Archive for the ‘Train’ Category

First Look at AMT multi-level cars this Friday

The AMT has announced that the new Bombardier multi-level cars will be unveiled to the public this Friday, August 21st at the Bombardier plant in La Pocatiere. These are the first cars out of 160 ordered in December 2007 by the AMT.

AMT Multi-level car

Features of the cars:

  • Contract price: 386M$ for 160 cars
  • Two levels of seating with an intermediate level at the extremities
  • High and low level doors (two of each per side) for operation at all stations of the network (including central station)
  • Stainless steel body shell (heavier than the aluminium shell bi-levels currently operating)
  • Sized to fit in the Mont-Royal tunnel.
  • Toilets (in some cars)
  • Passenger information system

They will first operate on the Montréal/St-Hilaire line. And they are the only cars that can be used on the train de l’est. Eventually, they could operate on all lines.


Trams to return to Vancouver

Trams will make a special appearance during the Olympic games in 2010 from January 21st to March 21st.

Brussels Flexity Tram

Brussels Flexity Tram

A special demonstration line will run from the new Canada line station on Cambie Street to Granville Island. It will be 1.8km of single track line with a passing loop ½ way (the red part in the image below). STIB, the public transport operator in Brussels, will provide two of their new Bombardier Flexity trams. The best part – it will be free!  If successful, the system could be expanded to go to Stanley Park via the skytrain stations of Main Street and Waterfront (the blue part).

Street car route

Street car route

The participants of the demonstration project are:

  • City of Vancouver
  • CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation)
  • STIB (Société des Transports Intercommunaux de Bruxelles)
  • Bombardier

As the pictures on Bombardier’s web site show, this is definitely a temporary installation. The catenary poles are just normal telephone poles! It does appear that even though there is an existing rail line, the entire track is being renewed.

With a passenger capacity of 178 (seated + 4 pers/m2 standing) and 6 doors per side, this vehicle will show to Vancouverites what can be done with modern transportation systems.

More information:

More News about Trams vs. Buses

Writing my previous post caused wordpress to amusingly automatically create a link to a pro-tram blog in Edinburgh (a very nice city that I have visited – I went to the Haymarket train depot of First Scotrail).

This link caused me to discover that similar discussions have been held in Edinburgh and West London precisely about this topic. They write about it far more elegantly than I ever could! The result – Trams are what are needed.
To be fair here is the other side of the discussion: Pro-Trolley bus

I have to say that the picture in the pro-trolley bus is more like a rubber-tired tram. These have been tried in a few French towns Clermont-Ferrand (home of Michlenin), Nancy (disaster of a project), and Caen with not very much success.  In fact these trams-on-wheels are no cheaper than a real tram.

Nobody is saying that trams should be everywhere in the city. They are desperately needed on the routes such as Cote-des-neiges, Parc, Pie IX, Notre Dame, Cote-Vertu/Henri Bourassa where buses cannot provide a quality service even though there is (at peak times) a bus every five minutes.
The problem in many cities is the “metro or bust” phenomenon.  Metro’s are only needed on routes where really high capacity is needed.  Anything else is served by buses.  Pushing metro extensions and nothing else generally ensures that the project doesn’t happen because the projected ridership is simply not there to make the project viable.  In the mean time, car use and urban sprawl continue to rise.

What is needed is a medium capacity service (at medium cost). That is where the tram comes in!

Trolley Buses aren’t the solution to Montreal’s transit needs

There has been lots of talk about using trolley buses instead of trams for Montreal’s plan de transport.  I’m not one of them.   Trolley buses have fewer advantages than people expect. On a one-to-one replacement basis, they are just buses that don’t emit CO2.

Being simply buses that run on electricity, they have the same disadvantages as diesel buses.

Trolleys buses are no faster than regular diesel buses. Therefore will be no more likely to convince people to change their travel habits.

Trolley buses require two contact wires above the bus resulting in complicated and ugly wiring. Trams, since they use a pantograph with current return in the rails, only need a single wire resulting in a much more harmonious integration with the city.

