The Translink news reported by 24h [1] and already discussed by Stephen Rees:

People buying cash fare on bus, will not be able to transfer on the “gated” system, that is the skytrain, but also the Seabus

That is presented as a new tariff rule by Translink.

The scofflaw

Translink can’t change the short term fare at will, but need approval of the competent authorities, as stated by the law. Translink is governed by the South Coast British Columbia Transportation authority act. The act stipulates that when a fare increase (greater than 2% annually) or a first-time short term fare is contemplated, it requires that Translink

  • prepares a supplemntal plan to be approved by the council of Mayors (section 200)
  • And gets an approval by the Translink commissioner (section 203)

The Translink proposal is in essence a “first-time short term fare” for people buying cash fare on bus and transferring on train or bus (pretty much like people buying a cash fare at YVR pay a $5 “first-time short term fare”).

Unless Translink gets approval of the council of Mayor and Translink commissioner, it has no legal right to deny entry to the Skytrain and Seabus to holder of cash fare purchased on bus.

Doing so, by erecting a faregate, not working with those cashfare, is putting Translink in the feet of the scofflaw.

Obviously, like any scofflaws, it will have many excuses:

The Rubbish

  • “To convert all the bus fareboxes to issue passes that would access the fare gates would cost about $25 million”
  • The argument is so dump that it is borderline insulting

    No need to do that, what is just needed is a way to use the cash fare issued onboard a bus on the skytrain system. By own Translink’s number, a compass ticket machine (to put on bus) cost ~$15,000 [3]. have such machine just converting a magnetic cash fare to a Compass ticket can’t cost more (a magnetic strip reader is much cheaper than a machine sorting out coins). Installing one at each of the ~50 Skytrain stations, could cost less than $1 million. Probably much less, since what is just needed is to modify an already existing magnetic reader to allow it to read the cash fare (like the parking machine at the Vancouver airport does) or add an extra one, on an already existing Ticket vending machine.

  • “We are not unique in our approach. Many other transit systems around the world, including London and Paris, also don’t allow cash bus to rail transfers.”
  • That is again rubbish.

    • Both Paris and London faregates accept magnetic tickets
    • In Both Paris and London, the non transferable bus ticket was a policy preexisting the introduction of the smart card. At least in Paris, the Media used to issue onboard ticket is the same than the one used to issue off-board ones: the faregates are able to process magnetic ticket purchased onboard, read the information on it, and decide to open or not the door accordingly: It is a fare policy choice, not a technical limitation
  • “It is only customers who purchase fares on buses with cash who will not be able to use those transfers to transfer to rail—approximately 6,000 customers per day out of our 1.2 million daily rides”
  • How credible is this 6,000 figure? That doesn’t match at all my casual observation on the bus system (cash fare payment is indeed fairly frequent, may be 10% of the rider pay in cash), and it doesn’t match the translink latest annual report[2] either!

    • cash fare generates ~$100Million of revenue (that is 25% of fare revenue, so it is not marginal at all!) and you need to issue ~120,000 cash fare users per day to generate such a revenue stream…

    Even assuming that the majority of them are bought at TVM, we have all the reasons to believe that 60,000 is a much more plausible figure than this rubbish 6,000 one!

    The fact

    Translink clearly made a mistake in the implementation of its smartcard system, and instead to recognize it, try to explain it by lame excuses and deceiving tactics.

    Let’s hope the council of Mayor will respond appropriately to that, and deny the right to Translink to ban access to skytrain for holder of cash ticket purchased on bus, because it will,

    • Reaffirms its authority, hence confidence by the public that Tranlink, as a organization financed by taxpayer moeny is controlled by elected official, not bureaucrat
    • Affirms that what is at stake, is not a mere tariff change, but the aim and objective of Translink as a public service (accessible cash fare is an important aspect of that), what is the job of the politics, not of the bureaucrats

    If Translink doesn’t find a satisfying solution to accommodate the holder of cash ticket purchased on bus, it will have to leave the faregate doors open: that is simple and that is certainly the cheapest way!

    If Translink proceed against the law, it will be then time to launch a class action lawsuit on behalf of the cash fare holders.

    In the meantime, to prevent such eventuality, there is this online petition


    Edit

    The Translink board of directors has enacted a bylaw on July 24th, 2013, to enforce the new proposed tariff.

  • Does it means it has the legal right to do so?
  • The SCBCTA allows the board of directors to change short term fare only under specific circumstances, and this to meet debt obligation (section 223.11).

