Le Métro Léger de Charleroi

John F. Bromley sent along a link to a 5-minute video about three proposed LRT lines in Charleroi, Belgium.  While we agonize over transit spending and modal choices in Toronto, it’s inspiring to see examples of how LRT is presented in a positive manner elsewhere, as an opportunity not just to ram transit lines down a street, but to transform the city they will serve.

The commentary is in French.

Originally conceived in the 1960s as a pre-metro network (LRT technology running on HRT infrastructure), much of the planned system was never built.  The new scheme involves surface running in many places and changes to road and pedestrian layouts at major stations.

The population of the metropolitan area of Charleroi is a bit over half a million, although the city proper is only about 200,000.

25 thoughts on “Le Métro Léger de Charleroi

  1. It is interesting to see all the loop in the system even though they have double ended cars. I am trying to figure out from the video and my very old high school French it the graphics are showing multi track lines with local and express or what. In any event it is a very interesting video.


  2. Even the name, Metro Leger, pushes the view that, though this may not be a ‘real’ metro it’s not a ‘train’ (or a tram) either! Transit City was also an attempt to shift the focus and the report today by the Board of Trade certainly shows that we (if not Mr McGinty) need to do ‘something’.


  3. Wow, neat video! It looks like the tram system is designed to handle mainly commuters (with the commuter parking lots) and spur nodal development centralised around their stations instead of the consistent linear development Toronto is working towards, sort of like Vancouver SkyTrain and Toronto subway.


  4. The graphics appear to be symbolic with the lines representing two streams going the same way.
    Those touch screens were WILD! No chance of us seeing anything like that I suspect. The overhead appeared to be double wire. Does this imply that they are using 3 phase electricity? If so I bet that would be a lot easier for the electricity system, to swallow!

    Steve: You should take those animations with a grain of salt. Only a single contact wire in the Charleroi system.


  5. Charleroi envisions touchscreen route maps straight out of Minority Report, and we get a NextBus beta with displays more reminiscent of Pac-Man. Ah well, “c’est la vie”.


  6. Steve, the fact of the matter is that the TTC and the city have failed miserably to sell the public on Light Rapid Transit. That was essentially the problem back when the light rail line was proposed for Scarborough back in the 70’s (or was it the 80’s?) and it certainly is the problem now. Torontonians are unfamiliar with LRT as opposed to traditional streetcars and they (especially suburbanites) are convinced that if they aren’t getting a subway they’re getting second best.

    The mess on St. Clair hasn’t helped matters but even had it been problem free from the start it is still essentially a traditional city streetcar line operating on centre reservation. Has anyone tried to drive home to people the fact that the St. Clair line isn’t an LRT and that the Transit City lines will be somewhat closer to subway speeds?

    Steve, even on this site, when someone says that they think Transit City should be built in subway mode you point out that the ridership doesn’t justify a subway, that construction costs would be be too much and that once in operation the line would be a sink hole. All of this is true but it isn’t a good argument for Light rail. It just says that the people can’t have a subway and they will have to settle for light rail. They will have to settle for second best.

    But light rail is not second best. It has a number of advantages over subway mode. It is better to ride on the surface. On the subway every one is wired up to ipods etc. or they reading. Failing that they are sit there looking expressionless and some might even be nodding off.

    Subways are fast but they are boring. There is nothing to engage the passenger. Riders on surface transit are looking out the windows at the ever changing street. They are taking in the weather around them (sometimes a mixed blessing).

    Commercial enterprises along the street do better with streetcars. Subways take people off the street.

    I’ve listed a few advantages and not all that well but you and your readers know the point. To sell light rail we have to be a lot more positive than we have been. People will like light rail when they have experienced it.

    Steve: Just as easily, someone could argue that those who will only ever see a bus route have to settle for third best. In an economy where there are vast amounts of money, we could spend a fortune on building and running subways, but that’s not going to happen.


  7. I’d like to include a few pictures from Nice (France) as a reference point. I suspect that Charleroi will build same layout as Nice had been doing and proposing.

    The double-ended cars are probably an improvement in EU. The LRT tracks have built-in reverse switches, that allow to tow inoperative vehicles or withdraw vehicles from service in case of emergency.

