Canada Line at YVR by indyinsane
Canada Line at YVR by indyinsane

As we count down the remaining month left before the opening of Central Link, I was reminded that in less than 3 months, Vancouver, B.C. will welcome it’s newest Metro system, Canada Line, set to open on September 7th. That same week, Portland will celebrate their 4th light-rail route, the Green Line to Clackamas Town Center. The Canada Line will connect the Downtown Vancouver Waterfront to Richmond and Vancouver International Airport, a ride which on a bus would take 48 to 54 minutes. A ride on Canada Line will take only 25 minutes. The new Canada Line was privately built and funded and will share the fare structure with TransLink for easy fare integration, whom operates SeaBus, local and express bus service, West Coast Express Commuter Rail, and SkyTrain. The Canada Line is estimated to cost $1.9 billion dollars and is currently $200 million under budget and 3 months early. On the heels of this new line opening, TransLink announced the $1.4 Billion CN Evergreen Line which will also run from Waterfront to Longheed Town Centre via the Millennium Line. The Evergreen Line is slated to start construction after the 2010 Olympics and open in 2014.

New Green Line @ 5th and Oak by Brian Bundridge
New Green Line @ 5th and Oak by Brian Bundridge

Starting September 12th, the 4th MAX line will start shuttling passengers from Portland State University and Clackamas Town Center. This $575.5 million dollar project will add another 8.3 miles to the expanding system. Tri-Met opted to order the popular Siemens S70 Avanto light-rail vehicles with a few slight modifications. The biggest difference is the vehicles will always be in pairs since the vehicles are single ended cabs (Meaning only 1 end of the car has a operator cab, the other is more seating). Like the Canada Line, the new Green Line will shave 20 to 40 minutes compared to the current buses.

The Green Line is also part of a multi-phase project that will allow expansion of the route to Milwaukie/Oak Grove. With the Green Line near completion, the dubbed Orange Line will continue onward from the PSU terminus to Park Ave Park and Ride in Oak Grove. The Orange Line will be the most expensive MAX line due in part that most of the line will be elevated and a new MAX/Streetcar bridge will be needed. Cost is expected between $1.2 to 1.5 billion dollars and add 7.3 miles to the system. The line is slated to open in 2015.

39 Replies to “Regional Rapid Transit news”

  1. Its neat that we are coming up on the openings of several expansions of good transit systems- I have ridden bot SkyTrain and MAX and they are both awesome. If Link can live up to its parent in the south, it will be awesome too.

  2. is it just my thinking, or does anyone else see the canada line as a huge success… planned and built in only a few years and built for relatively cheap (considering its mostly all underground and entirely grade seperated). nevermind now being underbudget and opening early.

    the pacific northwest cities get stuff done. the only cities with modern streetcars are NW cities… portland, tacoma, seattle and vancouver (2010 olympic trial line) and while other US and canadian cities just talk about it or get so far as buying just the cars (DC) w/o tracks or partially building the tracks (charlotte) w/o cars.

    1. The one downside I’ve heard about the Canada Line is that the platforms are really short — something like 120 feet, or about the length of two Link cars. If the ridership exceeds projections at all, the trains are going to be very crowded.

      That said, they were able to build it quickly and cheaply, and if the rest of the SkyTrain system is a model, should be able to run it near break-even, cost-wise. That’s a pretty great civic investment.

      1. This is because the Canada Line is a ALRT system. It is completely controlled by computer and will run at something like 90 second headways during peak periods, maybe even lower. With that kind of headway you can have smaller transit units while maintaining high capacities.

      2. No, the Canada Lines is not ALRT. That is a specific piece of technology from Bombardier that SkyTrain uses. Canada Line is driverless, just conventionally powered. Canada Line is also a P3.

        In contrast, the new Evergreen Line will be ALRT/SkyTrain. It will likely not be a P3, despite the current BC gov’s love for them.

      3. The guy I just agreed to rent an apt from during the olympics (well part of them anyway) is an engineering tech working on the Evergreen line. So cool.

      4. Yeah, looking at the photo above, I see a humanoid in the cockpit. Side note: like that the photo has Seattle’s Alaska Airlines in it.

