Thursday, November 29, 2012

Brentwood Stn to UBC by train in 35 minutes?

The current online TransLink "Trip Planner" shows that one can get to UBC from Brentwood Station in 41 minutes using a combination of SkyTrain and the 99 B Line bus.  However, it doesn't take into consideration the numerous pass-ups that nearly 2000 commuters endure during rush hour periods each morning, adding considerably to the commute time suggested by the "Trip Planner".

A recent report by the City of Vancouver shows that it favours a subway underneath Broadway to UBC from VCC Clark Station on Great Northern Way.  This expensive rail option on Vancouver's wish-list comes despite the long-running need to extend rapid transit into Surrey, Langley and beyond.  Whereas a subway underneath Broadway would cost upwards of 3 billion dollars, a light surface rail would cost roughly 1 billion in comparison.  Incidentally, the City of Surrey is currently in favour of the  less expensive, more economical light rail option for use in the Fraser Valley.  Many have weighed in on the debate including Mayor Derek Corrigan who is critical of the idea of an underground SkyTrain link.

While the debate about rail technology for the UBC line along Broadway rages on as if Broadway should be the only route to UBC, people seem to be ignoring the existing rail tracks that run along False Creek to Arbutus Street.  An extension of the Millennium Line from VCC Clark connecting into the existing False Creek tracks would seem like a logical, economic fit, to save the cost of boring a 5.5 km tunnel from Clark Drive to Arbutus.  The the cost savings of not having to bore a tunnel to Arbutus would far outweigh the cost of building intermittent north-south overpasses connecting either side of the  at-surface rail line running through False Creek and Kitsilano.  For some reason, the City of Vancouver is fixated on a Broadway route.  Either way, a 35 minute trip from Brentwood Station to UBC would definitely be a nice option 10-15 years from now.  But how long does Surrey have to wait for its extension considering that many commuters to UBC begin their journeys from Surrey and beyond?

Related new stories below:

Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan slams Broadway SkyTrain line talk
By Yolande Cole

A recommendation from Vancouver city staff for a tunnelled SkyTrain as the best mode of rapid transit along the Broadway corridor is drawing criticism from one municipal leader in the region.
Burnaby mayor Derek Corriganasserts Vancouver city hall is “dreaming in technicolour” with regard to the $2.8-billion proposal. He said he “cannot imagine” the rest of Metro Vancouver’s municipalities identifying the subway as a priority.
“It’s just not on the radar at all in order to try and accomplish that,” Corrigan told the Straight by phone. “TransLink is in massive debt with huge operating deficits, and Vancouver continues to talk about spending more money on massive infrastructure.”
Vancouver council heard a presentation from city transportation director Jerry Dobrovolny on November 27. Dobrovolny said an underground rapid-transit line to UBC is the best approach to accommodate the transit needs along Broadway and avoid “tremendous” impacts anticipated with a street-level light-rail line, including turn restrictions and the removal of over 90 percent of parking spaces.
City staff stressed that about half of the over 100,000 commuters travelling the street daily come from outside Vancouver—a fact that Vision councillor Geoff Meggs says indicates that citizens in every municipality in the region would benefit from a subway line in the corridor.
Corrigan noted he recognizes that Vancouver needs to have a good internal transportation system, but argued it has to be “reasonable” about its place within the broader picture.
“Vancouver has to recognize that they’re part of a region, and the region is bigger than their needs, and that there isn’t a way in which, well, not only does Vancouver get what it wants, but it gets it in a Cadillac form,” he said. “You know, while the rest of the region is in a Ford Focus.”
Patrick Condon, a professor with UBC’s School of Landscape Architecture, also questioned the likelihood of Vancouver securing the funding for the nearly $3-billion subway line.
“I think if the province was going to hand the City of Vancouver $3 billion tomorrow, sure, go for it. But I don’t think that’s at all even remotely likely, is my sense,” he said in a phone interview.
Condon added that lower-cost surface light-rail systems have succeeded in some European cities, and in U.S. locations such as Minneapolis and Minnesota.
In Dobrovolny’s presentation to city council, he maintained that a street-level light-rail system would not have sufficient capacity to meet transit needs along the Broadway corridor, which is expected to see a higher than projected growth in passengers.
TransLink is currently in the midst of conducting a study that will identify potential options for rapid transit on the corridor, which will be followed by a "regional dialogue" with local municipalities on the issue.

