Post updated on January 29th, 2017
Ill conceived, since according to Translink , The proposed Surrey L line (Guilford, Surrey central newton, titled LRT 4 in the transit study), was among the poorest options Translink has studied for Surrey. An option which will saddle translink with increased operation cost without matching revenue to sustain it, for generation to come . and an option which provide a deeply negative return on investment:
Ill conceived because the Surrey LRT approach is in essence local and ignore the regional demand.
Missed opportunity because it will hinder the region to do the right thing to develop alternatives allowing the south Fraser area to become a less car dependent place before it is too late. At the root of this poor decision making is an original sin: A Vancouver centered optic where Surrey is seen as a fringe area in need to be connected to the Expo line; and a ideological bias from the Surrey City council making the streetcar the only answer whatever the question is. This optic ignore the development occurring in the Fraser valley, in Langley and beyond, more noticeably Abbotsford and Chilliwack, and the subsequent regional transportation demand; something we have touched in 2012:
Context and opportunities
The region becoming more vast than Metro-Vancouver, people travel longer distance, with more dispersed destinations, the challenge is then to provide an appealing transit alternative for people in the Valley and the south Fraser area: that means, fast comfortable, and as few as possible transfer toward meaningful destinations.
A LRT running not faster than a bus is not a compelling solution on which to build a regional transportation backbone, but a transportation mode such as the skytrain is not suitable for long distance travel; Also the skytrain technology, designed for very frequent service, become too expensive to maintain as soon as less frequent service is needed , so extending the skytrain forever is not a solution able to address the need beyond Langley.
The Interurban vision
It is time for the Vancouver region to explore new paradigms, and reconsider the regional train with an European eye. That is to not entertain solution such as the West Coast Express, but to consider light passenger trains able to achieve a commercial speed in excess of 70km/h (typically means max speed in excess of 140km/h), with comfortable seating: the bombardier Talent, once used for the Ottawa’s O train, is a good starting point to entertain the discussion. below is the kind of rolling stock we have in mind:
Thought the Fraser valley has the former interurban line, the BCER, this line is not suitable for most of its length: it presents a too meandering horizontal alignment. It is also already heavily used by freight trains in some sections, while in other, the tracks need to be completely renewed in order to accommodate off the shelve European train set , so there is no clear value at constraining the option on the sole BCER corridor. Below is an example addressing the challenge, with a 70km long rail line (in blue) from Richmond Bridgeport to Abbotsford (connecting with the former BCER for potential extension to Chilliwack) using mainly BC Hydro corridor (and rail rail fo way in Richmond).Part of the line reflects also a vision once expressed by the White Rock Transportation and safety committee 
The advantage of this line is that
- it provides a fairly straight line without too short curvatures  and an adequate vertical profile 
- it requires virtually no private land acquisition
- It is completely separated from freight trains; a Transport Canada requirement to allow train built on European standard to operate on the line
The expo line then needs to be extended 3km along King George to provide a seamless transfer with the regional train.
To preserve the future, The regional line should be built for European style standard train EMU (such as the Bombardier talent-2). That supposes to build the line to UIC standards allowing speed in excess of 160km/h, ideally 200km/h: that means in particular:
- double track platform width of ~13m
- no level crossing
Estimated travel time (in mn) between key stations with an express train calling only at the below mentioned station 
Numbers suggest such a line could be built at cad$35M/km  putting the total cost of the regional line at $2.5Billions (remember that the Brunette interchange alone costs $0.5B). However, the line doesn’t need to be built in one shot, and can be phased, a first phase consisting of the 12km Langley-Surrey section, estimated then at ~$500M.
For this short first section, a tram-train, able to reach 100km/h and to ride the Langley streets could be considered at first . Since it could benefit of a totally segregated infrastructure (in trench) between Langley and Surrey, a 12 mn travel time could be easily reach. (A Translink study  suggests such travel time could attract up to 6,000 pphpd in 2041, what is the relevance zone for such a transportation mode)
Cost and benefit
The skytrain extension has been costed at $85M/km (2010) in viaduct and $140/km (2010)underground  (all including stations), so that the total cost of the project in its first phase could be keep in the $1B envelope, and still include a BRT lines Surrey 88th-Whiterock, as well as some B line connecting Guilford not only to Surrey central but also to the interurban and Coquitlam.