    There is no express/all-stop distinction. Most of the loops that are built are double.

    The gentleman’s WEB site is written in Czech – I hope that the set will warm-up your hearts anyway.


  8. Why, oh why, oh WHY, can’t our cities do this! And now we read that commute times in Toronto cost the whole nation six billion dollars in lost revenue! Yet, McGunity bailed out the car companies, and is showing not a farthing of interest anymore in public transit. Just what drugs are our politicians injesting these days?


  9. Also, today marks the original Yonge Subway’s 56th birthday. That’s slightly older than the last attempt at mass transit planning and construction. To paraphrase Mayor Miller: Toronto has a great transit system–for a city of one million people. Well, that was Toronto in 1954….l


  10. Le Metro Leger du Comte de Peel.

    I went to The Hurontario LRT meeting in Brampton City Hall tonight. They are still doing far side stops to let cars make left turns. If you think St. Clair has wiggle wobble problems you should see the intersection of Hurontario and Steeles where there are two left turn lanes in each direction. It was at this time that I had an Epiphany, a way to have near side stops while allowing for left hand turns. The answer is simple, run the service in the wrong direction or left handed like in Britain. Since the LRT is on private right of way why not. They make near side stop and the traffic engineers are happy. It may scare the hell out of the motorists for awhile but they will get used to it. Fleet and Lake Shore works.

    Their biggest problem is getting through downtown Brampton. The building to building distance in some spots is down to 60 feet. They are proposing to run in mixed traffic for about 2 km into downtown Brampton. I believe that this is a recipe for disaster. They plan to do a large downtown loop by turning West on Wellington, North on George and then going east under the railway right of way back to Main St. The major problem with this, aside from the on street part, is that the length of the east west streets is about 80 m so they can only ever run 2 car trains. They actually propose to have a right of way for the loop by reducing each street to 3 lanes, one for the LRT and one each way for the autos. South of Wellington where there is 2 way operation on Main Street would have 4 lanes of traffic, 2 in each direction of operation with the LRT running in mixed traffic.

    The vehicle maintenance and storage facility would be on the east side of Hurontario just south of the 407. This is about the only location on the line that has some vacant land.

    The operation around Square One is interesting. The line would swing west of Hurontario from just north of Burnhamthorpe to just south of the 403. There would also be a 2 track bidirectional loop that would go over to the living Arts Centre about 2 blocks west. The tracks would roughly follow Burnhamthorpe, Duke of York and Rathburn.

    Brampton and Mississauga are apparently going to go to Metrolinx looking for between $1 and $1.2 BILLION dollars for the line. I guess they haven’t seen the Ontario budget yet. It was a well attended meeting. People were complaining that the line on Main Street through the old part of Brampton would:

    a) create a barrier
    b) remove parking
    c) remove traffic lanes
    d) destroy all the businesses (Most are on life support)

    One of the consulting Engineers, who worked on St. Clair and complained about the interference from the two Councillors, said that far side stops were probably going to be the new norm because of the left hand turns but he like my idea of reverse running and said he would study it.

    They are looking at running a 3 to 5 minute headway of 2 car trains. By limiting all station platforms to 60 m the only way they can increase capacity is to decrease headway and this starts to create problems with train spacing. They said that they LRT was going to have “Signal Priority” but admitted that it would take up to a minute to turn a cross street to red once the request was given. Tomorrow night they will be at Mississauga City Hall.


  11. Gordon wrote:

    The overhead appeared to be double wire. Does this imply that they are using 3 phase electricity? If so I bet that would be a lot easier for the electricity system, to swallow!

    TTC Passenger writes:

    I watched the video because I was curious. It looks like the computer graphics person rendered in trolley bus wire (railfans could argue that it might have been inspired by pictures of streetcars in Cincinnati).

    Three phase railway electrifications are rare. There are a few out there but not many because it really complicates wire construction at junctions and the current collection setup on top of the vehicles. It’s also unnecessary for making things easy on the electricity system. When you take three (or six depending on what transformer configuration you use) phase power and full-wave rectify each phase, you get direct current at the output terminals and even distribution of the load, like some streetcars, on the direct current side of the circuit across all of the input phases. That’s not hard on the electrical system at all.

