote – and even a vehicle levy needs more regulations, which is how Ujjal killed it last time.

So the next bit is Translink coming to ask us – once again – “how would you like to pay for that?” Predictably, the loudest voices will be the anti-tax brigade who believe that we are already taxed out – we cannot afford any more tax for anything. They also believe that government wastes money – and that there is a small fortune to be had by cutting expenditures. You can already see these themes in the comments sections of those sites that allow them.  You will also hear from those who do not, they say, “benefit from transit” that they should not have to pay for it. There’s a special local variation of this – “they get more transit than we do, so they should pay more for it”.

Fortunately, Translink can now say, quite credibly, that they have done a good job at cost cutting. Of course, not nearly enough to satisfy those who will say “you shouldn’t have …” and then point to various investments that they don’t like: but then they cannot be satisfied  in any event. They will also now be able to say that some form of vehicle levy now looks better than property taxes – which are still going to be the province’s fall back if no new source is identified.

Many better options are going to be rejected as impractical – or at least infeasible to implement in time to pay for the Evergreen Line, but “we will look at them for the long term”. So expect whatever is chosen to be hedged about with “pro-tem” undertakings. Which the populace will rightly be skeptical about. The province will not, I predict, shift from its opposition to tolls on existing infrastructure – and Translink is going to have a tough enough time getting tolls on the replacement for the Patullo Bridge. Congestion charges will also be rejected – mainly because our geography and land use distribution does not allow for the simple cordon pricing used elsewhere. We do not, any longer, all go to downtown Vancouver to work in the morning. Anything other than a simple cordon will get put off because of the time needed for its implementation.  A simple sticker on a license plate will still have to get through the agency procedures used by ICBC – and the take they will want will increase dramatically if it is anything other than flat rate. And you can bet there will be stories about people registering their vehicles outside the region to avoid paying.

The idea that there should be some capture of the private sector’s gain from transit investment will also fail. Because the private sector can always say – just as they did when Toronto proposed this to pay for transit expansion there – “we will develop elsewhere. If it costs us more to do TOD then we won’t: we will keep on doing what we like – highway oriented development: and you have already committed plenty in highway expansions to give us more than enough scope there, thank you very much.” That may be one reason why Translink has been given the power to do TOD on its own – using the Hong Kong model. Not that we have seen much of that yet. There is still no development on some of Translink’s best located sites – like the Oakridge transit centre: there a combination of operational necessities and local opposition has been enough to keep it going as a garage.

I also expect to see a lot of noise from the people who think of roads as “investments” but transit as “wasteful subsidy”. The recitation of the old saws about only 10% of the people use the bus – we “need” more spent on the 90% who don’t. About the lack of choice. About ‘social engineering’ – as though the history of post war North America was not example enough of the social engineering that produced suburban sprawl and all its related ills. Roads, freeways and low density housing were all planned – they did not simply spring up at the will of the market place. They had to be forced on to people – and those people had to be co-opted into acceptance at great expense and effort.

I would like to think, as I once did, that sweet reason and the good example of the other places that made better choices than we did will be enough to win  a reasonable solution. I am afraid that I have become cynical. Maybe it’s reading books like “Merchants of Doubt” that have done that.  Perhaps the elite have bought in to the idea that some transit might not be a bad idea after all – and there will be some positive stuff seen in the main stream media to cajole along the reluctant. Perhaps enough people liked the Canada Line and the Olympic Line to move the needle of the opinion meters a bit. Maybe the awareness of issues like the impact of carbon on the atmosphere and our lungs has increased in recent years. Maybe we have got better at selling unpopular notions, like the need to pay for transit from tax revenue rather than fares. Actually, I bet that whatever tax increase there is, there will also be fare increases too.

But right now, my gut instincts tell me that the Evergreen Line will not be built. That the feds will yank their funding. They don’t like any form of public transport (see their Amtrak decision, for instance) and they have committed too much elsewhere to military spending. That keeping the Russians away from the next oil and gas bonanza in the Arctic counts for much more than reducing car dependency in the suburbs of Vancouver. That no-one now would trust Gordon Campbell to keep his word on anything – let alone a vaguely worded MoU that commits him to nothing. That there will be a tax revolt – the head of steam raised to fight the HST in this region being diverted at Translink since that decision will come before the referendum.

I hope I am wrong.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 24, 2010 at 11:53 am

Posted in transit

35 Responses

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  1. Here is a basic break down of the news report yesterday on the meeting.

    Blah Blah Blah “We need more money” Blah Blah Blah “We are looking at options” Blah Blah Blah

    Until such time as they have a black and white answer on what they are going to do. I really don’t care. All it is is political talk that absolutely goes no where.

    The fact is the politicians are scared to make a decision. Whatever that might be. The biggest reason being they know they might loose the next election if they do something that will upset the electorate. Well sometimes as a politician you have to make the touch decision and the people might not like it.

