Some numbers extracted from the Translink GTFS feed [4] (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 [3]
  • time and speed between Broadway and Hasting [6]:
  • Min time Average time Max time
    10.3mn 5.3mn 12.4mn
    Max speed Average speed Min speed
    22.6km/h 11.65km/h 9.65km/h
  • ~15,700 annual operating hours meaning $1.57 millions in annual operating cost (at $100/hr, in line with [5])

bus lane Impact on Commercial Drive
We are considering the previously presented Commercial Drive proposal as illustrated below

4.5meters wide bike+bus lanes, with bus keeping in its lane at bus stop. It features transit signal priority and right turn specific signal to protect both transit and cyclists – Transit average speed is estimated at 15km/h

  • 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
9km/h 13.3mn $1.9M
11.5km/h 10.5mn $1.5M
15km/h 8mn $1.2M
20km/h 6mn $0.9M

The potential operating cost saving is in the tune of of $300,000 to $600,000/year.

On the opposite, a configuration of Commercial Drive with a single lane of traffic per direction to preserve parking [2], negatively impacts the speed of the bus, as we have seen before:

Commercial street redesigned as per StreetForeveryone group

Commercial street redesigned as per StreetForeveryone group – Transit average speed is estimated at 9km/h

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:

Capital cost

the slower a bus route is, the more buses are required at same frequency/seat capacity:

The steeper the slope of a line, the faster the travel, and the sooner a vehicle return to its orgin, ready to do another run. the number of starting lines in between represent the required number of vehicle – credit Melbourne on Transit

The bus requirement is compounded by two conflating issues:

  • Demand is at its greatest at peak hour, but
  • transit speed is also at its slowest at peak hour
  • .

    On the route 20, afternoon peak hour traffic cost ~4 buses:

    number of vehicle in service on route 20 according to the time of the day (graph for friday Sept 5th, 2014)

    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[1]

    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…

    [1] New markings aim to keep drivers out of Battery Street bus lane, Aubrey Cohen, SeattlePi- Tuesday, October 21, 2014.

    [2] We refers here to the “Street for Everyone” proposal we have previouslly discussed, which has also been discussed on the pricetag blog.

    [3] That makes the route 20 the 4th most frequent bus route of the network, behind route 99,9 and 41.

    [4] See our reference spreadsheet (which has been updated with the 2014 data) for further detail.

    [5] 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.

    [6] 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 [4] (which also depends of the Translink data quality): A probable consequence of the city council inaction on Transit front


    A bus stop on the Hwy 99

    September 1, 2010

    updated September 3rd

    At the 99 interchange with Steveston Hwy, you can catch one of the suburban bus running on the Hwy 99. It can be a traumatizing experience, especially in the south direction:

    While there is a bus shelter, a luxury rarely spotted in Richmond, no one has really thought that people could walk to it!

    Eventually to improve the waiting experience, the MOT has installed a 46” screen, on a lamppost, providing residual light at night for the bus stop (to be sure the purpose of the original lamppost is to provide light to the road)

    It is part of a pilot project, supposed to give real time information to the transit user [1]. In fact the later one will often see the messages illustrated below.

    the route 620 and 404 being not operated by suburban bus Orion V, the transit rider will get no information, real time or not, for them. Notice that the map, apparently a Google road map, display the route covered by the real time system, but no bus routes are displayed at all! Notice also the “quick and dirty” look of the installation: it is really a pilot project

    for other bus routes, the system doesn’t give any information, when no bus are present on the route covered by the system, i.e. Bridgeport to Steveston Hwy. To relieve your patience, you can watch the real time video of the bus stop you are waiting at

    Imagine,a departure screen at the airport, which warms as some flights are not displayed at all, and giving no information on some other flights because their plane is not en route!

    That is what the MOT pilot project is doing for the bus information. We are relieved it is still a “pilot” project, because there is certainly lot of room for improvement.

