Stephen Rees's blog

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

Canada Line delivers a smooth ride

with 43 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Stephen Rees

December 31, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Posted in transit

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  1. In a twist of irony, perhaps, TransLink and the City are now touting the Olympic LRT line:

    “As we look at options for expanding rapid transit in Metro Vancouver, this demonstration project is a great chance to look at a form of rapid transit that enjoys success around the world.” — Translink.ca

    Where was this eagerness a few years ago in looking at RAV and the Evergreen Line? Oh right, overpowered by lobbyists and Falcon.

    Erika Rathje

    December 31, 2009 at 2:42 pm

  2. They say ridership has grown by about 20,000 since it opened, and the cut buses stopped running in September. Where are the additional riders coming from after only a couple months of service?

    As the writer of the story says, people are voting for the Canada Line with their feet.

    Shane

    December 31, 2009 at 3:30 pm

  3. Now now let’s not be nasty…I use the RAV line 2 or 3 times a week to go from Cambie and Broadway to Pacific mall (sorry..City centre or whatever bland name the station has) or to waterfront station..so there!
    … Wait a minute..I was using the Cambie bus before..oh never mind..

    Red frog

    January 1, 2010 at 1:52 am

  4. When I first tried Canada Line in September there was staff at every station checking fares who could theoretically have been helping to get accurate passenger counts. A couple of weeks ago I rode the train from Waterfront to King Edward just after rush hour on a Friday and didn’t see a single on-duty employee.

    Maybe they found their automated passenger counting equipment was working well enough and that fare compliance was high enough for the staff to be expendable. Maybe they’re simply trying to cut costs.

    The line does seem to be well patronized which is good news. Even so $2.5 billion is a lot of money to attract 10,000 new people. (assuming each person makes a round trip so the daily total equals 20,000)

    David

    January 1, 2010 at 1:12 pm

  5. David, that is like buying a car, using it twice in one day and saying $35,000 is a lot for two trips. In 35 years, the length of the contract with inTransit, the Canada Line will likely carry over 2 billion passengers. By that time it will likely be carrying around 300,000 people per day.

    Transportation projects should be evaluated over the life of the project, not just for one day right after the line has opened. As well, it is already encouraging higher density mixed use development along the corridor that will reduce the amount people are forced to drive.

    Richard

    January 1, 2010 at 1:42 pm

  6. I suppose you would all like horse drawn carriages. Or better yet you would like for everyone to live in their work places.

    I am tired of the complaints. The RAV line was overdue! Wait it has brought new ridership, if it attracts 10-20k new riders a year is that not a good thing or will you NOT be happy until we are all eating oatmeal and pedaling to work!

    Phil

    January 1, 2010 at 11:11 pm

  7. I think, Phil, you need to think carefully before posting. I decided to let your comment through, simply to illustrate how misinformed you are. The RAV line was not part of any adopted regional strategy – an earlier, rather different, proposal crafted for the SoCreds was dropped once they lost their last election. When Ken Dobell thought up the RAV idea, the Evergreen Line was still the agreed first priority. Because of Glen Clark’s decision to use SkyTrain not all of the proposed T Line (which was to have been LRT) could be built – so the Millennium Line was built. It was under used since it did not connect to Coquitlam but had to have a line to New Westminster as the existing car maintenance and storage facility was utilized as a cost saving measure. The so called “new ridership” on the Canada Line may be illusory. You are assuming that everyone on a bus transferred to the Canada Line on day one. I suspect that many people would have been trying to drive, disgusted by the new bus arrangements, but some of them gave up. That alone could account for the “increase” but since Translink does not publish anything like adequate data no-one really knows.

    And, as far as I know, eating oatmeal and cycling are both good for your health, but that has nothing whatever to do with bad transit planning.

    Stephen Rees

    January 2, 2010 at 9:27 am

  8. […] [The Globe and Mail] Church lobbies for large social housing complex [The Vancouver Courier] Canada Line delivers a smooth ride [Stephen Rees's blog] 2010: The Vancouver Year [State of Vancouver] The ALO Triangle – Lansdowne […]

    re:place Magazine

    January 2, 2010 at 2:37 pm

  9. We’ve been over this before Richard and Phil. My quarrel is with the technology choice that saw massive cost overruns despite clear attempts to cut costs (eliminating stations, shortening platforms, reducing the vehicle order) and will see ever increasing maintenance costs as time goes by.

    InTransitBC only got into this partnership to make money so there have to be some pretty hefty payments being made under the table. The figures I’ve seen in the mass media from government ministers won’t even pay back the private operator’s construction costs let alone cover inflation or the cost of borrowing the hundreds of millions they put into the project up front.