    Paul C

    September 24, 2010 at 12:28 pm

  2. The carbon tax revenue does appear to be on the table according to several of the reports in the media including
    http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Metro+mayors+agree+explore+Evergreen+Line+financing+options/3570044/story.html

    The Premier says “everything’s back on the table,”.

    While all this should have happened years ago, at least they are moving forward. The next step is public consultation as it should be. The mayors hope to approve something in December.

    Instead of trying to predict what might happen, I encourage people to take some action to make it happen because, as Stephen mentioned, there will be opposition. However, there are a lot of people, businesses and other organizations in the region that support better transit, we just have to make sure our voices are heard.

    It would also be a good time to ditch the divisive SkyTrain vs. LRT vs. Streetcars vs. buses vs. Gondolas battles for a while and instead focus on the advantages of transit and ensure there is enough funding for a great transit system.

    [Moderator's note: this comment has been lightly edited to improve clarity of the final para]

    Richard

    September 24, 2010 at 2:42 pm

  3. All politicians in the world “move forward” usually “as this point in time”… wouldn’t it be nice if, for once, some of them moved sideways? (as in lateral thinking?).
    Seriously…while consulting with the public is a laudable undertaking, years of TransLink open houses have showed me that the majority of the people attending them didn’t know about other forms of transit than the ones we have here. And these were people SOMEWHAT interested in transit…
    How many of the people that never use transit (often because there is none in their area) will care about transit funding?

    Most of the people attending the Evergreen LRT open houses were dead set against “old fashioned trams” yet when people saw and used the Bombardier LRT they were very impressed.
    Same with the Canada line. Most riders didn’t follow the controversy about budget and what not. All they know is that, once the line was operating, they liked it very much.

    Asking the average Joe and Jane about the best way to fund transit is another futile exercise. Nobody want to pay more taxes.

    We weren’t asked about funding the freeway expansion….the government got the money and that was it. Dito for the new B.C place roof. The government could get 500 milions for the Evergreen line just as easily.
    Governments aren’t like a family. A family only make so much per month/year and must keep its spending under control, while a government both give out money and get it back in a never ending infernal merry go round. The problem is when it gives too much money to undeserving entities, like banks, the board of a non-existing railway etc.
    Renting virtual real estate over and around stations to promoters might be a way of making money for TransLink..

    Red frog

    September 24, 2010 at 8:14 pm

  4. The world is changing. the number of origin-destination pairs has grown dramatically. The commuter population is spreading out. Any solution that does not address that fact is a waste of money. We need transit going from everywhere to everywhere else. Putting all our eggs into a single type of transit or a few chosen routes is stupidity.

    While I agree with Richard that we need to present a united front, the bulk of the Provincial Transit Plan is at odds with this new reality. The plan directs billions into about 30 km of rail transit when the same money would put a frequent bus or tram on every major street from Georgia Strait to Langley.

    Why do more people in the city of Vancouver use transit than in any other part of Metro? Because there’s only a handful of people who don’t have a bus stop within walking distance; because almost every arterial street has a bus operating at least once every 10 minutes in peak periods and every 15 minutes off-peak. You can get from anywhere to anywhere else, usually with just one transfer.

    The under served cities in this region won’t ever abandon their car culture unless they are given the same kind of coverage that Vancouver has, the same kind of convenient network that connects every corner of the city with every other one.

    There has been a lot of talk about the need for high density transit oriented development along routes, but it’s all a smoke screen for extremely expensive projects that suck far more than their fair share of funding. Bus #49 travels a route that is 95% single family residential. West of Cambie the average lot is over 50 feet wide and carries a price tag well in excess of $2 million. It’s not the kind of place one would expect to find many bus passengers. Yet #49 passengers have traditionally suffered one of the highest pass-up rates in the whole network. It has taken an increase in bus frequency and the addition of articulated buses to finally cope with demand.

    The demand for transportation choices is there. Only by spending our money wisely can we expand service and create the kind of convenient network that works.

    David

    September 24, 2010 at 11:39 pm

  5. @Richard.

    I don’t like the idea of a public consolationconsultation. I realize that we do live in a Democracy. But sometimes they just need to do what needs to be done and get on with it.

    As my first post said. This is all just political talk with no action.

    Paul C

    September 25, 2010 at 2:16 am

  6. Consolation (see post by Paul) was actually a great choice of word..as in consolation prize…governments love to consult the public but do what they want in the end. Not that it is wrong, IF the politicians are informed and know what truly needs to be done (even if it hurts at first).

    My birthplace of Bordeaux is a great example. In the 18th century a bored Royal governor decided to “modernize” the town by tearing down the medieval walls and having wide avenues and squares, lined by grand looking buildings, built.
    He actually paid out of his own pocket to have building fronts erected in the style he wanted. The owners of the lots had to do finish the rest of the buildings. Said owners raved and ranted but now their heirs (some Bordeaux families go back to even older times) and the town at large are immensely proud of these 18th century districts.

