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Edmonton LRT
#1
Tristin Hopper: The $600 million Edmonton train that snarls traffic, slows down transit times and increases emissions

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[url=http://news.nationalpost.com/author/tristinhopper]Tristin Hopper
 | January 5, 2016 10:51 AM ET


Canada needs public transit. We have clogged roads, densifying cities and — save for this weird Saudi Arabian orchestrated oil glut — rising fuel prices.
Bike lanes won’t fix it and new highways won’t fix it; the only way we can live in a Canada that isn’t a squished, congested mess is if we spruce up the place with a whole bunch of trains, buses and subways.
Which is why, to ensure the prosperous and happy future of this great country, we must all now take a look at the City of Edmonton and solemnly vow to do the exact opposite of whatever the hell they just did with their new $665 million Metro Line LRT.

Quote:Edmonton’s LRT project is the equivalent of a candy company releasing a new chocolate bar called Herpes Al-Qaeda

It’s slower than a bus. It has slowed down the buses that existed. And it is almost certainly increasing Edmonton’s net amount of carbon emissions. In short, it fails on every single possible justification for why cities should build light rail.

I am a fervent — almost fanatical — supporter of public transit. I’ve taken pleasure trips to foreign cities largely to soak up the sublime efficiency of an S-Bahn or a New York City A-train. But lately  I have trouble sleeping until I comfort myself with visions of the Metro Line LRT tracks being torn up, French résistance-style, so the tyrannical train can never, ever run again.
“We fully respect that it’s different and taking longer,” said Craig Walbaum, Edmonton’s director of traffic engineering, shortly after the train’s September launch.

Quote:But before designing a single new subway line or streetcar lane, be cognizant of one ironclad maxim; don’t let idiots build your transit.

The chief problem is that the train was built at grade and cleaves through several major intersections. Traffic needs to be halted well in advance of its arrival, leading to the Kafkaesque nightmare of an intersection where all sides are given a red light for up to 90 seconds before a train arrives (if it does at all).


I’ve personally clocked a six-minute wait. A co-worker clocked an incredible 12 minutes. Online, disbelieving drivers have taken to Reddit to report waits of 15 minutes.
To put it in context, that’s about half the time needed to cross the entire city by highway from one “Welcome to Edmonton” sign to the other.


During these frequent traffic stoppages, a huge swath of northern Edmonton becomes a gridlocked nightmare of idling cars, trucks and city buses.
I’ve counted as many as four buses filled with a cumulative 40 people forced to wait the entire length of Gordon Lightfoot’s Canadian Railroad Trilogy (6:22) just so a train can pass by carrying fewer than half a dozen passengers.
The delays are so bad, in fact, that Edmonton has had to add six new buses to the schedule — at the cost of several extra bathtubs of diesel fuel per week.
But at least the train passengers are getting a speedy ride to downtown, right? Nope. Say I want to go from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology to pay a visit to my local Postmedia property, the Edmonton Journal.
Just after 5 p.m., I board the LRT at an on-campus station and arrive 17 minutes later at a stop almost within sight of the Journal. If I take the good old-fashioned number nine bus instead, I make the trip in 14 minutes — a savings of 20 per cent.
And did I mention that the Metro Line is right next to a major hospital? Ambulances can’t drive through railway barriers, even if they’re in a hurry. Thus, any Edmontonian unlucky enough to have a stroke in one of the northwestern quadrants of the city must wait as paramedics wend a circuitous route through downtown.
Taken together, the whole project is the equivalent of a candy company releasing a new chocolate bar called Herpes Al-Qaeda. I struggle to understand how such an obviously horrific idea was able to pass so many levels of approval and be unleashed on an innocent and unsuspecting citizenry. And I’ve lived in Toronto.
Part of the problem is that a Thales Canada-designed signalling system continues to malfunction, limiting trains to a top speed of 25 km/h (I cycle during the winter, and can outpedal the things).
But more amazingly, Edmonton officials knew full well this traffic apocalypse was coming. In fact, they thought it would be worse.
nton Mayor Don Iveson: OK, so this thing isn't a total disaster
According to city estimates released just before the first trains started rolling in September, vehicles were expected to be waiting 16 minutes every time the train passed. During peak hours, cars would have to wait up to four light cycles — a level of congestion virtually unknown in the relatively traffic-free Alberta capital.
Oh, and the new system breaks down all the time (11 times in November), leaving intersections clogged interminably until somebody figures out what’s wrong.
“Anyone dead?” Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson asked a December council meeting during a discussion of the ongoing Metro Line crisis.
When the answer came back negative, he responded, “okay, so this thing is not a total disaster.”

