How a New Transit System Could Hobble Montreal, As It Hobbled Vancouver

Light-metro, the great philosopher’s stone for urban transportation in the 1970’s has turned out to be nothing more than a wet squib.

BC’s provincial politicians have continually forced light-metro onto metro Vancouver, forcing bus riders by the tens of thousands to make transfers to pretend there is high ridership.

Light-metro was so expensive that a new science of “denisification” was created by embarrassed academics, planners and engineers, to justify building with it.

And what do we have in return?

A somewhat mediocre light-metro system that has cost the taxpayer well over $10 billion to date, that has not created the all important modal shift from car to transit.

Gridlock in the region intensifies.

The bus system is fractured.

The fare system is expensive overly complicated.

A transit system so expensive that TransLink is pleading for the region to impose “road pricing”.

A new word coined for land development, “demoviction”, where renters are forced out of affordable apartments and move to transit poor regions, then the affordable apartments are demolished to provide hugely expensive condos, designed for overseas investors.

Transit in Vancouver has been hobbled by light-metro. The taxpayer can only afford a $1 billion to $1.5 billion small expansion every decade.

The region has invested over $10 billion on light-metro, yet gridlock has increased unabated.

Vancouver is continually haunted by the lack of vision by city and regional planners who all believe that “they will get it right with he next SkyTrain Line built”.

Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results has been labeled as the definition of insanity.

How a New Transit System Could Hobble Montreal

Itai??i??s the largest investment in public transit the city has seen in decades, but critics warn of a fatally flawed plan that could haunt the region for years.

It sounds like the kind of project cities donai??i??t dare to dream of anymore: a massive new transportation network on par with the great mass transit buildouts of the 20th century.

The RAi??seau express mAi??tropolitain (REM), French for metropolitan express network, is slated to be the largest investment in Greater Montrealai??i??s public transit in 50 years. Projected to be completed within four years, the fully-automated light-rail system rivals the creation of the cityai??i??s subway, the MAi??tro, in both size and impact. It is among the largest public transit projects in Canadian history and is intended to demonstrate new alternative funding methods for infrastructural mega-projects ai??i?? in this instance, a ai???public-publicai??? partnership.

Once completed, the REM will ferry passengers between the cityai??i??s international airport and the train station located near the core of the central business district. It will carry commuters from rapidly growing off-island suburbs over the new Champlain Bridge ai??i?? designed with light rail in mind ai??i?? and connect new urban neighborhoods currently lacking in public transit access. Further still, the REM will reach into the cityai??i??s sprawling western suburbs to provide a long-awaited improvement to the current cumbersome and delay-prone commuter rail network.

When all is said and done, say its promoters, the REM promises to be the worldai??i??s fourth largest fully-automated light-rail system, offering competitive travel times, full integration with the cityai??i??s existing public transit systems, universal access and climate-controlled multi-modal transit stations. More than just a new railway network, it is being sold as a mechanism to shift the regionai??i??s transportation gestalt toward public transit and to foster new transit-oriented developments within Greater Montreal.

Why, then, are environmentalists, transit lobbyists, architects, urban planners, researchers and the public consultation office highly critical ai??i?? if not outright opposed ai??i?? to a project that has so much potential? Why is there strong opposition to a major investment in public transit in a city that regularly ranks third in North America, after New York City and Mexico City, for daily rapid transit ridership?

Critics charge that the REM is a backdoor to the privatization of public transit in its own right, and by privatizing key public transit infrastructure, in the long run it will limit the potential to expand other systems, such as the cityai??i??s MAi??tro or commuter rail. Moreover, the projectai??i??s developer has chosen a route design that would be highly favorable to its own real estate holdings and would further support suburban residential construction, in which it is a major investor. This has led some to condemn the project as a real estate venture masquerading as a public transit project. To top it all off, though a considerable amount of public money will be used as start-up capital, contractually obligated annual returns will essentially remain in private hands.

More broadly, whether the REM is even a good public transit system remains an open question ai??i?? the provincial environmental assessment board has indicated it isnai??i??t convinced that the REM would deliver on any of its promised benefits.

For the rest of the story…………


8 Responses to “How a New Transit System Could Hobble Montreal, As It Hobbled Vancouver”
  1. eric chris says:

    It looks like flying to Paris to sign the Paris Agreement was a public relations stunt to impose carbon taxes to ostensibly “fight” climate change and continue business as usual to siphon the money off for other expenses. Pouring concrete for public transit does not curb CO2 emissions and won’t take cars off the roads. It will make money for the firm pouring the concrete.

  2. Haveacow says:

    The most stunning criticism of the entire REM network was not really mentioned directly in the article. Anton Dubrau’s 100 page critique most likely had it. His catbus website summed it up very, very well. The main problem is that the new network, really isn’t LRT at all but a Light Metro network, as well as having far less passenger carrying capacity as a Light Metro than the existing Commuter Rail network. In fact, on the opening day the line will have trouble absorbing the current peak hour passenger demand of the Deux Montagne Line and the brand new dual powered Manticouhe Commuter Rail Line. The Deux Montagne Line operated 255 metre long, 10 car EMU consists every 20 minutes at peak. The new Manticouhe line operates 127-150 metre long (5 and 6 car) bi-level coach consists pulled by dual powered locomotives, twice per hour at peak. 80 metre long Light Metro concists operating at most 12-15 times per hour (on the busiest part of the network) just can’t match that. This leaves very little room for system expansion because the vehicle fleet on opening day will be almost 100% committed. It also shows problems in the financial agreements because there is very little extra money for new vehicles. Unless of course, the tax payer coughs up more cash. For this semi-private transportation system.

