I just saw a very impressive plan to expand Montreal’s rapid transit system. The new elevated rapid transit line, similar to Vancouver’s SkyTrain design will almost double the rapid transit available in the Montreal region. In fact, it will likely become North America’s longest elevated rail line when it comes to fruition.
The Transport Politic is one of my favourite blogs to follow. Most of what he covers is about the United States since he’s based there. Also, he provides what seems to be an inside look at the financing side of transportation projects across North America. He’s just released his newest graphic/map for 2012. It’s a map showing where all the major transit projects in North America are and what stage they are at.
Vancouver is on the top of my personal interest list. We can see that construction is starting on a metro rail system. That would be the Evergreen Line from Lougheed Town Centre in Burnaby to Coquitlam Town Centre. It starts this year and opens in 2016. Another city of interest is Seattle. Seattle has a few projects on the go. A new Bus Rapid Transit line is due to open this year. Construction continues on the Link LRT and a new streetcar line. Then further down the I-5 in Portland, the Portland Streetcar Loop will open this fall and bring streetcar service east of the Williamette River.
Now I’d love to see a map of projects on other continents as well.
This is a follow up about Sharrows and other recent bike news. This issue has been out for a week or so already, but I wanted to link to it here. Gordon reviews cycling in New York and how they are developing more cycle lanes and tracks to ease cycle movement around the city.
In a more recent post on Price Tags, Gordon also turns his attention to Montreal and their “piste cycables.”
Here’s more on high speed rail. If rail were to become part of the Pacific Northwest landscape, it could change the way smaller towns compete economically.
The Wall Street Journal printed an article last Monday about the success of the Spanish high speed passenger rail network, named AVE (meaning both Spanish high speed and bird). It’s the kind of epic, transformative project that requires not only billions of dollars but also the will of an entire nation. Only a decade and a half has passed since the first line from Madrid to Seville was inaugurated, but Spain is now beginning to see the long-term benefits. And judging from their successes, it’s exactly the kind of the stimulus that Canada needs.
It’s nice to see that a big paper like the Wall Street Journal supporting the economic arguments for high speed rail. Obviously, the effects of these rail lines are not immediate. If we look at SkyTrain on a smaller scale, we’re only started seeing the huge benefits of concentrated growth along the SkyTrain line in the past 10 years. The first decade of SkyTrain saw slow growth and development. However, things have burgeoned around the many of the stations now.
The most remarkable thing about the AVE has been that it has resuscitated (reincarnated?) the economies of the smaller cities and towns along the lines that have been given stations. The distances between these towns and major centres have been significantly shortened. By extension, they’ve become much more competitive. Not only that, but they’ve done so in a sustainable manner. Building a freeway has similar effects but creates traffic congestion, air pollution and distorts the shape of the city. Rather than being centered around a vibrant, walkable core with a train station taking people in and out, freeway development is car oriented, linear, spread out, and generally a waste of resources.
Freeway development is generally a waste of resources. That’s a pretty strong statement and flies in the face of our current thinking in the Lower Mainland. We want to have more freeways to get ourselves out of the traffic jams, but do freeways truly create the kind of places where we live, work, and play?
In Canada, we’re still looking at the Quebec City-Montreal-Kingston-Toronto-Windsor corridor as having the highest potential for high speed rail. It already has some existing rail infrastructure and existing rail ridership. It would serve a huge chunk of the Canadian population and two of the largest metropolitan areas in the country. There just needs to be the political will to move forward on this kind of plan.
In Vancouver, we could piggy back on the American plans to create a high speed rail corridor from Eugene, OR northwards to us in British Columbia. Again, the big sticking point will be the border and customs. However, I would love to ride my bike to the train station, hop on the train to either Seattle or Portland, ride around town to take in the sights and then hop back on home. Too ideal? Probably. But we need a vision to aim for and that would be my vision of a day trip on a high speed rail line in Cascadia.
I couldn’t help admire the ingenuity of this idea by Montreal’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, which I assume is La Société de Transport de Montréal (STM). They started a new bus service with real services.
Oddly, or perhaps not so oddly, much of the grumbling from other transit services and from unionized employees in the sector, seems to focus on the fact that these new bus routes will offer passengers air-conditioning, toilets and even Wi-Fi Internet access on board.
These are all amenities that users will obviously welcome, and so the resentment on the part of other transit services speaks eloquently about where their real priorities lie: with protecting market share, not with the best possible customer service.
Now there’s a bus service that can truly compete with personal automobile use. I wonder if there’s a premium charge for using the bus over buses without such amenities.
Certainly, we don’t like two-tier medicare, but is two-tier public transport a bad thing. I know there are nicer buses and not so nice buses in some places. In China, for example, you can pay an extra 1 RMB ( ~ 16 cents CDN) to ride the air conditioned bus. In Hong Kong, the First Class cars on the Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR) trains are double the cost of regular fare and offer plush comfy seating as opposed to hard metallic subway seating.
I’m okay if somebody wants to spend extra for a more comfortable ride. Whatever is in your budget.