I recently updated my List of Linear Induction Motor rapid transit systems [LINK] list to reflect the opening of Guangzhou Metro’s Line 6 – the world’s newest “SkyTrain technology” line, adding 25km of linear motor trackage to Guangzhou’s Metro system. The opening was met with a celebration last week.
The new line is expected to carry 700,000 passengers daily (about twice as much as our SkyTrain system carries) in the first month – making it one of the world’s busiest applications of SkyTrain technology on a rapid transit line. Guangzhou now has 100km of active linear motor rapid transit track – twice the length that Vancouver has on our SkyTrain system. Line 6 has both above-ground sections and tunnel sections; the latter in particular takes advantage of the low-height of linear motor cars, which enables smaller tunnels and cost savings.
Line 6 is very unique among the Guangzhou Metro Lines in that it has the most stations, the most passenger amenities, and offers the most frequent service of any Guangzhou Metro line. Basically, Guangzhou has chosen to build the most important subway line in the city with SkyTrain technology.
Guangzhou Metro ordered almost 200 linear motor rapid transit cars from Itochu and China’s CSR Sifang for Line 6. [SEE LINK]
A recent Vancouver Sun piece [LINK HERE] that I’m planning to send commentary on took note on the apparent obsolescence of “25-year-old SkyTrain technology”. The opening of this new line in Guangzhou, which is a high-capacity application, shows that this is far from true. In fact, there’s new research going on in India [LINK] at the Indian Institute of Technology (Banaras Hindu University) Varanasi to make it the fourth country to offer a “SkyTrain technology” product – after Canada, Japan and China.
System length: 68.6km (49km linear motor track) – Future 61km linear motor track Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– ICTS Mark I (150 cars, 75 “married pairs”)
– Bombardier ART 200 (108 cars, 54 “married pairs”)
– Bombardier INNOVIA Metro 300 (28 cars, 7 4-car consists) Systems with LIM propulsion:
– Expo Line (1986) 28.9km
– Millennium Line (2002) 20.1km
– Evergreen Extension (opens 2017) 11km Train control: Fully automated (Thales SELTRAC)
System length: 69km Announced:November 2014 Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– FUTURE: 4-car consists Train control: Unannounced automated system
Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway
System length: 109.1km (40.7km linear motor track) Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– Nippon Sharyo/Hitachi 12-000 series EMU (440 cars, 55 8-car consists)
– Kawasaki Heavy Industries 12-600 series EMU Systems with LIM propulsion:
– Toei Subway Ōedo Line (1991) 40.7km; daily ridership: 795,461
– Metro 7/Eight Liner (FUTURE) 59.7km Train control: Automated with backup driver
RapidKL Rail (Kuala Lumpur)
System length: 64.6km (29km linear motor track) – Future 82km linear motor track Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– Bombardier ART 200 (70 cars, 35 “married pairs”)
– Bombardier ART 200 order 2 (140 cars, 35 4-car consists)
– Bombardier INNOVIA Metro 300 (56 cars, 14 4-car consists) Systems with LIM propulsion:
– Kelana Jaya Line (1998) 29km (17km extension opening June 30, 2016)
– “LRT3” Klang Valley Line (UNDER CONSTRUCTION; 2020) 36km Train control: Fully automated (Thales SELTRAC)
System length: 456km (28.1km linear motor track) Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– Bombardier/Changchun Railway Vehicles ART 200 (40 cars, 10 “Married pairs”) Systems with LIM propulsion:
– Airport Express (2008) 28.1km Train control: Automated with backup driver (Alstom CBTC)
Osaka Municipal Subway
System length: 129.9km (26.9km linear motor track) Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– Kawasaki/Kinki Sharyo 70 series EMU
– Kawasaki/Kinki Sharyo 80 series EMU Systems with LIM propulsion:
– Nagahori Tsurumi-ryokuchi Line (1990) 15km
– Imazatosuji Line (2006) 11.9km Train control: Automated with backup driver
EverLine Rapid Transit System (Yongin, Korea)
System length: 18.143km Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– Bombardier ART 200 (30 cars) Train control: Fully automated (Bombardier CityFLO 650)
System length: 28.7 km (14 km linear motor track) Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– Kinki Sharyo 2000 series EMU (60 cars, 15 consists) Systems with LIM propulsion:
– Tozai Line (OPENED Dec 6, 2015) 13.9km
Yokohama Municipal Subway
