The vancouversun has a story about a man claiming it is not clear enough to where you have to validate your ticket. He could have a point:

Brighouse station: ticket vending machines are easy to spot, but where are the ticket validators machines?

Whether you are a bit distracted, it can be very easy to find yourself without properly validated ticket on the train. Not only nowhere there is a physical line reminding you to validate your ticket, but ticket validators are rather hidden in some stations. without going to turnstiles, that doesn’t need to be as I have already mentioned here

.

smartcard access to the subway of Rennes, France, is done without turnstile. Nevertheless, notice how the smartcard readers are placed in proeminent position on the farepaid zone line. credit photo wikipedia

The Gordon’s Lanes

March 5, 2010

recently the BC government made some budget announcement concerning transportation [7] and transit observers will have noticed a shortage of funding for “number one priority” transit project when the deep unbalance between transit and road investment could call for a better equilibrium as we have already noticed…but to add insult to injury, the government is not hesitating to make up the number for transit…and the Gordon’s Lanes illustrate how.

These Gordon’s Lanes are the bus lanes announced with great fanfares (and funded at 50% by the provincial government):

  • 16$ millions for a “bus lane” on highway 7 in Pitt Meadows [1] where there is no bus route
  • 13$ millions for a “bus lane” on Highway 99 in Surrey [2] where there is only one regular bus route serviced every 15mn [3] and little congestion

Every one in Lower Mainland, with a little sense of observation, can easily think of way better transit investment [4]: If the government was serious about transit it could have easily found some investment bringing more bang for the buck!

So what is the real reason of those bus lanes?


Those Bus lanes will be also HOV one obviously!

Not that there is something wrong with it, but what is certainly wrong is to tout an investment as “transit” when the obvious reason is only to create more road capacity, which will be marginally used by public transit services if any.
Where the cynicism of government proves to be boundless is that it will fund this road investment from earmarked “transit money” [6]

.

The Gordon’s bus lanes fallacy shows how our shameless government is willing to ostensibly burn our tax money on complete useless project while it refuses to address real pressing public transit need. This strategy will accredits the idea in the general public that public transit is no more than a waste of tax payer money…
It shows that the contempt of our Government for the public transit matter is even worse that most could suspect


[7] Prime minister, premier announce 15 new projects, March 1st, 2010

[1] Governments partner to create jobs, stimulate economy- 174 B.C. infrastructure projects to be funded. Sept 24, 2009

[2] Ottawa and Victoria invest $35.4 million in B.C. transportation upgrades, March 2nd 2010, Business In Vancouver

[3] it is the bus 351, Crescent Beach, Bridgeport. route 352 and 354 are peak service only

[4] Examples of sounder investment include the Surrey 399B line (which has been ditched due to lack of funding) or improvement of the bus traffic on Highway 99 in its Richmond part : for example the Hy 99 North bound doesn’t have bus lanes south of Westminster highway, there is no queue jumper at the Bridgeport exit, used by all suburban buses connecting with Canada line, ..investment here could benefit to the existing bus route targeted by the government funding among other converging to Bridgeport station. One could also give a look at the 699B line idea to foster an attractive transit presence in our suburbs…

[5] Eventually the government will deny it (remember the HST?), but there is no doubt on the fate of under used lanes

[6] The Blog follower will have also noted that the “hydrogen bus” experiment is funded from transit “earmarked money”…

A Viaduct in Richmond

February 15, 2010

Or an example of an elevated Guideway working  well [1][2].

The urban setting of the Westminster road restrain vision on  the viaduct reducing its intrusiveness feeling.

On Number 3  at Westminster road, the viaduct on one side of the road is balanced by High rise building lining the street on the other.

Number 3 near Brighouse: the viaduct is “kissing” the buildings, acting like a Canopy from a pedestrian experience.

Have you noticed it? When the Viaduct is close enough of the background building (built afterward) it tend to blend easier with it.

The pedestrian experience: Note the dressing of the Viaduct pillar by greenary. The viaduct pillar also separate the pedestrian space from the motorized one.

Number 3 is still dotted by numerous strip malls , where the viaduct doesn’t necessary help to improve the visual experience,  except at night (picture at  lansdowne mall). the space below viaduct is also used to exhibit some sculptures.

On daytime, the pedestrian experience can be particularly pleasant, with the viaduct pillars contributing to form a buffer zone with the motorized traffic. Note that a bikpath is also sitting under the viaduct (photo credit: Richard).

thumbs up for Richmond!

