Transitways before tramways

Government mockup of rapid-transit corridor on Pie-IX

Government mockup of rapid-transit corridor on Pie-IX

La Presse has another one of their “Exclusif”s, which sounds like hard-hitting investigative journalism but is really just being tipped off to a press conference ahead of schedule.

This one reports that the city is going to announce the building of a dedicated transit corridor in the middle of Pie IX Blvd. This would replace the contra-flow rush-hour reserved bus lanes that were shut down in 2002 after they were deemed unsafe for pedestrians (and left shelters in the middle of the road vacant since).

A median between the transit corridor and the traffic lanes would be built between 2011 and 2013. And it would go up to the end of the island, eventually being extended into Laval.

This is a good idea. It’s safer than the old contraflow system, and it encourages quick public transit. And though the article makes no mention of tramways, the corridor could be more easily converted into a tram line once it’s setup. Pie-IX is one of the routes being considered for a tramway (long ago, it was even considered for a metro line, to the point where it appeared as a dotted line on metro maps).

I like transit corridors or transitways, roads that are reserved 24/7 strictly for use by public transit (essentially buses). They seemed to work well when I went through them in Ottawa. So why don’t we have more of them here?

Bus-only roads are good enough for Ottawa. Why not here?

Bus-only roads are good enough for Ottawa. Why not here?

I ask this question because transitways are a good middle ground between reserved bus lanes and tramways. If we’re planning on building tramways on Côte des Neiges Rd. and Park Ave., reserving lanes in both direction 24/7, then why aren’t we doing that already for buses? Why not build the median and setup a transitway that can be replaced by a tramway later?

This could also help test the waters before plunking down serious cash for a tram line that nobody might use. Like Mayor Tremblay’s plan for a loop going from downtown to the Old Port. The city setup a bus along the route – the 515 – which has been a huge disappointment in terms of ridership. Tremblay still thinks a tram here is a good idea, despite the evidence to the contrary. Setting up a transitway along this route would remove any lingering doubts about whether traffic is the reason people aren’t taking a liking to public transit here.

It just seems like a no-brainer to me: if you’re going to take that parking away and reserve space for public transit, don’t wait until the tramway is built and just give the space full-time to buses already.

So why isn’t anyone else considering it?

UPDATE: La Presse says a simple reserved bus lane would cost a third the price. But, of course, it wouldn’t be as efficient.

UPDATE (Dec. 29): The MTQ has posted the “fiche technique” of the proposal for Pie-IX (PDF). Bus stops would be after intersections, and the bus lanes would narrow to make room for the boarding platform (or, conversely, would widen when buses leave the platform and travel at a faster speed).

44 thoughts on “Transitways before tramways

  1. Arya Sajedi

    I totally agree with you. Separated lanes are the perfect solution for the bus on busy routes.

    I think the reason Tremblay gives for the Tramway is that it has a more positive image. More people are likely to board a TRAM than a bus because it is seen as nicer, even though in all practical uses, a extended bus is basically a TRAM.

    Personally I couldn’t care less, if it means a cheaper way to get faster service, but I have heard from some friends that they only take the bus when they have to (like from their house to the metro), not like me who hops on buses to get me anywhere downtown when convenient (144,107,535,24). I guess it is a bit mentality which is very sad but I’ve never been very supportive of sacrificing real money for believed improvements.

    So, I’m glad to see this go forward and I agree, Parc and CDN should both have this! Then the 535 would be awesome.

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  2. sam i

    what do you mean exactly by “why isn’t anyone else considering it”? bus rapid transit is on the up-and-up worldwide, and ottawa’s transitway is just one of the foremost systems. boston is installing their “silver line”, new york city is installing BRT in brooklyn/queens, Los Angeles has moved in that direction as well.

    my sense is that the difference between pie-ix and parc/cote-des-neiges is that pie-ix has a lot more wiggle room. parc and cote-des-neiges are very difficult to work with because they’re already fairly narrow, heavily used, and in very dense parts of town. pie-ix has all the same constraints, but it’s a lot wider and has fewer “patrimoine historique” sorts of considerations.

    a tramway down parc/c-d-n does not seem like an altogether bad idea to me. but my sense is that part of the reason that the 80/165/535 are so heavily used (~over capacity?) is that those two lines represent basically the only way to get downtown from large swaths of the city. if you ramped up service on the st-laurent and cote-ste-catherine buses; and moved the terminus of the victoria bus toward, say, atwater; and added trains from downtown to TMR… you might no longer even have the demand to justify tramways anymore. and that wouldn’t be a bad thing. because the goal is to move people, not to add shiny new toys.

    as for the old port: that’s a really difficult case, because while everyone agrees that it needs better transit, it’s really hard to service properly. in my opinion, moving the 515 from peel to mcgill street would be a start. the tiny buses like they have in vieux québec would be better. but this is for another day.

