Malaysia’s busiest railway line is about to receive an injection of new trains. Bombardier and Prasarana launched the first next-generation SkyTrain technology vehicles (Innovia Metro 300) yesterday in Kuala Lumpur, beating Vancouver to the task.
The next-generation, 4 car vehicles feature a next-generation design with larger windows. 56 cars were ordered, both to serve an extension of Malaysia’s busiest railway line (the Kelana Jaya Line) and increase its service frequency to beyond 3 minutes.
The new train features a humongous front window and side windows that go down to waist-height, which I can imagine would provide exquisite views from inside the vehicle.
From the launch event
From the launch event
From the launch event
From the launch event
Featured: Kuala Lumpur’s next-generation Mark III train
An info brochure
Similar trains have already been received at SkyTrain OMC and are undergoing testing here in Vancouver right now, although an unveiling event has yet to be announced.
For Kuala Lumpur, the first train is to undergo a testing phase that starts now, and ends at around May of this year – at which time the new-generation train will enter service.
With two SkyTrain technology extensions now in the works in Kuala Lumpur (the current extension of the Kelana Jaya Line and an all new “LRT3” Klang Valley Line), Bombardier’s Innovia Metro 300 vehicles will be seeing a lot of service in Malaysia for years to come.
The sun is rising over a quiet city, where the lights inside 13 new rapid transit stations turn on and the first station staff make their way down the relatively unused escalators to prepare to open the platforms for the first wave of customers.
The familiar hum of a linear induction motor system populates the station as the first of 15 four-car trains rolls in from the maintenance yard, ready to board passengers for the first service of the day.
If you think I’m describing an event in Vancouver, you would be wrong because I am describing what’s happening right now in a major Japanese city, one that decided to build a brand new rapid transit line with the same SkyTrain technology developed in Canada and pioneered here in Vancouver.
Sendai, Japan is the city that was hit hard during the March 11, 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The completion of the new Tozai Line, a 14km rapid transit subway with both underground and elevated stations, has turned the page for the city, marking its vibrance and prosperity as it progresses in its recovery from the devastation of 4 years ago.
I went back to Sendai for a business trip, and it also happened to be the day the Tozai line opened to the public. It was crazy! The city and its people are treating it like a big event! -Ryukyurhymer from Skyscrapercity(LINK)
Videos and photos of the launch celebrations show thousands of people making use of the new system, and celebrations ranging from idol girl groups performing on the station platforms, local sports team mascots out to celebrate, men in samurai outfits, traditional dance performances on board the trains, and picnics at the park beside the train’s visible elevated section. It is a lively hustle and bustle and the mood appears to be as festive as when I visited Sendai just 4 months ago to attend the city’s most famous Tanabata Festival, as part of my 1-year Japan studies journey. It is arguably the biggest occurrence in the city since this August and the biggest revolution for the city since the first steps in recovery were made after 2011.
Since the first km of demonstration track opened in early 1983 here in Vancouver, SkyTrain technology has made its way around the world with just over 20 systems complete or being proposed in 15 cities worldwide. We have reinvested in it and expanded our system several times, yet we’ve been overtaken by a certain Guangzhou, China that has made a monstrous investment in this technology with over 99km of track – reaching 130km by next year.
Sendai’s will to revitalize their city with the help of a technology pioneered here in Vancouver, Canada should be seen as a wonderful treat and a mark of our contributions to this technology’s progress, and a reminder of the big impacts we can make with choices that we would otherwise deem irrelevant. Sendai’s choice of SkyTrain technology will help the city fast-track its ongoing recovery from the events of 4 years ago.
The line will serve 80,000 riders a day next year, with an additional 3% more estimated to come each year and grow the system’s ridership. According to the schedule on the city’s website, trains will run every 3-4 minutes during peak hours and no less frequently than every 7.5 minutes at off-peak times and weekends – an excellent service standard for a medium-sized city of 1 million people.
The new line is already enabling new transit-oriented development nodes in the city, maximizing the line’s potential and giving a nod to the transit-oriented development practices that Greater Vancouver pioneered for every city in North America.
In an area around Arai Station, work to establish a new community of nearly 20,000 people is progressing. Public apartments have been built for those affected by the tsunami, with people moving there from areas closer to the Pacific coast as part of a collective relocation program.(The Japan Times)
We should celebrate a technology that’s made an impact around the world
As a result of the practical research for three years from Fiscal 1985, we confirmed that low-cost subway “Linear Metro” that has been developed as a public transport is suitable for regional hub city as a semi-main metropolitan line or branch line. For this reason, the Japan Subway Association established the “Linear Metro Promotion Headquarters” within the association in October 1988.
Japanese researchers started studying linear induction motors (LIMs) as train propulsion in 1985. After Osaka built Japan’s first LIM line (the Nagahori Tsurumi-Ryokuchi line), it was found that the city had saved approximately 20% in construction costs. This is one of the key advantages that come with LIMs – the less-complicated motors enable trains to have lower platform heights, which means tunnels can be significantly smaller and less costly without impacting the quality of service. There is no doubt that with the majority of Sendai’s new subway line tunneled, millions in cost savings were found with the use of SkyTrain technology.
This same advantage was directly to blame for the use of an existing railway tunnel on our Expo Line SkyTrain downtown, a choice that saved us hundreds of millions of dollars as a traditional light rail system would have required new and larger tunnels to be dug under our downtown core.
“The new line is a symbol of development for the disaster-hit Arai district. I hope the Tozai Line will play a major role in leading the city.” – Emiko Okuyama, Mayor of Sendai(The Japan Times)
Sendai’s system brings the amount of in-service SkyTrain technology systems from 17 to 18. 14 cities/areas are currently using SkyTrain technology, and a 15th (Okinawa Island, also in Japan) has declared its use for a major future transit investment.
