TramTrain – It’s Time To Have Another Look At The Leewood Project

While local politicians squabble about expensive transit planning and gouging the taxpayer to pay for multi billion dollar transportation vanity projects, economic and user friendly TramTrain construction and operation continue to increase.

Isn’t time for politicians have another look at the Leewood/Rail for the Valley Study?


Stadler selected to supply Szeged tram-trains

19 Apr 2017

Stadler Rail Valencia previously supplied electro-diesel tram-trains to Chemnitz.

HUNGARY: National passenger operator MA?V-Start has selected Stadler Rail Valencia to supply eight electro-diesel tram-trains to operate on the planned route between Szeged and HA?dmezAi??vA?sA?rhely. The order announced on April 18 includes an option for four more vehicles.

The project is being fully financed by the EU, with rolling stock estimated to cost HF10bn. Services would run on the current alignment of tram Route 1 in Szeged, before using an 800Ai??m connection that will be built to connect the tram route to the unelectrified Szeged ai??i?? BAi??kAi??scsaba railway line. A new 3Ai??3Ai??km single-track line is also to be built through HA?dmezAi??vA?sA?rhely to take tram-trains to the cityai??i??s main station.




4 Responses to “TramTrain – It’s Time To Have Another Look At The Leewood Project”
  1. eric chris says:

    Absolutely, the tram-train is the right rail technology for the provincial government to fund. Tram-train connects cities within the “province”; whereas, the six kilometre subway for billions of dollars in Vancouver and the overpriced LRT proposed in Surrey don’t qualify as provincial transport and are “local” to Metro Vancouver, vanity projects as it were.

    “By the way”, as it turns out, the short stator linear induction motor used for the viaduct and subway traveling linear induction train system in Vancouver is a huge “blunder”. TransLink hasn’t figured it out yet and keeps throwing good money after bad, or more likely, has figured it out and is scamming us. Bombardier got the architecture backwards with the short stator linear induction motor used in Vancouver. The short stator linear induction motor is expensive and inferior compared to the long stator linear induction motor; hence, Bombardier has a hard time selling the short stator junk which is a dud, except to a few transit organizations run by dummies in Vancouver and a few other cities:

    “Vancouver Light Rail system, Kuala Lumpur Transit, JFK AirTrain, Detroit People Mover and the Scarborough Light Rail in Toronto … When comparing the systems costs, consideration must be given to the cost for an electrified third rail because power was required on board the vehicle and the need for safety fencing to protect trespassers from electrocution. Another design challenge was the fact that short stator design also required an electronic brush system where a conductor brushed along the third rail or catenary to pick up electricity to run the system. This creates maintenance problems as the brushes wear out … Innovative Transportation Systems and General Atomics have determined that the most advantageous system for the purposes described herein is a long stator linear synchronous motor architecture.”

    Now, the other big issue with the lousy elevated trains used in Vancouver is the “low to medium” capacity of the trains. They are limited to carrying between 300 to 500 people every “two to three minutes”. In other words, the short stator linear induction trains can only move between 7,000 pphpd to 13,000 pphpd (low to medium capacity for rail transit).

    On the other hand, tram-train, tram or LRT service is really “medium to high” capacity. Shockingly, TransLink has been lying and calling tram or LRT service low to medium capacity. Maybe, the truth will be revealed when the new provincial government is sworn into power. We’ll have to wait for the results of the provincial election, fingers crossed.

    Tram-train, tram or LRT service at grade can easily carry between 250 to 750 people every “one to two minutes”. In other words, these trains can comfortably move between 10,000 pphpd to 30,000 pphpd (medium to high capacity for rail transit).

    Good bye, TransLink. Whoaaa …

  2. Dondi says:

    Yes, it is always time to think about how to shift the current subsidization of cars and trucks towards rail transportation.

