Surrey LRT proposal

Surrey’s Light Rail Transit proposal: The Reality

Light Rail Transit (LRT) is an idea that has recently been popular with the people of the City of Surrey.

The Mayor & Council have previously stated their opposition to additional expansion of the Metro Vancouver SkyTrain network into the City of Surrey and are advocating for the creation of a LRT network.  The City of Surrey’s vision for rapid transit involves the creation of a network of at-grade, on-street rail transit lines throughout the city, as opposed to any extensions of SkyTrain.  Dianne Watts, Mayor of Surrey, stated in a previous speech that:

“I for one am a firm believer that instead of SkyTrain expansion in Surrey we should be looking at at-grade rail,” Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said in a speech earlier this year.

Alongside her, City Councillors, candidates, and several other advocates of different levels have thrown their support behind Light Rail, triumphing it as a “less costly”, “faster-built” and “more attracting” option for rapid transit.  Initiative Analysts who looked to their claims found a staggering difference between what was stated and what is the reality.

The SkyTrain for Surrey Initiative strongly opposes the City of Surrey’s push for Light Rail as the backbone of the primary transit network of the city, and is urging the City of Surrey to review its LRT support guidelines.

We have identified that the City’s push for a LRT (light rail transit) network over the expansion of the existing SkyTrain network may be a tremendous mistake and an unintentional step backwards.

In March 2012, a business case presentation for LRT was released on the City of Surrey website [LINK HERE], immediately after Mayor Watts re-stated her support for LRT in a recent speech.  What several Analysts of the Initiative found is that this business case presentation was faulty and was based upon a number of misconceptions.

The Initiative has recognized these realities about Light Rail Transit (please click on each topic to read more about it):

  1. Light Rail Transit will not cost less than SkyTrain.

  2. Light Rail Transit will not provide a reliable, quality service.

  3. Light Rail Transit will not improve service.

  4. Light Rail Transit will not drive economic development on its own.

  5. Light Rail will fail to attract a needed travel mode-share shift.

  6. Light Rail Transit will detriment the overall community

  7. Light Rail will not keep up with the City’s growth.

The City of Surrey has recognized that there is a need to conduct immediate studies of rapid transit.  The Initiative believes that the Mayor & Council should certainly be commended for for their efforts; however, they have overwhelmingly placed their support behind a technology and implementation type which will only create more problems than it will attempt to solve in the City of Surrey, at no less cost.

The Initiative believes that LRT-type lines have a place in a complete plan for transit accessibility in Surrey, but the current proposals currently on the table are placing too much emphasis on LRT as a sole solution (with additional buses).  LRT as a sole implementation would require vast resources to put LRT on par with SkyTrain in terms of existing infrastructure, at a cost that many pro-LRT advocates refuse to consider when citing their cost per km values.

The City of Surrey will see it fit to pursue LRT, so long as the Mayor & Council believe that LRT is a cost effective, high quality and flexible solution.  However, and evidently, this is not the case.

There is only one end goal with SkyTrain for Surrey. Our aim is to get the Province of British Columbia, TransLink, and the City of Surrey to move the concept of Light Rail Transit to its proper role as a secondary feeder system, and to support a significantly expanded network of SkyTrain through the South of Fraser communities.

Rapid transit has many modes, and light-rail is just one of many modes: it is not the solution for every corridor and to every situation.

Rapid transit has many modes, and light-rail is just one of many modes: it is not the solution for every corridor and to every situation.

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PRESS RELEASE: SkyTrain for Surrey calls on the City of Surrey to review their LRT support guidelines

Press release – 19th March, 2012

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The SkyTrain for Surrey Initiative is calling on the City of Surrey to review their support guidelines for a Light Rail Transit network.

If more region-wide transit service and a sustainable pattern of commutes in Surrey is warranted, then the City of Surrey should be advocating for SkyTrain extensions and not at-grade LRT.

Daryl Dela Cruz, Founder and Chair
SkyTrain for Surrey Initiative
E-mail: daryl@skytrainforsurrey.org – Cell: (604) 329-8082

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Download the press release at: [CLICK HERE]

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STUDY: The Effects of Light Rail Transit on the 104th Ave corridor

Surrey LRT vehicle - from concept video

Preface

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Politicians of the City of Surrey have been lobbying for the use of Light Rail Transit (LRT) in the city in conjunction with TransLink’s efforts to conduct a Rapid Transit Study for the Surrey and South of Fraser area.

Three major corridors are being studied for the implementation: King George Highway, 104th Avenue and Fraser Highway.  These corridors link Surrey City Centre and the major Surrey Town Centres including: Guildford Town Centre (home to what will soon be the second largest mall in British Columbia), Newton Town Centre, Fleetwood Town Centre, Semiahmoo Town Centre, and Clayton Town Centre – and also to Langley City.  Surrey has featured their plan for Light Rail Transit in this video at [CLICK HERE].

The video features computer-generated renderings of an implementation if it were to be built along the 104th Avenue corridor linking Surrey City Centre to Guildford.  This is notorious because a single lane of road capacity is removed on 104th Avenue to make way for the light rail corridor.  This will impact both communities along the corridor and those beyond by significantly restricting the movement of both people and goods.

There may be implications to this reduction in capacity that are not being noticed by the City of Surrey, TransLink and other parties involved – such as the resulting inability to maintain parallel bus service on the 104th Avenue corridor, resulting in their cancellation.  Such realities that are not being noticed may prove that Light Rail will provide an end-result not so ideal for this corridor and others in the City of Surrey.

Scenarios

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Below, two possible scenarios on the 104th Avenue corridor during the 2021-2031 time-frame will be compared:

  • 104th Ave continues to make use of bus services that will be in place
  • Rapid transit is implemented.