I am pleased to hear about and report on this successful launch, and I encourage all of us in Vancouver to cheer this Japanese city and its people in celebrating a brand new era of progress and motion.
Local news report (Japanese)
Watch trains arrive and depart at Sendai Central Station
Featured above: The Nanakuma Line in Fukuoka uses LIM propulsion (SkyTrain technology)
Above video: (Japanese) report about the Nanakuma Line extension project in the City of Fukuoka
Japanese cities are leading the way in their investment in the same linear motor technology systems powering the Vancouver SkyTrain system.
A few weeks ago, the City of Fukuoka confirmed a major 1.6km extension of its Nanakuma Subway line, from its present terminus in Tenjin-Minami to the city’s intercity train terminal at Hakata Station. This extension will create a new extension from the south end of the Tenjin city centre area to Hakata Station, while passing underneath Canal City – a major mall in the city and Japan’s largest private development complex.
This extension will make the Nanakuma Line more accessible to intercity travellers arriving via the bullet train (Shinkansen) from Osaka, Kagoshima or Nagasaki at Hakata Station, and it will also improve transfers to the city’s Airport Line subway and connections to the airport, by allowing travellers to bypass the most congested section of the airport line at Nakasu-Kawabata.
Construction for this extension is already ongoing and is visible on Fukuoka’s city streets. The new extension is expected to be complete by 2020.
I am pleased to hear about this extension as Fukuoka is the largest city in Kyushu, the southwestern area of Japan where I lived in during my past year. In my time there I made frequent visits to the city, including frequent use of its subway lines. The Nanakuma Line was the first “SkyTrain technology” subway I visited, right after I arrived last September.
Sendai opening brand new SkyTrain technology line next week
Next week, Sendai will be proceeding with the opening of its east-west Tozai Line – a brand new subway system constructed with linear motor (SkyTrain) technology.
The City of Sendai has already hosted a test ride, attended by over 6000 would-be passengers of the new rapid transit line.
Above video: (Japanese) news report showing test rides last week on the Sendai Subway Tozai Line
The test rides were successful and the line is on track to open for revenue service in exactly 1 week on December 6, 2015.
The 3.3km “Metro Line” LRT has already been a victim of multiple delays. It was initially planned to open last year (2014), but has passed opening deadline after deadline, including the latest deadline which mentioned the line would open in May (it is now June). Despite having more on-street segments than previous LRT extensions, it has cost more per km than the fully grade-separated SkyTrain Evergreen Line.
And now, in order to “open the new line faster”, trains on the new LRT line will be running at just every 15 minutes, less than half the initially promised frequency on opening day. In addition to that, the line will not run its full length during off-peak hours, requiring a lengthy transfer for all transit passengers looking to get from one end of the line to the other.
Opening the Metro Line will also require a frequency reduction on existing LRT, on the north portion of the existing Capital Line LRT. From an existing peak service of 5 minutes, the Capital Line to the north will now run at an “alternating frequency of 5 or 10 minutes”, seriously inconveniencing existing riders.
Apart from the reduction in service, the arrangement has received significant criticism for potentially confusing passengers as they face changing service patterns – and in some cases, totally removed service.
So we’re going to have a 10-minute frequency after hockey games at Rogers Place and they’re only going to be three cars in length. That’s insane. How are you going to fit all those people on there? Josh Stock – Edmonton transit user
To make matters worse… once the Metro Line finally runs on its regular schedule, the trains will be running every 10 minutes – half of the initially promised 5 minute frequency.
This flies against comments made by Dorian Wandzura, Edmonton’s general manager of transportation services. In January, he said that trains on the Metro Line would be running every 5 minutes – and that trains on the combined section with the Capital Line would then be running every two-and-a-half minutes apart.
Each train running down the Capital Line is five minutes apart. When you integrate the Metro Line it will be running two-and-a-half minutes apart. Dorian Wandzura – general manager of transportation services
The reason this isn’t happening apparently has partly to do with safety issues running LRT trains every 2.5 minutes, on the combined section from Churchill to Century Park. But it also has to do with patronage – ridership levels obviously do not demand LRT trains every 2.5 minutes, permitting the lower frequency.
Now, the City is saying that…
Should council in the future decide that people, residents want more service then we could by all means order more trains. John Wollenzin – Division supervisor of LRT Operations
To conclude, it would appear that the city-owned Edmonton Transit System has abandoned its initial service promise – as if there was never an intent to run trains at the promised frequency of 5 minutes, deceiving everyone who has been looking forward to using the new line.
There were also 20 brand new train-cars ordered for the new Metro LRT that will go largely unused because of the reduction in train frequency…
A major warning sign for Surrey
A SkyTrain extension down Fraser Highway would be integrated with the existing Expo Line, offering through service without transfers to Surrey Central and as far as downtown Vancouver, with an end-to-end travel time of 59 minutes from Langley Centre to Waterfront. Unfortunately, the city of Surrey has been nplanning for a surface Light Rail system similar to the Metro Line introduced in Edmonton.
Surrey’s proposed at-grade LRT system will face a similar segment requiring interlining of LRT trains, between King George Station and Surrey Central Station. This is required so that trains from Fraser Highway can have a through service to Surrey Central, where City Hall, City Centre Library and the SFU and upcoming KPU campuses are located.
Trains on each of the two LRT lines are promised to run every 5 minutes, according to the City website. That means they will be running every 2.5 minutes on the combined, on-street section to Surrey Central.
