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.
Here’s the highlights of the Metro Vancouver Mayor’s Council vision of regional transportation. This updated vision was prompted by Premier Christy Clark’s insistence on sending transit funding issues to a referendum in the Fall 2014.
Here’s the last of my Edmonton LRT posts from July 2013. (It’s amazing how far behind I am on posting things, but things are too busy to do photos and blog everyday). This post covers the construction of the new Edmonton North LRT. It’s currently the North LRT, but it will eventually be called the Metro Line once everything is finished.
The North LRT currently under construction runs from the existing Churchill Station downtown right by Edmonton City Hall. Then it runs north and west towards Grant MacEwan University. The train then swings straight north up 105 Street past the Prince of Wales Armouries to the diagonal running Kingsway Avenue. The line runs northwest along Kingsway Avenue and passes by Royal Alexandra Hospital and Kingsway Garden Mall. The line then makes another swing north down 106 Street to it’s terminus at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT).
Because the line is still under construction, the only way to see what was going on was to walk the line. So I started around Grant MacEwan and made my way up to NAIT. That took me a whole afternoon including some breaks at McDonald’s and the shopping mall to rest my feet and get some water. Here are the photos. I’m not going to add any narrative this time around. However, there will be captions.
The Metro Line is scheduled for operation in the Spring of 2014. I’m not planning another trip to Edmonton in the next few years, but I look forward to eventually riding the new Metro Line when it’s ready After the Metro Line opens, Edmontonians may have to wait until 2020 for their next LRT line. Maybe I should wait until then, but it seems a long ways off…
Is it just me or does transit news only ever get released on Fridays?
On Friday, the papers were abuzz again about the UBC Broadway Rapid Transit corridor. A KPMG report prepared for the City of Vancouver and the University of British Columbia pushes for a fully underground rapid transit line connecting UBC to the Broadway-Commercial area. Outside of Downtown Vancouver, the Central Broadway Corridor is the second largest employment centre in the region. UBC is the largest transit destination outside of the downtown core. So in terms of need, the UBC-Broadway corridor should have top priority.
Of course, life is not so simple when politics and public funding are involved. The case for a UBC rapid transit line is convincing and I think few would argue against the need for rapid transit along West Broadway. Vancouver already benefits from the Expo, Millennium, and Canada Lines. The Tri-Cities of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, and Port Moody are about to get the Evergreen Line. The most neglected area for transit in general is South of the Fraser. Surrey currently is served by 4 stations along the Expo Line.
Surrey may not be the second largest employer in the region, but it is the fastest growing municipality in Metro Vancouver. It has a definite need for transit, but in a very different form. The City of Surrey is looking to create an light rail transit (LRT) line. The TransLink site has some possible design alternatives. The LRT 1 alternative probably covers the most ground with a rail option.
The need for both rapid transit projects is clear. The UBC-Broadway line would serve a pre-existing and heavily used transit corridor. The Surrey LRT would help the fastest growing city in Metro to grow in a more transit oriented fashion. Both are important to the health and sustainability of Metro Vancouver.
It comes back again to funding. Who is paying for these projects? TransLink is caught between the city and provincial level. The province doesn’t want to look like they are taking money from the rest of B.C. to pay for “Metro Vancouver” projects. The cities are adverse to raising property taxes any further to pay for expansion and operations of TransLink. Mayors like Delta’s Lois Jackson are ready to pull out of Metro because her area is under-served by transit.
There have been calls for a national strategy for cities. The US and many other nations have such strategies, but our federal government has not done much in terms of these overriding national strategies in urban issues, housing, and transportation. There is absolutely no national plan for any of those issues. Again, it’s the funding hot potato that keeps being bounced from government to government.
The likelihood of projects like the two aforementioned rapid transit projects are not very likely to get off the ground. Many people talk about the need for such projects, but governments and taxpayers alike are not very willing to put their money in these important projects. Until then, our infrastructure deficit will continue to grow and we’ll still be driving all around Surrey or crushed like sardines on the 99 B-Line along West Broadway. And that’s quite a shame.
T is the 20th letter of the English alphabet. It’s a seemingly innocuous letter. But in Boston, you better know that T refers to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). T is just so much simpler and faster to say.
During most of my stay in Boston, I was at a conference for work. We were staying at the Marriott Copley Place Boston . It was smack in the middle of two Green Line stations and simple walk away from an Orange Line station.