For ease of comparison, we will be comparing this to the highest-capacity option that TransLink plans to introduce on a rapid transit R.O.W. on 104th Avenue: at-grade light rail.  (Lower capacity options like bus rapid transit are also being pursued).  TransLink currently has no plans to introduce any higher-capacity options such as grade-separated rapid rail transit (SkyTrain).

There are various proposals indicating that a significant increase in bus services that will make use of the 104th Avenue corridor between Surrey City Centre and Guildford as well as Highway 1.  These bus services may be operating on 104th Avenue by 2021-2031:

  • The upcoming route 96 B-Line bus service between White Rock and Guildford via Newton and Surrey Central Station [2]
  • The Highway 1 RapidBus system at (up to) 5 minute frequency being introduced in conjunction with the Port Mann Bridge will provide a Walnut Grove to Surrey Centre service; according to the South of Fraser transit plan, this service may extend directly to Langley Centre [3][4][6]
  • A 10-minute bus service directly between Abbotsford and Surrey Centre that is being planned by B.C. Transit – this may integrate with or be an extension of the Highway 1 RapidBus system that would connect to Walnut Grove [4][5]
  • Local bus service underlying the B-Line/BRT service at every 10 minutes between Guildford and Surrey Municipal Hall on Highway 10 [6]
  • Parallel services already existing that ferry passengers to outward destinations such as the 501 (which will assume a 12 minute peak period frequency by 2031) and 337 (10 minutes from 15 by 2031) [6]

By 2013 and through to 2021 these bus services will be present and established on the 104th Avenue corridor (for simplicity of comparison, 2031 capacity and frequency expectations from the South of Fraser Transit Plan are being used throughout this 10-year period before 2031):

104th Ave corridor bus service by 2013 throuh 2021

104th Ave corridor bus service by 2013 through 2021

Frequencies and capacities are measured in the westbound direction during the A.M. peak.  Assuming continued use of New Flyer bus stock, a standard-sized 41 ft. bus carries 77 passengers and an articulated 62 ft. bus carries 120 passengers [7] (though a renewal of standard-sized stock so as to use Nova Bus stock could allow up to 82 passengers per standard bus – such a renewal could be expected to take place before 2021 as the New Flyer 40ft stock ages).  “Pphpd” means “persons per hour per direction” and measures capacity; it is calculated as in [THIS LINK]. Bus services on 104th Avenue will consist of:

  • 320 Fleetwood/Langley Centre – the 320 maintains an approximately 5 minute frequency during peak hours and is assumed to be slightly reduced after 399 implementation as per TransLink proposals, but it is a generally important route outside 104th Ave corridor.  By 2021, 10 minutes, 492 pphpd.
  • 337 Fraser Heights to Surrey Central Express. By 2021, 10 minutes, 492 pphpd.
  • 399L Guildford/Surrey Municipal – underlying local bus under the 399. By 2021, 10 minutes, 492 pphpd.
  • 399 (UPDATE 11 Apr: Confirmed as the 96 B-Line) is the proposed articulated bus B-Line service that will start with a 7.5 minute frequency later this year (to grow exponentially) and connect Guildford with White Rock through Surrey Central and Newton.  By 2021, 5 minutes, 1440 pphpd
  • 501 Langley Ctr/Surrey Central via Port KellsBy 2021, 12 minutes, 410 pphpd
  • 509 Walnut Grove/Surrey Central Express.  Currently 20 minutes. By 2021, 15 minutes, 328 pphpd
  • 590 Langley South/Surrey Central Express. Currently 15 minutes. By 2021, 15 minutes, 328 pphpd
  • H1RB – Highway 1 Rapid Bus Express to Walnut Grove and Abbotsford. By 2021, 5 minutes, 1440 pphpd

Together these routes provide a westbound A.M. peak capacity on 104th Avenue of 5422 pphpd.

For a total westbound Central-Guildford corridor capacity of 6160 pphpd, these additional bus routes operate on the 108th Avenue corridor – one of them also operates along 104th Avenue for a 6-block section:

  • 332 Guildford/Surrey Central via 108th. By 2021, 12 minutes, 410 pphpd
  • 335 Fleetwood/Surrey Central via 108th. By 2021, 15 minutes, 328 pphpd
104th Ave corridor 2021 to 2031 LRT

104th Avenue with LRT service in approximately 2021

The study assumes the cancellation of all outward parallel bus services with the introduction of LRT.  This is a realistic assumption because with the implementation of Light Rail Transit on 104th Avenue, the inability to provide parallel local services in a timely and efficient manner in the reduced road space may result in the termination of all of them on the LRT-served segments except the original bus route which paralleled the 399, as this route does not extend beyond the LRT corridor.  TransLink comments during a September 2011 consultation [9] and The South of Fraser Area Transit Plan confirm the assumption that should BRT or LRT with dedicated right-of-way on 104th Ave be pursued, that parallel services may be cut on large portions of 104th Avenue.  Some local buses on 156th St will have no choice but to continue to use a 2-block section of 104th Avenue to continue and make an important connection to at least Guildford Town Centre with no transfer need (or service the second portion of their routes); those buses will face significant scheduling delays there.

The question that needs to be answered is can the single LRT line handle the burden of multiple bus routes?

The 96 B-Line (399) will be terminated in favour of the LRT line which will run approximately the same route to Newton. These services will be truncated short of Surrey Central Station and riders have to transfer to the LRT: 320, 337, 501, 509, 590, and Highway 1 RapidBus.  Riders of the 337, 509, 590 and RapidBus can expect significant travel time increases as a result of the loss of express service and a new transfer requirement.

Services on 104th Avenue will consist of:

  • Light Rail Transit to Newton – pphpd varies with frequency (see below)
  • 399L Guildford/Surrey Municipal – underlying local bus under the 96 B-Line – 10 minutes by 2021-2031. 10 minutes, 492 pphpd.