The closest studied option by Translink was the option titled RRT 1A (skytrain extended to Langley and BRT on KGH and 104th): our proposed option in its first phase is slightly less appealing on the Langley Surrey section (doens’t go directly to Surrey center, and doesn’t eliminate the skytrain transfer). On the other hand, it still provides similar travel time, between the 2 cities (and Vancouver), and a tram-train option allow a finer coverage of Langley downtown. Subsequent extensions make our proposal of better value.
Our proposal makes also a better use of the skytrain capacity (the extension collect ridership from both the Langley Regional train and the KGH BRT). Our proposal offers a shorter BRT route on the KGH branch (due to the skytrain expansion here), and equal on the 104th branch: We can consider our proposal carries all the benefit of the RRT 1A option, at half of the price tag. In any case, it is a much better solution than the one currently imposed by the Mayors’council, which will not benefit to Langley and will be detrimental to White Rock by introducing an additional transfer with no travel time benefit, and which cost has already escalated to a whopping $100M/km
 Surrey Rapid transit Alternatives Analysis – Phase 2 Evaluation, Translink, 2012.
 V. Profillidis, Railway Management and Engineering: Fourth Edition, Routeledge 2016
 In addition to the operating constraint imposed by the freight trains, Transport canada requirement for passenger train mixing with freight train make such solution a non starter beside commuter train such as the West coast express)
 The curvature suggests speed limit of 160 to 200km/h speed between Langley and Surrey, 160km/h around the Nordel Mac Adam Creek section (thought requiring some expropriation), 120-140Km/h, in the approach south of Langley…that is assuming a typically a minimum curve of 1250m for 160km/h; some figure also roughly and intrinsically adopted for the californian HST 
 French high speed rail tracks have gradient of up to 35/100, and 40/1000 on the german Koln Rhein .
 In the proposed scheme, the track along King George Highway could be branched before the eponymous station. The later could be retired, and
a new one built.
 French high speed line, built on higher standard, are typically build at a cost of cad$35M/km or €22M/km (10% for land acquisition, 65% for civil engineering, and 25% for rail, power and signalling). However the Fraser crossing could require a specific estimate
 Such choice, should not hinder the capacity of the line to run faster train. If electric, the tram-train should then be dual voltage, the main line, equipped with standard 25kv AC60Hz, the street extension in 750V. Similarly the stations should be designed to allow a layered service with tram train calling at local stations, while faster train could call only at main stations.
 The skytrain vehicles (and consists) are designed to maximize the throughout of the line, so seating is minimized, and comfort of it is not a priority. The driverless technology allow very high frequency at marginal cost, but it imposes also high “minimal operation” cost, to both maintain and operate the line, making this technology not a prime choice in the current condition.
 California High-Speed Train Project : Technical Memorandum, Alignment Design Standards for High-Speed Train Operation TM 2.1.2; California High-Speed Rail Authority, 2009
 UBC Line rapid transit study: Phase 2 Evaluation report Steer Davies Gleave, August 2012
 South Fraser Strategic area transit plan, Transportation and safety committee, City of White Rock, August 22, 2006
 This tends to be a typical requirement for new regional transit lines in european conurbation. As an example the new subway line planned in Paris area are targetted to have a commercial speed of 55 to 65km/h.
 It is interesting to notice that the LRT line in Surrey is costed higher than a french High speed line, the later arguably incurring more extended civil engineering work: it is possibly due to the fact that Surrey LRT construction cost include the relocation of the underground utilities, and the construction method must include important traffic mitigation.
 Proponent’s environmental Assessment: Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, Southern California Edison, 2009, Figure 3.2.4.
 the track renewal cost can be estimated at Cad$5M/km, including electrification, for a single track, and work progress can be as fast as 600m of track renewal/day, this from a similr work done to establish a tram-train in the vicinity of Nantes. This number is in line with the provided by a Leewood report for the Rail for the Valley organization
 Camille Saïsset, Tram-train Nantes-Châteaubriant, une liaison efficace pour la réouverture de voies, Actu-Environnement, July 27, 2012.
 the numbers assume a average speed line of 140km/h, an average acceleration of 1m/s/s, and a dwelling time of 2.5mn. The 24 mn travel time between Surrey and ABbotsford, can be compared to the 44mn travel time given by  between Abbotsford and Surrey Newton using the BCER or the Google estimated 35mn road travel time between Abbotsford (Highway 1#11) and Surrey Central (with clear traffic)
 Lower Fraser Valley British Columbia, Chilliwack to Surrey Interurban, proposal fro rail for the Valley, David Cockle, Leewood Project, 2010.
