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.
October 5, 2012
Some Addendum on Nov 23, taking finding of 
The Clark government has decided that the George Massey tunnel need to be replaced, why?
The tunnel is congested
Of course, but how congested is the tunnel (see our bridge traffic post for more context)?
By reasonable standards, the level of congestion in the tunnel is manageable noticing that there is a significant amount of time where traffic is free flow. Beside the lack of substantiation, the announce, that the Delta port extension will generate an additional 1700 daily truck trips , has to be taken with a grain of salt:
- It represents only 2% of the actual traffic, what the Tunnel used to handle in the past
- It represents only 1% of the actual Tunnel capacity
The question one should asks, is:
Never mind the present (or the port),
population growth will make the tunnel congested in the future anyway?
The past trend suggests otherwise: the region has already experimented a significant population growth, which has not prevented a declining trend for the traffic into the tunnel:
But why people see it differently?
The Province has engineered a funnel effect at the tunnel portals, that is feeding the tunnel with more lanes than it can handle, this in the disguise of Transit investment:
In light of the above, one must asks: Is the George Massey tunnel replacement the best we can do to improve the lower mainland traffic?
The Clark government seems already have made his mind on it, but where are the studies and analysis supporting the replacement choice?
Is building more road the way to alleviate congestion?
Is it some other solutions?
At least two avenues deserve to be explored: better transit and road pricing, both working better hand in hand
Currently, the transit modal share in the tunnel is nothing to cheer about:
|Transit modal share||Lions gate Bridge||George Massey Tunnel|
|overall (all day all direction)||> 20%||~ 11%|
|AM peak hr To Vancouver direction||> 36%||~ 19%|
|PM peak hr leaving Vancouver direction||> 28%||~ 18%|
It is not better than the average mode share in the region, way far below than what is witnessed on the Lions gate bridge, and even much lower than the 2020 provincial transit plan’s target, 17% . There is no reason for such dismissal modal share when a level of transit similar to the one witnessed on the Lions gate could remove enough car (~12000 per day, or 1200 peak hour NB, that is almost the capacity of a full lane!) to make the tunnel virtually congestion free. Transit offer could be much better for people coming from south of the tunnel. It doesn’t necessarily require a huge investment (Proper bus lane and queue jumper are among them) and we believe a lot can be done in the current Translink budget, some suggestion below:
A Vancouver network more accessible from the South of Fraser
First, Translink needs to recognize that not all people are heading to downtown and has to provide a larger access to Vancouver from south of the Fraser. A suggestion already made in a previous post is to extend most of the North South Vancouver bus route to either Marine Drive or Knight Bridge.
A Richmond network more accessible from the South of Fraser
A Proper branding
Lastly, when the service level is objectively good, people need to know it. Branding is important as we have already seen with the suggestion of code sharing to create a B #699 line between Ladner and BridgePort, leveraging the existing #601 and #620 routes.
What is the cost of congestion in the tunnel?
Phenomenal will tell some…some more substantiated studies will tell at which level a toll needs to be set to avoid congestion (That is the real economic cost). In the case of the George Massey tunnel, it is at a level such that the congestion toll need to be in effect not much more than 5hr per day, and could rise only $46 millions  as we have already seen in a previous post.
…that barely pay for the interest of a $1Billion debt…
Regarding the George Massey tunnel, the choice the Vancouver region should face is not “do you prefer a tunnel or a bridge as replacement” but do you prefer:
- Pay an infrastructure toll, at all time, to help to finance a new crossing, knowing the toll will probably not be enough and taxpayer money will be required
- Pay a congestion toll, that is a toll only at time where congestion could occurs, the toll revenue helping to finance transit alternative reducing the demand pressure for road space (see our congestion charge post for more detail)
The first solution needs 10 years time frame to be implemented and doesn’t resolve transit funding issue. The second solution, which doesn’t preclude the first one in due time , can be implemented overnight and resolves the congestion issue now as well as provide transit funding. Which alternative is the best?
We humbly suggest that the best alternative is the one requiring the less tax-payer and user fee money.
That said, some other parameters need to enter in consideration, like
- Structure resilience to earthquakes
- Road safety issue
- Marine traffic
On the later, some rumors suggest that the presence of the tunnel is limiting the possible amount of marine traffic, due to draft restriction. The Nautical chart of the Fraser river tell another story. In fact the depth along the channel is around 11 meters, 12 meters above the Tunnel.
Allowing ships with greater draft than allowed now could require considerable dredging of the Fraser channel, from the Stevenson jetty far end to East of the tunnel, as well as significant on going maintenance, due to constant build up of sandspit. That certainly has a non negligible ecological cost as well. The economic rational of this is pretty unclear, and we notice that around the world, ports don’t seem to develop operation inland…beside barging (option here restrained by the railway bridge at New West)… since not all ports can count on a government building road for free to them.
 Delta port truck gate hour of operation are 7am-12pm and 12:30pm 4pm Monday to Friday
 From Freeway to feeway: Congestion pricing policies for BC’s Fraser River crossing, Peter Wightman, Simon Fraser University, 2008
 Christy Clark announces plans to replace George Massey Tunnel, VancouverSun, September 29, 2012
 BC MOT
 Lions Gate Bridge / Marine Drive Transit Priority Study: Summary of Technical Study , Translink/IBI. peak hour number are extrapolated of hourly traffic graph
 Highway 99 corridor assessment, draft v.1.5, Januray 2009, BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (report got thru civicsurrey.com). Notice: thought the transit numbers of this report pre-date the advent of the Canada line, they are based on a bus count (36 in peak hour/direction), which is the same as of November 2012.