Per-type evaluation of 104th Avenue transit capacity with LRT as part of the corridor

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The capacity of the 104th Avenue corridor will depend on the type, length and passenger capacity of these trams and frequency of operation of these trams.

The concept video [CLICK HERE] released by the City of Surrey indicates through visual observation at several points in the video that the service that is being considered will make use of 32m length 5-section trams at frequencies of 3 minutes.  At 3 minute frequencies the overall amount of drivers servicing the corridor may still reduce – which may allow for a more cost-efficient service, although the lowered operating costs might be offset by new track and power supply maintenance costs.

Assumptions:

  • A 3 minute frequencyis the maximum possible maintainable frequency for 104th Avenue light rail implementations, due to several challenges:
    • Ensuring movement for 104th Ave automobiles and LRT while also ensuring fair movement on cross streets King George Boulevard and 152nd St (major cross thoroughfares carrying more than 35,000 automobiles daily)
    • Ensuring movement for King George Blvd. automobiles and LRT while also ensuring fair movement on major cross streets 88th Ave., 72nd Ave. and 64th Ave. (major city thoroughfares, all carrying
    • Need to accommodate doubled frequency trains for a short interlined segment with any potential Fraser Highway LRT line in order to allow it to connect with Surrey Central Station (this is the prime limiter of on LRT on King George Highway & 104th Ave). Note that it will not be possible to continue those trains to provide doubled 104th Ave. frequency due to the aforementioned restrictions.
  • 32m LRV capacity is based on a low-floor Bombardier Flexity Freedom in 5-section config – can carry 198 passengers: 68 seated and 130 standing [8][9]
  • 45m LRV capacity is based on a low-floor Bombardier Flexity Freedom in hypothetical 7-section config – can carry 267 passengers: 86 seated and 181 standing [8][9]
  • 40 ft. bus capacity is based on a low-floor New Flyer D40LF(R) – can carry 77 passengers: 36-38 seated and 39-41 standing [7]
  • 60 ft. articulated bus capacity is based on a low-floor New Flyer D60LF(R) – can carry 120 passengers: 48 seated and 72 standing
  • The use of trams longer than 45m is not practical due to several challenges:
    • Station platform length issues that may arise on the street in the Surrey Central Station area (where more than two platforms will be required to potentially also serve the terminus for a Fraser Highway line)
    • Slope limits on station placement and length on some portions of the on-street ROW.
    • With longer trams, a longer acceleration period is also required to clear the station which may impact the minimum possible frequency of the line – this impact may negate any possible gains with longer trams.
    • The use of longer trams as well as longer station platforms and the need a larger train yard at a maintenance centre (if possible) in Surrey with more land requirement may significantly increase capital costs to the point where Light Rail Transit is no longer a very economic rapid transit solution against other options.

The proposed service in the video involves 5-section trams running every 3 minutes.  Under this service, these routes would provide this level of service:

  • Light Rail Transit to Newton – 3 minutes, 3960 pphpd.
  • 399L Guildford/Surrey Municipal10 minutes, 492 pphpd
  • 332 Guildford/Surrey Central via 108th. 12 minutes, 410 pphpd
  • 335 Fleetwood/Surrey Central via 108th. 15 minutes, 328 pphpd
  • Total projected westbound AM peak capacity of transit on 104th Avenue: 4452 pphpd
  • Total projected westbound AM peak capacity of transit between Guildford and Surrey Central: 5190 pphpd
  • Capacity change on 104th Avenue: -18%
  • Overall corridor capacity change: -16%

A hypothetical service with 7-section trams every 3 minutes (the maximum possible frequency and capacity) would provide this level of service:

  • Light Rail Transit to Newton – 3 minutes, 5340 pphpd.
  • 399L Guildford/Surrey Municipal10 minutes, 492 pphpd
  • 332 Guildford/Surrey Central via 108th –  12 minutes, 410 pphpd
  • 335 Fleetwood/Surrey Central via 108th – 15 minutes, 328 pphpd
  • Total projected westbound AM peak capacity of transit on 104th Avenue: 5832 pphpd
  • Total projected westbound AM peak capacity of transit between Guildford and Surrey Central: 6570 pphpd
  • Capacity change on 104th Avenue: +7.5%
  • Overall corridor capacity change:+6.65%

Hypothetical capacity with dedicated BRT lanes as opposed to an LRT line

For the purpose of accurate comparison, we are including calculations towards the capacity that might be provided if dedicated BRT lanes were to be put on 104th Avenue – an option TransLink is pursuing. This would allow the integration of and continuation of any express services – such as the 337, 509, 590 and RapidBus service connecting from Walnut Grove and beyond, as opposed to their cancellations.

However, the interlining of several routes on one corridor with signal priority limits would mean that each route would be moreso limited in frequency than a single LRT line. Local transit routes that would otherwise use 104th Ave would face the same limits as it would if LRT were in place and may need to be reconfigured.

A hypothetical service with BRT lanes and articulated 60 ft buses in convoys coming every 3 minutes would provide this level of service:

  • Bus Rapid Transit to Newton5 minutes, 1440 pphpd
  • H1RB – Highway 1 Rapid Bus Express – 5 minutes, 1440 pphpd
  • 337 Fraser Heights Express10 minutes, 492 pphpd.
  • 399L Guildford/Surrey Municipal10 minutes, 492 pphpd
  • 509 Walnut Grove/Surrey Central Express - 15 minutes, 328 pphpd
  • 590 Langley South/Surrey Central Express15 minutes, 328 pphpd
  • 332 Guildford/Surrey Central via 108th – 12 minutes, 410 pphpd
  • 335 Fleetwood/Surrey Central via 108th – 15 minutes, 328 pphpd
  • Total projected westbound AM peak capacity of transit on 104th Avenue: 4520 pphpd
  • Total projected westbound AM peak capacity of transit between Guildford and Surrey Central: 5258 pphpd
  • Capacity change on 104th Avenue: -17.7%
  • Overall corridor capacity change: -14.7%

Conclusion

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Neither Light Rail Transit nor Bus Rapid Transit are acceptable solutions for providing future transit on Surrey’s 104th Avenue corridor.

