You Too Can Work For Nothing! Help A Consultant!

I received a voicemail the other day from a well-known consultant whose identity I will protect out of consideration for his venerable reputation in these parts.  He had an intriguing question that went something like this.

In looking at all of the various options for transit in Scarborough for the Mayor’s plan [Transit City] and the RT, what three existing LRT systems elsewhere should we use as examples of what could be built in Toronto?

While it is somewhat flattering to be asked, one would hope that the assembled community of engineers, planners and hangers-on to the transit industry hereabouts might have some ideas about answering this question themselves.  Has the capability of our consultant friends dropped so low that they have to ask the advocates, the fans, the “foamers” (as an article in today’s Globe describes us), for information about the state of the art?

Let us take pity on these poor folk.  They have been designing highways and subways and BRT systems for decades, and we can’t expect them to become LRT experts overnight.  They will need rehabilitation, they will need to spend a lot of time looking at photos, they will have to go on fantrips at 3 o’clock in the morning.  These things take time.

Meanwhile, you, YES YOU, can help these unfortunate souls.  You don’t even have to send me one dollar a day, you can do this pro bono!

Thinking of the various types of LRT implementation we would like to see in Toronto, please nominate your best examples of systems elsewhere.  What works on Finch won’t work on Eglinton or on the Waterfront, but I’m sure you can rise to the challenge.

Don’t leave those poor consultants starving!

29 thoughts on “You Too Can Work For Nothing! Help A Consultant!

  1. There are so many, and virtually none would be wholly identical in all respects to the system proposed for Toronto.

    For city type LRT, such as Don Mills and any other mixed traffic/reservation type, Strasbourg France stands out, as does Grenoble. That’s sort of a 1A and 1B, but they’re close enough that both can be studied on a single trip. The newest inner-suburban line across the bottom of Paris would be a 1C.

    For Finch Corridor type operation, then San Diego is the standout. They based their system on the U2 type operations in Frankfurt Germany (some would say Edmonton but that wouldn’t be accurate).

    For mixed operation of the two types, Cologne Germany. Mixed operation could be used on Eglinton because of the plan for a tunnel section in the center. Street operations in the east end on Eglinton could be separate or mixed-tunnel operated, and Cologne is a standout for that. Platforms in the tunnel can be half and half, a method used extremely sucessfully in several places, such as Brussels, Cologne and Stuttgart.

    Forget anything designed and/or built in Italy – they haven’t gotten anything wholly right since 1956.


  2. I lived in Poland (Szczecin and Warsaw) for three years. What I liked about there tram systems were:

    1. dedicated right-of-way (usually on a centre boulevard, sometimes a side boulevard);
    2. timed (15 / 45 / 120 minute) proof-of-purchase fares;
    3. three boarding points per tram car (front, wide middle for stroller, bikes, grocery carts, and rear);
    4. schedules posted at all stops with times to stops down the line (so you’d know which timed fare to use);
    5. next station announcement and display in the tram car.

    The proof of purchase and multiple entry points made for quick stops.

    Plus drivers there were absolutely terrified of blocking the tram line while making a left turn or U-turn. I don’t know what the penalty was, but it was as if the tram driver had permission to take out any car that got in the way.


  3. I tend to agree with the first poster, although to stay in North America, Houston would be a decent example for urban lines, and Edmonton for lines involving significant tunneling. San Diego is also in many ways very similar to Calgary.

    Of course the Alberta systems are both high floor, bit then again, that might be worth looking at for some of these lines given that they will be mostly independent of the existing streetcars anyway.

    Steve: Edmonton and Calgary are high floor because they were started long before low floor cars were available.


  4. Is it too late to hope and pray that the new SRT have the same track gauge as the rest of the system?

    When when Transit City finally gets implemented, it would give the network so much more flexibility.

    Steve: This depends on whether the TTC comes to its senses and converts the SRT to an LRT line. The report purporting to justify retention of the RT did not take the network options into account.