    It is unclear how the board of directors can justify that the introduction of the Compass card, planned for years, meet the requirements to invoke such an extraordinary clause, allowing the board to by-pass the elected officials. there is strong indication that the board of directors has acted beyond its legal right.


    [1] SkyTrain won’t take bus transfers with new Compass Card system, Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver, Wednesday, August 14, 2013

    [2] Translink Statutory Annual Report, 2012

    [3] the $15,000 figure is inferred from the cost to outfilt all bus with a compass ticket vending machine, $25 Million, divided by the number of bus to outfit, ~1700. Typically a Ticket vending machine cost $50,0000 per unit.

    When it is time to discuss of what makes a “Grand Boulevard”, it is interesting to get the view of the impressionists, contemporaries of the Parisian Haussmann period, which is traditionally attached to the notion of Boulevard.

    Ludovic Piette (a french Painter) was writing to Camille Pissarro [1]:


      I have always loved the immense streets of Paris, shimmering in the sun, the crowds of all colours, those beautiful linear and aerial perspectives, those eccentric fashions, etc. But how to do it? To install oneself in the middle of the street is impossible in Paris.

    Pissarro, was lucky enough to have a room with view on the Boulevard Montmartre, allowing him to epitomize the qualities of the “Grand boulevard”:

    Boulevard Montmartre by Camille Pissarro (1897)

    This 35 meters wide boulevard opened in 1763, pre-date the Hausmann’s work in Paris, but carries most of the features usually attributed to the typical Haussmannian boulevard. It pertains to the orthodox Parisian definition of the Grand Boulevards [5]:

    • The boulevards are linear and offer an open perspective (like the one opened by Haussmann), changing direction only at major intersections
    • Notice the intense level of traffic and how the lamppost are sitting in the carriage way, to not use the pedestrian realm
    • …and how wide is the pedestrian space

    Usually sidewalks use around half of a typical Parisian boulevard width, This has not varied since the French second empire (1852-1870). Below is a compared cross section of Boulevard Montmartre in Paris and Broadway Street (at Cambie) in Vancouver [2].


    proposed 36 meters wide Montmartre Boulevard, Paris, cross section (top), compared to Broadway Street (30 meters wide) at cambie, Vancouver BC (bottom). Notice how Broadway should have no more than the equivalent of 4 lanes of traffic to fit the Parisian boulevard model. It has up to 7 lanes!

    Quality of the Urban furnitures is important and got noticed (many of them has been designed by Gabriel Jean Antoine Davioud):

    From a balcony on boulevard Haussmann. Gustave caillebotte (1880)

    …But one of the main feature of the Parisian boulevards, is the buzz/energy surrounding them: the gentle crowd, the trees, the play of light, is why people will like to mingle here (last picture in the post also gives a strong incentive to do so!)

    Boulevard des capucines Monet (1874)

    The above and ample sidewalks provide a fertile ground for the development of coffee patio, in adition of the Boulevard theatres.

    Evening on a Parisian boulevard. Georges Stein (1870-1955)

    Building form

    The formal avenue de l’Opéra opened in time for the Universal exposition of 1878, is an exception. It is bereft of trees (and the sidewalk could have been reduced accordingly) on the insistence of the Opera’s architect, Charles Garnier, this to preserve the perspective onto its masterpiece [6]. The move has been appreciated enough to keep this avenue bereft of trees up to today [11]. Another architect request- to have the street free of urban furniture- has been lost in time…

    Avenue de l'opera, Pissarro (1898)

    In the Pissarro and others impressionists paintings, ornamental and architectural details of the buildings lining the boulevards are basically absent.

    Haussmann designed the Avenue of the Opéra, but it has been built after his 1870’s “resignation”, (associated to the fall of the Napoleon III regime), this between 1876 and 1878. When Haussmann was providing architectural template to the properties developers, the new regime, pressed by the deadline of the 1878’s exposition, had been far less stringent in their building request:

    • They have divided the area in 55 lots, sold in 1876, to almost as many different landowners, required to build in a 2 years time frame to the maximum height authorized by the by-laws, and that all principal horizontal lines in each block should coincide, which ensured that all the windows would be at the same level. Balconies were obligatory [7]. Other pre-existing regulation ensured the aesthetic unity of the avenue.

    That is what Pissarro expresses in his canvas, where the militaristic rigor of the buildings is gently counter balanced by the chimneys disorder on their roofs, and colorful shopkeeper awnings at their feet.