While speed and reliability might possibly be increased (though increased would be thwarted by accidents, especially with the LRT option), the only type of service that would increase capacity over the planned bus service is one that uses 7-section, 45m trams – longer then planned.  This would provide only a 7% capacity increase, and this would not be able to be increased much if any further.

LRT will also cause significant problems that both the Guildford and Surrey City Centre communities will face as a result of lowered road and goods movement capacity between both and beyond.

Regardless of implementation type, tram size and frequency, the implementation of Light Rail Transit also does not solve the problem that additional transfers will be required across all local routes and travel times will significantly increase for those who were formerly able to ride express services – particularly those from Abbotsford and Langley on the RapidBus.  This is unreasonable because while LRT or BRT will be able to run on a segregated, prioritized corridor, it will be limited to the maximum speed of the street (60km/h) and stop at all stations, and not provide a significant travel time savings over express bus services.  While dedicated BRT lanes will solves these problems, it will still result in a decrease in transit capacity and hampering community effects from the reduction of general traffic lanes.

The consideration that other services from other major areas such as Coquitlam which are planned to terminate in Guildford and not continue to Surrey Central Station exist should also be taken into account, as transfers from these routes may further increase demand on 104th Avenue transit routes beyond that which would be expected.

The new service(s) would need to handle additional growth over bus services to cater to additional ridership demand and attraction to any rapid transit service and to accommodate for the population growth of both town centres and those beyond served, which includes points east-ward along Highway 1 such as Langley communities and Abbotsford and the Fraser Valley.  As designed, they will not be able to do that.

Recommendations

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A recommendation that can be made from this study is the exploration of other options on the 104th Avenue corridor.  All of the proposed rapid transit options by TransLink for 104th Avenue in Surrey will either decrease corridor capacity by the time of implementation or increase but with no room for expansion.  If not the continuation of whatever bus services exist at the time, other rapid transit options such as grade-separated SkyTrain-type automated rapid rail transit should be explored for use on the 104th Avenue corridor.

Given that 104th Avenue corridor links the two fastest growing city centre or town centre areas in Surrey (as measured by TransLink – see this map) and will serve as a major corridor to both what will be the second largest City Centre in the Lower Mainland and the second largest mall in British Columbia, there is definitely a solid business case for the implementation of rapid transit in the future.  However, as light rail transit will not provide any of the benefits of rapid transit that should be expected, it should not be pursued as an option for rapid transit on this corridor.

Footnotes:
  1. “Pphpd” means “persons per hour per direction” and measures capacity; it is calculated as in [THIS LINK].
  2. 2012 Supplemental Transit Plan – [LINK]
  3. Moving Forward: Improving Metro Vancouver’s Transportation Network – 2012 Supplemental Plan and Outlook [PDF] – page 18 map – [LINK]
  4. Future Inter-Regional & Regional Network Development – Abbotsford-Mission Future Transit Plan – [LINK] – Highway 1 RapidBusBC Report, August 2009 – page 7-8
  5. Future Inter-Regional & Regional Network Development – Abbotsford-Mission Future Transit Plan – [LINK] – Recommended Inter-Regional and Regional Network – page 13
  6. South of Fraser AREA Transit Plan – [LINK]
  7. TransLink – 2011 fleet pictorial and specifications – [LINK]
  8. Standing room capacity is measured at a standing passenger density of 6 passengers per square metre
  9. About the Bombardier Flexity Outlook trams from Brussels, Belgium – Bombardier – [LINK]
  10. Klitz, Peter. “TransLink Supplement Consultation, South of the Fraser, Public Open House [PDF] [LINK]

Surrey Citizens Want Competitive Transit

88% of the public in consultations about the future of transportation in Surrey in 2008 agreed that “Transit should be as convenient and attractive as driving a car on City Roads”.

These consultants represented the City of Surrey in consultations that lead to the creation of Surrey’s very own Transportation Strategic Plan in 2008 [55].  Poor transit service was identified as the number 1 issue during the public consultation.

There needs to be a total understanding of the role that Rail Transit will play for Surrey in the future.  This city needs Rail Transit not only to move the people who already are here more effectively, but also to accommodate upcoming population growth and encourage appropriate development for those new people in the right areas.  There is evidence to support the likelihood that an implementation of on-street, at-grade Light Rail Transit (as supported by the city) would be uncompetitive, not succeed, and only burden the City and TransLink with millions of dollars in capital and operating cost debt.

It was found through the consultation and the study that about 12 percent (about 50,000) of Surrey’s residents do not have unhindered access to a car [55].  It should, however, be considered that about 88% (close to 370,000) of Surrey residents do have unhindered access to a car, and these 88 percent would be most likely willing to drive their car if they cannot ride a convenient, attractive and reliable transit service.

Portland MAX Light Rail

Portland's MAX LRT is not very popular; there has been no decrease in the increase rate of traffic congestion along freeways that parallel the LRT lines.

It will not be possible for an on-street at-grade light rail system to match the current on-time reliability rating of over 95 percent as measured by TransLink [15] that the SkyTrain currently provides, as there are many complications that could arise from the choice of running a system on-street.

Any accident that lands on the tracks of a line could shut down the portion of that line for several hours, which can add further road congestion to that which might have already been added through the removal of traffic lanes, and impede the operation of temporary bus shuttles that would have to replace that portion of the line.  A service that is neither on time nor reliable is not very attractive, and this has been the result of many a citizen’s choice in Surrey to drive instead of take transit to get around.