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    1. Shawn

      … It was pretty clear to me that Steve meant considering it HERE. That said, I’d be happy with either of you running the STM.

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    2. Fagstein Post author

      I meant why isn’t Montreal considering it for more routes.

      And if the argument is that Park and Côte des Neiges are too cramped for a transitway, then how would they be able to fit a tramway there?

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      1. NEUMONTRÉAL

        Because the only places you’d be able to put it have large amounts of car traffic, since most of the other streets in Montréal with buses are pretty narrow.

        So car drivers will complain. Politicians are scared of them because they are cranky, live in swing ridings, and they have very vocal spokesmen in the media who have go apoplectic whenever a car is inconvenienced.

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        1. Fagstein Post author

          But then we’re back to the point that if politicians are too scared of car drivers, why would they be in favour of tramways that would require reducing the number of lanes of cars?

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      2. emdx

        Actually, a streetcar line can be narrower than a transitway, because a streetcar does not need as much lateral room as a bus (for the same width), because the bus follows the track…

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        1. Fagstein Post author

          That’s true, but I don’t think the difference is so large that a tramway would make sense but a transitway wouldn’t as far as disrupting other traffic.

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  3. Maria Gatti

    I’m certainly not opposed, though I think the population basin along there and up to Montréal-Nord (and parts of St-Léonard) justifies a tramway there.

    The Old Port tramway is pointless. Even Amsterdam, with its enviable tram system, decommissioned its “Circletram” essentially designed for tourists. Every stop was accessible via normal tramlines anyway. A tram in that area would only have a point if there is high-density development in the western old Port area and Griffintown, which remains to be seen. The scheme that fell apart was ill advised as it ignored the existing street grid and several local landmarks, but redevelopment of that idea would be good for Montréal.

    This is a problem:

    quote: Enfin, le circuit d’autobus express Pie-IX pourrait, ensuite, relier le coeur de Laval au centre-ville de Montréal, en vertu d’un autre prolongement prévu dans le cadre du projet de reconstruction de la rue Notre-Dame dans l’est de la métropole.

    Nothing should promote or depend on “Décarie-Est”, a 1960s-era error repeated in … the 2010s.

    One important point the article does raise is the southern extension of the line. That part of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve remains underserved by public transport, a handicap for the area.

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    1. emdx

      Little funny anecdote concering the old port tramway…

      About 4 years ago, I was contacted by the chief engineer of that project working for the Société du Havre. We talked for almost an hour on the phone…

      He wanted to know where to get grooved rails for the line (http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:Toronto_20050923-143825_RailAGorge.jpg)

      I told him that this is useless; in Toronto, they use conventional rail and pour concrete around them while the cars are running, so the flanges will properly shape the cavity around the rails…

      Then he asked me several other questions. Every time, I told him “go to Toronto, they have streetcars there, they know how to do this or that”… Each time, I felt his face get longer.

      Then, at one point, he said that there could be problems with bicycles crossing the track and getting their wheels caught in the grooves. So I said “Well, in Amsterdam, they put a rubber insert in the groove. It is crushed by the streetcars as they go, but after, they expand back and offer a flush surface with the street”…

      When I said “Amsterdam”, I felt him beam. Then, it dawned on me that it’s much better to propose a study trip to Amsterdam than to Toronto… :) :) :) :) :)

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      1. Maria Gatti

        You have to do both, as the transport system and weather are much closer to what we have here in Toronto (Amsterdam is a chilly city, but rarely gets big dumps of snow), but the Amsterdam trams and tram system are MUCH more modern and high-tech. (I guarantee that a long stay there will make Fagstein a convert).

        I have never seen a bicycle getting its wheels caught in tram tracks in Amsterdam (where there are many of both); the very rare bicycle-tram accidents tend to involve tourists.

        But of course a lot of these “visits” can be virtual nowadays.

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        1. emdx

          Well, of course, bikes don’t get stuck in Amsterdam tracks, they have that flush-rubber-insert in the groove… :) :) :) :) (Maybe we ought to call them “groovy rubber insert”)…

          Reply
  4. wkh

    I agree with you, but the answer is because busses aren’t sexy.

    I don’t care if buses is supposed to only have one ‘s’. That looks like the ‘u’ should be pronounced with a long vowel.

    And the reason no one goes on that route is because of where it comes from. No locals need to go from downtown to the old port. Locals don’t go there. We’ve already seen it. If we work there we don’t live downtown. We either live elsewhere, or there. No one lives downtown and works in the old port. It’s a stupid route. It’s also easier to get there with the myriad metro stations around there. Or bike. Yay Bixi for cutting off local business owners serving the samn damned purpose!

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  5. Deya

    They cant come up with stuff like that! They are too busy deciding what type of private import wine they’ll be drinking on their next meeting.
    Wine first. Public transit, maybe later.