    Incidentally Haussmann, who did something similar in Paris one century later–on a grander scale–was well acquainted with Bordeaux as he had family there and was Prefect of the Gironde county(Capital Bordeaux) for nearly 1/4 of a century.

    In the 1960s the mayor of Bordeaux (from 1947 to 1995) had several bridges and a ring road around the town built, and a whole big district torn down and renovated, against much opposition.

    In the mid-1970s he decided that the major downtown shopping streets should become car-free, against screams and howls of outrage. If anything these pedestrian streets became –still are– too popular on weekends!

    In the late 1990s the next Mayor (still the mayor in 2010) decided that the many years of arguing (during the previous mayor “reign” about what type of public transit to get was a waste of time and he forced the council choose a LRT. This meant 3 years of total pandemonium downtown. Like Cambie street X 25 times.
    Now everyone is proud and happy.

    Big difference with here:
    1-Mayors of big French towns don’t care much is they aren’t liked. These 2 Bordeaux mayors weren’t loved much but respected for their vision and for getting the money..

    They, like many mayors, see the town and its suburbs as a whole. They –along with an often reluctant council–decide what should happen with whole big districts, instead of being blindsided at the last minute by big projects from several private developers that didn’t bother about the impact on the whole town.

    2-They are often also a MP in the National Parliament or an elected senator and, besides being on a first name basis with the President and Prime minister and knowing how and where to get funding, travel regularly to Paris and other European towns therefore know what can be done –or shouldn’t be done– about transit and hundreds of other things…

    Obviously there is nothing unique or special about all of the above. The UK, Japan etc. could provide similar examples. Its is just that I am less familiar with their politics.

    Machiavelli had it right about what qualities a “Prince”– read a leader– needs in order to be effective. But then powerful men in the Renaissance were both brawny and cultured. Some Canadian leaders of past years were…not our current crop.

    Red frog

    September 25, 2010 at 12:59 pm

  7. @Red frog
    Actually, for both the Golden Ears Bridge and the Port Mann, people were asked about paying tolls to fund the bridges and the majority of people supported the tolls.

    Anyway, they are required to consult, might as well make the best of it.

    @David
    Both New West and Burnaby had the same transit commuting mode share as Vancouver in 2006. That is obviously due to the SkyTrain supported by good bus service and due to high density development around SkyTrain stations. It is a strategy that obviously works and is worth repeating other places in the region. In Surrey, LRT is probably a better choice than SkyTrain.

    You are also forgetting about operating costs, which will continually increase over the years with inflation and ridership increases. Meanwhile, the yearly financing expenses for capital projects do not increase. In whatever you are proposing, you need to look at full life cycle costs and the ability of a system to attract riders before deciding what is best.

    Richard

    September 26, 2010 at 8:41 pm

  8. Richard wrote “yearly financing expenses for capital projects do not increase”

    Well that might or might not be true – it very much depends on the way they are financed. For example, the West Coast Express contracts were designed to minimize initial costs, to make the project appear more affordable but escalate towards the end of the contract term. If the asset life is longer than the amortization period then there could be apparent savings – but they may well be offset by higher replacement costs in the longer term. One of the greatest issues in recent years has been the “creativity” of financing agents – creating financial instruments that no-one actually understands. There is certainly now a clear difference between economic appraisal and financial appraisal.

    Stephen Rees

    September 27, 2010 at 10:07 am

  9. @ Richard:

    Fair enough, but as you noted Burnaby and New West have high ridership thanks to high density development near SkyTrain.The vast majority of Metro Vancouver doesn’t have any rail transit or the high density that goes with it and it will take billions of dollars to duplicate the pattern elsewhere.

    Yes building a better bus/tram network would be expensive too, but would not cost anywhere near the same kind of money as the Provincial Transit Plan and it would attract new customers to transit without any change in land use patterns or new supporting development.

    While I understand that government treats capital and operating expenses very differently to the taxpayer a billion dollars saved is a billion dollars that should be available to operate the system.

    David

    September 27, 2010 at 2:20 pm

  10. @David
    A million more people are expected to move to the region over the next couple of decades so there will have to be plenty of development. Rail transit can help concentrate that development so more people can walk and cycle instead of driving or using transit.

    A billion not spent on capital projects is not always a billion available for operating expenses. Senior levels of government typically only contribute capital funding, not operational funding. If this funding is not used for transit, it would likely be used for roads or some other priority.

    In fact, if a less capital intensive form of transit is used for a particular corridor, the money “saved” is just as likely or perhaps more likely to be used for a road project than a transit project.

    Richard

    September 27, 2010 at 3:17 pm

  11. @Richard
    Sadly you’re right about “savings”. The senior levels of government can’t see past the ends of their greedy fingers to see the benefits of having more people on transit.

    A more capital expensive project makes sense if the project doesn’t impose a heavier load on local funding authorities. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case up until now. TransLink has been burdened with roughly 1/3 of the capital cost of projects they couldn’t afford and the higher operating costs of automated metro.

