Comment 33545

By Skeptic (anonymous) | Posted September 15, 2009 at 14:04:43

A cursory examination of various rail transit lines shows that they work best in cities having large central employment centers. Mass transit costs a lot of money per kilometer to operate and requires a lot of riders to justify the costs, not only infrastructure cost but also operating cost. The direct operating cost of Edmonton's LRT line works out to $9.90 per kilometer per Light Rail Vehicle. Buses, on the other hand, in Edmonton have an operating cost of $4.80 per kilometer (I used the City's budget figures). If one amortizes infra-structure costs the full costs approximate $16 and $5.30 per vehicle kilometer, respectively.

Notwithstanding these scary numbers, buses with an average load of 10 passengers and LRV's with an average load of about 30 passengers each, have a reasonable cost of about $ .50 per passenger-kilometer.

During the rush hours LRT pulls its weight, but in off-peak hours, from say 9 am to 3 pm and in the evening and week-ends, and on holidays I want to cry when I see a 2-LRV train carrying ten passengers in each LRV. Cities require mass transit to move huge volumes of people in short periods of time into and out of activity centers; cities do not need mass transit to serve as general public transportation. Indeed rail transportation cannot serve all needs and requires a well oiled bus system to feed it, as more than 80% of LRT passengers must use some form of transportation to get to stations.

Edmonton has about 450,000 employees, but has an extremely small central employment center with about 60,000 employees. Each of the six sectors provides about 1/6 of those employees to the downtown during the rush hours. The Clarview line serves the university and the University Hospital, neither of which impose a heavy transportation during the rush hours, and both of which impose a respectable load in the off peak hours, but not a load unserviceable by buses. The South Extension to Century Park will add two activity centers (Crawford and South Gate), but neither of these centers impose enough of an additional load to justify the running of LRT during the off-peak hours.

By the time Edmonton doubles in size and has six LRT lines to downtown, I predict, LRT will transport between 30,000 and 60,000 employees to downtown (depends on growth of the downtown) during the rush hours, and will have more than 650,000 employees going everywhere but downtown during the rush hours.

As such, our multi-billion expenditures will stand as a testimony to the stupidity started during the Commonwealth Games about 3 decades ago. Cities sometimes require mass transit, and cities that do seldom have the waste exhibited by Edmonton's lines and plans. For example, one of the best in North America, the Toronto System, has about 70 km. of rail line, and has a huge population to serve with downtown employment of about 500,000. How on earth can Edmonton justify a system with that much line with a projected population of about 1.5 million, and a central employment center that has a small base and slow growth.

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