If we implement a rail transit service in this city that is neither convenient nor attractive (and as a result, not popular), it is highly likely that other supposedly related benefits (such as the encouragement of growth in the right areas) of the implementation are not going to materialize as a result.

Most people agree that there is a need for a competitive, affordable and future-proof rail transit solution to service and accommodate the growth of the City of Surrey in the near future.  Investing in additional SkyTrain system expansion (Metro Vancouver’s SkyTrain is a competitive system that has carried over 100 million passengers a year and is among the most successful of all rapid transit systems in North America) may be useful for the City of Surrey and surrounding area.

Such a system in Surrey could be implemented at a capital cost just approximately 20 percent more per kilometre than at-grade light rail [9][10][12][13], cost less to operate, and be much more effective at serving both present and future loads.

Let’s make it happen.

CONCEPTUAL - A Mk II ART train leaves a Surrey SkyTrain station, bound for Guildford

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References: Please visit THIS PAGE [LINK] to view our unified reference list

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Have you been convinced?  Are you interested in our cause?
Support us at SkyTrain for Surrey today – http://skytrainforsurrey.org/

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Click here to learn more about SkyTrain for Surrey.Click here to visit the SkyTrain for Surrey blog. Find out more about our views in one of our many informative blog posts!Click here to find out more about the realities of Light rail transit in Surrey, and why Light Rail will be netiher economic nor sustainable in the City of Surrey.

Council Candidates supporting LRT guided by politics, not realism

First of all, before this article is read, we would like to note that there needs to be a total understanding of the role that rail transit will play for Surrey in the future.  This city needs rail transit not only to move the people who already are here more effectively, but also to accommodate population growth and encourage appropriate development in the right areas.  All of these roles must be considered in depth before a decision is made on what rail transit implementation type is right for our city.

A recent Surrey transportation debate hosted by Surrey CiTI (Citizens’ Transportation Initiative) was held on 11/13/2011. This debate was attended by two independent candidates (Paul Griffin and John Wolanski), two candidates from Surrey First (Marvin Hunt and Barinder Rasode) and two candidates from the Surrey Civic Coalition (Grant Rice and Stephanie Ryan). The format provided for each to present their opinions on key election issues in Surrey, with a general theme of transportation. These were:

  • Light Rail/Street Car vs SkyTrain
    Question: Assuming an ongoing financial challenge for TransLink, would you advocate for a) SkyTrain mixed with a system of smaller scope, or b) Light Rail/Street Car and the exclusion of SkyTrain?

  • Legal & Illegal Paving of Surrey
    Question: How would you work to contain future legal paving, and what would you do about existing and future paving violations?

  • Transportation within Town Centres
    Question: What is your vision for transportation within the Town Centres?  Would you push for a free service?

  • Park & Rides
    Question: Would you advocate for more Park & Rides in Surrey, especially at malls?

SkyTrain for Surrey was represented at this debate by founder and chief representative Daryl Dela Cruz. He noted a widespread lack of basis and statistical evidence from candidates during the “Light Rail/Street Car vs SkyTrain” segment of the debate, and later said he “…found that many opinions were presented without appropriate statistics to back them up, and that debating Candidates in support of at-grade LRT missed several disadvantages and realities, while lacking in knowledge of any advantages to choosing at-grade LRT implementation.”  It would seem evident that several candidates who are in support of Light Rail Transit over SkyTrain/Rapid Rail Transit (RRT) are guided more by politics than realism.

The format of the debate allowed for questions to be asked from the gallery. SkyTrain for Surrey took this opportunity to out for what reasons the Candidates supported the implementation of an LRT system in Surrey.

Daryl posed the following questions:

“What is your basis for supporting Light Rail?  Are you convinced that at-grade Light Rail will be successful in attracting riders and ensuing modal shifts, improving capacity, and providing good reliability when statistics and facts are pointing to otherwise?”

Before this question was asked, it is worth noting that Ms. Rasode (who has stated that she is in support of Light Rail) had this to say about the implementation of SkyTrain:

“Building this massive viaduct through a community, tearing down our trees, tearing up our streets, having to expropriate people’s land, I do not think is first-rate.”

This assertion that SkyTrain would be bound by these complications, while assuming that an implementation of Light Rail Transit would not be subject to the same conditions is exceptionally short-sighted. In actuality, Light Rail would do much more to disrupt our streets than an implementation of elevated SkyTrain/Rapid Rail Transit (RRT), both during and after construction.

While the elevated guideway for a SkyTrain-style implementation would be able to fit within the 4.5 metre median that Surrey allocates on its major thoroughfares, on-street Light Rail will not only take up more than twice the space, but would do this by removing traffic lanes on corridors which have been identified as critical to the movement of goods and traffic in this city. We will see major corridors such as 104th Ave. (an important goods movement corridor connecting the City Centre and Route 1, which alone carries in excess of 33,000 vehicles daily [5] and some of the Surrey’s busiest bus routes) being narrowed to a single lane in each direction, if Light Rail is implemented in accordance to the current City of Surrey plans and engineering reports.

Light Rail car on 104th [conceptual]

We will see major corridors such as 104th Ave (pictured) being narrowed to a single lane in each direction, if Light Rail is implemented in accordance to the current City of Surrey plans and envisions.

The removal of any lanes on a key transportation corridor that connects the City Centre with many other destinations to the east, including Guildford Town Centre mall (which has recently been and is continuing to be expanded [8]) will have devastating effects on the Guildford community.  Congestion and capacity issues on the 104th Avenue corridor are already resulting in the offsetting of thousands of vehicles down alternate local roads such as 100th Ave. that are not built for to handle such intense traffic loads.  Alleviating congestion by over utilizing these alternate roads can and will hamper movement throughout the entire community with exponentially detrimental effects to infrastructure and quality of life.