    However, since Dalton McGuinty dropped his nasty little surprise, neither accurately drawing in the PR materials’ artwork or the electrical engineering considerations will matter since it’s looking unlikely that much LRT will be built in Toronto, if any.


  12. Steve, You said, “In an economy where there are vast amounts of money, we could spend a fortune on building and running subways, but that’s not going to happen.”

    You’re still saying that for reasons of economics we can’t have subways everywhere but my point is that even with money to spare it would not be desirable to build subways everywhere. LRT has real advantages over subways.

    We have to accentuate the positives of LRT.

    Steve: What I am alluding to is that there was an era when the streets were paved with gold, and everyone thought that subways were our manifest destiny. It would have been a huge waste of money, but we might have afforded it, or at least thought we could. Now the streets are paved with, maybe, bronze, but the dreams live on.


  13. Robert Wightman wrote, “…run the service in the wrong direction or left handed like in Britain. Since the LRT is on private right of way why not.”

    I am in favour if this idea, and it is possible that it may even improve safety.

    Denver’s LRT system basically does this on a few one-way streets downtown. On Stout St and California St, the LRT operates in the opposite direction to the traffic in the curb lane (on the right of the traffic). Between streets, there is a low curb separating the LRT lane from the rest of traffic.

    I cannot cite a study on this, but I have heard it said that accident rates tend to be lower when an LRT runs counter to the rest of traffic in the next lane as its presence is more visible to traffic. I can see this being true for situations where a vehicle is making a left turn where the immediate track to cross over has LRVs coming at you and the track with LRVs moving in the same direction is further away, giving a left turner a better chance of seeing an approaching LRV in their peripheral vision.

    On the note about the Charleroi images appearing to have two wires…

    Naturally, one thinks of trolley bus wires when one sees this, but it is not uncommon for this to occur where pantograph operation is used. Wire frogs are not needed when trolley poles are not used, so it is common to just bring wires close together when tracks converge. Melbourne has a number of tram routes with single track terminals where this is done.

    An example that looks more like trolley bus wire spacing is in Melbourne at St. Vincent’s Plaza in the north-east of the CBD where routes converge just to the east and the west of the stop. Here the wiring from the west heads north and the wiring from the south heads east. Through the stop, there are two wires over each track. Take a good look here to see for yourself!


  14. One other positive result of left-hand running the Brampton LRT would be that the two tracks would no-longer have to cross each other where the loop branches at Wellington and Main. That would be a real bonus in terms of no special-work and associated wheel noise/vibration/track lifespan and a transit-only signal phase that would allow simultaneous north and southbound travel of LRVs. There wouldn’t be anything preventing a signallized crossover somewhere else along the line if running side needed to be reversed.


  15. Okay, Steve. You’re right about the dreams living on but you still haven’t said anything positive about LRT as a mode of public transit.

    I remember attending the hearings for the St. Clair line while it was still in the planning stage. Afterwords people gathered in groups and one man voiced his wish that the line could be a subway. An active member of Rocket Riders was there and replied that a subway would be good but the city couldn’t afford it for St. Clair.

    But why would a subway be so good? St. Clair has been going down hill for some time now. A subway would hasten the fall whereas the rebuilt trolley line has real potential for leading a revival of the street

    That’s the kind of positive news that’s missing and which is sorely needed!

    I hope Pantelone understands public transit the way David Miller does because the other mayoral candidates sure don’t!

    Steve: LRT stays on the surface, and the stops are closer together than you would ever have with a subway. That gives accessibility for residents to transit, and from transit to shops. Especially for a short trip as any on St. Clair would be, the extra time needed to walk to a subway station, including getting from street level to and from platform level, would considerably exceed any time savings the “faster” trip on the subway train would provide.

    With all the money we save on the subway (and on the higher operating cost of a subway), we could build more lines and run more service. This is the LRT vs subway issue seen on a city-wide level.


