Thursday, August 14, 2008

Comment From Light Rail Guy

The streetcar of today is very different from the streetcar of yesterday.

- Helsinki, just built 5 km of new streetcar (streetcars are LRT) for Euro 15 million or CAD $23.6 million or CAD $4.72 million a km.! Compare that with almost $200 million/km. for SkyTrain.

- Helsinki's tram (streetcar) system carries over 20,000 persons per hour per direction (pphpd) one one downtown route, during peak hours. Compare with SkyTrain, which can't carry 15,000 pphpd without a $3 billion upgrade!

- In Karlsrhue, Germany, one can board a streetcar in the downtown and alight in Heilbronn, some 150 km. away, with the streetcar operating on-street; on a reserved rights-of-way (LRT); and as a railway train, track-sharing with the mainline railways! Compare with SkyTrain, it can only operate on a massively expensive segregated rights-of-way and is compatible with no other railway!

- The Kong Kong tramway's (those quaint double-decker streetcars) CARRIES OVER 80 MILLION PASSENGERS ANNUALLY! Compare with SkyTrain, with almost $6 billion invested with the metro, barely 70 million passengers annually use it, with 80% first taking a bus to use it.

- In Spain, a new streetcar line cost under CAD $7 million/km to build, including cars! Compare with SkyTrain where $7 million would buy you 70 metres of guide-way, without cars!

- Streetcars can travel at 30 second headways. Compare with SkyTrain, which even 1 minute headways pose a problem.

- Streetcars come in all sizes, from small metre gauge 2 axle affairs, to large, multi-axle articulated vehicles, with a maximum capacity of 350 persons (Strasbourg's 'Jumbos').

- Streetcars can climb 10% grades with ease (Sheffield, UK); in Lisbon, their 'heritage cars' (see above) climb 13.7 percent grades. compare with SkyTrain where the system doesn't like steep grades at all!

- Streetcars can travel as fast as 100 kph.

- AND STREETCARS OPERATE WITHOUT PROBLEM IN THE SNOW! In the Great Blizzard's in Denver last year, the LRT/streetcar only stopped operating because there was no passengers to take. No one could reach the streetcar! Compare with SkyTrain, where one flake of snow causes panic and.......... you know the rest


Corey said...

So let me get this straight.

Everyone tells us that 800,000 more people will arrive in the Lower Mainland by 2030.

Apart from widening a few highways, there is no more room - on the ground or in people's hearts - for more roads in the region.

Team Gordo/Falco have just released a pathetic Climate "Action" Plan that basically tells us the main mode of transportation for the foreseeable future is going to be cars, cars, cars.

Are they stupid? Do they think we are stupid? Where are all these new cars going to go exactly? What kind of traffic is that going to mean for us?

And here is the solution, sitting there in the NY Times. The solution to those pesky extra greenhouse gases. The solution to the disastrous land use policies that have covered half the farmland in this region in asphalt. The solution to tens of thousands of us wasting our lives sitting in traffic.

Team Gordo/Falco couldn't see a major trend or a non-political move even if it jumped up and smacked them in the face.

Team Gordo/Falco, do something not in your self interest for once.


Light Rail Guy said...

Just a note: Washington DC, which has an extensive metro system, is now planning a very extensive streetcar system. Now Gordo & Falks, isn't Washington DC a world class city?

Anonymous said...

All of these numbers and anecdotes look impressive. Translink should probably at least consider developing such lines. Yes, Skytrain is expensive and has certain weaknesses. But compared to LRT systems I have had experience with (Calgary and Chicago) Skytrain is relatively QUIET and FAST. I had a conversation with a friend who was well acquainted with Toronto's street-level LRTs. He mentioned to me how noisy the trains running along the tracks were (like Chicago's) and how there were times he found he could walk faster than the trains could travel (like Calgary's LRT). I very much doubt any of the LRT systems listed could get one from Boundary Rd. to Granville in less than 15 minutes. Skytrain definitely can. I wouldn't be at all surprised, if similar "at grade" LRT systems were to be installed here, that people would be howling about how NOISY and SLOW they are.

Just my CDN $0.02.

Craig Y.

Anonymous said...

Light Rail Guy:
There's a saying, "When something doesn't make any sense - like politicians inviting criticism for paying double-triple-quad for SkyTrain - go follow the money." Seems to apply.

Light Rail Guy said...

A comment on speed and noise of LRT.

The maximum speed of modern LRT vehicles is about 90 kph, though some streetcars, because of lack of need have a maximum speed of 70 kph (smaller motors = cheaper cost). Portland's and Calgary's LRT systems do operate at 80 kph to 90 kph on certain segments of thier systems.

Commercial speed is factored by the number of stops per route km. and Calgary and Portland have about twice the number of station/stops per route km. than SkyTrain, thus they have a lower average commercial speed. But the speed of the systems is by design (more station/stops), not by mode.

More stations/stops = more passengers.

NOTE: Chicago doesn't have LRT.

1) From U-Tube, a Karlsruhe Tram-Train, accelerating out of a train station (operating on the mainline) to a maximum speed of 90 kph.

2) From U Tube, one of Paris's new LRT lines: the modern streetcar.

Modern LRT is very quiet, so much so, that many transit operations deliberately make certain parts of the system noisy to protect pedestrians.

Trams/streetcars/LRT are somewhat noisy on switches, just as SkyTrain is and flanges squeal on tight curvature, just like what SkyTrain does.

A noisy LRT/streetcar system is indicative of poor maintenance than inherent noise problems.

The fact is, modern LRT is much quieter than SkyTrain. The following segment from U Tube should end the debate about noise.

nowhere man said...

I came upon this interesting website for trams in France. I especially like the new tram system for Lemans, and the no overhead wire sytem in Bordeaux.