August 9, 2016
the debate is framed like it: to be against a blacktop path is to be against accessibility.
Accessibility for all activities or all abilities?
It is no secret that the debate is mainly geared by the Vancouver cycling community, and the main local organization, HUB, has made clear its vision; a cycling highway -where one can “bike from the Fraser River to False Creek in 30mn” (that makes an average speed of 20km/h+) . From there, the conversation regarding accessibility is mainly reduced to wheelchair accessibility concerns, while at the same time accessibility is understood as skate board and roller skate users inclusion.
However, if we understand accessibility as “universal access” for people with impairment of various nature, the conversation take another turn: A trail where a cyclist can zip at 25km/h becomes quickly unfriendly to people with a visual impairment . The accessibility problem is multidimensional and can’t be reduced by how comfortable it is for the small wheels.
A cycling corridor or a greenway Promenade/trail
- Scenic promenades; and
- Experential promenades
The Vancouver Seawall is a great example of scenic promenade: the emphasis and the purpose of the promenade are the views it can offer. The west Richmond dykes falls also in this category. other trails could not offer too much of a view but a more experiential aspect: the Stanley park inner trails fall in this category, as well as the Richmond Shell road trail or the Lynn valley trails (including its suspended bridge).
If the focus of a trail is a viewpoint, one would like then provide the easiest access to it, if the focus of a trail is experiential, then one would like provide the best compromise comfort/experience. That is the trail itself, and noticeably its surface shouldn’t distract of the experience, which sensorial aspect must not be neglected. A universal accessibility trail exists in Stanley park, it is Beaver lake trail :
Similar trails exist elsewhere in the region, Fitzsimmons trail in Whistler, the Panorama trail at the top of the Squamish SeatoSky Gondola or the Spirea nature trail in the Golden Ears park are among them. However some other trails, though not designed universally accessible could in fact be much more wheelchair friendly that the Stanley park’s Beaver trail (which has not keep up with the up to date standards): it is at least the case of most of the Burnaby Central park trails:
The wide and flat enough trails of the Burnaby central park offer good rolling condition, and stay in good condition during raining periods as illustrated in this Google view.
The Stanley park trails accessibility could not be up to the current standards:
What about the state of the art?
In BC, the very recently opened Great West Life trail in Prince George is pretty much the state of art:
A hard packed surface, soft enough for the knees of the elder, and still presenting good rolling capability, as well as other surface treatments, such has woodboards, provide a rich experience . It features wheel-guard where required and slope not greater than 3%. Such a trail design is the result of a cooperation with the Spinal Cord Injury-BC society.
Trail head accessibility?
It is another aspect where the Burnaby central park is hard to beat: it is directly serviced by the Skytrain (Patterson station) as well as 2 frequent transit bus routes (19 and 49). Something Stanley park can’t compete with.
What about the bikes on an universally accessible trail?
The state of the art doesn’t seem to have found a compromise much better than this:
The banning of bike from Universal accessible trail, seems to be common  for reasons previously touched. Cycling is in theory also not allowed on the “universal accessiblity” trails of Stanley park , but the rule is not well respected.
A preliminary conclusion
Our region is surrounded by trails often offering first class experience, but when time comes to find an accessible trail, the region becomes a laggard. When it is time to find an “universally accessible trail” reachable by public transit: pretty much nothing exists.
it is where the Arbutus corridor becomes a golden opportunity: it presents many characteristic required for an “universally accessible trail”, first of them, being the gentle grade, second being the experiential aspect- including the sensorial aspect capitalizing on the meandering among community gardens. third it is easily reachable by many frequent transit routes, allowing to experience it in many different ways.
It is also clear that an “universally accessible trail” vision capitalizing on the experiential aspect of a greenway is not compatible with the cycle track vision as exposed by Hub, and a compromise will need to be found.
 Arbutus Greenway Announced, Hub news, March 14, 2016
 Similarly, Accomodating visual impaired people is also the main challenge the designer of shared space has to address
 A reason why a cycle track on the Paris Petite Ceinture (a disused rail corridor) has been dismissed, as we have seen in a previous post
 It is also good at maintaining the motor skills and enhance the mental health, a reason why such surfacing are often preferred.