The Subway System
You could probably guess that downtown Boston is smack in the middle where most of the lines converge and you would be right. The Red Line is the oldest of these lines. It just celebrated it’s 100th anniversary this year. It must be the oldest subway in America. It runs serves Cambridge and it’s famous universities north of the Charles River and communities south of Boston. The subway cars are wide and the trains are long. It’s exactly what you think a subway car should be.
The Orange Line runs a perpendicular line to the red line and serves southwest Boston communities like Jamaica Plains and then the North End and Oak Grove outside Boston proper. The cars that I boarded along the Orange Line felt worn down and old. But the cars were amply wide and service amply quick.
The Blue Line serves East Boston and its biggest landmarks include the Aquarium, Logan International Airport, and Wonderland. I only rode a short two station stretch of the Blue Line when I was in Boston. The cars are smaller than most subway cars and not as wide. It almost feels like a VAL car (like ones used on the Neihu Line in Taipei) which is narrower and shorter.
The Green Line can be nominally called a subway in that it runs primarily underground, but I would say it feels like Toronto’s streetcars have been totally put underground in narrow, twisty, and noisy tunnels. The Green Line is split into multiple lines in the outlying areas. You will note in covers all letters from B to E, but there is no A spur. As far as I can tell, the A spur of the Green Line was replaced with a different service some time ago. Hence the missing A spur. I saw a T-shirt in town that proudly proclaimed, “I hate the Green Line.” After riding it during rush hour, I can understand why. The cars are just like Toronto streetcars in their narrow gauge and you have to climb up from the platform to get on. So forget about wheelchair accessibility. During rush hour, the crush of people was insane. It’s like a subway crowds for a streetcar. I imagine some people have to wait a few trains before boarding. The only saving grace for the Green Line, in my opinion, are that the cars used to ply the Green Line are very unique. If they ran on the surface with smaller crowds, I think they would be great.
Then there’s the Silver Line. This is not a subway line. The Silver Line is an articulated, express bus service. It also has multiple lines serving the city. It does run underground through parts of downtown Boston. Part of it runs in a dedicated, separated bus lane out towards Dudley Square. Silver Line 1 also serves each and every terminal at Logan International Airport. So it’s probably the most direct public transit route in and out of the airport. Just be aware that there is no special area to stash your luggage. So hold on tight and try to wiggle around everyone else and their luggage on the bus.
Here’s a fun not-so-little graphic from the folks at GOOD. It takes the top five rapid transit systems in the US and compares them to five of the most well-known metro systems in the world. The American systems have comparable miles of track laid, but don’t have the ridership of other systems worldwide. It just seems that systems in the US are not able to attract the ridership that is found overseas. New York comes the closest. It could possibly be explained by urban form factor. Asian and European cities are designed to be dense and well-served by transit in their cores. American cities are designed, for the most part, around the automobile.
Put this under the category of “not a new idea.” Most people who have followed urban development in Metro Vancouver know that Surrey is the fastest growing city in the Metro region and that it’s transit system is woefully inadequate.
Whenever we talk about transit South of the Fraser, a lot of people seem to promote more and more SkyTrain for Surrey. This may not be the most cost effective way to go for a fairly low density municipality. It’s true that the city is trying to consolidate residences and jobs in several town centres in Newton, Cloverdale, and more, but most of the city is not dense enough to support what SkyTrain offers. SkyTrain is a costly automated people mover that does not become cost-effective and cost-efficient until you reach certain density levels.
What I am happy to hear is that Surrey city council is looking at some other alternatives.
Surrey Coun. Judy Villeneuve said her city is in desperate need of more transit, especially as it’s set to become the second largest metropolitan region in the province. The city is developing its town centres to become more transit-dependent, she said, while also looking at alternatives such as light rail, heritage rail and more community buses.
Surrey city council will visit Portland in October to consider that city’s transportation system, Villeneuve said, and will lobby the federal government for more infrastructure funding.
Portland would be a good place to look at how light rail can be implemented. I think that Surrey should also consider bus rapid transit. We know how successful the 99 B-Line has been in driving ridership through the Broadway corridor. The 98 B-Line was also a very popular ride. We know that Marpole businesses sorely miss all those transit riders that used to shop in Marpole on their way home.
The other place that Surrey should look at is the York Region of the Greater Toronto Area. The York Region is made up of all the suburban municipalities immediately north of the City of Toronto. These cities include Markham, Richmond Hill, Vaughn, and Newmarket. It’s a collection of Bus Rapid Transit routes that connect all the city centres of the York Region cities. Sound close to what Surrey wants to accomplish?
