All Quiet on the Transit Front?

With civic elections only weeks away, there has been a lull with transit issues and stories.

The city of Vancouver, which considers itself the centre of the universe, provides us with some mirth as the elections draw near.

The left leaning C.O.P.E. political party is proposing that all Vancouver residents should have universal transit for a $1.00 a day. No plan on how to fund this proposal or getting regional mayors approval or increasing transit services, none the less C.O.P.E. continues to bang the drum for very heavily subsidized universal transit passes for Vancouver citizens.

Vision(less) Vancouver and the N.P.A. right of centre political parties, still champion a Broadway subway and like C.O.P.E. have no plan to pay for it except having regional taxpayers foot the bill.

From Quebec, it has been revealed that Bombardier and SNC Lavalin are heavily funding a citizens group to demand politicians build a ART SkyTrain across the new Champlain Bridge. What is bizarre is that Bombardier and SNC are claiming both that ART (SkyTrain) is more cost effective and can carry more people than LRT and that ART is cost effective at carrying less people than what LRT can carry. An obvious case of having your cake and eating it too!

As Ottawa has shown, modern light rail has the edge over SkyTrain in capacity and that it is cheaper to build.

There is a persistent rumor is that corporate managers in Europe want Bombardier, in essence a German Company, to scrap its ART Skytrain program to save money and concentrate on airport people movers and light rail. What is happening in Montreal could be seen as SkyTrain’s last kick at the can, so to speak, as the Skytrain gravy train may run out of track.

There is also evidence of this in Vancouver, where the SkyTrain Lobby are desperately trying to get Skytrain on track again in the metro Vancouver area.

It will not be until after the November election, when transit issues will be sensibly debated.


3 Responses to “All Quiet on the Transit Front?”
  1. Haveacow says:

    The Montreal Area & The Champlain Bridge Project

    The feds have already said that any transit on the new Champlain Bridge across the St. Lawrence will either be LRT or BRT (BRT being most likely) a few months ago (May I believe), the minister in charge of the project has said the budget is fixed and that any extra costs for the bridge itself will come from the transit right of way budget. They the Conservative Government who is funding the project, outright killed any Skytrain like system possibility as being way too expensive. People were initially teased with a picture graphic that looked like the Mark 2 or 3 Skytrain cars and this is where this story came from. Any LRT possibility is likely to be piggy-backed order from Toronto’s LRV Flexity Swift orders, according to my spies.

    The planned ROW for the LRT/BRT into downtown Montreal is on road based ramps coming off the bridge to an on street network of roads leading to the current downtown commuter bus terminal . Any Skytrain based system would require a grade separated ROW all the way into downtown, thus raising the capital cost of the whole project to a point it will become unaffordable. We are talking about a massive $5-6 Billion bridge project here not including a rail transit link in Montreal or in Longieul. They don’t need any help raising the cost of this project! If you have ever seen the existing bridge, it is not a small affair, this is a massive project. The distance needed to be bridged here is large, the whole thing is kilometers in length. The city of Montreal does not want a Skytrain system because of the expense in providing a skytrain type station at the current transit/bus station terminal. On top of all of this, there is virtually no money for a rail system of any kind locally or provincially for this project. My contacts told me the new improved commuter bus terminal for the bridge in downtown will be a bus based BRT Lite system, with the ability to upgrade to LRT in the future. The locals in Montreal want a LRT like system that can easily and cheaply access existing tracks in downtown Montreal. These rail line have many pedestrian and vehicle crossings which make a Skytrain system not practical.

    You have to realize that in Quebec there is a historic tendency to publically announce large infrastructure projects very much earlier in the design/fund/build process than in English Canada. Sometimes announcements like this are done as a test, just to see how much possible support and government funding there actually is. Many projects in Quebec die an early death this way or morph over time into something else more affordable, massively disappointing the public.