    Transportation

    The traffic on the Grand Boulevards (boulevard des Italiens, des Capucines et Montmartre) is qualified of “intensive” by the Paris Prefecture in 1904, while the one on the 30 meters wide Boulevard Haussmann, (depicted by Raffaelli below), is qualified of “active” by the same source [3][9]. This, in addition to the facts that it is in the immediate vicinity of the most used -by far- railway station of the time- Gare Saint Lazare-[10], and nearby department stores, are the reasons why we see a street much more dominated by pedestrian activities.

    Boulevard Haussmann, Raffaelli

    Obviously, public transit is the source of numerous complaints (which the subway, to be open in time for the Universal exposition of 1900, is promised to resolve! [8])

    Boulevards des italiens, Pissarro (1897)

    Most of the carriages seen in this picture and others are fiacres, (carriage for hire which has been replaced by taxis), and “omnibuses” (which has been replaced by buses). Private carriage was a rarity so street parking was not a problem. In those days (1891), it was counted 45,085 vehicles of all sorts in Paris but number was growing much faster than the population and was reaching 65,543 in 1906 (automobile accouting for a mere 4,077) …The Prefecture of Paris was numbering fiacres at 15,775 (today, there is roughly the same number of taxi!) and 2,572 tramways and “omnibus” [3], the equivalent of bus, already carrying in the vicinity of 220 millions passenger circa 1865 [7]…The 3 horses omnibuses seen in the Pissarro painting are the largest of the days (2.45m by 8 meter long including horses: they are considered “monsters” by the witnesses of the days [3][4]. Capacity number are, of course, irrelevant.

    The other Boulevards

    The impressionists like Degas, Monet, Gauguin, Renoir…, dedicated numerous painting to the Grands Boulevards in the immediate vicinity of gare Saint Lazare (all the canvas presented so far has been drawn in a 10-15mn walk from gare Saint Lazare, which itself has also been the attention of Monet among other). This railway station was also the termini of train from the Vexin français -area around Pontoise- where most of the French impressionists have elected residence at one moment of their life, and this fact can explain why this little area of Paris got far most attention than others…

    Nowadays, the probably most photographied avenue is the Champs Elysees. in the XIX, it is pretty much out of reach to most of the people. Even the fiacres are rare, and traffic seems dominated by the much more exclusive landau transportation mode. Notice how the horses manures are speedily removed in the Jean Béraud‘s canvas below:

    Champs Elysees - La modiste, Jean beraud (1900)

    The Parisian lower class can be found around the Boulevards exterieurs (around 40 to 45 meters wide). Boulevard Clichy is one of them. Edgar Degas lived and died there but this boulevard didn’t inspired him, at the difference of Paul Signac, Vincent van Gogh and Pierre Bonnard, which we choose, for its naturalist qualities, to illustrate this boulevard:

    Boulevard Clichy, Pierre Bonnard (circa 1900)

    The Boulevard exterieurs, marked the limit of Paris before its amalgamation with neighbor suburbs in 1860 at the initative of Haussmann, and have been opened in 1864. They eventually were synonym of life condition that the Haussmann contemporaries were trying to escape (Signac, Vuillard will paint the Boulevard exterieurs under snow, which, by its rarity, in some sort represent an escape of the usual condition).

    The large boulevard median was not to separate traffic directions, The 2 ways seen in the painting was existing on both side of the Wall of the Farmers general which has been destroyed in 1860: A canvas of Pissarro better illustrates that fact (the street on side of the median will be converted to one way traffic much later)

    Boulevard des Batignolles, Pissarro (1878)

    The circulation on the Boulevards exterieurs was considered as active in 1904. As the canvas represents, the type of circulation is much more different than the one seen on the Grand Boulevards, and if there is nowadays no more cabs in Paris than it was fiacres more than a century ago, those are now more evenly spread on the whole Paris area, making them looking rarer.

