APRIL, 2018

Study on Train Delays in the City

City Council commissioned a study to look at the costs and benefits of minimizing or even removing train delays in Saskatoon through underpasses, overpasses, and relocating the rail lines out of the city. There are a number of different issues regarding the rail study that make it somewhat confusing. 

While I think there is broad agreement that there would be many benefits to getting trains out of the City—from safety, to travel times, to new opportunities for redevelopment—the bottom line from the study is that there are very large hurdles to either relocating or building overpasses and underpasses.

The City’s Administration recommends starting with technological improvements to minimize the impacts of train delays, and then to look further into the possibility of CN and CP having a shared corridor south of the city. This wouldn’t mean that they would share the same tracks, but just that the tracks would be running parallel close to one another.

Here are six key points to help distill it down.

  1. The Administration is not recommending the $598m relocation option, but instead to pursue an alternative approach.

The recommendation from Administration is NOT to pursue the $598M relocation. Instead it is looking into a “Plan B option” that would involve encouraging CP to relocate their lines along the existing CN tracks and share the right of way south of the City. It is important to note that we do not have a cost estimate for this option, and that there are a number of potential hurdles to this being possible.

2. This potential relocation only solves the rail-crossing delays presented by one of the train linesthe CP line through Corman Park.

The rail-crossing delays presented by the CN line would still exist. To address both would cost more than $1 billion. Even though this particular path for new rail lines is not being pursued, the current estimate for relocating CP Rail out of the city by diverting it south is estimated to be $598m with a margin of error of 50%. This will not address the impact of CN Rail crossings at 11th Street, 33rd Street, Millar Avenue, and 51st Street.

3. Grade separations are costly and will have a big impact on surrounding land use

Grade separations, through either overpasses or underpasses,at the 9 most impacted intersections are estimated to cost $375m. The analysis shows that these would involve major disruptions to surrounding land uses and cut off access to businesses along those neighbouring roadways for several blocks. For these reasons, Administration is recommending not to pursue this option any further.

4. The financial analysis is not good for either grade separations or relocating the railways.

Based on the options explored, neither rail relocation nor creating overpasses/underpasses is shown to have a positive cost-benefit analysis, based on a 30 year projection. The analysis includes travel time savings, improved safety, reduced emissions, and land value impacts.

5. Technological advancements can ease the impact of train delays.

There are technological improvements through real-time signage and train tracking that can be implemented on the shorter term that will help reduce the impact of train delays, for both vehicles and transit. 

6. BRT can proceed without resolving train issues, and technology will help.

Both the consultant working on the Bus Rapid Transit Plan and the City’s Administration recommend that the Bus Rapid Transit Plan can proceed without significant impact from train delays, particularly with the use of technology to provide advance warning.

In 2017 there were about 6 trains per day on the CP track through the downtown and 9 per day on the CN track in the North and West End.  Outside of these crossings, buses and cars will be able to operate normally.

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