INTRO: Preliminary engineering has started for two light rail lines in Vancouver, British Columbia, to augment existing mini-metro and commuter rail routes. Construction is due to get under way in 1999, with the first low-floor cars running by 2005. William D Middleton reports
A 33 km light rail network will be added to the automated mini-metro and commuter rail routes serving the city of Vancouver under a C$2bn 10-year rail development plan adopted by BC Transit. Part of a 25-year strategy to strengthen public transport services in a region of rapid urban growth, the plan envisages most riders reaching the stations by foot or feeder bus, rather than car.
Canada’s principal West Coast city is unique among North American urban centres of its size. While others suffered the disruption of urban freeway construction and the social and economic changes that followed, Vancouver held the road builders off at the city line.
This decision to avoid the typical North American over-dependence on the private car for urban mobility has been backed up by a strong commitment to public transport and an emphasis on regional land use planning which supports its use. Vancouver is one of the most heavily public transport-oriented cities of its size on the continent, preserving the region’s prized quality of life, and helping to develop exceptionally strong and vibrant urban centres.
For many years Vancouver relied on a network of buses and trolleybuses, together with the SeaBus ferry linking the city centre to North Vancouver across Burrard Inlet. But rapid population growth throughout the Greater Vancouver region requires higher-capacity rail solutions to ensure a high quality of public transport for the future. In the 30 years from 1961 the region’s population doubled from 800000 to 1.6 million; now approaching 2 million, the total is expected to reach 3 million by 2021.
Automated metro first
Vancouver began a shift to rail transport in the mid-1980s with the development of the fully-automated SkyTrain mini-metro, using UTDC (now Bombardier) advanced light rapid transit technology. An initial 21.4 km segment with 15 stations opened between Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster in January 1986. Subsequent extensions completed between 1989 and 1994 expanded the line to 28.9 km and 20 stations, crossing the Fraser River to Surrey on a 616m cable-stayed bridge.
Most of SkyTrain is on viaduct, although 1.6 km runs under the city centre in a former railway tunnel. The low profile of the ALRT vehicles permitted one track to be stacked above the other in the single-track bore. The line is normally operated in a fully automatic driverless mode, with radio-equipped roving attendants free to patrol trains and stations, conduct revenue inspection, assist passengers and respond to problems.
The initial fleet of 114 Mk I ALRT vehicles was later expanded to 150, and another 20 are to be added over the next five years. These 12.7m long lightweight cars each carry 75 passengers, and run in married pairs. Powered by underslung linear motors, they have steerable trucks. Seltrac automatic train control was supplied by Alcatel Canada. Trains run at a normal maximum speed of 80 km/h, at a base frequency of 5min, with peak headways averaging 2 min 30 sec.
SkyTrain has proved a resounding success, with ridership growing by more than 80% from 21.4 million passenger journeys in its first full year of operation to almost 39.2 million in the 1995-96 financial year. The benefits of automation have become more apparent as ridership has grown, as vehicle and staff productivity have increased and unit costs have fallen. Between 1987-88 and 1995-96 the average operating cost per passenger dropped by 25%, from C$1.22 to C$0.92.
West Coast Express
Vancouver’s second foray into urban rail services was the development of a 64 km commuter rail route running east into the Fraser River valley to serve a region suffering from severe highway congestion. Operating over the Canadian Pacific Railway main line between Vancouver and Mission, West Coast Express serves eight stations. The city terminus at Waterfront station provides connections with local bus services, SkyTrain and the SeaBus.
The commuter trains began running in November 1995, just 18 months after the British Columbia government reached an agreement with CPR to develop the service. Five 3200hp General Motors F59PHI locomotives and 28 Bombardier 148-seat bi-level coaches operate in push-pull configurations. A barrier-free fare collection system is used, with ticket vending machines that accept cash, debit or credit cards, or stored-value smart cards. West Coast Express was established by BC Transit as a separate operating company, but virtually all operations and maintenance services are provided under contract.
Five inbound trains run during the weekday morning peak period, and the same number head out again in the evening. Extra trains are operated for sports events at General Motors Place, and on Sundays during the summer months. Amenities such as work tables and computer hook-ups, bicycle storage and an on-train cappuccino coffee service have helped to make the service appealing to affluent suburban commuters. Last September West Coast Express began offering on-train college courses conducted by Capilano College.
Commuter rail ridership has grown by 30% since its first month, to a current level of about 6500 passengers on a typical week day. Of these, three-quarters have been attracted from driving their own cars. Traffic is close to reaching the capacity of the fleet at the current level of service, and capacity constraints in the busy CPR corridor will have to be addressed before additional peak period trains or mid-day, evening and weekend services can be run.
Light rail comes next
Medium-term and long-range development plans announced by the British Columbia government and BC Transit in September 1995 forecast considerable expansion of rail services within the Greater Vancouver area over the next 25 years, including up to five new lines.