System length: 53.4km (13km linear motor track) Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– Kawasaki 10000 series EMU Lines with LIM Propulsion:
– Green Line (2008) 13km Train control: Automated with backup driver
Fukuoka City Subway
System length: 29.8km (12km linear motor track)
Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– Hitachi 3000 series EMU (68 cars, 17 consists) Systems with LIM Propulsion:
– Nanakuma Line (2005) 12km (1.6km extension to Hakata opening 2020) Train control: Automated with attendant
AirTrain JFK (New York)
System length: 13km Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– Bombardier ART 200 (32 cars) Systems with LIM Propulsion:
– Current AirTrain system (2002) 13km
– Lower Manhattan – Jamaica/JFK Transportation Project via Long Island Rail Road track-sharing (FUTURE) Train control: Fully automated (Thales SELTRAC)
Kobe Municipal Subway
System length: 40.4km (7.9km linear motor track) Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– 5000 series EMU Systems with LIM propulsion:
– Kaigan Line (2001) 7.9km Train control: Automated with backup driver
Toronto Subway and RT
System length: 68.3km (6.4km linear motor track) Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– ICTS Mark I (62 cars, 31 “married pairs”) Systems with LIM Propulsion:
– Scarborough RT (1985) 6.4km Train control: Driver-controlled with partial automation
Detroit People Mover
System length: 4.7km Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– ICTS Mark I (12 cars, 6 “married pairs”) Train control: Fully automated (Thales SELTRAC)
The recent article on the Metro 604 website titled “From San Francisco to Surrey: Lessons on Light Rail“ prompted me to look into San Francisco’s transit situation a bit deeper, as could probably be expected from me as a person concerned on Surrey transit matters.
In San Francisco, California, this is what the transit system looks like:
The region-wide BART subway system has 8 stations within the city, while the commuter CalTrain service has 2 stops in San Francisco. The City’s Municipal Transportation Agency runs the MUNI bus system and Metro LRT within its borders. The MUNI Metro began operation in the 80′s, a modern light rail service replacing former streetcar routes. (Metro 604)
What Hillsdon (writer) wants us to take away from his write-up on the San Francisco transit system, and – particularly – the MUNI Metro LRT, is that:
The San Francisco experience teaches us that LRT is a very efficient transit solution, even for big cities, if we plan the system smarter and with greater flexibility.
And most of this is based on sight, with a few numbers thrown into the mix here and there.
Now, I’m not trying to point fingers at any of the conclusions or numbers in this article here. No one’s misleading anyone. Indeed, 32% of San Francisco residents commute around by transit to work (2011 CLIMATE ACTION STRATEGY for San Francisco’s Transportation System – page 10) – This is even slightly higher than the latest number I can find in Vancouver that describes transit trips within the city. Indeed, the flexibility of LRT in San Francisco has led it to be able to serve multiple purposes fairly well. I think that there’s a certain depth that might have been left out in his takeaway here, however – and that’s why I’m writing in response to this article. I think there are more lessons we can learn on Light Rail in San Francisco.
My nitpicks with the MUNI Metro? 4 topics below:
1. Active transportation in SF vs. Vancouver
Let’s take San Francisco versus Vancouver. San Francisco is like Vancouver in several ways, from the climate to the hilly terrain down to the fact that like Vancouver, down to that is largely on a peninsula. For a somewhat similar city with a walk score of 85 – which by far outranks Vancouver’s 78 on the same system (which is the best in Canada) – it surprises me that San Francisco has a lower walking and cycling mode-share at 14.3% of trips.
When walking/cycling and transit are combined, the mode-share for active/sustainable trips beginning and ending in the City of San Francisco is 48.3%. This isn’t any better than the 2006 Vancouver numbers I usually quote (Vancouver Transportation Plan update, which reported a 52% mode-share for walking/cycling/transit trips, against a 48% auto mode-share for the same trip-type). So, I’m not seeing how San Francisco’s flexible use of modern Light Rail technology makes it any more (or less) remarkable. There’s not a lot about Light Rail that makes San Francisco’s transit outshine similar cities for any particular reason.
