Monday, January 24, 2011

High Speed Rail

 Photo Courtesy of

One day you will be able to hop on your bus or train route heading downtown Edmonton, where you will disembark and enter the downtown high speed rail terminal.  You will pay your fare and enter the platform area and train with relatively little security.  You will glide through the fields of Alberta at speeds of 300 km/hr, until finally you arrive at the Calgary downtown terminal one hour later.  Leaving the terminal you seamlessly catch a connecting bus in your new destination.

With cities becoming increasingly connected in the future due new transportation methods, it is imperative to implement some sort of transferability of transit fares.  With technologies such as High Speed Rail (HSR)  making the 280km connecting Calgary and Edmonton essentially a hours trip. 

You could argue that a plane ride between the two cities would be a similar experience.  Airports are usually not incorporated into the middle of a cities downtown for obvious safety reasons, along with the fact that airports require large swaths of land for landing.  Having an airport in your downtown does not stimulate development, as nobody wants to listen to a plane landing every half hour.  Airplanes have to follow specific landing paths when approaching an airport, these landing paths may require high rise height restrictions to ensure safety (as Edmonton has learned from keeping its downtown airport open until recently).  Airports are also usually located on the outskirts of any municipality it takes time to get there. 

Berlin's HSR Terminal
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However HSR terminals are typically designed to have stations within a cities downtown limits.  This means that when you disembark from your train you are already located where the majority of  amenities and attractions are.    Since transit systems usually possess the best design and frequency within downtown limits, you are able to get where you need to quickly once you leave the terminal.  By designing a HSR system to have a terminal downtown, where the local systems are best built, you drastically decrease the need for an automobile. 

Airports also have the disadvantage of having stringent security checks in place,  where airport authorities consistently advise patrons to be at the airport 1-2 hours in advance for international flights and 30 minutes for domestic flights.  The HSR systems in other countries generally only ever advise patrons to arrive 30 minutes early for their departure. 

Highway two is the busiest corridor in Alberta, with 20,000 vehicles utilizing the corridor on a single day.  For anyone that has driven highway two you know that with that many drivers a day the chances of accidents, and delays are higher.  When you compare 100 individual drivers who could be tired, angry, sick, inattentive, as opposed to the two well rested healthy drivers of mass transit that could be driving those one hundred people.  You start to notice that by having 20000 individual drivers with varying elements affecting their ability to drive, you create a very dangerous situation on the road.  This fact is shown repeatedly through studies that are done world wide.  Between 2000 and 2004 in Canada had an average of 10,000 fatalities every year due to automobile accidents.  In the year 2005 Europe had 1.3 million automobile accidents, of which 40,000 people were killed as a result.  However the number of fatalities caused by HSR in Europe only reached 1,464 people.  The HSR systems in Europe caused 97% less fatalities than automobiles, with only 4% of those fatalities occurring to the patrons themselves.  This means that by encouraging those 20,000 individuals to instead utilize a properly implemented HSR system in Alberta we are guaranteed to reduce fatalities, and the costs to our health care system due to accident injuries.

With the prospect of HSR looming on the horizon, Canada needs to first of all make its local transit systems more efficient and convenient.  People will not want to ride HSR as much if they cannot get around easily at their destination without a vehicle.  One of the best ways to ensure the success of any future HSR system is to ensure that the transit systems in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton are massively upgraded from their existing state.  The good news is that both Calgary and Edmonton are building and approving plans to develop new LRT networks, the only thing holding both municipalities is capital. 

To also ensure the success of a future HSR system I would like to see some form of transit transferability between the transit systems of Alberta.  As it stands regular fares and bus passes in Edmonton do not work on the transit systems of St.Albert, or Sherwood Park without some form of extra fare requirement.  I would like to see one governing body for the transit systems of Edmonton and the surrounding municipalities.  This way you would only have to pay one fare, or zoned fares to travel around the region.  I would also like to see this governing body extend to cover Calgary's transit system as well.  This way when the cities become easier to travel between, as you only need to buy one transit pass to use either system.

Statistics of Europes fatalities were obtained from:

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