BC Transit’s C$2 bn, 10-year rail development plan envisages construction of a 33 km light rail network linking regional and municipal town centres. An east-west LRT route will serve the heavily-used Broadway - Lougheed corridor southeast of the city centre, and a north-south route will link Coquitlam, Port Moody and New Westminster. The LRT will interchange with both SkyTrain and West Coast Express. As with the existing rail lines, a high proportion of LRT users are expected to arrive by feeder bus or on foot from high density residential developments around the stations.
The LRT is intended to operate effectively both on-street with frequent stops, as in the densely populated Broadway corridor, and at 70 or 80 km/h along dedicated rail rights-of-way or highway medians on suburban corridors. The cars are likely to be partial low-floor vehicles capable of high operating speeds, such as the Siemens SD600 recently introduced by Tri-Met in Portland, Oregon.
Environmental studies and preliminary engineering for the C$1.15bn LRT programme are now beginning, and should be complete within two years. Construction will start before the end of 1999, with 27route-km scheduled to open in 2005. This covers the whole of the Broadway - Lougheed line and the northern half of the Coquitlam - New Westminster line. The Lougheed - New Westminster segment will follow in 2008. Projected daily ridership for the full system is around 100000.
Paving the way for the light rail line, BC Transit has launched an express bus service aimed at boosting ridership in the Broadway -Lougheed corridor. Inaugurated in September 1996, Route 99 B-Line offers a frequent limited-stop service along the Broadway corridor from the University of British Columbia to Lougheed. During its first year of operation, 99 B-Line boosted daily ridership from 8000 to over 12000. BC Transit envisages launching a similar ’pre-LRT’ service between Coquitlam and New Westminster in 2000.
A 16.1 km north-south light rail line linking Vancouver and Richmond has been under discussion for many years, and is now likely to move into construction at a later stage of the 25-year long-term development plan. BC Transit’s 10-year plan envisages the introduction of a Rapid Bus service to Richmond as a precursor to the LRT. It will run from the rail/bus/ferry interchange at Waterfront across the city centre via Granville Street and then south to Richmond. Articulated, low-floor buses will run at 5 to 10 min headways, using automatic vehicle location, traffic signal pre-emption, and bus lanes to achieve end-to-end commercial speeds close to 30 km/h. The C$75m project is due to begin this year, with services to start at the end of 1999.
The 25-year plan also includes two feeder routes from the SkyTrain terminus at Surrey, which are also expected to begin as rapid bus routes in 2005-06 and then be converted to rail services. No decision has yet been taken as to whether they would be built as SkyTrain extensions or as classic light rail lines.
One route would run south for 9 km along King George Highway to Newton Town Centre and the Surrey Municipal Centre at Highway 10. The other could run east for about 4 km along 104 Avenue to Guilford Town Centre, where it will serve a park-and-ride terminal connected to the Trans-Canada Highway.
CAPTION: This spectacular cable-stayed bridge carries Vancouver’s SkyTrain mini-metro across the Fraser River between New Westminster and Surrey
CAPTION: No decision has yet been taken as to whether the extensions beyond Surrey should use SkyTrain or light rail technology
CAPTION: Public transport patronage in Vancouver remains high because of close integration of land use planning with rail and bus services
CAPTION: ALRT SkyTrain services currently handle almost 40 million passenger journeys a year (above), with the new West CoastExpress commuter service attracting over 6 500 passengers a day after just two years of operation (right)
CAPTION: Vancouver’s Waterfront terminus provides interchange between West Coast Express, SkyTrain and SeaBus services
Le métro léger doit compléter un réseau en expansion
Les études préliminaires portant sur deux lignes de métro léger à Vancouver, Colombie britannique, pour compléter le mini-métro SkyTrain existant et les lignes ferroviaires de banlieue du West Coast Express, ont démarré. Il est prévu que les travaux de construction commencent en 1999 avec les premières voitures à plancher bas roulant d’ici 2005. Trois autres corridors doivent être développés dans le cadre d’une stratégie de 25 ans pour les transports en commun
Stadtbahn soll expandierendes Verkehrsnetz bereichern
In Vancouver, British Columbia, haben vorbereitende Ingenieurarbeiten für zwei Stadtbahnlinien begonnen, die eine Ergänzung zu den vorhandenen SkyTrain- Kleinstadtbahn und der Pendlerzugstrecken von West Coast Express darstellen sollen. 1999 sollen die Bauarbeiten beginnen und die ersten Niederflurwagen werden bis zum Jahre 2005 in Betrieb genommen. Im Rahmen einer Massenverkehrsmittelstrategie über 25 Jahre sollen drei weitere Korridore ausgebaut werden
Trenes ligeros que expandir