2. The Muni Metro stops at stop signs.
There are probably not a lot of other light rail transit systems around the world that have to do this, but it does happen on the MUNI Metro. The above is just one of several examples around the city. In this one, the lack of any controlled traffic priority means that a train has to wait until every pedestrian and cyclist crosses – a cause of scheduling delay throughout the system. In this case, the system is no better than a local bus.
The fact about mixed-traffic streetcars and light rail is that they must obey the rules of the road they share, which presents such a service to a lot of weaknesses and drawbacks. It seems like many of San Francisco’s Muni METRO lines (like the K and the N) travel on minor streets, and so they face stop signs and other local-street obstructions, to the nuisance of many commuters that might otherwise be choice riders. Light Rail’s flexibility is nice, but I don’t see how using its flexibility is necessarily “better planning”. With flexibility comes a cost; I see TransLink’s mandate that Light Rail be kept in a dedicated-right-of-way with traffic signal priority investments at all times as a very good thinking, because it ensures that transit is consistent, more reliable, and more competitive as a transportation and mobility option.
The San Francisco experience teaches us that LRT is a very efficient transit solution, even for big cities, if we plan the system smarter and with greater flexibility.
But, the existence of this bus route throws that claim somewhat out of whack. As a “very efficient transit solution”, Light Rail shouldn’t need to be complemented with an express bus service on the basis that the express bus service adds to the usability of that corridor – but, that’s exactly what’s happening, in at least one situation in San Francisco.
The MUNI route “NX Judah” is an oddity: it’s a peak-hour express standard-length bus service that supplements the local stop portion of the N Judah Light Rail line, then operates non-stop into downtown on mixed-traffic streets. It’s an interesting oddity for me, because while the local portion makes the same local-style stops as light rail, the express portion is actually trying to compete with its subway portion. The NX (detailed paper at CLICK HERE) was introduced in June 2011 as a six-month pilot experiment with express bus service supplements. According to transit schedules (N Judah / NX Judah Express), it runs every 7-8 minutes, alternating the N Judah Light Rail line on the outer end portion of it from 48th Avenue to 19th Avenue and providing a 3-4 minute corridor frequency west of 19th.
Above is a video on the NX Judah, which compares it directly against the N Judah Light Rail Line. According to the racers’ stopwatches, which were set to time from trip-start to trip-finish, the NX doesn’t win the race here. At 29 minutes, in this video it was slightly slower than the N-Judah which manages a 26 minute commute to 19th and Judah. As can probably be expected with a mixed-traffic bus, results may vary.
However, other reports generally put the NX as faster than the N – alongside being less stressful to ride on, because the NX adds important capacity. The fact in itself that LRT-like travel time can come so close on a bus that, while express, runs with at-grade mixed-traffic, is pretty amazing.
Why not more trains?
The interesting thing that makes me wonder is why Light Rail service could not have simply been increased on the N Judah. It definitely could use that; the Judah Street corridor is one of the busiest transit corridors in the city, carrying some 38,000 daily transit boardings – though that is still less than Vancouver’s Broadway. The at-grade corridor seems to certainly be capable of handling 3-4 minute frequencies, because the express buses and light rail combined operate at those intervals when their schedules are put side-to-side.
I initially suspected that it may be due to the fact that the inner, interlined segments in the MUNI subway are constrained by the very high train frequency of interlining 6 different lines together.
The Market Street Subway, where the six MUNI Metro light rail lines interline under Market Street into downtown San Francisco, is using the same Thales SELTRAC automatic train control system as the Vancouver SkyTrain in its underground portions. In fact, the MUNI Metro pioneered the application of SELTRAC outside of ART technology and linear-induction motor trains, which has since been applied to several other systems worldwide. This was put into service in 1998, after MUNI found that coupling trains from different lines where they converged in order to maintain headways that could be sustained safely by driver-manned operation was infeasible and unreliable. With automatic train control, the shorter trains from the individual lines can be run at the higher frequencies safely.