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  6. Fassero

    Why? Follow the road and it will lead to politics, money, or both. It’s never “sexy” for a politician to come up with a relatively cheap, practical solution. Also, in Quebec, the thought of a public transportion idea that doesn’t turn into yet another billion-dollar handout to Bombardier is practically heresy.

    I hope it’s along the lines what they did in Toronto along Spadina, St. Clair and the waterfront (where the lanes are blocked so cars can’t get in the way of the flow.)

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      1. emdx

        Right.

        When GM closed it’s Boisbriand plant, Québec should have said: “Okay, fine. There is no automotive industry left in Québec, so let’s go public transit; after all we’ve got the biggest transit manufacturer in the world here”…

        After all, road transport siphons-off 20% of the GDP outside of Québec: http://maison.emdx.org/EconomieAutomobile.pdf and provides only crappy, low-level jobs.

        Do we need to be bled to death just by transportation, especially when we could be self-sustaining in that respect?

        But noooo. It seems that the little chamber-of-commerce guys who are perfectly happy to waddle in their mediocrity peddling cars, tyres and fuzzy dice have a louder voice than reason…

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  7. MM

    I’m not sure what they mean. They plan on building an enclosed corridor? Open air corridor? Why build this to begin with. Why not just use the funds to add more buses on that route, and other routes that need better service. Buses are very flexable to both the operator and the user. They can be assigned to different places in need. The transportation demands might be different by the time this thing is in operation.

    If they want something that has a fixed corridor, just use that money to add an extra station or two on the Blue Metro line to assist the Pie-IX transit users in the area.

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    1. Fagstein Post author

      just use that money to add an extra station or two on the Blue Metro line

      The two don’t cost the same. In fact, they differ by a factor of at least 100. And a metro extension would take years, maybe a decade. Rebuilding a concrete median could be done in two years or less.

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  8. emdx

    Careful! Ottawa is biting it’s nails for having chosen the transitway 30 years ago.

    It works fine in medium-density corridor, but it completely fails in high-density. And it is quite useless in low-density suburbs where the traffic seldom does warrant a separate right of way; reserved lanes do just fine.

    The temptation is great to run suburban routes to the downtown core during rush-hour, but this quickly leads to utter breakdown. Currently, at rush-hour, the Slater and Albert streets in Ottawa are oversaturated with buses; the system has reached full capacity.

    The same is true for the terminus Centre-Ville that recently had to shed some routes that are not served from sidewalks, just like 25 years ago.

    Sure enough, Ottawa has saved having to invest in a subway all the while it did use the reserved lanes downtown, but now, the costs have multiplied fivefold.

    Now, the Pie-IX lane worked fine, until it was deemed unsafe. That was decided once a bus driver’s wife was hit by a bus. It is a well-known fact that bus driver wifes are deemed far more unsafe than any ordinary, mundane, perfectly normal pedestrian when they are squished by a bus.

    But the scandal here is that they are going to pay $150 million for the “new” (presumably) “improved” busway. What is that for? Some concrete curbs, some paint on the pavement and some signals?

    To put back things in proper perspective, 15 years ago, the Montréal_Deux-Montagnes commuter train line was ***COMPLETELY*** rebuilt from scratch. Or nearly from scratch; the only thing they did not redo was the acquisition of the right-of-way. That is, totally new subgrade, ballast, track, signalling, catenary, stations, substations **AND** rolling stock. The whole shebanging nine yards, and a pony, too.

    The total cost was $250 million dollars.

    A full $100 million more than the Pie-IX extension. Granted, there was some inflation* in the time, being so that the 1995 $250 million is now $327 million (conversely, today’s $150 million was $115 — so we’re having a differential of about $130 million). And also, the liberals came in power since with their grafty, corrupt ways of funnelling money to their little friends.

    So, given the price difference between the busway and the heavy-rail commuter line, you can be a wee-bit sceptical if you say that a light-rail line would be too expensive…

    You can pay me now, or you can pay me later. Well, in the case of a busway, you will pay later for sure. Dearly.

    * Figures calculated with the Bank of Canada inflation calculator: http://www.bankofcanada.ca/en/rates/inflation_calc.html

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    1. Josh

      When the Transitway was implemented, one of the selling points was that it was a good solution for the moment, but also a good solution for the future: We can turn the Transitway into *~*rail corridors*~*, they said. Which makes all the recent debating over where the light rail lines are going to run in Ottawa so puzzling.

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    2. NEUMONTRÉAL

      Stand by for the Liberal Car Party MTQ to implement this bus project somehow in a way that makes it incompatible with putting a light rail train in later without considerable expense.

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      1. Fagstein Post author

        Why? I realize it’s fun to imagine that Jean Charest and the Liberals hunker down in a deep cave somewhere and plot complicated, diabolical schemes to get richer and richer while screwing over as many people as possible, but politics (even the politics of politicians you disagree with) doesn’t work like that. Charest and the Liberals have no reason to purposefully sabotage such a project, especially because whether it’s a transitway or a tramway would have no impact on car traffic.