In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, regular diesel buses have considerable advantages over cars already. For an urban environment these are the estimated energy consumption and emissions:

Transport Type



Car (single occupant)



Diesel Bus (full)



Diesel-Electric Hybrid Bus (full):



Electric Bus(full)



Tram (full)



Hydro Quebec and STM

From a greenhouse gas reduction point of view, we need to get people out of their cars. Simply replacing diesel buses with electric (or even hybrid) ones will do very little to convince people to leave their cars at home.

As shown in the table above, Trams also use roughly half as much energy as a bus of any type. Last year, the STM spent 40 million dollars in fuel but only 23 million in electricity for the metro.

Labour costs are a very considerable factor in the operating costs of the STM. According to their 2009 budget, salaries account for 63.7% of the operating costs. Trams are one way of improving the passenger to driver ratio and reducing labour costs since they can transport more people and can even be coupled together to form a double length train but still operated by just one person. Of course, I would want to see those drivers assigned to other routes to improve the overall level of service.

Trams are matched only by metros in the speed in which people can get on and off:

  • A 30m tram will typically have 6 wide doors for entry/exit.
  • Regular Buses have 1 exit and 1 entrance/exit
  • The articulated Buses have 2 exits and 1 entrance/exit

This is another of the reasons why Trams can travel faster – they spend less time stopped picking up passengers.

Trams are definitely the way to go. Lets stop talking about it and just do it!

Problems with AMT’s leased cars

The Gazette is reporting that the doors of the cars that the AMT has rented from New Jersey Transit (NJT) don’t always open properly.

I’ve seen some of these rented cars in Vendome station and they are mixing the cars within existing trains.  I’ve noticed that the doors are configured for both high and low level platforms but there is no door cover over the steps that are used for low level platforms.

Perhaps snow is getting into the door mechanism?

They have been painted with a basic AMT logo but here is what they looked like before: Locos & Car in Montreal & Car in service in NJ

According to this, AMT has rented 7 Locos and 14 Comet IB coaches at a price of 15,000 $US per car per year for a total price of 420,000 $US for two years. Seems like a bargain – if they work!

Montreal Residents on a Funding Diet

When I look the various projects that AMT/STM are studying, off-island commuters will benefit more than Montreal travelers:

  • Av. Du Parc Tramway – Direct transfer from the AMT St-Jerome line to downtown (475 M$)
  • SLR – Replacement for the bus service between Panama station & downtown (870 M$)
  • Orange line extension to Bois-Franc – Interchange with the Deux-Montanges line (340 M$).
  • AMT Train de l’est – The line starts in Mascouche and has 4 stations off-island. (300 M$)
  • Replacement of AMT rolling stock (386 M$)

About 50/50

  • SRB on Pie-IX – The line will start in Laval and travel down to the Pie-IX station on the green line (100 M$)
  • Airport shuttle to downtown (business travel as well) (550 M$).
  • Blue Line extension to Pie-IX and eventually Anjou (interchange with SRB Pie-IX) (170 M$)

Projects that favour Montreal residents:

  • Côte-des-Neiges tramway (only if the 1st phase happens and is successful) (250 M$)
  • Griffintown tramway (250 M$)

From my point of view, there are a lot of projects that favour off-island residents.  Has Montreal become so politically impotent that the suburbs dictate the spending priorities? 

These projects will only encourage people to move off-island since their commute will be made easier.

Airport Rail Links Around the World

With all the talk about a possible airport link between I’ve been investigating what types of airport links there are around the world. Here is a short list of the systems that I’ve looked into (I’m sure there are lots more):

North America:

  • Chicago, New York JFK, New York Newark, Philadelphia, San Francisco


  • Paris, London Heathrow (Express, Connect, & Piccadilly underground), London Gatwick, Rome, Milan, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Madrid, Frankfurt & Stockholm


  • Hong Kong

There are essentially three types of services (and three types of price ranges) shown in different colors in the graph:

  • Shuttle (blue): Door-to-door service from the airport to a downtown train station with no intermediate stops. Generally the fastest and most expensive mode
  • Regional (red): Suburban or regional train service from a station at an airport to the downtown. Prices and travel speed is quite variable.
  • Metro (pink): Metro service from a stop at the airport to the city center. Generally the slowest and least expensive mode

Some conclusions:

  • The two most expensive are Arlanda Express to Stockholm followed by Heathrow Express to London Paddington.
  • There is not much correlation between the distance & journey time and price.
  • The price charged for the train service has to be competitive with the existing taxi service of $25 for a taxi to go to downtown.

