Metro Vancouver Transit Funding’s Ongoing Saga – May 2016


Okay, let’s start by looking at some of the numbers being bandied about in the news.

First off. There’s the one constant in this picture. Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberals have promised to pay for 50% of the funds for infrastructure projects across the country.

Here’s what the other two levels of government have offered.

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Surrey LRT – Support and Funding

The conversation for expanded fixed rail transit in Surrey continues to roll along. Metro Vancouver’s second largest municipality by population and largest by land area is still trying to push forward after the failed transit plebiscitie/referendum of 2015.


A few things have happened in the past year that may help Surrey get its long-desired LRT.

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Hong Kong City Gallery

Here’s a very little known “museum” in Hong Kong. So little known that the place is eerily quiet for a Hong Kong facility. This is the City Gallery. The gallery isn’t expensive. In fact, it’s free. The gallery isn’t in the middle of nowhere. It’s right down in Central Hong Kong near the old City Hall. So why is it so quiet? I have no idea.

The first time I heard about the City Gallery was when one of my friends in Hong Kong visited the place. He tagged me in his Facebook photos and said that it would be the kind of place I would love to visit. How can I say no to a place that is meant to showcase a city, its infrastructure, and its urban development? That’s right up my alley.

I had walked over from the Legislative Council building in Admiralty. The City Gallery was directly in between Admiralty and Central stations. So it wouldn’t really have mattered which way I came. It was at least a 10 minute walk towards the waterfront from either station.

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Cycling in Portland

The Tyee — Portland’s Bicycle Brilliance.

Here’s a piece on cycling in Portland from The Tyee.  It’s actually part two of three about Portland.  The first was about the arts community and having fun (aka bars and pubs in the article).  The third will be about homelessness in Portland.

I didn’t really care much about part one, although it did point out that Vancouver city hall has some interesting bylaw restrictions and liquor permit restrictions that I didn’t know about.

The cycling part is more interesting to me, particularly the theory on four cycling personalities

Four cycling personalities

In the early 2000s, [Roger] Geller sat in his office in the Portland department of transportation thinking hard about the demographic of bikers in the city. He developed a theory, later backed up by research at the Portland State University, that broke them into four separate groups.

On one end sits No Way No How, the one third of the population who has no interest in biking whatsoever. Maybe they’ll take a ride on a weekend through the park, but even in the best of conditions they probably won’t bike on a regular basis. They just don’t want to.

Then you have the Enthused and Confident, not quite kamakazis, but close. These are the roughly seven per cent of people who will bike in the city where it’s relatively safe, relatively comfortable, if not a little unnerving for the average person.

Above them, on the extreme end of the spectrum sit the Strong and Fearless, perched on their bikes in the pouring rain, in the middle of the street, ready to go. They represent almost nothing, maybe one per cent of the city’s population, the bike couriers and other kamakazis who will bike anywhere, anytime, now matter how dangerous or poor the conditions.

And everyone else? They’re the Interested but Concerned, the other 60 some-odd per cent of the population with a rational fear of cycling in the city. They like the idea of cycling, they know it’s good for their health, and for the environment, but they only want to do it if it’s as safe and comfortable as their ride in a car or bus. And these are the people that American cities, Portland and Vancouver included, need to aim their bike infrastructure at, Geller argues.

I think I would find myself in the Interested but Concerned group.  I would like to cycle to work, but I don’t think it’s practical enough to do on a daily basis.  I would really need to work my life around my ride to and from work.  The extra clothing that I have to carry and my lunch box, in particular, add a lot of weight.  I’m lucky that I have a shower at work, but I’m still only willing to bike once a week to and from work.  I just don’t like the hassle.  I have a 12km commute at the end of which I find myself dripping in sweat.  Bus and SkyTrain involve less changing of clothes.

However, I would love to have more bicycle infrastructure at the same time.  I use 10th Avenue the most, but I find parts of 10th to be hairy, especially near Vancouver General Hospital.  There isn’t even a signal at Fraser Street for this major bike route.  Also, the south of 45th Avenue is totally void of a major east-west bike route [although there are plans for a route along 59th Avenue].

What would Vancouver need to appeal to these people? I asked.

“Better infrastructure,” says Geller. “So the network is more complete. Most of our network is on street. It takes you where you need to go. Paths are wonderful, but they’ve got to be integrated with a good on-street network.”

Admittedly, he also says bike lanes aren’t enough for most of this group. Further separation, like buffered bike lanes, or separate cycle tracks (like the three glorious blocks of the Carrall Street Greenway Vancouverites are taunted by) are ideal, but a bike lane is a start.

I also use the 7-11 Trail that follows the Expo Line quite a bit.  However, that trail is simply not very commuter friendly.  It might be a nice bike jaunt on the weekend, but if you are trying to get somewhere, the trail throws you a few zig-zags along the way.  Not to mention that parts of the trail are more hilly than I care for.  Paths are wonderful, but I’d rather see something more direct in some cases.

Tyee Series on Rail in the Lower Mainland

Bombardier Acela

Bombardier Acela

Part One: The Myth of High Speed Rail

Part Two: Obama’s Billions bypass BC

Part Three: Ottawa Halts Vancouver Train

Part Four:  Rail Fix: Two Tracks to Langley

Monte Paulsen over at The Tyee recently completed a four-part series about rail in the Lower Mainland.  More specifically, he was reporting on the the optimistic media reports on Obama’s millions for high-speed rail reaching our corner of the world.  He talks about the excitement about high speed rail in Cascadia as a myth.  He cites lack of cooperation from the BC and Canadian government as a major obstacle to establishing even regular-speed rail service in our area.  Then, in part four, there’s an interesting solution on how future rail infrastructure could serve a dual purpose for providing a new intracity rail service and a suburban light rail service to the Fraser Valley.  It’s all an interesting read if you’re interested in all things rail or want a better understanding of why we don’t have a second Amtrak train running between Vancouver and Seattle.