  5. Hey what about something like you can cross over the Exhibition in? That could be my solution to getting to Mississauga later this year– Just swing out over the lake.

    If any consultants call from Durham — You can thank me for that but make sure you get your 5 million.

    Is the Skytrain in Vancouver LRT? I was there years ago but do not recall what kind of Train it was.

    Steve: Skytrain is the same technology as the SRT. It not LRT in the sense that the technology is automated, cannot run in mixed traffic or have grade crossings. However it is a quasi-LRT implementation in that it avoids subways. The tunnel under downtown was an old CPR tunnel that could accommodate two tracks stacked vertically because of the small car profile of the RT technology.

    Originally, this was going to be a true LRT line, but a long time ago then-premier Van Der Zalm decided he didn’t like streetcars, and a successor was sweet talked by Ontario into buying the technology. To be fair, it has performed very well in part because Vancouver exploited the technology’s capabilities to the fullest with sophisticated automatic operations for a main line operation. In Toronto, we have an expensive technology running a suburban shuttle and doing the same work that could have been done with LRT at half the cost.


  6. I think that Portland, Oregon would be the best North American example of what we are trying to do. It has both a light rail system (the MAX) with wide station spacing and a small streetcar system which runs downtown in mixed traffic (Portland Streetcar, one line). The two systems use different vehicles, since the Portland Streetcar has sharper turns than the MAX. The newer cars on the MAX are low-floor cars made by Siemens; the Portland Streetcar uses Czech-built Skoda streetcars. The MAX is analogous to the new proposed lines, while the Portland Streetcar is analogous to our existing lines. The Portland Streetcar can run on MAX tracks, but not vice versa.

    Of course, there are many other examples of what we are trying to do, such as cities in France (Bordeaux, Lyon, Montpellier, Paris, St. Etienne) Strasbourg, Nantes), Dublin, cities in Poland, and parts of the system in Melbourne.


  7. Just wondering for the Eglinton line if Hannover would be a model to follow. I like their new streetcars because they store the power from braking (I can’t think of the technical term right now) for later use.

    It’s complete with underground tunnels through the centre of town.

    Having ridden on the Cologne system, I would also agree with John that that is a comparable system to the Eglinton line as well. Additionally the Cologne to Bonn line could be very well suited as a model for our suburban model…


  8. Never mind all that. It’s for Scarborough, right? With a history of building rapid transit not suited to the environs. No better place to build–A SWANWAY! Yes, the Swan boats can start at the Rouge River, and operate along an above-ground canal beside the 401, veer south-west somewhere near McCowan, and connect up with the lake at around Warden for that fast, unobstructed trip downtown along the harbourfront. Because it will cost a lot of money, you can be sure it will get priority.

    Steve: The unnamed consultant was among those responsible for the SRT. Swan Boats are definitely a possibility.


  9. I don’t know how it compares to the other LRT systems mentioned, but I would like to suggest that the TTC and their Consultants take a look at the Glattalbahn in Zurich. The ZVV has just opened the first stage to operation and the next stages are currently under construction. When finished, the route will provide direct service from the centre of town to the airport in about 30 minutes, a trip of about 11 km. You can see a lot of the design by visiting the website (sorry, but it’s in German). I hope the links below are easy to follow.

    [Steve: I have add the links inline here for easy direct access.]

    The home site for the Glattalbahn. You can wander around in the site from here, or …
    Staged deployment and route implementation.
    Where does the LRT travel? This page shows a map of the LRT and links for each of the stops – clicking on the links takes you to a page showing details of the design – orange sections are the roadway, blue is the LRT right of way – the design includes sections in the median, to one side of a street and even a short tunnel section.
    See the latest tram in use.
    See concept drawings of the LRT route.


    Steve: I really like the Zeppelin in the first of the renderings!


  10. Delightful phrasing to not let the consultants starve it’s a shame we can’t have more sustainable activism for ourselves though eh Steve et al? Thanks for info!