If the City of Surrey were to face the same issues as Edmonton, it could mean some unprecedented and unacceptable service changes to riders. As an example, trains from the Fraser Highway line might be required to terminate at King George – necessitating that all riders transfer to other LRT or SkyTrain service in order to reach SFU or City Hall.
Neither the City or TransLink have specified how Fraser Highway line trains will be turned around at Surrey Central Station, without impacting the service of other through trains (such cases generally require larger stations with multiple platforms).
The new Metro Line LRT will have its frequency reduced from the get-go from 5 minutes to 10 minutes. I can only imagine what kind of disdain that would cause among transit riders in Surrey, if a similar reduction were to be made for LRT on opening day (which would make the new LRT less frequent than the 96 B-Line was at introduction!).
It’s also noteworthy that Edmonton’s Metro Line will be opening more than 1 year behind schedule when it finally does open. Despite its relative shortness (3.3km), it has been under construction since 2010. It took 3 years to build out the Metro Line by July 2013, after which trains began testing for approximately 1 year.
By comparison, our city Mayor Linda Hepner expects (having actually promised it during her election campaign) that the first phase 10km Surrey LRT will be complete in 2018. This would require construction and testing to begin and end within 3 years, which has never been done in North American history; and if the Edmonton timeline says anything, it says that Mayor Hepner and the Surrey First party are going to be in trouble during the next elections.
Clearly, the City of Surrey is on track to face a comparable disaster with its upcoming LRT system. Taxpayers, voters and city stakeholders have already been cheated multiple times by the misleading from LRT supporters.
It would be wise and best for Mayor Linda Hepner to abandon her LRT promise now with an apology note to City residents, than face accountability for her failed promise closer to the next municipal elections.
It’s official: SkyTrain technology has been confirmed in Malaysia for a brand new, 36km rapid transit line to be built on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. The new ‘Klang Valley LRT Line 3’ will begin construction at the beginning of next year, and is expected to open for revenue service in the year 2020. An alignment study has been completed, and the project owner has distributed the construction tenders just last week for the new line so that the detailed design process may proceed.
The Klang Valley line will intersect with the existing Kelana Jaya Line on Kuala Lumpur’s RapidKL network. The Kelana Jaya Line was built on the same propulsion and driver-less technology used on the SkyTrain system in Metro Vancouver, and uses the same Mark II vehicles manufactured by Bombardier. In addition to the Klang Valley Line, RapidKL is also currently in the process of completing a 17km extension of the Kelana Jaya Line, which will open in 2016. Here’s a short description of the new line from RapidKL:
Designed to ease traffic congestion in the Klang Valley and connected to the current LRT Kelana Jaya Line and the upcoming MRT Line 1 Sungai Buloh–Kajang, the proposed alignment of the LRT3 is currently being finalised by the Land Public Transport Commission. LRT3 aims to connect Bandar Utama to Klang, covering 36km, and will comprise 25 new stations.
StarBiz – RM9bil LRT to Klang
The Klang Valley line’s alignment is highlighted in red on the map towards the left. Note that while the original plan terminated the line at Kelana Jaya, the terminus has been changed to a new transit hub north of Kelana Jaya, where another connection is enabled to the proposed MRT 1 subway line.
A 4-car Kelana Jaya Line Mark II train
Daryl’s take reported on the Klang Valley Line last year, then known as the “Shah Alam Line” (SEE: Previous article) when its potential use of SkyTrain technology was merely a possibility. This has now been confirmed in the alignment studies.
The environmental impact assessment for the Klang Valley/LRT3 project, which was uploaded by observers on the SkyscraperCity forum, mentions that the vehicles on the proposed transit line will be the “similar to those used on the Kelana Jaya line” – indicating that they will be the exact same vehicles or a close variant, using the same linear motor propulsion technology, and driver-less operation.
The Light Rail Vehicle train, similar to those used in the Kelana Jaya LRT Line, will be used. The train can be configured to a 2, 4 or 6 car-vehicle train. The dimension of each car is 20 m long x 2.65 m wide x 3.44 m high. Each car will have a minimum of 36 seats and 6 passenger doors (3 doors on each side). It will be full Automatic Train Operation driverless system.
While the assessment did not specifically mention the use of linear motor propulsion, it did specify a vehicle height of 3.44m, matching the vehicle height of the Mark II trains on the Kelana Jaya line and thereby requiring the use of linear motor “SkyTrain technology”, as the height would not permit standard rotary motor propulsion due to its requirement of a higher platform. As a comparison, the regional network’s Ampang Line trains, using standard rotary-motor propulsion, have a height of about 3.9m. The assessment also specified a 5% maximum grade, requiring linear motor trains for safe operation. For rapid transit rail lines, standard rotary propulsion trains are generally limited to 3% maximum grades in order to accommodate for push-pull operations in the event of train stoppages and other emergencies.
The initial operation will use 54 2-car trains, at a 2-minute headway throughout the day. There will be an end-to-end time of 51 minutes on a running speed of 80 km/h, for an average speed of 42 km/h. Here are some additional highlights of the new Klang Valley line:
Largest SkyTrain technology expansion in recent history
At a whooping 36km from end-to-end, with 25 stations, the line will be the largest expansion of SkyTrain technology in recent history. I believe this will assuage some critics in Metro Vancouver who have claimed that the expense of SkyTrain technology prevents us from building larger-scale expansions. This is 36km of track being built at once, within 4 years!
The new line will be designed to accomodate 6-car trains on platforms that are 120 m long – 50% longer than those used on the Expo and Millennium Lines. This will not be the first example of a SkyTrain technology transit line with trains longer than 4 cars (the Toei subway Oedo Line in Tokyo runs 8-car trains), but it may be the first done with Mark III trains if Bombardier is awarded the rolling stock contract.