  3. So let me get this streight
    11.8 miles for $1.9B $161M/Mile
    8.3 Miles for $0.57B $68M/Mile
    7.3 Miles for $1.2B $164M/Mile
    therefore 47 Miles for $1.2B ($25M/Mile) is considered outrageous???

      1. Well it was going to get few riders for the cost. At least they should have made it end in Woodinville; according to that report a few months ago it was going to get only about a dozen daily riders in Snohomish County. Maybe we can even run some Sounder trains up there to Bellevue some day.

      2. For thoes who say that ESR does not go where people want to go, here is an idea.
        1. Get an FRA Waiver allowing DMU’s to run on Link track (In Bellevue)
        2. Instead of rebuilding the Wilberton Tressel and 405 bridge, build a track (probably less than 1 mile) to connect from the current turminus of the South leg of the ESR with Link in Bellevue (all on the west side of 405), Conect ESR to Link on the north end of Bellevue

        Yes the DMU’s are higher floor than the link cars, we can work that out, by either having seperate stops for link and ESR, or having the vehicle stop at precise spots at a station so that ramps/stairs will allign with DMU doors, but not block Link doors

        If Link does end up in a tunnel under Bellevue, we would need to look at HMU’s (Hybrid Diesel/Electric) instead of DMU’s

        Lor Scara

      3. Lor Scara,

        You could get really low cost per mile by building the line in Moses Lake, but no one would ride it.

        The important metric is cost per rider, not cost per mile.

      4. It’s really hard for me to believe that a rail line which parallels the I-405 corridor the entire length of Lake Washington (connecting Renton, Bellevue and Bothel) is only going to generate a handful of riders. But then I don’t see the thousands of people ST project using the two stations in Bel-Red either. If you build rail people will come but if people are already there they won’t use it??

      5. FTA ridership projections aren’t allowed to assume upzoning and development along the corridor. Since the BNSF corridor misses all the real dense housing and job centers (requiring a transfer), ridership takes a big hit.

        Although many of colleagues disagree with me, I think that development would eventually make ECR a success if the money could be found.

        Which isn’t to say it should be a priority over East Link.

      6. Yeah, no upzoning except in Bel-Red they have to be assuming future development. Likewise with East Link they make assumptions about building multi story parking garages (or not when it’s convenient) that aren’t in the project budget or EIS. It’s pretty obvious the ridership numbers can be cooked to get a desired result. Probably why the methodology is such a closely guarded secret.

        ESR connects with Sounder. It goes right through Renton including the “Landing”. It is exactly in line with one of the proposed East Main station locations and Eastside Medical (or Ashwood) where it would meet up with Link. It forms the northern boarder of the Kirkland P&R. It goes through Totem Lake where it could easily become the third leg in the Flyer Stop/Evergreen Medical Center shuttle and then goes within a block of the Woodinville P&R where 405, SR-522, SR202 and Hwy 9 all converge. Finally terminates in Snohomish. Like there’s no traffic coming in from anywhere north or south of Bellevue? I guess not because Link won’t go there for 20-30 years if ever. The only places ESR bypasses on the eastside are Issaquah and Redmond. Link has no plan to reach Issaquah and there’s no money in the budget to complete the line to Redmond either.

        Maybe we need to add a tunnel under I-5 at Wilburton to up the cost. Then the project would probably become instantly viable. Nobody’s interested in infrastructure projects unless they control billions of dollars in taxes.

      7. The City of Renton flat out won’t let heavy rail run through their city streets, and anyway the existing cost & ridership estimates don’t assume that’s built out. So any existing model does not connect with Sounder.

        [UPDATE: I was in error when making the above assertion about Renton. I regret my mistake.]

        I understand that ESR is in the rough vicinity of stuff; but the point is it doesn’t directly take you to anything. Transfers kill ridership.

        I used to commute on 405 daily so I know there’s traffic. But there’s a reason ridership on the 545+550 more than doubles 532+535+564+565 despite drawing from a much smaller area. It’s because they serve dense, transit-oriented populations and workplaces, and serve workers traveling in both directions.

