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TransLink gets praise for including many options for Broadway Line

April 22nd, 2010 · 13 Comments

There has already been a lot of information and discussion posted here and elsewhere about TransLink’s early planning for the Broadway Line.

Here’s my Globe story today, which has a bit more reaction and commentary from various observers and TransLink’s new planning guy, Mike Shiffer, the public point man on this.

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  • Lewis N. Villegas

    “When I do an alternatives analysis, I look at everything,” Mr. Shiffer said. “There’s a variety of technologies and all have different ranges of passengers they carry. But it’s also about contextual sensitivity.”

    Mr. Shiffer needs to practice this line instead: “It is also about the ‘resulting quality in the urban space'”.

    However, the scarier reality lies here:

    “The city’s engineers have consistently favoured SkyTrain-type lines, saying that is the only technology capable of carrying the passenger loads that a future Vancouver will generate.”

    That sounds like professionals trying hard to hold on to asphalt for car use.

    We know from discussions right here that Skytrain is a 25,000 people per direction per hour, and LRT is 20,0000 ppd/h. Furthermore, both elevated guideways and subterranean tunnels require time to get to, and building the stations is so expensive that they tend to be space further apart than LRT (on Canada Line much, much further apart).

    So, if in fact you are correctly reporting City Engineering opinion Frances, you show they are confused about the facts.

    Furthermore, our city is a place where urban design (that “resulting quality” we speak of) is not well understood, appreciated or practiced. We need only point to the street design that was put in place after the maligned cut-and-cover was completed along the King Ed to 12 Avenue stretch of Cambie. There are other examples, but that one will suffice.

    The point about “carrying capacity” needs to be underscored. LRT builds a network. If we can build 7 LRT lines for the price of one SkyTrain or one Canada Line, then we can distribute the passenger load—and transit access—more evenly, reducing demand on any one line, and increasing service and access.

    It’s a win-win, but there are divisions among the city design professions that make consensus hard to reach. Let’s hope that the concrete facts of good urbanism can become the common ground on which we build the way forward.

  • Zweisystem

    Say, for one East West SkyTrain Line, we can build 4 East West LRT Lines.

    The capacity of LRT is in excess of 20,000 pphpd, the capacity of the Millennium Line, as stated by Bombardier is 25,000 pphpd.

    Thus for the cost on one East West SkyTrain line with a capacity of 25,000 pphpd, we can build 4 to 7 East West LRT lines with a combined capacity of over 80,000 to 140,000 pphpd!

    Now does one see why no one in North America and Europe builds with SkyTrain?

  • Joe Just Joe

    Zwei the broken record misses again with the numbers.
    The cost of any currently built LRT system with a capacity anywhere near 20K/pphpd is in the same ballpark as Skytrain. Take a look at any of the new Calgary extensions, Edmonton, Portland, Seattle etc etc, they aren’t capable of that 20K figure in current set up and also come in a lot higher then 1/7 or 1/4 the price of Skytrain.
    The fact is to acheive that 20K figure you need a dedicated ROW, and a very expensive LRT system. The above cities listed are spending $40-$80Million per km and will never be capable of 20Kpphpd let alone 25K/pphpd.
    We all know Skytrain is more expensive, I’ll give you that we could build 1.5 LRT lines for the same price, but when you come up with 4-7 figures you blow your argument to pieces and the good points you do make are dismissed as well.

  • Lewis N. Villegas

    Well, Joe, I think we want to dedicate ROW on Broadway and get some 25,000 cars off the road where they are just blighting the place.

    Ever sat for a coffee at Laurel & Broadway? Just breathing in the exhaust, never mind the noise, is enough to drive you indoors.

    The 20,000 pppd/h comes from assuming that you can hitch two trains together. That doesn’t seem to be much of a leap of faith.

    On the LRT/Skytrain debate you only have to look at the “Nevergreen” Line, which either way must build a costly tunnel.

    Otherwise, I suggest we use figures from estimates for the specific route. One hopes they will be part of the open house.

    However, Joe, don’t you agree that if it is Skytrain on Broadway, we are looking at a deep bore tunnel? Then there are the cost of the stations (on Evergreen LRT promised 2x the number, but building a canopy on a traffic island is not the same as putting in a full station underground).

    On LRT the cost is the road bed, and the possibility of coming across a major headache of underground utilities requiring relocation, and whatever wires the technology requires. After that, we need some street trees and some kiosk-styled stations.

    The savings are plain and obvious. And not in the order of 1 to 1.5. That’s lowballing the estimate.

  • Joe Just Joe

    Lewis, the facts are that the above cities I’ve mentioned have built street level LRTs with costs averaging ~$60 per Km, this is w/o new maintance yards, or tunnelling, just expansions with the exception of Seattle. I’m sure we’ll shortly be told that those are all the wrong systems and that it could’ve been done cheaper. I’ve used these cities as they are both similar in size to us, and close geograpically to us. There is no point showing a $20M/km line in Eastern Europe built in 1989 as it’s not revelant.
    Broadway does need work, no doubt, but I don’t see how sacrificing rapid transit is a requirment. If a RRT line were built under 10th ave, we could remove capacity along broadway simply and cheaply by installing curb bulges, making the inside lanes parking lanes all day creating a buffer, as well as intall a proper planted median along a wide section although I’m told that VGH doesn’t want that as ambulances need to have the option to cut into oncoming traffic to get to the hosipital quicker.
    As for as having coffee along Broadway, I spent a few years working at Broadway and Willow and enjoyed a coffee ont the patio at Tonys almost every work day. The fumes were no worse the enjoying a steak on the patio at the Boathouse with muffler less Harleys riding by.

