Now that I guess we’re all in a sort of transit thinking mindset with yesterday’s Mayors’ Council plan reveal, here’s a bit of transit history!
I found this old transit map dating from about 10 years ago while on a recent internet browsing rampage. Here are some highlights about our previous transit network:
Unbuilt/nonexistent:Canada Line SkyTrain, VCC-Clark Station, 96 B-Line
Other nonexistent routes: 84 VCC-Clark/UBC,555 Port Mann Express, 301 Newton/Richmond, 791 Maple Ridge/Braid Stn, 620 Tsawassen/Vancouver, 430 Metrotown/Richmond, 531 White Rock/Langley, 364 Scottsdale/Langley, C12 Lions Bay
The routes were coloured in red!
Different route numbers! The #10 was part of the #8, and the #14 was the #10
No #9 service whatsoever past Alma
#135 continues to Stanley Park Loop
Today’s C21 and C23 were previously the #1
Today’s C5 and C7 were previously the #114 and #115
Today’s C71 and C73 were previously the #317 and #328
Richmond had several peak hour express routes (491, 496, etc) that complemented local routes and ran to Vancouver
The #41 used to do an evening detour onto Thunderbird Blvd at UBC
The #640 was the Tsawassen Ferry route!
The #319 portion between Scottsdale and Newton was served by separate #322
The #340 was one huge, confusing mess of a route running on today’s 340 and 341 bus routes
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.
To the friends and family of Amarpreet Sivia, a victim of a deadly accident a few days ago near Princess Margaret Secondary (P.M.),
As I feel that I have become a major voice in raising awareness about the issues that may have been behind the cause of this accident, I feel it imperative that I write an address to you regarding my thoughts.
I discovered this issue when I saw a post about Amarpreet’s death on my Facebook news feed. These posts were made by students at P.M. who are my good friends. As I am not far from most of you in age and position, being a student and just one year older than Amarpreet, I am hoping I can identify with most of you naturally. I am a socio-civic issues blogger who graduated from high school earlier this year; I’m currently studying at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, which is right across the street from PM.
At my old high school, Johnston Heights Secondary (J.H.), crossing the street at an unmarked location as a shortcut to reach local businesses during lunch time was, in the heydays of my 8th and 9th grade, a huge problem. In the lunch hour, large groups of students would cross between signal lights on 100th Ave and on 152nd St, despite staff warnings and staff presence. It was relentless. It became so persistent that in 2009, two signalized crosswalks were finally installed on both roads – at 100th Avenue and 153rd Street, and at 152nd Street and 99th Ave.
This has become a huge success; the signals are used at different times of day now that they are there, and have generated massive safety benefits for the community.
A study you may have heard about in the media that looked at schools in Surrey – including Princess Margaret – to determine the need for crosswalks and additional safety facilities was completed one year after the new J.H. crosswalks were installed. Your school requested for crosswalk facilities in the same year; although, as far as I’m aware, it also took notice of the jaywalking three years prior (in 2007) and requested a median fence on 128th Street.
I have reasons to believe that political views in this city may have shifted between the time my school got crosswalks and that study was completed.
128th Street near your school is like 100th Avenue near my high school: both roads carry between 10,000 and 15,000 vehicles daily, both are four lane arterials signed at 60km/h, and both have/had unmarked places on the road that were crossed for various reasons throughout the day. A clear justification for this crosswalk should have already been established by the demand alone, in addition to the fact that students will require crossing facilities on a more on-demand basis, as the inability of youth to always process information and make the choices adults would needs to be taken into consideration.
As far as the many sources I have read say, two crosswalk locations were considered on 128th Street; at 69A Avenue, a crosswalk was simply refused, despite that the location fronts local businesses and there are bus stops on both sides of the street that need to be crossed to. At the other, closer to the school, it was determined that a crosswalk would be needed, but not until 2014. As we now know, that’s way too late.
A crosswalk can be as simple as painting markings on the road and installing a few signs: this is an inexpensive, upgradeable solution for a significant increase in road and pedestrian safety.
I often hear the Mayor and Council triumphing about how Surrey has the lowest residential taxes of any city in the region. What I don’t hear are that many voices, alongside my own, pointing out how this policy choice can hurt (and in this case, kill) our citizens. I think it is an issue that deserves much more attention than it currently has.
With my experience at J.H. and previous observations of crash areas in mind, I decided to write a now very popular blog post (Political Incompetence Kills – LINK HERE) on what I observed in the crash area, what contributing factors I thought were a part of this, and what I think needs to be done (that is, the fast-tracking of improved safety facilities and crosswalks on Surrey roads). CBC television called me about this yesterday, and asked me to come into their Vancouver office for an interview. If you were watching CBC news on Friday, 20th September, you would have heard me speaking about the issue of crosswalks being needed, wearing the black shirt and red polo over-shirt. You can view this clip online by [CLICKING HERE].
I’m hoping that I can strike a chord in some of you and engage discussion amongst yourselves and to others about your experiences and your thoughts, and speak up on city policies that you don’t like, or maybe find a reason not to like.
To end this letter, I would like to offer my condolences to her family and her friends. It might comfort you in knowing that this is an issue that I know that I’m going to look back at for the rest of my life, throughout the places and the interesting worlds that my blogging efforts or political issues involvement takes me to. I feel as if this is going to become a referential example for me of a situation where something was needed and then left amiss. I don’t think that I will ever forget.