Yesterday the Alberta government released a report assessing the potential for high speed rail service in the Calgary-Edmonton corridor. The report, which has been sitting on the shelf for about a year, was commissioned by the province and was prepared by Transportation Economics & Management Systems, Inc. (or TEMS). There are actually three parts to the report, which you can download here:
- Market Assessment (mirror)
- Market Assessment Technical Appendices (mirror)
- Economic Benefits for Development (mirror)
The press release included a few highlights, but nothing incredibly satisfying:
- Nearly 10 million passenger trips took place in the Calgary-Edmonton corridor in 2006, with the breakdown as follows: 91% were by automobile, 6% were by air, and 3% were by bus.
- The faster the high speed train, the greater the ridership and revenues.
- People said they were willing to pay fares ranging from $56 to $120 for a one-way trip. (To compare: the lowest fare in the next month on WestJet currently is $99, or by car I can make the trip on about $20 of gas.)
I decided to dig into the report a little further. I was struck initially by the numerical nature of it – if numbers and formulas scare you, avoid reading the report. There is some useful, easy-to-understand data as well though.
The diagram above illustrates the Calgary-Edmonton corridor, and the five stations that would be part of the high speed rail system: Downtown Edmonton, Suburban Edmonton, Red Deer, Suburban Calgary, and Downtown Calgary. Each of the three major centres is called a “super zone”, and includes the surrounding communities, at least for the purposes of the report.
The images above illustrate the four types of generic train technologies used to represent various technology classes.
- Talgo – 125 mph or 200 km/hr – diesel
- JetTrain – 150 mph or 240 km/hr – turbine electric
- TGV – 200 mph or 320 km/hr – overhead electric
- Maglev – 300 mph or 480 km/hr – magnetic levitation
According to Wikipedia, the fastest conventional train in the world is the French TGV which set a speed record of 574.8 km/hr. The fastest non-conventional train in the world is the Japanese JR-Maglev which set a speed record of 581 km/hr.
This table outlines the strategies/predictions for each of the above:
|125 mph||150 mph||200 mph||300 mph|
|Average travel time (h:min)||2:00||1:45||1:35||1:00|
|Fare (in cents/mile)||25||35||40||60|
|Maximum fare one-way (Calgary-Edmonton)||$56||$80||$90||$120|
|Maximum fare one-way from Red Deer||$28||$40||$45||$60|
|Ridership (in thousands) in 2051||2821||4301||7656||10745|
|Passenger revenues (in millions of 2006 $) in 2051||137.1||269.0||610.0||1127.9|
|Market share (2011-2051 is constant)||1.85%||3.10%||4.84%||6.73%|
Some other data points:
- Demand for travel in the corridor is predicted to triple in the time period 2006-2051.
- Total benefits by super zone are as follows: Calgary (40-45%), Edmonton (30-35%), Red Deer (20-25%)
- Economic impact from building the system would range from $4.6 billion to $33.4 billion, depending on the type of technology used.
- Growth in the economy of 0.2 to 0.5 percent, depending on the type of technology used.
- Between 3400 and 7162 long-term (40 year) jobs would be created across the province.
There’s a lot more data available in the report if you want to take the time to read it.
What’s next? The government says it will continue to look at various options for the province’s future transportation needs, including high speed rail. No decisions have been made at this time, and the report itself makes no recommendations. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of support for the idea at the moment.
I personally think if the province is going to be spending money on transit, it should be on city and regional transit. Both Edmonton and Calgary could use the assistance to improve their respective transit systems – something akin to MoveOntario 2020 and Toronto’s Transit City.
This issue certainly has legs, however. It has been brought up and discussed many times over the years. You can follow along and participate on Twitter using the hashtag #abhsr. For more general Alberta political topics, use #ableg. There’s some great commentary up on the stream already.