Montreal, Quebec – op-ed: death of Canadian light metro ??

An interesting read.
Why would Quebec’s Caisse de dAi??pA?t et placement du QuAi??bec, invest in the obsolete SkyTrain?
Could the real reason be to help Bombardier out of its aerospace financial embarrassment, by buying ART?
At the current rate, the proposed 67 km Montreal ART light-metro system will cost well over $8 billion or more than $2.75 billion , more than the $5.25 claimed to be budgeted. Then there is the operating subsidy, probably in excess of $200 million annually.
Finally; has anyone told the Caisse, that ART does not operate in the snow very well, if at all?
No? Let caveat emptor rule!
The proposal at MONTREAL, Quebec’s largest city, for a new light metro system is drawing sharp criticism from a university professor and an urban consultant. They say the plan is hastily constructed and based on optimistic assumptions, according to an op-ed commentary posted by The Montreal Gazette. If it fails to materialize, it may be the last gasp for Canadian light metro. Any agency worldwide who wants it can buy it from Japan-based HItachi’s new subsidiaries AnsaldoBreda and Ansaldo STS. Honolulu is buying from them and the elevated light metro project now has escalated in cost to more than $8 billion, more than is available from city, state and federal funds. Honolulu may have to scale it back in some fashion.Vancouver Skytrain light metro requires a substantial subsidy, the op-ed authors say:SkyTrain

Opinion: Is the Caisse REM Montreal light-rail proposal really such a good idea?

Published on: July 26, 2016

Earlier this year, the Caisse de dAi??pA?t et placement du QuAi??bec proposed a 67 km system of light-rail transit (LRT) for Greater Montreal. However there are several potential problems associated with the RAi??seau Ai??lectrique mAi??tropolitain (REM) proposal that have not received sufficient attention. They include:

A note from Zwei -based on the current cost projection from TransLink, the cost to build ART SkyTrain is now $13o million/km which means a 67 km SkyTrain light metro would cost a minimum of $8.7 billion!

Accountability:Ai??The Caisse is a semi-private pension fund that answers to a board of directors and depositors, not the MontrealAi??electorate. Assigning responsibility for planning a new transit system to a financial institution rather than a transportation planning agency accountable to elected officials could lead to a system designed to meet the financial needs of the Caisse rather than strengthening the performance of transport in the Montreal region.

Subsidies: The Caisse would invest $3 billion USD $2.27 billion)in the project if the federal and provincial governments provide up to $2.5 billion (USD $1.89 billion) between them. Beyond this, the Caisse says it would not require any further public subsidies; it expects to recover its capital investment, pay for operating costs, and make a profit, mostly from the fare-box revenue. The Canadian average for the recovery of transit operating costs from fares is only 60Ai??per cent. And that doesnai??i??t take into account recovering capital costs. The Caisse says the systemai??i??s driverless technology would keep operating costs low. But the Vancouver LRT system ai??i??Ai??also driverless ai??i??Ai??requires a substantial subsidy even though it has 328,000 boardings per weekday, compared to the 150,000 per weekday projected for the REM.

A note from Zwei -

In 1993, the annual subsidy for just the Expo Line was $157.3 million annually!

Ridership: To achieve the Caisseai??i??s projections, stations on the REM network would have to attract on average twice the number of riders as the busiest station (other than Central Station) on the current AMT network. The REMai??i??s more frequent serviceAi??might convince some drivers to leave their cars at home, but residents have already invested in cars and single family homes in low density settings,Ai??and suburban bus may notAi??conveniently connect to the new system.

A note from Zwei – Over 80% of SkyTrain’s ridership first take a bus, then are forcibly transferred to SkyTrain. There has been no modal shift from car to SkyTrain in the past 25 years as mode share by car has remained at 57%.

Parking: The Caisse expects to profit from development of lands near the stations. However, West Island mayors have demanded copious amounts of subsidized parking, and the Caisse appears ready to oblige them. Expansive park-and-ride lots would be at odds with the vision of a tightly woven urban fabric around stations.

Impact on other transit systems: The proposed REM wouldAi??not integrate well with the mAi??tro; the two systems would overlap only at Central Station, a 10-minute walk to the Bonaventure mAi??tro station. The impact of the REM on the existing AMT system does not appear to have been thoroughly assessed. The REMAi??would swallow the Deux-Montagnes line, the backbone of the current AMT system, leaving less viable routes with the public operator. Riders on the recently completed Train de lai??i??Est linking downtown to Mascouche would have to transfer from an AMT train to an REM train at a new station near Highway 40, driving down ridership. The AMT lines to Candiac and Vaudreuil-Hudson would also take serious ridership hits. All told, it seems the impact of the new network on the AMTai??i??s existing operations could be highly detrimental, reducing use of infrastructure built with billions of public dollars.

The Caisse says it accepts the financial risk if the projected ridership doesnai??i??t materialize. But once in place, the province may well feel pressured to subsidize the REM, both to maintain the Caisseai??i??s financial return and the functioning of the regional transit system. Meanwhile, by using a finite sum of provincial and federal infrastructure dollars, the REM could set back other projects, such as the mAi??tro Blue Line extension to Anjou, that more logically build on existing transit facilities.