  16. You guys are missing the biggest issue with this Charleroi plan, with relating it to Toronto.

    Charleroi is a tiny city compared to Toronto. Sure an LRT/tram is going to work, because going from the centre of the edge of the city is not that far. But to act like streetcars/LRT in the middle of a street will work for Toronto, does not touch on the point of how large Toronto is. You cannot expect someone from the edge of Scar to ride on a median operated LRT route, stopping every 200 meters, to get someplace across town.

    Steve: Two points. First, the intent of much of Transit City is not to take people from one corner of the city to the other, but to serve many local communities. Second, my point in linking that video was to show how transit can be well-promoted when a city cares enough to do it.

    And as for the argument that LRTs are needed now, because of our long commute times. Well LRT would do nothing to reduce commute times.

    To be honest, everyone is saying that Toronto needs to embrace LRT. Well it would be nice to see everyone embrace the fact that Toronto needs a balance of all modes of transit, including additional subway lines, some LRT, improved bus, and streetcar services. But to act like subways have no place, and kills streets, etc, does not fix the Toronto Transit problems. Last time I checked, Danforth Ave, was doing just fine, and it has a subway.

    We have to get off this LRT/subway debate. And understand that both have a place in the transit picture of Toronto.

    And the reason that Transit City is not liked by most people, is because Toronto put all its energy in one mode, while ignoring the fact that we need a balanced system, and many areas need the rapid transit that either a subway, or a rapid LRT system(along railroad right-of-ways) would provide.

    If people would bother reading studies done on what transit riders actually want, they would see that transit riders are in favour of farther apart stops, more express services, etc. Riders do not want a streetcar stopping every block. And if we are going to build new streetcar/lrt routes. Than lets do it right. Far spaced stations, total signal priority, and prepaid fares.


  17. Anyone else noticed that most of the intersections were roundabouts, and that the metro does not go through them, but instead crosses one of the street on one side of the circle, in a “railroad crossing” fashion?


  18. Michael said:

    If people would bother reading studies done on what transit riders actually want, they would see that transit riders are in favour of farther apart stops, more express services, etc. Riders do not want a streetcar stopping every block. And if we are going to build new streetcar/lrt routes. Than let’s do it right. Far spaced stations, total signal priority, and prepaid fares.

    True enough; that is what people say that they want.

    But that is provided that the bus stop they currently use is right where a station is going to be built. Tell them that they will no longer be able to get on transit almost right at their door but will have to walk a couple of hundred meters and you will find that they suddenly want to make an exception to their stated “farther apart stops” preference.

    I believe this is one of the reasons why the stops are so close on both Spadina and St Clair. Because to most people on those routes the move to LRT looks more like a ‘track upgrade’ than a modal change, I believe it was politically virtually impossible to remove stops that already existed.

    A change from bus to LRT, while it still raises howls from people whose stops are disappearing, is so obviously a major change that it becomes feasible to sell a longer distance between stations.

    Steve: The St. Clair line had stops added to the original design based on neighbourhood feedback and political pressure. For example, the Wychwood stop serves the Artscape Barns, a project near and dear to Joe Mihevc. The stop announcements on the St. Clair car even tell you that it’s the stop for the barns. However the line also boasts new traffic signals thanks to special pleadings. It appears we cannot make the motorists drive out of their way any more than we can force transit riders to walk.

    On Spadina, the original TTC proposal omitted several “local” stops on the ground that the route’s goal was to serve the office complex at “Metro Centre”, a development that would have stood roughly where the Dome and the Concord-Adex condos are today. Spadina was an existing heavily-used bus route with much local demand, but that fast trip from Bloor to Front was the be-all and end-all of the plan.


  19. Steve I notice that a lot of people including your comment above, talk about Transit City as serving local travel.

    But how is Toronto suppose to provide the more across the city travel that people need and want?

    If I want to travel locally in my neighbourhood, I can do that very easy by bus. And Transit City would really not make that trip any better or faster.

    But the reason our highways are full is because people can’t get acrosstown or downtown in a proper amount of time by transit. That is where the ridership and needs to be accomodated. Not local.

    Most local in neighbourhood trips are not by transit. And that is not going to change by going to LRT.

    All the people cramming into buses on Sheppard, Finch, Don Mills, are not going one or two stops. They are going downtown, acrosstown, etc.
    And no one has said how their commute will be improved.