        Furthermore, if you assume ridership from Snohomish you’re getting a lot of cash from somewhere outside the ST district. Good luck winning a transit vote out there, especially given the size of tax base and the amount of cash you’re talking about.

      8. One reason I feel the ESR study by the PSRC got such low ridership figures is the South end of the line studied ended in North Renton rather than passing through downtown and either connecting to Sounder at Tukwilla station or continuing on to Seattle at King Street. Even with longer travel times from Bellevue or Kirkland to Downtown Seattle over express buses or Link I suspect there are at least a few people who would be attracted to a train using DMU’s with a reliable schedule.

        The PSRC study also assumed a bit of a gold plated rebuild of the corridor including replacing the Wilburton Trestle.

        Given the amount of money likely to be spent by the King County Ferry district on demonstration foot ferry routes I don’t see the harm in trying a 2 year demonstration from King Street to Woodinville along the ESR corridor using spare Sounder equipment.

        As for Link reaching Issaquah or Redmond there is money in ST2 for studying an extension East along I-90 to Issaquah, the East link EIS covers the Redmond extension as well, and I believe there is money in ST2 for ROW acquisition and preservation for both corridors.

        I have no doubt that as more of Link gets completed and opens for service we’ll see more support both from the public at large and from elected officials for further expansions of Link.

      9. Does the City of Renton even have a say in what runs down an existing 100 year old rail right of way? After all I can think of any number of cities who might try to ban freight and passenger trains within their borders if the Federal government let them get away with it.

      10. Not really. If BNSF decided it was going to use the line to bring 737 fusalages in again from the north there is nothing Renton can do about it. Auburn threw a hissy fit when BNSF decided to re-open the Stampede Pass route. Tough cookies.

      11. Actually, yes, the city of Renton does have a say. These people all have agreements between each other!

      12. But I still thought local governments couldn’t ban the use of a existing interstate (meaning under FRA jurisdiction) rail line.

        I suppose a DMU up the BNSF ROW would be a new service subject to some approval, not to mention that I don’t think any of the local transit agencies is too keen on antagonizing the Renton City council.

        On the other hand a little bit of hardball could be played by Sound Transit. Allow a couple trips a day of commuter rail or you can forget about ever seeing link.

  4. The Canada Line is only partially privately funded. The financing is a so-called public-private-partnership (P3). The private company put up about $200m, plus any cost overruns. Also remember that, unlike in the USA, project costs do not include the borrowing costs.

  5. This was a great post. I hadn’t thought about how the Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver were opening new rail lines at just about the same time. Things should really start to take shape over the next ten years or so.

  6. You missed the best part about the MAX Green Line: direct transfer from Amtrak at Union Station!

    The MAX Yellow Line (EXPO Center) will also move to the new tracks so Portland State is getting some pretty nice service levels.

  7. If they just put in a high speed line from Portland to Vancouver BC we will be set! High speed rail to get there and public transit to get around the cities.

    1. plus the waterfront trolley provided an intermodal link between the train station and the WSF & victoria clipper ferries

      1. Correct. The Canada Line is expandable to a 3 car long train if they decide to purchase the “C” section. Trains on configured in a A-B section currently (A and B being the control cars, C-Z being extra cars.

  8. Canada Line looks pretty awesome on the map, it did make driving through Richmond a little painful but not much, and they built it FAST. As for it being privately funded, I didn’t know that, but it’s fair to mention that they are gearing up for a huge influx of visitors this coming winter, and that probably helped to encourage private investment in infrastructure.

  9. Just to make one thing very much clear, The City of Renton has ZERO say about what BNSF or any other rail carrier can do through the City of Renton. There are no agreements that state they can only run x train and it has to be x length and needs to be at x time. They can cry, complain, threaten to sue but they have no legal standing since the railway owns that street and could close that entire section should they decide to do so.

    The City of Renton balks at the thought of not having a ton of buses running through their city and wants BRT service. BNSF can run a 110 car long grain train at 10mph and there isn’t anything that the City of Renton could do. Whomever said or believes that the City has control of that ROW is full of it and needs to get their information rechecked. As it was, BNSF had to run several detours over this line in the early 2000’s that was 60+ car long intermodal and grain trains.

Comments are closed.