    Life outside the Boulevards

    We couldn’t close this chapter, without mentioning what was the life condition outside the Boulevards in the Haussmann century. Charles marville‘s photographies illustrate what Paris was looking before Haussmann:

    rue Tirechape - Charles marville (1858-1878). This street is not existing anymore


    [1] Mon cher Pissarro – Lettres de Ludovic Piette à Camille Pissarro, Ludovic Piette, Paris 1985

    [2] Broadway Street, Vancouver: cross section from beyond the B line, City of Vancouver 1999. Notice it is not the worst configuration found but the existing one…the proposed introduction of a LRT makes things worse with proposed sidewalk as narrow as 2.70m in the 1999 study. Currently Boulevard Montmartre, Paris, has been one way since 1951 but is considered to be reversed back two ways, and it is this configuration which is presented here. You will notice the bus getting out of its lane to avoid a cyclist – that is per design: Bus+bike lanes is the modus operandi in France, wholly supported by the Green councilors of Paris, at the very much difference of Adriane Carr in Vancouver (her position on the topic being summarized here)

    [3] Etudes sur les transformations de Paris et autres écrits sur l’urbanisme, Eugène Hénard, 1903-1909. as reedited by éd. L’Équerre, 1982.

    [4] The longest carriage is 20 meters, it is used for beam transportation by carpenter: it s then considered as an exceptional convoy[3]

    [5] There are several Boulevard denominations in Paris, the grand boulevards being the ones built in replacement of Louis XIII city’s wall, according to the 1676 Pierre Bullet’s plan under the Louis XIV reign)

    [6] The perspective has also been obtained by the leveling of an hill, the buttes des Moulins, which will have provided a convenient pretext to a slum cleansing operation in the whole Opera area.

    [7] The autumn of Central Paris: the defeat of town planning 1850-1970, Anthony Sutcliffe, MacGill-Queens’university press, 1971

    [8] It didn’t, and remarkably enough, Louis Dausset, on budget Committee was stating as soon as 1909

      “When we built the Metropolitan and encourage the development of trams, we gave our citizens and visitors a test for moving about…So underground transport does nothing to reduce surface movement in Paris; on the contrary, it multiply it” ([7] citing C.M. report no 128, 1909).

    Among Haussmann’s achievement was also the reorganization of the Public transit services, with the creation of the Compagnie Generale d’Omnibus created at the occasion of the universal exposition of 1855, this on a model not much different of the one used by Seoul, Korea.

    [9] To give some substance on the level of Traffic, around 10,750 horses drawing vehicle/day has been counted on the Boulevard des Italiens in 1840 ([7] citing L’œuvre du baron Haussmann, Louis Reau, 1954)

    [10] the Compagnie de l’Ouest very quickly developed suburban services from gare Saint Lazare. In 1869, It was by far the busiest railway station of Paris, handling 13,254,000 a year-more than 80% of them being commuters. The other 6 Paris termini together handled no more than 21,417,000 ([7] citing La gare du Nord, René Clozier, (a priori a PhD thesis of 1940))

    [10] In his book, “L’assassinat de Paris” (1977), Louis Chevalier mentions that trees has been removed of Avenue de l’Opéra in 1955. Archive photography doesn’t confirm that. What is more probably is that the sidewalk has been reduced in 1955.

    [edited on May 30th 2010]

    This post is written in the context of the decision to move from the current honor system to the barrier controlled access rail transit system in Vancouver. The capital cost involved by the move is estimated at $100 millions [3]. the cost of fare evasion on the Vancouver rail system is estimated at $3.5 millions per year [4].

    Fare evasion

    At the beginning the Paris subway had human fare control at its gates. In a move to save on fare control operating cost, the Parisian transit agency, had started to implement turnstile, pretty much in the style seen on the Toronto TTC or the Vancouver seabus…
    But Quickly, it appeared that the lack of human control once in the subway system was a pretty good incentive to dodge the turnstiles.

    The full display of fare evasion as well as turnstile dodging technique associated with perceived impunity of such behavior, has encouraged wide spreading of similar conducts in the Paris subway, then adopted by people of all conditions as illustrated below

    .

    A French countryman, Jacques Chirac, dodging a turnstile in the Paris subway on Dec 5, 1980, station Auber. He was then Mayor of Paris, he will become head of State (credit photo bnf)

    That has lead the French transit agency, the ratp to adopt more elaborate faregate, now featuring full door.

    • either the door stay open long enough, and several people (following close enough) can pass the gate with a single fare.
    • or the door close very quickly, and you can’t cross the gate with any luggage, or stroller.

    In despite of tremendous investment in fare gating, fare evasion is estimated at 10% in the Parisian subway what is in fact comparable to the access free subway in Berlin [7] and way much more than the 5% measured in Vancouver [4] or 6% on the access free subway of Los Angeles in 2007 [8]

    in any case, the turnstiles are an impediment slowing down the flow of transit riders, and the good thing introduced by smart-cards, is that it allow to mitigate this point.