    But as a practical matter, how much of the capital and operating costs of the Leewood-proposed system from Chilliwack to Scott Road could be generated by its own passenger fares? Has anyone tried to guestimate this?

    Below is a back-of-the-envelope, amateur-hour effort, starting ass-backwards from supply side rather than the demand side that Zwei regularly cites for Skytrain, and Surrey LRT:

    2 passenger cars every 30 minutes for 8 hours/day plus 2 cars every 20 minutes for 6 hours/day is 160 cars (both directions). For at-grade light rail, cites 90 passengers per car, or 14,400 passenger spaces per day. If actual utilization of passenger space averaged 50% that would be 7,200 passenger spaces/day. And if the average trip was one-quarter of the route length (both directions), that would mean 28,800 fares per day, and if the fare was $5, total revenues would be $52,560,000/year.

    $52,560,000/year will pay off Leewood’s capital cost estimate of about $1 billion in about 28.5 years at 3%. But then there are the operating costs; consider only drivers: One driver per train, an average of 10? trains running, and 2 shifts per day is 20 drivers plus another 5 for illness and vacation relief, all at $150,000 per driver totals $3,750,000/year.

    Like all capital cost estimates, the real total will grow to more than $1 billion. Almost certainly, the above over-estimates passenger revenue. And there are many other operating costs – salaries, fuel, insurance….

    So, like all transportation infastructure it will have to be subsidized. This would be better than subsidizing more roads, bridges and the auto dealers and land developers who benefit from auto-oriented urban sprawl.

    But to really get people to “Have Another Look At The Leewood Project” we need some serious work on its demand/revenue sides. Otherwise it is just another….vanity project.

    Zwei replies: The capacity of a coupled set of Stadler GTW diesel LRTs is around 400 persons, thus if a 30 minute schedule was kept, hourly capacity would be 800 pphpd, using 3 car sets, 1,200 pphpd. A stable of 12 to 18 D-LRV’s would be needed to keep a Vancouver to Chilliwack schedule.

    Fares would be comparable to the West Coast Express, with a possible $25 return fare to Chilliwack, from Vancouver.

    The total cost for this, today is $750k to $850K, with operating costs under $20 million annually and fares would be applied accordingly.

    You seem to conveniently forget that the SkyTrain mini-metro system is subsidized by over $300 million annually. Fact is, there was no reasonable justification for both the Canada and Evergreen Lines and both were built to suit the needs of the BC Liberals.

    Your dogged support of SkyTrain just goes against modern public transit philosophy!

  3. Haveacow says:

    Dondi the capital and operating costs can be kept under control if you do several things.

    Capital Costs

    1. As we learned in Ottawa with our 8km long O-Train Line (now the O-Train Trillium Line), the track is still connected to the national rail system so it was illegal to use Light Rail Vehicles. Transport Canada Rules forbids anything other than main line railway vehicles, so we used very light railway passenger equipment called a DMU (Diesel Multiple Unit). There are several designs Bombardier’s Talent #1 or the new ITINO DMU design, which the torque and acceleration to match LRT style operations and are not just vehicles designed for commuter rail operations. Stadler has a core of commuter rail mainline railway compatible self powered passenger vehicles. Alstom has its Coradia LINT series DMU’s and EMU’s, including the new ILINT hydrogen fuel celled powered version. Ottawa Council was seriously impressed with it and it even uses Canadian and German technology in the design. Siemens and several other producers also have compatible DMU/EMU designs.

    2. Use existing railway rights of way whenever possible. One of the reasons the ION LRT Line in Waterloo is half the per KM cost of most Canadian LRT proposals was due to the extensive use of existing railway rights of way. The original O-Train only cost $21 Million to build +$11 Million for the 3 (3 section) DMU’s and operating insurance. Plus $8 Million for 2 years of operations funding (the length of the test period) for a total of $40 Million. The use of a single track railway with passing tracks kept operational costs low. About 28.6 % or $155 Million out of the $543 Million Stage 2 O-Train Trillium Line Expansion budget is for just the 2.2km Airport Spur line, because there is no existing track and the railway right of way must be built from scratch.