  11. As a addition to my first response (see 1 above) we have some very high quality video of the Cologne system and high definition video of Strasbourg. Hi-def of San Diego will have to wait until we get out there in September.

    I recommended San Diego over Calgary only because there is low level loading on much of the San Diego system, and much more mixed traffic and level crossings, closer to our requirements.

    Minneapolis would also be a good example (more high definition video in hand from last summer). Geoff’s recommendation of Hannover is also good however they use a mix of high platforms and street level and require cars with supplementary steps for the later, not what we’re suggesting for here at all and flat-out not accessible when the steps are used. The system itself is an excellent example, but Cologne (and Bonn) is a better one.


  12. Oh to be a consultant!

    For the Scarborough RT, and Scarborough in general, the perfect example of what could be recommended to replace the RT is a system similar to the Muni Metro in San Francisco. The Muni LRT is a mixture of street running, surface ROW, and all lines converge in a underground metro tunnel downtown.

    It would address the needs of Scarborough Residents by providing a network and also bring relief to the Yonge Line, by funneling more passengers to the Bloor Danforth Subway. I may be wrong, but I believe the Danforth Line is not at capacity yet?

    You could have a number of lines that would serve Scarborough in median ROWs on major arterials, and these lines can converge to share the existing Scarboroguh RT ROW to whisk riders to Kennedy Station. The Scarborough RT section would have to be automated to maximize headways, and ITS technology implemented to clearly convey route information, delays, etc.

    San Francisco is an excellent model to look at, since both cities run legacy systems.

    Steve: There is not a lot of spare capacity on the Danforth line and we have to avoid funneling a lot of people into it without providing relief elsewhere on the system. Don’t forget, also, that the Scarborough network is not just to get people downtown, but to move people around in the suburbs.

    We really must avoid making things so technically complex that this ceases to be a true LRT line. For the capacities we are looking at, automated operation is not required.


  13. I haven’t seen many cities with LRTs, but what I will say is that Calgary offers an excellent example in terms of signal priority (yes, I know their cars are high-floor, but it is still LRT). While I don’t think that Toronto would want railway crossing-type barriers on its streets, I do think that aggressive signal priority is crucial for any surface-based system to be competitive with the private automobile.

    I’m sure there are many other examples worldwide of LRT systems that use effective methods of signal priority, and these should be examined as well. Signal priority must be treated as a high priority in the planning of our network.


  14. Thanks John for the reminder about the high floor situation in Hannover. Low floor is a must.

    As well, having lived in Vienna, there are a couple examples of trams in outer districts that might be good examples as well.

    A nice interactive route mapper – uses flash.

    Line 30 in the Floridsdorf district (I believe after Brünner Str. it has its own right of way) has higher speeds and station intervals around every 2 minutes. Not sure if it still uses a higher floor model, but Vienna is moving to have all trams as Ultra Low Floor models.

    Line 71 – largely in the Simmering district (I believe that the separate right of way starts after the Zipperstr. stop). After the Simmering stop (a nice intermodel Tram, Train, Subway and regional bus station), it leaves a lot of the street congestion of the district’s High Street and travels at high speed toward the outskirts of the city. As a tourist, if you’re looking for graves of many of the famous Viennese – the line also passes by the largest cemetary.


  15. As a consultant, I find that the question posed seems to all to like how many of my clients approach things. They can’t say what they really need – but are ready to insist on the solution. (“We were told that we needed x…”)

    Everyone one of the systems mentioned:

    – is in a small or medium-sized city
    – acts as the main arterial transit system to bring citizens to the center of the city
    – has stations between roughly 800 m to 1600 m (hope my dad isn’t reading that I’m writing in metric)
    – uses of cuttings and tunnels extensively to speed travel

    Other than the first point (by 2040 or so, Toronto CMA will approach the size of London), why don’t you start with the requirements instead of the solution?

    Steve: As someone who has spent my life in the IT business, I am very familiar with clients who want a solution without knowing their requirements. Although some of the points you make are valid, we have to be careful not to leap to the conclusion that only “big city” solutions are appropriate. Corridors and demands vary from place to place, and even within cities there will be a variety of implementations.

