Archive for the ‘tram’ Tag

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!