Ms. Rasodes assertions that Light Rail Transit would not disrupt our communities are not only careless and baseless, they serve as evidence that she, along with many other candidates who claim to support for at-grade Light Rail, have not made themselves fully aware of the complications that would arise from an implementation of it.

It is alleged that much of the reason that the current City Council is so caught up with at-grade Light Rail is because of a visit to Portland (a city that has implemented an extensive Light Rail system and a downtown streetcar) in late 2010/early 2011. This would appear to be the unfortunately true; Ms. Rasode referenced Portland as an excellent role model for the City of Surrey.  Unfortunately, as we have demonstrated in another write-up, this is not the case.

Candidate Grant Rice, who responded to the question posed by Mr. Dela Cruz, claimed that SkyTrain is not a perfect system – exclaiming that he was stuck for 5 hours during a SkyTrain system failure the previous day.  It is a fact that, as independent Council Candidate Paul Griffin (a SkyTrain supporter) pointed out, that SkyTrain delivers more than approximately 95 percent of its service on-time.  This is true: according to consecutive TransLink annual and quarterly reports, SkyTrain delivered more than 95 percent of the service it provided on time in 2010 and has been delivering at least 94 percent of the service it provides on-time for the past 5 years (measured with a high standard of within 2 minutes) [15].

However, because on-street at-grade light rail implementations cannot be safely automated, and trains must interface with cross traffic and crossing pedestrians, such an arrangement cannot provide the same reliability, speed, and level of service.  Just this past year, TriMet measured that the MAX Light Rail in Portland, OR was able to provide approximately just 86.7 percent of its service on-time (measured with a lower standard of within 5 minutes) [54].

Portland MAX Light Rail

At-grade Light Rail systems such as the Portland MAX cannot experience the same reliability levels that automated rapid transit systems like SkyTrain provide.

While claims from other debating Candidates that at-grade stations are much more accessible – especially for the elderly, women and children – were certainly well grounded, it should be noted that community connectivity is still possible in above ground (RRT) systems.  This may have more to do with how the stations are designed so that people don’t mind interacting with the system (people are able to use escalators, elevators and stairs even if disabled or otherwise physically challenged).

It also seems that a lot of the support for Light Rail has to do with an allegation that Light Rail will be cheaper to implement and SkyTrain costs would be excessive. This allegation is not entirely true.

Daryl has been studying with other SkyTrain for Surrey supporters and contributors and has found that the high cost of SkyTrain/RRT implementation is nothing more than urban myth.  For several years previous, SkyTrain has been generally described as having costs close to or higher than $100 million/km.  What has been proven is that this depends on the conditions of the actual implementation.

While the Canada Line, the proposed Evergreen Line, and the still-debated and planned Broadway (UBC) line costs per kilometre come close to these figures of per kilometre expense, the costs of actual SkyTrain/RRT construction without any special provisions that may inflate costs (such as bored tunnels, which are present in all of the three aforementioned lines and/or planned implementations) are much lower and much more acceptable.  SkyTrain/RRT construction in Surrey will not involve or require any such special provisions, and could realistically be on par with the cost of implementing Light Rail.

When more realistic implementation costs (such as those of the 1994 SkyTrain extension into Surrey [15][54] and the 2002 Millennium Line [13]) are compared (and, of course, adjusted for inflation), the shocking truth is that SkyTrain/RRT will not cost significantly more than on-street, at-grade Light Rail at all. It is estimated that an on-street, at-grade light rail service in Surrey will require $55 million per kilometre to totally put into place as a best case scenario. [10].  It will only cost approximately 20 percent more per kilometre for the provision of elevated RRT/SkyTrain in Surrey utilising existing infrastructure tie ins.  20 percent is a small price to pay for the provision of a rapid rail transit system with much better capabilities, capacity, speed and reliability.

If one has no basis to support something, then why support it in the first place?  There seems to be a lack of evidence of why Light Rail Transit – as believed by many, including several City Council candidates – is the best choice for the City of Surrey.  We as the representative citizens of the City of Surrey need to elect leaders that are guided by realism and research, rather than politics and trends.  We need to ensure that it is in the best interest of the leaders of this city that we will be electing in a few days that the implementation of rail transit we choose for Surrey improves capacity and service, as well as connections between communities, rather than doing otherwise.

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References: Please visit THIS PAGE [LINK] to view our unified reference list

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Have you been convinced?  Are you interested in our cause?
Support us at SkyTrain for Surrey today – http://skytrainforsurrey.org/

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Click here to learn more about SkyTrain for Surrey.Click here to visit the SkyTrain for Surrey blog. Find out more about our views in one of our many informative blog posts!Click here to find out more about the realities of Light rail transit in Surrey, and why Light Rail will be netiher economic nor sustainable in the City of Surrey.

Portland isn't Surrey

Portland, OR: the wrong role model for Surrey Rail Transit

Portland isn't Surrey
There needs to be understanding of the role that rail transit will play in Surrey in the future.  This city needs rail transit not only to more effectively move the people who already are here, but also to accommodate population growth and encourage appropriate development in the right areas.  All of these roles that rail transit will play must be considered if we are to choose another city as a role model for Surrey rail transit implementation, before making that decision of what exactly to implement.

Surrey Dianne Watts has always argued it’s important to widen the focus, away from strictly SkyTrain, to include the possibility of streetcars and light rail.
“Look at what occurred in Portland when they put in at grade rail, they spurred on $31 billion worth of economic development.  So, for those businesses and creating jobs and things like that was really the way to go.”
(News1130, Nov 2011 [LINK])

This saying by Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, having been featured on a recent News1130 article concerning the greater possibility of Light Rail Transit in Surrey, is very questionable.  She seems to be very intent on her consideration of Portland’s rail transit system as a role model for the provision of rail transit in Surrey.  After all,  the more recent big push for Light Rail started after the Council visited Portland, Oregon in late 2010/early 2011.