 It is also the case for the promenade built on the Paris Petite Ceinture, among others.
 The ravine trail is also presented as “universal accessible” by the Vancouver park board, thought it has some questionable access impediment.
October 15, 2013
Edited after Stephen Rees comment
At the 1995 Fall
- Up to 1987, the 9 was the only cross-town service along Broadway. and started to have runs to UBC only after University Bld got Trolley wires in 1988.
- Before, 1987, UBC was reached from the Broadway corridor by the bus 10 (nowadays route 14), which had been extended to UBC in fall 1968 (then it was working in combination with the Hasting express bus)
- With the advent of the Expo line in 1986, BC transit will start an express service from Commercial (now Commercial-Broadway) to UBC, in fall 87, numbered 81 the first year, then 31:
The bus 31, was a typical rush hour only express service with pick up only at all local bus stop East of Oak, for the West bound direction (and drop off only for the east bound), then non stop to UBC.
1996, Introduction of the 99 B line service on the Fall
The preliminary service is weekday only, but is running all day long (without evening serice), and receives a special branding: the “Bee Line” logo.
express route 31 is discontinued
The line will reach the UBC loop after enlargment of it, in the spring 1997. The Clark stop will be added at the same time
Sasamat is added in the Fall 1997
The service is an instant success, and the offer needs to be reinforced as soon as Nov 1996, where peak morning frequency is already at 4mn between Commercial and UBC 
1998: Full deployment in the fall
A new fleet of 21 low-floor articulated buses with a distinctive B-Line paint scheme and bike rack was deployed. All that were novelties on the Vancouver bus system in 1998. Service is extended on week-end and evening . The Brentwood-Boundary loop route (109) is then discontinued.
The ridership increased by 20%, prompting an order for 5 additional buses
Bus bulges are installed at the Sasamat bus stop, in May/June 1998 , as a demonstration project: Besides it, the 99B line never benefited of any BRT like fixed infrasrtucture
2002 and after: the Skytrain Millenium line days
- The Skytrain line replaces the B line east of Commercial in 2002
- In 2003, Translink introduces non stop bus between COmmercial and UBC (99 Special) to handle additioan demand generated by the introduction of the U-Pass
- In Jan 2006, the opening of the VCC-Clark station allows the opening of a new route from it to UBC (#84), supposed to relieve crowding on the Broadway corridor
- Fraser, and Arbutus stop are added in 2009
- The students, continued to board the first 99 showing up, rather than waiting for the 99 Special, which was then not alleviating crowding. the 99 special service has been discontinued with the introduction of the route 84:
|Oct 1996||8,500 |
|Nov 1996||10,000 |
|1998||16,000 (*) |
(*) The Original BC Transit estimate was 12,000 
Some reasons for the success
It is worth to notice a great emphasis on the marketing side, and its technical limitation  :
- A distinctive product:
- The B line branding is applied to any aspect of the bus service: bus, bus-stop, map and schedule
- It is worth to mention that the bee line logo copyright has been challenged by an individual: the controversy did some stride in the mediaa, bringing exposure to the product itself
- The buses looking “different” don’t get unnoticed by drivers.
- The line has his dedicated bus stop
- The accessible low floor buses has been a disruptive point in the industry (same has occured with trams in the 90’s)
But one, must not forget the “geometry” fundamental of the line:
- Where it was ~37 bus stop between Commercial and Alma (route 9), the 99B was offering only 6 (now 8) along the same 8.5km segment.
- The strong Central broadway anchor (before not directly accessible from the Lougheed corridor
- At the exception of Allison and Heather (Vancouver General Hospital), All stop connect with other network bus lines:
- The time gain is especially consequent (up to 40% time gain)
- The B line, especially in its eastern part (pre millenium line), is conceived as to be feeded by local buses.
- The B line runs on as much as of the entire corridor broadway-Lougheed, making it very legible
- In practice service east of Commercial was relatively limited, but people coming from the Lougheed corridor, was able to board on a fast service offering limited stop service in Vancouver
The route 44 (limited stop from down town to UBC), having replaced the express route 85 (local on the downtown peninsula, then non stop up to UBC) participate from the same philosophical approach as the 99B.