Well sure, but let’s conservatively estimate that 40 vehicles are forced to wait six minutes every time the train goes by. If each of those cars only has one passenger, that’s four hours of wasted human life with every passage of the Metro Line LRT.
At 70 trips daily, that’s 280 hours of life a day. So every year, under optimum conditions the Metro Line LRT extinguishes enough human existence to equal the total waking life of a 15-year-old.
And that’s not even accounting for the spiritual cost of idling at an intersection with no green lights, staring at a track with no train and wondering at the cruel deity who forsook you.

By all accounts, Canada stands on the cusp of a transit infrastructure boom akin to the highway-building boom of the 1950s.
We have a Liberal government that has pledged to build $6 billion of public transit over the next four years, and $20 billion by 2025. We are seeing the imposition of carbon taxes and climate change legislation that make the economics of public transit more feasible than ever. And we are seeing a generation of new transit-riding workers who are happy to  shun driver’s licenses altogether.
But before designing a single new subway line or streetcar lane, be cognizant of one ironclad maxim; don’t let idiots build your transit.
Recently, a referendum to fund critical Metro Vancouver transportation infrastructure with a sales tax levy was roundly rejected. The “no” vote succeeded largely on the strength of a campaign led by the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation to convince Metro Vancouverites that TransLink, the regional transit authority, was full of untrustworthy spendthrifts.
I suspect the people of Edmonton would be similarly sympathetic to such a claim. They live in a city, after all, that openly agreed to keep them away from their family for an extra 32 minutes each day as penance for running a near-empty 25 km/h train to downtown. 
It’s why I urge you, policymakers of Canada; come to Edmonton. Examine its failure. Immerse yourself in its incompetence. Gawk at its ineptitude.
Because if this happens again, good luck trying to convince decent, right-thinking people that a light-rail project will bring them anything except misery and pain.
National Post
thopper@nationalpost.com
Twitter.com/TristinHopper
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I used to be the mayor of sim city. I know what I am talking about.
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#2
Interesting article. For your review
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I used to be the mayor of sim city. I know what I am talking about.
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#3
It's already making the rounds at my Stephen-Harper-was-too-left-wing automation company.
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#4
Speed limit is 25km/h !

Little wonder it's a failure.
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#5
So... what do we need to do to ensure that ION is held up as an example of the opposite end of the spectrum?

Building it grade-separated seems to be a good start. Building it through areas that area already congested at peak means people waiting for a train signal will be used to the idle wait (I kid! ...or do I?) . It'll be faster than 25km/h, according to all the documentation we've been permitted to read.

What else do we need?
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#6
(01-05-2016, 04:06 PM)chutten Wrote: Building it grade-separated seems to be a good start

Oh snap!
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#7
All that huffing and puffing in the article, and basically... yes, the signalling system is still broken.  Everything that is being complained about is that the signalling system on the 2 km extension is indeed still broken, meaning that the crossings are being ultra-conservative.

It's a known issue, and one day it will be fixed.  it's either this, or Mr. Hopper would instead be writing an article about the huge waste of money of all this rail infrastructure that's not being used at all.  (Something that was indeed written constantly about, as it sat idle for a year)

I've driven a little in Edmonton, and along the older sections of the line wait times aren't nearly as bad as described here. The arms come down, the train passes promptly, the arms go back up.

[also I've retitled the thread given that this is our de facto Edmonton LRT thread]
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#8
So, tempest in a teapot, then. I sort of figured.

Bizarre that these signaling issues still haven't been fixed after so long, though.
My Twitter: @KevinLMaps
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#9
(01-05-2016, 05:14 PM)KevinL Wrote: So, tempest in a teapot, then. I sort of figured.

Bizarre that these signaling issues still haven't been fixed after so long, though.

Sounds like another software project that's over budget and over deadline. But software projects aren't alone in being over budget and over deadline.
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#10
(01-06-2016, 12:54 AM)plam Wrote: Sounds like another software project that's over budget and over deadline. But software projects aren't alone in being over budget and over deadline.
While other professionals like architects and civil engineers may have invented the concept, we software engineers perfected the art Wink
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#11
LRT won’t snarl intersections like Edmonton system