330,000 daily passengers after 30 years
The line is being designed to meet projections of carrying 330,000 daily passengers by the year 2050, which will make it one of the busiest SkyTrain technology lines in the world – and possibly the busiest using Bombardier’s Innovia trains if those are used on the new line. Opening-day ridership is estimated at 70,000 riders.
82km of SkyTrain technology
With the existing Kelana Jaya Line and its extension, the Klang Valley line’s 36km addition will result in over 80km of SkyTrain technology rapid transit in operation in the Greater Kuala Lumpur area.
This will be the second largest network in the world, short of the Guangzhou Metro which is already operating over 100km of linear motor rapid transit and continues to expand that. If the rolling stock is provided by Bombardier, then RapidKL will surpass Vancouver’s SkyTrain to become host to the world’s largest SkyTrain technology system with Bombardier trains.
CSR-Zhuzhou consortium bids, debunks “SkyTrain is proprietary” myth
According to a recent news report, Chinese rolling stock manufacturer CSR-Zhuzhou, which has previously provided linear motor technology for the Guangzhou Metro and the Changsha Maglev, has bidded for the Klang Valley line in a consortium with local construction firm Naza Engineering & Construction. The Naza-CSR consortium have offered to fund up to 90% of the project cost, in an effort to lure the contract.
If the consortium wins the contract, the trains will then be built by CSR-Zhuzhou rather than Canada’s Bombardier. They will still have to fit the specifications in the alignment study, meaning that linear motor propulsion trains – likely based on the ones in service in Guangzhou – will be used.
A Naza-CSR win would mark the second time in history (the first being Tokyo) that a SkyTrain technology rapid transit system is operating vehicles from two different manufacturers, effectively debunking a commonly spread idea throughout this region that “SkyTrain technology”, which was originally developed in Canada, is proprietary. The Greater Kuala Lumpur region is familiar with CSR-Zhuzhou: they had previously provided rapid transit vehicles (of standard rotary propulsion tech) for the region’s older Ampang Line.
Bombardier eyeing Klang Valley Line, sets up resources in Malaysia for prospective bid
A representative from Canada’s Bombardier Transportation (the manufacturer of our Expo and Millennium Line SkyTrain cars) has previously stated that the company is eyeing a train order for the proposed Klang Valley Line project, as well as other proposed heavy rail rapid transit projects throughout the region. Bombardier Rail opened a new office in Kuala Lumpur last year to facilitate operations in Malaysia and throughout Asia, accomodating 100 engineering, project management, systems integration and signalling specialists. If Bombardier bids for the Klang Valley line, they will then be in open competition with CSR-Zhuzhou and any other bidders for the line rolling stock.
While we can’t seem to decide on transit projects or technologies here in Metro Vancouver, the Klang Valley region has progressed quickly and the project owner has already started the call for construction tenders. This is not just a proposal at this point – the consultations have been finished, and the project is moving forward. The line will be open for service just 5 years from today.
About Kuala Lumpur’s “Rapid Rail” system
Kuala Lumpur’s RapidKL network is like a clone of our SkyTrain system overseas: the system is composed of several grade-separated, automated (driverless) rapid transit lines. Some use the same linear induction motor propulsion technology and Bombardier Mark II vehicles used on SkyTrain here in Vancouver, whereas others use standard rotary motor technology (as with the Canada Line). The Ampang Line, the first rapid transit line, used standard rotary propulsion and was opened in 1996. This was followed by the 1998 opening of the Kelana Jaya Line, the fully automated linear-propulsion line that looks and works exactly like our SkyTrain system, with the same Mark II trains.
The 29km Kelana Jaya Line is built with both overhead sections and bored tunnel sections through the city core. It is the busiest and most popular rapid transit line in metropolitan Kuala Lumpur with 160,000 riders daily , and was for a long time the only rapid transit service in the Klang Valley metropolis that broke even (revenues paid for operations costs) until the Ampang Line, which had historically fallen a few thousand riders short from breaking even , was equipped with thec system to itself become fully automated (driverless) . Both lines are currently receiving extensions that are due to open at around the same year the Evergreen Line is opened here in Vanouver.
The extensions are shown in the above map (note the unnamed stations near the bottom). Kuala Lumpur’s Rapid Rail system has been immensely successful since its opening, being major money generators for the regional rapid transit system and the biggest drivers of ridership and high-density development. SkyTrain technology helped the fares on RapidKL’s rapid transit lines remain completely unchanged for 10 years , despite hydro bill increases for the operating company, as a result of continually increasing ridership . The RapidKL network is considered the “key revenue-generator contributor” for Prasarana, the regional transportation authority if the Klang Valley 
Passenger numbers from Urban Rail Development Study, page 19 [LINK]
The Ampang Line breaks even at 170,000 riders daily, according to Malaysian Business (article “Red Flags” from 16 June, 2000 issue – not available online) – most recent recorded ridership was 141,000 daily
The Kelana Jaya Line has been automated from start of service; the Ampang Line was refitted with the Thales SelTrac system in 2012 [SEE HERE]
LRT, Monorail fares to go up next year – Astro Awani report [LINK]
Prasarana Power Cost Up 17% since Jan 1 – The Edge Malaysia [LINK]
The July 2014 SkyTrain meltdowns have probably perplexed a lot of people. In the past week, a lot of us bore witness to a level of chaos that I think had yet to be seen on the SkyTrain system in 28 years of operation.
We enjoy our SkyTrain service so much that I think that we have developed a collective expectation that things will always work out the way they’re supposed to.