    This project, while looking a nice intention, raises lot of questions:

    • Why a pilot project? is real time bus information such a breakthrough technology, requiring “pilot” project those days?
    • The project, technologically different of the Main street one, rely on a private network:
      Why use a private network, when there is no lack of 3G providers covering not only the freeway corridor but all the metro area, able to provide communication link between the buses and a data processing center?

    but the big question is:

    • Why it is a project from the province and not Translink, which could be expected to be the relevant agency to drive such project?

    The Hwy 99 bus stop premises being probably under MOT jurisdiction, why the MOT is not trying to improve it first?

    An interchange doesn’t need to be dull, as the picture below can witness. More than that, studies could tend to correlate beautifully landscaped highway with safer highway [2].

    this nicely landscaped plot is the Highway 10 and 210 interchange in Redlands, CA. and there is no bus stop here, so it is only for motorist to enjoy the view (credit photo zIDEAz)

    the information pilot project come in addition of an HOV lane currently under construction on the Hwy 99 North bound and the extension of the southbound one, north of Westminster bridge.
    There is no doubt that significant dollars are spent to improve ths bus experience on the Hwy 99 north of the George Massey Tunnel, and there is no doubt that improvement are needed

    the Highway 99 at Westminster Road (left) and Blundell (right) around 1pm weekdays. Westminster road bridge is currently a bottle neck, since the HOV southbound start only south of the bridge. The extension of it north of the bridge will be a welcome relieve… the buses share the current HOV lane with vehicle of 2 occupants or more. According to the MOT, that has no effect on the buses operations [3] : on the picture, the traffic on the HOV lane move at around 40km/h for a posted limit of 80km/h…

    Transit advocates should apriori applaude such initiatives, but they left a sour taste: Why?

    From the Highway 99, we are seeing erected components which could raise the hwy 99 as a corridor for a BRT or for buses with a high level of service. Unfortunately those initiatives lacking of coordination, starting by the apparent non implication of the transit agency, Translink, will probably provide a result inferior to what it could have been, whether a more integrated goal could have been followed, for the same overall budget

    [1] B.C. pilots dynamic transit display, Jennifer Kavur, 09 Aug 2010, ComputerWorld Canada

    [2] Landscape improvement impacts on roadside safety in Texas, J. H. Moka, H. C. Landphair b, and J. R. Naderi, Landscape and Urban Planning 78 (2006) pp263–274.

    [3] Southbound Hwy 99 HOV lane opens to more commuters, Press release, AUg 29, 2008, BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure

    I have been first intrigued by a “rapid transit map” dating of the 1970, but it was more than a map: Below an extensive Verbatim of “Beat the Traffic Rush”, The case for rapid Transit, Alderman Harry Rankin, 1971

    Do the people of Vancouver and surrounding municipalities want a freeway system which will:

    • Crisscross and divide up residential areas with ugly structures of concrete and steel?
    • Funnel all automobile traffic from north, east and south into the narrow peninsula that comprise Downtown Vancouver?
    • Create unprecedented and impossible traffic congestion and traffic jams?
    • Pollute our air to the danger point until it becomes as bad here as in Los Angeles?
    • Saddle our citizens with an enormous debt which will burden homeowners with huge boost in taxes, and tenants with still higher rents


    • Bring people instead of cars into Vancouver’s downtown area and to place of employment?
    • Move people quickly and efficiently at low fares, saving time and money for transit users?
    • Keep down debt and taxes?
    • Reduce air pollution?

    Do we want to see a rapid transit system in the Greater Vancouver region which will:

    Provide frequent and efficient service between municipalities and within each municipality so that everyone will have far greater freedom and ease of movement?

    We can have one or the other.

    We won’t have both.

    Which one we get- freeway or rapid transit—is not only important for the reasons given above. The undeniable fact is that the kind of transportation system we end up with will decisively shape the nature of the growth and development of our cities and municipalities for decades to come.

    Our future is very much at stake in the choice and decisions that will be made.

    You can help decide what that choice will be.