    There was a time when one could get away with saying that “big cities don’t have streetcars”, but that is falling apart as major centres embrace LRT as an alternative to subway construction where it is not required. Several of the systems cited in this thread deal with the incorporation of LRT into urban areas and, yes, some take space away from cars when that is suitable in a local political, financial and overall policy context.

    London, after all, is starting to put in streetcar lines. They won’t serve corridors of huge, subway-like demand, but that’s immaterial. They serve the demand in their corridors blithely oblivious to the huge metropolitan area that surrounds them.

    As for clients who have a solution without understanding their requirements, can you say “VCC Subway”? Of course, as in IT, if the goal is to buy a specific product that’s the apple of an executive’s eye, “requirements” belong in a creative writing class.


  16. I neither support or oppose the VCC extension. I do support the extension to York – didn’t initially. In a metropolitain area where arterial transit is sufficient so as to make car-independent life a reasonable alternative, one can argue that various non-arterial investments can enhance the ‘product mix’. I’ve never heard anyone from Scarborough complain that they can’t get to local places – they complain about not being really ‘attached’ to Toronto.

    In London, many of the tube lines go out further than VCC – into, through and past the Green Belt. (These are not in tunnels – but are rapid transit lines rather than commuter rail.)

    London does have an LRT in Croydon. This would have likely been regular tube – but the soils in that borough are not good for tunnels.

    What I find having moved to Toronto is that there is way too much in the way of blithe obliviousness to the city. People don’t go “downtown” just to go downtown as they do in Montreal, Londom or Vancouver.


  17. Of the systems that I have ridden I would suggest Melbourne, Australia. It has a metropolitan area population of 3 116 000. It uses trams, both in mixed traffic and PROW, and has a very comprehensive system of routes that cover the older areas and go into the newer suburbs. Their equipment runs the gauntlet from articulated PCC’s to three truck low floor articulated cars. There is also a suburban rail system that is sort of a cross between HRT and GO transit and they speak a form of English.

    I believe that Torontonians would identify with Melbourne better than these other cities as Melbourne never abandoned its street car system but adapted it to fit modern circumstances. They have mixed traffic street running, PROW in the middle of the road a la St. Clair and Spadina and they also have exclusive ROW. More people could identify with Melbourne that with a French or German city.


  18. London is a great example of how to serve the suburbs with LRT and make it a part of a regional system that includes buses, trams, metro and regional rail.

    I have tried out the Croydon Tramlink, which links regional rail stations, British-style subdivisions with a regional suburban centre and out to a metro line (at Wimbledon). I think this is very similar to what we want in Toronto – mixed traffic running in urban centres, with former railway ROW, alongside current railway ROW, and centre-of-street reservations, depending on the context.

    Croydon Tramlink even has an IKEA station. In Britain, IKEA stores get trams. In Toronto, they get subways (Sheppard and Sorbara Lines).

    Real LRT, Regional Rail, quality bus service and metros where appropriate (like an eventual DRL) are the solution.


  19. Steve,

    One of the important things in every consultant’s report is the consideration of “options”. Reviewing multiple options proves that the consultant isn’t pushing a particular agenda. Given that consultants often do have an agenda, this need for options can be awkward. One convenient escape is the use of “straw man” (apologies for the genered term) options.

    The challenge is to make the straw option good enough to appear serious, while not being so good that it isn’t accidentally mistaken as the best option.

    Now, Scarborough’s transportation choices have been odd enough that the line between good and bad transit is very hard to find. With that in mind I offer the enclosed as a straw option for the consultants to propose. It has the virtue of being worse than what is in place, but still looking enough like the SRT that it would seem like a real proposal:

    Hope this helps,


    Steve: Mountains in Scarborough!! A huge new tourist attraction!!! Will the Councillors take up yodelling?