AMT Train de l’Est

I had the pleasure of attending the AMT’s presentation about the new train de l’est.
AMT Grand Projets Web Site


Some little nuggets from the presentation:

  • Bombardier has the inside track to get the contract for the bi-mode locomotives. AMT expects to announce the contract in April.
  • Significant route upgrades are needed in the montreal segment over the CN right of way.
  • The Terrebonne-Mascouche segment will travel over the 640 median.
  • The stations on the AMT-only part of the line will have high level platforms (for example: Terrebonne).  Other stations will have special ramps for wheelchair boarding.
  • There are no plans to deploy the project in phases.  Why?
    • The overnight depot will be in Mascouche (the end of the line)
    • Limiting factor is the delivery of the tunnel-running capable cars and locomotives
  • Delivery in 2011 !!
    • Seems like a long time to me and also to several people that asked questions.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, These new locomotives will allow AMT to offer some very interesting services that don’t terminate at Central Station.

  • Imagine travelling from Mont-Saint-Hillare to Terrebonne or Deux-Montanges.  That would be great!

One potential problem that I see is that most of the stations in the AMT network are low-level platforms.  The new AMT cars have only 1 narrow low level door (they have 2 extra high level doors howver.  I think this will cause long boarding/disembarking times at stations.

Analysis of the PTI 2008-2010 from the AMT

The AMT published their Programme Triennal d’Immobilisations for 2008- 2010 back in November.  Here are my thoughts:

SLR Over the Champlain Bridge

After unveiling the preliminary study back in March, this project seems to have completely disappeared.  No mention of it is to be found!

Parking Around Suburban Train Stations

Counting the suburban train and bus parking lots together, there are 15 projects to add a total of 2250 new parking spaces for a projected cost of 11.8M$.  The costs range between 3k$ for the south shore to 20k$ for the proposed enlargement of the parking lot at the Namur metro station.

If we assume that these new spots are occupied by a car of a new user of public transport, it represents an acquisition cost of $ 5200 per new user (equivalent to 32 months of a TRAM6).   However, it would be a complete waste of money if the space were to be occupied by an already existing user who now decided to drive to and park at the parking lot instead of taking the bus or being dropped off.

I think this money could be put to better use elsewhere!

SLR on Av. du Parc

Even after the city clearly indicated that they want three lines developed at the same time: Parc, Griffintown, and Côte-des-Neiges, AMT is still only looking at the Parc line.

What about the other 2?

Bi-Mode Locomotives

The PTI has several projects to purchase 20 new bi-mode locomotives that will be able to travel in the tunnel of Mont Royal.  The projects are

  • B.4 – replace old diesel locomotives (12 new locomotives),
  • B.6 – Increase service on deux montagnes line (3 locomotives),
  • B.46 – Train de l’est (5 locomotives – new service)

The end result of this and the proposal to link the St-Jerome and train de l’Est lines to the line running into the Mont Royal tunnel is that the remaining 11 diesel locomotives will all travel along the Montreal-West Corridor to Lucien-d’Allier.  Since there is also a proposal (B.53) to electrify some of their high traffic segments of the network, it seems to me that this corridor would be worthwhile.  If there are still diesel trains remaining in the fleet that can only go to Lucien d’Allier, it seems to me that this corridor won’t get the upgrade.

Although the service improvements are great, can’t the AMT get an extra 10 locomotives to have a harmonized fleet and then electrify the network as needed.  The relatively recent F-59 locomotives will still fetch a reasonable price with other operators in North America.