  3. tensorflow says:

    I’ve told you that Asia had built at least 3 highly successful light-metro system designed for serious usage, apparently you didn’t listen, so let me put it here again:

    Hong Kong’s South Island Line. Train Length: 68m
    Singapore’s Circle Line. Train Length: 70m
    Taipei’s Wenhu Line. Train Length: 55m

    Zwei replies: You don’t get it. What you are talking about is light-metro with limited capacity, such as the South Island Line. But there is a big difference, in Asia, there is the mass of population that use the light metro, unlike metro Vancouver, where every bus customer that TransLink can, is forced to ride SkyTrain to pretend it is carrying high ridership. The three lines are light-metro, like Vancouver. They have limited capacity, like Vancouver. They were built because there was no room for light rail, unlike Vancouver.

  4. Fraser says:

    Zweisystem doesn’t like automated driverless trains because it eliminates jobs. The first city that had a subway has the largest automated light metro in world.

    Broadway extension is approved and funding in place. Translink share paid by higher fares and property tax.

    Zwei replies: Actually, automatic railways saves money spent on signalling, not driving. If you had read a book about it, you would have known. Only the ignorant claim diverless trains don’t need drivers. Under EEC laws driverless train need attendants on board.

    Actually, London’s Victoria Line is considered the first automatic metro in the world. SkyTrain is a sideshow.

  5. tensorflow says:

    Limited space isn’t a problem for the latter 2 line, Wenhu line was mostly built above a 6 lane highway (Fuxing Road) and a huge section of Circle line was built below an 8 lane highway (Upper Paya Lebar Rd).

    [Forced to ride SkyTrain to pretend it is carrying high ridership] is also something Asian cities might do. There is simply no need to keep parallel line as this would be a waste of resources if the metro system can do. If you double check the latter 2 line, both have no close direct bus alternatives now.

    The only one that still have bus routes in parallel is the South Island Line, but that is because buses running in parallel with the South Island Line can utilized Hong Kong’s freeway system which are much faster during middays, unlike Vancouver.

  6. tensorflow says:

    Victoria Line is the first metro that is equipped with a full-scale Automatic Train Operation system, but having ATO doesn’t mean it’s driverless. Many ATO system is able to reach GoA level 2 and driver is mandatory up to GoA level 3. I think SkyTrain is the first system to reach GoA level 4. IMO only GoA 4 should be called driveless and I do think the EEC law is also set up only for GoA level 4 vehicles since attendants don’t need to know how to operate the vehicle.

    Zwei replies: he Victoria Line is considered the first automatic metro in the world. A driver was retained for safety purposes. His sole duty in revenue operation is to press a button to start the train at every station. The trains can be driverless if need be.

    As I said, SkyTrain is a curiosity internationally and has proven driverless operation does not necessitate cheaper operation.

    Driverless operation is no longer a transit philosopher’s stone, rather it is the ultimate in signalling.

  7. Haveacow says:

    The EU also has attendants so that the individual transit operator doesn’t get taken to court because someone died on a train. Especially if the cause was preventable by just having someone walk through the train.

    Copenhagen and it’s new Circle line (line 3 and part of line 4) which is due to be open in 2019, is having to grapple with the issue right now. This tiny light metro system has been preparing for its next major expansion however, two elderly passengers died on the existing line number 2 at Christmas time. The families are now taking the operator and the municipality to court. Not one passenger intervened and these seniors were both able to pass out and die of congestive heart failure. A highly obvious and very slow way to die. Its also would have been easily preventable as long as someone like an attendant had been there to see it.

    For a system that is full of cameras you would think that someone monitoring the system would notice a person having a long deep sleep like that. Nope. They completely missed it, twice within a few days. The result was 2 dead seniors. We will see what comes from this.

    One other issue I have with Driverless Train systems is that, although you do loose well paying unionized jobs with these types of rail systems. My my main complaint is that groups that are extremely anti-transit like, The Canadian Tax Payers Federation, use this type of system as a union busting tool. A well functioning rapid transit system that can actually move a large number of people efficiently is not something that they even care about.

    This was the same group who put a bogus report together and got several senior people at the TTC in Toronto to pass it off as their own. The report said that the TTC should just update the Scarborough RT because it was cheaper than building an LRT line. This report has been used several times by anti-LRT groups and bloggers promoting the Skytrain (Daryl). The report is near useless because it leaves out major costs, like land purchases and rail system maintenance requirements. Not to mention certain technical points about the current Scarborough RT issues.

    This same group was quite ironically against the construction of the TTC Subway, The Scarborough RT and Vancouver’s Skytrain Network.

  8. Maple says:

    This new line in montreal is from the airport to city airport. Most trains that go to airport are driver less. This is a good decision by Montreal.

    Driverless is the future. Driverless cars will be everywhere soon. Driverless buses will be next. It will reduce accidents. People are careless and cause accidents.

    in the future, you just tell the car where you want to go and go to sleep or play with your phone.

    Labour is the biggest expense of any company. Best way to save money is to eliminate the labour and auotmate everything.