This Site Hits Local Papers

The first part of a two-part article on transit issues appeared this week in local newspapers printed by the York Region Media Group. This first part covers the LRT alternatives for York Region as outlined on this site (here).

I invite others to post there comments here, on this blog.

2 Responses to “This Site Hits Local Papers”

  1. Tony DiLorenzo Says:

    I have been living in Richmond Hill since 1992. Also I’ve been working as a transit operator for T.T.C for the last 17 years. Again I stress I am just a driver so the fallowing opinions are just that, opinions, based on what I’ve seen in my career at T.T.C.

    Subways are extremely efficient mode of transportation when you have the customer base to supply the service for. If there is not a sufficient amount of passengers your cost per trip per passenger far exceeds its viability let alone the maintenance and rebuilding of the tracks they ride on.

    LRT and or Street cars present the same problem, costly to build and maintain and if not speedy enough customer base will be minimal thus cost per trip is high and again is not viable.

    Again I stress the cost to build and run what in effect is a rail system is very expensive. Though it maybe in vogue due to the perceived environmental benefits it may provide and the novelty or nostalgia a train running through ones town might provide, it still comes down to a ratio of tax dollars spent to service given. Please take into account that every ten to twenty years these tracks have to be ripped up and replaced again thus once again increased costs are added to this ratio and the true cost to the tax payer is astronomical.

    So the question is what do we do to provide the current transportation needs and at the same time address any increased future needs? I would still use surface Right of Ways, I would develop Right of Ways along and running beside the 400 series of highways as well as the hydro corridors that are currently unused fields that give the right of way to the hydro lines. Another possible option is to develop Right of Ways along train routes. The choice of vehicle would be just every day diesel powered buses. Some would be regular size some would be larger like the articulated models. Yes the cost of fuel is going up but we must consider that the capital cost of Subway trains and Light Rail Trains is enormous to purchase as well as maintain and there is no doubt special maintenance facilities for these vehicles will have to be built.

    Cal’s comments: Any transit implementation requires funding to operate it and funding for capital replacement. Both of these types of funding are an issue that is a whole other area of transit advocacy to get all levels of government pay their share for. Politicians love to stand before cameras when they are handing out cash for a new construction project, or for the purchase of new vehicles, but there is no glory in cutting a cheque to pay to run the system or replace worn out rails.

    Buses are not less costly to operate than rail vehicles, on a per-passenger basis (see below), and buses are not without the issue of capital replacement. While they do not have the rail and power supply infrastructure, and their vehicles are less costly, those vehicles only have a lifespan that is half that of LRV and subway vehicles. They must be replaced twice as often. Rights of ways for buses require more space than for LRT (because clearance between vehicles on rails may be tighter), which can be an issue in some locations.

    As for BRT, there is a place for this currently in York Region. My LRT options cover some of the busiest parts of the current VIVA system where buses are often packed full during rush hours with 3-5 minute headways. The rest of the VIVA system should be brought up to full BRT as soon as possible. I would go so far as to say that a portion of my proposed network could be scaled back a little to provide funding right now to convert all other VIVA routes to BRT. Let’s face it, VIVA Phase 1 is not true BRT, it is just a glorified express bus service.

    In conclusion it is my belief that adding Right of Ways on current major streets as well as those Right of Ways suggested above would provide and meet current and future mass transit needs of our citizens. As technology increases buses will become more fuel efficient. Buses do not require any specialized facilities for maintenance as compared to subway or street cars and the cost of repairing or replacing a road as apposed to rail is significantly less now and in the some what foreseeable future. We can also implement this idea now. A paved road, painted lines and a Right of Way is something which can be almost immediate when compared to the making and laying of track and the diging of tunnels and stringing of wires.

    If rail becomes the choice then I would get secured funding from all three levels of government for the next 50 to 100 years and make sure all surrounding regions are backing it so that economies of scale become better if we all plan and agree on one system.

    Cal’s comments: As I mentioned above, the operational cost of buses on a per-passenger basis are more expensive than rail vehicles. Calgary recently performed a study on the cost of operation of express bus routes compared to LRT operations. For passenger loading of only 600 boardings per hour, the cost to operate the LRT was $0.27 per passenger while express bus routes for the same number of passengers was approximately $1.50 per passenger.

    There is another factor that must be considered when looking into BRT over rail solutions: how many people will actually take it? There is a real mind set that buses are somehow low class but rail is not. To give credit to VIVA, it has been marketed well and has attracted some new ridership that would otherwise scoff at buses. You know who I’m talking about: people who say things like, “I take the VIVA,” like it was a totally separate system from the rest of YRT operations in the way GO Transit is separate. These people would never think of taking a “regular YRT” bus anywhere, even for a short ride to connect to VIVA. It’s their loss, given that VIVA Stations print an expiry on your ticket that is exactly two hours from the minute you validate it, while the transfer one receives from a YRT operator when paying the fare increments 15 minutes at a time and will often be good for the next two and a half hours, if not more.

    In Sacramento California, they have seen a 20.2% increase in transit usage in the past year, likely all attributed to higher fuel prices. However, their bus rider ship in that time increased only 2.5%. The overall rating came from increased rider ship on their LRT which was at 43.3% (reference article).

  2. Ted Mendes Says:

    Why should we not build the Eglinton LRT underground. This provides for much of the infrastructure for a subway in the future. We should be thinking long term not cheap and shor term solutions. Thanks

    Cal’s comments: Building the Eglinton LRT above ground where appropriate IS thinking for the future.

    First, by not burning through the available funding by building the entire line underground, we are able to build higher-order transit in other parts of the city that badly need it. Not doing so sentences other corridors to no improvements and worse grid lock (more buses clogging up streets).

    Second, an all-underground alignment dooms the line to an unnecessarily high standard when it comes to extending the line in the future. This means that the line does not get built beyond what we are thinking of today because a higher cost of construction makes it easier to do nothing.

    Finally, the “we should at least build infrastructure for a subway in the future” line of thinking dooms us to do absolutely nothing now. Future growth numbers do not approach subway justification even several decades into the future. That is no justification for sinking all the funding into one line while doing absolutely nothing in other parts of the city. We have to start thinking of transit planning in terms of a network, and not just one line unto itself.