    One will note that if fare evasion was the justification for a fare gating, subsidy could be then not necessary. In reality fare evasion on Vancouver transit system is as low as 2.5% system wide (5% on the Skytrain, what amount to $3.5 millions revenue lost a year, which could be only partially recovered by turnstiles) [4], that is nowhere near to able to justify an $100 million investment [3]. In comparison of other systems [7][9][10], there is a generally good level of compliance in Vancouver, observation that the casual observer could have confirmed during the Olympic games, by watching the sometime hour long line-up at the fare vending machine .

    Security

    It has been a strange and unsubstantiated claim done by the British Columbia government that the fare gates could increase the security on the skytrain [2].
    The opposite could be more true: In fact, the diversion of resource going to the maintenance and amortization of the fare gates, instead of human staffing are of nature to make the system less safe.
    The creativity of the fare gate dodgers and other smugglers being boundless, it appears that nothing is able to replace human staffing as the picture below illustrates and could also apply to Canada [6]

    .

    Police, at Paris Gare du Nord, in April 2007, makes sure everyone is paying his fare!

    Nevertheless, the unsubstantiated BC government claim will suffice to justify to allocate $70 millions of subsidy by senior government toward a fare gating system on the Vancouver rail network [3]

    The smart card

    Another strange association has been done in BC between the turnstile and the smart card. Both can be put in place separably, as it is done on numerous transit network.

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

    The distance based pricing

    That seems the only reason a network transit the size of the Vancouver one, could wish to adopt turnstiles control. Controlling entry and exit of the network effectively allows the transit operator to charge by the distance, as done in some rail network, more noticeably on the Hong Kong MTR [5]

    Still, in this case, one will find curious the government interference in a matter which should be a priori leads by economic consideration.

    Even so: the logic would like that the smart card come first, since it can work currently in the 3 zones model, which is common to numerous network, like the Paris one, and turnstiles in a second phase. Curiously, according to the VancouverSun [1], it is the reverse we gonna see, and suffer all the inconvenience of the faregate, including compromised ease of access to the transit system for people with special needs; from the traveler with luggage, to the wheelchairs, without the advantage of the smartcard.


    [1] Olympic commuters sticking with public transit, Vancouver Sun, May 25, 2010

    [2] Free rides approach end of the line on SkyTrain, CBC, November 09, 2007.

    [3] Canada, BC and TransLink Invest in Transit Security Improvements, press release from Canda government, April 09, 2009

    [4] Fare evasion Internal Audit, by PriceWaterHouseCoopers, Translink, September 2007

    [5] Notice that such distance based pricing model can a priori apply only to the rail network, and not the bus one. Nevertheless, the smart card can allow implementation of a bus route based pricing like on the model of Hong Kong

    [6] Montreal police quell subway brawl, Globe and Mail, December 27, 2009.

    [7] TTC fare collection study, TTC, October 2000.

    [8] Metro Rail Gating Study, Metro Los Angeles, November 15, 2007

    [9] Toronto TTC has a fare evasion of as low as 0.7% on its subway [7], but one should note that all the turnstiles lines are constantly monitored by human staff, via strategic location of ticket office at the stations, as well as additional staffing at rush hours. Non staffed entrance, are equipped of full rotating door, unable to accommodate people with special need (wheelchair, stroller,…). In conclusion, it could be hard to conclude that the low fare evasion number is achieved by turnstiles alone. This observation can be confirmed by the number from the New York subway able to reduce from 3.5% to 0.5% the level of fare evasion through policy measures [7].

    [10] The level of fare evasion is estimated at 5% in Montreal, where the subway is accessed throug fare gate, as estimated by the Montreal Transit Agency (stm communiqué, April 21th, 2008 )

    Park Avenue

    May 21, 2010

    Avenue [ˈævɪˌnjuː] from the old french arrival, has eventually got a different meaning in english, as well as in current french, due to the current usage we give to it nowadays.

    Here after is a very simplified history of it:

    XVIII century

    At the eventual difference of other roads or streets, avenues were usually work of urban planning, and primarly designed as radial promenade at the edge of the city with function to great in a ceremonial way the arriving visitor

    Avenue du Mail, Rennes, France. concept plan from the XVIII century. the leisure aspect is the dominant factor, at the expense of the mobility one. credit photo (1)

    XIXcentury

    Though that not matching to the original vision, the primary promenade function is still well respected.