However, according to this report [LINK HERE], the Market Street Subway (where the 6 MUNI metro lines interline) is not operating at its capacity. It is currently running at a throughput of some 33-37 trains per hour, whereas the design capacity is 50 trains per hour, and the current throughput is lower than averages seen in 2003-2004 (where throughputs reached 40 trains per hour).
The NX Judah Express pilot implementation was estimated to have an annual cost of $1.8 million, for six months of service. This translates into an annual cost of some $3.6 million.
Whereas expanding N Judah service could have required the purchase of additional light rail vehicles at significant capital cost (whereas it appears that the NX is using repurposed reserve buses from 1993), implementing the NX Judah avoided (or had reduced) capital costs. With that reason, plus having the opportunity to provide a faster service as well as improve capacity, I can see why the NX service has a great business case. The NX provided the same mobility benefit as an N service increase; while, at the same time, it has not cost a lot.
Service disruptions: A Light Rail weakness
What happens when there’s an accident on an LRT line? Well, you could probably expect the obvious. Emergency vehicles are everywhere, and the scene is probably closed to public. But, most importantly, if you were riding transit that day, you would probably be forced off some stations down and forced to board a crowded shuttle bus, because that’s it for Light Rail service through that area.
It appears that another key reason for the addition of the NX over the increase of N service, is the controversial reliability of the N as a light rail transit line at surface-level. Apparently, the N is, for whatever reason, the most disruption-prone Muni Metro line; a reliability issue, which might be a collision or a derailment, happens on average of every 13 days.
I have no idea whether it’s a result of a more clumsy population along the corridor, but it is true that high risk of service disruptions for whatever reason can be a weakness of any Light Rail line. The NX, on the other hand, can simply reroute to avoid these disruptions, in the case of one ever occurring – making it a very valuable backup indeed.
It could be something as simple as a double-parked car, or a vehicle running an intersection where it thinks it has the right of way … Sometimes accidents happen simply from people being stupid.
What the N and NX remind me of
The whole issue of the N and the NX reminds me of this line I once read on the Human Transit website, written by Jarrett Walker, on what could happen if a streetcar line were built along 41st Avenue in Vancouver:
Let’s imagine 41st Avenue 20 years from now in a Condonian future. A frequent streetcar does what the buses used to do, but because it stops every 2-3 blocks, and therefore runs slowly, UBC students who need to go long distances across the city have screamed until the transit agency, TransLink, has put back a limited-stop or “B-Line” bus on the same street. (Over the 20 years, TransLink has continued to upgrade its B-Line bus product. For example, drivers no longer do fare collection, so you can board and alight at any door, making for much faster service. Bus interiors and features are also identical to what you’d find on streetcars,just as they are in many European cities.)
Suddenly, people who’ve bought apartments on 41st Avenue, and paid extra for them because of the rails in the street, start noticing that fast, crowded buses are passing the streetcars. They love the streetcars when they’re out for pleasure. But people have jobs and families. When they need to get to a meeting on which their career depends, or get home to their sick child, they’ll take the fast bus, and the streetcar’s appearance of offering mobility will be revealed for what it is, an appearance.
When a Light Rail/Streetcar service can become less useful as a transportation service than a mixed-traffic express bus that complements it, that’s not a good sign.
4. There’s better transit where people are driving the least.
This is from page 6 of the San Francisco Climate Action Strategy study I quoted earlier when I was looking at San Francisco transportation mode-shares. It’s a map.
It’s a map I haven’t seen for many other cities, and it’s a very good map that I think I would like to see more of. Here it is again, overlayed onto a Google Maps representation of San Francisco:
I’ve always been adept at pointing out the many examples of the simple philosophy that “better transit wins better ridership”, and this is an absolutely great example of just that. The rainbow coloured ribbon on this map represents the Bay Area Rapid Transit system‘s 8 subway stations in San Francisco, which connect to the district that has the thinnest red line from downtown. If you zoom into this map (click the image), the slightly thicker and darker outlines represent the MUNI Metro network. While they also provide some limited connections to this area, I think the real highlight here is the BART.
