…and the Vancouver Canada line case. The remarks apply also to LRT unless specified (another post has been dedicated to buses

In a nutshell, the person per hour per direction (pphpd) capacity a subway line can offer, is

    (capacity of a train) × (number of train per hour).

Like for buses, the capacity of a train is a function of different parameters, mainly person per square meter occupancy standard, and seats arrangement.

At the difference of low floor buses (and LRT), there is little “protuberance” (such wheel room) on high floor train, and technical room present in a train cabin rather under floor or on roof, are often the result of a tradeoff:

    train capacity vs easy maintenance

The theorical capacity of a train, is in fact a direct function of its surface:

      (length of the train) × (width of train).

…and a train length, is constrained by the station’s paltforms length, which are typically very expensive to expand.

Train capacity

below is an example of compared train capacity, expressed in term of surface able to accomodate passengers

Train consist Platform length width surface
Vancouver Canada Line 40 3 120
Vancouver Canada Line 50 3 150
Vancouver Skytrain (Expo line) 80 2.65 212
Paris typical subway line 75 2.37 178

For matter of comparison, the theorical Canada line capacity (with 50meters platform) is just 15% lower than on most of the parisian subway lines, such as its line 2 or 5: those lines carry ~100million riders a year.

Behind the seating layout, a train needs in practice several features to effectively reach its theorical capacity. Among them

  • Minimal unusable space between cars (and in cars)
  • Allow passenger to “overflow” from a car to another one

Intercirculation between cars, usually allows that, but again, some interciruclation layout can be more efficient than other:


MP89CA_interior On top the skytrain MKII (second generation interior)intercirculation is narrow, impeding free flow movement from car to car, and blocking line of sight at the difference of the Parisian MP89-CA (bottom picture), where the train look like a single “big room”- credit photo top, the Translink’s Buzzer, bottom: wikipedia

Dwelling time and frequency

homogeneous occupancy of a train is also function of the door disposition, but the door layout affect primarily the dwelling time. Short dwelling time is important for a host of reasons, frequency being one of them, and frequency affcet the line capacity:

    interval between train can’t be shorter than the station dwelling time

It is hence important to have as much as possible doors, but also have them wide enough, to allow good in/out flow movement. It is also important to avoid that some doors, slow down the boarding/alighting time because they have to handle more traffic flow:

  • From a boarding viewpoint, where passengers have no apriori on the location of door on platform, the best way to do that, is to have all the doors equidistant (It make also the best use of the platform space)
  • From an alighting perspective, all doors on a car should be equidistant


A 68 meters Vancouver skytrain consist, compared to a 75meterParisian MF01 5 cars consist (operating on line 2,5 and 9): the later has lower theorical capacity because it is narrower, but it has greater practical capacity due mainly to a better intercirculation. Furthermore, all doors are equidistant on the MF01 [1], while on the skytrain MK2, people waiting in red zone have to report on a nearby door zone slowing down the boarding. Similarly people standing in red zone aboard the train are too far from a door slowing down the alighting (or conversely limiting the practical capacity of the train by passenger reluctance to stand too far away of a door).

Track issues

A single track, vs a double track, at the end of a line could be used as a cost saving measure, but obviously it affects the frequency of a train line. That said, if the single track portion is short enough, the impact can be relatively minimal.

    Frequency can be be obtained by using a tail track to store trains

The possible frequency is then:

    ((time to travel for and back the single track) + (dwelling time × number of train to be stored) ) / (number of train stored).

As an example, at Richmond Brighouse station, on the Vancouver’s Canada line

  • the tail track past the station can accomodate one stored train [2], and the station another one
  • the travel time between Lansdowne and Brighouse is ~90s and a typical station dwelling time ~20s
2 trains run in one cycle on the single track , by using a tail track behind the termini station

2 trains run in one cycle on the single track , by using a tail track behind the termini station

2 trains can run every 4mn on the Richmond Brighouse branch of the Canada line.

Because one train can run every 4mn on the Airport line, it is possible to get a train every 80s, or 45 trains per hour, on the common trunk (Bridgeport-Waterfront)

Even, with 40meters long train, the Canada line could provides a capacity of ~15,000pphpd, assuming 330 passengers per train: that is 3 times the actual capacity. Greater frequency are theorically possible with the introduction of short turn train (avoiding the single track section):

3 trains running in one cycle, one being shorturned before the single track section, 2 using the single track section

3 trains running in one cycle, one being shorturned before the single track section, 2 using the single track section

PS The above numbers for the Canada line, assume the availability of rolling stock, power supply, track signalling, and fast operating switch: All those could need to be upgraded, as well as the stations along the line to handle the corresponding increase in ridership, but it could be no need for heavy civil engineering work/track reconfigutation toward a capacity increase of 15,000+ pphd

[1] Materiel roulant MF2000, seance 12/12/2000, Conseil d’administration du STIF

[2] Addressing Canada Line capacity questions, Translink, June 3, 2010.


