Public Transit
August 8, 2011

Canada Line Undersized?

A story in the Globe today on expansion of Canada Line service:

The Canada Line is increasing the intensity of its service on Wednesday, with more trains and longer peak service hours – an escalation that raises questions about the future expansion of the $2-billion system.

PROTRANS BC, the contractor that operates the system, will add two more trains to the 14 two-car trains it currently runs at peak hours, a shift expected to reduce wait times. …

This week’s service increase means 16 of 20 train sets will be in use at any given time, but capacity can be increased by putting more trains out, (Ken Hardie) said.

“Demand is going to be the variable we’re going to watch very carefully because every indication is that ridership is going to continue to grow.”

My take:

Gordon Price, a six-term Vancouver city councillor who is now director of the City Program on urban issues at Simon Fraser University, said he was not surprised by the uplift in service.

“The question now is, ‘Has the system been undersized?’ Are the platforms too small? Are we not building transit to the scale we may need it in the future?’ ”

Mr. Price, a frequent user of the system, noted that the plan to increase frequency doesn’t open options, for example, for expanding platforms to accommodate longer trains.

“I don’t think it’s an imminent crisis by any means, but it will be fascinating and I would say, given five years, it will be really clear whether we undersized the system,” he said. “If those are the problems of success we’ve got, we’re really doing great. I like those problems.”

Perhaps PT readers have some thoughts  on this ….

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An occasional update on items from the Transit City.

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THINKING OUT LOUD

Jarrett Walker contemplates the impact on transit of cuts in U.S. federal funding to American cities:

The transition to a more Canada-like Federal role would be hell.  Everyone involved is understandably horrified by the prospect, including me much of the time.  But if the Federal budget-slashers win, US cities and states will be on that course whether they like it or not.  Are we sure the eventual outcome would be a disaster?

More here in Human Transit.

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PLUG-IN MOBILITY

From Next American City:

Recently, Latitude released the results of its Tech for Transit: Designing a Future System open innovation study (published in collaboration with Next American City). The study, which asked regular drivers in Boston and San Francisco to go car-free for one full week, uncovered opportunities for mobile information to reduce our dependence on driving by improving the experience of taking more sustainable transit.

The study results are available here:

The Concept

We found that many of our study participants wanted a similar tool to help them make decisions about transit: a “one-stop information shop”—a mobile or Web application that would enable users to choose among multiple options (bus vs. car-sharing vs. train) by comparing schedules, cost, availability, and convenience.

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 HAPPY MAPPING

I ran this before, but worth another mention:

You have a couple hours to kill in a new city, but don’t have the slightest clue how long it will take you on public transportation to get to all the good tourist destinations. Mapnificent, a Google Maps-based program that shows how far you can go using public transportation in a certain amount of time, can help.

Still won’t work on the Explorer web browser, though.

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An occasional update on items from the Transit City.

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CLARITY

Sam Dal Monte, graduating from Emily Carr,  did a big project around “clarifying” transit in Vancouver.  Here’s a redesign of the bus-route map.

And SkyTrain:

Says Sam: “I conceived this project as a response to the often insufficient or confusing information design of Vancouver’s public transit service.  It also served as my homage to the information design of transit services in London, where I spent a year studying ….”

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TAKE-DOWN

Jarrett Walker, as several commentators note, does a brilliant take-down of an architectural approach to transit design.

In only five minutes, Gensler Architects of Los Angeles makes all the common “visionary urbanism” mistakes in thinking about transit.  Why you need to recognize them …

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An occasional update on items from the Transit City.

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BUS VERSUS TOY

Which is faster: a cross-town New York City bus or a Big Wheels toy?

You can guess the answer, can’t you – but it’s still fun to watch:

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A MONORAIL FOR DISNEY

Fascinating piece on how Disneyland acquired a monorail – “the first daily operating monorail in the western hemisphere.”

From Walt’s first sighting of the German monorail flying overhead while on vacation to the televised grand opening of the attraction with the Vice President of the United States (Richard Nixon, behind Disney, above) took less than one year. In that short time span the Imagineers engineered a functional suspension system, designed a beautiful train, installed the track, and tested the system so that it would be safe for the millions of passengers who would soon be riding. Imagine Disney trying to work on that timeline in this day and age. 