    How many of you would put up $3600 today on the promise that you’d get back a total of $3200 by 2045? Anyone seriously interested in such an arrangement can get my address from Stephen🙂

    Richard quite rightly points out that as a society we spend more on our private vehicles each year than all three SkyTrain projects put together, but until the day comes when we willingly abandon our cars and use a significant fraction of that money to fund public transportation solutions (the same year domestic pigs grow wings sufficient to provide unassisted flight) we simply must stop squandering billions on elevated guideways and mini-subways when the same amount of money could build at least 4 times as much rail transit on the surface.

    David

    January 2, 2010 at 10:59 pm

  10. After reading this post, it is interesting to read an earlier post and its comments:

    https://stephenrees.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/canada-line-subsidy-will-be-felt-for-years-to-come/

    mezzanine

    January 2, 2010 at 11:02 pm

  11. I think that it is fairly safe to say that a good number of passengers taking the Canada Line to and from the Airport probably did not ride the transit bus to and from the Airport before the line opened (esp. travellers arriving at YVR).
    I now see a lot of people walking around downtown with luggage in tow.

    Ron C.

    January 2, 2010 at 11:02 pm

  12. Having a transportation connection to the airport is something that every other city in this country, and the one to the south, wants (Toronto, and Montreal here; Seattle there, but not San Francisco or Portland).

    So, that much about the Canada Line is positive.

    There are many, many problems in the design of the system. However, one begins to realize that in our age cities build on by building mistakes. The lessons of history, or the lessons of other places, seldom come into review when the deciders decide. So, we keep cracking eggs to make omelettes.

    Get used to it.

    The problem with capacity is central. However, the lack of “new ridership” is easily explained. Where are the “new people” going to come from? The Canada Line will go down in history as a narrow-gauge subway built under single-family residential product.

    Not until Cambie street intensifies along the lines of Transit Oriented Design (TOD), will we see “new ridership”. At full build out, TOD can deliver as many as 100,000 people living within a 5 minute walking distance of the Canada Line station.

    Theoretically, TODs can generate enough profits to add new stations to the line. That is theory, and we need proof of concept and a few lucky breaks before it can move on the road to become fact.

    TOD intensifcation can be achieved with human-scale, ground-oriented, free-hold products–not towers and podium.

    While it is difficult to predict how many of the 100,000 new neighbors per station will actually use Canada Line, what is not difficult to see is that there was a major blunder committed at City Hall by failing to combine transportation planning and neighborhood planning at one and the same time.

    That link of planning for transportation and planning for neighborhood development at the same time, of allowing one to shape the other, is a missing component that we are not seeing mentioned here for the first time.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    January 3, 2010 at 12:36 am

  13. David,

    Your quarrel seems to be with any technology other than light rail, though you disguise your argument to be against grade-separated transit. Two projects for which light rail would be inferior to most other technologies would be a). Cambie Line and b). the Evergreen Line via Port Moody.

    a). Cambie Line
    Taking away road surface is not a good reason for light rail. Parking could be allowed all day (by eliminating rush hour parking restrictions) to reduce traffic space and increase traffic calming. Indeed bus lanes, carpool lanes, etc could have been instituted much more cheaply than any surface rail system. If decreasing road space is the objective, then expanding the Boulevard outward from the median could have been done.

    Your argument that lrt is so much cheaper than the grade separated line you build on false premises. These include that there would be required no or little tunnelling to be done on Cambie, and that unreasonably high travel speeds could occur in mixed traffic or without fencing, and unreasonably low operating costs would accue.

    Surface rail construction would be very difficult north of 45th Avenue. All of the problems endured by the Cambie merchants would not be alleviated by surface construction (think St. Clair in Toronto).

    An excellent argument could have been made (and was by Fred Bass) for more efficient rubber tyred surface transit. It would have been much more flexible, cheaper, and convenient than a surface rail. A study was forced upon Translink by Vancouver city council which was quietly shelved to push a rail system, but the “best bus option” (on Cambie and Granville) produced a much cheaper alternative to grade-separated rail than surface rail.

    b). Evergreen Line

    See a) for similar arguments.

    LRT was selected in 2006 because it was several hundred million cheaper than Skytrain for this greater than one billion dollar project. The more expensive Skytrain provides much higher ridership because of better travel time for passengers. Passengers would not need to transfer at Lougheed Mall, providing a seamless ride to Millennium line destinations. Also, passengers arrive quicker to Lougheed Mall Millennium Line station because of the grade separation which would allow faster travelling between stations.

    One rubber-tyred option was prematurely discarded by a now-disgraced former mayor as not developed enough, even though the cost would have been half that of lrt. Stephen complains about the process of technology selection as being done in back-rooms. I see the lrt selection by the then Translink board as being no different than when Skytrain was initially chosen for the Evergreen Line, or Millennium Line for that matter.

    The surface rubber tyred option could have been better examined if it were divided into guided and non-guided. Like the Cambie Line technology process, choices are made by, if the money is there, spend it, if it is rail.