    As for the new people, any form of rail transit will help concentrate the development that is bound to occur. Urban style transit spreads that development along ribbons instead of concentrating it in nodes. The latter appeals mostly to big developers.

    Lower cost rail opens a world of opportunities that should appeal greatly to anyone seeking public office.
    1. If you replace one expensive project with 2 or 3 less costly ones you please a lot more voters at once.
    2. Low cost rail can be operated economically prior to re-development allowing friends of government to reap huge profits when the land is re-zoned.
    3. High traffic routes can break even or even turn a profit allowing those in power to crow about their fiscal management skills.
    4. Low cost extensions allow the above to be repeated every election.

    David

    September 27, 2010 at 10:43 pm

  12. @David

    The problem is you can’t build a lower cost system and expect to get the results that a higher cost system gives you.

    The biggest cost factor for our system is that it has to be grade separated or if at grade fenced off. This allows the system to not be tied up with other things going on around it. Sure we could of built it cheaper by having it at grade in sections with drivers. But would we have gotten the results we have had with the current system.

    Think of it this way. In terms of boardings onto our skytrain system. We have the 8-9th highest in North America. Yet we are only have the 27th largest metro population.

    What needs to happen is more B-Line type routes implemented. Of course with the current lack of funding this will have to wait.

    Paul C

    September 28, 2010 at 1:41 am

  13. @Paul:
    I started my comments talking about expanding the bus system and only using rail where demand actually requires it. In cases where the bus system cannot economically handle demand (like Broadway) then you go with rail. Where a right of way exists to open up new regional rail transit with minimal investment (Rail for the Valley) you go with rail. Everywhere else you use buses and bus lanes so people can have transit near their home and near their destinations.

    The days of everyone going to downtown Vancouver are over and have been for a while. It’s a multiple origin/destination future. Concentrating expenditure on a handful of high capacity routes would be stupid, but that’s precisely what is being planned.

    Not only that, but there is no route in Metro Vancouver that doesn’t already have rail transit that needs more capacity than street level LRT can provide. Most routes won’t need anything more than buses for decades and the full build out of a proper bus network that gives people more choices would further delay the need for any one route to have anything but bus lanes.

    I don’t think we should look at a plan from a senior level of government to spend lots of our own money on something that doesn’t address our needs as a good thing. I’d rather see the budget for transit improvements in Metro Vancouver cut in half than see more money wasted on overpriced solutions to yesterday’s problems. Put the money into a contingency fund so my taxes don’t have to go up next year or spend it fixing some of the truly awful roads in the BC interior.

    David

    September 28, 2010 at 10:53 am

  14. @ David: “…but as you noted Burnaby and New West have high ridership thanks to high density development near SkyTrain.The vast majority of Metro Vancouver doesn’t have any rail transit or the high density that goes with it and it will take billions of dollars to duplicate the pattern elsewhere.”
    ==========

    In New West SkyTrain predated the development.

    In fact, the former Director of Planning there told me in 1986 that SkyTrain was the “goose that laid the golden egg” in terms of the transit-oriented -development / economic stimuli that resulted — and is still resulting a quarter century later — from two stations on one rapid transit line. It helped turn their local economy around after a 30-year depressed period.

    MB

    September 28, 2010 at 4:40 pm

  15. @David
    “It’s a multiple origin/destination future.” Well, I suppose that is true but there still are several places in the region that are and will be major destinations. Downtown Vancouver for example is still growing. The Broadway corridor and UBC are growing. Richmond Centre is coming along quite nicely as are Port Moody and Coquitlam Centre. Surrey Central is starting to pick up as well.

    It makes sense to invest in higher capacity high frequency transit to ensure that these places remain major destinations rather than having even more development spread in the far corners of the region where it is very difficult and expensive if not impossible to serve by transit.

    Richard

    September 28, 2010 at 6:01 pm

  16. @Richard:
    Most of your examples already have rail transit to reinforce their status as growth centres. There may be some work to do there in terms of building out a more efficient bus network, but they don’t need and certainly cannot justify additional $150M/km projects. None of the existing proposals and even two that are already in revenue service don’t justify that level of expenditure.

    We’ve barely scratched the surface of what can be achieved with bus lanes, priority signals and low cost rail.

    Unlike many of you I think in terms of the existing population and existing businesses. A convenient network doesn’t need a single dollar of new development to be successful. The approach taken here in the last three decades encourages people to drive and has only succeeded in attracting significant mode share with new high density development. I consider that a failed approach.

    David

    September 28, 2010 at 11:25 pm

  17. @David

    “Not only that, but there is no route in Metro Vancouver that doesn’t already have rail transit that needs more capacity than street level LRT can provide. Most routes won’t need anything more than buses for decades and the full build out of a proper bus network that gives people more choices would further delay the need for any one route to have anything but bus lanes.”

    I’d say Broadway based on current ridership already needs more than what LRT can provide. Assuming you are talking about a street level LRT system.

