Saturday November 27, 2010


Clearing The Air

Eco-Logic's Macdonald talks about the three R's

Submitted by Myrtle Macdonald


ear Dedicated Waste and Pollution Reduction Advocates: At least I hope you are dedicated and sincere. I live in Chilliwack, BC. I am a member of the environmental umbrella group, eco-logicBC.


West coast air seems pristine in Metro Vancouver, BC and more polluted. Yes, there appears to have been some slight improvement. There was less brown smog the last two summers, but, all year round, deafness and dizziness, due to blocked ear canals, burning eyes, running noses and sinus headaches as well as asthma, COPD, respiratory, cardiac and arthritic diseases, continue to rise alarmingly.

Schemes to send Vancouver garbage to the USA via Sumas crossing, or to central BC via Merritt, have disgusted nearly half a million people who live in the upper Fraser valley. Similarly we are against schemes to incinerate Metro Vancouver garbage using "modern" methods. The slightest production of fine particlulates and fumes will continue to escalate our respiratory diseases. Nearly everyone living in Chilliwack has frequent respiratory, ear and eye irritations, allergies and infections.

What Can be Done to Reduce Air Pollution? Much can be done to cut back on waste and therefore air pollution, as follows:

1. Legislate to reduce use of paper and plastic on packaging of tools, toilet articles, food and clothing.

2. Require manufacturers to take back their used packages and bottles, and pay refunds. The current charge for juice and pop containers should be discontinued.

3. Require recycling depots to be less selective. They should be required to accept and pay for all brands of tins, bottles, waxed paper cartons, plastics, Styrofoam and lids. They pay too little, so many people do not bother to return their empties.

4. Outlaw the production and use of Styrofoam and other non-recyclable and unlabled plastics.

5. Subsidize industries to build faux lumber, furniture, textiles, etc. from used plastics and Styrofoam.

6. Cut back on production of junk snacks and food - by educating people that white four, packaged cereals and cookies are seriously lacking in nutrition. More than 30 nutrients are removed to increase shelf life. It is deceitful to claim they are enriched by the adding five vitamins and minerals.

7. Require schools to outlaw vending machines for pop, chips, snacks and sandwiches made of white flour and hydrogenated fat. Supply more attractive water fountains, urns and ceramic cups for milk instead of individual waxed paper cartons or plastic glasses.

8. Educate people, instead of plastic bottles of water, to use glass jugs and glasses for water in schools, work places, conferences and in their cars.

9. To cut back on wasteful tin cans, popularize cooking of soups, using inexpensive lentils and bits of vegetables and homegrown herbs. This is easy and quick to do, and tastier and more nutritious than canned soup.

10. Cut back the destruction of forests for newsprint for newspapers, by making it illegal to print full page or even half-page ads. Perhaps use pine beetle damaged wood to make newsprint.

11. Quickly subsidize new industries to use pine beetle damaged wood, to slow down carbon dioxide pollution of the air.

12. Have utilities and businesses use letter size instead of business size envelopes, and half a page instead of 6 X 11 inch stationary for statements, as in England.

13. Do a blitz against hospitals and Home Care for adding vast amounts of plastic and paper wrappers to garbage. I am a retired nurse. We used to sterilize dressings, gloves and syringes in cloth wrappers that we reused hundreds of times before they wore out. We sharpened needles and patched gloves and resterilized them many times.

14. Subsidize industries that are trying to set up geothermal, wind, wave and solar energy.

15. Don't subsidize private hydro schemes, because they are not designed to cut back on destruction of the environment.

16. Last but not least, please do your utmost to influence Metro Vancouver to spend money on light rail and trams, which do not pollute the air or cost anywhere near as much as sky trains, bridges and highway upgrading and maintenance. Light trains will cut back the use of cars and trucks and air pollution. That would cut down on air pollution and overuse of highways to get students to six university-colleges, located near the rail line south of the Fraser River. Most Chilliwack and Abbotsford commuters also work south of the Fraser river, not in Vancouver, so many would be able to travel by train to work. Those who few who work in Vancouver could take the light railway to Scott Road and the sky train from there. The Southern Railway rail line is conveniently located and in excellent condition, daily carrying heavy freight and even some refrigerated cars to and from Canada, anywhere in the USA (via Huntingdon - Sumas) and China (via the seaport on Annacis Island, near Vancouver).

