As you can see on the news in the past few days, oil corrupts the human condition. It causes people to literally kill for the power of owning and controlling it. We don’t want a diesel-powered mis-guided busway in our city, which is built on this same type of energy source. Winnipeg Transit’s senior administration officials continue to dust of its 30-year plan to promote a propulsion technology closely tied to these interests.
By their very nature, buses can’t be "sexy". Most people, when talking of the bus, will usually refer to it in a negative tone, such as "when will that damn bus arrive?" That’s because diesel-bus technology cannot copy the running characteristics of rail-based transit in terms of passenger comfort and service frequency levels, which would make it, I guess, a “sexy” train.
Busways were invented by the highway lobby, by people like Wendell Cox of the extreme right-wing Public Purpose group in the U.S. and John Bonsall, formerly of OCTranspo, who oversaw the design of the Ottawa Transitway.
Likewise, the same type of minds have infiltrated our senior Transit administration, because they are connected to the political ideology of the extreme far right, the oil and automobile warmongering imperialism of the current George W. Bush administration, and the perpetual expansion of the diesel-bus industry as stemming the flood of passengers that would, if given the choice, switch from cars to rail-transit.
Remember that PBS documentary a few years ago, exposing General Motors in having a hand in dismantling of the streetcar systems in the 1950s and 60s? Likewise, our senior Transit administration is perpetuating diesel-bus only technology, and will do anything in its power to stop rail-transit from ever returning here. In effect, they are their own worst enemy. They literally wouldn’t want to see an increase in the numbers of passengers on our Transit system. Want proof? Bill Menzies was quoted in the story Fix Streets or build rapid transit system? on the CBC Manitoba news website, posted, March 25th, 2003, as saying that WT won’t increase the size of the Transit fleet for the Southwest Corridor by one more bus, and service levels will basically remain the exactly as current.
Want a recent example of busway technology gone bad?
The City of Nancy, France, with a population of 200,000 citizens, used dual-mode guided-busway technology, called the TVR (Transport sur Voie Reservé), to expand its electric trolleybus network, using proprietary, thus more costly, technology, and has had nothing but problems with it since day one. The technical problems were so severe that the City was forced to shut it down one month after its March 2001 opening and they had to put the regular buses back on the street until the system is fixed.
To quote an article at LightRailNow.org regarding the Nancy system:
...one of the TVR...buses lost stability, causing its rear end to strike a power-line pole, and injuring 3 passengers with flying glass. The drivers then went on a one-day strike on the grounds that the new system was unsafe. No sooner had they been coaxed back to work, when exactly the same thing happened at the same point...in the (early) morning, so there were no injuries. The line was shut down immediately and indefinitely pending an inquiry to be held by a technical commission.
Winnipeg Transit’s latest bus highway proposal, using FROG (Free Ranging On Grid) technology is described on one website as:
Small vehicles...provided for internal transport facilities in factories and large ones for automated transportation of containers at port cargo handling yards.
At FROG.nl, a list of applications for the technology for which it is best suited include:
Company warehouses, hospitals, airports, amusement parks and places of interest.
I support this type of use, but not for urban passenger transport.
Magnetic or Optically guided busways wouldn’t work in Winnipeg either, which is under snow for about 5 months of the year.
And because the lifetime of a diesel bus is 18-20 years, with a major overhaul after the first 12, and with the lifetime of a rail-transit vehicle between 30 and 40 years, it is more prudent in terms of vehicle lifespan.
In mid-November 1990 there was a public hearing at the Convention Centre, debating the options for the Southwest Transit Corridor, of which 6 people attended. I have the November 15th, 1990 Free Press’ account of this event, written by Nick Martin. To quote:
(Bob) Keith, who supervised implementation of Calgary’s light rail system ...says...light rail can carry up to 750 passengers at one time with a single driver, the same maximum load as 10 buses and drivers.
Therefore, Winnipeg, or any other city for that matter, can’t afford operating a busway at costs of 10 times more than they would be under a light rail line, and not be able to connect coaches to make longer vehicles, like can be done on most light rail cars.
Why build a bus that looks like a train? Why not go the whole way and use off the shelf, reliable, safe, mature rail-based technology, in the first place?
Building the Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor, as a bus highway, with recent estimates as high as $1 Billion dollars, would be a colossal and irresponsible, waste of taxpayer funds. In fact, for the cost of one busway...that is, $1 Billion dollars, Winnipeg could have 1 and a half or 2 light rail transit lines. Calgary Transit says that operating costs per seat per hour are 95 cents for a 45 seat diesel bus and 59 cents for a 3-car, 160 seat light rail vehicle.
According to an another article at LightRailNow.org, and I’ll only provide two examples:
I can assure you that similar results would be measured in Winnipeg, if a bus highway were built.
The article summarizes bus highway estimates vs light rail after lines are opened. It says that bus highways only attract 33% of estimated ridership, while light-rail attracts 122%. Quite a difference, eh?
This is their purpose in life — to keep the citizens of Winnipeg away from a rail-based rapid transit system, which is what a busway is designed to do, and this would make the highwaymen a very satisfied people indeed.
In 1990-91 EPC had faced this same decision on whether to go ahead with busway construction. The Motion was rightfully defeated at both EPC and Council.
I call on City Council to again defeat this misguided Motion and to stand against the oil and automobile industries who would most benefit from busway construction by negating any large increase in passenger levels to mass transit and to conform people to continue driving their cars.