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.
July 21, 2015
Some remarks on the report to be presented to the Standing Committee on Planning, Transportation and Environment , On July 22.
Bus stop and line of sight at Burrard#Pacific
As mentioned in a previous post’s comment, the COV planners indicated some line of sight involved by the Burrard street concave alignment at Pacific were cause of concern for CMBC toward the implementation of a South Bound bus stop on the South West corner of the intersection. The problem is illustrated below:
Hindered lines of sight for bus leaving a stop, due to a concave alignment of the street, exist in multiple locations on the Transit bus network. a short list below:
- University Blvd at UBC
- 41st avenue at Mc Kinnon
- Kingsway at Patterson
- The exit of the Bridgeport bus loop
While the line of sight concern are legitimate, they could have been overblown in the case of Burrard bridge. They can be addressed by external safety mirror, as often seen in Europe. Here there is sufficient room to accommodate an articulated bus at an angle preserving the line of sight for a safe pull-out:
We were admittedly too optimistic to see the City elaborates on the above solution. Instead, The line of sight concerns expressed at the open house, have since been replaced by the concerns on the preservation of a cypress tree which could not have been endangered by a bus bay on the south side.
We tend to see all that as excuses for inaction. Whether not, the restoration of the south bound bus stop on the North West corner of the intersection should have been in order. However, after feedback of the public, the initial proposal to move the South Bound bus stop further north has been given up. Instead, the bus stop will be moved south by half a block (from Burnaby to Drake). It is a step in the right direction, but insufficient: It seems nothing more than paying lip service: Transit accessibility is still much worse than it was in 2009 and before.
Pacifc East West bike connection
Our above proposal integrate them with an island to create a protected bike box, which can be given and advanced signal. the design to be submitted to the council also propose a bike box, but in what seems to be a more clumsy way:
The Suicide prevention barrier
This part was not presented at the open-house, and “popped up” afterward, the reasons why are unclear, since the City is supposed to have engaged with stack-holders ahead of the general public open-houses, where the issue could have been identified. Burrard bridge being such a iconic bridge, its alteration by suicide barriers, which also hinder the view of the bridge span, and affect negatively the user experience, raise some legitimate concerns from heritage groups.
Due to this, the request for more consultation seems reasonable. The city could explore alternative to physical barriers. The Mapo bridge in Seoul, Korea, using technology to detect suicide attempt, and then connect victim with help, could be an option to consider, after having a correct assessment of the experience 
Overall, The Burrard North end project seems to be a bit rushed.
 Many medias, especially in North America, have reported the experience as failure, because the reported “suicide attempt” have increased by a 600% after the introduction of suicide prevention measure. However many observers consider the experience as successful, since the effective number of committed suicide has been reduced by 77% . One can conjecture that distressed people could target Mapo bridge, knowing they get a chance to be recognized as such and get helped. On the Authority side, it also help to locate those distressed people, and provide them with the needed help to prevent suicide in general.
 Burrard Bridge Upgrades and North Intersection Improvements, City Of Vancouver, Lon Laclaire, July 13, 2015
 BC Transit Infrastructure Design Guidelines, Nov 2010.
 here we provide a design maximizing the line of sight. However, the required length of the line of sight could be shorter, allowing to reduce the angle of the bus bay.
November 3, 2014
Some numbers extracted from the Translink GTFS feed  (for the day of Sept 5th, 2014), for the 2km segment between Hasting and Broadway. The current average speed is ~11.5km/h, could be increased to ~15km/h with a bus lane…or reduced to ~9km/h according to the tradeoff done to implement bike paths
- number of #20 runs: 304 (but I counted only 276 between Broadway and Hasting) requiring a minimum of 19 vehicles in revenue service 
- time and speed between Broadway and Hasting :
- ~15,700 annual operating hours meaning $1.57 millions in annual operating cost (at $100/hr, in line with )
|Min time||Average time||Max time|
|Max speed||Average speed||Min speed|
bus lane Impact on Commercial Drive
We are considering the previously presented Commercial Drive proposal as illustrated below
- This bus lane, featuring clearly marked corridors (protected in one direction) and transit priority signal, suggests that average speed typical of BRT or urban LRT could be achieved: that is ~20km/h.
- That said, noticeabily because the stop are closely spaced, an average speed of 15km/h could be more realisticaly and conservatively achieved:
- That is roughly the average speed of the bus 20 outside the Commercial Drive segment.
Annual operating cost
|average speed||Average time||Annual operating cost|
The potential operating cost saving is in the tune of of $300,000 to $600,000/year.
Similar configurations, be on Davie or Robson, suggest a reduction of the average speed to ~9km/h; That could increase the route 20 operating cost by $400,000/year:
- the bus+bike lanes proposal is conductive of $1 Million in operating cost saving versus a proposal favoring street parking over transit.
A bus lane + traffic signal priority, allows an increase in the bus schedule reliability: lay over can be reduced accordingly, increasing the operating saving
Operating cost is only part of the picture:
the slower a bus route is, the more buses are required at same frequency/seat capacity:
The bus requirement is compounded by two conflating issues:
On the route 20, afternoon peak hour traffic cost ~4 buses:
A bus lane, making transit more immune to traffic congestion, allows to reduce drastically the peak hour buses requirement (in our example, the average speed maintained at ~15km/h, vs 9.5km/h currently in peak hour)
Adding a peak hour bus is a very expensive proposition: it means (to preserve spare ratio, and other contingency)
- the Purchase of an additional bus
- Adding storage capacity for this bus (even if in use 20mn a day)
- Adding maintenance cost
- adding a driver on payroll and all ancilliairy cost (training, administration)
According to a conversation with a former Toronto Transit Commission employee, the TTC is costing an additional peak hour bus at $100,000 a year (that is for a 40footer, typically sold a ~$300,000)
It is worth to note that Translink is in very short supply of articulated trolleybus, estimated each at $1M
It is no secret that the faster a transit service is, the more ridership it will attract. That has been again recently verified in Seattle, with a quasi linear relationship:
- an increase of 20% in speed is conductive of a similar increase in the ridership, which de facto increase the bus operator revenue
This coumpounded to lower operating cost makes Transit much more financially sustainable.
When all the effects are combined, it is relatively conservative to estimate that a bike lane, done at the expense of transit on Commerical, could end up to cost more than $1 million/year to Translink, when compared to a solution improving both
…and here we have analyzed only the direct cost for Translink…
 New markings aim to keep drivers out of Battery Street bus lane, Aubrey Cohen, SeattlePi- Tuesday, October 21, 2014.
 That makes the route 20 the 4th most frequent bus route of the network, behind route 99,9 and 41.
 See our reference spreadsheet (which has been updated with the 2014 data) for further detail.
 We use here the hourly operating cost as stated in the 2013 Bus Service Performance Review (see Annex A): it is worth to note that this hourly operating cost doesn’t include neither bus lay over and dead end trips. It doesn’t differentiate artics buses from standard ones too: the $100 mark is a very significant under estimate of the real operating cost of a route. A $180 per customer hour service could be closer to reality as we have seen before.
 It seems that the average speed of the route 20 is decreasing year over year, almost 10% reduction in the last 7 years according to our spreadsheet  (which also depends of the Translink data quality): A probable consequence of the city council inaction on Transit front
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