Here are some of the responses I spotted on Twitter regarding the breakdown:
We’re tempted to question the SkyTrain system. Bus drivers’ union leader Nathan Wood – who, on CKNW, raised an issue that Light Rail systems have outnumbered SkyTrain-type systems in terms of construction around the world, is just a bit concerned that our main rapid transit backbone can have trouble fostering a busy transit network. While his numbers on the amount of SkyTrain systems in existence are slightly off of the actual amount, I can see why people would want to raise those questions after a series of unique, 5-hour closures.
How much service was actually disrupted?
You might have already seen this graphic, actually. I was wanted for a guest post on the Vancity Buzz, and had just finished creating this chart when the second consecutive major SkyTrain issue hit commuters Monday mid-day for what was unfortunately the second time in under 7 days.
Usually SkyTrain is operating for 20 hours daily – and while it’s absolutely unfortunate that the recent issues that plagued SkyTrain commuters hit during busier times of day, a 5.5 hour meltdown constitutes just over 25% of that service – meaning service was fine for the rest of the day. This is a far better record than what was achieved during the Portland transit meltdown of 3 weeks ago, where more than 60% of service fpr the day was not on time.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s a 132 hour work-week for the SkyTrain. 5.5 hours represents approximately 4% of service provided for the week, and well under 1% of service provided for the entire year. We had this twice in one week – meaning 11 hours of service were not operated on time – but that still represents less than 0.2% of all service provided throughout the year.
For the rest of the year, SkyTrain is operating normally – 99.4% of service is provided, with a 94.7% on-time performance rate. SkyTrain lets us down sometimes, but this isn’t actually happening a lot of the time. We enjoy reliable, rapid service that gets us where we need to go.
What should we do about this
There’s no question that issues and system shutdowns like this can be inevitable – so is there something that we can do about it? I think that there absolutely is – and looking at these issues, it seems that there’s a lot we can learn from this. For example – a lot of the time SkyTrain will fail, it impacts all riders because many bus lines connect to SkyTrain stations. A strategy to minimize delays during system shutdowns could involve the redirection or extension of bus routes to key areas to serve riders where they already are.
Normally, the best transit agencies can do when this happens is implement a shuttle bus bridge to repace the rapid transit service. This was the same procedure in Toronto and Portland, as pointed out above. The bus bridges are released as demand allows, but there’s no specific protocol that is followed in the event of a failure – meaning it can take some time before the bus bridges actually start, with passengers delayed until then.
But, it’s important to be prepared.
So, here’s an important disclaimer: I was lucky enough to not be there for both of these recent SkyTrain disruptions.
But, before you lambast me with comments of “you don’t know what we face!” or “try being on a train when it happened”, I would like to comment that I have seen my share of SkyTrain delays and disruptions before.
Prominent was the one that hit our system in April 2013, when a power rail issue in New Westminster halted trains on the system for close to an hour and required the deployment of shuttle bus bridges. I was on the problem train, and remember what it felt like as my train was passing the problem area and the electricity was suddenly cut. I remember how staff restarted the train and tried to move it past the area again, only for it to once again come to a grinding halt. I was heading from Surrey to the last showing of the theatre play at Windermere Secondary School, to see the performance and meet some friends in a yearly event that I consider to be something of a tradition. With the level of delays, I was unfortunately not able to make it to Windermere until the play ended.
It’s important to remember that transit isn’t the only form of transportation that isn’t always reliable. Accidents on key arterials or bridges can disrupt the flow of traffic in the region, especially when there are two or more bridges blocked at the same time. As a driver, you might know an alternate route that might be slower but will get you there with less congestion and less time waste. I think the same needs to be true for riders of transit.
Sometimes, there’s just no way to make it on time. Regardless, I still think it’s important to be somewhat prepared for when there are issues – and handle ourselves calmly and responsibly in times of crisis.
There’s an important message that can be had from the recent issues, one of which is a need for all of us to step back and realize that every possible way to get around has some sort of volatility. Even as we walk, we risk tripping on something that can temporarily impair our most basic ability to get around. The reality is, no matter how we choose to get around, we may run into issues. And, with the amount of money we sink into our demand to get around, it’s understandable why there’s such a high level of frustration when a transportation service you must rely on does not work out – not just on the SkyTrain but everywhere else.
Think about it. It’s true, right? So much of the money we earn goes towards the basic function of getting around. Transportation defines the way all of us live – so much that I think we don’t realize that it costs a lot of money to get around in this society. We take our transportation for granted – and for the younger ones, who may have benefited from the subsidized and discounted U-PASS, it’s especially not easy to realize this. However, this is the reality of the life we live. An average suburban household might spend more than 60% of income on the house and car – dealing with gas prices at all-time highs and ownership costs.
But where do I start?
It all starts with looking at where you live and where you might be going, and looking at your alternatives well in advance. For example: what are the bus routes near your house, and where can they take you. Which routes are your best options (accounting for frequency, speed, etc.) Or, if you live in Surrey and you tend to need to get across the Fraser River a lot, how much money can you set aside in case you need to pay for a cab to get across? If you vaule your money, what are the alternate bus routes to get you around once you do get across? (for example: the 123 from New West Station goes to Brentwood, or the 100 22nd St Station goes to South Vancouver).
As a society, we have to be anticipative of issues and have the knowledge to deal with it in real time – because often, transit authorities have limited resources and can’t always do that.
Anyway, to conclude this, I’ve seen the comments to the Vancity Buzz post on Facebook, etc. and some of you asked for the sources for my on-time performance numbers – which I have listed below.