    Rush hour TRAFFIC

    Population by the year 2000 will have doubled

    1970 2000
    1,000,000 2,000,000

    Metropolitan employment employement will have more than doubled

    1970 2000
    375,000 850,000

    Downtown employment will increase by at least 50% and possibly double

    1970 2000
    93,000 143,000-205,000

    The number of morning rush hour commuter trips into downtown will increase accordingly.

    1970 2000
    39,000 61,000 – 88,000

    Many of these rush hour commuters will need public transit, for those roads into downtown will have limited capacity.

    1969 2000
    15,700 29,000-56,000

    (From brochure By GVRD)

    Freeways Are Already Here!

    We will have to make a choice very soon because powerful interests are at work endeavoring to impose a freeway system on the Greater Vancouver area. The city of Vancouver is the local point. Here freeway plans are already well advanced-more so can most people realize. Vancouver City Council is trying to sneak in a freeway system piecemeal, one section at a time. This way the total effect will not be felt at once. People will not know what is happening. The freeways sections are being planned and build in such a ways that each completed section logically demands another.
    This is of concern not only to Vancouver. While Vancouver cannot build freeways its own boundaries, yet once these freeways are built in Vancouver you can be sure they will not abruptly end at city boundaries. They will be extended into adjacent municipalities. Then we’ll all be saddled with freeways whether we like or not.

    Vancouver Transportation Study

    Vancouver Freeway recommended Plan in 1968 (click on it to get a better view)

    The essential aspects of the freeways scheme were outlined in the Vancouver Transportation study, 1968, prepared for Vancouver city Council by BBQ&D of San Francisco. It called for:

    • A New Georgia viaduct
    • An East-West freeway continuing east from the Georgia viaduct along Union and Prior streets and connecting up with Highway 401
    • A north-south freeway in the Ontario and Quebec street corridor, also linked up with the Georgia viaduct.
    • A third crossing of Burrard inlet (called Brockton crossing and located just east of Stanley park).
    • A waterfront highway from the Brockton crossing to the north-south freeway, and going through the CPR’s Project 200.
    • A Taylor expressway going along the North shore of False creek where the CPR is planning another West End-type of apartment jungle.

    The Vancouver Transportation Study studiously ignored the question of rapid transit. It stated that the city of Vancouver and B.C. Hydro agreed that no provision for rapid transit was required in the freeway system except for a 60 foot median strip in the centre of the east-west freeway from Gore Avenue eastward “for possible future grade separated rapid transit facilities in this corridor.”

    The Vancouver Transportation Study has never been officially adopted by the Council. Yet a majority of Council is trying to implement the report piece by piece.
    The citizens of Vancouver met this report with open hostility.
    The Chinese community vigorously protested the connection between the north-south freeway and the Waterfront Highway which would go along Carrall Street and cutup Chinatown. Council had to drop this plan and consider a connection along Gore street.

    The resident of the East End rose up in arms against the east-west freeway which would go through the heart of their area, cut their district in half and compel the expropriation (and removal of destruction) of about 1,200 homes. So Council had to drop this scheme too.

    But Council didn’t give up by any means. It went ahead with plans to replace the Georgia Viaduct, shelving some of the other sections for the time being. But what it built was much more than just a replacement. What we have now is a two pronged viaduct designed as the hub of a downtown freeway system. The Vancouver Transportation Study admitted (page 25) that “the Georgia viaduct replacement is in effect a western extension of the east-west freeway”. There is now sits awaiting decisions about connector links at each end.

    Compelled by to drop its Union-Prior corridor route for an East-west freeway, Council’s next step was to set up a Liaison Group included aldermen Wilson, Broome, Rankin, city officials, a team of consultants responsible for selecting a route, and representatives of five community organizations from the East End.
    The study team of consultants has selected a new route that would go in a south-easterly direction form the East End of Georgia Vaiduct, avoiding the densely populated areas, and linking up with Highway 401 in the vicinity of boundary Road and the Grandview Highway. A conservative estimate places the number of homes that would have to be demolished at between 90 and 105. However, this does not take into consideration the construction of ramps that would bring this figure closer to 200. It is significant that the connector link they have selected makes no provision whatsoever for rapid transit.

