Here’s an interesting argument, regarding transit service in Vancouver, BC:

The planned SkyTrain subway spur along Broadway and out to the University of British Columbia campus will cost taxpayers 15 times what it would take to build a tram line along the same route.

In fact, for the $2.8 billion cost of the single 12 kilometre SkyTrain tube from Commercial Drive to UBC, Vancouver could build 175 km of tram lines crisscrossing the city and beyond.

That doesn’t make the subway sound very good.  But I’m sure the subway proponents have solid arguments in their favor as well.

skytrain - flickr - kootenayvolcano - 300pxFor whatever reason, I’m always fascinated by comparisons of different transit modes—bus vs. train vs. streetcar vs. you name it.  There are such diverging views on costs, on benefits to neighborhoods, on greenhouse gas impacts, on energy independence, and so forth.  The issues are truly crucial—and given the mammoth cost of transportation investments, as well as their permanence, it’s vitally important to get them right.

But at the same time, I also find arguments over transit modes strangely dispiriting.  They always seem to split apart natural allies.  And they can get so personal and vituperative, with advocates of different modes not just arguing passionately about their beliefs, but sometimes even accusing others of arguing in bad faith.

That’s not at all what’s happening in this article—which is defintely worth a read.  Still, I hope that the fight over subway vs. tram doesn’t degenerate into a shouting match among transit advocates that diverts attention from the real threats to their common goals—such as a massive proposed expansion in Greater Vancouver’s highway system.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user kootenayvolcano under a Creative Commons license. [It’s a SkyTrain station, by the way.]