  • Richard

    SkyTrain will get cars off the road because it is will be faster, especially for the long, regional trips. We can then use the extra street space along Broadway (and other parallel) streets for wider sidewalks, cafes and separated bike lanes. This will create a much better streetscape than LRT where sidewalks will likely need to narrowed in many places, especially at stations.

    Meanwhile, a streetcar competes more with walking, cycling and buses for passengers and will not get as many cars off the road.

  • J R Wares

    While TRANSLINK may be getting praise for multiple option planning and consultation, this is only good planning and consultation.

    They should not be getting praise for doing something they should have been doing all along – but repentance is in itself a welcome change.

    They may have a duty to consult, but dare I ask, do they have a duty to accomodate? The world awaits.

  • MB

    I really appreciate Lewis’s concern for quality of urbanism. But I suggest urbanism is a function of planning and urban design which includes transit as one influence, but THE influence. Mobility efficiency is certainly another key consideration.

    I also find JJJ’s and Richard’s comments particularly astute. I really don’t know how an ambulance driver would negotiate Broadway with a segregated rasied and/or fenced median for transit running down the middle near the largest hospital complex in Western Canada.

    If they can convert road space to transit and pedestrian space on Main Street, they can do it on Broadway as part of a major rapid transit project. My concern is that widened sidewalks should be of a much higher quality than Main and very attractive for businesses counting on walk-in foot traffic.

    Jarrett Walker posted an interesting piece on his blog about the differences between speed/mobility and local access WRT transit options. He also critiques Patrick Condon’s work on the topic of rapid transit on Broadway:

  • MB

    Correction: “I suggest urbanism is a function of planning and urban design which includes transit as one influence, but NOT THE influence. “

  • Dan Cooper

    Mr. Villegas sez, “Furthermore, our city is a place where urban design (that “resulting quality” we speak of) is not well understood, appreciated or practiced. We need only point to the street design that was put in place after the maligned cut-and-cover was completed along the King Ed to 12 Avenue stretch of Cambie. ”

    I for one rather like the design in that part of Cambie, with the single exception that the city then filled the nice wide sidewalks with masses of assorted Large Immovable Objects – and on top of it all allowed too many restaurants to block off half the sidewalk with permanent fences (used during the three or four months of the year when it isn’t cool or rainy – at which time they stick up low-hanging umbrellas that block the rest of the sidewalk, so their customers don’t have to be *gasp* exposed to sunshine). Sometimes you can barely walk along the sidewalk between 17th and 19th, much less travel in a wheelchair or with two people side by side.

    Otherwise, though, to get back to my original point at last, I think it looks quite nice.

  • MB

    Well, I think the Cambie Village streetscape treatment is flaccid and the same old same old. I would’ve thought with a massive subway just below they could’ve expanded the sidewalks into bulges at every intersection and created mini plazas and vest pocket parks too.

    Instead we got some clunky solar -powered garbage cans, a couple of benches and some black & tan pavers. The lighting, however, is cool.

    The Engineering Dept was too interested in maintaining six lanes of hurtling bi-directional steel and exhaust gases dispite the major public transit project that lies just below.

    And the merchants are still licking their wounds.

  • Richard

    Well said. This was one of the biggest missed opportunities in Vancouver’s history. Cambie could have been transformed into a great pedestrian, cycling and people street by widening sidewalks and created separated bicycle lanes. Instead it is just another noisy car-infested highway.

  • Paul C

    While there was a missed opportunity in regards to Cambie Street. That doesn’t mean we should build a street car / tram on Broadway.

    There seems to be two different groups in the Broadway debate.

    First group would like to see a street car / tram. Then have this vision of it running amongst an urban setting that they feel will be completely rebuilt due to the tram . They feel with the taking away of a vehicle lane that there will be less cars due to the higher congestion of the remaining lanes. Basically people will get fed up and just jump on the street car/tram. They like the idea of the station being at street level which to them makes for easy access.

    The second group is looking for a metro line of some kind. Most would choose skytrain as it is the logical choice to extend from VCC-Clark. But even then an LRT would work just as fine so long has it is completely grade separated, basically underground. The primary concern for this group is moving people as quickly as possible.

    First off there is no proof that a street car will improve the urban landscape. We could build a street car and everything else could stay the same. While a street car may look nice it can’t get the lower commute times that a metro line can provide. A street car would only be a slight improvement in speed on the 99 B-Line. It wouldn’t have the same impact on speed that a metro line would have.

    One key factor to remember is that a good majority of people will choose the fastest mode of transport that they can afford.