    I do agree with you that we need better bus service. and street level LRT would work wonderfully on many routes as a feeder to the mass transit system.

    Paul C

    September 29, 2010 at 2:03 am

  18. @Paul
    I agree that Broadway is a special case where demand is particularly high, but you seem to be under the misconception that LRT cannot carry many passengers.

    Real LRT systems operating in other cities have actual passenger counts exceeding 15000 pph in the peak direction. That’s more than the 99 B-Line, Millennium Line and Canada Line put together!

    David

    September 29, 2010 at 10:06 pm

  19. @David

    What is needed is full life-cycle analysis including capital and operating costs plus ridership revenue to determine what system performs the best financially and attracts the most ridership. Simply throwing around capacity and capital cost per km for a particular technology numbers is not a compelling argument one way or the other.

    Richard

    September 30, 2010 at 12:54 am

  20. I was looking at the C-Train information. So there pph is about 15,000 at a 2 minute headway on 3 car train, if they bump it up to a 4 car train it becomes 20,000.

    Now the Millenium line has a potential pph of 23,000 assuming a 90 second frequency and only the newer MKII trains are used.

    A 2 minute headway at grade would have a negative impact on cross traffic. Which is why at that frequency you need to be grade separated. At that point the capital cost difference becomes quite small compared to Skytrain. And I’d say in the long run skytrain is cheaper with its lower operational cost.

    Paul C

    September 30, 2010 at 1:07 am

  21. In Karlsruhe Germany, the transit authority and the city are building a tram subway under its main street because of increased tram and tramtrain traffic along its route. The route on the main street saw 45 second headways with two car trains, giving a hourly pph capacity of 38,400!

    Two minute headways do not adversely effect street traffic, if this were so, our present traffic light controlled intersections would in constant chaos. In Europe most cities tram systems can and do operate 30 second headways in dense city centres, where many tram routes converge on one line.

    And please, SkyTrain does not have a lower operating cost. When compared to light rail, SkyTrain’s operating costs are about 40% higher than LRT. Only when ridership exceeds about 20,000 pphpd does automatic operation save in operating costs.

    Malcolm J.

    September 30, 2010 at 8:00 am

  22. @Paul:
    During the peak morning hour a total of 22 B-Line buses leave Broadway station. That’s a capacity of roughly 2200 pph.

    Are you telling me that by building LRT demand for transit on Broadway will increase 900%? Richard shouldn’t be worried about ridership estimates then ;)

    How is it that cars and trucks can operate at 2 second headways, but trams can’t operate at 2 minute ones?

    Anyway, during your lifetime the trams will be no closer together than the buses are today so your “precious” car and truck traffic will face minimal disruption.

    @ Richard:
    Basic common sense says that replacing drivers (who consume approximately 18% of operating costs in Calgary) with control operators, station attendants, TransLink police, guideway and tunnel maintenance people, and escalator and elevator maintenance people is going to cost more. And that’s before the cost of running all those extra lights, escalators, elevators and ventilation fans is factored in. It’s only when the number of drivers gets too high that automation can produce some small savings.

    If you let a route get that crowded then you either have Asian population density or you haven’t done a good job of building choice into your network.

    David

    September 30, 2010 at 11:32 am

  23. Ooperating cost is a direct function of labour in such things as transit. Maintenance is also a factor, but drivers paid union rates (not that there’s anything wrong with that) place a direct limitation on frequency in a non-automated system.

    The more drivers, the higher the cost, but also the higher the frequency.

    MB

    September 30, 2010 at 11:59 am

  24. @David you are forgetting about the #9 bus route on Broadway as well. Right now there are about 100,000 people on transit per day on Broadway. About 60,000 of those take the #99 the rest are mostly on the #9.

    Yet the transit mode share for Broadway is only about 20% while downtown it is about 50%. Which I feel is attributed to the fact that Broadway is way under capacity. There is also the potential of taking ridership from other parallel routes in Vancouver for people destined for UBC.

    So on a quick estimate I’d guess there is a potential ridership of about 200,000 on Broadway. Now I realize that LRT could handle that. But just because it can doesn’t mean it is the best solution.

    Another factor on why I’m against street level LRT is that is has to run at a slower speed for safety reasons. Unless of course it was fenced off.

    “Basic common sense says that replacing drivers (who consume approximately 18% of operating costs in Calgary) with control operators, station attendants, TransLink police, guideway and tunnel maintenance people, and escalator and elevator maintenance people is going to cost more. And that’s before the cost of running all those extra lights, escalators, elevators and ventilation fans is factored in. It’s only when the number of drivers gets too high that automation can produce some small savings.”

    Well first off station attendants and Translink police are not needed. We only have them for the perception of increased safety. As for escalator and elevator maintenance people. They aren’t needed on an everyday basis. So that work can be contracted out.