  20. J. Albert said:

    What I find having moved to Toronto is that there is way too much in the way of blithe obliviousness to the city. People don’t go “downtown” just to go downtown as they do in Montreal, Londom or Vancouver.

    So the huge numbers of crowds of people in the Entertainment district or the Eaton’s centre don’t count for anything then? I’ve heard locals say the club district on a Saturday night is full of S&Mers (Scarborough and Mississauga). They’re not all taking cabs down nor driving.

    I’m not sure exactly what you mean by people’s going downtown habits being different…they seem relatively similar to many of the cities I’ve lived in.


  21. Wow, i Never realized the last point you made! Out of the 3 IKEA Stores in The GTA, Each one is near an East-West Highway (QEW, 401, 407) and 2 of the 3 will also have a Subway station nearby it…

    The question of course is, how many IKEA Shoppers use Transit? Especially if they have to carry large items?

    In terms of this topic, Build something in Toronto the Alberta way! Try to put LRT operation on private ROW as much as possible.

    That means, put Finch LRT down the Hydro Corridor, which is a very small walk from Finch Ave. It will make the line much more attractive, especially in such a suburban setting.

    Steve: Actually, it’s better for the line to be on FInch itself where the riders are. Motorists can drive to nearby expressways, but pedestrians don’t like walking. With the exception of the stretch east of Bathurst, there is plenty of room on Finch West to hold an LRT corridor.


  22. I would like to point out the LRT system in Budapest, Hungary. This system is one of the most efficient that I have ever seen. You never wait more than 2 minutes for a streetcar. They just got new Siemens low floor Combino streetcars ( which are articulated ), these street cars also have their own private right of ways in the city streets riding in the centre of the road. This is a city that uses transit A LOT and ridership on the subways is almost always above capacity. The network for these streetcars are so extensive you can get anywhere you want without much inconvience other than transferring cars. Whereever you want to go in Budapest there is a streetcar that will take you there. The streetcar network from what I was told is designed to supplement the subway system in that you can take the street car to the main parts of city and get there faster than the subway in most cases. I think this might work for Toronto. I mean can you see the parallels with the subway there already ??


  23. Yeah, like no one ever wants free work out of consultants, eh? No one sends consultants e-mails expecting free advice. They don’t hold up payment on contracts till the consultants provide products not specified in the contract. They don’t decide your draft report is good enough so you can screw yourself for the rest of the money in the contract. Nah, they never do that. Life as a consultant is a bowl of freaking cherries. No pogey office to harass you when you’re unemployed, no employer’s pension contribution to have to report on your income tax.

    Incidentally, people who send me e-mails asking for free advice have been getting it, provided I’m in a position to give it, giving it wouldn’t be unethical, and it wouldn’t require hours of work. But if you want I can stop.

    Steve: The consultant in question has been feeding at the public trough for decades as a transit expert, and he is responsible for, among other things, the Scarborough RT. If he wants to continue fobbing off himself as knowledgeable and expect his bills to be paid, he should not be soliticing free advice on central technical subjects like this from the unpaid advocate community.

    Out of the goodness of my heart, and so that others on this site can get ideas of which systems they should look at, I posed the question for general feedback.


  24. Hi Steve

    Thanks for cleaning up the links for the Glattalbahn. I wasn’t sure how clearly they would come through in the comments.

    If the Zeppelin tickles your fancy and you happen to be in Zurich checking out their transit system, head up to Friedrichshafen in Germany. They have a great Zeppelin museum in an old harbour building. Friedrichshafen is about 150 km north of Zurich. The trip is about an hour and 45 minutes by car or about two hours if you take a train to Romanshorn, Switzerland and a boat across the Bodensee to Friedrichshafen. And yes, the ferry service is integrated with the train schedules.

    Who knows, a trip to the Zeppelin museum might give you some fresh ideas for your swan boats.



  25. So your argument, Steve, is that you should be paid for answering a simple question? And are you implying that if the consultant in question hadn’t consulted you or any other members of the advocate community, you would most emphatically not be arguing he had ignored your opinions? Incidentally, you said “consultants,” not “consultant.”