Underground SkyTrain to UBC ‘makes sense’: city

By Tyler Orton, 24 Hours Vancouver
Jerry Dobrovolny told council Tuesday it “makes sense” to build an extended underground SkyTrain line all the way from VCC-Clark Station to the University of B.C. instead of going with a light rail transit (LRT) option after Arbutus Street.
The current council already supports a bored tunnel all the way to Arbutus, but there is no official position on what type of transit service should continue to UBC.
Dobrovolny said switching from an underground SkyTrain line to an LRT system after Arbutus would result in narrowed sidewalks, turn restrictions on more than 90% of intersections and the removal of 90% of parking spaces in the area.
The Broadway corridor is the second largest employment centre in B.C., trailing only Vancouver’s downtown core. There are about 80,000 transit trips to both UBC and the corridor daily, according to the latest figures from 2008.
Dobrovolny said introducing rapid transit along the Broadway corridor, where buses pass by 2,000 riders during peak hours each day, is key to realizing its “tremendous potential for economic development.”
The transportation director cited estimates for a rapid transit line that range from $2.8-3.2 billion, but he expects to find more “efficiencies” once a plan for an extended line is underway.
In the meantime, both Surrey and Vancouver must talk to the province and TransLink about securing funding for their respective plans for rapid transit.
Patrick Condon, senior researcher at UBC’s Design Centre for Sustainability, said LRT along the entire Broadway corridor would be a more economical choice for the city and the university, costing anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion.
“The challenge here is to shift people out of cars and into transit,” he said, adding problems with parking and turning restrictions will be minimized if there are fewer vehicles on the road.
He said the city will have a tough time acquiring the amount of money needed for a SkyTrain line along the entire corridor.
City manager Penny Ballem also told council there is “not a whole lot of difference” in the relative cost of a SkyTrain line compared to a light rail system once a tunnel is built along the Broadway corridor.
“What’s really remarkably different, (are the) operating costs for SkyTrain technology versus LRT,” she said, noting unmanned SkyTrain cars cost less to run.

November 28, 2012, 6:54pm PST

Nobody knows where funding for a rapid transit Broadway line will come from, but it won’t be UBC.
Vancouver City Council is trying to figure out how to make rapid transit along Broadway cheap enough for TransLink, the cash-strapped Lower Mainland transit authority. But UBC has rebuffed a suggestion that it could help fund the $2.8 billion proposal.
“We are not a business; we are a publicly funded institution,” said Pascal Spothelfer, UBC vice-president external. “If we talk about a contribution, we would certainly be looking at infrastructure around having a station at UBC, but to lay the rails? I don’t see that.”
City staff presented the case Tuesday for rapid transit along the Broadway corridor in the form of a below-ground SkyTrain like the Canada Line. At 80,000 trips each in 2008, the Broadway and UBC areas are the second- and third-largest transit centres in the region. The #99 B-Line busses have to pass up thousands of people in peak times, according to the city’s presentation. City staff could not be reached for an interview by press time.
“When you look at how much population we have here,… it more than justifies having SkyTrain or some similar heavy technology right away,” said Kyle Warwick, AMS vice-president external. “That means not waiting, and not doing it in two different stages.”
Warwick said transit services benefit not just UBC residents, but the whole region. “There’s the people who study or work at UBC, and those people come from municipalities all throughout Metro Vancouver,” he said. “It’s really a responsibility of governments throughout the whole region to contribute to this.”

TransLink is currently completing a study to be released in the new year on which methods of transit — underground subways or street-level light rail — would be best suited for Broadway. “I think there’s about seven different options that we’re currently studying,” said Derek Zabel, TransLink spokesperson. Zabel said TransLink would begin to consider how to balance Broadway transit with calls for more expansion into Surrey.
“Once that study comes out, that would be the start of a regional dialogue about … different needs that different areas [have].”
Warwick said the demands from all sides highlight the need for increased funding. “Realistically speaking, there’s merits to this project, there’s merit to projects in Surrey that are being proposed, there’s merits to a number of different projects and right now the funding that’s there is not sustainable, even to maintain current levels of service,” he said. “We’re really trying to push the decision-makers to negotiate amongst themselves, in the most efficient and prompt manner possible, some distribution of funding.”
One of the proposed methods of completing the project would be to split it up into two different stages, with SkyTrains extended to Arbutus street and rapid bus the rest of the way to UBC. Spothelfer, however, does not favour a split model.
“Our approach has always been we want it to be one project,” he said. “There may be a staged opening along that line, but … the goal is to have a connection all the way to UBC and then operate stages to open all the connections.”
The City of Vancouver projects the planning and construction of a Broadway line to take five to seven years. It’s still unclear, however, when funding might be available or when the project might get off the ground. Spothelfer pointed to the Evergreen Line, a route to Coquitlam currently under construction, which was first proposed in 2002.
“We have seen with the Evergreen Line how long these processes can take,” he said. “If we’re not participating in the discussions, if we don’t make our case now, then we might be losing out on the solutions we desperately need.
“Even if it’s 10 years out, we have to be at the table and we have to work on it.