    3.Reuse as many of the existing rail structures and yards as humanly possible. The O-Train trillium Line was able to use the existing but abandoned CP Rail maintenance building in the CP side of Ottawa’s Walkley Yard. Only now, with the existing building being far too old and small to handle the extra new trains that the city must purchase for the 8km southerly extension and the 2.2 km spur to the airport (the stage 2 LRT expansion program), must the city build a new maintenance building for the line. Almost 42% or about $228 Million of the total $543 Million expansion budget for the Stage 2 O-Train Trillium Line, is for the new maintenance building.

    4. Keep new line structures and stations simple and inexpensive as possible. Upgrade existing structures instead of building new ones. After 16 years of operation, periodic upgrading existing structures meant including the original $40 Million there has only been the need for another $78 million of upgrades (includes 6 new Alstom DMU’s).

    So since 2001 when the O-Train Trillium Line opened, including the new stage 2 improvements due for completion in 2021, the line which will be 18km long, have 13 stations as well as an all day service frequency of 8-10 minutes in each direction, for a running capital cost total of $661 Million. The line was expected to have 5600 passengers with no more than 2 trains operating on a 20 minute frequency all day, every day in 2001. The line currently has a round 14-15,000 passengers a day and operates no more than 4 trains at any one time on the line, with a service frequency of 10-12 minutes and a 15 minute frequency late at night. The expected upgrades due in 2021 are planned to expand ridership by at the least, another 40% and give new capacity where the current line has very little extra passenger carrying capacity, especially during the peak periods. Hopefully the complex signaling issues the line is having will be solved. I will tackle operating cost issues later 3 kids have to go to bed and they want a story.

  4. Dondi says:

    On operating costs, has a detailed breakdown of estimated DMU Operating Expenses and Unit Costs (see the appendix, last page) prepared to compare options (bus, LRT, hybrid rail) for the Riverview Corridor from the city of Minneapolis-St. Paul to the airport.

    Projecting these numbers to the Leewood proposal is above my pay grade but what do you say, Mr Cow?

    Zwei cited a passenger capacity of 400 per coupled set of Stadler GTWs, but a little more than half of that is for standing passengers, is that right Zwei?

    (See these numbers on the Dallas line from

    Which brings me back to my original point above that in order to effectively argue for a Leewood-type system we need serious evidence about the demand side. You are not going to get 400 passengers per train if half of them have to stand their whole trip.

    I am actually with the “build it and they will come” approach to transit. In other words, transit does and should guide land use development, not simply respond to current and future demand that is based on land development driven by massively subsidizing auto use.

    But it is not serious to argue that we should spend half a billion or billion dollars without some serious evidence of the ridership that will be attracted, and how that compares to alternative transit modes. The latest data from Translink says the West Coast Express ridership dropped 6% – if people are dropping out due to delays on that line, they won’t like standing and the likely similar delays on a ‘Leewood line’.

    Zwei, this is the missing piece needed to make your recent letter to Surrey Council more convincing.

    Zwei replies: American transit systems do have hidden costs as American “Earmarks” can add significantly to a transit project. Example, if one wants federal funds for a transit scheme, you must also fund this bridge or that community centre, etc.

    The Interurban line connects five major civic centres, including Vancouver/Burnaby, there are also seven post secondary institutions within walking distance of the line. With HWY.1 bottled up most of the time, the ridership demand is there, in fact real experts are convinced that the ridership is there and even private money was offered, but rejected by TransLink and the provincial government.

    The Valley interurban is not and I repeat not a commuter train with limited service (5 trips in and 5 trips out) and is far, far more flexible in operation.

    As for the standing question, another man of straw argument, people stand on buses, SkyTrain and for limited journeys, stand in a TramTrain.

Leave A Comment