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        1. NEUMONTRÉAL

          I think that’s a bit naive. This government clearly favour automotive solutions to transit problems, for whatever reason (donors, electoral considerations, suburban real estate developers, whatever). It’s not a stretch to imagine they would want those car-centred options to remain “locked in” and survive future governments, or that they would use their power to make it happen.

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        2. Jean Naimard

          Why? I realize it’s fun to imagine that Jean Charest and the Liberals hunker down in a deep cave somewhere and plot complicated, diabolical schemes to get richer and richer while screwing over as many people as possible, but politics (even the politics of politicians you disagree with) doesn’t work like that. Charest and the Liberals have no reason to purposefully sabotage such a project, especially because whether it’s a transitway or a tramway would have no impact on car traffic.

          Sure they do. The liberal party of Québec is an anglo-saxon party, hell bent into imposing an anglo-saxon political system on Québec where people shall not expect the Big Bad Evil State™ to provide something as basic as transportation. No, better make the little people utterly dependent on the bourgeois by have them chained to their cars so they have to spend more (gas, car, tyres, maintenance to fatten the little liberal-voting bourgeois who thrive on that) and that they should endure a crappy job because they are stuck to make their car payments.
          If people are no longer compelled to buy a car, they could make do without paying a rent to the bourgeois who run finance companies and sell cars or tyres or own garages.
          When people have cars, they pay more to the car industry, whose actors are great benefactors of the liberal party. So there is no way the liberals are going to favourize public transportation.

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          1. Marc

            Salut Jean !

            I gather that you are a hardcore sovereignist from your comments on this website, some that are extremely harsh. I can assure you that you aren’t the only one here in favor of Québec national identity and eventual secession from Canada.

            Given that the percentage of anglophones in Québec remains only nine percent, how can the Parti libéral du Québec be an anglo-saxon political party? That, I have trouble grasping, since they won a majority about a year ago. We can all fairly admit that our government in Québec City is corrupt. Our opposition party uses democracy to criticize the mistakes of the Liberal government in power.

            The Parti québécois, gradually regaining support across the province, openly supports green projects, including the improvement of public transit. This political party addressed youth in schools about Québec’s ”energetic independence” (indépendance énergétique), how Québec could act strongly to fight climate change on a global level. I attended one of the presentations, at which I spoke with PQ leader Pauline Marois; not for the first time, of course. To be stronger, as a recognized nation, we must find solutions and reform our current habits.

            I really don’t mean to offend, but sovereignists like you prevent anglophones and immigrants from supporting the Parti québécois. We are not bigoted, racist people. We are willing to accept others and let them join our national culture to write history. C’est le parti de tous les Québécois ! A Quebecer being someone who lives on Québec soil.

            Bottom line: difference should be accepted and learnt from, without losing touch with Québec values.

            I am a student attending an anglophone school in Montréal.

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          2. Jean Naimard

            I gather that you are a hardcore sovereignist from your comments on this website, some that are extremely harsh. I can assure you that you aren’t the only one here in favor of Québec national identity and eventual secession from Canada.

            Oh, I’m well  aware of that… :)

            Given that the percentage of anglophones in Québec remains only nine percent, how can the Parti libéral du Québec be an anglo-saxon political party? That, I have trouble grasping, since they won a majority about a year ago.

            It”s  very simple. The liberals are bourgeois, and the bourgeois are masters  of  marketing, so they are experts in manipulating public opinion by “selling” their corrupted wares to the unsuspecting public, thanks to their more endowed propagannda funds. The PQ, on the other hand, being inherently honest, can  often be swamped by the syrupy liberal propaganda.

            The Parti québécois, gradually regaining support across the province, openly supports green projects, including the improvement of public transit.

            Well, yes. They have said more than 30 years ago that “the age of autoroute construction is over”. And in 1985, they already had proposed a regional transit fare zone system, which only came to fruition some 15 years later with the AMT.

            This political party addressed youth in schools about Québec’s ”energetic independence” (indépendance énergétique), how Québec could act strongly to fight climate change on a global level.

            This is not new. Back in the early 1970’s, they proposed to go nuclear instead of hydro-electricity. Nuclear power is the most ecological way, as it does not flood huge areas of land and cause mercury contamination.

            I really don’t mean to offend, but sovereignists like you prevent anglophones and immigrants from supporting the Parti québécois.

            The english will ***NEVER*** support the Parti-Québécois, because it directly threatens their domination, that‘s a given. As of the immigrants, given sufficiently efficient and radical measures to prevent them from working or studying in english, it  is only a matter of time that they support the PQ, because anyone, given the actual historical facts and if he does not have a vested interest in the status-quo, will support independance (and that even includes some english people).
            What I do is smear theit shit in the english’s face for the immigrants to see.