    The same location at the turn of the century. The leisure aspect of the promenade is still well alive

    XX century

    The advent of the automobile and other social change will involve deep cultural shift:

    • Urban people will eventually prefer spend their free time elsewhere than lingering on the street becoming less pleasant due to the surrounding roaring motors and gas smell (we don’t speak to much pollution those day).
    • the free space is then occupied by the new mobility device

    With the advent of the automobile, the promenade change of function! (it is still Avenue du Mail, lately renamed Mail Francois Mitterrand, Rennes France)

    XXI century

    Another relative cultural shift appears in the 80s, eventually learning of the american experience: it appears very apparent that the adaptation of the European city to the car has no future: and a better use of the scarcely city’s available real estate need to be devised. the LRT, trams in Europe, will be part of the solution, and the large French avenues, will be ideal Right of Way candidate. The vision of the future century is then eventually represented by this artist rendering:

    the future Starsbourg tram, line F, riding on what used to be a parking lot...at least in the recent history. credit photo (5)

    One will note, it is pretty seldom to see modern tree lined trams, eventually for the following reasons:

    • the tree roots system could compromise the integrity of the trackbed
    • the tree branches could interfere with the overhead wires
    • the falling tree leaves could grease the rails, compromising the acceleration/braking capabilities of the train

    In the Strasbourg F-line case, those aspects are mitigated by the integration of the bike path along the tram ROW. the integration of the bike path is an addition to the late LRT project.

    Obviously, the vision is a significant progress on the current situation, in the sense it returns to a pleasantly greenish aspect of the avenue.

    The park and ride model

    Where we should not give more credit to the french than they deserve is here:

    • In most of the case the space allocated to the automobile traffic is not compromised, and the Strasbourg example shown above is basically no exception to the rule: while that the parking space is removed at the benefit of the trams, there is no reduction in automobile traffic lanes benefiting then of a freer flow, since not impeded by car looking for or negotiating parking spot
    • there is no increase of space for pedestrians, and the leisure and social interaction aspect, like lingering on the street, is not part of the picture either

    The removal of parking space could be considered as a progress, but usually, a french tram projects barely means reduction of parking space either, but rather relocation of it according to the well known park and ride model.

    The picture below feature one P&R in Bordeaux having 603 stalls [6], more than at the Canada line Bridgeport one [7]. Bordeaux has 14 other structures like this along its 3 trams lines…


    park and Ride in Bordeaux, france. Notice the state of the track's lawn as soon as you get out of Downtown. credit photo (6)

    One can clearly suspects that the motivation to introduce trams in the french cities has not been to challenge the general car centric culture, but was more guided by more pragmatic space constraint requiring a P&R model in order to preserve good vehicular movement on the city arteries and accessibility of the city to an ever greater number of people, including by car.

    In that aspect, it has been a more successful model than the US one, eventually due to the greater scarity of

    • downtown parking stall
    • road access

    and,

    • the preserved heritage specificity of the European cities could have contributed to maintain the attractiveness of their downtown in despite of access impediment
    • the short length of the European trams line, typically not venturing much farther than 5km from he town center, allow for short trip time, in despite of relatively low average speed [4], the later allowing good integration in the urban fabric

    All those factor, in addition of social one going beyond the scope of this post, could have saved the middle size European city to know the fate of their American sister cities, in term of Downtown life.

    But, if one considers the public transit market share in 14 french urban areas with LRT; 11% (for weekday trip) [8]; it is hard to speak of a successful strategy, to be emulated.

    At the end of the day, the avenue original vision, which cheer size was to provide “park” space for people, devoided to be “park” space for transportation device, has not been restored. Indeed it is now used to “segregate” space according to transportation modes (in a vision where “lingering” is also a “commercialized” activity at the benefit of the sidewalk coffees).

    It is a progress on the dictatorship of the automobile reign, and it is possible that the LRT has been an ingenuous tool to legitimate the displacement of the cars toward the outer edge of the city, but is the result the most efficient allocation of the city surface space? or in other term, is it the best we can do?


    [1] from archives municipales de Rennes, France

    [4] Average speed of european trams is usually below 20km/h, 18.5km/h in the above mentioned case of Bordeaux

    [5] from Tram-Train/Tram F, Strasbourg-Bruche-Piémont des Vosges, June 2008

    [6] Picture and number from le tram de Bordeaux”

    [7] Bridgeport park has 600 stall for Canada line rider according to Translink

    [8] Transportation mode share of 14 metropolitan area with tram in France, from “Les deplacements a Nantes metropole Etude N 80, decembre 2009, Insee Pays de Loire, France citing “enquêtes nationales transports et communication 1993-1994, transports et déplacements 2007-2008″, Insee, SOeS and Inrets.

