Quito Update: LRT Conversion Plans Advance, Stir Controversy-1
a www.publictransit.us special webreport
 
Following up on our report on El Trole, the trolleybus-worked busway in Quito, Ecuador http://www.publictransit.us/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=214 , Tramways & Urban Transit reported a proposal by the Ecuadoran government to convert the line to light rail by 2009 (68, 810 (June 2005): 232; news reported credited to Allen Morrison).
According to this report, traffic carried by El Trole has reached capacity, 240,000 passengers per day. The 113 vehicles provide a maximum peak service frequency of 90 seconds.
The Empresa de Desarrollo Urbano de Quito (EDUQ, “Urban Development Company of Quito”) plans to issue a concession for design, construct, equip and operate TRAQ.
The EDUQ website is here: http://www.innovar-uio.com/innovar/ (in Spanish).
The project outline document is titled Avances del Proyecto TRAQ (in Spanish), and may be downloaded from the EDUQ website (PDF format). We have translated key details for the benefit of readers:
The Municipality of the Metropolitan District of Quito (Municipio del Distrito Metropolitano de Quito), through the Urban Development Company of Quito (Empresa de Desarrollo Urbano de Quito), has called for expressions of interest from companies interested in tendering for design, construction, equipping, operating and financing of the New Mass Passenger Transport System, TRAQ, under concession, for operation in the longitudinal road axis of the City of Quito (Ciudad de Quito), with the possibility of integration with transport systems serving the Tumbaco and Los Chillos valleys.
At the moment, EDUQ has a conceptual study of the project that defines principal project elements, insofar as development of technical alternatives and the types of solutions recommended for design, construction, operation and maintenance of the urban mass transport system, as well as preliminary estimates of required investment by sections, specialties and possible stages of construction.
The study describes in a conceptual manner the scope of the project, and all the sensitive aspects that respondents will need to take into account for development of this new urban mass transport system, under the “model” of concession with participation of private investment.
Considered of vital importance for the project is the participation of the national and foreign capitals [i.e. state grants and credits], as well as private investors and sources of financing such as the Multilateral and Commercial Bank (Banca Multilateral y Comercial).
 
TRAQ Characteristics:
An urban public transit system, understood as a railway or light metro, providing increased capacity, speed, safety, comfort and increased flexibility for operation on exclusive alignment, with conventional stock, operating in trains of three or more vehicles powered by electric traction, supplied by catenary (overhead cables fixed at both extremities, resistant to various forces).
Trolleybus: The average capacity on the current route is about 10,800 passengers/hour and the commercial speed is approximately 15 km/h (9 mph). The TRAQ project is planned as an orderly evolution from the trolleybus system to a more-efficient transport system.
Light Metro: The planned initial capacity is 11,000 passengers/hour and the planned commercial speed is not less than 40 km/h (25 mph), in order to serve the travel demand created by long-term population growth (over 30 years).
Route:
The length of the TRAQ line from Caupichu terminal in the south of the city to Carcelén in the north of Quito is 29.2 km (18.1 mi). The line will include 22 stations, of which 4 will be intermediate transfer stations and two will be terminals, in addition to a vehicle storage and maintenance facility.
The line would not duplicate the busway alignments, and would extend beyond the current terminals of El Trole. An EDUQ map showing the current alignment of El Trole and the planned TRAQ alignment is here: http://www.innovar-uio.com/innovar/images/stories/docs/43.jpg
The project cost is estimated at $500 million (as noted previously, Ecuador replaced the sucre with the U.S. dollar as its currency in 2000). (“Tren rápido tendrá la Capital,” El Mercurio, 2006 November 8.)
The project has attracted interest from companies based in Argentina, Brazil and Spain. A 2005 news article indicated that interested companies had until the end of 2005 November to submit proposals: (“ Contar con el tren rápido.” El Mercurio, 2005 September 27.)
Quito Para Todos, a citizen’s organization, advocates improved public transport, land-use policies that support public transport and “dissuading the irrational use of the automobile” (approximately 80 percent of Quiteños do not have cars). Quito Para Todos also opposes the TRAQ plan on grounds of cost:
“bus rapid transit” (BRT) would cost 10-20 times less per km. The same investment, $500-750 million, required to build 20-30 km (10-20 mi) of light metro would build build 250 km (155 mi) of exclusive lanes for trolleybuses - or almost double that system length if conventional articulated buses were used - including vehicles, stations and terminals.”
The Quito Para Todos page titled Respecto al Tren Ligero http://www.quitoparatodos.org/traq.htm contains a link to a document titled NO AL TREN LIGERO (TRAQ) (PDF format; scroll down to DOCUMENTOS, click link). This outlines various arguments in favor of BRT, and concludes that with BRT:
“[Quito’s] system of rapid urban mass transport would be complete, providing efficient service, with money left over for construction of bikeways throughout the city, for recovery and integration of public spaces, widening of sidewalks, planting trees and providing urban furniture, building walkways between bus stops and passenger destinations, and other projects to complement the system, in such a way to be able to have a city with an optimal public transport service, placing us in the lead among cities with the best public transport in the world.
Unfortunately, there is little chance that this urban utopia could be realized by building a large BRT network in place of TRAQ.
As we have emphasized repeatedly, we are BRT supporters, not opponents. In the U.S., there are at most several dozen corridors with passenger traffic density sufficient to justify the investment needed for rail transport, but there are at least several hundred corridors with traffic sufficient to justify some level of investment for improved bus service. Worldwide, there are perhaps a few hundred corridors with traffic sufficient to justify rail, but several thousand where various “BRT” strategies can be justified.
However, we have warned against “BRT Oversell,” and think that Quito provides an excellent example.
As we have made clear in our previous post, El Trole is certainly “mass transport,” but it is not “rapid.” The commercial speed is a mere 16.1 km/h (= 10.0 mph). In addition, Quito Para Todos does not address issues of labor productivity and operating expense.