    The community representatives on this Liaison Group have given their views on the new alternative route. They have turned it down flatly.
    “While the $60 million freeway route now being proposed by the consultants is less reprehensible thean the Union-Prior corridor earlier considered” they said in a statement to Council signed also by Alderman Rankin “it is still a freeway, and freeways our citizens don’t need and don’t want.” They then proposed that council drop all its plans and get busy on a rapid transit system.

    Council’s unofficial plan is now to connect the west-end of Georgia Viaduct via Georgia and Dunsmuir streets with a new freeway crossing of Burrard Inlet, Council has opted for a tunnel rather than a abridge. Ottawa has offered to pay the cost of the tunnel, but only on condition that its contribution will be recovered in tolls. The provincial government has pledged $27 million for tunnel approaches.

    But a third crossing, whether a bridge or a tunnel, is not the urgent need its promoters represent it to be. All survey show that the bulk of the traffic entering Vancouver comes from the east and south, not from the North Shore. In fact traffic the traffic volume to and from the south and eats is approximately the volume of traffic to and from the North Shore. But because Liberal politicians promised another crossing to North and West Vancouver business interests, and because of pressure from freeways promoters, plans for the crossing are being pushed ahead.
    Other planned sections of the freeway system scheduled to come before Council sooner or later are links which will connect Burrard and Granville bridge with Georgia viaduct and with the third crossing, the north-south freeway, along the Quebec Ontario street corridor, a Waterfront Highway, and the Taylor Expressway.
    Then our half a billion dollar eyesore and traffic congester would be complete—fro a few years, that is, when inevitably there would be a demand for still more freeways. Once caught up in the freeway cycle, there’s no escape.
    That’s the plan that is being implemented piecemeal. It is still in its initial stages, but every completed section makes other sections more certain. If we are going to stop it at all, the timer is now before it has a chance to go much further.

    Adverse Effects of Freeways

    The adverse effects of freeways are obvious and numerous. If you want to see Vancouver would be like in five or ten years from now if it gives through with its freeways plans, just look at Seattle and Los Angeles.
    Freeways are an eyesore which will artificially divide up cities and municipalities.
    It is fundamentally wrong to siphon all traffic into the narrow neck of land (bottleneck would be a better word) which constitutes Vancouver’s Downtown area.

    More and more of our choice land in Vancouver’s Downtown would have to be taken over a great expense and used for parking lot, and many city streets widened to serve the freeway system. Freeways will further aggravate the lopsided growth of Vancouver where far too much development is going into the Downtown area.
    Since the freeway system would be spread over the whole Lower mainland, all its citizens would be saddled with enormous debts and increases in property taxes.

    The experience of all cities which have freeway systems clearly proves that freeways solve nothing. They contribute to the very problem which they are supposed to solve—Traffic congestion. And the accident and death toll from the hundreds of thousands of cars on our freeways systems will continue to mount, as will the already too high insurance rates.

    Who Wants Freeways?

    Why then, are freeways being promoted by Vancouver city council?

    The answer is that powerful special interests want them. They are the business interest who stand to profit directly from them. First among them are the big real estate interest and devlopers. The CPR has project 200 – the complex of hotels, apartment and offices – which includes 5,000 parking stalls to be linked to the freeway. The CPR is also building a huge apartment complex on the north shore of false creek; Taylor expressway was designed to service this area. The Bronfman interests, Eatons, and the Toronto Dominion Bank want traffic directed to Block 42-52. Near Stanly Park the Four Seasons and Bayshore Inn interest want the freeway to serve them.

    Then there are the car manufacturers and the oil interests who push for freeways everywhere and the big construction firms looking for lucrative multi-million dollar contracts.