    LRT lines

    To get your light rail lines, you create a straw man -fixed, grade separated transit – and say it is very expensive (ignoring the cost-benefit analyses of surface compared to grade-separated rail for these routes. Feasible surface rail for the above lines was hugely compromised cost-wise by tunneling deemed necessary in engineering studies. But then you neglect to reveal the least costly option for these lines, surface rubber-tyred transit. You are being disingenuous if you claim to dislike grade separated because of the claimed cost-ineffectiveness, and then ignore the cost ineffectiveness of surface rail compared to rubber-tyred surface transit.

    Graeme

    January 3, 2010 at 11:37 am

  14. Really, the anti-LRT crowd is just too much.

    Taking away road-space for light-rail is part of the push-pull philosophy of modern public transport – by taking away road space creates passive traffic calming, which pushes people to transit. It is much more effective than a carrot and stick approach.

    Also, grade separated transit systems are poor in attracting new ridership; an unpleasant fact, that the SkyTrain lobby wish to hide. But these are old debates, that have never been allowed in the METRO region, thus continuing anti LRT sentiment that is so rife here.

    As for the Evergreen Line, potential ridership on the route never could justify a ‘gold-plated’ LRT line or a ‘platinum-plated’ SkyTrain light-metro option. Cheaper LRT could have been planned for. but Translink continues to plan for LRT as a ‘poor-mans’ SkyTrain.

    A rubber tyred option has a severe drawback – buses are very poor in attracting new ridership and to enable a bus to compete against LRT, it must be guided and guided bus costs are now almost the same as light-rails, with none of LRT’s benefits.

    The anti-LRT lobby tend to forget that modern LRT is very successful and is very popular, as cities tend to copy and build with what is successful.

    Light-metro is very expensive and the RAV/Canada Line is hugely expensive for what is does and what has been pointed out, it was built to a bargain basement design, requiring huge sums to spent on it in the future to increase capacity.

    The one thing I do find very interesting is that SkyTrain has been on the market for over 30 years, gone through at least four name changes (ICTS, ALRT, ALM. ART), a complete redesign, yet there are only seven examples in operation.

    As for Light Rail on Cambie, could have been built in minimal time, with modern technique and disruption to merchants would have been for weeks, not years. Nottingham was a good example of quick construction and no merchant was obstructed for more than two weeks in front of his/hers place of business or a penalty was to be paid to the merchant.

    http://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/track-facts-modern-light-rail-track/

    With LRT, stops would have been every 500m to 600m and with 15 second dwell times (as is the norm with trams) could have had competitive commercial speeds.

    Of course, why would one build LRT on Cambie, when a fully graded light rail line was to be had on the more densely populated Arbutus route.

    But it is all history now and the taxpayer is going to pay for the privilege of having SkyTrain and RAV for a great many years to come.

    zweisystem

    January 3, 2010 at 6:16 pm

  15. =Really, the anti-LRT crowd is just too much.=

    If that means looking at all options, so be it, Malcolm.

    =Taking away road-space for light-rail is part of the push-pull philosophy of modern public transport – by taking away road space creates passive traffic calming, which pushes people to transit. It is much more effective than a carrot and stick approach.=

    Which could be done with buslanes, carpool lanes, more cheaply, if you want to push people around.
    Also, grade separated transit systems are poor in attracting new ridership; an unpleasant fact, that the SkyTrain lobby wish to hide. But these are old debates, that have never been allowed in the METRO region, thus continuing anti LRT sentiment that is so rife here.=

    Actually, lrt on Cambie and Evergreen would attract little extra ridership than current bus ridership. If you want to gold-plate these routes for existing riders, use lrt, if you want better transit, just use cheaper non-rail surface options.

    =As for the Evergreen Line, potential ridership on the route never could justify a ‘gold-plated’ LRT line or a ‘platinum-plated’ SkyTrain light-metro option. Cheaper LRT could have been planned for. but Translink continues to plan for LRT as a ‘poor-mans’ SkyTrain.=

    Rack-and-pinion is proprietary, if you wanted that for Clarke Hill. How can you argue for something like that system, of which there may be only one in England, but then conclude in another instance that Translohr is proprietary. Translohr is now being built in China, Vietnam, Italy, France, and likely Poland. Which would be more easily built and easier to provide a firm budget?

    =A rubber tyred option has a severe drawback – buses are very poor in attracting new ridership and to enable a bus to compete against LRT, it must be guided and guided bus costs are now almost the same as light-rails, with none of LRT’s benefits.=

    Actually they do have light rail benefits, and that is why European countries are continuing to build them. What benefits do they lack? The more you pay, the more it gets like light rail. The costs can be much lower though, especially on steep gradients like Cambie or Clarke Hill which rubber tyres can navigate.

    Buses are much better than you make them out to be, especially if the planners don’t set them up for failure, as in Calgary South-east.

    =The anti-LRT lobby tend to forget that modern LRT is very successful and is very popular, as cities tend to copy and build with what is successful.=

    It has also been a boondoggle in many cases, for example in Seattle, but still called a wild success by lrt promoters.

