Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Truth About TransLink?

South Fraser OnTrax has been very busy meeting with our politicians, community leaders and people within our business community over the past many weeks. One very interesting discussion took place with a high profile individual that had been involved in the TransLink planning process.

South Fraser OnTrax has learned that years ago, TransLink performed a great deal of research and an examination of technology. They took a look at Bombardier's Advanced Rapid Trasit (ART) linear induction motor-driven trains (Greater Vancouver's current SkyTrain) vs. Light Rail Technology (LRT). The TransLink study concluded that LRT was clearly the way to go based on cost, efficiency, maintenance costs and related data.

This research was shipped off to the BC Provincial government of the day with a recommendation for an LRT system. For some unknown reason, the recommended LRT suddenly became ART!

TransLink gets its fair share of criticism. Perhaps the ART & LRT debate was not their fault? SFOT would love to hear from others in the know with the facts and information as to why this ART decision was made. E-mail me confidentially at:


Paul Hillsdon said...

Everyone knows that SkyTrain is, and has always been, a political decision by the provincial and federal governments. TransLink goes with it because it's better than nothing.

Is this consultant talking about the Evergreen Line or the original MLine?

Light Rail Guy said...

SkyTrain was once marketed as Intermediate Capacity Transportation System and touted as the 'way of the future' by many was shown to be of little value by the 1982 Toronto Transit Commission's (TTC) Accelerated Rapid Transit Study (ARTS). Well guess what, the Ontario provincially owned UTDC changed the name from ICTS to ALRT and sold it to the then BC Social Credit government and the rest is now history.

Here is a brief summary of the ART Study. The TTC assessed ICTS, LRT and heavy rail metro for a segment of line along Sheppard East route. The best capacity for ICTS was 15,000 pphpd, crush loading. “Using the TTC’s figure of 60 for the working maximum capacity/vehicle for buses - which have the same size as ICTS cars - the working capacity reduces to 10,800, less than the 12,000 which used to be carries at times on the Bloor-Danforth by old pairs of coupled PCC cars, with no transit priority of any time (this figure comes from the IBI study). Thus ICTS (SkyTrain) costs up to ten times as much as a conventional light rail line to install for about the same capacity; or put another way, ICTS costs more than a heavy-rail subway with four times its capacity.”

Joe Zaccaria said...


Our source was not a consultant, but rather someone that was involved very intimately in the process.

As the involvement was from 2005-2008, it would be the Evergreen Line technology recommendation.

Corey said...

Nice comment on ALRT touted as the 'way of the future' - it was designed in an era when the notion of cars as the dominant mode of transportation was taken as undisputed fact, and its separated ROW design and subservience to the roads around it (stations built where they won't intrude on cars) are reflected in its design. The idea that cars and related infrastructure would eventually become seen for the dehumanizing influence that they are never even entered the minds of its designers and promoters. The whole system fits in nicely with the GM "City of Tomorrow" idea of the future city with automated transportation systems - which were of course at one time the post-war ideal. Now we know where that vision has taken us with a glance at North American cities.

The whole idea that the ALRT and the "City of Tomorrow" it is based on is of course now bankrupt, but of course the dimwits running our government fail to realize this. Europe never really bought into that vision of the future (a result of their transportation policy not being dominated so much by Detroit) and as a result today they still have their human scaled cities and are building transportation infrastructure that goes along with it, i.e., LRT like what we see in Bordeaux, etc. No huge concrete guideways down the middle of what should be a pedestrian priority area like No. 3 road.

Joe Zaccaria said...

Cory and others...

If you've never read "Getting There: The Epic Struggle Between Road and Rail in the American Century" by Stephen B. Goddard, it is well worth your time. It goes into great detail as to how the love of the roads started and why we are in the mess that we find ourselves today!

Light Rail Guy said...

And now, here is the real story how Vancouver got SkyTrain. The CBC did a documentary about how Vancouver got SkyTrain, but the then Mulroney Conservative Government forced the CBC to 'gag' the story for fear of embarrassing Ontario conservatives.

Back in 1979, the GVRD was seriously contemplating building LRT from downtown Vancouver to Lougheed Mall, Whalley and Richmond centre after their comprehensive transit study was released.

The Ontario Conservative government was desperately trying to sell their automatic ICTS transit system from their crown corporation Urban Transportation Development Corporation or UTDC; there was only one taker, Detroit and the Ontario government forced the TTC to build an ICTS line as well.

In 1979 the then Bill Bennett Social Credit government was one seat away from being a minority government and the cowboy SC remember 'Walter Davidson' made a political promise to have the proposed new crossing moved from New Westminster (where it was going to be a road/rail/LRT bridge) to North Delta to service Annicis Island. Delta voters made sure Davidson kept his promise and under threat of the SC government falling the new bridge (later named the Alex Fraser Bridge) was duly moved.

The Ontario government's electoral success was largely due to the 'Blue Machine' or an organization which used the new computer technology to track elections and give conservative candidates an edge during elections and Bill Bennett dearly wanted the 'Blue Machine' to win the next BC election.

In 1980, a deal was duly made, BC bought the orphaned SkyTrain (renamed ALRT) UTDC and quietly obtained the services of the famed the 'Blue Machine'.

For the cost of LRT to Richmond, Whalley and Lougheed Mall, we got SkyTrain to New Westminster; the Social Credit won the next election by a landslide; the Ontario Conservatives lost the next election (in part to the inept UTDC built streetcars that were to heavy for Toronto's streetcar tracks and the loss of the 'Blue Machine'); and the Alex Fraser Bridge was opened in 1986 after the then Highway's Minister said "nobody is going to play bloody trains on my bridge", after a desperate attempt was made by the GVRD to extend SkyTrain to North Delta and Surrey via the Alex Fraser Bridge, instead of building a new bridge in New West.

Somewhere in the CBC archives is a two hour program, explaining it all!

Joe Zaccaria said...

Thanks Light Rail Guy, this is awesome! I do recall hearing about the "Blue Machine" from you and it was collaborated by others. It sure explains this whole issue, because the decision is otherwise totally irrational. I wonder if one could file a Freedom of Information request to obtain such a thing from the CBC. After all, we do own it. Any legal experts out there?