Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Light Rail Fear Mongering in Langley

Earlier this month, there was an interesting letter from Paul Cordeiro who is the Manager of Transportation Engineering for the Township of Langley. According to an article in the Langley Times, he questioned some of the merits of building light rail along Fraser Highway.

I know that Cordeiro has had concerns about light rail in the past, which I previously posted about back in 2008.

The first concern was that light rail on Fraser Highway would not service people commuting from Langley to Vancouver. Light rail along Fraser Highway would very much service commuters travelling from Langley to Vancouver. The light rail line would connect Langley with the SkyTrain at King George Station and Surrey Central Station.

Assumed station locations for rapid transit in the South of Fraser. From Surrey Rapid Transit Alternatives Analysis Phase 2 Evaluation

As someone who takes transit five days a week between Langley City and the Olympic Village area in Vancouver, light rail would vastly improve my travel experience. Besides addressing overcrowding during peak periods, light rail would also reduce travel times.

When there is no traffic along Fraser Highway, it takes about 33 to 38 minutes to travel from Langley Centre to Surrey Central taking either the 502 or 503 lines. During the peak afternoon travel period, it takes up to 52 minutes! Travel times along Fraser Highway are not consistent, and as congestion continues to increase along Fraser Highway, the reliability of transit service along the corridor will only deteriorate further.

According to research commissioned by TransLink, light rail will take 29 to 30 minutes to travel between Langley Centre and Surrey Central. SkyTrain along the same corridor would take 22 minutes. Compared to the 50 minutes it takes during the afternoon rush to get from Surrey Central to Langley Centre, both light rail and SkyTrain would provide a massive travel time savings. Both will also reduce overcrowding and pass-ups along the Fraser Highway corridor.

Cordeiro calls into questions the 29 minutes trip time for light rail, but that is a reasonable time considering that it takes about 33 minutes on bus today when there is no traffic along Fraser Highway.

Now there is no doubt that SkyTrain is faster than light rail, but it does have some drawbacks. Its major drawback is the cost. According to the same research done by TransLink, Light Rail would cost $746 million to build between King George and Langley, while SkyTrain would cost $1,356 million to build in 2010 dollars.

The Mayors’ Plan that people in Metro Vancouver are currently voting on would see light rail on King George Boulevard, 104th Avenue, and Fraser Highway. If SkyTrain was built instead, it could only be on King George Boulevard or Fraser Highway, not both.

Light rail would be elevated when going over the Roberts Bank rail corridor in the City of Langley, though Cordeiro was concerned about an at-grade light rail crossings at 200th street and Highway 15 and “potential for vehicle-train collisions.”

Calgary, Edmonton, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and LA all have at-grade light rail lines that cross busy roadways, and all have excellent safety records.

Light rail will help people in Langley get places faster within the South of Fraser, and to Vancouver. According to extensive research done in the US, rail transit is also the safest mode of transportation.

Fear about slow travel speeds and massive collations are unfounded.


Mark Sakai said...

While I don't disagree that Light Rail would be good for Fraser Hwy, I don't know if I'd call Calgary's safety record "excellent". Also, when riding Seattle's train heading south, I experienced a near-collision, as the driver had to slam on the brakes during an at-grade crossing.

Nathan Pachal said...

Yes, many of the collisions in Calgary are in their downtown core, where traffic lights are the only safety devices that exist.

Other parts of the city use crossing barriers.

For a details report on train/motorist conflict counter-measures, check out this report: http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/tcrp/tcrp_syn_79.pdf

Anonymous said...

Center running LRT on Fraser Highway would almost certainly be with traffic lights and not crossing barriers. I am also pretty sure it would not have exclusive lanes through Green Timbers. It would be a big improvement over existing service, but not as good as grade separated transit. Despite costing less than grade separated transit it would actually be less financially responsible than Skytrain as per the Surrey options study by Translink. I am for better transit, and LRT is better transit, but the Skytrain/BRT option is a better use of money and it is not wrong to point that out.

Nathan Pachal said...

There are merits to true BRT, LRT, and SkyTrain. At the end of the day, capital funding is a limiting factor. Putting in SkyTrain would mean that another project in the mayors' vision would have to be bumped. That is unless the province and the Feds are willing to pay for more than 2/3 of the cost of rapid transit in South of Fraser.