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OLD NEWS

From New Urban News:

A new report from the AARP Public Policy Institute – “How the Travel Patterns of Older Adults Are Changing,”  – predicts that older travelers will change the landscape of transportation in coming years:.

Transit use by people age 65+, as a share of all the trips they take, increased by a remarkable 40 percent between 2001 and 2009,” the report observes, adding, “This is particularly significant in light of previous declines in public transportation use among persons in this age group.” In past decades, people had made less, not more, use of transit as they got older.

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An occasional update on items from the Transit City.

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STREETCARS AND DNA

Okay, so I have this fetish about emphasizing the importance of the electric streetcar in creating Vancouver’s urban form.  But here’s a new high: getting it into an article on “What is wrong with the men in this town?” in the Tyee by Vanessa Richmond.  Another version in the Canadian edition of the HuffPost.

And even though people think of Vancouver as a dense, urban city (famous for Vancouverism and condos and what-not) it’s still “basically suburban,” (says Price).  It incorporated in 1886 and was one of the first cities on the continent to get a streetcar a year later. By 1890, they were building suburbs. We didn’t have row buildings (like Montreal or Toronto), we had houses and yards. “Young people come to the city to find DNA, and go back to the suburbs to make more of it,” says Price.

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COINCIDENCE?

I picked this up off Stephen Rees’s blog:

It illustrates the obvious, I suppose – how transportation and urban form are connected.  And which followed which?  But the overlap of rail and light from urban settlements is nonetheless surprising.

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TORONTO VERSUS THE WORLD

Lisa Rochon pens a nice indictment in the Globe and Mail of TO’s lack of strategy for better use of the public spaces that lie between the buildings (known as roads) – and more generally:

Canada has enjoyed economic good times over the last decade, but still there’s been an astounding blindness to the need to invest urgently in public transit.

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We’ve got Annals for Motordom and Annals for Cycling.  Isn’t it time Transit had its own Annals?

Yes, it is:

An occasional update on items from the Transit City.

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THE LAST DAYS OF THE STREETCARS

So we begin with the end – the end of the interurban and the streetcar system in Vancouver.  This now-classic colour footage from 1948-50 captures the look of the city and its people, and at the five-minute mark, the burning of the streetcars under the Burrard Bridge.

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SKYTRAIN BEFORE COMPUTER ANIMATION

Jason Vanderhill sent me something remarkable: 

What you’re looking at is a very early rendering of a SkyTrain Station, commissioned by the Austrian architecture firm Architektengruppe U-Bahn in 1982.

I simply love how various Germanic subtleties work their way into this drawing – the two lovely Edelweiss girls, the German Shepherd pursuing the Pomeranian, the brand new Mercedes SEC Coupe, and to draw your attention back to the focal point of the illustration, a little red van in the centre of the page that looks very much like a German fire truck to me! I instantly swooned when I saw the drawing!

These two drawings predate the name “SkyTrain” and would have been referred to as ALRT Stations. Their design was a joint venture between Architektengruppe U-Bahn of Vienna and Allen Parker & Associates of Vancouver. In the bottom right of the second drawing, I can just make out the name M. Stein, ’82.

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HOW RICHMOND BEATS VANCOUVER

The original Globe and Mail story is no longer available to non-subscribers, but this excerpt is worth repeating since it makes a nice addition to the post we did a few weeks ago on The End of No. 3 Road:

In many cities, the availability of rapid transit amid increasing gridlock becomes a draw for development.  Toronto’s subway system, for example, saw dramatic gentrification and growth in wealth along its routes over a 35-year period.  Not so in Metro Vancouver, where the Expo Line runs through some of the suburbs’ poorer and more development-neglected neighbourhoods.

…Vancouver urban planner Setty Pendakur notes there was never a push, from a government or zoning perspective, to increase density along the 24-year-old light-rail route.

Richmond is trying to make up for that. When the $2-billion Canada Line was under construction, the municipal government made a point of encouraging developers to build along the route.

“There’s going to be significant growth and redevelopment for the city centre,” says John Foster, manager of the city’s community and social development.  Now new residential and retail projects flank the light-rail line in areas that, according to the 2006 census, previously ranked as “low-income” or “very low-income.”

Gary Andrishak, for one, is optimistic. … “There’s been a willingness by the development community in Richmond to embrace this,” Mr. Andrishak said. “… A lot of the local developers were saying, ‘How close can I get to the station?’ “

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