Apparently, Surrey's interest in LRT stems from a recent visit to Portland, OR. Surrey Councillor Judy Villeneuve said "city officials were impressed after a visit to Portland, Ore., that it had struck deals with the U.S. federal government and the development industry to help build its transit system, particularly its downtown streetcars." (Light Rail Now, Jan 2011 [LINKNow, first of all, we would like to point out that her claim is very greatly exaggerated.  According to TriMet themselves (TriMet is the public transportation agency in Portland), the MAX line has brought approximately just $8.2 billion in nearby economic TOD (transit-oriented development) [47].  The 6km Portland Downtown Streetcar, which opened in the summer of the 2001, attracted approximately $2.3 billion in development after 6 years [48].  This combined figure is well short of the $31 billion figure that Mayor Watts claims.

What many people don’t know is that the majority of this approx. $11 billion in development could not have possibly been implemented without the spending of several billion dollars in tax waivers (subsidies), in order to attract the development onto the new line.  This is not something that has been ongoing since the line began operating, either.  In 1996, a City Commissioner finally convinced the Portland City Council to start offering developers tax waivers for any high-density housing built near light rail stations; and while the development came, it came at a huge expense.  An estimated $2 billion dollars of tax waivers (subsidies) were spent for the attraction of transit-oriented development near MAX Light Rail lines by 2007: an expense of an average of $180 million every year [48].

When Portland’s first light-rail line opened for business in 1986, the city zoned much of the land near light-rail stations for high-density development.  Ten years later, city planner Mike Saba sadly reported to the Portland city council, “we have not seen any of the kind of development—of a mid-rise, higher-density, mixed-use, mixed-income type—that we would’ve liked to have seen” along the light-rail line.

It is also notable that despite the subsidies, vacancy rates are often high, particularly in areas designated for shops [48].  This shows that the lines have actually failed to attract significant retail development, something that Surrey is trying to focus on within its downtown core.

And while the development has come, despite the high cost, there seems to be no guarantee that the people choosing to live in this development are actually making use of the Light Rail line as their primary choice for transportation.  Nearly two-thirds of residents in the new transit-oriented Orenco neighbourhood (located west of Portland), built upon an adjacent MAX Light Rail station, list driving to work alone as their exclusive form of commute.  Orenco residents rank last among the four neighborhoods explored in a study on two other transit measurements: just 15 percent of them consider mass transit their exclusive commute mode, and just 9 percent ride it at least five times a week. [49]

While the neighborhood has achieved a heightened sense of community and successfully encouraged walking, most residents still rely on the single-occupancy vehicle — not mass transit — as their primary mode of commute.  CC-BY-SA-NC http://www.flickr.com/photos/theoverheadwire/2462506970/sizes/o/in/photostream/

While the neighborhood has achieved a heightened sense of community and successfully encouraged walking, most residents still rely on the single-occupancy vehicle — not mass transit — as their primary mode of commute.

While such transit-oriented development has come, it can be argued that the MAX is more of a sprawl promoter than a compact TOD promoter.  Tri-Met insists on building large park-n-ride lots with ample free parking along all MAX lines, rather than supporting its MAX LRT lines with an adequate local bus network; although the overall transit system’s low fare recovery ratio of 22% [50] (less than half of TransLink’s rate at over 50% [51] – one of the best in North America) could be blamed for this, as bus service is somewhat more expensive to operate when there’s lower ridership.  Recent (past year) trends are showing that Portland’s MAX ridership is growing, but bus ridership is reducing [28].

It is also noteworthy, however, that despite all this free parking, it seems that actual congestion levels along several Portland roads are not being reduced.

Between 1986 and 1995, traffic counts on a freeway in Portland increased by as much as 37 percent. This happened despite the introduction of the then-new Banfield (East-Side) MAX light rail line in 1986, and the provision of free parking at a major park-n-ride alongside the freeway [39].  The Portland MAX, which was designed to and currently operates at an average speed of approximately 31km/h [51], is simply not competitive with the automobile.  For comparison, the Vancouver SkyTrain lines operating on the Bombardier Innovia ART system are much faster than the MAX Light Rail.  The Millennium Line operates at an average speed of 45.1km/h [52], while the Expo Line operates at an average speed of 44.6 km/h [53].

Between 1986 and 1992, Portland area traffic congestion grew faster than other Western cities, including Seattle, which up until recently was not serviced by any rail transit system. [50]

According to TransLink, 84 percent of trips within the Surrey Rapid Transit Study area have been found to involve use of the automobile, while only 8 percent make use of transit. [23]  84 percent is a number that drastically needs to change for the better in the coming years.  Many primary roads in Surrey are operating over their designed capacity, and this is not necessarily going to get any better as the population of the city grows, faster than every other city in British Columbia.

Surrey is not Portland, and the MAX Light Rail cannot serve as a role model for such similar future implementation here.  Portland does not have to integrate its rail transit system with rail transit systems in other neighbouring cities, something that Surrey has to do.  We need to ensure that, in addition to required increases in transit service to address growing demand, that a change in mode share (TransLink is aiming to reduce the automobile mode-share to 50% by 2041 in the South of Fraser region [23]) is brought forward by the implementation of a competitive, reliable and successful rapid transit system.  Why should this Light Rail system, which has failed to do exactly that, serve as a role model for rail transit expansion in Surrey?

