OK…….Is It Now Time for TramTrain?

What is TramTrain?

A TramTrain is a type of light rail vehicle that meets the standards of a light rail system (usually an urban street running tramway), but which also meets national mainline standards permitting operation alongside mainline trains.

Straight forward isn’t it, or is it?

Then, was the interurban an early form of TramTrain?

Yes and no. Interurban operated both on their own dedicated rights-of-ways and on city tram/streetcar tracks. Interurban s seldom if ever, track shared with mainline railways. The one exception I can think of were the Electroliners of the Chicago Nouth Shore and Milwaukee Railway which operated from 1941 to 1978, ending their days with SEPT.

Electroliner on the main line

Electroliner on the main line


The Electroliners could operate on the main line railways at speeds of 130 kph; on-street in mixed traffic and on Chicago’s famous “EL” with rapid transit .


Electroliner in mixed traffic.

Electroliner in mixed traffic.

Sadly, interurban’s went the way of the streetcar as the car became the main source of commuting, until, of course congestion, pollution, and now climate change has made commuting by car, expensive and environmentally insensitive.

Fast forward to 1990, Karlsrhue, Germany where the transit authority was investigating how to get trams to service areas otherwise too expensive for classic tram operation. In 1992 a new tram service was inaugurated using modified tram, able to track-share on the mainline railways, reaching customers as far away as Bade Baden, to travel to Karlsruhe’s city center without inconvenient transfers.

The new service was a massive instant success.

TramTrain RidershipIn just seven moths ridership increased 479% from the previous commuter trains that were in service. Ridership went from 533,600 a week to an astounding 2,554,976 customers a week!

Success saw a rapid expansion of TramTrain service in Karlsruhre was instant and today there are seventeen Stadtbahn TramTrain routes, serving hundreds of stations and stops.

The key to TramTrain’s success was the simple formula of “user friendliness” where transit customers can be conveyed from where they live to where they want to go without transfer.

In the transit world, success is infectious and today there are 29 cities which transportation authorities operate TramTrain and another 27 cities are proposing or planning to build TramTrain.

With the cost of our SkyTrain light metro system ever unceasing (the 16 km Expo Line extension to Surrey will easily surpass $3.95 billion) a 130 kmĀ  Leewood Study TramTrain, from Vancouver to Chilliwack costing less than $1.5 billion, our regional planners at all levels of government must rethink urban transportation.

This rethink must include TramTrain, because only a TramTrain like serviceĀ  connecting Fraser Valley communities, colleges, universities and other major destinations will be affordable.

TramTrain in the country


3 Responses to “OK…….Is It Now Time for TramTrain?”
  1. Dan says:

    The problem is the Translink board & Politicians can not and will not consider anything but ‘skytrain’ and have convinced most of the public ‘skytrain’ is the best even though not. rather unfortunate tram trains, let etc is not considered. The whole Translink set up is a joke….

    Zwei replies: Sadly you are correct and the mainstream media is now the chief propagandist for the SkyTrain Light metro system. Zwei was cut off on a phone in on Dead Dog 98 last week, when I objected to claims that light rail slows traffic and has less capacity then SkyTrain. When the mainstream media buy into fake news, all is lost.

  2. Haveacow says:

    I seen lots of public meetings whenever you even mention that surface LRT doesn’t have to slow traffic down, the politicians run for cover. I once said the only reason a really well designed surface LRT line will slow down traffic is when the traffic hits the LRV or the LRV protection along the edge of the LRT line! But of course, it’s always the LRT Line’s fault. All those nasty LRV’s siren songs, luring all those innocent cars and car drivers and forcing them to hit the LRT line’s protection or the LRV itself. Evil LRT!

    Zwei replies: Oh yes I know, I was accosted after a meeting about 20 years ago by a very distraught man who claimed I was speaking for LRT (evil LRT). I, said I was speaking as a concerned citizen and didn’t the damn fool hire a lawyer who phoned me to confirm I did not speak for LRT (that evil secret company, LRT).

  3. Adam Fitch says:

    I think that the Kitchener Waterloo LRT shares some trackage with freight lines. they are not freight railway mainlines, but they do carry freight traffic.

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