Waterloo Region Record
By Paige Desmond


WATERLOO REGION — Regional officials are assuring the public that light rail trains won't jam traffic and cause the type of delays at intersections that have plagued Edmonton's system.
"Our philosophy on this has been we need to balance," said Thomas Schmidt, commissioner of transportation and environmental services. "It's not just the trains. There's still cars out there, there's buses, there's pedestrians and we need to have that balance."
Delays of up to 15 minutes for traffic have been reported for the Edmonton system, which was built in phases over several years.
Schmidt said the Edmonton system is using outdated technology for older portions of its rail line that don't integrate with the new portions.
At the same time, Edmonton light rail drivers are determining when to stop vehicle traffic and the signalling system has slowed trains to just 25 km/h.
Here, signal controls at intersections in Kitchener and Waterloo will be controlled by a computer system, Schmidt said. Train operators will be able to decide whether to stop or go at a traffic signal, the same as someone in a car or a bus driver might.
The Waterloo spur line is an exception. What's called an automated train protection system will be installed there so while the operator is technically in control, if a red light is run the train stops automatically.
Gates to stop traffic and allow trains to pass through intersections shouldn't be down for more than 30 seconds and trains may not automatically get priority over other traffic.
"We could run the system that way, but that would potentially disadvantage the rest of the transportation system," Schmidt said.
Schmidt said the region wants to instead integrate train and car signals to keep traffic flowing. Trains would get a priority signal only if they were behind on their route, similar to bus priority lanes on Hespeler Road in Cambridge.
Coun. Tom Galloway said he expects there will be an adjustment period for non-train traffic when the light rail is up and running in late 2017. He is confident residents can adapt.
"People are used to doing certain things — cars, pedestrians. When you introduce a train in the environment, obviously it's going to take some adjustment," he said.
The average on-road speed of the trains will be about 50 km/h on the 19 kilometres of track between Conestoga Mall in Waterloo and Fairview Park mall in Kitchener.
Speeds in areas with significant pedestrian traffic such as Waterloo Town Square or for pulling into stations will be slower, but in less congested pedestrian areas speeds could be increased to about 70 km/h, Schmidt said.
The full round trip from Conestoga Mall to Fairview Park mall in Kitchener and back is expected to take about 95 minutes.
To ensure all traffic flows smoothly, there are rules in the region's contract with construction consortium GrandLinq about how the system performs. If they don't perform, there are penalties.
According to the agreement, the system "shall allow (light rail vehicles) to be consistently served without significant delay to general traffic at signalized intersections."
There will also be several trial runs to work out kinks in the system well before service starts.
"Our goal would be to run perfectly from Day 1 … but you have to be prepared that there might be some hiccups along the way and we'll have to solve those," Schmidt said.

pdesmond@therecord.com , Twitter: @DesmondRecord
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I used to be the mayor of sim city. I know what I am talking about.
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#12
It is interesting that this article showed up in the record after the alarm raising article about the Edmonton LRT from the National Post.

Has anyone seen the quoted trip time before? This is new information for me. I compared it to the current system via Google maps and note a bus trip between these two locations is currently 49 minutes. By private car, 13.

Does anyone have an opinion on the 47.5 minute trip time? I had hoped it would have been quicker.
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I used to be the mayor of sim city. I know what I am talking about.
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#13
(01-08-2016, 07:25 PM)Drake Wrote: Does anyone have an opinion on the 47.5 minute trip time? I had hoped it would have been quicker.

The Region has not been ambitious about the idea of signal priority for transit, and it is also erring on the side of conservative projections.

IMHO 47.5 minutes for that corridor is far too slow. (Note that comparing the highway route isn't really fair - the main point of the line is to serve the many points in between, not connect up the ends.)
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#14
It's always been <40 minutes (it's like 36 or 38, I can't remember), between Fairview and Connestoga. This is the first time I've seen someone quote the "round trip time" - sounds like they dug up the RFP, looked at "Train 1" and saw it's dispatch-to-dispatch time from one of the termini.

What these shitty articles don't mention is that 100% of this NAIT disaster in Edmonton is related to a signalling supplier issue that WILL BE RESOLVED. It's a temporary struggle. They decided to open the extension which is something like a year late already with manually operated signal crossings and slower speeds (25 km/h) until they can get it sorted. It's not a permanent solution.

Just a bunch of garbage and crap reporting and people looking for something to get angry about. Makes me embarrassed to be a Canadian when people pull stuff like this.
For daily ion construction updates, photos and general urban rail news, follow me on twitter! @Canardiain
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#15
(01-09-2016, 12:47 PM)Canard Wrote: It's always been <40 minutes (it's like 36 or 38, I can't remember), between Fairview and Connestoga.
Unfortunately mid-40 minutes is what I've heard directly from staff, and yes, the number was lower before.
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