            We are not bigoted, racist people. We are willing to accept others and let them join our national culture to write history. C’est le parti de tous les Québécois ! A Quebecer being someone who lives on Québec soil.

            Well, yes. If we were bigoted and racist, we would have never allowed the english to set foot here 250 years ago. They took advantage of our tolerance to minorize us.

            Bottom line: difference should be accepted and learnt from, without losing touch with Québec values.

            Bottom line, it is extremely important to point out the  shortcomings of the occupying power.

             

            Reply
  9. NEUMONTRÉAL

    The short answer is the technical studies aren’t done yet for the tramways. Why build something when they don’t know if they’ll have to tear it up in a year to fix the grades, crossings, etc.?

    Tramways vs Rapid Bus Transit.
    Buses have higher operating costs, for one thing, because of fuel, breakdowns, more drivers. Do they compete against the car as well as trains or the métro? The BRT line in LA certainly has its critics. http://www.lightrailnow.org/facts/fa_brt_2006-10a.htm

    Infrastructure first?
    Expressways are already built in areas without the necessary demand, because we know that real estate developers are already cooking up some subdivision and strip mall to put next to it. Crowded bus lines have already proven their usefulness to be upgraded to more capital cost-intensive (but lower long-term cost from a societal standpoint). Do we build transit where there’s no need yet?

    “Maybe” is the answer to that one. Look at the blue line — currently pitifully underused in its middle section because it goes from nowhere to nowhere, and its extremities don’t go far enough. But look at the giant Outremont campus they’re planning to plop right on top of Acadie. Transit led the development by 25 years. The speculative nature of real estate dealings means that owners are always holding out for a “better deal” that may or may not come someday (hence all the parking lots).

    When there’s a solid transportation system (that goes somewhere, cf blue line) placed in a semi-vacant area, like the Griffintown Tramway that Devimco wanted the city to pay for, people might move next to it, increasing land value, increasing construction, increasing frequency of service, etc etc. If the public sector got a bit more clever in connecting land use & transportation planning, a blue line situation could be avoided.

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    1. emdx

      Indeed. Tramways are much cheaper to run, because they hold more people (so they need less drivers), they don’t have engines that need to be rebuilt every 5 years or so (their motors can be replaced in a matter of hours*). They also can have regenerative braking; three cars going down the côte des Neiges will provide power for two cars going up, so you already save on energy† (the Métro already uses such a regenerative power scheme).

      And, most importantly, the right-of-way requires much less maintenance, is much cheaper to build, does not need to be ploughed in the winter (you just put ploughs in front of the cars).

      The capital costs are much higher, yes, but unlike buses, they don’t become worthless in 5 years (for the roadway) or 18 years (for the buses). The track will last forever (replacing the rails every 20 to 50 years) and the cars will last 50 years easily (without 1 extensive rebuild, and maybe 5 runnning-gear refurbishes).

      * There is a subtle distinction between an engine and a motor…

      † The Virginian railroad used to be electrified; a single loaded coal going down the Appalachians provided enough power to bring up two empty trains up the grades.

      Reply
  10. Rider

    The 470 Express Pierrefonds runs as an express shuttle between Métro Côte Vertu and Fairview terminus.

    By now, it SHOULD have a reserved bus lane on Autoroute 40, between boul. de la Côte Vertu and boul. Saint-Jean (Fairview terminus). Why should transit users have to sit in the same traffic as regular road users? It is a frequent line that runs all day and many West islanders rely on it. The reserved lane could be placed on the left lane of the highway, the service road (another artery that runs parallel to A-40) or on the right shoulder lane (if the government doesn’t want to sacrifice traffic lanes). The shoulder lane interests me… it’s done on A-25, north of Laval. The sign says: Voie réservée bus (time) ACCOTEMENT. What do you think?

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  11. David Pinto

    The post refers to:
    roads that are reserved 24/7 strictly for use by public transit.
    While this is not quite the same thing, it should be pointed out that back in the streetcar days in Montreal, there were a number of private right-of-ways that were for streetcars only.
    Notably, there were:
    the right-of-way for the 17 streetcar, running from Garland Terminus north to just north of de la Savane;
    another right-of-way for the 17, running west along Edouard Laurin from Decarie, then turning north and parelleling what is now Grenet Street, and continuing until just north of the train tracks (what is now known as the AMT).
    in Snowdon, there was a private right-of-way, just west of Clanranald running from Queen Mary south to Cote St. Luc Road.
    I believe that the Millen streetcar also ran on a right-of-way, although I do not know the details.
    Oh, and of course, there was the Mountain 11, over the mountain and down to Park Avenue.