    These are the private interests that want the government and the public to spend half a billion dollars on freeways just to serve them! No matter where you live in the Lower Mainland – these selfish interests are determined that you must foot the bill for freeway to enhance theirs profits.

    No wonder the citizens of the Lower Mainland in increasing numbers are saying NO! We’re not going to subsidize the freeways with our hard-earned dollars and pensions!
    The majority of our citizens are already opposed to freeways and their number is growing constantly. They include a wide variety of community organizations, ratepayer and tenant groups, trade unions, anti pollution groups, and increasing number of city planners and aldermen—in fact, citizens from almost every walk of life.
    For the most part the groups and individuals opposing freeways are also supporting rapid transit. They look upon it as the only realistic alternative. It’s a view I wholeheartedly share.

    We can’t ignore the fact that the number of motor vehicles is growing twice as fast as the population in the Vancouver region. If we don’t take control of the situation now, the demands of the car will soon control us completely!

    The phoney “Balanced Transportation System” theory

    Some politicians and municipal officials, feeling the pressure of the opposition to freeways and the support for rapid transit, have come out with a “compromise”. They say we we don’t need to choose freeways or rapid transit, and that we can have both. This argument they clothe in the fine and sounding phrase, “a balanced transportation system”.

    I want to say without equivocation or hesitation that this is a lot of nonsense. It doesn’t come from people who don’t know better. It come from people deliberately trying to mislead and deceive the public. It is coming from people who are busy promoting freeways while doing nothing about rapid transit.

    The reason we can’t and won’t have both freeways and rapid transit in the Lower Mainland isn’t only because we can’t afford both. The cost would be staggering. Even more important is the fact that freeways and rapid transit serve opposing purposes and interests that can’t be reconciled.

    Isn’t the fact that Vancouver city council is building freeways while just paying lip mservice (and hardly even that) to rapid transit proof enough that it has made a choice? It isn’t building any “balanced transportation system” — it is building freeways!

    What Is Rapid Transit

    Perhaps at this point it would be worthwhile to go into the whole question of rapid transit more deeply.
    What do we mean by rapid transit?

    As the term is usually used, it means any form of public transportation operated over its own exclusive track or roadway and separated from other traffic.

    Examples of rapid transit are the subways of Toronto, Montreal, London, Paris and Moscow; the elevated trains of Berlin and New York; the one-mile monorail in Seattle; and an exclusive bus roadway in Washington D.C.
    Rapid transit systems are often supplemented by others from of rapid transportation including commuter trains, express buses, ferries and hovercraft.

    In the Lower Mainland we could use all of the above or any combination of them, to suit our special needs. What we’re after is a good travel system that will get people where they want to go, when they want to go and at low cost.

    Rapid transit us designed primarily to move people, rather tha cars, swiftly, efficiently and economically, to and from work, to and from the Downtown area of Vancouver, from one point to another within a city or municipality, and from one city or municipality to another.
    Let me add that advocating rapid transit does not imply that we don’t need or shouldn’t use cars any more or that traffic roads don’t need improvement. All that rapid transit is trying to do is to eliminate unnecessary car trips. People will continue to use cars for shopping, visiting family trips and the like, and adequate roads and parking facilities must be available. But wherever it is not essential to go by car, rapid transit should offer a cheaper, faster and more comfortable service. In fact it must be made so advantageous that people will use it whenever they can.


    Rapid Transit Study

    Rapid Transit Study, GVRD, 1970 (extract of Harris Rankin case for rapid transit) ((click on the picture to get a better view)

    The Greater Vancouver Area Rapid Transit Study of September 1970 was prepared for the Joint Transportation Committee of the greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) and BC Hydro and Power Authority. (the regional district, by way includes West Vancouver, North Vancouver City, North Vancouver district, Vancouver, Richmond, Delta, Burnaby, New Westminster, White Rock, Surrey, Lions Bay, Port Moody, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Fraser Mills, plus three electoral areas, Ioco-Buntzen bay, University Endowment Lands and Bowen Island.)
    It proposed a rapid transit network consisting of four main corridors to be completed by 1990.