The 98B line
The line opened on August 7, 2001, after a 4 1/2 month transit strike
The 98B line will capitalize on all the 99B lessons, but will add some BRT like features:
- Dedicated Right of Way (number 3 road in Richmond), and bus lanes in Vancouver (Marpole)
- Specially designed bus shelter, with real time information system
- premeption of traffic signal (at least in Richmond)
- The system was originally deployed to accelreate fire department response: it was not clear it was very efficient for transit operations
It is possible that Translink, could have liked to discontinue all direct services from Richmond, to having them feeding the 98B line…In fact rush hour direct services has been preserved, but the 98B line replaced a rather confusing array of bus routes (401, 403, 406 and 407) with a legible, direct, and frequent service, between Vancouver and Richmond Center. The line has been discountinued in fall 2010, as being replaced by the Canada line
 TCRP Program report 65: Evaluation of Bus Bulbs, National Academy press, Washington D.C., 2001
 Vancouver’s BLine Experience, Jeffrey Busby, TRB Annual Meeting 13 January 2013.
 TCRP report 90: Bus Rapid Transit Volume 1: Case Studies ( Annex B Bus Rapid TransitVancouver British Columbia, Translink #98 and #99 B lines), National Academy press, Washington D.C., 2003
 “Planning of Vancouver’s Transit Network with an Operations-Based Model“, Ian Fisher, May 1 2009, Translink
 “Bus System Performance Review”. May 31, 2012 – Translink
December 19, 2011
The scramble intersection has been officially opened with much fanfare on November 15th, by Mayor Malcolm Brodie 
But, the real story is not so much the pedestrian scramble than the new traffic light which will have certainly consummed the bulk of the $600,000 budget allocated to this intersection “improvement” .
- It is a raised intersection, usually signalling to the motorist it is entering in a pedestrian oriented environment
- The treatment of the crosswalks and bollards shows careful attention intended to rise the profile of this intersection
The real story
Before the traffic light, and its adjoined pedestrian scramble, it was a 4 ways stop:
- both pedestrian and vehicular traffic could become fairly heavy in some summers week-end, but nothing comparable to what we can witness in Granville Island at anytime.
- And like in Granville Island, most of the vehicular traffic is generated by parking lookers, and so most of the traffic is turning either right or left at the intersection…
The consequence of the last observation is that right and left turn traffic can be impeded by the pedestrian traffic…The Richmond traffic engineers will have found, that blocking all pedestrians movement during vehicular movement was the best thing to do…and here is the rational for the scramble.
It is sold to the public as follow: The previous configuration (4 ways stop), where politeness’rules applied (i.e. like in Granville island), was judged “confusing” by the Richmond traffic engineers .
If you believe that the lack of rules for pedestrian is creating congestion in Granville and makes it unsafe, you will cheer for the Richmond’s “traffic improvement” as a step in the right direction.
…On the other side, if you believe in the shared space concept followed by a growing number of European towns, noticeably because “When you don’t exactly know who has right of way, you tend to seek eye contact with other road users” and “You automatically reduce your speed, you have contact with other people and you take greater care” , you will eventualy consider that the roadwork at Number 1 and Moncton, is much closer to a 600K waste than an improvement…
 No.1 Road and Moncton Street Intersection and Surrounding pedestrian crosswalk improvments Victor Wei, Transportation department, April 21, 2011, Richmond CA. Notice that this lst reference states that “based on the pedestrians and vehicles traffic volumes, a a traffic signal is warranted at this intersection” without substanciating those “volumes”. A reference is done to a mysterious study (Stevenson Village Traffic and parking improvement, Victor Wei, Transportation department, August 31, 2009) which didn’t provide any substance either.
Pedestrian Crosswalk Improvement Project, Communication from Richmond CityHall, 2011.
European Towns Remove Traffic Signs to Make Streets Safer, Deutsche Welle, August 27, 2006
 Beside numerous news report, there is generally a strong advocacy for scramble interest in some circle, like at vpsn, and, eventually via spacing Vancouver, you will find some opinion in the Vancouver Openfile blog (which in our viewpoint is misleaded by the fact it seems to fail to make the difference between Yonge and Dundas in Toronto center and the “Steveston village” context in Richmond) or InSteveston and a more critical appreciation by a Richmond’s blogger