The Caisse proposal bears the hallmarks of a hastily put together plan based on many optimistic assumptions and projections. We encourage more critical scrutiny of this highly unusual proposal prior to handing over $2.5 billion of public funds to a semi-private pension fund that has acted as an armai??i??s length investor in infrastructure projects, but has no experience in the planning, building, operation, or ownership of transit systems.

Craig Townsend is an associate professor in theAi??Department of Geography, Planning and Environment atAi??Concordia University.Ai??Ray Tomalty is the principal ofAi??Smart Cities Research.


3 Responses to “Montreal, Quebec – op-ed: death of Canadian light metro ??”
  1. Haveacow says:

    Actually the vehicles will have to be some type of modified ART product. The current ART vehicles can’t legally operate on these tracks because large parts of the system will still be connected to the national rail system. The designers and people at the Caisse already knew this and said some type of modified vehicle system designed to operate using overhead catenary and heavier than standard ART trains. The real problem as mentioned in the article is that the AMT Commuter Rail system not only looses completely the only electric commuter rail line in currently operating in Canada but it decimates the core section of AMT’s brand new Train de l’Est line. This line figuratively is so new that, the paint is barely dry. What is not mentioned is that much of the proposed right of way doesn’t actually exist and would require massive property purchases. Certain parts of the lines that do exist as a working rail line like, the section that will go to Montreal’s airport must pass through the back allies of many businesses and is barely wide enough for the single track line. Plus, in this area outside of peak hours CN Rail has an operating agreement with AMT to run freight towards and away from one of CN Rail’s big Montreal yards, across AMT track to another very busy CN freight line. Not to mention that, most of the existing Deux Montagne Electric Commuter rail line is single track and would have to be doubled tracked at great cost. For these and many other reasons too numerous to mention you must always be wary of Montreal/Quebec based transportation proposals like this, they always, always make the announcement before serious planning and engineering has even begun. This habit is something I have noticed and is the real reason very few ideas ever get started in Montreal.

    Ridership is a big issue that I previously haven’t touched on but this consultant and professor seem to have just scratched the surface as to the level of detail I haven’t finished reading there paper but it appears they have it one of the other big reasons this system will have to massively modified or completely abandoned. The Caisse’s system testing models both operational and financial, need big time updating and a good do over! Its very hard to price a rail system when the vehicles that you plan to use have not even been designed yet. No one knows how long they will be, how wide or their real passenger capacity yet. There has also been no design about how much or, where railway power systems will be located for the existing non electric lines. Will it use the same voltage as the existing commuter rail line?

    Don’t even get me started on the legal issues of this monster. Plus the Caisse itself is hoping that it will use the profit from development near the stations to act as investment for the pension system. So they must have some idea how much they want to build around each station. Which means they haven’t probably told the cities the system is passing through yet that, they want big density bonuses as well! There are so many questions with this system and although the Federal government is positive about the project, no actual money has been offered yet and nothing has been heard from the province of Quebec either! My guess, it will either be greatly reduced before it gets built or it will simply fade into history as another unrealized and unbuilt Montreal/Qubec based transportation project!

    Zwei replies: The late Des Turner had a letter from Standard Electric Lorenz (S E L trac) who were marketing the ATC SELTRAC during the Hamilton saga of ICTS sales, that stated LIM powered trains could not operate on “squirrel cage” standard electric lines because of the “wheel slip” issue. As LIM powered trains did not have powered wheels, it did not have wheel slip, unlike regular railways and as part of the ATC design, revolutions of the wheels were counted as part of the automatic signalling operation, big problems would occur, especially in Autumn when leaves fouled the track and caused wheel-slip. The Canada line has grief in Richmond each fall when its wheels slip on leaves on the track.

    My estimate on cost, based on TransLink’s numbers – 67 km – $8 billion plus!

  2. Haveacow says:

    The motors for the Montreal system are already going to be standard electric motors not LIM units, The Caisse considered it too expensive for normal operations. So the vehicle for this system has no design yet, but it has to be closer to conventional railway vehicle weight, has to hold 150 passengers per with seats in a railway/commuter rail formation (very little standing room) not a rapid transit formation. 4 car trains at peak and 2 car trains off peak (similar physical layout to skytrain vehicles, although not the same capacity). Each of the 3 north and west of downtown branches will run between 5-10 trains/hour at peak. The South Shore branch will run 10-20 trains/hour at peak. The system, I hope they plan to run obviously means that 2 of the northern branches most likely the Deux-Montagnes & west Island branch will feed trains into the south shore branch and the airport line will likely be a separate service sending trains back to the airport directly once they reach downtown. That means only 36 of 50 ,4 car trains will be needed at peak. That’s a total of 144 out of a 200 car planned fleet will be active with the highest planned level of service. I think they have padded the purchase needs a bit. Unless, each line run as a separate entity and each line sends trains back away from downtown instead of a through train service, then 49, 4 car trains will be needed using the maximum planned level of service and very few cars will be left for extras. They really need to do some more modeling and give the public better details. Although even they warn the network may change as time progresses.