Is Cascadia’s train coming in?

Is Cascadia’s train coming in?.

Here’s a piece that follows closely along what Miro Cernitig wrote a few weeks ago on Obama hoping to put $8 billion US into a high-speed rail corridor from Vancouver, BC to Eugene, OR.  Economically, it will give us closer ties to both Washington and Oregon states.  A lot more business could transpire between BC and the large multinationals headquartered in the Pacific Northwest.  Perhaps we will become more than a blip on the American psyche, but be a truly notable destination for business and travel for other Cascadians.

Identity is another issue surrounding the potential for a high-speed rail.  It would help to form a Cascadian identity that has lingered around for many years, but has never truly taken off.

High Speed Rail in Cascadia

Time for Vancouver to get aboard Obama’s Cascadia Express << Vancouver Sun, April 27, 2009

As a part of President Obama’s new infrastructure plans, he has targeted high speed rail corridors across the United States.  The only one in North America right now is the Boston-New York-Washington, D.C. Acela train.  The Pacific Northwest is an important region in North America and it make senses for a Vancouver-Seattle-Portland rail line.

The drive is about6-7 hours down to Portland.  The only bottlenecks while driving are the border crossing and rush hour traffic in the metropolitan areas.  If there were a High-Speed Rail, we could cut the travel time by at least a third.  Howver, there are some major challenges.

Amtrak is already trying to get a second train running between Vancouver and Seattle, but the Canadian Border Service Agency is asking for a huge amount of money per day to check the trains.  The new track has been laid and old portions of the line upgraded, but the border is proving to be a major barrier.  Also, we would need some major realignment of track and possibly new track to accommodate high speed trains.

High speed rail would be great so that we don’t need to line up our cars across the 49, but the price tag will be high.  Just look at California’s ambitious plans to create their high speed rail lines at the California High Speed Rail Authority site.

California High Speed Rail

California High Speed Rail

Robin Chase on Zipcar and her next big idea | Video on

Robin Chase on Zipcar and her next big idea | Video on

I hadn’t visit for a while, but I’ve had two colleagues talk about two different talks on TED.  So I thought it was time to swing by that part of my bookmark list again and take a gander.

I wish the talks were more recent, but I guess the conference has to have some relevance when it’s held.  So I guess they delay all the videos until well after the conference.

In any case, Robin Chase is the founder of Zipcar.  Zipcar is one of two car sharing businesses in Vancouver.  The Cooperative Auto Network is the other one.

Robin talks about her Zipcar experience and what it’s done.  She also mentions a new venture called, Goloco, which builds on the idea of carsharing and transforms it into ridesharing.  Ridesharing that is arranged through wireless devices where you all arrange one ride for many people.

Her bigger idea in the second half of her talk is to change the country with peer to peer wireless devices that form a mesh network. I’m not familiar with the jargon, so it’s a bit confusing.  The talk is limited to under 15 minutes, so she doesn’t have time to get into what mesh networks really are and how they work. However, the concept looks like it has a lot of potential.  She wants a national system of mesh networks that can be easily set up and built up.  She criticizes existing wireless networks for being closed and proprietary.  I guess it’s how you may use Shell’s EasyPay for gas and MasterCard has PayPass to pay at select stores for food or groceries.  But what if they all worked on one network that everybody used.  If there is one network, then there can be a national interstate mesh network in place so that road pricing and tolls could be collected nationally.

I wish she had more time to talk, though.  The idea sounds exciting, but it needs more fleshing out for the ordinary person to understand better.

More funding for Transit than Roads in Oregon

Mass transit may get better ride than local roads in stimulus bill >>

I know drivers may not like this idea, but shouldn’t transit get more funding than roads.  Although, mind you, roads are necessary for most forms of transit to function.  However, to accelerate a more sustainable transportation future, public transit should be the priority until development becomes more transit-oriented.  Then roads can have more funding. 

Critics say that resulted in a bias for road spending in rural areas, leaving urban population centers shortchanged on road and bridge repairs. The mass transit spending also comes as a surprise, by contrast, given that the bill signed by the president calls for national spending of about $3 on roads for every $1 on mass transit.

I would like to see the exact reverse where there is $3 on transit for every $1 on roads.  Of course, we should take into account how bad the condition of existing roads are as well.  Transit won’t function well if roads are crumbling left, right and centre.

States may direct Obama’s infrastructure funds to roads News.

This is somewhat sad news, but not totally surprising.  States are eager to fix roads that are in a severe state of neglect.  How did they get that way anyway?

In any case, a new future definitely does not include roads to the extent that we have them now.  Cities cannot continue to be based on the automobile just for the sake of the status quo.

I don’t want to drive out to the burbs to the big box store along the highway.  I hate having to get one thing at one store, then have to drive and get something else.  I guess that’s why Metrotown has been as successful as it has been in Burnaby.  It’s one stop shopping in the burbs.  Although, you could hardly call Metrotown the burbs anymore.

Canada faces similar issues north of the border.  Harper is now expected to release some funds and run a deficity to help fund stimulus projects to keep the economy going.  We have some worthy transit projects across the country.  Perhaps he’d be willing to consider some sort of improved rail transport between his own town of Calgary and Edmonton.  The corridor is relatively flat and would be relatively easy to build a high-speed train.  It’s just a matter of what you do in the middle of the frigid Alberta winters.

Vancouver will likely want to fund the Evergreen Line with new funds; however, Kevin Falcon may prefer some funds to go to the Gateway Highway expansion projects.  That would be short-sighted and not really benefit our region as a whole.  Some industrial developers would definitely like the highway projects to go through.