Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Surrey still pushing for LRT any way they can get it

Surrey BC - A news story from the Peace Arch News reports on Light Rail Transit (LRT) proponents that are brandishing a new consultant report in their fight to get LRT in their community.

The City of Surrey commissioned a report that looked at a scaled back version of the 27-km Translink plan. The Surrey plan was a fraction of the length and assumed single track operation. The Translink proposal would have run between $360 - $700 million (CAD) while the shorter Surrey proposal would run around $110 - $150 million (CAD).

There has been a new catch phrase born to identify this type of rail line, "community rail". It sounds like something a Liberal would dream up since it conjures up warm and fuzzy images of a quaint trolley line connecting small towns together. Will we all have to hold hands and sing peace songs too if it's built?

A major problem is that you have single track operation in the Surrey proposal. It's disaster in the making. No, I'm not talking accidents. I'm talking about service delays. One mishap and the entire line can be closed for hours. Systems foolish enough to build a single track LRT line soon find out that single track operations are a major headache and detrimental to the line. Most systems that have single track only have it due to geography issues where double tracking is impossible and hold single tracking to a bare minimum.

I have read some other articles on a LRT proposal for the Surrey area, which was called the "Evergreen LRT" line proposal if I recall correctly. It proved too costly and didn't generate the projected ridership numbers to build even with the transit industry's technique of artificially shaving costs down and inflating projected ridership numbers.

At least the city is attempting to do its homework and realizes that the operating costs of approximately $6 million (CAD) a year will be a big problem. Estimating only a 20 to 30 percent recovery from the fare box, the local government would be left to foot millions of dollars each year to run the line.

I did like what city Engineer General Manager Paul Ham told council in his report. He recommended shelving the rail idea because of the costs as well as creating expectations that may not be achievable and diverting money from other area projects.

The thought on creating expectations that aren't achievable hits at the core of the LRT proponent's argument. Unrealistic expectations are what surround many of the rail proposals around North America. The general public is routinely sold a load of bull regarding economic boom times, development, cleaner air, less congestion, and other unrealistic goals on each and every rail line that is proposed by rail activists and politicians that want something to have for their legacy.

The fact of the matter is that you don't have economic boom times. You end up paying more through taxes to support these expensive projects. You may get some development but it can take decades and most often, the general public pays again through giving massive tax breaks and even low-interest loans which are rarely repaid as well as grants to developers to build something near a rail station. Rail doesn't effect the air quality enough to even measure and there are many reports across North America of increased traffic congestion once an LRT line is built.

What I see here is another example of politicians and activists doing anything they can to get an LRT line built when it's really not needed. The rail activists and politicians pushing for this proposal really need to just let it die. Try improving what you have already as the expensive toys won't solve any of the problems in the area. Surrey politicians and area rail activists get the Lance for continuing to try and push this unneeded project.

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