    As for “feeding at the public trough,” that description is normally used of civil servants. If the consultant in question has not been providing value for money (and believe me, if anyone believes consultants don’t provide value for money, it’s other consultants who didn’t get the contract), whose fault is that? People persist in electing people who farm work out to their friends. The best way to deal with that problem would be to get someone elected who would institute objective procedures for tendering contracts.

    I am not implying here that you’re necessarily wrong (as a follower of Karl Popper I believe that everyone is wrong). In fact, I imagine we’re both right in part. However, I do believe that one of the most serious problems of Canadian public discussion is the substitution of moral discourse for functional. Perhaps I am being unfair in expecting perfection from you, I guess — which is the opposite problem.

    Incidentally, all those things I mentioned in my first post (and more) have happened to me. However, I don’t as a result treat every prospect as someone out to cheat me. Also incidentally, if you click on my name you’ll find a lot of FREE information I have provided about research. Feel FREE to consult it. Let me know of any errors, omissions, etc.

    And keep up the good work. Despite the vehemence of my reply I’m grateful that you have raised this important issue.

    Steve: The very existence of this site shows that I am a great believer in free advice, and felt that in this particular thread, a greater variety of opinions would be available by throwing the question open to my readers.

    However, it should be deeply embarrassing for the “professional” community, a group from which LRT proposals have not exactly been thick on the ground, to be asking the advocates for ideas about LRT systems. When it’s the consultant who is responsible for telling us we should keep the Scarborough RT, it’s downright laughable.


  26. Hello Steve:-

    Got to get my two cents worth in here. I have always likened the situation of the SRT and its end on connection with the E.W. subway as an extremely poorly executed copy of the Philadelphia and Western’s (The Norristown Line) connection to SEPTA’s E.W. subway/el route in west suburban Philadelphia.

    Why poorly executed? Well the innappropriate technology that the TTC was forced into taking due to bumbling, head nodding, ill informed, bait swallowing politicians who forced the RT’s redirection to automatic, linear induction propulsion, rather than the LRT originally designed. The Norristown line’s use of standard electric railway features allowed it to continue performing, even under the poorly maintained situation that it found itself in for many years. Survive though it did, while still performing a high speed service for its patrons. Also, the RT doesn’t anywhere nearly approach the length of the Norristown line, stopping short of serving much of the Borough it was built for. The cost per mile said that that’s about as far as the money available would take us. LRT on the other hand, for the same dollars spent, could have taken the line to Malvern, thus we would have truly been given the beginning of an east end LRT network.

    Some who see a photo of the present, rebuilt P & W will comment that it is high floor and out of the realm of LRT, but it was served in an earlier time in its life, with interurban cars with both low floor loading, when north of Norristown, and high floor when on the southern section of the route.

    Returning the RT to a technology (LRT) that can be expanded into the Scarborough hinterlands might be worth a study in itself.

    Steve: There already has been a study and although it started out leaning toward LRT conversion, it was highjacked into supporting retention of the RT. The study misrepresented the problems inherent in converting the line between modes.

    A hybrid type of vehicle that could use the RT’s platforms, then revert to low loading when beyond McCowan might be more costly to purchase than an off the shelf streetcar and it wouldn’t be the first time in transit history when such cars were built to serve a need. (Buffalo’s cars sort of work, although the step lowering is slow and a little dangerous.) A small dedicated fleet to serve this expanded route would unfortunately minimize total integration, but would definitely be capable of serving a new corridor in itself. Changing the gauge would be time consuming but overall, worth the effort. A lot of preperatory work could be done with the line still running. When express bustituted, for the period of gauge change, we may see the TTC receiving congratulatory letters from their riders for the period the RT is gone. (I understand that when the RT has had some of its hiccups in the past and express buses take the patrons, there have been letters af accolade received by the TTC in thanks for the improved service). Then, what a pleasurable eye opener it will be for the former RT riders when LRT cars are up and running.

