Trams Around The world

In Metro Vancouver and its surrounds, there is a definite lack of knowledge of the modern tram. This lack of knowledge is illustrated by both politcal leaders and the mainstream media who treat the modern tram with disdain and prefer more photo-op ready light-metro, due to its appeal when ribbon cutting happens.

Sadly there is a price to be had with Vancouver and TransLink’s penchant for light-metro and that is cost.

Simply put, TransLink is paying up to ten times more or even double or treble this with subway construction, yet at the same time, providing a service inferior when compared to the modern tram. Remember, over 80% of the light-metro’s ridership come from bus customers forcibly made to transfer to the light-metro.

Much cheaper costs, yet the tram has the ability to cater to traffic flows much larger than the proprietary ART Movia light-metro, explains why the modern tram has held its own with light and heavy rail metro and with well over six hundred examples in operation around the world, the tram is the number one rail transit choice among knowledgeable planners.

The following is some examples of cities using trams.

Basel Switzerland


City: Basel Switzerland

System length: Metre gauge, 77 km., 9 lines.

Budapest, Hungary


City: Budapest, Hungary

System length: Standard gauge, 157 km,  36 routes.

Customers carried:  Over 400 million annually

Grenoble, France

City: Grenoble, France.

System length: Standard gauge, 42, km., 5 lines.

Customers carried. Over 250,000 daily.

Melbourne, Australia

City: Melbourne, Australia

System length: Standard gauge, 250 km., 24 routes.

Customers carried. 206 million annually.


Paris France


City: Paris, France.

System length: Standard gauge, 105 km. 10 lines.

Customers carried. Over 200 thousand daily.

Toronto Canada


City: Toronto Canada

System length: Broad gauge,  80 km. 10 lines.

Customers carried. Over 300,000 daily (weekdays).


12 Responses to “Trams Around The world”
  1. Haveacow says:

    What has always amazed me about the simple streetcar/tram/Light Rail Vehicle is that it fits so well into the environment it is in. Urban, suburban, exurban and rural it works in them all. On-street in mixed traffic, or on-street in private segregated right of way, in the roadway median or curb lanes. On private rights of way beside a road or on a seperated right of way, away from the road. At surface or up in the air, above grade (like the Skytrain) or in a tunnel, it can do it all, as cheaply or as expensively as you need. It can carry small passenger loads or passenger loads that easily dwarfs the Skytrain’s best. The stops can be a pole with a small sidewalk beside a single track or several multi story buildings capable of handling thousands of passengers a day with dozens of tracks and platforms (one suburban LRT/Tram-Train/main line railway station in Karlsruhe comes to mind).

    There adaptability makes them capable of interesting alternative uses. The same Light Rail Vehicles that were on loan from Brussels that were used in Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympics (The Olympic Line) were recently seen doing Tram-Bowling for charity. Melbourne has dinner/restaurant trams were you can get a fairly decent meal, snack or coffee. Some Japanese cities have Sushi-Trams (pretty self explanatory). Some cities have tourist streetcars that take tourists for guided tours of the city. Toronto will let you rent a streetcar (for a fee) in which wedding guests or in my case ,students doing a pub crawl, can tour individual historic sites and or bars and restaurants in downtown Toronto.

  2. Haveacow says:

    Some are serious businesses some are just fun.

    Toronto Foodie On Foot Tours on the 501 Streetcar

    San Francisco’s Market F Line, a rolling streetcar museum, made of mostly PCC Streetcars from all over the world including Toronto

    Melbourne’s Colonial Tramcar Restaurant

    Tram Bowling in Brussels

    Piggy Tram to the Zoo

  3. Rob Sutherland says:

    Some other benefits: eyes on the street; hop on and off; universal accessibility; far easier and less costly to build, operate and maintain; expansion of service or adding/reducing stations a snap compared to Skytrain; multiple choices for modern trams or add heritage fleets such as in San Francisco.

    Within cities streetcars are an attractive alternative to car-use and some would also say add beauty and encourage better design of our public roads. Skytrain creates blight wherever it passes.

    In Vancouver and region the historic Interurban network still largely exists as a right of way over its 200 + km’s.
    Re-instatement of this urban and regional “spine” would benefit the GVRD – whereas the same cost would get you at best 20km of Skytrain.

  4. Haveacow says:

    The CAF Urbos 100 LRV family’s 9 section Light Rail Vehicle, bought for Line #1 in Budapest, Hungary, pictured in this article, is the longest single Light Rail Vehicle in the world at 56.3 metres.

  5. Wong says:

    If trams are so great. Why did Vancouver get rid of them? Trams suck.

    Zwei replies: the trams were replaced by buses because the the powers that be would not renew the system. BC Electric tried a last ditch plan to operate coupled sets of PCC cars on both the Vancouver new West Route and the Vancouver to Lulu island, but the union demanded both cars be manned by staff. The plan ceased to be cost effective.