And the stations

The Canada line station  have got their fair share of critics, too short, blend architecture,…But they seems to past the test of  heavy usage, thanks eventually to  deep platforms, and also present numerous positive upside: let’s see below:

The viaduct pillar is here used as an advertising opportunity, cyclists take advantage of the weather protection provided by the viaduct, and visibility from a station offering lot of transparency and safety feeling (for  bike parking also)

The station platform offer a pleasant waiting experience.  warm and  good quality material  is contributing toward it. Transparency provide a safety feeling as well as keeping the station in symbiotic with its urban environment.

The Canada line stations are short (40m), but paradoxally this eventually help to their integration in the  environment: their footprint is small, and couldn’t be larger than a “tram station”. The complete transparency of the station doesn’t separate the waiter of its surrounding

The entrance of Aberdeen at night:  The station is right along the street, the pedestrian is supposed to contourn it by the East (left side of the picture): this aspect doesn’t work that well: pedestrian tend to walk on the bikeway, eventually because the experience is otherwise quite unpleasant (lack of lighting, construction site), eventually the extension of the Aberdeen Mall will correct this issue (the location of the bike rack behind the entrance is also questionable since it doesn’t provide the safety feeling of the passer-by eye looking at the bikes like  we have at Brighouse but provide weather protection).

[1] this  to provide illustration in support of a discussion on the Stephen Rees blog , as well as one of the Jarret Walker blog.

[2] One would like also read the an entry relative to richmond on the Gordon price’s blog

Hynovis or the Hydrogen bus

February 4, 2010

It is a  tale of two approaches:

  • Identify a break through technology[9], find an application for it and pour money toward a demonstration project, hoping to find a demand
  • or

  • Identify a demand, then pour money to develop technologies and synergies to enable an answer to the demand

Both can work, but one involves more risks than the other.

The train’s world example

In the later case, we find the “conventional” High Speed train: the demand is to travel “from down town to to down town” in a “time competitive with air travel” and at a “price competitive with the automobile“: that was roughly the French TGV project requirement back at the end of the 60’s, when the French railways company was also considering to address the congestion on its Paris-Lyon railway line.

There is no really break-through technology in the French TGV, or its direct competitors: they are all trains moved by traditional century year old electrical motor concept, and running on centuries old rail track concept …but there is a combination of incremental advance making the whole product a break through advance in the railway world.

In the former case, we find the magnetic levitation technology. A break through technology associated mainly with train demonstration projects.

Today, there are 1850km of High speed train lines in revenue service in France only [3]. From the original speed of 260km on the first line (Paris-Lyon), the train has accelerated to 320km/h on its later extension toward Strasbourg. To not embarrass anyone, we will not mention the line mileage of commercial “maglev” train [10].

The bus’ world example
Hynovis bus (credit Irisbus)

Hynovis is a concept bus, output a of a french program called “affordable and clean vehicle” from the french government agency PREDIT which has benefited of €120 million in total on the period 2002-2008[4], the Hynovis bus being only one project in that program covering most mode of transportation.

the Hynovis program mandate is to answer to a demand: cleaner bus for sure but must also answer to the need of “fund starved” transit agencies, so the bus cost must be economically justified by

  • the saving on the bus consumption
  • improved operation like
    • reduction of dwelling time
    • improvement of the loading capacity
  • improved social role, like better accessibility for disabled people, improved attractiveness…

This program has teamed the Paris transit agency with a bus manufacturers and bus part providers [6] on the conception of the  bus. As you can see (click for video), the Hynovis design try to answer to all requirement without “break through” technology but presents nevertheless a new product by incremental step on numerous fronts:

  • the improved consumption is provided by an hybrid engine and light weight material
  • reduction of dwelling time is provided by a better circulation inside the bus:
    • A back door moved further toward the rear of the bus, allowed by a rear axles moved under the rear bench, allowing more smooth flow on an enlarged low floor area
    • A twin steering axle fitted with low-profile tires, allowing the central corridor to be enlarged to ~4 feet alongside the front wheel housings, compared to ~3feet for a standard bus (note how this can accelerate the boarding of wheelchair and other strollers)
  • the reorganization of the wheels allow an increase of capacity of 8% [5]

To be sure, the Hynovis innovations don’t come for free, and the Paris agency experiment will tell whether the return on investment worth it or not, but more certainly, the lesson learnt of the experiment will improve the future bus design over the foreseeable years.