Because of York’s proximity to Toronto, there was a lot of talk about extending the subway. The subway will eventually happen (for Vaughn Corporate Centre), but subways are expensive and the York Region needed a quick solution. Bus Rapid Transit in the form of Viva was the answer. In a very short time frame, the York Region set up 4 to 5 Viva routes. A quick and relative cheaper solution to congestion and poor transit service. Bus Rapid Transit is not the end all of the story for Viva. There are “rapidway” construction to give priority lanes and more to the Viva buses. There is the Spadina line extension from Downsview to Vaughn. And there is talk of building LRT in conjunction with the TTC along Jane Street and Don Mills Road.
I really think the Viva model is worthwhile investigating for Surrey and Metro Vancouver. Set up Bus Rapid Transit to have a quickly improved transit scenario with limited stop service between town centres. Then eventually as ridership builds and town centres build-up, light rail may become a viable mode of transport. If down the road things become very successful, then SkyTrain could even enter the picture. But please do Bus Rapid Transit now to get folks South of the Fraser some decent transit.
With a pending announcement about funding for the $400M shortfall in funding for the much delayed Evergreen Line on the horizon, there’s been a little more news and blogging about the line. I hadn’t really followed the Evergreen Line news for quite a while.
An old graphic of the original LRT plan reveals 12 stations within easy walking distance to most of the Tri-Cities communities along the route. The now inactive Pacific Metropolis blog has a brief summary of the original LRT plan. There are 3 stops along the North Road corridor, 4 stations in Port Moody and 5 stations in Coquitlam.
In contrast, new plans on the provincial government’s website suggest there will only 6 stations. That’s half the number. The new plans involve the use of SkyTrain technology. Usually stations are fewer in order to keep the train’s speed up and reduce dwell time within stations. However, that does mean that less neighbourhoods will benefit from the Evergreen Line.
The City of Coquitlam is very aware that less stations will mean less development opportunities, and in my opinion, less smart growth Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) in the Tri-Cities. The Tri-City News recently reported on Coquitlam’s need for at least a third station within its city limits.
Not building the station could have negative impacts on future development activity in the Coquitlam city centre the report states. That’s because people will only walk 400 metres to take public transit. There would be fewer riders with only two stations because only people near those stations would take the Evergreen Line. Everyone else is more likely to stick with their cars. “This could result in premature failure of the road network in and around Coquitlam,” the report states.
The City report also outlines some of the economic benefits of a third station.
More people would mean more riders and potentially $55 million in extra revenue to help fund the line. According to the report, a three-station scenario would increase ridership by 2.3 million in 2021 and 3.7 million in 2031, and if a park and ride at Douglas College was also implemented, ridership would increase by an extra 2.9 million in 2021 and 4.2 million in 2031. Under those scenarios, ridership would be between 20.4 million and 23.1 million compared to 18.1 and 18.9 million riders in the two-station scenario in the 2021 and 2031 forecasts.
There’s also money attached. New development surrounding the station would pump $12.9 million into provincial coffers through property purchase taxes and $76.1 million in residential and non-residential property taxes — more than covering the $20-million cost of the third station, the report notes.
If we look at the example of the Canada Line, we can see some neighbourhoods that have not benefited from the train’s existence. Most notably, the Cambie Village suffered the most financially during the cut-and-cover construction of the Canada Line. However, the Cambie Village benefits the least from the rapid transit line’s subterranean existence. Riders enjoy a quick ride, but business in the Cambie Village will see very little of this ridership inside their stores. An additional station at 16th Avenue may have given direct access for Canada Line riders to Cambie Village businesses, but that would have slowed the train down and added more money to the total cost of the project. The Cambie Village lost out in this particular cost-benefit analysis.
Another loser, although not as marked, is Richmond. The original Richmond-Airport-Vancouver (RAV) plans were to have 5 stations in Richmond – Bridgeport, Cambie Road, Alderbridge Way, Westminster Highway, and Richmond Centre. Partly to save costs, the Westminster and Richmond Centre stations were merged to become Richmond-Brighouse. That forced the Alderbridge Station to be moved further south to Lansdowne Road to improve spacing.
The additional spacing makes rider access to some locations on No. 3 Road less desirable. For example, Alexandra Road is smack dab in the middle between Aberdeen and Lansdowne Stations. Alexandra Road is known to the Chinese community as Richmond’s Eating Street because of its many restaurants. However, these businesses are no less car dependent because the Canada Line Stations do not easily serve this section of No. 3 Road. It also means less opportunity for economic development and TODs in the area.
These examples can be generalized to the pending situation with the Evergreen Line. Further spacing of SkyTrain stations may speed up travel times and reduce construction costs, but it definitely leaves some neighbourhoods in the lurch. They get the shaft during construction, but never see the benefit of the track overhead.