Vancouver and Surrey working together despite being rivals for scarce funding

Surrey and Vancouver are using their combined clout to push for rapid transit projects in Metro Vancouver, despite being rivals for the scant transportation dollars available.
Vancouver Councillor Geoff Meggs said the two cities can't afford to fight over which one should get a new rapid transit line first, noting both projects have regional significance. About 50 per cent of transit users using the Broadway corridor, for instance, come from outside Vancouver.
"There's a strong need for regional investment," Meggs said. "We have a lot of people going back and forth from one city to the other."
His comments come a day after a Surrey planner joined Vancouver transportation manager Jerry Dobrovolny at City Hall as he outlined a vision for a $2.8-billion subway for the Broadway corridor.
The proposal, along with a rapid transit line for Surrey, are the next two high-dollar rapid transit projects earmarked for Metro Vancouver, although no decision on which will be built first, or when, has been made.
Meggs argues the Broadway corridor has been in line for rapid transit for at least a decade and has more population density and economic activity than other areas with access to rapid transit.
Serving the University of B.C. and the central Broadway business district, the route sees about 160,000 daily trips. The 99-B Line, for instance, runs frequently on the Broadway corridor, but an estimated 2,000 people are passed up by overcrowded buses every day.
And it's no faster to drive. A recent report by the Urban Futures Institute found UBC is one of the least accessible areas by car in Metro Vancouver.
"Even if there's no traffic on the road, it takes a long time to get there," said Andrew Ramlo, director of Urban Futures Institute.
TransLink is studying seven options for the Broadway line, including adding extra buses at a cost of $325 million to light rail ($1.1 billion), rapid rail ($3.2 billion) or a combination of the three. A recommendation is expected next year after a technical study on the corridor is completed.
Richard Walton, chairman of the mayors' council on regional transportation, said any decisions on what's built will "depend on the funding available and the politics at the time."
He acknowledges it's "good politics" for Surrey and Vancouver to work together, noting they have significant clout because combined, they represent nearly one-third of B.C.'s population.
This should bode well ahead of the provincial election next May, Walton said, because "the size of infrastructure projects in Metro Vancouver are a huge part of provincial needs.
"There's no question that with the funding impasse the way it is, anything that goes ahead is going to require significant capital funding in the future," he said. "Surrey and Vancouver are going to have to continue to lobby the business case. They're doing what every community should be doing and advocating for their needs."
Both projects would take at least five years to design and another five to build, meaning they wouldn't even be likely be built until 2020-2022.
"We need to get the wheels turning and the finances in place," he said.
Meanwhile, Adrien Byrne, spokesman for the Urban Development Institute, said Vancouver should be developing a land-use policy for the Broadway corridor. This would allow the city to get buy-in from the community and developers, which would help finance the project through community amenities.
Developers are now cashing in on projects along the Canada Line, he said, yet the city isn't using developer levies for transit. And the city has failed to reap benefits along the Expo and Millennium lines as many of those stations haven't realized higher density. Richmond, on the other hand, has built its new Capstan station using development funds.
"Many of those stations (along the Expo and Millennium lines) haven't been leveraged with developments," Byrne said. "In many other jurisdictions transit and land use go hand in hand and in Vancouver, that's not the case."

Turnstiles in Brentwood Station part 2

The Burnaby NewsLeader recently asked TransLink about some of the issues that were brought up in "part 1" of this topic.  It's good to know that TransLink is planning for future growth around Brentwood by leaving space to add more turnstiles when it becomes busier in the near future.  However the question remains whether or not the initial 3 turnstiles are enough right now with current ridership at Brentwood Station.  TransLink's Ken Hardie seems to think that 3 are enough based on TransLink's study of traffic there.  Only time will tell how well 2-way traffic flows through 3 turnstiles during rush hour periods.

Blogger questions number of faregates at Brentwood Station

A Brentwood-area blogger is questioning the logic of Brentwood SkyTrain Station only having three faregates installed despite the fact the neighbourhood is slated to have numerous residential highrises built in the near future.