    =Light-metro is very expensive and the RAV/Canada Line is hugely expensive for what is does and what has been pointed out, it was built to a bargain basement design, requiring huge sums to spent on it in the future to increase capacity.=

    A lower cost/benefit would have been light rail on Cambie, as it would have been a light rail/light metro like that of Seattle. Just like you tried to wrongly point out between guided light transit and light rail transit.

    =The one thing I do find very interesting is that SkyTrain has been on the market for over 30 years, gone through at least four name changes (ICTS, ALRT, ALM. ART), a complete redesign, yet there are only seven examples in operation.=

    You keep creating a false dichotomy of light rail versus Skytrain. If you were really concerned about costs, you would have ditched rail for either route and promoted something else.

    =As for Light Rail on Cambie, could have been built in minimal time, with modern technique and disruption to merchants would have been for weeks, not years. Nottingham was a good example of quick construction and no merchant was obstructed for more than two weeks in front of his/hers place of business or a penalty was to be paid to the merchant.
    http://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/track-facts-modern-light-rail-track/=

    See the above comment about proprietary systems. St. Clair in Toronto should have been much simpler than would have Cambie, but St. Clair has taken almost five years to build and put merchants out of business. Anyone can pull an anecdote out to support his position. And by the way, the Cambie Line is not Skytrain. And the seven Skytrain systems sound good compared to one rack-and-pinion system, especially since other cities in the UK have not followed in Nottingham’s “railtracks”, even though grade was not a problem for them – Luton, Leeds, and Cambridge-St. Ives.

    =With LRT, stops would have been every 500m to 600m and with 15 second dwell times (as is the norm with trams) could have had competitive commercial speeds.=

    Load factors determine dwell time, and if few were taking the tram, yes, dwell time could be low, but what would be the point of rail if ridership (load factors) were low.

    =Of course, why would one build LRT on Cambie, when a fully graded light rail line was to be had on the more densely populated Arbutus route.=

    Agreed. Arbutus could have been much cheaper and far less disruptive to build than Cambie.

    =But it is all history now and the taxpayer is going to pay for the privilege of having SkyTrain and RAV for a great many years to come.=

    As they would have if light rail had been built on Cambie or were to be built on Clark Hill. Whatever light rail you would have had built seems fictional or proprietary. The lowest cost lrt on Cambie was $1.2 B and would basically have been a streetcar. The best bus option was $350 million, and would have included a tunnel under 41st St, a bridge over the N. Fraser arm.

    Graeme

    January 3, 2010 at 8:07 pm

  16. Seattle has had a transit link from downtown to the airport since December 19, 2009.
    I don’t want to start another diatribe for/ against a LRT but, after having used LRT in the downtown areas of several towns in the USA, France and Japan I am puzzled by the comments against LRT.

    I personally don’t care what transit system is used in a town. As a matter of fact many towns around the world use many possible systems. Tokyo, for example, has 2 automated VAL-like systems and an old fashioned tram besides 13 subway lines, an elevated rail line running as a loop around downtown (that line alone carry over 3.5 million passengers A DAY!), numerous bus lines and even boats that go up and down the Sumida river. Lyon in France, while not being a big town, has 4 subway lines, 3 LRT lines, 1 cog rail line, trolley buses and buses..

    It is a FACT that not only more and more European towns choose LRT rather than guided bus or automated VAL systems, but their downtown shopping areas are flourishing despite (or perhaps even because) drastic reductions in the number of cars that can use major shopping areas. Quite a few towns around the world don’t allow parking at all on their major arteries, even if there are stores along them. And these stores don’t fade away or die.

    I have seen several European towns before and after they built a LRT system and reading several European newspapers daily and also have read about numerous proposals for brand new LRT systems, extensions to existing systems etc.
    THEY (the people in these towns) like their LRT systems and use them a lot, so who are we to say that they are wrong???
    Even Mr.Prendergast was in favour of LRT and he had likely more knowledge and experience of them than the average Vancouverite.

    How many of the people in Vancouver that dislike LRT have actually seen and used them in real life situation???

    Red frog

    January 3, 2010 at 10:59 pm

  17. @Red Frog, I support skytrain for the evergreen and broadway/UBC corridor, but I would also support LRT for other corridors (King George/SRY ROW are great examples of LRT potential in Metro).

    WRT on-street LRT, I agree a lot with Jarret Walker’s views on his execellent blog, Human Transit:

    “Streetcars that replace bus lines are not a mobility improvement. If you replace a bus with a streetcar on the same route, nobody will be able to get anywhere any faster than they could before. This makes streetcars quite different from most of the other transit investments being discussed today.

