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Montreal Tramways: More Wheel Spinning

October 17, 2012

Regarding Montreal’s delay of Tramway construction  and the press conference yesterday, (Oct. 16, 2012), at Place d’Youville in Old Montreal, []:  There is not a shred of vision in Montreal area politics  or Quebec City.  They are so timid, (Montreal politicians),  and Quebec is only interested in toxic narrow minded policies that will chase away the remaining best and the brightest …

Here are some issues to consider re Light Rail Transit, (LRT), and Streetcars/Tramways, (street running  LRT):


Tramways were once operated by private concerns.  It became very apparent that this method was unsustainable once government nationalized its roads and highways.   Ironically, tramway companies once owned and maintained and snow cleared the roads for cars, trucks, wagons, horses, bicycles and pedestrians.  There was also pressure from “Detroit” and motorists to eliminate the tramways as they were considered a nuisance by drivers and competition by the car companies.   In the 1950s, it was considered  avant-garde to eliminate streetcars.  Toronto’s old rolling stock lasted into the 1970s as it inherited fleets from other NA cities.  By then, the new environmental/transit activist movement arose and the the first Energy Crisis was upon us…  Hence, Toronto’s streetcars in-spite of Mayor Rob Ford and the PCs who are anti LRT  pro more expensive subway throughout the agglomeration even in sparser/less congested areas.

Reasons why we should restore tramways to our streetscape:
Tramways revitalize/revive communities. They encourage TOD, (Transit Oriented Development).  Prosperity is more possible.

Surface rail transit is not buried and hidden from public view.  It is easier to access and does not play second fiddle to the automobile.

It enhances the streetscape.  It make it more liveable for pedestrians and encourages street level entrances to commerce.

It creates a sense of permanence to the neighbourhood that a bus can never do

Operating costs are pricier for busses. More operators are required to carry the same passenger loads. Motorists also tend to be more attracted to trains than they are to busses.

Surface running LRT/Streetcar, including the rolling stock can cost between $10-$60 million/mile.  Montreal and QC always seem to favour the chromium plated versions and also are very particular to the “Ministry of Bombardier”.

Calgary’s highly successful LRT system is a case in point:

According to City of Calgary data that has been adjusted to 2009 dollars, it costs $304,930 to operate one LRT vehicle. The operating costs for a conventional bus is $359,470. That number rises to $503,250 per vehicle for a BRT system.
(See, Hurontario / Main Street Master Plan Report | Costs | Part 3P. 542, 11.2 Operating Costs,

The capital investment for LRT is eventually recovered from lower costs, greater passenger loads and higher property evaluations.

Capital cost:  Calgary built  its  LRT at about $24 million/mile.  This includes rolling stock and infrastructure.  Calgary’s and San Diego’s systems are super-successful. Calgary’s daily ridership is at 300,000.  San Diego’s system fair-box  pays for most of its operating costs.

The chromium plated version that Montreal wants at $60 million/mile could be whittled down.  In March the Province said it would not pay for that plan. Build the tramway network according to the terms and conditions of the very affordable Calgary LRT which cost about $24 million/mile or the  San Diego Trolley $US31.3 million/mile or St Loius MetroLink at $US20.8/mile.

No where is the need more evident as along Montreal’s  Autoroute 40 corridor where 3/4 of  West Islanders live:

As proposed  by the GREEN COALITION – The 440/Doney Spur/Anse-à-l’Orme

“The Charest government announcement (election promise) to build an urban boulevard on the 440 Autoroute servitude offers opportunities for the Green Coalition

The Green Coalition insists that the plans for the urban boulevard must include:

Vision for the Doney Spur Light Rail System

–          A Reserved Corridor must be established for a future Light Rail System on the same 440A ROW (right-of-way) as the new urban boulevard. This reserved corridor must provide sufficient Lateral and Vertical clearance for LRT as part of the proposed Doney Spur service fully integrated to the Métro. The Doney Spur Light Rail Service or Tram-Train was first proposed by the Green Coalition in 1989 to serve as an essential rapid transit link or surface metro between the heart of West Island and the downtown core. Substantial portions of the original rail-bed of the old spur line between Bois-Franc station in Saint-Laurent and Stillview Avenue in Pointe-Claire still exist. Note: This important transit right-of-way runs parallel and just south of the congested Autoroute 40 for a significant distance.

–          Lateral and Vertical clearance must also be set aside on the Interchange at A40.

–          The government must purchase and “railbank” all available parts of the Doney Spur ROW to prevent further encroachments.”
–        The success of the STM’s  470 Express bus proves that there is a market for this rail transit corridor.

Energy Options:  Most streetcar systems are powered by overhead wires/lines/supply/conductors.  Some view this as aesthetically displeasing and unsightly.  Several options exist:  Partially battery operated with strategically placed recharging stations and some overhead and a wireless partially buried, (flush with the ground), conduit system.  These are more costly.  The conduit systems existed in NYC on 6th Ave and in Washington, DC.  There is still some inoperable conduit in DC.  Conduits are more apt to breakdown in wet climates like Montreal.  They are shock-poof/arching proof.

Locations to film:  Sherbrooke St. W. near Montreal West Station and the Elmhurst Bus Terminal is an option since former catenary/line poles are still there from the streetcar era. Last year of operation to Westminster Ave., (1953), Elmhurst, (1956).
Grand Boulevard and Somerled is also an interesting intersection.  Streetcar tracks are still visible.

Possible Financing Options:

Public Private Partnerships, [PPPs]/Private Contributions

Detroit:  A group of private businesses and philanthropic organizations have proposed  to spend $84 million US out of the $137 million US price tag.  The rest would be publicly financed.  This would be a true PPP where private interests spend and contribute money as opposed to failed PPPs, esp, in the the UK, the founding country of capitalism, whereby it was used to place projects and services off-budget with no savings to the public till in the long run:

“”LaHood: Feds to donate millions to Detroit’s streetcar project
if ‘community can get its act together'”
By Gus Burns |
on October 15, 2012 at 4:36 PM
updated October 15, 2012 at 6:03 PM


Infrastructure Bank/Low Interest/Zero Interest Loans or Guarantees

LA, California

“”U.S. Department of Transportation Approves $545.9 Million Loan
to Advance Public Transit in Los Angeles”
Monday, October 1, 2012


Special Development Taxes as are being considered for the TTC and Metrolinx in Ontario

“”Will province drag its feet on regional transit taxes?”
Published on Friday October 05, 2012
Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter


Sexy Transport Modes:
In transit circles, monorails are not taken seriously.  They use the German term “gadgetbahn”   Promoters  want to make a quick buck.  It is awfully expensive compared to suburban rail or light rail or even more expensive elevated SkyTrain technology.  Two systems in the US had extreme problems.  The one in Las Vegas went broke and the expansion of the monorail in Seattle was cancelled because it was going to cost $1 billion/mile. Outrageous!

Certain people love to marvel at such technology like monorail or Maglev but for the most part these types of systems should be restricted to amusement parks and possibly airport circulators if that.

It would make much more sense to reuse or enhance existing rail lines like the Doney Spur, Lasalle Loop and the CP Westmount line for multiple unit or eventually electric multiple unit trains similar to the Two Mountains line.  They are lighter and swifter than Diesel-Electric locomotive trains push/pull trains and they also offer regenerative power which makes them more energy efficient.  GO/Metrolinx has been buying up strategic railway corridors in the Toronto area.  Montreal and QC should be doing that.  Alas, we are are behind on the curve ball on this issue.

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