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  12. Suaveman

    I’d just like to add that Projet Montréal proposed reserved and separated bus lanse up Pie IX during the last campaign. Of course, these lanes would prepare the population for an eventual tram on the same spot, which in our opinion is a more attractive option.

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  13. Richard

    Your caption showing the buses in front of the upper level of the Rideau Centre doesn’t show the big problem with Ottawa’s transit system — those buses form a backlog of more than a km and that is every workday during both rush hours.
    The Ottawa transit system is over congested, adding a lot of time to a cross town trip. It is easily broken which turns into a nightmare. Twenty years ago after moving to the nation’s capital, there was a bus/car collision at Bank and Albert during the morning rush hour — buses were backed up past Elgin Street – three blocks away. Since then, there are more buses in the same space. The local police use it as their personal road – five years ago, one tried to pass a bus on the transitway near the Hurdman station and met another bus. Buses were backed up as the roadway was reduced to one lane at 08:30am.
    Don’t even ask about the G8 summit a few years ago – it was closed down midsection during that one – everyone had to walk more than 1km (not good for some of the passengers) and then figure out where their connecting buses were.
    As Josh said about the transit way should be easily converted to rail – or so they said – there are too many tight curves/corners for trains to run without having to crawl through — see the Via Rail Transit station and the Riverside Hospital for examples.
    Ottawa has been fighting with Light Rail for the last decade and has decided for the next twenty years, the city will concentrate on building light rail for the city core only and leave the majority of users in buses.

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  14. Urban Legend

    If I may, here are some general–if belated–relevant transit comments, considering the results of our recent municipal and provincial elections:

    Evidently, an all-electric transit bus network for Montreal will be the wave of the future–not tramlines. Been there, done that. Time to move on.

    Building a new Montreal tram line network would be too expensive, too time-consuming, and too disrupting to existing neighbourhood traffic and to local businesses adjacent to the construction of tracks, overhead wires, poles, pedestrian safety islands in the centre of the street, and so on.

    But, even more problematic would be how to educate our already impatient motorists that they must stop and never pass stopped trams that are embarking and debarking passengers.

    Remember also that our various summer festivals already require often confusing re-routing of certain bus routes which, despite the inconvenience, is relatively less disruptive than would be the case with fixed-tracked tram routes forced to shut down entirely for the duration of such events. Busses would have to substitute for suspended tram service.

    In cities where tram lines have proven to be successful–such as in Toronto and Melbourne, for example–exclusive right-of-way routing historically has proven to be superior than with mixed traffic. Indeed, Toronto has already re-instated some tram routes back to their original right-of-way configurations after having hurriedly converted them to mixed traffic as a “favour” to the 1950s and 1960s ever-increasing hordes of motorists. A lesson learned all over again!

    Long-established streetcar networks such as those of the aforemention cities have succeeded mainly because of geography and climate. They require less-expensive, less-disruptive upgrades than–in the case of Montreal–having to built an entirely new network all over again from scratch.

    Toronto and Melbourne tend to favour straight line tram routes avoiding too-narrow streets and too-sharp cornering against oncoming vehicular traffic. Need I mention that for many decades Montreal’s punishing icy winters wreaked havoc on our tramlines’ overhead wiring which by the way also interfered with fire truck ladder accessibility to adjacent buildings.

    * * *

    Needless to say, NO transit system is perfect and can never satisfy everyone, but private busways can and do work in cities that are geographically compatible to them. The Adelaide O-Bahn busway is an example.

    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O-Bahn_Busway

    and, among others: http://indaily.com.au/news/2013/10/28/is-the-o-bahn-track-nearing-end-of-life/

    * * *

    Montreal’s Metro Blue Line has “failed” only because it was deliberately targetted at the University of Montreal and then foolishly left unfinished, thus giving the “two solitudes” something to argue over while the politicians still laugh and play cat-and-mouse with the travelling public. Transit serves people–not language. Politicians do not ride the bus or Metro!

    Remember the ill-fated Mirabel Airport? The promised “high-speed rail” line that never materialized and Highway 13 that was never extended as it was supposed to do. The smaller-sized Dorval Airport should have been shut down instead, thereby eliminating the ever-increasing noise complaints which should have been foreseen by the authorities involved.

    * * *

    The Montreal transit projects which are seriously in need of completion are:

    Simultaneously expand the Metro Blue Line BOTH west and east, terminating west in Lachine and east in Anjou.

    Extend the Orange Line from Cote Vertu to Cartierville, eventually to complete the Orange Line circle in Laval when passenger volume requires it.

    Expand bus route 55 directly from the Old Port at the foot of St. Laurent Blvd. all the way up to the Henri Bourassa Metro. It is only 5 minutes more travel time from the 55’s current Chabanel Street terminal point. In fact, the 55 did terminate at Henri Bourassa briefly during the early 1980s, but was later short-turned again at Chabanel presumably because drivers found the nearby Youville-Legendre Garage so convenient to take their break or switch drivers. Was this the result of a concession following a strike between the STM and the drivers’ union?