The Richmond picture

Thought number date of 2000, there are still good enough to illustrate the market potential for Transit in Richmond. a city characterized by a high ratio job/population source. (1)

Translink, had drafted a transit area plan in 2000 for Richmond [1] and most of the ideas proposed in this plan have been implemented in the subsequent years. As mentioned in a previous post, the advent of the Canada line has left relatively untouched the local transit network in Richmond, even when some route, touted as express, like the 430 are now slower than other options using the Canada line. The short cutting of the 480 (terminus at Bridgeport instead of Brighouse) is the only noticeable exception.

here after is some proposed improvements, which are budget neutral from a revenue operating hours perspective

A suggested new bus network for Richmond

To summarize

  • 401: no change
  • 402, ~90 runs are extended to Knight Bridge: that is a 50% service improvement on the 407
  • It allows a service every 30mn, instead of every hour midday, which more than compensate the lost of route 430. the route 402 is preferred to route 407, because it doesn’t need to make a detour to serve Brighouse

  • 403 terminate at Steveston instead of Riverport
  • That is part of a terminus swapping with route 407. It also apriori allows 403 to travel denser part of Steveston Hwy, making better usage of its high frequency along this corridor.

  • 404, ~40 runs are extended to the airport
  • 405, Terminate at Brighouse instead of Knight Bridge (could be transformed in shuttle route)
  • 407, Terminate at Landsowne instead of Knight Bridge and start at Steveston instead of Riverport
  • The route followed by 407 along Westminster Hwy allows it to connect with all other local routes, as well as route 301,411 so it doesn’t need to loop at Brighouse. We then prefer Landsowne since it increases the transit covered area.

  • 410, Along Railway to Moncton, instead of Garypoint
  • C92, no change
  • C93, no change
  • C94, no change
  • C96, Knight Bridge, Number 5, Cambie East, Number 6, Brighouse
  • So doing, the route C96 can offer a quick access to Number 6 road from Brighouse (10mn instead, of 23mn by the 410 or current C96) and able to contribute to relieve more efficiently the 410 (in association with the redesigned route 301 and 411).

Some general principle leading the change

Local Hub vs Regional Hub

Most, if not all, of the Local Bus routes should be connected to a regional hub

Richmond presents some challenges since we have to compose with a

  • An international hub, the airport
  • A regional hub, Bridgeport
  • A local hub, Brighouse

To ensure a good connectivity between the regional and local hub, you would like merge the both, but that is also done at the expense of a good local inter-connectivity which occur in the center of Richmond. That said, a good connectivity of the local network with the regional one can be achieved by capitalizing on secondary hubs:

Riverside hub

A good connectivity of the local network with the regional one can be achieved by connecting as much as possible local route with the Hwy99 bus stop at Steveston: that is Riverside, a new hub Richmond has to capitalize on. It motivates the connection of route 401,404,405 407 and C93 to this hub

Notice that the current Steveston interchange design doesn’t allow the buses to U turn. The loop at RiverPort costs 4mn returns, which can amount to a significant expense (30hrs if all the route named terminate at RiverPort instead of Riverside) so some roadwork improvements could be required here.

Knight bridge hub

At this time, it connects Richmond with Vancouver routes 22 and 100. The connectivity could be much better by extending Fraser route 8 and Victoria route 20 to Knight Bridge, but that involves numerous challenge, so at this time it is a secondary hub in waiting to be developed.

A Grid oriented network
For each major axis, one bus route.

  • Cambie is mainly serviced by route 410, but a significant portion of the corridor is also cuurently serviced by routes 405 and C96
  • While Route 405 connects Cambie with Knight Bridge, we can consider it is not the most efficient way to provide the connection due to the high level of redundancy between route 405 and 410 on Cambie, both going to Brighouse. The idea is to suppress the route 405 north of Brighouse – that translate in a saving estimated at 31hrs. The redesigned routes 301 and 411 addresses potential crowding problem on current route 410. A revamped C96 addresses the connectivity issue between the Cambie area, and more generally North Richmond and Knight Bridge.

  • Railway is mainly serviced by route 410…but not south of Williams where it is then by the C93
  • South of Williams, route 410 made a detour to service the residences at Garypoint. One has to consider that the cost of this detour by the very frequent route 410 has become prohibitive in regard of the served market. Also, so doing, the route 410 avoids the recently developed and now much more populous area along Moncton street, between Railway and route Number 1. That is the reason why we prefer to keep The route 410 along Railway down to Moncton- that translates in a saving of 7hrs. A slightly less frequent bus, 403, can still serve Garypoint.