Whatever the final decision, I hope the Evergreen Line will go ahead, but the Tri-City communities, just like Coquitlam, will have to stand up and demand an amelioration of the flaws of the current plan.
There’s also the debate about SkyTrain vs. LRT, but that’s a totally different blog post.
Haha…I am over a month behind on my post here. I’ve been sitting on tons of photos. The summer gives a lot of opportunity to take pictures, but it’s a pain to sort, organize, and post-process them. Plus, the recent heat wave didn’t help because I did not want to sit in front of my computer trying to work through a blog post.
It wasn’t an overly hot day, but warm enough that I didn’t want to stay outdoors for too long. However, I did suckered into a giveaway line. It looked like the line lead to an Olympic themed table. However, it was apparently a beauty department table giving away fragrance samples. Nice sample, but I didn’t really want to stand in the sun for 5 minutes.
The festival was a nice use of the usually vacant plaza at Cambie and 41st Avenue. There was a performance stage and lots of booths with handouts. When I first arrived, there was a martial arts demonstration complete with nunchuks. Later on, there was a trio of older gents belting out possibly Yiddish music. I’m not totally sure. I think they had a Jewish-themed music of some sort. It was pretty catchy. The one thing about the plaza, though, is that it is a very uneven pavement. There’s even a sign that warns people about how uneven the ground is.
One of the things I thought about when they first talked about the Richmond-Airport-Vancouver (RAV) line was about how they could transform the plaza at 41st and Cambie. Obviously, the mall and InTransitBC have taken the cheaper approach of very little change. I thought they could have sunk the plaza deeper to match the platform level. Or they could have created a graduated slope throughout the plaza so that the slope would lead people to the Canada Line platform. I think some sort of plaza integration would have been creative opportunity for new public space. Unfortunately, the new Canada Line station is not even integrated into the mall in anyway.
As it currently stands, there will only be one main entrance into the station. This entry is on the southwest corner where the Oakridge Centre plaza is. To save costs, they have installed only up escalators and down staircases in the station. I believe the system is all like this with a few exceptions, namely YVR station. Unfortunately for a person in a wheelchair, the elevator was not in service yet. So the open house was far from accessible. I even saw parents carry their baby strollers up and down the stairs that day.
There is a large lobby area that greets you once you are at the platform level. They had a few tables set up at the open house. A couple of them were TransLink related tables. One table, however, belonged to Jugo Juice. A Jugo Juice representative told me that there will be Jugo Juice at every Canada Line station from 41st to Waterfront. That’s pretty impressive. I hope the venture works out.
These in-station shops are partly a by-product of Kevin Falcon’s visit to Hong Kong and seeing that the MTR stations there are teeming with shops. The new Canada Line stations are nothing compared to a Hong Kong MTR station. Hong Kong MTR trains are about 40 doors long, if I remember correctly. That makes the trains 3-4x longer than a regular 4-car old SkyTrain. So a Hong Kong station is easily 3-4 times larger than any SkyTrain station in town. Canada Line stations are even smaller than a regular SkyTrain station. So we will likely see less than a handful of shops in any new Canada Line station.
Directly behind the lobby at the same level is the southbound platform for trains going to Richmond and YVR. Currently, there are no gates that separate the lobby from the platforms. With all the talk about gates, I’m sure the gates will come eventually. Not sure when, though. However, seeing that the trains are right there in plain view from the lobby, I can envision people jumping the gates just to try and get to the train.
I think few people realize that a couple of the new stations (namely Oakridge and Langara Stations) require passengers to go through an underpass to reach the opposite platform. Pictured above are the stairs to the underpass to reach the northbound platform. So anyone wanting to go north to Broadway or Downtown from this station will have to run under the tracks and then up again on the other side.
This design with the underpass was meant to save money. By building most of the tracks closer to the ground via cut-and-cover, InTransitBC was able to save costs. A larger hole that would have accommodated a deeper tunnel and a mezzanine level for shops, gates, and ticket machines would have been a lot more expensive and take longer to build. This particular design was on the design boards for public consultation. It was obvious at that time that the underpass was set in stone for the design. I personally really don’t like having to run under the tracks to get to the other platform. Some Toronto subway stations (Dundas and Queen Stations on the Yonge Line) have a similar underpass design. When I lived in Toronto, I found it a pain in the butt if I was lugging around something large in those stations.