    Extend bus route 11 to the Cote des Neiges Metro. The Blue Line would benefit with increased passenger volume, many of whom are tourists seeking to visit Mount Royal. Currently bus route 11 serves Ridgewood Avenue which is a dead end. Why were the residents on that street so privileged to have their very own terminal point, in the first place? Perhaps some “big shot” lived up there? (Premier Duplessis’ girlfriend, did, I recently learned).

    Continue to run the low-ridership bus route 17 northbound service along Girouard, but then turn it east onto Monkland to stop at Villa Maria Metro, picking up nine-to-fivers and students who need bus service closer to Decarie itself and then continuing north, stopping at the Cote Vertu Metro but then continuing still northward to its historic, original terminus in Cartierville. The over-crowded route 64 bus could thereby be eliminated from Cote Vertu Metro where the route 17 drivers could substitute, if necessary. The southbound 17 route could remain as it currently is.

    Yes, bus route 515 de la Commune has low-volume ridership, but for years I always hoped for service along there. When it finally did arrive, I could hardly believe it! Logically, the 515 can succeed but only as a seasonal summer route like the 767 and 769 serving La Ronde. The 515 could reduce the often heavy and unnecessary vehicular traffic on de la Commune, so shy not ban all motorist traffci from there? Possibly this is the city’s long-term plan, anyway.

    In fact, there are other low-ridership bus routes in the city such as the 13 and the 74.

    Reinstating that dangerous Pie IX bus route down the centre of the street is NOT a good idea. It won’t work and, incidentally, why not rename Pie IX to Robert Bourassa Blvd.? Why was Pope Pius the Ninth considered “relevant” to Montreal that a street was named after him? How many American tourists see Pie IX on their map, scratch their heads and ask, “Pie Icks? What the hell is that?”. LOL!

    A Light Rail line for Griffintown? Not enough people live there anymore and aren’t likely to be moving there en masse anytime soon. The original Griffintown residents of Irish descent living around Gallery Square moved out decades ago. One reason is that it has become a low-lying, “backwater” area similar to Pointe St. Charles and Verdun, so cosmetic changes would do little to improve this image. A handful of new, overpriced condos certainly would not justify a Light Rail right-of-way through to the Old Port. One possible route: run a Light Rail line from the south shore over the new Champlain Bridge and then perhaps through a short tunnel underground to the Victoria Square or Lionel-Groulx Metro or on a right-of-way up Peel Street to the old Windsor Station and its Metro entrance through to Bonaventure.

    * * *

    I notice that the STM and TTC, among others, are utilizing an underhanded trick on the public by placing articulated busses on certain busy routes in order to reduce service and save money. Yes, there is more passenger capacity per vehicle but fewer busses means longer wait times at the stops, which is NOT “improved service”!

    There is certainly no shortage of available busses. Drive by any bus garage and you will see them parked there by the dozens.

    * * *

    Facetious terminology department: Is it busses or buses? Although both spellings are correct, I prefer “busses” over “buses” and “bussing” not “busing”.

    Reading it onscreen or on paper, “busing” reminds me of “abusing”, clearly not a user-friendly topic.

    Which looks better: “When my kids went to elementary school, they were bussed.”. (NOT “bused”).

    Or: “My kids’ school requires that I pay for their bussing.”. (NOT “busing”).

    Well, I suppose ALL of us kids considered ourselves “abused” by having to sit in hot, early summer classrooms while enduring the droning voice of some dull teacher…lol!

    * * *

    Attention municipal voters: please DUMP Marvin “the Martian” Rotrand once and for all in the next election! This man is no friend of the necessary and inevitable Metro Blue Line extension to the west end, despite the fact that he himself is a resident of NDG–a district which desperately needs the superior crosstown access that a Metro extension would provide. Bus routes 51 and 105 in particular are consistently overcrowded with 9-5 workers and students coming and going via the Snowdon and Vendome Metro stations.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Expand bus route 55 directly from the Old Port at the foot of St. Laurent Blvd. all the way up to the Henri Bourassa Metro. It is only 5 minutes more travel time from the 55?s current Chabanel Street terminal point.

      That’s five minutes one way and five minutes the other. So each bus’s round trip has 10 minutes added to it. And considering how little the 53 bus is used, the bus will be nearly or completely empty for much of that run. Why waste resources in this way?

      Currently bus route 11 serves Ridgewood Avenue which is a dead end. Why were the residents on that street so privileged to have their very own terminal point, in the first place?

      Ridgewood is a long, winding street that goes uphill, and features a lot of apartment buildings. It has a bus service because it has a lot of people who take the bus. Extending the 11 to CDN metro is worth discussing, but Ridgewood isn’t some useless vanity service.