The Canadian Hydrogen bus fleet is only one application of a technology in which the federal government has invested $215 million since 2003 [1]. The sole demonstration project will cost more than $110 million taxpayer money for 20 buses [2], and address only one issue (GHG), at the eventual expense of the others.

There is honestly more chance that the hydrogen bus share the fate of the Maglev train than the one of the TGV. In the meantime, incremental improvment in the bus technology allowed by project like Hynovis will allow sustainable (not only in term of CO2 emission, but also financially!) expansion of public transit, at the expense of less environmentally friendly transportation mode, and at the end of the day, the Hynovis concept will have probably a better impact on the environment that the Hydrogen bus [7][8].

What is the best approach?

A subsidiary question could be: Is it the role of a government to gamble with the tax payer money or to address the concern of its citizens?


[1] This as a part of the Climate Change Technology and Innovation (T&I) Program, for the development and demonstration of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies

[2] $45 million from the province and BC Transit, $45 million from the federal government, and $23 from the city of Whistler. Andrew Mitchell, B.C. Transit celebrates hydrogen fleet, fuelling station, Pique newsmagazine, Jan 27, 2010

[3] number from wikipedia in french

[4] the agency budget is in fact of 360 million, from which ~35% are allocated to the affordable and clean vehicle” program. (see predit publication (in French))

[6] Predit Info n 17 in French

[7] and that is discounting the fact that the province consider the Hydrogen bus as part of its much touted “$14 billion Provincial” Transit plan

[8] Worth to mention that it seems also to be the position stated by Stephen Rees in some of its posts and others disgressions and obviously the viewpoint is not aimed at fuel cell, but at technology driven choices rather than economically grounded ones, and could apply to CNG buses as well

[9] Preferably where you think you can develop a competitive advantage.

[10] See also Human Transit take on it and on technology driven approach in general like the monorail.

route 699B in codeshare

October 20, 2009

a look at what could be the 699 (click on the picture for full view)

Web Master - SEP_2009

Using Public transit from Ladner Exchange in Delta to Bridgeport in Richmond should be an appealing proposition. The avoiding of the congestion at the Georges Massey tunnel, coupled to the connection to the Canada line should be in essence sufficient for commuter to pay a look at it.

Unfortunately the user will certainly be puzzled by the lack of visibility on the level of service in this corridor, used by numerous routes giving only partial view of overall level of service. Furthermore, he will notice that the multiple buses along the corridor are not geared toward an high frequency oservice in the common trunk as illustrated below:

extract of translink timetable posted on September 7, 2009, from Bridgeport weekdays

601 620
1:27p
1:56p 1:57p
2:26p
2:55p 2:57p

One can easily imagine the potential for a decent frequency route, if the timetable of the 601 and 620 were better interlined…Nevertheless, this could be not sufficient to attract high ridership due to the lack of visibility of the effective frequency on the route, requiring the user to combine several timetable by himself [1]

the code shared 699 route

One solution is to introduce a new bus route, let’s call it the 699B Bridgeport-Ladner (which capitalize on the B-line branding), in code share with the 601 and 620:
code share meaning that a bus could in fact serve tow route at the same time 601 and 699 (or 620 and 699)

The advantage of the solution is to enhance the high frequency visibility able to attract new customer on the 99Hwy corridor without necessarily introducing a new bus per sei, but just a new route branding!

Suggested modified schedule to introduce a high frequency service on the Highway 99 corridor between Ladner Exchange and Bridgeport station

699 601 620
1:27p 1:27p
1:41 1:41p
1:56 1:56p
2:11
2:26 2:26p
2:41 2:41p
2:55p 2:55p

A problem could be still need to be addressed which is the bay usage at bus exchanges since the current 2 routes 601 and 620 could use different bays. For user comfort, they should either use the same bay, or an electronic sign should indicate at which bay the next #699 is departing, whether the boarding operation prevent to have the 2 routes sharing the same bay.

In order to commit to the Translink high quality service charter, the #699 needs to offer a service better than a 15mn frequency, so an additional service need to be added in off-peak hour.
It could be an addition justified by the ridership, but one will note it doesn’t involve the extension of the bus fleet since the new service could be required only off peak hour.

  • the new service could need to be introduced only when the 601 is running not better than every half hour, that translates in around 18 slots per direction between 6am and 10:30pm weekday. Assuming a 23mn route length, it translates in the addition of 838 mn of service.