  3. eric chris says:

    Electric buses and trams (for added capacity) are mass transit. There is no need for ART or other garbage running in subways and on viaducts to make Bombardier and SNC Lavalin money.

    What Ottawa did with LRT was somewhat necessary. There were too many buses on the roads in downtown Ottawa. Still, the alternative would have been to have run more trams (36 metre long) carrying 200 people each on the roads rather than long trains in dedicated right of ways and in the tunnel in Ottawa. Tram-buses are looking like the path forward for public transit. They are a cool concept for Montreal and other cities, especially, Vancouver, in my opinion:

    I’m going to go on a tangent and talk about Vancouver, and it is relevant to Toronto, too. Only modest housing density and distributed public transit (electric trams or buses) throughout all of Vancouver can make Vancouver affordable again and provide adequate public transit in Vancouver. Detached homes which cost more than $1 million dollars in Vancouver can only be reduced in cost to something affordable in the range of $250,000 by the quadrupling of the four bedroom and two bath homes (townhomes and duplexes) which families fleeing Vancouver desire.

    Subways and viaducts for public transit aren’t suitable for modest density housing (townhomes and duplexes). Unless the public transit strategy switches to electric trams or buses for low-medium density communities throughout Vancouver, housing affordability cannot be addressed and corrected.

    For the last two decades, TransLink has been spending wildly on public transit for developers to build housing density along its subways and viaducts for driverless induction rail transit (DIRT) to supposedly make housing affordable and banish road congestion. With Vancouver having developed the most unaffordable housing in Canada, possibly the world, and the worst road congestion in Canada: the current regional planning strategy allowing developers to replace detached homes and five story walk up apartments with ritzy 40 story investment condos along public transit corridors isn’t having the desired effect, obviously. It is causing social upheaval and discord in the communities where it occurs:

    Unaffordable housing and road congestion are linked to public transit by TransLink. Vancouver’s mayor isn’t connecting the dots and doesn’t see how wiping out homes along subway and viaduct corridors for public transit depletes the housing stock and leads to unaffordable housing in Vancouver. People simply head for Surrey, Delta and Langley surrounding Vancouver to find detached homes or five story walk up apartments, to drive up housing costs in Surrey, Delta and Langley, and then drive into Vancouver for jobs, making road congestion very much worse in Metro Vancouver. It’s the double whammy of unaffordable housing and road congestion spurred by transit orientated development and dinky condo units which aren’t satisfying the housing needs in Vancouver and are merely being built to make developers easy and fast money.

    Developers of the likes of Bob Rennie rely on politicians such as Gregor Robertson and Geoff Meggs of the Vision party running council in Vancouver to rezone low density residential communities into high density communities which are ideal for pimps and prostitutes, for example, but less than ideal for families. Remote and centralized stations for subway and elevated lines are perfect for drug deals and crime to occur and less than perfect for families to live.

    Along Broadway in Vancouver, developers need an angle to replace rental units and detached homes with high rise condo towers financed with the proceeds of organized crime. To make huge profits from high rise condos, developers make the specious claim that all the added people concentrated in the high rise condos along the planned subway along Broadway will stop driving if citizens are taxed billions of dollars to build the subway along Broadway. They contend that the subway will curb road congestion.

    Unfortunately, the premise that the subway can or will reduce road congestion is utterly ridiculous. Road congestion on Cambie Street where TransLink’s last subway was constructed has exploded. One transit bus causes more road congestion than the cars removed by the transit bus, and the subway requires an increase in buses on the roads to transport people to the subway. Building the subway along Broadway promises to exacerbate road congestion, therefore. Proof: road congestion dropped in Vancouver during the four month long public transit strike in 2001.

    “Although there are likely more cars on the road because of the strike, our members are reporting faster travel times and less-than-usual congestion during the past five weeks in the Lower Mainland… Let’s face it. When there are hundreds of buses stopping and starting every few hundred yards, there’s going to be an impact on traffic. When those buses aren’t there, space is freed up and the rest of the traffic doesn’t need to drive around them.”

    Public transit is used by people who don’t drive and is essentially a public service. Two-thirds of commuters (drivers) refuse to rub shoulders with the creepy, crazy and crass individuals on public transit. That’s the reality and it’s time to accept it. As much as I support public transit, don’t talk to me about public transit cutting road congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions. I don’t want to hear it.

    Public transit is not an investment. Each dollar which TransLink collects from passengers costs citizens in Canada three dollars. Funding public transit results in increased public debt and increased financial liabilities. TransLink is $3.6B in debt and sinking. TransLink is desperately attempting to obtain funding from the federal government to use Canadians to pay off its debt. It isn’t happening.

    Monkeys at TransLink don’t know what they are doing. In case you missed it, the Expo Line has hundreds of defects. I’ve been warning of the shoddy maintenance of the so called engineers at TransLink. They really need to shut down the Expo Line and replace the defective rails, now! They don’t have the luxury of taking the next year to replace the rails. If the s-train derails in the meantime, lots of idiots at TransLink are going to jail:

    Okay, enough for now…