I know it’s questionable given I have omitted certain systems, so to clarify – if there’s a system I omitted, it may be because of the difficulty in actually finding the numbers (the internet, in a limited time frame, can only get you so far!) or due to measurement standards that weren’t too comparable (I was looking at adding some Light Rail systems in New Jersey to the list, but NJ Transit’s stats measure with poor standards that consider runs on-time even if they are 6 minutes early or late, so I chose to omit). Listed below:
Looks like my calls are being echoed in the City of Toronto. Someone out there is seriously listening to me, for I had previously proposed the very idea this think tank is proposing through Better Surrey Rapid Transit (SkyTrain for Surrey), in an attempt to communicate to people that SkyTrain expansion can make sense.
I have been pushing for quite some years now for a SkyTrain expansion in my home city (Surrey) over the current Light Rail expansion plan on account of SkyTrain making a lot more sense (most of you reading probably know this of me). As part of that, I went ahead and applied some of my thinking onto Toronto’s transit proposals in a special article I wrote regarding the under-construction Eglinton Crosstown Line. I published that write-up more than 1.5 years ago, in March 2012.
The use of [SkyTrain technology] would provide the same cost savings that moving a portion of the LRT at-grade would and more, despite a need for complete grade separation. It would provide faster, more reliable service and be more flexible in capacity expansion, and also remove the travel time penalty associated with at-grade LRT.
I supposed that using linear motor-propulsion “ALRT” (also known by some critics here as “SkyTrain technology”) would cut down on the Eglinton Crosstown Line’s tunnel size and tunneling costs (the LRT is being built with a 6.5m diameter tunnel, whereas SkyTrain technology requires just a 5.3m diameter tunnel), saving billions and billions of dollars, and opening up the room for grade-separating the rest of the line and providing better service throughout, increasing ridership numbers and improving the business case. The Crosstown Line is currently being built for at-grade LRT technology, assuming that further expansions would be at-grade.
The Neptis Foundation yesterday submitted a very bold critique of the Metrolinx “Big Move” plan that seems to agree with a lot of my previous propositions. The 144-page study recommends a different Toronto rapid transit plan than the one being recommended by Metrolinx. It thinks in the same way I have thought, in that leveraging the Scarborough RT’s ALRT/SkyTrain technology and extending it would make more financial and practical sense than the current proposal to build LRT.
Neither Metrolinx nor TTC seems to have given serious consideration to development of Scarborough and Eglinton Crosstown lines using ALRT or similar “light metro” technology. This technology has been applied very successfully in more than 20 cities around the world. 89 Some architects and urban designers prefer surface LRT, because it is less visually intrusive, and can run in mixed traffic and pedestrian environments, albeit at much lower speeds. But faster services on exclusive rights-of-way are far more effective, and efficient, at getting motorists to switch to transit.
The Toronto LRT schemes could be greatly improved by building them with fully exclusive rights of way, perhaps automated ALRT or similar technology. Ridership would be much higher, as would the benefits to the region. And the costs could actually be less.
The author, a UK-based railway consultant, is calling for the full package: a switch of the Eglinton LRT line to a SkyTrain-technology ALRT line with driverless train automation, grade-separation of the full line (including Phase II) to offer faster journeys, and shorter station platforms (appropriate given higher train frequency). He cites that such a setup would generate more than twice the benefits and cost half as much per new daily transit rider. This is based largely on the basis that as a faster SkyTrain-type line it could provide better service and attract more ridership, which is very sound. It isn’t rocket science: when compared against light rail transit systems throughout North America, our 68km SkyTrain system here in Metro Vancouver is outperforming all of them in ridership numbers. There is value in better rapid transit service.
Here is one excellent question I would like to highlight: the study questions a proposal to refurbish the existing Scarborough RT line (a 1980s-era SkyTrain technology line traversing eastern Toronto), noting that the costs to refurbish the RT line to use LRT technology are higher per kilometre than the from-scratch SkyTrain construction costs for the Evergreen Line in Vancouver:
At $1.8 billion for 10 km, the Scarborough LRT line would be considerably more expensive than the Sheppard Line, 68 or about $180 million per km. About half the cost is for conversion of the existing 6.5-km RT to accommodate low-floor LRT cars, with overhead power collection. This involves substantial reconstruction of six intermediate stations, and complete reconstruction of Kennedy Station to provide a larger underground loop, and track connection with the Eglinton LRT so TTC can exchange cars for maintenance purposes (but not for through-running with passengers). The balance is for construction of 4 km of new line, mostly elevated, from McCowan to Sheppard Avenue.
Note that at $180 million per km, the cost per km for the Scarborough RT is about 30% higher than the costof the Evergreen Line, a fully grade-separated ALRT line in Vancouver, even though the Scarborough line uses mostly existing infrastructure, and otherwise operates through a broadly similar corridor.
The study recommends building on SkyTrain technology on account of finding that the LRT proposals in Transit City and following plans had low (or negative) benefit:cost ratios, in exactly the same manner as I am recommending SkyTrain technology in Surrey based on a negative benefit:cost ratio for LRT – and does a great job at making a case for it, addressing issues raised with capacity and size of rolling stock, among other things.
The author officially proposes the “Scarborough Wye” concept, for 3 rapid transit lines using SkyTrain technology: the existing Scarborough RT with renewed infrastructure, its extension to Malvern Centre, and a new line from Scarborough Centre to North York via an elevated right-of-way in the centre of the 401 Freeway and down the existing Sheppard Subway tunnels. He makes the case that the whole concept could be built for an outstandingly low cost per new transit rider and a high benefit-cost ratio – better than any of the LRT proposals that have gone through thus far.