      The over-crowded route 64 bus could thereby be eliminated from Cote Vertu Metro where the route 17 drivers could substitute, if necessary.

      You want to replace one of the busiest routes in the network with one of the least used? Either you’re going to have far-too-crowded buses north of Côte-Vertu or a lot of empty buses south of it.

      I notice that the STM and TTC, among others, are utilizing an underhanded trick on the public by placing articulated busses on certain busy routes in order to reduce service and save money.

      One person’s “underhanded trick” is another’s “efficient use of resources”. Do you want them to stop using articulated buses? Or put them on low-traffic routes?

      Bus routes 51 and 105 in particular are consistently overcrowded with 9-5 workers and students coming and going via the Snowdon and Vendome Metro stations.

      Indeed. Which is why the city has put reserved bus lanes on Sherbrooke St. Extending the blue line would do little to alleviate overcrowding on the 105, and while the 51 is busy during rush hours, it’s not that busy the rest of the day.

      Reply
  15. Urban Legend

    Given our harsh winters–and otherwise for general convenience–both ends of a bus route should terminate directly at or link up within a short walking distance to the nearest Metro station. Obviously this is not always possible, but the aforementioned route 55 St. Laurent and route 11 Montagne are clear examples of where this can be done.

    As previously mentioned, the northern limit of route 55 currently loops around Chabanel and turns back onto St. Laurent at de Louvain when it could very easily terminate instead at Sauve Metro or, even better, at Henri Bourassa (as it once did), thus eliminating one or another of the very short bus routes 53 or 56.

    The following quote is an excerpt from pages 113-115 of the April 1975 edition of Canadian Rail Magazine; an article concerning the early history of the Youville Shops. Note: brackets [ ] are mine for the purpose of clarity.

    “The transfer point between St. Laurent – route 55 streetcars and Bordeaux – route 56 buses was thus relocated from Jean Talon Street to the [Youville Shops] yard entrance. Route 55 streetcars were “wyed” on the existing shop trackage for the southbound return trip. Passengers exited from the streetcars to board the buses on the opposite side of the same platform. Even after buses replaced the streetcars on Boulevard St. Laurent, the change-point was retained in use until the St. Laurent bus line [55] was extended north to Boulevard Henri-Bourassa, absorbing the aforementioned Bordeaux bus line [56] in the process.”

    By the way, route 55 streetcar service was converted to busses back in October 1952 long before the Metro finally opened in 1966. Later on at some as yet undetermined date, Chabanel became the northernmost terminal point. During the mid-1980s for a brief period, route 55 once again terminated at the Henri Bourassa Metro but was later re-instated to the “Chabanel-de Louvain loop-around”, I suspect for the convenience of bus driver access to Youville’s facilities: cafeteria, lounge, rest-rooms, etc.

    It would certainly be enlightening to hear about the official reasons for all of these routing flip-flops from STM transit management or drivers who may be reading this and other transit-related blogs.

    Other possibilities: have route 58 Wellington terminate at the Angrignon Metro thus giving a more direct access from that major Metro station to the Verdun waterfront, particularly in light of the proposed beach.

    The east end of route 24 Sherbrooke could easily terminate at the currently-underused Prefontaine Metro.

    How about the south end of route 17 terminating at Lionel-Groulx Metro where it would definitely accumulate more passengers than at the drearily obscure Place St. Henri?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      The problem with suggestions like this is that they treat as trivial the idea of extending already very long routes by a few minutes in either direction in order to serve very few people. Because a bus will, once it reaches a terminus, usually turn around and go back in the other direction, these changes would require either increasing the time between departures or adding buses to the line. The number of people taking a bus on St-Laurent above de Louvain, or between Place St-Henri and Lionel-Groulx, is hardly sufficient to require this.

      Reply
  16. Urban Legend

    The STM could easily make a public survey online and elsewhere in the media as to how to better accommodate their transfer-point needs.

    A five or ten minute bus line extension from an otherwise low-traffic city street to an obviously much busier Metro station is really a safer bet. Even ten more passengers per bus is better than none.

    As it stands, there are several underused bus lines carrying relatively few passengers–even immediately after school and at rush hour.

    I suspect that deeply-entrenched union rules which followed the crippling transit strikes of the 70s and 80s have contributed to this waste of resources.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      As it stands, there are several underused bus lines carrying relatively few passengers–even immediately after school and at rush hour.

      And yet you’re proposing extending busy bus lines so they serve areas that don’t need it. With the 55 extension, for example, it would double the service on St-Laurent Blvd. during the day even though the 53 bus is not at all that busy.

      I suspect that deeply-entrenched union rules which followed the crippling transit strikes of the 70s and 80s have contributed to this waste of resources.

      Other than rules about drivers’ working conditions (they need rest and pee breaks just like the rest of us), the union really has no say in how the bus routes are formed or changed.

      Reply

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