    Where a streetcar is faster or more reliable than the bus route it replaced, this is because other improvements were made at the same time — improvements that could just as well have been made for the bus route. These improvements may have been politically packaged as part of the streetcar project, but they were logically independent, so their benefits are not really benefits of the streetcar as compared to the bus.”

    http://www.humantransit.org/2009/07/streetcars-an-inconvenient-truth.html

    Vancouver’s olympic tram is promising as it has its own right of way and future extensions will not replicate exisiting bus lines.

    Vancouver already has infrastructure in place and lots of experience operating its zero-emmision electric troleybuses. why should we tear that down to build tram service that may have marginal performance improvments?

    Toronto is trying to implement more LRT ROW in a north american context – the St Clair LRT just opened and you can follow opening ups and downs from this post from steve munroe’s excellent blog.

    http://stevemunro.ca/?p=3033

    mezzanine

    January 4, 2010 at 5:21 am

  18. To clarify, the St Clair LRT ROW is on-street ROW, having to deal with traffic signals, pedestrians and left-turning cars. I would imagine that LRT on broadway would be similar to this.

    mezzanine

    January 4, 2010 at 5:28 am

  19. Sorry Greame, but you just fudge reality a wee too much.

    There has been great study in France with guided bus or what is now known as GLT and the mode is wanting. Certainly there is a niche market for GLT, but it just can’t cope with high ridership numbers, unlike trams.

    What is also not reported on this side of the pond, most initial GLT installations have been heavily subsidized by the French government, being a new technology. The same was true of the VAL mini-metro system.

    As for rack trams; well what the chap from Staedler (the only company that equips rack railways) told me, the cost would add about 10% more to the cost of the initial light rail proposal. “If you build transit destinations in extraordinary places, extraordinary measures must be taken to service them.”(referring to SFU), was his comment.

    It is no point trying to change ones mind, but if you want to create a viable alternative to the car, reducing congestion and pollution, a light rail network is the only affordable way to go.

    The evidence is there if one just looks. Global cities do not invest billions of dollars in perceived failed technology.

    As for SkyTrain, I just wish someone leaves it to die a natural death and let it become an operating museum piece, like the Schwebebahn.

    Just wait for Peak Oil and its coming far sooner than you think; there will be a lot of empty road-space to use for light rail then!
    We are such an insular little town and region.

    Malcolm J.

    January 4, 2010 at 7:47 am

  20. Left turns should be banned along most major streets anyway Mez. They are the cause of a high percentage of all vehicle collisions.

    St. Clair and much of the other new LRT in Toronto is being “silver plated” at the behest of the emergency services people who want to use the tram lanes for fire trucks. While I think that’s a fine idea it does drive up the cost of construction.

    I’ve said it here before: Evergreen should never be built on the proposed route. LRT service from Burnaby/New West to Coquitlam/PoCo/Maple Ridge should be put on the Lougheed corridor and rail should be put on the new Port Mann bridge to provide a direct link between Guildford and Coquitlam/PoCo. Express buses should continue to run from Port Moody to Lougheed and I’ve seen a proposal to put LRT on the CPR between Coquitlam Centre and Ioco.

    Steep hills automatically put up two barriers to rail transit: (1) expensive tunnels/viaducts/racks are needed to connect to the rest of a region’s LRT network and (2) slope = view = low density development and higher car ownership relative to nearby locations.

    Buses are a great solution for many locations and any decent transit system needs lots of them, but they have an Achilles’ heel: they don’t attract drivers from their cars.

    David

    January 4, 2010 at 11:14 am

  21. “Buses are a great solution for many locations and any decent transit system needs lots of them, but they have an Achilles’ heel: they don’t attract drivers from their cars.”

    But Seattle, prior to LINK being running and relying on buses only, had a higher mode share of work commuters using transit that Portland, with its extensive LRT system.

    http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/american_community_survey_acs/010230.html

    I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all transit solution. I think the key is in a robust, *multimodal* system with dis-incentives to driving SOVs.

    mezzanine

    January 4, 2010 at 11:41 am

  22. Check out what Toronto is doing to plan for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT Line. Left turns will be prohibited at major intersections in favour of U-turns followed by right-hand turns (sort of a mordified “Michigan-left”).

    Display boards on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT:

    http://www.toronto.ca/involved/projects/eglinton_crosstown_lrt/pdf/2009-11-20_display_panels_part1.pdf

    http://www.toronto.ca/involved/projects/eglinton_crosstown_lrt/pdf/2009-11-20_display_panels_part2.pdf

    http://www.toronto.ca/involved/projects/eglinton_crosstown_lrt/pdf/2009-11-20_display_panels_part3.pdf

    Ron C.

    January 4, 2010 at 3:56 pm

  23. What they’re proposing for Toronto looks sane, controlled and safe compared with Russian roads.

    I first experienced a U-turn followed by a right in 1991 in Moscow. There was no signal or median to assist the maneuver there. You simply kept going straight until you perceived a break in traffic sufficient to pull off a successful U-turn.