Some of you may have already seen the new Canada Line trains running along the tracks above Richmond. According to the Buzzer Blog, the trains are running the full schedule to warm up for opening day. That’s pretty exciting to me. What you see in the picture, though, is what you get for the train. It is about the same length as a new Mark II SkyTrain. The station is only the length of the train. So again, the Canada Line stations are really small compared even to our original SkyTrain stations. The smaller stations definitely save money in the short run, but if the line becomes popular like the Expo Line, then we will have to put down some significant coin to upgrade the stations.
The interior of the train is significantly wider than even a new SkyTrain. Two people could get past each other even between the seats. Many who come from Hong Kong may feel a slight sense of familiarity with these trains. The trains were built by Rotem-Hyundai of Korea who also builds many of the new MTR trains in Hong Kong. The seats here are forward or backwards facing with some upholstery. In Hong Kong, there would be only steel benches lining the sides and everyone else has to stand. North American sensibility says that we like to sit facing forward. Practicality would have dictated that the benches are sufficient and then you can fit more passengers on the train.
Near the bendy articulation portion of the train is a huge empty space. I suspect this will be where bicycles and luggage can be placed while riding the train. I’m not sure if this will double as a wheelchair spot or not. I really should have asked one of the staff on hand, but I was busy snapping photos. One of my friends who rides the West Coast Express told me that bicycle spots are where the fold-down courtesy seats. She hates having to ask a person to vacate that seat just for her bike. However, given the nature of the WCE, she can’t just wait for the next train. She has to find a spot to safely park the bicycle while the train is moving. So I’m not sure if these spaces will have the same issues. However, the Canada Line trains run every 5-10 minutes, so waiting for the next train is not as a big an issues as it is with the WCE.
Here’s a shot of the tunnel looking south. This is the southbound tunnel. So the trains will go along this tunnel to Langara and Marine Drive Stations in Vancouver, then onto Richmond or YVR. The yellow rail to the left side should be the “third rail” or the power rail. So heaven forbid, if you ever fall into the tracks, do not touch the yellow rail. This a big difference compared to SkyTrain tracks on the Expo and Millennium Lines. Those lines use special Bombardier Linear Induction Motor technology which places a huge metal power plate in the middle of the track. The Canada Line tracks use more conventional and cheaper technology to power their trains.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a clear shot of the train head or tail. Only the head and tail are coloured in the Canada Line blue and green colours. A lot of people ask why they didn’t colour the trains red. A logical question to me since somebody in the powers that be insisted that the line be called the Canada Line. The answer that I heard is that the blue and green colour design were always planned since they are West Coast colours. Never mind that we have an Evergreen Line on the drawing board which will likely be coloured green on our future maps. In any case, the red would have been kind of cliche in my opinion. The blue and green are nice.
I actually didn’t take a photo of the new transit connections map, but I got this one from Tafyrn of Canada Line Photography Blog. The Canada Lne is coloured as greenish-blue line now. The Expo Line continues to be dark blue and Millennium Line is yellow. All the B-Line and major express buses are now coloured orange instead of the green on current transit maps. Included in the orange lines are also connections to the ferry terminals.
All the lines look impressive on paper, but how well will the system run with the pending budget shortfall. We may have built ourselves into the red with the Canada Line. We can only hope that ridership will be higher than expected. TransLink will have to pay for any shortfall in numbers and revenue to the private operating partner.
As for a trip to the airport, rumours seem to suggest that there will be an extra $2.50 surcharge for taking the train to Sea Island. So coming out of Vancouver, that would mean that you pay your $3.75 2-zone fare, plus another $2.50. A total of $6.25 to the airport. [Out of Richmond, I suspect it will be 1-zone fare of $2.50 plus the surcharge for a total of $5.00.] That’s okay if you are a single rider. For two people, the cost of $12.50 may cause some people to think twice about taking the train to YVR.
According to the TransLink Canada Line rider page, there will a YVR Add Fare exempt trial period. So the first few months of operation will likely not have any surcharge until 2010. I don’t mind paying the surcharge if I ever have to go to YVR to catch a plane. Unfortunately, you’re not getting any special service for the surcharge. Some places have nicer trains running to the airports for the extra cost. I don’t forsee that happening here.
To end today’s post, I’ll show you the way out … er … exit. Isn’t “exit” easier to understand than “way out”?
What a great post about the problems that the GVRD faced when SkyTrain was first planned and built. Somebody at VIA Architecture dug up this beauty of an article.
Huge parallels between then and now. The lack of provincial government funding is present yesterday as it is today. Even though they were the ones who decreed what the technology would be, they aren’t willing to put their money behind their choices.
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” To which wise person can I credit that saying?