Concrete Medians Not Necessary

I have been on the fence about concrete medians. Cited as being necessary for emergency vehicle use as well as possible replacement bus service, I more or less accepted them even though they typically drive the cost per kilometre of light rail construction from about $30 million to $50 million. My main issue was that the TTC was not considering the use of side-of-the-road running where it was practical, such as Brentcliffe to Don Mills and the Richview Expressway lands on Eglinton.

Now, I have seen an alternative that turns this around…

This is inĀ Essen and it strikes me that it would be less expensive than total concrete encasement, both for initial construction as well as later maintenance. If anyone has cost details on this, let me know.

3 Responses to “Concrete Medians Not Necessary”

  1. Zweisystem Says:

    What we have here is Essen’s O-Bahn guided bus, which shares part of its route with regular trams. I don’t know the cost of installation, but it is certainly nowhere near $30 million/km. to $50 million/km.

    Lawned rights-of-way costs on a tram route boosts cost per km to $25 mil/km to $35/mil/km including trams!

    I just don’t know how the TTC can claim concrete medians cost $30 mil/km to $50 mil/km unless someones uncle owns the cement factory!

    Cal’s comment: Let me clarify these numbers: The per kilometre estimates I use on this site have the cost of a new line with concrete encased track at $50 million/km, while the cost of ballasted tie construction is about $30 million/km. There are certainly lower cost examples out there, but it does the argument in favour of LRT over subway no good to cherry-pick the best examples. The argument stands up very well even when comparing an expensive example of LRT against a low cost example of subway. Besides, we are talking about the TTC which has a reputation for driving costs up. Some of that reputation is justified, though I don’t expect it is as extreme as some accusations. Having designed and built my own home a few years ago, I have a pretty good handle on where costs, savings, and waste exists in GTHA construction.

  2. Zweisystem Says:

    Cal, I was not cherry-picking at all but using examples of recently built light rail lines. The cost of on-street track with the overhead, should cost no more then $5mil/km to $7 mil/km, the cost increases of course with added engineering. If the rail project is ‘greenfields’ construction, then the cost will rise dramatically, depending on the amount of engineering that must be done.

    In Europe, transit officials are trying to reduce the cost of LRT, while in north America, the opposite is happening and I am very worried for the outcome.

    In Vancouver, TransLink will just love those very expensive LRT cost numbers to justify metro, as they have done in the past. I do think someone should investigate why cement encased track costs so much.

    Our group has been working very closely with an English consultant for our “Return of the Interurban” plans and he has been very forthcoming on LRT construction costs in Europe and North America.

    Cal’s comment: There is more to LRT construction than just laying tracks and stringing up overhead. Utility relocation, roadbed preparation (e.g.: the SELRT will widen the width of the roadway by about two lanes - this land is part of the ROW of the street, but needs to be prepared to handle traffic), and electrical substation construction are just a few of the things that must be part of the per kilometre cost of the lines. The figures I use also include vehicles, but do not include maintenance and storage facilities.

    I agree that there has been a tendency in North America to over-engineer LRT projects, and this is a concern for me as well.

  3. W. K. Lis Says:

    In the latest Queens Quay Working Group Meeting Presentation, it was recommended that their preferred scenario for the Queen’s Quay right-of-way was 2 grass strips between the rails and modified concrete for EMS use. Why? When the bicycle path could be used by EMS. Couldn’t bicycles move over, streetcars can’t.

    Cal’s comment: What is the total width of the bike lanes and will they be together? If they are together, it is likely that the full width will easily fit an emergency vehicle. Unfortunately, the powers that be in this city have some sort of great fear of bicycle head-on collisions on roads and like to segregate opposite direction bike lanes from each other. Look at Jarvis as an example: why are they not simply turning the centre lane into a two-way space for bicycles? It would not only be less expensive, but also better for all if bikes don’t have to contend with curb lane issues.