 The Provincial Transit Plan, 2008
April 4, 2011
Last week, Dr. Kee Yeon Hwang, president of the Korea Transport Institute, was in town for two enlightening presentations .
the dismantling of a downtown freeway to restore the Cheonggye Stream,
SightLineDaily has a good report of this lecture . As noticed in the report, Dr. Kee Yeon Hwang, has insisted on the historically cultural and spiritual (Feng shui) importance of the stream in the Seoul context.
Thought that the dismantling of the freeway was a campaign promise of the then mayoral candidate Lee Myung-bak, it is not clear how central this promise was in the campaign, since Dr. Kee Yeon Hwang himself admitted he was not expecting to see this promise fulfilled.
It is not clear too how much of the Seoul electorate was using the freeway versus the suburbanite not participating in the vote. In that instance, Seoulites heavily relying on public transit could have got a different opinion of its suburbanite neighbors, like did the Londoner or Stockholm people on congestion charge, or Parisian on the Delanoë program to close the freeway on the Seine river banks (at least during summer month) and introduce bike and bus lanes in the city.
Nevertheless, the point to retain, is that in Seoul; like in Paris with Delanoë or London with Livingstone;
- once invested in a mandate legitimated by recent election, civic leaders have to act fast to ensure that the their constituents are able to measure the positive effect of the controversial shift, that in the time of a mandate.
That is what has been achieved by the very controversial congestion charge in London, that s what has been achieved by the bus lanes and other initiatives from Delanoë in Paris, and that is what has been achieved by the restoration of the Cheonggye Stream in Seoul.
Another important thing to retain and key to the success of the Cheonggye Stream restoration is that in Seoul, like in New York with pedestrianization of Time square, that has eased the congestion.
- the reduction of road space has not to be done at the expense of the mobility in the city
More, the freeway dismantling was part of a package on refocusing transportation on public transit, object of the second lecture presented at Surrey SFU.
The improving of Seoul’s bus service by reforming operating practice
Considering the Vancouver political context, you could have think sensible from the part of SFU to schedule this second lecture in Surrey, since South of the Fraser is well known for not lacking of full time whiner when come to talk of bus service in Surrey and other low density suburbs of the valley.
If I have spotted Jonathan Cote, from New Westminster council, I have failed to see any of those SoF “full time” whiners, including their civic leaders in the very scarce attendance. They seems in fact to show little appetite at listening ideas on how to improve transit in their jurisdiction…may be because they follow a different agenda which is more driven by the promotion of a pet project than anything else.
However in this lecture, Dr. Kee Yeon Hwan has put himself more or less in the shoes of the typical SoF bus rider:
- Low bus frequency with pass-up at that
- Low reliability with lack of information
- slow and circuitous routes
- lack of readability of system
- no fare integration
In brief, the bus system was built to serve a “captive” market, with little regard for its patrons, and in numerous regard was falling behind the rest of the world standard in many aspect.
In the 80’s, Seoul has aggressively developed his subway network- it is one of the busiest in the world- eventually at the expense of its bus system… and global impact on the overall transit modeshare was tiny.
It was becoming clearly evident that an “all subway” policy -limited by funding- couldn’t be good enough to address the mobility needs of Seoul.
Numerous actions have been taken to change it, the first one being the governance of the public transit system. In that instance, the system was apparently one looking like a “leasehold” bus route offering little flexibility for adjustment in the public interest, and has been changed to one of public service concession of 3 years in length. Notice that the later model has became the modus operandi of most of the public transit agencies in Europe and Australia.
This change done, the route network has been rationalized according to the served market, trunk route, feeder route,… straight route preferred to circuitous route… beside it the main change could be considered as marketing ones
- bus route numbering representing origin destination
- bus colored according to the served market
- Real time information of patrons
- All buses running on CNG
The list couldn’t have been complete without the introduction of the smart-card, which address the problem of fare integration (transfer). Some of the most visible change have already been discussed in Regarding Place.
Lot of expectation was carried with those changes, and aggressive targets was set. the conclusions of the exercise are more dim.
While the reform of the bus system has lead to a dramatically improved service on several metrics like bus speed or bus punctuality…in despite of a significant increase in ridership, it has failed to reach the very aggressive goal originally set in that aspect, and eventually has translated in concerns over the subsidiary level of the bus system which is greater than expected. A noticed problem is that the route concession is paid on a mileage bus service basis disregarding the ridership, hence providing no incentive for the bus operator to increase it.
But the main lesson is that an extensive subway network shouldered by a massive bus network will never replace the -at least perceived- convenience of car. and at some point you have also to take action to control the usage of it to avoid road congestion, and that is road pricing.
The idea seems to have been introduced in Seoul in the 90’s , but the currency crisis in 97 will have stopped the implementation of it (it is not clear why it has no been resumed later on). The Chair of the lecture, will conclude it by the very relevant question:
The answer of the speaker will be not less interesting, and was understood like it:
 Seoul Bus System Reform Project, D. Kim and S. Gaham, fall 2009
 Environmentally Sustainable
Transport Policies in Korea, S. Lee, 2009
 Four year old Namsan Tunnel Congestion Pricing scheme in Seoul: success or failure?. B. Son, and K. Y Hwang, Int Assoc Traffic Saf Sci journal, vol. 26, no 1, pp28-36, 2002
 You will aslo find an interview at the Translink’s Buzzer blog