Perils of a Proprietary Transit System

Bombardier Inc. loves proprietary transit systems, because of the “gotcha” factor. Once a transportation authority purchases a proprietary transit system, they are stuck with one manufacturer and if problems arise, too bad.

This is what happened in Caen, where in 2002, the city’s transportation authority purchased the proprietary Guide Light Transit guided bus system or GLT but after the parent company stopped their support of the transit system, the city of Caen, was left out in the cold and are now replacing GLT with a tram.

GLT is legally defined as a bus in France, but is guided by a double flange wheel on a single rail, thus not needing steering on a transit route but still retains the ability to be steered manually if need be and by all accounts, this happened more often than not.

From Wikipedia:

Critics of the system also point out that, unlike a conventional tramway, GLT is a proprietary system, meaning that once having installed it, a city would face difficulties in purchasing vehicles from any manufacturer other than Bombardier. A standard tramway, by contrast, can easily accommodate vehicles from multiple suppliers; Nancyai??i??s neighbour Strasbourg, for example, has chosen the Citadis tram from Alstom to supplement its existing Bombardier Eurotram fleet.

Because of the significant problems encountered by the cities which have opted for the Bombardier Guided Bus, one of which has demanded compensation for the costs it has had to pay for the GLT, Bombardier will not sell any more GLT systems, at least until all the issues have been resolved.

Another new tram line in France is in the offing, bringing with it a cautionary tale of the “perils of a a proprietary transit system.”

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2 Responses to “Perils of a Proprietary Transit System”
  1. Haveacow says:

    One of the glaring holes in the transit infrastructure here in the National Capital Region is the cross border connections between what is now the Unified City of Ottawa and what is now the Unified City of Gatineau. Bombardier thought that their GLT Guided Light Transit System could be sold to the STO or the National capital Commission as an answer to this issue. They were very wrong!

    Presently in about a 3:1 ratio, thousands of commuters cross the various interprovincial bridges every day. What happens is that, about 100 STO buses (Societe de Outaouais) per peak AM hour, mostly one way, cross into Ontario from Quebec carrying around 4200-4500 p/h/d (passengers/hour/direction). Nearly all of these STO buses end up on the Rideau/Wellington Street axis and then return back across the Outaouais River, (What Quebecers call the Ottawa River) mostly empty. The process reverses directions during the PM peak hours. What makes the situation worse for everyone involved is that, OC Transpo uses Rideau Street as a major collector and transfer point for our bus passengers using the local downtown surface bus routes, (at a rate of 40 buses/hour at peak) going between these routes and the Transitway Routes stopping at Mackenzie King Station. All the transferring passengers have to do is walk through the Rideau Centre Mall, literally all the way through, from Rideau Street at the north end to the south end, where the Transitway station is located. That means during the peak hour poor little Rideau Street is subjected to 140 buses/hour and its not even part of the Transitway System. This is an improvement it used to be about 165 buses/ peak hour but the numbers declined when the STO opened their RapiBus Busway. Its similar to but slightly less effective than Ottawa’s Transitways. But it has forced the STO to purchase 18 metre articulated buses, thus the number of buses crossing the border has been slightly reduced. Only a fraction of these passenger levels travel the other way from Ottawa to Gatineau in the morning and back in the afternoon. This has created big tension between both sides of the river for many decades and at many levels official and non official, the various separation referendums by the Parti Quebecois provincially, and the Bloc Quebecois federally, have not helped to ease the situation.

    The O Train Confederation Electric LRT Line currently under construction is designed so it can take the majority of the STO passengers transferring at Rideau Street. The location of Rideau LRT Station has been specifically placed to intercept these passengers.. However, it doesn’t eliminate the need for all the buses. The O Train Trillium Line (the original O-Train) our diesel LRT Line, using full scale mainline railway DMU’s, has the service end at Bayview Station which is a 1-2 minute walk literally from the completely unused Prince of Wales Railway Bridge ,built in 1880 by Ontario-Quebec Railway, a predecessor to the CPR, now owned by the City of Ottawa, which goes across the river and is still good condition. People on both sides have been screaming for years for the O-Train to be extended across the Ottawa River but both cities and federal governments seem to be deaf on the issue. Many have argued that a loop line could be built using the Prince of Wales Bridge through downtown Gatineau (former City of Hull) to the Alexandria Bridge or what used to be the original “Interprovincial Bridge”. This bridge which now carries cars, but it used to carry both Hull Electric, Hull bound streetcars and CPR Steam and Diesel Trains out of the old Ottawa Union Station across the Ottawa River, travelling to Montreal and Toronto. Toronto bound Trains would then travel through Hull, back across the Ottawa River using the old Prince of wales Bridge than take the CPR Mainline west to Carleton Place and then south to Brockville and the Toronto-Montreal Lakeshore Mainline. CPR’s Mainline through western Ottawa is now the Transitway trench that will be (ironically)converted in various stages to rail or in this case LRT. The first phase to Tunney’s Pasture Station is the present terminus of the first phase of the LRT program. Phase 2 will convert the rest of the t to LRT hopefully, by 2023.

    For years this loop line was considered impossible because there was no way to close the loop on the Ottawa side, well now you have a great east-west LRT tunnel being built in downtown Ottawa, technically closing the loop. Bombardier was pounding on a lot of doors here locally in the 90′s and 2000′s to have their product used as the operating technology on loop service. Believe me this service would be very well usedand it is needed here! I have a copy of one their GLT reports showing the STO and the NCC, that their system was much cheaper than building a conventional Busway or an LRT line. What drives a lot locals crazy here is that, the extension of the Trillium Line in Gatineau officially known in railway circles as the Gatineau Subdivision, travels right beside the new Rapibus Busway along its entire length.

    What I ultimately think killed the Bombardier GLT system from ever being used here was the sheer number of buses needed to handle the peak travel levels crossing the river. Plus, every time people like me but not just me, heard that this system was being considered, there was a collective scream (in both official languages), “look at Nancy, look at Caen, see if they are happy with this stupid thing” !

  2. zweisystem says:

    I believe it could not run in snow!

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