BART provides a high-capacity, rapid, fully grade-separated service that can outpace other service options. It truly competes with superior modes of transportation in terms of convenience and reliability, and – as a result – it gets the popular vote.
Despite that the Mission District is also arguably one of the better places in San Francisco to live if you drive to work (it’s on the I-280 expressway, whereas of the other four districts measured, only one of them is along a limited-access expressway of any sort), fewer people drive from here to downtown than from any other area in San Francisco.
That’s right. Whereas the MUNI Metro is trying to compete against surface streets and losing, the BART is directly competing against an expressway and winning.
Sometimes when other cities are thought to have great examples for other cities, there are certain examples that are not exactly “what you see is what you get”. A great example is the perceived transit-oriented development success in Portland, OR – which might have been more a result of development subsidies from 1996-onwards, than the actual transit. Many of the biggest Light Rail fans in Surrey, including our City Council, are mesmerized by the presence of so much transit-oriented development near the MAX Light Rail system, only to not know about the subsidized reality of it.
It seems it happens to often: we look to other cities for vague examples thinking they could play into our future here, and in d0ing so some vague assumptions are made, some vague take-aways are gotten. It happened when Surrey City Council visited Portland, Oregon… it appears to have happened with Metro604 blogger Paul Hillsdon’s recent visit to San Francisco… and it could happen with a lot more transit gurus.
It’s not that all of this looking for inspiration from other cities holds no value whatsoever. I just think there is really no way that we can properly conclude planning mandates about our own transit system’s future just by looking at other cities and taking from the things we see. Sights might say one thing, but numbers might say another. And, on some occasions, perhaps that might be the other way around.
To end this, here’s a great timelapse compilation of San Francisco. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful, rich, and diverse city indeed:
I love Japan, and I find that there is so much about it in its people’s culture, traditions and ways of thinking that the rest of the world should consider following, to solve problems and make progress in a world of uncertainty and in a world that needs some change.
The Japan I see to day is a great place that triumphs high fuel efficiency in vehicles, compactness and efficiency, and electrified rail lines as the primary, most affordable and most widely used form of transportation. I actually never knew, however, that it was on the verge of today’s China at one point in the past – encouraging middle-class citizens onto cars and creating wastelands of its natural environments, and creating pollution and illness in cities as a result. So, when I read this, it brought me great surprise to think that today’s Japan could not have been today’s Japan with the presence of leadership and a voice in the opposition parties, even as they never came to power.
From the International Herald Tribune Global Opinion’s Latitude:
TOKYO — Seeing Beijing wreathed in smog throughout the winter, it has been hard not to worry about the costs of China’s rapid economic growth. As Jon Stewart pointed out on The Daily Show: Can’t a country capable of lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty find a way to keep its own capital safe for habitation?
Japan rightly prides itself on blue skies, Prius taxis and mandatory recycling.
Five decades ago, people were asking similar questions about Japan. Even as the world marveled at the country’s 10 percent annual growth, alarm was growing over air pollution in several cities. Emissions of nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide tripled during the 1960s. Japan became known for pollution-related illnesses: Yokkaichi asthma, Minamata disease (mercury poisoning) — both named after the cities where they first appeared — and cadmium poisoning, known as itai-itai, or “ouch-ouch,” because of the excruciating bone pain it caused.
Today, Japanese cities are among the world’s least polluted, according to the World Health Organization. Japan’s environmental record is hardly spotless, but the country rightly prides itself on blue skies, Prius taxis and mandatory recycling. What’s more, it managed to clean up without sacrificing growth by investing in pollution-control technologies and giving local governments leeway to tighten standards beyond national requirements.
It wasn’t easy. The Liberal Democratic Party, which governed Japan almost continuously from 1955 to 2009 and returned to power in December, wasn’t proactive in cleaning up the country’s air and water. That’s partly because until the mid-1990s Japan’s electoral system incited politicians to pander to the interests of business. With candidates from the same party required to also run against one another, most politicians stood little chance of distinguishing themselves on policy and so tried to secure votes by courting business and industry associations.