    • Arbutus Corridor – Granville and Pender in Vancouver to Centenial Park in Richmond—10.2 miles
    • Granville and Pender to Surrey—13.5 miles
    • Kingsway corridor—Granville and Pender to North Road—10.9 miles. This would go on toward and connect up with other form of fast transit serving Port Moody, Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam. It would also serve the PNE and North Vancouver (via second Narrows Bridge)
    • North Shore—Granville and pender across new Burrard crossing to Upper Levels Highway.
      • Link to east via Lonsdale and 21st (North Vancouver)
      • Link to West via 15th Street (West Vancouver)

    It estimates rapid transit passenger volume per peak hour inbound as follows

    1970 2000
    Arbutus 4600 21,200
    Kingsway 9900 18,400
    Hasting 5700 12,900
    North Shore 4500 9800

    At peak periods, trains would run every two or three minutes and at six minute intervals during off-peak periods.

    The study states that the Kingsway Corridor has enough traffic today to warrant its construction immediately, and estimates that it would take 7-10 years to get in operation.

    The Kingsway Corridor would “leave the downtown area by means of an elevated structure parallel to the new Georgia Viaduct and turn south near Main to cross over the CNR yards. It would be underground below Prince Edward, Kingsway and 22nd Avenue to Nanaimo. At this point the line would occupy the BC Hydro right of way between Nanaimo and Willingdon, using open cut construction…Stations on this line could be located near Main, Broadway, Knight, Nanaimo, Renfrew, Central park and Willingdon”.

    It proposes that the rapid transit network be complemented by feeder bus routes and parking lots fro those who wish to park their cars for the day (“park and ride”) and for those who pick up or drop off passengers (“kiss and ride).

    The study also points out that in Montreal and Toronto, 70% of the peak of travel oriented to the central business district is by public transit. This shows the potential for our area.

    How do we Get Rapid Transit?

    This involves several important questions such as

    • Who should be responsible for establishing a rapid transit system in the Lower Mainland?
    • What Practical steps should be taken immediately to implement rapid transit?
    • Who will pay for rapid transit?
    • What political action needs to be taken?

    A Regional Transit Authority

    It will be obvious to all that rapid transit cannot be brought about by each municipality if it is left to do or not do its own thing. It is essentially a regional matter and must be tackled on a regional basis.

    We already have a regional structure in the Greater Vancouver Regional district. Its directing board consists of members appointed by the various municipalities included in the district—15 cities and municipalities plus 3 unorganized districts.
    The GVRD should set up a transit Authority for the whole region with the responsibility and authority, under the direction of the GVRD, to establish a transit system for the region.

    Under no circumstances should the Transit authority become an independent or autonomous body. (we already have one sorry example of this in the PNE in Vancouver. Although all its facilities are publicly owned, its operation has been turned over to a small group of businessmen who use our publicly owned facilities for the benefit of private professional sports promoters who get use of our facilities for next to nothing).

    The Transit Authority must be appointed by and be directly responsible to the GVRD for all its action. Only in this way can public control be maintained. Don’t forget that if and when we get a rapid transit system, the special interests who oppose rapid transit and support freeways would be only too happy to see rapid transit run in trouble.


    Who pays the Shot?

