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Transit Policy Wonk Alert: An all-you-can-read buffet

March 5, 2013

Thank you, Urban Development Institute, for posting the documentation from the speakers at your Vancouver breakfast today: The Future of Transit Part 2 – Who Pays?

Richard Walton – Mayor, District of North Vancouver and Chair, Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation

Robert Paddon – Executive Vice President, Strategic Planning & Public Affairs, TransLink

Mike Harcourt – Former Premier of BC and Chair, University of British Columbia’s Regional Sustainability Council

Let’s spread the wealth: 


And if you have any remaining appetite, then may I suggest you fill up on this groaner from the menu of the Urban Land Institute:


Report Round Up: Special Transit Edition

The past few months have produced a bonanza of reports about transit and transit-oriented development (TOD).

Report Round Up Icon 2
5 Comments leave one →
  1. mike0123 permalink
    March 5, 2013 9:06 pm

    The findings are pretty much as I expected from both Translink studies.

    The Surrey study shows that the lowest cost per new rider is for the BRT alternative, and that the much more expensive RRT alternative is only slightly worse. The BRT alternative will fail to meet the capacity needed on Fraser Highway in 25 to 30 years.

    BRT has enough capacity on King George and 104th Avenue to well beyond the study period. The likely reason is that the local bus coverage network in Surrey is primarily north-south and offers few opportunities to customers for faster connections via King George.

    RRT on Fraser Highway (even to Fleetwood) connects very well with the local bus coverage network. It also provides a few opportunities to shorten and simplify bus routes and make connecting trips faster.

    The LRT alternatives are very costly in comparison when assessed using a cost per new rider metric.

    Possibly the best outcome is BRT on King George and 104th Avenue and a B-Line on Fraser highway that gets replaced by RRT extensions over 25 year to 30 years.

  2. Josh permalink
    March 5, 2013 9:26 pm

    It’s a no-brainer, RRT to UBC is a must.

  3. Jack permalink
    March 6, 2013 12:58 am

    I read KPMG’s report and I believe it’s very misleading.

    First of all, UBC paid KPMG to produce it.

    Secondly, They state in their OWN document “KPMG neither warrants nor represents that the information contained in this report is accurate, complete, sufficient or appropriate for use by any person or entity.” (P.2)

    Not to mention that they cherry-picked data from the the 2006 census and UBC 2012. I don’t have time to check their sources; only they know what data they used for comparisons. I suspect they chose the 2012 data for UBC and 2006 data for others, to serve their client’s purpose of getting public money to pay for their subway.

  4. jrod permalink
    March 6, 2013 10:25 am


    1) This is a poison-the-well fallacy. Who exactly SHOULD commission a report into this topic? The report absolutely should be examined with a critical eye towards the argumentation within. However, the fact that it was commissioned by someone who standards to gain from the findings does not imply that the findings are “automatically wrong”. Dentists benefit financially if people have poor dental health. Does this automatically imply that brushing and flossing is actually bad for you and a giant conspiracy to increase business?

    2) Pretty much all reports written by any consultant in any industry will have this sort of legal disclaimer. Its basically standard corporate policy to avoid getting sued. Again, it does not imply something is “automatically wrong”.

    3) This is more on the right track, although I think you are to some extent attributing to malicious intent what has more to do with data (un)availability. 2011 Census data for Labour (industry, employment location etc.) is not yet available. The 2006 data was released on March 4th, 2008 (almost exactly 5 years ago), so hopefully that means we can expect 2011 data soon. UBC obviously has more up-to-date data since they’re the developer and owner of everything on campus, so information on their own property would be readily available to them. Should they have made a greater effort to point out that there is a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison resulting from this? Yeah. Did they realistically have any other, more recent data to use at the time the report was written? Probably not.

  5. jrod permalink
    March 6, 2013 11:16 am

    That being said, here are my thoughts on the actual report:

    Its rather fluffy in places, and lacks detailed analysis, but its message is not fundamentally unreasonable. Although it doesn’t specifically use the term, it basically examines (in a very high-level) way what in the UK is known as Wider Economic Benefits (WEB).

    Essentially, traditional project evaluation has ignored the larger economic implications from transport investments, largely because the means to quantify them did not exist (and probably to a lesser extent, because evaluation is usually done by engineers and planners who do not necessarily have a firm grasp on urban economics).

    For example, look at the “Economic Development” account on TransLink’s UBC Line website ( The three categories are Construction Effects, Tax Effects and Goods Movement. Nothing about WEB such as improved labour force mobility and moves to more productive jobs, agglomeration elasticity and knowledge spillovers etc. This of course in turn has effects on wages (social welfare), income taxes and GDP.It’s possible they have indeed done this, but it certainly isn’t included in what they’ve shown the public so far, and up until the KPMG report, hasn’t formed a part of the public discourse regarding project merits.

    The £16 Billion Crossrail project in London was basically the first project to really quantify this and apply it to a business case. All of these benefits are entirely additional to those provided under the traditional project evaluation framework, and they added a substantial chunk of benefit, and also helped reframe the campaign for the project from solely capacity issues and travel time savings to one that discussed London’s economic future. This is essentially what the KPMG report does, but without any of the quantitative analysis to back it up. To be sure, the WEBs from UBC Line would probably be an order of magnitude smaller than Crossrail, but again, so are the project costs. Basically, any project that has the fundamental ability to shift space-time geography and connect nodes of economic productivity is going to create WEBs. This can either be through connecting regions (e.g. through High speed rail), or providing new links to important but capacity constrained locations (such as Crossrail).

    Is the KPMG report a full appraisal all alteratives and all benefits and costs? Not even close. Is it even a full appraisal of the WEB’s? No, it has no real quantification. Does it highlight the existence of these benefits so they get included in the appraisal process and shape the public discourse? Seems like it, so far.

    More reading:

    Edward Glaeser – Triumph of the City.
    Edward Glaeser – Cities, Aglomeration and Spatial Equilibirum.
    CrossRail WEBs (
    Jenkins et al. (2011). Agglomeration bene ts and transportation projects: a review of theory, measurement, and application. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Review Board. Vol. 2221, pp. 104-111.

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