Of Trams and Metros

Two interesting pieces from Patrick Condon, the James Taylor Chair at the UBC Design Centre for Sustainability.

The first piece is found in The Tyee. I have already linked to it via another post on the surge of transit in North America. Basically, he compares how the cost of building one 12km SkyTrain Millennium Line extension out to UBC is equivalent to building almost 200 km worth of streetcar/tram lines.

Stephen Rees has another posting that takes most of its info from a post that Condon wrote to the Livable Region Coalition’s email list. This post is much more detailed and is a very clear and definitive argument for the renewal of what he calls the Streetcar City in North America. He compares how current plans in Vancouver are focussed on the hub and spoke model of moving people to city and town centres. However, as development over the past decades show, people and jobs have not moved into the regional town centres, but into areas that, he says, are actually on linear travelways between major centres. He supports that major transit investment should not be siphoned all into these huge hub and spoke projects like the SkyTrain and Canada Line, but into smaller scale, but extremely effective, streetcar-type systems that create a web of transit.

The City of Vancouver already has a very efficient bus trolley grid that mimics our historical streetcar lines. Condon’s article in The Tyee gives an example of that grid being expanded with trams. However, as one of the comments by Sungsu on Stephen Rees blog points out, the suburbs desperately need this sort of system more than Vancouver. I agree. A councillor out in Langley has already proposed something like this on one of Langley’s major roads. Vancouver already is the Streetcar City that Condon is supporting. Langley is not.

My one bias in all of this, however, is that there are people who do need to get out to UBC quickly from the burbs. The streetcar may or may not be able to provide this kind of service depending on what kind of right-of-ways and transit-priorities are implemented. The B-Line certainly does a pretty good job at the moment and the streetcar with transit priorities would definitely be quicker than the B-Line. So maybe SkyTrain isn’t needed after all.

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