A recent post on the blog, which can be found at, states "only 3 turnstiles in a station slated to become one of the busiest in the region is a reflection on the lack of foresight shown by TransLink decision-makers."
Shape Properties' redevelopment plans for Brentwood Town Centre will eventually add 11 residential towers as high as 60 storeys tall and two office buildings to its 28-acre site. Kitty corner from that, Appia Development's Solo District is proposing four residential towers ranging from 39 to 52 storeys tall.
In addition to slowing down commuters during busy rush hour periods, as they'll be required to scan their smartcards as they enter and exit the station, the blogger wondered whether the faregates would prevent a quick evacuation of the station in case of an emergency.
TransLink has, in fact, considered all these questions and has looked at the anticipated demand in the area up to the year 2031, said Ken Hardie, TransLink's communications liaison for the Compass smartcard project. The number of gates at each station was determined through modelling of passenger flows.
"At Brentwood as in quite a number of other stations, there's a lot of room there. Ultimately if we have to add, we can."
The cost of adding gates would simply involve buying the gates and installing them, as all the wiring and other infrastructure would already be in place, Hardie said.
"We will be monitoring the situation quite closely."
He noted that the gates themselves are not the only place where short-term congestion will occur, noting there is always some at escalators or stairs, for instance.
"If you look at all of the points where people move in the station, the faregates will just simply be one of them and we're not anticipating jam-ups at the gate."
The faregates will have a long, phased rollout period before they're fully functioning, Hardie said, adding initially the flow of people will be slower as people get used to the new system.
Each gate can easily handle 40 people a minute. Brentwood's gates won't be fully operational until sometime in the late summer or early fall of 2013, he said.
In contrast, a number of stations on the older Expo SkyTrain line, will have to be rebuilt to meet current and future demand.
That includes Metrotown station, built in the early 1980s before Metrotown mall developed as much as it has. A new station will have to be built to accommodate more passengers expected from the third Metrotower office building, now under construction, the redevelopment of Station Square shopping centre which will add five towers up to 57 storeys tall, and other highrises under development in the neighbourhood.
"That's the reason why we're not installing gates there initially," Hardie said. "It would be a waste. We would put them in only to have to take them out in fairly short order as the new station is built."
Hardie could not provide a timeframe for when that new station will be built and referred the question to a TransLink spokesperson who did not return messages before the NewsLeader's deadline.
As for emergency evacuation procedures, the gates will just open in such situations, he said. That can happen automatically, such as in the case of a power failure, or staff at the monitoring centre, which happens to be located at Brentwood Station, will push a button and make it happen.
"There are other emergency exits at the station, so we wouldn't be funnelling everybody through the gates either."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Numerous police cars at Dawson and Madison

Last night around 9:15, as many as 15 police cars with flashing lights supported by the Burnaby Fire Department were on scene at Dawson and Madison to deal with an unknown, unreported (by the media) incident.  The massive police presence would indicate a level of threat that might endanger the public.  Not being a reporter, I refrained from asking any questions.  I wish I had my camera, though.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Turnstiles in Brentwood Station

The turnstiles at Brentwood Station have been revealed, although they have yet to be activated.

  As I've stated before, only 3 turnstiles in a station slated to become one of the busiest in the region is a reflection on the lack of foresight shown by TransLink decision-makers.  The 3 turnstiles are going to be used to scan people entering and exiting the station.  It makes me wonder if anyone in TransLink that is responsible for making decisions has considered the obvious problem with having only 3 turnstiles to simultaneously facilitate the entry and exit of people.  The new smart cards that will work with the new turnstiles will require transit users to scan into the station before going to the platform and will be required to scan out of the station with their smart card before exiting.  I wonder if TransLink executives have given this as much consideration as I have in the previous few lines of this post or as much as any other actual transit users have that actually understand the logistics of entering and exiting SkyTrain stations during busy rush hour periods?

I also wonder if TransLink ever considered the logistics of facilitating a mass exit of people out of the stations during an emergency?  I wouldn't be surprised if no plan is currently built into the turnstile gates that would allow them to be promptly opened to allow transit users to escape potential harm in the event of a bomb scare such as the ones that occurred last week along the SkyTrain system between Surrey and Burnaby.  If not, how much money will TransLink have to spend to "upgrade" the turnstiles to facilitate emergency exit plans on top of the extra money it will have to spend to overcome the logistical flaws inherent in the current turnstile "plan"?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Is the Brentlawn bus route needed?

With the Delta Ave watermain replacement having been under way for over 2 months, Bus 134 Brentwood/Lake City Station has been rerouted around the Brentwood neighbourhood.  This having been going on as long as it has, the question arises about whether or not this route along Brentlawn Drive is needed.  Brentlawn Drive is lined with single family homes on the northern edge of a pending major redevelopment of Brentwood Mall that has also been subject to the whim of careless speedsters using it as their private highway at the expense of local residents.  The argument thrown around to quell the idea of traffic calming measures such as speed humps has been that Brentlawn Drive is part of a bus route.  Since this bus does not appear to be missed by very many living on Brentlawn (myself included) let's have Bus 134 permanently rerouted and traffic calming measures implemented to discourage the reckless speeding that will certainly return here after the work on Delta Ave is completed.

What do people out there think?  Is there anyone that uses that route by catching the 134 at a bus stop on Brentlawn Drive or Delta Ave?  Has anyone been extremely inconvenienced by the temporary change in the bus route?