    The first point that should be made is that rapid transit services (and an upgraded bus service, too) should not have to pay their own way through fares. Rapid transit should be regarded as a service, as essential to a community as sewers and water, and the costs should come out of general and special revenues.
    The bulk of the cost to build and subsidize a rapid transit system should not be placed on the property owners and tenants of the municipalities. These costs should be met by grants from senior governments. The fact is that the difficuylt financial situation our cities and muncipalities find themselves in is not of their own making. It is the direct result of a distribution of taxing authority under a British North America Act adopted over a century ago and now completely out of date, and the contributing failure of senior governments to adjust their contributions to municipalities to the changed needs of the times.
    Urban center are growing at an accelerated rate. Today only 7% of our entire population is engaged in farming. It is estimated that by the end of this century, 90% of the population will live in large urban centres. The economic council of Canada predicts that by 1980 one third of all Canadians will be concentrated in three large metropolitan areas- Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Several of our cities already have larger population than several of our provinces.
    Hand in hand with this urban growth has come the demand for all manner of essential services – police and fire protection, street, sidewalks, welfare costs, education, parks. These costs have grown enormously. Yet our municipalities must rely mainly on property taxes to raise the necessary funds. All the other significant means of raising revenue (income and corporations taxes, resources tax, liquor tax, gasoline tax) have been reserved by senior governments. Municipalities must go hat in hand to senior government for grants to meet their rising expenses.
    This situation needs correction and it can only be done by senior governments. Obviously some constitutional changes are needed. In this case of rapid transit though, no constitutional change is required –only the agreement of Victoria and Ottawa that they will pay the bulk of construction and operating costs.
    The provincial government has already committed itself to pay some of the cost. On October 27, 1970, Provincial municipal affairs minister Dan Campbell, stated that “the provincial government is of the opinion that the financial input to the transportation picture in the Greater Vancouver area…should be on the basis of a 37,5% outright grant from the provincial government on a progress-payment basis to the transportation authority; 37,5% outright grant, again on a progress payment, cash payment basis by the federal government and 25% input from the regional district, again on a cash progress-payment basis”.

    The proposal leaves considerable uncertainty since it does not commit the provincial government directly to rapid transit, but only to “transportation” which could include anything and everything. Furthermore, it is conditional on grants from Ottawa and a heavy 25% percent load on the region. However it does acknowledge the need for aid by senior governments and does offer a basis for negotiations.
    In my view we should press for 100% of capital costs to be paid by senior governments, plus a share of the operating costs.
    The rapid transit study proposes a new retail tax, increases in property taxes and increases in gasoline taxes as ways and means to raise whatever money the GVRD must pay for rapid transit. I don’t think much of any of them because they all place the biggest burden on the people least able to pay, working people and low income groups that comprise 80% of the population. As an alternative, I would propose land assembly and assessment of big properties at their true market value.

    Land Assembly

    A profitable means of raising funds for rapid transit is through land assembly. When a rapid transit route –the Kingsway corridor, for example—is definitely agreed upon, the transit authority should acquire substantial sections of land along the route, especially in the vicinity of the transit stations. This land is bound to increase greatly in value due to new attractiveness added to it by the rapid transit corridor and the rezoning upwards that would be necessary. When the transit corridor is completed the Transit Authority could develop this land and sell it to private developers. Million of dollars in revenue could be raised in this way.

    The principle is a sound one. Since the new land value are created by public action, the benefit should accrue to the public and not all go to private real estate speculators and developers as has always been the case in the past. This method has been used in Britain for some time in connection with public housing projects.


    Maps have updated from the scanned original pamphlet (cover pages missing)

    Hynovis or the Hydrogen bus

    February 4, 2010

    It is a  tale of two approaches:

    • Identify a break through technology[9], find an application for it and pour money toward a demonstration project, hoping to find a demand
    • or

    • Identify a demand, then pour money to develop technologies and synergies to enable an answer to the demand

    Both can work, but one involves more risks than the other.

    The train’s world example

    In the later case, we find the “conventional” High Speed train: the demand is to travel “from down town to to down town” in a “time competitive with air travel” and at a “price competitive with the automobile“: that was roughly the French TGV project requirement back at the end of the 60’s, when the French railways company was also considering to address the congestion on its Paris-Lyon railway line.

    There is no really break-through technology in the French TGV, or its direct competitors: they are all trains moved by traditional century year old electrical motor concept, and running on centuries old rail track concept …but there is a combination of incremental advance making the whole product a break through advance in the railway world.

