Friday, August 19, 2011

LRT - what type of vehicle will be used?

The Rapid Transit recommendation report has a listing for a 40 meter long LRT carrying 230 passengers.   In looking at various LRTs currently being manufactured, this comes closest to this is the Bombardier Flexity Berlin - the longer model.     Given that the Feds are expected to cough up 1/3 of the capital costs I assume that effectively only Bombardier will be able to supply the vehicles

The Flexity Berlin carries 239 or 240 passengers depending on the configuration.   One configuration has 75 seats and space for up to 165 people to stand, the other has 88 seated and 151 standing.  Notice how many people are standing compared to seated capacity.

An interesting thing to note about LRT vehicles is that they normally are about 1/3 seated space and 2/3s standing space.    It also means that in peak hours the majority of people on the LRT will be standing for their trip if one gets anywhere close to capacity.   Not having a seat means you can not work on a computer, read a book or newspaper, or generally relax.   In a big city like London or New York people will put with being on the Tube or Subway without a seat, but as someone that lived in London and used the Tube, I switched to the buses so that I could have a seat - I was not alone in this.

Realistically few people are going to want to stand for half an hour or more on the LRT in their commute.   The LRT has to be viewed through the seated capacity as that is the trip that people will enjoy.

 The current major buses in Victoria are either 42%, 53% or 82% seated passengers.  At 82 seats, our current double decker buses have more seats than most LRTs.  The capacity for seated passengers is much higher under our current bus schedule than the LRT will allow for.  In fact our current peak hour seated capacity of the core buses running along Douglas is higher than highest possible seated capacity of the LRT if you were to run it at the absolute maximum frequency.   Maximum frequency is reached with 27 LRT vehicles.

There is a longer Flexity that has more seating, the Flexity Classic XXL.   It is 45 meters long and carries 260 passengers with 153 of them seated, this is a higher than normal portion of seated passengers.  It strikes me as a better fit for this region but still will not allow for as high a capacity as buses can achieve.  In general, as you increase the seating, the total capacity of the LRT vehicle goes down.

There is a good reason to consider a shorter LRT vehicle.    At 40 meters, the LRT vehicles are too long to allow for more than one per block in the downtown core.   This means there is a serious logistical problem with how frequently the LRT can run as they can only proceed forward when the next block is clear.   If the LRT vehicle was 36 meters long, two of them could fit per block.   The shorter Flexity Berlin comes in at 30.8 meters though only carries 180 passengers.

In future, I will be using the 40 meter version of the Flexity Berlin as the model for the LRT.  This means the capacity is 4.3% higher than the VRRTP report uses.
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