Friday, June 04, 2010

Addressing Vancouver's Canada Line capacity questions

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Some media reports areindicating that the Canada Line in Metropolitan Vancouver, B.C., is "nearingcapacity" as daily ridership levels climb closer to the 100,000 mark. This iscertainly a milestone that has been reached much sooner than originallyprojected, but it is nowhere near the capacity of the system.


100,000 rides a day is considered a milestone in that it is the financial break-even point for that service: the point at which fare revenues cover operating costs. 100,000 rides per day equates to about 5,000 rides per hour. The Canada Line can handle 15,000 rides per hour at the current service levels. During the Olympics, the line often had all 20 trains in operation and easily handled over 200,000 riders per day.

There is no question that there are periods when the system is quite crowded. Along with the integration of bus routes from South of the Fraser, the Canada Line gained a lot of new users during the Olympics, as people discovered the speed and convenience of being able to bypass road traffic to get to and from downtown Vancouver.

As with the Expo and Millennium Lines, there will be times when a customer will need to wait for the next train to board, particularly at the ‘peak of the peak' morning and afternoon commuting periods. The Brighouse Station appears to experience the most congestion in the morning and the Richmond-bound trains are busy in the afternoons.

Here are the steps that TransLink can take to address passenger volumes on the Canada Line, in order of implementation:

• Canada Line operations can keep an extra train on the ‘tail track' past the Brighouse terminus station in Richmond and put it into service if necessary to look after peak period demand. Because the Canada Line's operations centre is close by, a spare train can be sent to Brighouse fairly quickly.

• Total daily service hours can be re-allocated - some mid-day or evening runs can be moved to the morning and/or afternoon peak demand periods.

• More of the existing trains can be put into service. Currently, TransLink funds the operation of 14 of the 20 trains. By August 2011, TransLink will have 16 trains in service, an increase of 12 per cent.

• Bus routes can be adjusted so that some passengers currently transferring at Brighouse Station can have their transfer shifted to the Bridgeport Station, where in-bound trains from YVR usually have capacity available.

• In time, there will be an option to purchase more train sets. The Canada Line is designed to have more than 20 trains in service at the same time.

• Another alternative is to add a third car to the trains.

Some have asked whether the current system of alternating trains to Richmond-Brighouse with trains to YVR-Airport could be changed. However, just as the Canada Line has proven popular with commuters going to and from downtown Vancouver, it has also proven popular with travelers going to and from Vancouver Airport. Right now, it is too early in the life of the Canada Line to make such a major operational change.

Indeed, with the Canada Line being only 10 months old, the best way to deal with crowding issues is to respond on an ‘as needed' basis and allow time for patterns to become established. There is plenty of capacity on the system; now, it's a matter of using it in a way that best serves our customers.