    That led to all manner of interesting situations as the more aggressive drivers turned into small spaces while others waited for bigger gaps. Some slowed down to a crawl and made tight turns into the first or second lane while others made wider turns at speed using as many as 5 lanes to complete the turn. I recall seeing 20 cars pulling out in rapid succession and racing each other for the curb lane on the 10-lane wide ring road in the middle of the city.

    Making things more complicated were pedestrians who would cross the street one lane at a time. It was quite common to whoosh past pedestrians standing on the dotted white lines on both sides of your car and there was often a crowd of people standing on the yellow line in the middle of major streets.

    David

    January 4, 2010 at 5:03 pm

  24. For the record, St. Clair wwas a result of bad management, various city agencies deciding to implement their projects at the same time, and a special interest group(Save Our St. Clair) who wanted to make sure auto traffic would maintain priority. St. Clair was a special case, and a poor example of LRT street construction.

    Justin Bernard

    January 5, 2010 at 10:12 am

  25. Regarding the main topic, Capacity:

    Question. What is the Translink definition of capacity? How do they calculate it? Also, just because it reaches %100 percent capacity, that doesn’t mean the car can’t carry any more people right?

    In Japan, the trains often regularly run with 200% of their official capacity.

    Rush hour in Tokyo, time to break out the “Pushers”:

    I lived in Hong Kong (like a lot of Vancouverites) and Japan for 5 years, and one just gets used to crowded trains. Going to work in the morning, I expected to have to push my way onto the train (no train packers at my station).

    So I assume the translink “capacity” figure is as flexible as the Japanese ones. Meaning, %100 capacity is not the “true” capacity, just a comfortable capacity.

    I guess here is the key point:

    I think people have to expect trains to run at *well* over capacity during Rush hour. And at less that full capacity the rest of the day.

    I don’t think you should design, and consequently, overbuild a system around a 2 hour window.

    However, if you find that the system is running at *well over* capacity *throughout the day* already, well then somebody really screwed up with the traffic estimate, and the money to expand stations, and build track might have been justified in the initial construction.

    Alex

    January 6, 2010 at 12:26 pm

  26. The “Ultimate Capacity” for the line is 15,000 passengers per hour per direction – that’s what was required in the Request for Prposals and what is required under the Concession Agreement.

    That means that changes can be made to the line to achieve that capacity – i.e. increase frequency (the current schedule is established by the Concession Agreement), buy additional 2-car or 3-car trainsets, buy intermediate (middle acars for existing 2-car trainsets) and lengthen the finished portion of the platforms from 40m to 50m (elevated stations would require a bit of construction, whereas underground stations already have the space in place (either finished or unfinished).

    The current number of trainsets is based on the projected ridership for the line (I think the point of highest ridership was projected to be at Broadway City Hall Station) – which, prior to construction and commissioning – were decried in the media and by critics as being wildly optimistic (a fixed-price option in the Concession Agreement to buy two more trainsets was not exercised during construction (i.e. before the option period expired) presumably because it was thought there was no need for the additional capacity.))

    I recall that information on the old Canada Line website projected that the existing/initial number of trains and platform lengths would be sufficient for the life of the 35 year concession without expansion – of course that was before the system was commissioned and the greater-than-expected ridership was known (i.e. the line has reached 100,000 riders 3 years before projections forecasted).

    Ron C.

    January 6, 2010 at 5:57 pm

  27. Is InTransitBC still receiving penalty payments? If so the 100,000 figure hasn’t been reached yet.

    Capacity is an interesting thing. I know people pack in like sardines in Asia and I’ve ridden the London Tube at the peak of the morning rush in the days before everyone carried a laptop bag, but people in Vancouver simply will not pack together like that. Dozens will stand on the platform waiting for next train rather than squeeze into an already crowded car, behaviour I also witnessed in Edmonton.

    The widely published figure of 4 people per square metre is rarely achieved throughout SkyTrain cars during the evening rush. Lots of people travel with computers, shoulder bags, backpacks and shopping bags at that time of day which definitely reduces the capacity of the trains. I stand with mine on the floor between my feet, but that still increases the amount of space I take up.

    The doorways certainly pack to capacity, but other parts of the train do not. That’s because some locations lack a place to hold on and because getting off from that deep in the crowd requires a level of aggression that few passengers in Vancouver are willing to demonstrate. When there’s nowhere for the people in front of you to go, getting off requires quite a bit of physical contact with a lot of people.

    After hockey games the surge of the crowd is impossible to resist, few if any passengers have any baggage and most of the entire train is loaded at a single location so the normally low density parts of the train get filled and published capacities are met. I should stress that the manufacturer’s capacity numbers are met. The numbers TransLink claims for its trains are significantly higher and would require Asian style crowding to achieve. Even Canuck fans demand more personal space than that.

    Getting back to how capacity translates to actual boardings, what many people seem to forget is that virtually nobody gets on at the first station and rides to the end. For every person going all the way to Richmond, there are probably two who disembark somewhere in Vancouver. Probably two thirds of the people who get off part way along are replaced by someone getting on. So while the train may never carry more than 160 passengers at any one time, each outbound trip is likely boarded by 260 different people.