    Anyhow this thread has gotten completely sidetracked from the original argument. Which is that we need more funding. I don’t like paying taxes like everyone else. I also realize it is to the benefit of society if we have a good transit system. It may not work for everyone, but it might work for a good majority. So with that I don’t mind paying more in taxes if it gives us a better system.

    I will say though a perfect system for me would be where transit fares are distance based and vehicles are taxed based on the distance driven. The further you travel the more you pay. I’d also do it so that people driving in the City of Vancouver would pay the most to drive and take transit on a $/km basis. While if you were out in a place like Langley you would pay a lot less. Before anyone thinks I live in Langley. I don’t and actually live south east Vancouver. So yes I would pay more to either drive or take transit.

    Paul C

    September 30, 2010 at 12:09 pm

  25. @ Paul C: “Right now there are about 100,000 people on transit per day on Broadway. About 60,000 of those take the #99 the rest are mostly on the #9.

    “Yet the transit mode share for Broadway is only about 20% while downtown it is about 50%. Which I feel is attributed to the fact that Broadway is way under capacity. There is also the potential of taking ridership from other parallel routes in Vancouver for people destined for UBC.”

    ========================

    Apparently, a helluva lotta people commute to the Broadway corridor from outside of Vancouver. It’s ‘job density’ is very large, and that is almost as important as residential density to support transit ridership.

    P. 2 + 3:

    http://vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20101005/documents/ttra1.pdf

    MB

    September 30, 2010 at 12:19 pm

  26. @Paul:
    I’ve finally figured out why so many of you are able to support high cost, high capacity transit lines. You’re counting passengers on parallel routes as potential passengers on Broadway.

    That’s backwards. Funnelling passengers from parallel routes onto a single line is the problem not the solution.

    The goal should be to distribute passengers across the network on the most convenient branches in order to best match each passenger’s origin and destination.
    —-

    I’m glad you brought up the point that 40% of transit passengers on Broadway favour the “slow” #9 over the “fast” #99. Another excellent reason why building a subway would be a mistake.

    On a 13km line with the average passenger going part way, a “slow” on-street system with frequent stops will deliver passengers from origin to destination in the same amount of time as a “fast” one with widely spaced stops. The time it takes to walk to/from a station may not be part of your calculations, but they’re real minutes that passengers consider even more important than in-vehicle time. Most people would gladly accept an extra 10 minutes aboard a transit vehicle in order to save just 5 minutes of walking.
    —-

    On the topic of taxation… telling people in compact communities that they need to pay more per km than those who live in sprawl is the wrong message. If you consider the sprawl a problem you must reward those who choose to live a more compact lifestyle. The rate per km must be equal across the board so there is both the perception of fairness and a clear and easily calculated benefit to shorter trip lengths.

    Anyway I agree that we’ve drifted too far off topic so I’ll stop posting.

    David

    September 30, 2010 at 2:36 pm

  27. @ Paul

    Indeed LRT would be slower, because it would have more stops and more stops tend to attract more customers.

    A combination LRT/streetcar on Broadway could handle projected ridership for decades, with the money saved used to build more east-west routes, thus for less money, LRT could offer huge capacity on multiple routes, much more than a subway.

    @ MB

    In 2006, Calgary’s LRT was operating at two minute headways in the city centre and the total wages of the drivers was $6 million out of a total operating budget of $32 million. The Calgary C-Train was about 60% less to operate than just the SkyTrain Expo Line in 2006. Not having drivers doesn’t mean a transit system is cheap to operate.

    zweisystem

    September 30, 2010 at 6:37 pm

  28. David,

    I guess your post is a humorous one:

    “Funnelling passengers from parallel routes onto a single line is the problem not the solution.”

    yep, it is the essence of transit to funnel rider on a same route same vehicle: interesting to call it the “problem”

    “The goal should be to distribute passengers across the network on the most convenient branches in order to best match each passenger’s origin and destination.”

    Yep, that is the definition of individual transportation.


    I’m glad you brought up the point that 40% of transit passengers on Broadway favour the “slow” #9 over the “fast” #99. Another excellent reason why building a subway would be a mistake.”

    Yep, and I have also noticed that most of the bus rider on the #99 were “favouring” travelling standing.
    Another excellent reason why outfit bus with seats is a mistake !

    Do you have some more like it that we can continue to have a good laugh?

    voony

    September 30, 2010 at 10:44 pm

  29. Imagine, you are in ComfortCity, they want put a new transit route supposed to handle 50,000 rider:

    There is lot of opinion, and some people have heard of the #99 in vancouver: it carries 50,000 people day with a capacity of only 2,200 pphpd, have very high frequency and go very fast, so why settle for the “cadillac” solution proposed by the friend of government of ComfortCity, which want to put a train in the middle of the road?

    Here in Vancouver, we heard some tale of some cities behind high mountain or across vast sea which hav LRT carrying lot of people, running at very frequency and going very fast…ok not so fast, but “fast” is not important anyway.