  • Garden city (North of Westminster Hwy) is mainly serviced by the bus 407.
  • The useless detour to the disused Sexsmith Park&Ride is suppressed, the corridor is then serviced by route 402 for reasons previously stated

  • Bridgeport mainly serviced by the bus 407
  • The service on this corridor is pretty poor, with a bus 407 per hour most of the day, this in despite of an high job density along a corridor anchored by Bridgeport station. This corridor is serviced by route 402 for reasons previously stated. the detour along Vulcan becomes the main route, this to allow a connection with the route 630 (Ladner-Metrotown).

  • Westminster Hwy mainly serviced by “no” bus East of Number 3
  • That is kind of odd, since it is a main axis in Richmond. It becomes serviced by route 405 and 407.

  • Steveston Hwy
  • Today, it is partially serviced. East West travel along it is not really possible due to a “missing link” between number 3 and Gilbert. C93 along Williams provides the East-West connector in South Richmond. A swapping of terminus, between routes 403 and 407, provides a Transit continuity for people traveling along Steveston Hwy, and could call for a reduction of the C93 service if necessary, if not the complete discontinuing of this route. The swapping makes the route 407 a bit longer (+1mn per run), but the route 403 a bit shorter (-1mn per run): because the route 407 is less frequent that the route 403, it results in a total net operating saving.

    Connecting the local and regional Center of Interest

  • The Airport
  • It is one of the major weakness of the current local network: Richmonites can’t easily access the airport, a major source of employment for locals. To correct it, some runs of the route 404 are extended to the airport. One could have considered extending route 301 or 411 could have been more judicious since airport is also a regional destination, but here the route addresses also a local market (Bukerville access).

  • The Hospital
  • It is best serviced by route 407, this route hence is redesigned to serve primarily high density residential area, and so, loop in Richmond downtown to connect. Other route like 401 and an extended route 404 provide also good service to the hospital

  • North Richmond businesses park (Crestwood)
  • They are not well connected to Bridgeport, either the service is very poor like on Bridgeport, or requires 2 transfer from Bridgeport to access the Cambie corridor, which is oddly enough almost better connected to Knight bridge. Especially for the Bridgeport corridor, there is an untapped customer pool, which can be enticed by a better service, that is a bus route every 30mn all the day at minimum along Bridgeport

    The suppression of Cambie with a direct connection to Knight Bridge (405), is compensated by a revamped route C96 which service is increased to match the one of the current 405 – that supposes the adding of 8:30 hours service. We estimate that the high frequency of the route 410 along Cambie make the transfer less painfull here than elsewhere

    At the end, a better servicing of North Richmond motivates a rerouting of the 301 on Westminster Hwy (instead of Alderbridge)- this because it uses the exit of Hwy 91 at road number 6 (3mn per run, or 3hrs per day)- in order to connect it with local route C96 and 410. (proposed bus 411 follow same route)

  • Steveston
  • This area is very well connected to Brighouse, with a bus every 2-3mn in peak hours, but does this high level of service is visible to the transit rider?

    Nope… and that illustrates the problem already raised with the 699B: it is more often a lack of visibility of the level of service that a lack of service itself people will complain of, and in Steveston it is storytelling:

    4 bus routes connect it to Brighouse. That translates in 4 different bus stops in different directions along Chatham: here there is lot of room for improvement. A single bus stop -on the model of Marine Drive loop- is the obvious first step. A better location than Chatham for the bus terminus is the second step…

    The tabulation of operating hour transfer is given below

    route runs hours removed hrs added hrs
    401 181 123:21
    402 138 52:56 45
    403 184 114:33 3:00
    404 100 50:41 15:00
    405 69 51:44 31:00
    407 106 71:23 30:00 1:46
    410 200 211:51 7:00
    430 78 64:23 64:23
    C92 68 16:59
    C93 62 28:31
    C94 48 11:25
    C96 41 17:53 8:30
    630 78 64:23
  • Notice that route 699B, and 411 have been previously discussed
  • Political acceptance

    Modifying a bus network is always gonna to hurt some sensibilities, and the few riders affected by a bus change will always be more vocal than the more numerous new customers. That has been verified by the pruning of route 601 at Bridgeport, but it is not something undo-able.

    The Lyon transit agency in France did it this year, and one could argue that the budget neutral network reorganization is something sensible to do in time of fiscal restraint.

    • It helps the public to accept that not anything can be done and some thought choice need to be done
    • It helps also to prepare the network for future growth

    In the example, above, the efficiency found on some route like 410, are in direct relationship with bus frequency:
    The more frequent is the bus route, the more relevant is the route reorganization, but the more complex it becomes since the more customer habit it can hurt, so it is better to be done sooner than later.

    [1] Richmond Area Transit Plan Summary Report, Translink, September 2000

    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