    That allows Canada Line to carry 260 * 15 trains/hour or almost 4,000 passengers per hour in the peak direction. With peak loading now occupying almost 8 hours per day that’s 32,000 boardings during rush hour in the peak direction. Add another 25% for the reverse direction and rush hour figures of 40,000 passengers seem totally reasonable. However, off peak loads are significantly lower. There’s no way that 60,000 passengers are using the system during the 10 or so off-peak hours of the service day if only 5,000 per hour use the system during rush hour.

    So I’ve either badly underestimated how many people ride the train just a few stops or, once again, TransLink is lying about how many people are using its trains.

    David

    January 6, 2010 at 11:31 pm

  28. “once again, TransLink is lying about how many people are using its trains.”

    Remember that payments to InTransitBC rely on accurate passenger counts. It is in InTransit and Translink’s best interest to get accurate numbers using automated counters.

    I wouldn’t know what the errors would be with the counting, but at least there is a system in place, as opposed to the E/M-Line. (until we get faregates)…

    mezzanine

    January 7, 2010 at 6:00 am

  29. The Globe newspaper reports said that the line had an average daily ridership of about 93,000 with peaks over 100,000. That ridership is still ahead of expectations.

    Remember that the payments are also balanced against quality of service and availability requirements, so given the glitches that we’ve heard about on the line, payments could have been impacted (reduced) on that basis.

    Ron C.

    January 7, 2010 at 1:20 pm

  30. Found that the Concession Agreement is still available on-line.

    See Schedule 11 of the Concession Agreement for payments (although the commercially sensitive info (i.e. any numbers or dollar figures) is redacted).

    http://www.canadaline.ca/pubLibDocs.asp?ID=4#38

    Appendix C to Schedule 11 provides the weighted ridership on a station-by-station basis. You can see that the station with the highest projected ridership is Broadway-City Hall with 14.5% (Waterfront has 13.8%; Vancouver City Centre (Robson) has 10.4%; Bridgeport has 8.2% and Brighouse has 10.2%.

    Appendix D to Schedule 11 requires the installation of the passenger counting system at a location within the fare paid zone of each station and requires the sensors to be directional – so that they can distinguish between passengers arriving and leaving a station.

    Ron C.

    January 7, 2010 at 1:52 pm

  31. You can find ridership information from the project definition stage (2003)(before InTransitBC was selected)here:

    http://www.canadaline.ca/pubLibDocs.asp?ID=6

    Final Report on Ridership and Revneues (Jan 1, 2003):
    http://www.canadaline.ca/files/uploads/docs/doc254.pdf
    (see page 137 of this report for a map showing 2010 and 2021 demand along the line. It is highest at Broadway-City Hall station)

    Ron C.

    January 7, 2010 at 1:59 pm

  32. I’m amazed that nobody noticed my big blunder last night and pleased that mezz didn’t rub it in my face. I accidentally used the car capacity instead of train capacity, so week day ridership of 90,000 is believable.

    Let’s hope we NEVER get fare gates on any part of our transit system. They’re worse than random checks for keeping undesirables off the system and because of their cost will reduce the budget for attendants and police making the system less safe than it is today. Fare evasion is a red herring to justify another reward to a friend of the BC Liberal party.

    David

    January 7, 2010 at 4:09 pm

  33. Nice article here about the Montreal subway which is gated:

    Montreal police quell subway brawl
    Fight forced evacuation of station, police say there was no use of excessive force
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/montreal-police-quell-subway-brawl/article1412929/

    Ron C.

    January 7, 2010 at 5:08 pm

  34. Ok, the comments section here has officially jumped-the-shark!

    Translink’s plan to installing fare gates (you know like the ones that just about every other transit system has) is now a villainous plot by a corrupt government to reward dirty friends in business, and make us all less safe? I mean, WTF? Should I be looking for black helicopters outside my window?

    Anyway, this isn’t a Fare gate thread, this is suppose to be about passenger numbers?

    And what is with all the doubt about the rider numbers? What motivation would TransitBC have to fudge the numbers?

    Alex

    January 7, 2010 at 6:57 pm

  35. Stephen used to work for the transit authority and has stated on this blog that TransLink fakes its ridership numbers.

    Another former employee of TransLink has told a source I trust that he was told to count every Mark I SkyTrain car that appeared to be full as 100 passengers. After years of riding SkyTrain at the busiest times of day, including the end of concerts and Canucks games I know that it’s extremely rare for more than 75 people to cram aboard such a train. For those who have trouble with math that’s called over-reporting ridership by a whopping 33%.

    As you can see I usually reply to the posting first and then respond to comments. Someone mentioned fare gates so I expressed my opinion of them. Fare gates in Vancouver will be another huge money losing exercise for TransLink that will force them to reduce front line staff thus reducing safety.