Introduction at non additional Operating cost

To not introduce new operating cost in this part of the region which feature relatively low fare recovery rate, we consider the discontinuing of the bus route 404 south of Stevenson Hwy, this could result in a 940mn operating service saving. We axe the 404 extension, because

  • this route is mainly redundant with the 403 and 401 in Richmond City.
  • One raison d’etre of the route was to divert from Vancouver route people at destination of Richmond in order to maximize the seat occupancy on the maximum length of the routes 601, 620,…
    Those later routes connecting in Richmond at Bridgeport, make the raison d’etre of the 404 extension not valid anymore
  • the containment of the route 404 into Richmond could provide simpler fare control on this route (one fare zone only route)

Some riders could loose a direct route between Ladner and South Richmond, but one could consider that the effect could be mitigated

  • by the high frequency of the #699 all day long
  • All day long connection of the 401 with the 699 at Stevenson in addition of the 403. This apriori could translate in negligible operating service change, and negligible lost of service for user of the terminus at Horseshoe Way and N5 road (~150m walk from Stevenson Hwy)[2]

Rolling stock issue

In order to have a consistent service, user could expect same level of service whatever the ride on the 699. Currently the route 620 is mostly insured by urban buses D40LF or D60LF from New flyer while the route 601 is insured by Orion’s interurban bus, offering a superior ride comfort justified by the average length of the route. This discrepancy in service is not a strong impediment, since the branding of the 699 is more on the frequency, speed that on the ride experience.


[1] On the topic of service visibility and clarity, one will read the following post: paris rapid transit: the four levels of nomenclature

[2]
One issue left to be addressed: The lack of bus loop on Stevenson at highway 99 could request an extension of the route to Riverport what translate in 5mn one way, what could add a total of 700mn of operating service per day. Because it is probably the reason why the route 403 as well C93 are extended to Riverport, an alternative solution could be to implement a bus loop at the Stevenson and Highway 99 interchange, which could significantly improve the connection.

Below, a little breakdown of the provincial transportation infrastructure investment in the Greater Vancouver area (Translink jurisdiction) under Gordon’s Campbell reign so far (note that we discount most of the road infrastructure project to retain only the Gateway related and currently engaged one)

Project Current cost (in Billion)[1] Estimated original cost (in Billion)[2] Over budget share of the Province[12]
Road
Port Mann Bridge / Highway 1 $3.3[3] $1.5[4] 114% 100%
South Fraser Perimeter $1.1[5] $0.8[4] 37.5 % 100%
Pitt river bridge $0.108 $0.130[6] -20%[7] 55%
Total road $4.508 $2.43 86% 98%
Transit
Canada Line $0.430[8] $0.415[9] 3%[10] 21.5%
Total Public transit 0.430 $0.415 3% 21.5%

Under the Campbell leadership, The BC government is spending on road infrastructures   10 times more than on public transit ones, and still counting…and  that

  • In the Translink area jurisdiction alone
  • Taking account only the “gateway” project!

Is it justified by a transportation mode split reason?

Not really:

Public transit Drive
Commuter Mode split[11] 16.5% 74.4%
Province investment 8.7% 91.3%
$ per commuter $2667 6201$

When come transportation infrastructure, the provincial government spend nearly 3 times more per driving commuter than per transit user

One could note that road are not only for commuter use, but also for goods movement etc…, we have to answer that in Vancouver area, road infrastructure are added to address congestion essentially induced by commuters use since there is no congestion due to good movement on the road enhanced by the province government. The picture below can give an idea of the congestion type:

truck_congestion1

congestion related to goods movement in UK

highway_one

traffic on the highway one

Does someone still believe that the BC government is promoting Transit use?


[1] It is the cost effectively paid by the province to the project so far

[2] It is the cost made public at the time of the political decision to go ahead with the project, and committed provincial contribution at this time

[6] The Pitt River bridge and Mary Hill Interchange, has been budgeted as part of the North Fraser Perimeter Road and not individually. North perimeter road extending from New Westminster to Mission is budgeted in total at $0.4 Billion, including the Pitt River and Mary Hill Interchange (see [4])

[7] The overall cost the project is $198 million, so well over what has been budgeted under the Gateway Project at time of political acceptation, but thanks to a contribution of $90 million from the Federal government, the cost for the province has been reduced accordingly (http://www.tc.gc.ca/mediaroom/releases/nat/2007/07-h020e.htm).

[10] This is in fact the difference between the number published by the government, and the one reported by an audit agency of Canada Line Rapid Transit Inc.

[12]represents the share of the province in the financing of the overall project

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