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References: Please visit THIS PAGE [LINK] to view our unified reference list

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Have you been convinced?  Are you interested in our cause?
Support us at SkyTrain for Surrey today – http://skytrainforsurrey.org/

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Click here to learn more about SkyTrain for Surrey.Click here to visit the SkyTrain for Surrey blog. Find out more about our views in one of our many informative blog posts!Click here to find out more about the realities of Light rail transit in Surrey, and why Light Rail will be netiher economic nor sustainable in the City of Surrey.

The Media are using Unrepresentative Capital Cost Estimates

No, no, no. This is not what would be built for $27 million/km!

No, no, no. This is not what would be built for $27 million/km!

The media seem to have themselves in a knot when it comes to referencing certain capital cost values.

We have found that the quoted “$27 million per km for light rail” value in an article posted by the Vancouver Sun on 10th November ([CLICK HERE] to view) is questionable and possibly highly inaccurate.  The value has been repetitively used in several previous articles by the Vancouver Sun and other newspapers.

TransLink, which had tentatively proposed building a six-kilometre SkyTrain from City Centre to Guildford, has estimated the cost of light rail at $27 million per kilometre versus $127 million per kilometre for the Evergreen Line and $233 million for the UBC/Broadway line.

The “$27 million per km” value, which in the article is representing the cost of implementing Light Rail in Surrey, was a value that was presented in TransLink’s original technical assessment for operating Light Rail Transit on the Interurban Corridor from 2006 [43].  The Interurban Corridor is a relatively clear and pre-existing right of way, and this cost cannot represent the true cost of implementing on-street at-grade Light Rail Transit in Surrey.

The use of potential costs per km of the Evergreen Line and Millennium Line (Broadway-UBC) SkyTrain lines/extensions for comparison is also very highly unrepresentative.

Both of these lines would contain many special provisions that significantly inflate capital costs, and the cost per km cannot be reasonably compared to any implementation of SkyTrain in Surrey.  For example, both lines will involve extensive underground sections which are significantly more expensive to construct; none of which will be required for South of Fraser expansion,where lines will be built utilizing an elevated or at-grade construction.

Both the Millennium Line (2002) and original Scott Road to King George SkyTrain extension to Surrey (1994), which contain few or no special provisions that may inflate implementation cost, were implemented at a total cost of approximately $65-67 million/km (2011 dollars, adjusted for inflation) [9][44][45][46].

$67 million/km for an extension or new implementation of SkyTrain using currently-used technology would be a very small price to pay over an inferior on-street at-grade Light Rail Transit service that will disrupt communities and transportation within and between them while providing little service improvement.  Such a system would cost as much as $55 million/km or more to implement (estimated [6]).  The additional capital cost would be recovered in due time as operating cost savings from making use of a driverless, fully-automated system.

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References: Please visit THIS PAGE [LINK] to view our unified reference list

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Have you been convinced?  Are you interested in our cause?
Support us at SkyTrain for Surrey today – http://skytrainforsurrey.org/

——————————————

Click here to learn more about SkyTrain for Surrey.Click here to visit the SkyTrain for Surrey blog. Find out more about our views in one of our many informative blog posts!

The “Province eyes light rail options for Surrey, Langley” article on the Vancouver Sun mentioned in this blog posted can be referred to by clicking on [THIS LINK] or seeing the below quotation:

Province eyes light rail options for Surrey, Langley

Published: November 10, 2011 by Kelly Sinoski of the Vancouver Sun Newspaper – a division of Postmedia Network Inc.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts appears to be gaining momentum in her push for light rail south of the Fraser.

In a letter to Watts this week, Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom said the province is “examining the use of LRT as well as the potential for bus rapid transit and SkyTrain technology to provide frequent, fast, reliable services to communities south of the Fraser.”

“I recognize that Surrey is growing quickly and understand how important transit connections to the community will be as we work to build a more efficient and effective transit network in the Lower Mainland,” the letter said.

Watts, who has long advocated for light rail for Surrey, said Lekstrom’s letter is “both an acknowledgment of our issues and a sign that transportation in Surrey will be improving for the future.”

“It will allow us to shape out communities and connect our town centres, while at the same time increasing economic development in our city,” Watts said in a statement.

Watts, who would like to see a range of transit options in Surrey, argues light rail is “an effective and efficient form of transportation,” and, along with streetcars, would complement the existing SkyTrain and buses.

Surrey is already investigating three light routes: 104th Avenue between 152nd Street and City Centre (near the Surrey Central SkyTrain); King George Highway from City Centre to Newton (and eventually South Surrey); and Fraser Highway between City Centre and Langley.

Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender, who has been working with Watts to boost transportation options south of the Fraser, said Lekstrom’s letter is a “significant win” and expects work could begin on an LRT route as early as next year. A study is now being done, he added.

Fassbender said light rail is a better option for the two communities than SkyTrain because of the vast geography south of the Fraser and the ability to build more infrastructure at a lower cost.

TransLink, which had tentatively proposed building a six-kilometre SkyTrain from City Centre to Guildford, has estimated the cost of light rail at $27 million per kilometre versus $127 million per kilometre for the Evergreen Line and $233 million for the UBC/Broadway line.

The Canada Line, linking Vancouver and Richmond, cost $2 billion to build, while the Evergreen Line is set at $1.4 billion.

“It’s a significant win for us,” Fassbender said.

He noted the decision by Metro Vancouver mayors last month to raise the gas tax by two cents a litre and look for other funding sources will help pay for future transit projects around the region.

The support from Surrey and Langley for the TransLink funding plan, he added, shows “we’re prepared to support the Evergreen Line [and other projects] but we need to move ahead with a plan for this part of the region … to recognize the pressure and the growth out here.”

Fassbender said the transportation needs south of the Fraser extend between Surrey and Langley, with hopes that it can one day reach all the way to Abbotsford and Chilliwack. The old interurban line, which had been touted as a possible train route, is likely not acceptable, Fassbender said, because it doesn’t run through dense and populated areas.