    To be blunt, it was the union that gave the coup de gras to the system.

    By the way, why doesn’t anyone buy SkyTrain? SkyTrain sucks!

  6. W Cyr says:

    These all are electric. Why are we going off track with considering inefficient “fuel cell” technology?

    Zwei replies: Personally, I believe diesel LRT in the form of the Stadler GTW is the way to go. It is FRA approved and a little gem of a train.

    It seems the NDP are only interested if it has some “zoom” to it in the form of hydrogen power.

  7. Haveacow says:

    Unfortunately, the GTW model of DMU doesn’t meet the new Tier 4A emission and fuel efficiency standard that is coming into force in North America in 2020. The vehicle will require updates. However, many of Stadler’s newer DMU models do. For example, smaller FLIRT DMU model configurations will be fine in place of the GTW. You can still run the older GTW models but new purchases have to match the new standards.

  8. Haveacow says:

    Trams were sidelined here in North America because GM and Ford (which sold buses at the time) wanted to sell buses to North American transit agencies.

    On top of that, most of the old streetcar operations were private companies, a majority of which were going bankrupt and ownership in many cities and towns were transferring to the public ownership model that we have today. These new public agencies didn’t want to be saddled with enormous amounts of rail infrastructure that was needing updating because the private companies didn’t or wouldn’t fix themt. It was more important that private companies paid shareholders before investing in new expensive streetcar infrastructure.

    Lastly many cities wanted the streetcar rights of way back. Privste streetcar operators had to purchase these rights of way initially from the cities and towns they served. With most of the private operators dying, cities saw this as a way to get back those legal streetcar rights of way.

    Those are the real reasons almost everyone got rid of trams and streetcars @Wong.

  9. Haveacow says:

    To further Zwei’s point @Wong, only in Vancouver and Kuala Lumpur have Bombardier built any new Skytrain type lines (Innovia, now Movia Automated Light Metro) Bombardier in the last 10 years. Whereas in Ontario alone, there have been 7 LRT lines built, still building, under extension or in pre construction, over the same time period.

    Adding to this 2 lines in Alberta, an LRT Line is about to start final engineering in Quebec City and another in Gatineau Quebec, is in advanced planning stages about to start its Environmental Assessment.

    Only in Greater Vancouver (Surrey) did someone stop an LRT line from being built so a small Skytrain extension could be built with the LRT money. It will be a decade at the least, before the Expo Line goes all the way to Langley, assuming they ever get the funding for the whole extension.

  10. Rob Sutherland says:

    Haveacow: welcome to Lotus Land.

  11. Bryan says:

    @haveacow. Vancouver hasn’t built any new skytrain lines. it only extended 2 lines built in the 1980′s and 1990′s.
    Canada line is a different technology. Coquitlam is just an extension just like Langley and UBC. Surrey stopped the LRT line because that is want the people wanted. The mayor made a promise to the people that elected him. A majority want the skytrain extended to Langley. 85% in Surrey support extending skytrain to Langley.

    Zwei replies: Please stop using the rail for the valley email addy for your address.

    To correct you. The new mayor of Surrey only garnered 13% of the vote and because many people did not vote, he won. The anti LRT debate was based on a framework of lies and deceit and no one bothered to fact check. The poll you mentioned was a push poll, with one question, do you favour SkyTrain to Langley.

    The Millennium Line is actually an ART Line or bombardier rebuilt ALM/ALRT/ICTS system and many consider it a separate railway than the ICTS/ALRT Expo line.

  12. Haveacow says:

    @Bryan, It doesn’t matter whether that the Skytrain product is an extension or a new line and I am fully aware of the make up and operating arrangement that is Translink. What matters is a much better operating technology (LRT) was substituted for an extremely inferior product that you know as Skytrain (Bombardier’s Automated Light Metro Movia Line formerly the Innovia Automated Light Metro Transportation System). The Skytrain technology, moves fewer people than LRT. Due to its technological over-complexity, it costs more to build and operate, is used by very few cities (so you loose economy of scale in the costs of parts and material) and lastly the most painful part of the issue is that, most people in the lower mainland don’t understand just how completely they have been duped. I would treat this as an anomaly but when you consider how many new LRT lines and extensions are being built vs. the number of new Skytrain lines and extensions, you have to ask, what does everyone else in Canada and the US see in LRT technology that they don’t in the Skytrain technology? Nobody else seems to want to buy it! That should make people in Surrey and the rest of the Lower Mainland ask some serious questions.

    You say that, this is what the people wanted, I say the vast majority were never given enough real information to make a proper choice in the first place. Given the extremely sketchy information that was spread by Surrey’s new mayor about the cost and ability to put in Skytrain instead of LRT and so far, his complete lack of delivery on any of his promises. Add to this, the growing realization that his promises are costing way more than he initially said they would, punctuated by the fact that, many who were elected on the same political ticket seriously doubt his ability to deliver on anything! Claiming that this is what people wanted, rings kind of hollow.

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