It was only when citizens’ movements, which grew out of protests against the 1960 U.S.-Japan Security Treaty and the Vietnam War, got the attention of opposition parties in the 1960s and early 1970s that the government was forced to confront pollution. “I saw the government and L.D.P. as responding just enough, just in time, when the pressure got strong enough that they could defuse the opposition and stay in power,” said Timothy George, a professor at the University of Rhode Island and the author of a book on Minamata disease.
The first result was a blizzard of laws — 14 passed at once — in what became known as the Pollution Diet of 1970. Air pollution fell dramatically in the years that followed.
I thought there was something missing when I was looking at what seemed to instantly come to mind when everyone thought of the new SkyTrain faregates in Metro Vancouver, so I decided to write a newsletter about it. Four versions of my newsletter appeared on newspapers around the region as of recently. One of them (the Vancouver Sun) I cannot post here, as I do not subscribe to the Vancouver Sun and do not have regular access to their articles. For the ones I can find, here they are below:
Most people who oppose the coming SkyTrain fare gates seem to have not realized that part of the reason that TransLink and the B.C. government want to introduce them is so that integration with the coming Compass transit fare card can be achieved.
The Compass Card and the data it obtains from its ability to track the beginning and end points of all transit trips will spawn huge improvements across the region in transit-service optimization and cost-efficiency. And these are what is going to offset the capital and annual costs of the fare gates.
Once the Compass Card becomes a part of our transit system, everyone’s going to have a better experience on transit in Metro Vancouver.
Daryl Dela Cruz, Surrey
Fare gates optimize transit service
Fare gates ensure transit consistency
Most people who oppose the upcoming SkyTrain fare gates seem to have not realized that part of the reason that TransLink and the BC MOT want to introduce fare gates is so that integration with the upcoming Compass transit fare card can be achieved.
The Compass Card and the data it obtains from its ability to track the beginning and end points of all transit trips will spawn huge improvements region-wide in transit service optimization and cost-efficiency, and these are what is going to offset the capital and annual costs of the fare gates.
Without the fare gates, there would be no way to figure out what trips occur on the SkyTrain and no way to optimize based on those trips.
That would be counter-productive, as SkyTrain is a part of so many transit trips in the region.
The Compass Card concept is the same concept that has already been introduced on the transit system in Montreal, and is used worldwide in transit systems.
For example, in Tokyo, a single money-containing fare card will grant you access to not just the local metro, JR commuter rail and local bus lines, but also vending machines if you want a snack or a drink or whatever of the many unique items dispensed through vending machines in Japan.
Once the Compass Card becomes a part of our transit system, everyone’s going to have a better experience on transit here in Metro Vancouver.
Daryl Dela Cruz, Surrey
Fare Gates a Key to Better Transit
Compass Card will improve Transit Service
Most people who oppose the upcoming SkyTrain fare gates seem to have not realized that part of the reason TransLink and the B.C. MOT want to introduce fare gates is so that integration with the upcoming Compass transit fare-card can be achieved.
The Compass card and the data it obtains from its ability to track the beginning and end points of all transit trips will spawn huge improvements region-wide in transit service optimization and cost-efficiency, and these are what is going to offset the capital and annual costs of the fare gates.
Without the fare gates, there would be no way to figure out what trips occur on SkyTrain and no way to optimize based on those trips. That would be counterproductive, as SkyTrain is a part of so many transit trips in the region.
The Compass card concept is the same concept that has already been introduced on the transit system in Montreal, and is used worldwide in transit systems.
Once the Compass card becomes a part of our transit system, everyone’s going to have a better experience on transit here in Metro Vancouver.
I love Japan’s intricate rail system, and these hand-drawn maps of Japan’s entire rail system showcase incredible passion, and tell me that the guy who drew them really knows his way around rail transit in Japan and would probably be an awesome person to talk to. It’s also fun to look at the way he drew the maps with only pens and his own hands – no computer-aided tools.
Check out the pictures on Flickr! [LINK] the full map is so big that it’s only available for download if you ask.