Vancouver Is Not Serious About Rail
Looking at Wikipedia's timeline of the Canada Line decisions, we see that TransLink canceled the project twice and we know that in order to cut costs, InTransitBC changed the construction from bored tunnel along much of Cambie St. to cut and cover. We also know that the Canada Line trains are completely incompatible with existing SkyTrain tracks along the Expo Line and the Millennium Line, and even if they were compatible, the system was never designed to connect trains at Waterfront Station. (An engineer at an open house years ago, before construction even started, assured me that they could—or would—not build a tunnel with the radius required to connect.)
Visiting the Vancouver City Centre station as part of the open house today (my set on Flickr), I was shocked with the visual reminder of something I knew already: that trains would not be nearly as long as the existing SkyTrain systems. Roomier, as Jim Pick notes, but shorter. The stations constrain the size of the trains to the two car trains, where on the Expo Line and Millennium Line, 6 car trains can fit snugly, as we found out last winter. The dirty trains and security guards killing me with kindness, asking me in a friendly way where I was going when I just wanted a picture of the tunnel, dispel any enthusiasm I might have had for Canada Line and rail in general in the Lower Mainland.
Longish articles in The Walrus and The Tyee by Monte Paulsen detail how Canada missed its chance for a culture where rail transportation co-exists as a first-class citizen in our supposedly modern nation. The humming and hawing about a second train from Vancouver to Seattle illustrates how various levels of government don't want this anywhere near their electoral constituencies. The recent "cancellation" of the Evergreen Line further puts to rest any claim that the Lower Mainland at its various levels of government is serious about rail. For this fan of rail transportation (I bought the Microsoft Train Simulator game at the height of the popularity of first-person shooter Half Life: Counterstrike) I have to ask myself: do I wait for Vancouver and its surroundings to seriously commit to rail as a viable mode of transportation around and inside the city, or do I move to a metropolitan area that is already serious?
Thanks to Karen for letting me write on her blog. I know she's passionate about this city and its public transit system, and it comes through on her transit blog TransLinked. I love this city and its buses, trolleys, passenger ferries and yes, its various trains, including the often overlooked and underrated (and popular!) West Coast Express. I've even gone so far as to take a trip out to Port Moody for no other reason than to ride Vancouver's commuter rail. In my capacity as administrator of the Vancouver Transit group on Flickr, I want to document and show my respect and awe for TransLink's network of transportation methods, and I want the city and its environs to seriously consider streetcar, elevated and below grade rail as well as extensions of the WCE. I'm looking forward to what comes out of Vancouver's demonstration streetcar project during the Olympics, and see it as the right step towards a serious approach to mass transit in the city proper and the Metro Vancouver region. I don't have any other signs of this, however with the Canada Line and other proposed extensions to SkyTrain.