    Viaduct des arts, Paris

    Viaduct des arts, Paris

    Rail viaducts have being a fixture in numerous cities since the introduction of the railway. They can be considered as an urban blight and objectively often disrupt the urban fabric, but here we present some examples showing that it can be different. Surprisingly enough, it seems that it is a reconsideration of the purpose of disused viaduct in the city [2] which has lead to rethink of its urban integration. Typically this consist to bring, under the viaduct, urban activities contributing to the street life: That means not considering the Viaduct as part of the street itself, but as a building lining up the public space.

    Vienna, Austria
    Viaduct in “median”


    A viaduct in Vienna, once a barrier in the middle of an artery, now is a building lining streets on its both sides. Note how the shops lining the street capitalize on the once a median separation (credit photo: Architekten Tillner)

    Buenos Aires, Argentina
    A Viaduct lining up a park

    In Buenos Aires, the viaduct function, is enhanced by street life contributing activities. Again here the barrier nature of the viaduct is fully assumed, separating a park of its urban environment, and eventually reinforced, with this viaduct arch reconsidered as a “passage”, clearly indicating the “human scale” nature of the expected traffic and enforcing the “oasis” feeling of the park (credit photo Polycentric Linear City)

    London, UK

    Wotton Street, The structure on the right is a viaduct!


    Only around 50% of the londonian Tube is underground. this and the numerous railway network left the British capitale heavily sliced by Viaduct “cut”. Lately tremendous effort has been taken to address the issue, as witnessed by the project “Light at the End of the Tunnel” in the context of the “crossriver partner ship program”

    Paris, France
    Beside the much acclaimed viaduct des arts (a former railway viaduct), Paris is also well furnished in metro viaduct. They offer to us an opportunities to showcase some idea eventually not working that “well” when you treat the space under viaduct as public space.

    The Viaduct of Bercy in Paris, while offering an appealing look doesn’t work that well as a bike path host: the cyclist has basically no visibility, and the “enclosed” nature of the viaduct prevent natural washing of the pavement (credit photo: zagreus)


    The space below Paris viaduct is rarely appropriated by the public, one reason could be due to the fact that the steel girder structure is pretty noisy on train passage. The fact that the space is in the median line of boulevard is not helping to draw public naturally. bike path could make a better use, but viaduct piles are as many hazard limiting the visibility of the cyclist (one will note that the Richmond viaduct turn out to be more appropriate to such an use) (credit photo, Duncjam and moonmeister)

    One will find some other example on the web [3], but the one exhibited here tend to demonstrate that the integration of a viaduct in the urban fabric is something perfectly doable, backing the effort done on the Richmond viaduct.


    [1] Light at the end of the tunnel: Transforming railway viaducts in central London

    [2] from the viaduct des arts in Paris to the HighLine in New York, there are numerous of disused viaduct going thru a renaissance life, with usually the patform being transformed in a green public space ( a list of some projects)

    [3] Noticeabily The reader will find other similar example for Berlin at the HumanTransit blog, and more generally could like to take a look at a dedicated thread on skyscrapercity forum

    the agency overseeing the “guided transportation systems” in France publishes some numbers worth to be repeated [1]. Though that the sample sizes prevent to draw definitive conclusions: we can still exhibit some trends: not surprisingly multi year studies tend to show that subways [2] are order of magnitude safer than LRTs [3]. This said, it is interesting to probe the source of tram accidents, what is provided by the graphs below.

    partition and severity of tram accidents per year function of their location along the lines

    Accidents partition per mode, and transportation modal share

    It appears, that the bulk of accidents happen at intersections where they involve third parties. If car are responsible of most of the conflict, it is mainly, pedestrians and cyclists whose pay a disproportionate human toll considering the transportation modal sharing [11]. Furthermore, a study of the Belgium institute on road safety shows that while tram/pedestrian conflicts represent 2.1% of the overall pedestrian conflicts in Brussels, they result in more than 6.7% of vehicle/pedestrian conflicts with severe injuries [4] while that pedestrians represent more than 50% of the overall fatalities on the french trams network [1]. However, a non negligible number of accidents happen outside platforms and crossings: most of them involve emergency braking of the trams, which are responsible of most of the passenger casualties. The french agency has further detailed the pattern of crossing accident, and provides statistic per crossing:

    yearly number of tram accidents per crossing, according to their severity type

    Comparison with the US

    It can be interesting to compare the french statistic to the American one, as reported by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.


