2. Realities of Ground-Level Light Rail Construction

Contrary to what some believe, the construction of ground-level light rail is nearly just as time consuming and disruptive as cut and cover construction.   Surface light rail will also impact local businesses after construction in ways that are not anticipated.

1) The only remotely suitable corridor for ground level light rail is Broadway Street (and West 10th Avenue, west of Alma).

2) A large GVRD trunk sewer is located under Broadway, any rapid transit rail line located on the street will require a costly and time lengthy removal (via cut and cover trench) and relocation.

3) LRT on Broadway will require a construction timeline of approximately 2 years, a small improvement over cut and cover methodology.    Businesses will still be affected due to the inconveniences of street closures: parking lanes eliminated; street traffic reduced to two lanes, and fencing containing a construction zone dividing the street in half.

4) When completed, a majority of parking spaces along Broadway and the 10th Avenue corridor (west of Allma) will be loss.   In addition, traffic lanes will be reduced significantly (mainly 2-lanes throughout much of the corridor).

Below is a link to the 1999/2000 Millennium Line Phase II report, favouring SkyTrain over LRT (Adobe PDF file, 5.2mb):


An LRT excerpt from the report:

B. Light Rail Transit (LRT)

The LRT alternative evaluated in this study is a fair representation of the range of LRT designs that meet the planning objectives of the City and Region, but is not meant to be the preferred LRT design concept. This alternative was developed under a set of parameters provided by the project TAC and Steering Committee. These included development of an LRT concept generally contained within the current right-of-way, and in some instances within the existing curb-to-curb envelope. Other guidance included retention of two through travel lanes in each
direction west of Macdonald, and retention of left turn lanes at major intersections.
Should LRT be selected as the preferred technology, a more detailed study and comparison of LRT options will be undertaken. Specific design elements requiring resolution include the width of station platforms at the Commercial, Columbia, Willow, Oak, and Granville stations. Station platforms located at Fraser and Sasamat will require special attention, due to the grades in these areas. The transition from Broadway to 10th at Alma Street warrants added exploration of options to accommodate the auto, bus, pedestrian, and LRT requirements in this

Service Concept – The LRT alternative is designed to serve the dual function of serving regional trips headed to major destinations within the Broadway/Lougheed corridor, and also to provide local circulation within the Central Broadway area. Station spacing will average 400 metres east of Arbutus (2 to 3 blocks), while station spacing west of Arbutus will be much less frequent (6 to 8 blocks). While operating at street level within a mixed automobile and pedestrian environment, the light rail alternative would employ a number of measures to make operations as time-competitive as possible. These measures include a raised rail median to provide separation from auto traffic in order to allow the trains to operate without interacting with encroaching traffic. At signalized intersections, the trains would receive preference in terms of either advancing or holding signals to allow trains to proceed without significant delay. Proof-of-payment fare collection would allow all-door loading on one side, thereby reducing station dwell time. The use of low-floor vehicles would also foster faster loading, further reducing the stop dwell times.

Alignment – The LRT alignment alternative evaluated would operate on Broadway between Commercial and Alma, on Alma between Broadway and 10th, on 10th between Alma and Blanca, and on University Boulevard from Blanca to the west terminal on the UBC campus. The alignment on Alma, although geometrically possible, would impact traffic substantially, suggesting that other options, including a diagonal alignment through the block east of Alma, be explored if LRT were to be pursued. (See linear maps that follow.)

StationsStations would be located at Commercial, Clark, Fraser, Main, Columbia, Cambie, Willow, Oak, Birch, Granville, Burrard, Arbutus, Macdonald, Alma, Sasamat and UBC. Due to the constrained right of way available to accommodate sidewalks, parking, auto lanes, the rail alignment, and station platforms, some areas required that minimum widths be used. The Columbia Station may need to be moved or property acquired to provide added platform width. Platforms were laid out in a number of configurations, including single center platforms, dual side-by-side platforms, near side or far side platforms, and offset or shadowed platforms. The platform widths vary, although attempts were made to provide greater widths at major transfer points. High frequency service will

somewhat offset the need for greater platform width. Given the median rail alignment, platforms will require designs that protect passengers from adjacent traffic as well as to prevent spray from passing traffic. To accommodate a proof-of-payment system, platforms would be equipped with ticket vending machines and validators, as well as sheltered waiting areas, information systems, and lighting.

Operations – The LRT alternative would operate between Commercial to UBC with each train making all stops. Service would be provided by two-car trains during most hours, although single-car operation may be sufficient during some

periods. Two-car trains provide a practical capacity in the range of 320 passengers. During peak hours, 3 minute headways would be provided, with 5 to 10 minute service midday, evenings, and Saturdays; and 10 to 15 minute service during late nights and on Sundays. The proof-of-payment system would allow use of all doors for loading, resulting in an average dwell time of 20 seconds. Maximum speed of the system would be 50 km/hour.

Vehicles – To size the system and establish vehicle capacity, this study assumed commonly used North American light rail vehicles. The standard width of light rail cars is 2.65 metres; lengths vary with most cars in the range of 26 to 28 metres. Low floor cars are recommended because they reduce the loading time at stops for all passengers. Narrower vehicles in the range of 2.4 metres are potentially available, although not common in the North American market. The advantage of narrower vehicles is the reduced space required, in the range of .8 metres, for a two-track alignment. Such space could be allocated to wider platforms or sidewalks. The disadvantage of the narrower cars is the loss of seating and on-board circulation space. The latter is a particularly important consideration for service with relatively frequent stops and high levels of on and off riders.

Connecting and Local Transit Service – The LRT alternative would connect to North-South Rapid Transit service either at Cambie (SkyTrain from Richmond to downtown Vancouver) or Arbutus (LRT from Richmond to downtown Vancouver).  Parallel local service would be provided between Boundary and Main by Route 9. Route 10 would provide local service between Granville and UBC. Given the LRT station spacing, Route 9 service would be discontinued between Main and Granville. Routes 42, 3, 20, 51, 16, 17, 19, 15, 50, and 8 would provide additional connecting local bus service.Traffic, Parking and AccessThe LRT alternative would provide for two continuous through travel lanes in each direction between Commercial and Trafalgar. Between Trafalgar and UBC the design retains a single travel lane in each direction, with left turn lanes at major intersections. At all station locations, on-street parking would be removed to accommodate auto lanes, rail right of way, station platforms, and sidewalks. In many sections parking would be eliminated or reduced to one side of the street. Parking would be retained on both sides of
Broadway between Trafalgar and Alma.
Minor, unsignalized streets and midblock access driveways would be converted to right-in and right-out in order to prevent uncontrolled crossing of the rail alignment.
The following drawings illustrate the light rail alignment, travel lane configuration, and parking and access restrictions. Conceptual design of light rail platform layouts follow for several station locations.

Right of Way and Property – The LRT conceptual alternative would require acquisition of property at two locations along the alignment, otherwise the alignment will be built within current public right of way. These locations are on the
south side of Broadway between Kingsway and Main, and on the southeast quadrant of the Broadway and Cambie intersection. In addition, property will be required to accommodate a maintenance and operations facility, which will include the storage of vehicles.

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