Thursday, January 17, 2008

Light Rail For Victoria - You Need Drugs To Think It Makes Sense

I am still amazed this idea has not been out to rest yet. There are so many problems with idea that I do not know where to begin.

Railcars - you need to buy these at a cost of twice as much per seat as a bus. Each 40 seat rail car will cost you more than a double decker bus. To make them worth their money, you need to make twice the use of them.

The Route - let us say that you can get the E and N line for free. The route would have to be significantly upgraded - at a minimum you need to double track the whole route, something that is not possible at various spots along the route. There are spots in Esquimalt where the buildings on either side are only 16 metres apart.

The route would also play havoc with traffic at numerous spots along the route. As an example at Esquimalt Road the line crosses in such a way as to an oblique and dramatic angle. To deal with this problem, a four lane over pass would have to be built for the road at a cost of tens of millions of dollars.

The end of the route would require something to be done about the pedestrian and cycle traffic over the Johnson Street bridge. The route from the roundhouse would have to single track. Only one train at a time could discharge in downtown at a time. This would limit how often trains could arrive downtown and limit the the capacity of the network. I suspect this would limit it to only once every 10 minutes. A four car train would bring in about 150 people if it was full. That would be less than 1000 people per hour into downtown.

You can also look at the intersection with Lampson or at Admirals. Both locations would have huge problems with traffic management. The only access to the Esquimalt Reserve would be effectively cut off unless you did some major road rebuilding. We have not even reached View Royal and the tab for simply managing the road issues is reaching something close to $100 000 000. This does not include anything to do with the actual cost of building the rail line needed.

In View Royal we have some interesting problems. Where do you put the station? There is no space at the Old Island Highway where the tracks go over the road unless you pave over Portage Park. The route would need several four bridges to be built one of which would be over 100 metres long.

The comes the nightmare corner - Goldstream and Veteran's Memorial Parkway. The cost to fix that location will be in the $50 000 000 to $100 000 000 range, assuming it is possible to do at all. The intersection of Jacklin and Dunford is not as bad, but still a problem.

Between CFB Esquimalt and the centre of Langford, the route has very limited density. In large part this is because people did not want to live next to the tracks. There is very little traffic to be picked up along the way.

If one were to only go as fas as Goldstream Ave and avoided that nightmare intersection, about 12 km of track would have to be built - yes, the whole track has to be rebuilt because it is not built to a standard to allow for trains moving at anything above a crawl. How much would it cost to built this 12 km commuter rail?

Rail cars - you would need about about 16 of them, this would cost you about $20 000 000
Intersection rebuilds would add another $100 000 000
12 km of double track rail would cost you about $50 000 000 - this assumes the engineering needs keep it all simple.
You would need to expand the right of way by about the equivalent of 100 city lots. That would run you another $50 000 000 - ball park.
A rail maintenance yard has to be built - $30 000 000

We where are we at cost-wise? $250 000 000. This is working from an existing right of way. If we push to another 2.5 km further westwards the costs rise to over $350 000 000.

That is a lot of money for 10 000 passenger trips a day. The interest on this amount would be about $13 000 000 a year, or about $4 per passenger trip.

What I have not even touched on is the higher operating cost of the trains when compared to buses.

At best you would be saving about 10 minutes on the bus. The time savings would be zero once there is a bus lane.

Everyone thinking about rail for this region needs to give their head a serious shake, it is fundamentally economically flawed.
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