US locomotives are repaired and rebuilt in BC. BC owns the right of way and it would cost very little to supply a few guarded level crossings (about $250,000 each), deisel electric passenger cars and tram style shelters. Surrey and Langley residents want a network of connected tram lines, not an expensive sky train on only one corridor. Between Chilliwack and Abbotsford the Southern Railway line is conveniently located to provided public transport for all university and college students south of the Fraser River, farmers, tourists to Cultus Lake, Chilliwack Lake, Harrision Lake and Minter Gardens. See the excellent recently released Leewood Projects feasibility study attached.

Light Rail Background

Groundbreaking report on Interurban light rail – released September 21 2010

Rail For The Valley is extremely excited to announce the release of a comprehensive independent analysis of the potential for light rail service on the existing and publicly owned Interurban Rail Corridor, connecting communities from Chilliwack to Vancouver with an affordable, sustainable public transportation system. The study, now complete, was performed by Leewood Projects.

Click here to download the full 84 page report

About Leewood Projects

Leewood Projects is a British-based company that has professional expertise in light rail solutions, providing comprehensive project management and planning services to the international railway industry. Leewood Projects has in the past had involvement in prestigious rail projects such as the Channel Tunnel.

Highlights of the the report:

  • TramTrain technology: Track-sharing the existing Interurban rail line with freight operations.

  • 20 minute (peak), 30 minute (off-peak) all-day service.

  • An analysis of the track and needed upgrades.

  • Railway stations designed as community gathering points. 10 full stations and 8 Tram Stops.

  • A detailed Journey Time matrix for stops along the line.

  • Total journey time between Surrey Scott Rd. SkyTrain Station and downtown Chilliwack: 90.5 minutes.

  • Future proposed expansions of the line: Downtown Vancouver (Stage 2) and Rosedale (Stage 3).

  • A detailed capital cost breakdown for the entire project.

Total capital costs:

Stage 1 Phase 1 (Diesel Light Rail) 98 km Scott Rd. – Chilliwack: $492 million

Stage 1 Phase 2 (Electrification) 98 km Scott Rd. – Chilliwack: $114 million

Stage 2 Proposal – 28 km Extension to Downtown Vancouver: $363 million

Stage 3 Proposal – 12 km Extension to Rosedale: $28 million

"This is the most comprehensive light rail study ever undertaken in this province, performed by a company with professional expertise in light rail solutions. This report at long last provides us with an honest accounting of the potential for light rail service on the Interurban corridor." - John Buker, Founder, Rail For The Valley

Since the spring of 2008, the Light Rail Committee has circulated an E-Mail sent by American transit and transportation expert, Gerald Fox to a Victoria transit group that wants to promote LRT and TramTrain in the Capital Region. Mr. Fox easily shreds TransLink’s business case for the Evergreen Line which should forewarn transit groups and regional politicians in the Fraser Valley that TransLink easily manipulates statistics to favour SkyTrain to the detriment of light-rail and is not to be trusted with any transit study. The following is the text of the E-Mail and for those lobbying for the return of the Interurban, just substitute the Fraser Valley for Victoria.

The letter, first published in in this blog December 27th, 2008 is reprinted in light of this weeks meeting of regional mayors with Transportation Minister Shirley Bond and the Premier of BC, regarding funding for the Evergreen Line.

The question is basic: If TransLink’s business case for the Evergreen line is dishonest, then would a funding formula for the Evergreen line be equally dishonest?

From: A North-American Rail Expert (Gerald Fox)

Subject: Comments on the Evergreen Line “Business Case”

Date: February 6, 2008 12:15:22 PM PST (CA)


The Evergreen Line Report made me curious as to how TransLink could justify continuing to expand SkyTrain, when the rest of the world is building LRT. So I went back and read the alleged “Business Case” (BC) report in a little more detail. I found several instances where the analysis had made assumptions that were inaccurate, or had been manipulated to make the case for SkyTrain. If the underlying assumptions are inaccurate, the conclusions may be so too. Specifically:

Capacity. A combination of train size and headway. For instance, TriMet’s new “Type 4″ Low floor LRVs, arriving later this year, have a rated capacity of 232 per car, or 464 for a 2- car train. (Of course one must also be sure to use the same standee density when comparing car capacity. I don’t know if that was done here). In Portland we operate a frequency of 3 minutes downtown in the peak hour, giving a one way peak hour capacity of 9,280. By next year we will have two routes through downtown, which will eventually load both ways, giving a theoretical peak hour rail capacity of 37,000 into or out of downtown. Of course we also run a lot of buses.