We can only wonder if the common sense overflowing from this study could possibly prevail in the upcoming decisions at TTC and Metrolinx, and I hope something moves forward because it does look like SkyTrain technology is the solution for providing a lot of high quality transit. I think it would send a good message across Canada and to Metro Vancouver’s decision-makers and planning authorities as well.
More on Michael Schabas, the study author
Michael Schabas is a UK-based railway consultant who has been involved in launching several new railway projects and businesses.
Between 1981-1986, he worked for the UTDC (Urban Transportation Development Corporation) and was involved in the early development of the automated rapid transit technology used in Vancouver’s SkyTrain system.
It’s a smart move by Apple of keeping their profit margins higher, as it costs less for them to produce a 5C and offer it at the last-gen price, than to lower the original iPhone 5’s price to a last-gen price.
With an unlocked minimum cost of $550 in the United Staes, at least one India news source is complaining [LINK HERE] that this is not an affordable smartphone for emerging markets. It is far from that. EDIT: Tech blog Engadget [LINK HERE] has also brought light to this.
By comparison, the new and high-end Moto X smartphone by Motorola – which is, unlike the Chinese-manufactured iPhone 5C (which is already the subject of at least one labour scandal [LINK HERE]) is completely built in the U.S.A. with the most ethical practices, costs $575 unlocked – just $25 more. Motorola is preparing an even lower-cost Moto X that will completely undercut the iPhone 5C despite more ethical manufacturing.
Here’s a graphic from Engadget:
And, thus, by concept the iPhone 5C we have come to expect is a massive failure.
It’s been more than one year now since that day when we stood there protesting Bill 22, outside and in the rain and snow, probably close to some 20000 strong students all belonging to a generation that researchers of this society have labelled with the letter “Y”.
We weren’t just a random group of high school kids who wanted to skip school just to take the opportunity to join a bunch of other people doing it. Granted, there were probably some of us who were out of school for that purpose, but in spite of that, there were a lot of us had real concerns about our education – and we showed it in rallies and protests that, for that one day, attracted attention across the province. We were everywhere. The average joe who kept up would have seen us in Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna, Penticton, Squamish….. and even in a small town somewhere north of Prince George.
And then, after that, we had to go back to school.
The reality of being young and needy in British Columbia
It’s hard enough for a young person in BC to show their concerns about their society and their environment; the majority of us, under 18, don’t have a vote in any elections. However, facing school and pressures that take up our daily lives, we really don’t have the time to commit to involvement in protecting our own futures and prosperity. Less yet do we have time to be skipping school and making a big show of it like we did that one time on March 2nd, just to show people that we’re concerned about what’s going on. We don’t have time to launch mega-massive protests like the ones Montreal students did at about the same time over rising tuition fees.
So, what we don’t have an ability to do in this society is properly represent ourselves. We rely on the 85 important and older people who go to Victoria with the hope that they will make decisions that do accomodate us, and steer us towards the prosperity that other generations of past got so that they could become great and successful people, in much the same way we want to be. We have to rely on you, and we can’t rely on ourselves – and that, I believe, is becoming one of the most critical mistakes in modern-day politics in every democratically-run sovereignty.
In May 2012, a few months after the March student walkout and after months of job action, teachers across the province were forced to give up. They accepted a horrible legislation that was called Bill 22, a legislation that has brought to B.C. the worst student-educator ratio in Canada and the associated effects to students and to our society in the indirect ways.
Our say, in addition to their say, just simply wasn’t enough.
Young vs old in BC polls
Yesterday, when thousands of British Columbians took to the polls to get in their vote in the 2013 elections, elementary and high school students across the province participated in Student Vote: a parallel election program coinciding with the British Columbia provincial election. They elected a majority NDP government. But, when the actual elections came, they were then out-voted by the rest of the population.
We won’t have a say in facing another 4 years of the B.C. Liberal government that has brought us inferior education compared to other provinces in Canada (including the worst student-educator ratio in the country). We won’t have a say in the cutbacks in skills training programs that will affect us as we graduate from high school and look for these programs to get us the skills we will need to start benefiting from (and contributing to) the economy in the future. We won’t have a say in any of this.
On top of that, we also have to face the fact that well over 70% of people in this province simply didn’t think about us when they made their vote. That 70% being: the 52% of people who didn’t show up to the polls at all (only 48% of voters voted in the May 2013 provincial election, a record low), in addition to the voters around the province who brought back the party that has largely governed without our interests in mind for the past 12 years.
There is a growing disconnect between the young population of British Columbia and everyone else.
I think that, starting today and proceeding as more and more of the issues young people face in their society get worse and worse as little is done to effectively solve them, young people in this province are going to lose hope in our modern system of democracy. They’re going to lose hope in their ability to be accommodated in a society that really doesn’t care about young people, has given them a much more difficult situation than was faced years ago by the generations that are now voting their concerns out, and doesn’t have a way to allow them to properly represent themselves in modern politics. (see video above, titled “What Is Generation Squeeze?“)
They’re going to start favouring something much more convoluted and scary in nature: something else.
In my view, this will create a tendency in British Columbians’ generation Y and (as they grow) generation Z: a tendency for us to be generally dissatisfied, unhappy, rebellious, and perhaps violently rebellious in our futures, as a result of the inconveniences we faced as a result of an incompetent government surrounding us at our young age. It will have dire consequences on the stability, economy and strength of this entire province.
That, I believe, is going to become this province’s single biggest future issue.
That, or the fact that based on the elections results there are probably few – if any – educated people in British Columbia who will ever take my concerns about the growing disconnect between young people and their society seriously.