    Well some intrepid adventurer have gone to see those mythic LRT, and have discover they are in the same league of the #99 when it come quality of service:
    all that is because they are overcrowded…

    and obviously have a train crossing every mn an intersection can’t be done without compromising either on negative impact of cross traffic which can include some other transit line, but also pedestrian, or impact on speed of the train. For a sense of measure: On Broadway at 1mn traffic cycle, pedestrian have green light only 15s (means you reduce the traffic cycle by 15s, pedestrian can’t cross anymore)…In fact, from what I have read, you can’t operate an at grade train (or bus for that matter), at less than 4mn headway, without degradation on average speed. That is the reason why most of the at grade system are designed like it…when you see train (or bus) operate at shorter headway, it is because the line is overcrowded (or underbuilt).

    voony

    September 30, 2010 at 11:12 pm

  30. @David

    “I’ve finally figured out why so many of you are able to support high cost, high capacity transit lines. You’re counting passengers on parallel routes as potential passengers on Broadway.”

    Actually I only gave that as an example of why their is a potential higher ridership than what is currently on Broadway.

    Even if those riders didn’t switch. I’d still support a higher cost higher capacity rail system. For the simple reason of building for the future and not only just for today.

    “I’m glad you brought up the point that 40% of transit passengers on Broadway favour the “slow” #9 over the “fast” #99. Another excellent reason why building a subway would be a mistake.”

    Funny how you never thought of the reverse. What if 50% of those on the #9 are only there because the #99 is over capacity. Thus people only take the #9 because they don’t feel like waiting for a #99 that they can get on.

    “On a 13km line with the average passenger going part way, a “slow” on-street system with frequent stops will deliver passengers from origin to destination in the same amount of time as a “fast” one with widely spaced stops. The time it takes to walk to/from a station may not be part of your calculations, but they’re real minutes that passengers consider even more important than in-vehicle time. Most people would gladly accept an extra 10 minutes aboard a transit vehicle in order to save just 5 minutes of walking.”

    So lets replace a slow system with a slow system. Now that is progress. I might be in the minority but I’d rather spend the 5 minutes walking than sitting on transit for 10 minutes. Besides they just released a report that we aren’t doing enough physical activity. With that in mind I think more people need to walk a bit more.

    Let me put it this way you can give me all the numbers you want about how and LRT would work just as well. But at the end of the day I still like the feel of Skytrain. I like the fact that when I get on at a station and I’m going to another station I can perfectly time it. I never have to worry about the accident on the ground. The only thing that can screw things is is a malfunction of some kind. No matter what you tell me. Nothing will ever make me switch from it in terms of how I feel.

    “On the topic of taxation… telling people in compact communities that they need to pay more per km than those who live in sprawl is the wrong message. If you consider the sprawl a problem you must reward those who choose to live a more compact lifestyle. The rate per km must be equal across the board so there is both the perception of fairness and a clear and easily calculated benefit to shorter trip lengths.”

    Don’t forget that if someone living out in the suburbs was commuting into Vancouver. Their rate per km would increase as they got closer to the city. Also someone in a compact community shouldn’t have to go as far for what they need. I say shouldn’t because there are exceptions. I also feel people should pay more per km in the city because a better choice of alternative means of getting around than they do further out. As I said I live in Vancouver so I’d be paying more myself.

    Paul C

    October 1, 2010 at 1:23 am

  31. @Paul:
    Your vision of compact communities is so Vancouver-centric. There is no reason why the City of Langley cannot also develop as a compact community, but if you’re going to give financial incentives to continued sprawl it’s never going to happen.

    I’ll shut up about how expensive it is to continue building light metro when those who support it agree to cover the difference in cost. You find a million like-minded friends, get them to each kick in $2500 and I’ll come and celebrate the Broadway subway with you.

    @voony:
    The comedy is how someone who blogs about urbanism can support the squandering of billions of dollars on something that has encouraged sprawl and increased the number of private vehicles in the vicinity of transit lines.

    “Well some intrepid adventurer have gone to see those mythic LRT, and have discover they are in the same league of the #99 when it come quality of service:
    all that is because they are overcrowded…”

    And some intrepid adventurer has gone on this mythic SkyTrain thing and found it’s overcrowded.

    Are you seriously telling me that it’s OK for your preferred transit vehicle to be crowded yet it’s unacceptable for all others to be?

    Crowding on transit systems is intentional. Because many of the benefits of public transit do not show up in the statement of profit and loss, the systems are required to operate like a business. Thus routes that aren’t crowded have their service cut back until the vehicles that remain are crowded.
    —-

    Every traveller is unique. Each one seeks individual transportation. That’s a basic fact of life. The goal of a transportation network is to give each individual the opportunity to travel from one point to another in an efficient manner.

    In the suburban cul-de-sec style neighbourhood there is often no efficient way for a pedestrian to get from point A to point B, even if it’s only 200m away.