 The new Seattle LRT system which opens next year, is designed for 4-car trains, and thus have a peak hour capacity of 18,560. (but doesn’t need this yet, and so shares the tunnel with buses). The Business Case analysis assumes a capacity of 4,080 for LRT, on the Evergreen Line which it states is not enough, and compares it to SkyTrain capacity of 10400.!

Speed. The analysis states the maximum LRT speed is 60 kph. (which would be correct for the street sections) But most LRVs are actually designed for 90 kph. On the Evergreen Line, LRT could operate at up to 90 where conditions permit, such as in the tunnels, and on protected ROW. Most LRT systems pre-empt most intersections, and so experience little delay at grade crossings. (Our policy is that the trains stop only at stations, and seldom experience traffic delays. It seems to work fine, and has little effect on traffic.) There is another element of speed, which is station access time. At-grade stations have less access time. This was overlooked in the analysis.

Also, on the NW alignment, the SkyTrain proposal uses a different, faster, less-costly alignment to LRT proposal. And has 8 rather than 12 stations. If LRT was compared on the alignment now proposed for SkyTrain, it would go faster, and cost less than the Business Case report states!

 Cost. Here again, there seems to be some hidden biases. As mentioned above, on the NW Corridor, LRT is costed on a different alignment, with more stations. The cost difference between LRT and SkyTrain presented in the Business Case report is therefore misleading. If they were compared on identical alignments, with the same number of stations, and designed to optimize each mode, the cost advantage of LRT would be far greater. I also suspect that the basic LRT design has been rendered more costly by requirements for tunnels and general design that would not be found on more cost-sensitive LRT projects.

Then there are the car costs. Last time I looked, the cost per unit of capacity was far higher for SkyTrain. Also,it takes about 2 SkyTrain cars to match the capacity of one LRV. And the grade-separated SkyTrain stations are far most costly and complex than LRT stations. Comparing 8 SkyTrain stations with 12 LRT stations also helps blur the distinction.

Ridership. Is a function of many factors. The Business Case report would have you believe that type of rail mode alone, makes a difference (It does in the bus vs rail comparison, according to the latest US federal guidelines). But, on the Evergreen Line, I doubt it. What makes a difference is speed, frequency (but not so much when headways get to 5 minutes), station spacing and amenity etc. Since the speed, frequency and capacity assumptions used in the Business Case are clearly inaccurate, the ridership estimates cannot be correct either. There would be some advantage if SkyTrain could avoid a transfer. If the connecting system has capacity for the extra trains. But the case is way overstated.

 And nowhere is it addressed whether the Evergreen Line, at the extremity of the system, has the demand for so much capacity and, if it does, what that would mean on the rest of the system if feeds into?

Innuedos about safety, and traffic impacts, seem to be a big issue for SkyTrain proponents, but are solved by the numerous systems that operate new LRT systems (i.e., they can’t be as bad as the SkyTrain folk would like you to believe).

 I’ve no desire to get drawn into the Vancouver transit wars, and, anyway, most of the rest of the world has moved on. To be fair, there are clear advantages in keeping with one kind of rail technology, and in through-routing service at Lougheed. But, eventually, Vancouver will need to adopt lower-cost LRT in its lesser corridors, or else limit the extent of its rail system. And that seems to make some TransLink people very nervous.

It is interesting how TransLink has used this cunning method of manipulating analysis to justify SkyTrain in corridor after corridor, and has thus succeeded in keeping its proprietary rail system expanding. In the US, all new transit projects that seek federal support are now subjected to scrutiny by a panel of transit peers, selected and monitored by the federal government, to ensure that projects are analysed honestly, and the taxpayers’ interests are protected. No SkyTrain project has ever passed this scrutiny in the US. 


But the BIG DEAL for Victoria is: If the Business Case analysis were corrected to fix at least some of the errors outlined above, the COST INCREASE from using SkyTrain on the Evergreen Line will be comparable to the TOTAL COST of a modest starter line in Victoria. This needs to come to the attention of the Province. Victoria really does deserve better. Please share these thoughts as you feel appropriate.


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