    In the former case, we find the magnetic levitation technology. A break through technology associated mainly with train demonstration projects.

    Today, there are 1850km of High speed train lines in revenue service in France only [3]. From the original speed of 260km on the first line (Paris-Lyon), the train has accelerated to 320km/h on its later extension toward Strasbourg. To not embarrass anyone, we will not mention the line mileage of commercial “maglev” train [10].

    The bus’ world example
    Hynovis bus (credit Irisbus)

    Hynovis is a concept bus, output a of a french program called “affordable and clean vehicle” from the french government agency PREDIT which has benefited of €120 million in total on the period 2002-2008[4], the Hynovis bus being only one project in that program covering most mode of transportation.

    the Hynovis program mandate is to answer to a demand: cleaner bus for sure but must also answer to the need of “fund starved” transit agencies, so the bus cost must be economically justified by

    • the saving on the bus consumption
    • improved operation like
      • reduction of dwelling time
      • improvement of the loading capacity
    • improved social role, like better accessibility for disabled people, improved attractiveness…

    This program has teamed the Paris transit agency with a bus manufacturers and bus part providers [6] on the conception of the  bus. As you can see (click for video), the Hynovis design try to answer to all requirement without “break through” technology but presents nevertheless a new product by incremental step on numerous fronts:

    • the improved consumption is provided by an hybrid engine and light weight material
    • reduction of dwelling time is provided by a better circulation inside the bus:
      • A back door moved further toward the rear of the bus, allowed by a rear axles moved under the rear bench, allowing more smooth flow on an enlarged low floor area
      • A twin steering axle fitted with low-profile tires, allowing the central corridor to be enlarged to ~4 feet alongside the front wheel housings, compared to ~3feet for a standard bus (note how this can accelerate the boarding of wheelchair and other strollers)
    • the reorganization of the wheels allow an increase of capacity of 8% [5]

    To be sure, the Hynovis innovations don’t come for free, and the Paris agency experiment will tell whether the return on investment worth it or not, but more certainly, the lesson learnt of the experiment will improve the future bus design over the foreseeable years.

    The Canadian Hydrogen bus fleet is only one application of a technology in which the federal government has invested $215 million since 2003 [1]. The sole demonstration project will cost more than $110 million taxpayer money for 20 buses [2], and address only one issue (GHG), at the eventual expense of the others.

    There is honestly more chance that the hydrogen bus share the fate of the Maglev train than the one of the TGV. In the meantime, incremental improvment in the bus technology allowed by project like Hynovis will allow sustainable (not only in term of CO2 emission, but also financially!) expansion of public transit, at the expense of less environmentally friendly transportation mode, and at the end of the day, the Hynovis concept will have probably a better impact on the environment that the Hydrogen bus [7][8].

    What is the best approach?

    A subsidiary question could be: Is it the role of a government to gamble with the tax payer money or to address the concern of its citizens?

    [1] This as a part of the Climate Change Technology and Innovation (T&I) Program, for the development and demonstration of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies

    [2] $45 million from the province and BC Transit, $45 million from the federal government, and $23 from the city of Whistler. Andrew Mitchell, B.C. Transit celebrates hydrogen fleet, fuelling station, Pique newsmagazine, Jan 27, 2010

    [3] number from wikipedia in french

    [4] the agency budget is in fact of 360 million, from which ~35% are allocated to the affordable and clean vehicle” program. (see predit publication (in French))

    [6] Predit Info n 17 in French

    [7] and that is discounting the fact that the province consider the Hydrogen bus as part of its much touted “$14 billion Provincial” Transit plan

    [8] Worth to mention that it seems also to be the position stated by Stephen Rees in some of its posts and others disgressions and obviously the viewpoint is not aimed at fuel cell, but at technology driven choices rather than economically grounded ones, and could apply to CNG buses as well

    [9] Preferably where you think you can develop a competitive advantage.

    [10] See also Human Transit take on it and on technology driven approach in general like the monorail.