    I you build your transit system around 3 metro lines and organize your bus system to feed passengers onto those lines you’re basically building transit cul-de-sacs. The passenger wanting to go from point A to point B finds the bus first takes them to K where they switch to a train bound for X at which point they take another bus to B.

    That’s not a good use of anyone’s time or money.

    David

    October 2, 2010 at 1:44 pm

  32. David says:

    “And some intrepid adventurer has gone on this mythic SkyTrain thing and found it’s overcrowded.”

    I am glad you recognize the success of the skytrain, and if there is one lesson we can learn for Broadway: it is, don’t underbuilt it.

    On the transit “cul de sac”, you are mentioning: It is an effective problem.
    But in the ase of vancouver it is particularly well tackled:
    you have lot of peripheral route anchored on the skytrain, just between Expo and Canada Line, be #99, #25, #33, #41, #43, #100, #410, avoiding the “cul de sac” effect you are mentioning…that said, not all people in Richmond, or New West, will be on the route of the #410, but most people will have a bus to a Transit hub, providing efficient regional connection. and as you have mentioned before, for a transit operator, to provide efficient, suppose a certain ratio of seat occupancy to be viable under a business viewpoint…
    unfortunately, that bring us to the square one: find as little as possible trunk route, where regional service can be then provided with a high degree of service, this with a reasonable ROI expectation.

    That is essence of transit

    voony

    October 3, 2010 at 12:16 am

  33. @David

    “Your vision of compact communities is so Vancouver-centric. There is no reason why the City of Langley cannot also develop as a compact community, but if you’re going to give financial incentives to continued sprawl it’s never going to happen.”

    Actually my idea of it being cheaper per distance in a place like Langely. Stems from the fact that people out there would complain if they had to pay the same amount per km as someone in Vancouver. When the person in Langely has to travel further. But hey if you want to charge that person in Langely the same amount be my guess :)

    I don’t live out there so why should I care.

    “I’ll shut up about how expensive it is to continue building light metro when those who support it agree to cover the difference in cost. You find a million like-minded friends, get them to each kick in $2500 and I’ll come and celebrate the Broadway subway with you.”

    With that attitude than I would say the people who didn’t want to chip in should pay extra to ride it.

    Paul C

    October 4, 2010 at 3:52 am

  34. @ Zwie: :In 2006, Calgary’s LRT was operating at two minute headways in the city centre and the total wages of the drivers was $6 million out of a total operating budget of $32 million. The Calgary C-Train was about 60% less to operate than just the SkyTrain Expo Line in 2006. Not having drivers doesn’t mean a transit system is cheap to operate.”
    ===================================

    First, Calgary’s downtown C-Train combines at least two lines (three, once the western leg of the C-Tain is complete) into one on 7th Ave. Your two-minute headway results artifically from this amalgamation. They can’t afford it on individual lines.

    Second, TransLink budgets for a dedicated transit police force AND roving attendants, perhaps 200+ people altogether. This does not affect SkyTrain frequency in any way, which is superb.

    I frequently visit Calgary where I have family, and I ride C-Train. In fact, one of my cousins drives LRT trains there (20+ years, 5 driving trains) and is a wealth of info. He is in profound agreement with me that Calgary’s level train crossings lead to delays and tragedy, and is very happy that they’re spending more money on grade separation on the western leg extension. In fact, the section leading out of downtown will be either on a SkyTrain-like elevated guideway or Canada Line-like tunnel.

    BTW, construction of the western extension has ripped Bow trail + 17th Ave near my Dad’s to smithereens with cut & cover tunneling. The disruption and complaints and threatened lawsuits reminds me of the the Canada Line construction. But at present, the vastly higher efficiencies achieved by grade separation are not widely discussed.

    Moreover, he has become a big fan of Metro Vancouver’s transit system and marvels at the frequency and efficiency of the trains, and has said in no uncertain terms he thinks it’s superior to Calgary’s. This guy would know.

    The other cousin of mine who was killed by C-Train at a level crossing in the 90s — along with about two-dozen others that decade — was on the other side of the family.

    I would not agree that the cost of tunnel boring is justified on the new C-Train line unless Calgary started to adopt less car-dependent land use and practiced better urban design around rapid transit lines. Calgary’s urban form is still very much dominated by sprawling car-dependent suburbs and huge arterials that consume 85% of its transportation budget. No wonder it has only $32 million left over to operate C-Train system each year … if, in fact that figure is correct.

    MB

    October 4, 2010 at 12:28 pm

  35. Another late anecdote.

    At 3:30 p.m. on a recent Tuesday I was at the Burrard Station platform waiting for an eastbound train. I hate the old Mark I SkyTrain cars, so I waited for a train with Mark II cars.

    Three trains arrived within 4 1/2 minutes (I timed them). One train had six cars. This is a tremendous achievement in frequency and helps explain why the SERVICE (oh, that word again) is praised — and why transit users really like SkyTrain.

    Quality of transit service is what will get people out of their cars, and make people actively buy homes near it.

    MB

    October 13, 2010 at 10:55 am


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