    For example the rail line connection project to Trudeau Airport in Montreal made it all the way to the study phase.The airport authority wanted a Skytrain or Canada Line type Light Metro system and the track allowances on the main commuter rail corridor all the way to downtown. The railways (CP Rail and AMT) simply thought it would be a spur line from the airport terminal to the existing AMT Commuter Rail Line located very close to the airport property, similar to the Airport spur line in the Pearson Airport – Union Station project in Toronto. The cost of the project ballooned till it was going to cost $1.3 Billion and take away track capacity from West Island commuters who have been lobbying AMT for years for more service to their communities located west of the proposed Trudeau Airport spur. Naturally, this idea, along with the report, has been quietly but quickly shelved, probably forever.

    The Bombardier Question

    Bombardier, as I have previously reported on this site many times, has hinted for years that they want more sales from their ART system and that production facilities that are producing the parts and the cars themselves will close once all current orders are finished sometime between 2017-20, no firm date has been set. This doesn’t mean production of Skytrain vehicles is ending but future orders will be put in facilities that have spare production lines. Thus requiring the company to briefly shut down the extra production line and retool them for the new vehicle order. This means future Skytrain orders will take longer but more importantly, they will cost more. Due to the fact that Bombardier will have to cover these retooling and shutdown costs. The shutdown and retooling process can take a few days or weeks, it depends on the complexity of the project and order. The Airport People Mover division of the company is very profitable and is run almost as a separate company based in the US and interestingly, China. European orders for their People Mover division is split between various extra rail facilities. Most of their people Mover business is in the US or China.

    The Monorail division is located within the same plants that currently produce Skytrains due to many common parts between the 2 systems. A friend of mine use to joke about the curse of the Monorail. In rail production circles its colorfully known as, “The Kiss of Death” when a rail vehicle is produced in the same facilities as Monorails.

    Technically the company is Canadian and run out of Canada but, you are right the rail systems division of the company is headed out of Germany, although it has admitted publically that, the German head office mainly handles European projects and other world wide projects. North American rail project decisions are essentially made in Montreal. Its cheaper to make cars, vehicles and engines destined for North and South America in either Canada, the US or its Brazilian plants. Cuts have been hinted at because for the declining sales of the ART technology as well as out of control costs in the aircraft division.The huge development cost of the Regional Commuter Jet Program does not help. Bombardier has a massive over capacity problem in its rail facilities based in Europe, due to the purchases of many smaller European rail transit vehicle production companies over the last 20 years.

  2. Haveacow says:

    “It will not be until after the November election, when transit issues will be sensibly debated.”

    This to me Zwei this is a scary statement because, without a fire of deadline under the feet of your provincial government they have no reason to act at all. This will not only kill any future Skytrain system, it will ultimately kill your Tram-Train as well. If you want nothing but low grade (BRT- Lite) for the next 15 years or so, then let the province stay on it’s current course. This will not lead to any thing but, a minor attempt at privatization, which will be overly complex and ultimately prove to be unworkable. You have some very dark transit days ahead you in BC. If I were you I would band together with all your local internet transit groups and start lobbying as a single group, big time. Tell the province to implement some plan to provide new funding for transit regardless of the technology.

    By delaying new taxes for transit as well as newer funding sources it will only end up costing you. This will not save you any tax dollars it will cost you dearly. It doesn’t matter how inefficient Translink is, your transit system is underfunded by at least 40%, and the gap is growing not declining. YOU WILL PAY MORE IN TAXES FOR EVERYTHING, INCLUDING TRANSIT. Unless your province acts soon, all that new funding WILL HAVE TO COME FROM LOCAL TAX PAYERS because all their provincial money will be fully committed to other spending choices. There will be very little or no federal level government funding increases for transit and infrastructure coming for a decade, maybe two. Both the federal Liberals and Conservatives have both said, the amount of money for transit & infrastructure will have to decline, just to cover old age pensions and healthcare. That’s with 5-10% yearly increases in federal taxes, starting in 2018.

  3. Sean says:

    The Quebec method in a sense saves the taxpayers a lot of money before the project is actually approved. The only money spent is for the assessment of a new transit line.