    This paragraph is totally my sour grapes, for I never believed that the RT was put in the right place. Even though the Kennedy bus is now merely a shell of its former self, it was such a heavily used route prior to the RT that if LRT had been put up the middle of Kennedy Road, instead of in the field that it is in, a bus route would have been comepletely replaced, a bonus in itself and the LRT line could have actually served midwestern Scarberians well. What a concept,eh!?

    Steve: I rode on the Norristown line back in the days of the Bullet Cars and the Liberty Liners. The super-express trips in the morning rush hour running at 80 mph in vintage equipment were great fun and showed just what “old technology” could do.

    Your comments about Kennedy Road are interesting in light of some discussions here about the Finch hydro corridor. With Transit City, we have the Finch line on Finch where the people are, not in the middle of a field.


  27. Just a quick thanks for publishing those two screeds of mine about consultants. I can assure you that your concerns are shared by most of the consultants I know. The public is a) not getting the benefit of the best consultation, b) often paying for consultation when it’s not necessary, and c) often not getting the benefit of consultation when it is necessary.


  28. I’d like to approach this topic from the angle of vehicle technology. I have found that many new LRT vehicles are very poorly designed, most significantly in terms of weight. I don’t understand why supposed “light” rail vehicles keep getting more and more massive. Howard Moscoe said we need to replace the CLRVs because they are “built like tanks”. Feel lucky we don’t have anything like the new breed of LRVs in the United States. I’ve seen a picture of one of the Bombardier LRVs in Minneapolis stuck by wheel-slip on level road in snow that didn’t even reach the ‘plow’ they have on the front. The Breda LRVs in San Francisco are so heavy that they easily derail on switches and sharp curves and when pushed by another LRV if disabled. Why does everything keep getting heavier and so massive as to become grotesquely ugly?

    And on the topic of Breda, will they ever be capable of building anything reliable? San Francisco had almost as many problems with reliability as they did with the Boeing cars. And Boston’s new low-floor cars were immediately sidelined for a great deal of time due to problems with the centre-truck derailing.

    A number of vehicles have trouble with “wandering”, a condition where the play in guage between the track and the wheels causes the front of a vehicle to shake back and forth. The Docklands Light Railway and Croydon Tramlink cars in London, England do this quite violently at times. And similarly, the Combino trams in Amsterdam which use no axles to achieve a low floor shake back and forth badly in the front section when going through and exiting turns, unpleasant for the drivers at the very least. Having the wheels directly mounted to the body sections is the problem. Anyone who has ridden an old single-truck streetcar, such as the one at the Halton County Museum, will know exactly what I’m talking about. I would hope designers would take some history lessons.

    Another new problem is the noise generated by AC propulsion. The chopper whine in the last generation of DC-driven units has nothing on the horrific screaming and wailing of many AC drives. The Amsterdam Combinos are the worst thing I’ve ever heard. They have what is refered to as a hub-motor, essentially making the wheel itself a motor. The loud screeching noise from this technology is unbelieveable! The Bredas in San Francisco generated a great number of noise complaints when introduced.

    One of my biggest pet-peeves is the trend of windshields curving all the way one-piece over the destination sign. Reflection on the slope of the curve makes the sign very hard to read. There is a very good reason why the sign slopes slightly downward on the front of a CLRV.

    But sometimes it’s done right – The Mark II ICTS cars in Vancouver are remarkably quiet and a marked difference from the awful demonic growling and moaning from the original cars that made young children run in fear. The Kinki-Sharyo cars in Boston seem to be by most accounts the best thing going there, and quite attractive in my opinion if you ignore all the open electrical gear on the roof. And I think the CLRVs are actually pretty decent and quite attractive. The ALRVs have a number of differences which make them undesirable.

    Let’s keep in mind that general system characteristics aren’t the only important thing. There are many things about the vehicles themselves that can make them great or can render them total turds, therefore impacting on the success and public perception of the system.


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