    Question for Alex: how many criminals have been arrested by an automated fare gate in the last 20 years?

    David

    January 7, 2010 at 9:36 pm

  36. It is one thing to say that the fare gates are not worth while on a cost-benefit basis, it is another to insinuate that installing them is some outlandish scheme to enrich political friends. Then again, you claim there were bribes made in your second post. Any, you know, actual proof for any of these slanderous allegations?

    Regarding the topic at hand. Question. Who collects the passenger data for the Canada line? Is it TransBC or is it Translink? Assuming it is Translink, then they would have a motive to inflate the numbers, since that would mean they wouldn’t have to pay as much to TransBC.

    Alex

    January 7, 2010 at 10:39 pm

  37. Alex said : “Translink’s plan to installing fare gates (you know like the ones that just about every other transit system has)”

    — Right. So your’re suggesting that if Vancouver wants to be a “world city” it has to install fare gates because all “world cities” have them? That Translink should just abandon all reason and spend millions on something just because it is what other cities have done. If that is your argument then a lot of people at Translink could be fired tomorrow and spending policies rewritten to say “do what [insert some random “world” city] does”.

    Alex said : “I mean, WTF? Should I be looking for black helicopters outside my window?”

    — Funnily enough I went to look at the new Olympic Line streetcars the other day and a helicopter appeared and hovered, pointing directly at me, until I moved on. It was quite intimidating.

    Chris S

    January 7, 2010 at 11:10 pm

  38. @ Chris –

    I said no such thing! I fact, in that whole post I didn’t take a pro or con fare gate position! Read it again.

    I was simply trying to state that since just about every other city has them, there are probably rational reasons why Translink wants to install fare-gates, which don’t involve the government in a nut-bar plot.

    Can we leave the conspiracy theories to “9-11 truth” and “who-shot-JFK” sites please?

    Alex

    January 7, 2010 at 11:41 pm

  39. TransLink itself prepared a staff report (published a couple years ago on the TransLink website Board reports) that stated that faregates were not cost effective – at least with respect to the high capital costs and congoing operating costs.

    HOWEVER – the politicians reacted to media and public opinion that the fare cheats need to be stopped! So the politicians have responded to public opinion by contributing the capital costs of implementing faregates and moving ahead with a faregates system.

    This is the same public opinion that commentators say needs more voice at the TransLink Board and in determining transit decisions. Hmmm…

    Ron C.

    January 11, 2010 at 2:45 pm

  40. It refuses to die! This thread liiiiives!

    I agree with Ron C. Politicians from all sides of the spectrum are sensitive to the public’s *perception* of safety and faregates…

    “On November 12, 2007, Adrian Dix and Mike Farnworth called on Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon to take the following immediate steps:

    -Increase the number of SkyTrain police by 50%, with the goal of having one security person at every SkyTrain station while the line in operating.

    -Build new turnstiles now with direct grant from provincial government rather than re-directing Translink resources to private sector scheme. ”

    http://www.shanesimpson.ca/global/pdf/Petition-10PointPlan.pdf

    mezzanine

    January 11, 2010 at 10:00 pm

  41. A note about our new pricey RAV Line at $2.5+ billion (NPV of all current and future capital cost payments), it leaks.

    Water is not only pouring down into the station entry corridors downtown during heavy rains, as occurred repeatedly in November/December, but the entire section under Cambie Street streams with water from almost every seam of the cast-in-place tunnel segments. 600 volt lines and connectors are submerged under water. The bored-tunnel section downtown is doing better, but expect maintenance costs to balloon and this P3 will have to be bought by the taxpayer, again.

    Subways are a tremendous boon to the transit rider and the adjacent properties, if built right. Here in Vancouver we have managed to inconvenience transit riders further by cutting direct bus service, bankrupted or driven out 100 local businesses, and driven Translink itself deep into the red (even before compensating the businesses).

    Transit is celebrated in most cities of the world where it is built. Not here. Not now.

    Randy Chatterjee

    February 8, 2010 at 10:21 am

  42. I walked through the bored tube section under False Creek. The engineer from the Canada Line builders who was accompanying us said that some seepage was inevitable. Pumps have to be installed in any event to deal with the remote possibility of sudden ingress of water. These pumps are switched on automatically by water level detectors. If the tunnel was completely dry there is a probability that a failure of these switches would go unnoticed. The regular cycling of the pumps to deal with minor seepage is thus much safer – as it ensures that emergency systems will work. The statement “600 volt lines and connectors are submerged under water” seems unlikely to me, but of course underwater cables for transmission lines have been in use since the late 19th century in many places

    Stephen Rees

    February 8, 2010 at 10:33 am

  43. […] For example, your humble proprietor at Northern Insights missed Vaughn Palmer’s delicious December 3 column. However, a month later, I was led to a web based version of it through Stephen Rees’s blog. […]


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