The video above is certainly right that the car-orientation of our society is among the biggest drivers (no pun intended there) in kids’ changing commute patterns. I’m a bit of an urbanist, and I can say that I’m certainly not a fan of how so many communities in this world are being oriented towards the car, as opposed to kids and people.
However, to an extent I disagree with this video in the claim that children have “lost the freedom to roam” solely because of a car-oriented culture, and car-oriented communities. The comments in the video seem to imply that children have lost their freedom to roam simply because of that, or alternatively because their parents do not allow them to walk or bike.
Kids are not unlike adults: they are free actors in a free society (tips hat to Jarrett Walker), and they have the right to choose what seems best for them (with the assistance of parents). There may be reasons that children are actually choosing to be driven to school in the morning out of lack of choice, not because the society around them is car-oriented. There may also be reasons that parents are choosing schools further away from home for their children.
I happen to know that both are happening in my community. And, it’s not because of any specific development and land-use orientation towards the car.
The effects of school schedules and overcrowded school buildings
At the North Surrey Secondary school here in Surrey, too many students and an overcrowded school building have forced the school to adopt an awkward five-block schedule [CLICK HERE]. NSSS staggers students across the 5 blocks, so that older students study for the first four and younger ones for the last four (or combinations with study blocks). I’ve noted this before in my newsletters several times as one of the problems of lack of education funding in not just this city, but also this province (B.C. has the worst student-to-educator ratio in Canada 16.8:1, vs. a national 13.8:1 average – from the BCTF and Statistics Canada)
I have one friend who goes to North Surrey Secondary, and lives just under 1 mile away, and is driven to school. In her case in particular, in the morning, she asks (and has arranged) to be driven to her school with her brother. But, in the afternoon, they have no problem making the 20 minute walk back to their home.
As with 11th and 12th grade students, as a result of the awkward 5-block schedule the school has been forced to adopt, her and her brother are expected to be at school and in class by 7:55AM – 45 minutes earlier than is expected at most other high schools in the city. That already means, in spite of being driven, waking up very early in the morning to go through preparation.
Transit options aren’t much better; the 335 bus route runs only every 20 minutes in the morning, meaning a missed bus means being late to class, and a trip that would take longer than simply walking. However, even if the buses ran frequently enough to be reliable, relying on transit would add an additional monthly cost of $104 ($52 per student) – not exactly an encouraging prospect for many parents who have cars for their own purposes, and who might not pay much to drive their kids to school in the morning (and possibly from in the afternoon) – especially if it happens on the way to work.
Some people have the luck of parents who will wake up earlier and cook in the morning to prepare food and other daily necessities. But, other students might be like how you see Umi-chan in the opening scenes of STUDIO GHIBLI’s From Up on Poppy Hill. These students, girls or guys, might have to cook for themselves, in addition to cleaning up and doing other errands in the morning to start the day. These errands can take a long time.
This reality seems to reflect itself in many online polls of students. In this poll on Discovery Girls [LINK] (you need to answer in order to see the results), 57% of respondants take 30 minutes or longer to get ready in the morning. This second poll on Smart Girls [LINK] has similar results: 30% of girls take at least an hour to get ready in the morning. 63% take 30 minutes or longer.
For the people who take over an hour, they may have to wake up as early as 6:20-6:30 in the morning in order to meet the 7:55AM schedule, considering the time of commute.
It’s been studied that adolescents naturally tend to be “night owls” – they prefer to be awake in the later night hours and awaken later in the day. This is because of hormones, and it happens with every teenager. Early wake-up schedules simply do not sit in well with teenagers.
This is why, in my belief, a lot of them will value those extra 20-30 minutes in the morning they can sleep in addition to being in the comfort of a car in the morning on the way to school – sheltered from rain, storm, wind, and other potential sources of discomfort.
The effects of student-educator ratio
The other issue in my community that I pointed out earlier is student-educator ratio. Here in British Columbia, we have the worst in the country. We are far above the national average. That is a factor that can make parents here very concerned about the education their students receive.
As I mentioned earlier, people are free actors in a free society. They are free to make the decisions they want in order to get the best. Parents are free to choose to send their children to a different school that may offer a lower student-educator ratio or an otherwise statistically better education, even if it’s further from home and, perhaps, driving to school is required. This, I believe, is one of the big contributors to why many students are being driven to school.
I know several students who have been moved to different high schools by their parents in order to obtain a better education. These actions do have results. One of those people I know, in particular, helped start the Can You Contain It! Campaign with Metro Vancouver. She’s a very active environmentalist and lifestyle change activist, with a very big record of community involvement through selfless acts of service.
In my view, the solution to both of the problems is simply to ensure that children have a better education and a good learning environment – we must make sure that there are enough teachers for students so that they can get a better education closer to home, and big enough school buildings so that no schools have to adopt awkward schedules that force students to come very early.
Encouraging active commutes to school
That still leaves the issue: What can we do about schools in car-oriented communities? I do believe that car-orientation plays some part in why students are driven to school, but I also believe that the solution isn’t difficult.
I believe that encouraging students to cycle (and parents to allow their kids to) is the solution to the problem, as is ensuring there is bike-friendly infrastructure (although in car-oriented communities, lower traffic volume on low-density residential streets can actually permit very safe cycling even without dedicated bike infrastructure like bike lanes). Cycling is something I took on for commuting in my final years of high school, and in my view it often provides a perfect balance between an active commute and a reasonable travel time to school in the morning.
How to encourage cycling? Not difficult. Urban and suburban areas should adopt programs like TransLink’s Travel Smart (a program by our metropolitan transit agency that encourages people to commute sustainably) and introduce them to schools. I know for one that Travel Smart has had much success in encouraging active commuting to schools in my city through incentives.