    Accident rate comparison between USA and France on LRt and subway network

    Though that the accident ratio between subway and LRT witnessed in France is also founded in USA, there is a striking difference in the number of casualties per million of trip.

    One explanation to it could be the suicide ratio:

    • statistics are not including casualties due to suicide, but suicide characterization can be different according to the country. Thought that casualties due to suicide are not well documented, anecdotal evidences seem to show that the French authorities are more willing than the North American ones to classify an accident as a suicide: Some officious counting report around 70 suicides per year on the Parisian RATP metro alone [5], when this number is of around 30 in New York City [6], and 15 in Toronto [7]. For purpose of a study on the suicides in the Montreal subway, the researchers have requalified fatalities, considered as accident by the coroner, as suicide [8].

    That said, the American LRTs still seem more prone to accident than their french counterpart. We can attempt some explanations to it. .

    • LRT accidents are significantly due to third parties, and eventually the measure of accident/trip is unfavorable to the less patronized US LRT vehicle. This explanation can be countered by the fact that busy LRT lines involve busy pedestrians traffic around their route, hence increasing also the chance of accident.
    • Average speed of french LRTs, usually in the 15 to 20km/h range is significantly slower than their american counter part
    • Design of European LRT could be more permissibe too
      • Front design of low floor european LRT seems less prone to drag pedestrian under the railcar
      • All low floor design reduce the chance of fall inside the car in case of emergency braking
    • More frequent LRT could increase the public awareness of their presence
    • Due to the above factor, French LRT seem also less attractive than their US counterpart to suicide candidate


    Compared to even recent American design, the European tram design features all low floor train,with “housed” coupler into an all “soft angle” front design, and offers an unobstructed view fro the driver…all these eventually help to prevent or reduce accident consequences (credit photo, Northfolk LRT: LRTA, Brussel tram in Vancouver: Stephen Rees)

    Nantes, a real life example

    A tramway accident in Nantes (credit photo: Presse Ocean)

    To provide some more reality to the statistic, we provide the example of the Nantes Trams network [9]:
    it has opened in 85, has 3 lines, totalizing 42km, and carrying an average of 266000 riders /day.

    • One accident every 2 days
    • One accident in 4 involves injuries

    Interestingly enough, according to the Nantes transit agency, their BRT records a rate of accident twice less than their trams, though their buses go faster [9]. It is eventually due to a better designed right of way for the bus than for the trams .


    [1] see Accidentologie des tramways, Service Technique des Remontées Mécaniques et des Transports Guidés DES TRAMWAYS, 2006 and
    Accidentologie des metros, Service Technique des Remontées Mécaniques et des Transports Guidés DES TRAMWAYS, 2006

    [2] French subways include also the “VAL” family of subway

    [3] French LRTs include also the guided bus systems

    [4] Etude des accidents entre un tram et un pieton en region de Bruxelles-capitale

    [5] Suicides dans le métro : deux morts par semaine à Paris, France Info, October 30, 2007

    [6] Epidemiology of suicide in the New York City subway system, Sandro Galea and al. , APHA 134th Annual meeting and Session, November 4-8, 2006, Boston

    [7] More than 150 people killed themselves in subways from 1998-2007, TTC says, National Post, Rob Roberts, November 26, 2009

    [8] Qui se tue dans le métro de Montréal?, Brian L. Mishara, UQAM, Dec 1996

    [9] Un accident de tramway en moyenne tous les deux jours, October 7, 2008, Presse Ocean, Nantes, France

    [10] The rate per million of passengers is not necessarily the most relevant, but it is the only one readily available from the french statistics, which are averaged on the number of available years after 2003 to provide a more relevant sample size. For USA, to increase the sample size, the accident statistics are the average of year 1994 to 2006, as provided by the BTS 2009 report

    [11] Transportation mode share of 14 metropolitan area with tram in France, from “Les deplacements a Nantes metropole Etude N 80, decembre 2009, Insee Pays de Loire, France citing “enquêtes nationales transports et communication 1993-1994, transports et déplacements 2007-2008″, Insee, SOeS and Inrets.

    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.

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