Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Fueling the Madness

The world-wide reaction to skyrocketing fuel prices is becoming increasingly violent.

Prices at the pump are high enough here and then you realize that they are cheap relative to prices in the US, in Europe and around the globe.



Corey said...

Since the largest consumer of liquid fuels is transportation, a move away from petroleum-based transportation systems (i.e. cars) would be a start.

Here in the lower mainland, that would require the rebuilding of the interurban routes with modern electric trains, with stations in each community connected to a more local streetcar/bus/bike/pedestrian system. This of course requires us to re-think our current system of land use planning (and ditch the expensive Skytrain systems).

Can it be done politically? After all, there is significant lag time between the start of construction and the point where people say "Hey, this riding the train, reading a paper while drinking a coffee thing is a heck of a lot nicer than sitting in traffic all morning." During the time that it takes people's thinking to change, a whole lotta cash needs to be spent with no tangible return on the investment. (The return comes when we realize that we're all better off for the change)

Think Gordo and Co have the cojones to implement that kind of system?

Not on your bloody life. We're sunk.

David Berner said...


Thanks for these thoughts.

Edinburgh has the most wonderful bus system. A never-pending phalanx of double deckers race through the city with seeming efficiency. One never waits longer than 2 minutes.

Dublin has new trams that are equally efficient with very short waiting times. I was told that the trams paid for themselves in ONE YEAR!

Light Rail Guy said...

There is a part solution t help solve our transportation problems, but until our provincial and civic governments mature enough to plan build $6 million/k to $25 million/km LRT instead of politically prestigious SkyTrain at $100 million/km. to $250 million/km., noting will change.

Corey said...

Skytrain is an inefficient investment to be sure.

That said, I would rather see Skytrain than nothing. Cars are THE most inefficient transportation system that the world has ever seen, and using them in an urban area like Vancouver is madness.

Inefficiency. Let me count the ways.

1. Passenger Inefficiency. Most cars carry one person.
2. Space Inefficiency. A car travelling 90km/h requires about 20m of linear space, most often for one person. Buses are probably somewhere around what, 20 people per 20m? (10x)
3. Safety inefficiencies. The margin for error is much higher when 40 people are all driving their own car, rather than 1 bus driver driving 40 people. (40x the likelihood of driver error)
4. Fuel inefficiencies. The amount of energy required to move a car with one person is disgusting. Not to mention the disgusting efficiency of the gasoline engine compared to electric.
5. Economic Inefficiency. Expensive (and rising) for the average person to maintain.
6. Political Inefficiency. War for oil. 'Nuff said.
7. Environmental inefficiency. Oil sands. Pollution.

Let's wake up people! We need some viable, EFFICIENT options in place yesterday!

MurdocK said...

you are all on the right track...follow the money.

who profit$ from building $kytrain$?

Anonymous said...

My own experience with the Calgary LRT system has led me to believe that rail systems are best kept off of street level. Everywhere a rail track crosses a road some sort of noisy warning system must be put in to warn drivers and pedestrians a train is coming. Want to live near one of those intersections? Trust me, you don't. If you want to go cheap, why not just expand the trolley bus system and put more trolley buses into the system? I can't see how installing power lines for such a system would be as expensive as installing track and power system for LRT cars. If you want rail, go above the ground (expensive) or below the ground (really expensive). Or create a dedicated rail corridor with plenty of overpasses or underpasses so street vehicles and pedestrians won't collide with trains (still expensive). A good rail system won't come cheap.

Craig Y.

anonamoose said...

Get real. People will always prefer having their own vehicle over public transport.
Who wants to spend an extra two hours every day standing in a cramped space smelling somebodies armpits.
I've been there and done that.
The electric car will make transportation systems obsolete and they will soon be available.
P.S. Some of the new condo garages in Vancouver are already wired for charging electric vehicles.

Corey said...


Go to Japan. See how street interactions between not only LRT but also heavy rail are done properly, safely, and efficiently.

Or go to Portland. Or SanFran. Or pretty much any European city with a tram.

Light Rail Guy said...

Fact is, at grade systems attract more ridership than grade separated transit systems. 80% of SkyTrain's ridership, first takes a bus to the metro. This means that TransLink is cascading every bus rider they can onto the metro, which is very bad transit practise.

Calgary's LRT is carrying over 250,000 passengers a day, not bad for a transit system that cost half to build than SkyTrain.

Dublin's new LRT and also Nottingham's new LRT (both being real P-3 projects unlike the RAV sham P-3) run at a profit and that includes debt servicing charges, which TransLink never includes (over $200 million annually) with their weak claims that SkyTrain pays it's operating costs.

As to at-grade or grade separated transit, France has done 2 decades of study and are building LRT in almost every French City, instead of their grade separated French version of SkyTrain.

At grade transit is cheaper to build, can carry as much or more than SkyTrain, and believe it or not, when designed to, obtain the same commercial speeds of SkyTrain.

But again, the big selling point of at-grade transit is that it is at grade, where the customer wants it.

Since the late 1970's only 6 SkyTrain type systems have been sold, during the same period over 200 new LRT systems have been built or are nearing completion.

'Nuff said.

David Berner said...

Further to Light Rail Guy,

I've just returned from Dublin, where I had the pleasure of taking the LRT, called the LUAS many times. Cheap, fast, on time every few minutes andf it paid for itself in the first year.

It runs on tracks on the ground and crosses many intersections, and you know what? I never once saw a problem with a car or a pedestrian.

Corey said...

We should compare LRT-car intersections and car-car intersections and see which one has a higher accident rate for both drivers and pedestrians.

I'm pretty sure I know which one, and I don't recall anyone ever suggesting grade separated car intersections in the city!

Light Rail Guy said...

Corey, to answer your question, LRT-tram/car intersections are far safer than car/car intersections. Calgary's LRT annual death rate is half of that of Vancouver's SkyTrain!

A lot of people are calling for at-grade/on-street LRT. Vancouver is one of a very few cities around the world building with very expensive, grade separated light-metro.

Even Paris France is building up to 100 km. of on-street tramway's, a city with a far greater population and density than Vancouver.