    I think the intracity trips are the ones that need to be addressed now. I am tired of it taking an hour to get someplace I can drive to in 20 minutes.

    And I also do not want to only live my life confined to a 2km radius of my house, which is what most Transit City supporters think will happen with TC. I love my city, and I love going downtown, going to the west end, the east end, north, south. And I want fast transit to get me to these places. Not someone telling me I should only spend my time enjoying the couple stores near my house.


  20. @ DavidH. You mentioned that people say they want farther apart stops, but don’t want it when it impacts them.

    Well studies from the Quebec City METROBUS where stops were removed, show that not only does ridership improve, but people are walking farther distances from local bus stops near their homes, to access METROBUS routes instead of using their local bus route.

    If people on Bloor-Danforth have no problem walking the extra block to a subway station, than I am sure people in other parts of Toronto will not have a problem.

    Steve: I have consolidated another comment from Michael here as it is related.

    That is interesting about Spadina, Steve. I did not know it was suppose to serve Metro Centre.

    That being said, Spadina is a major downtown street, and the 510 should only have stops spaced at the same interval as the Yonge subway. That means Spadina Station, Harbord, College, Dundas, Queen, King, and Front Street. With pre-paid fares, etc.

    People having to walk an extra half a block to a major street, to access the 510 is not a big deal at all.

    Steve: There is a question about just what is meant by “walking longer distances”. People love to point to stops like King & Victoria Westbound, Queen & Simcoe Westbound, and a few others (and they really are few) where two nearby stops could be consolidated into one. Those are extreme cases and not representative.

    The original Bloor-Danforth subway (Woodbine to Keele) is what people usually argue for. That is a distance of 12.4km, and there are 20 stops (19 spaces between stops) for an average of 653m between stops. When one counts multiple entrances available at most stations, the walk to an entrance is even shorter than the average spacing. Another important point on the BD line is that the street pattern, parks and parking lots provide many shortcuts from nearby neghbourhoods.

    A map of the Eglinton line including stop spacing was provided in a comment by Leo Petr. Few of these stops are as close to gether as those on BD in the central part of the route. If anyone thinks an Eglinton subway (or a subway anywhere else for that matter) will have stops on the classic BD spacing, they are dreaming. Metrolinx, in common with several advocates here and on other blogs, wants “regional” transit lines.

    By comparison, the King car from Yonge to Bathurst (2km) has stops on about 200m spacings. Of these, only Brant does not have a traffic signal. The Spadina car from Bloor to Queen (also 2km) has stops every 250m on average. They are all well-used.


  21. Hi Steve:-

    And hello Michael. Living on the east end of the BD line for 30 years I can tell you that the loss of three stops in between stations, verses what the streetcars did and the night bus does is a pain in the royal sit me down. I realize of course that this widened stop spacing is a necessity for heavy rail, but it is still a royal pain to walk the extra ‘mile’, particularly as I age and more particularly, when the weather is lousy.

    As far as the Eglinton line’s proposed stop spacing is concerned, I commented on that to one of the hosts at an open house for the line, stating that it’s just a streetcar for crying out loud and there should be stops more frequent than a full blown subway. Case in point, the Philly streetcar subway where the cars fly between closely spaced stops, observing them if a bell cord was pulled and/or a passenger was waiting on the platform, or rolling on through if none of the above. Fairly quick antique, low tech LRT; certainly lots faster than if on the surface sharing a roadway. Too, I pointed out that there would be a way to improve stop spacing without making more stops between Laird and Bayview. The proposed layout showed a very wide stretch here where there is a very old neighbourhood and loyal ridership with a number of bus stops that will be lost. But by putting the east end of the Laird station structure at Laird and the west end of the Bayview station structure at Bayview, with stair ways at the extreme ends of both, then it should be more palatable for those in between, as you spoke to in your italicized comments on the BD Steve.

    And as an aside. I was able to take some time out and ride the St. Clair ‘LRT?’ this past week in mid-morning. The car didn’t fly along but ran slow and steady and we arrived at Dufferin in a reasonable length of time. There were very few delays beyond the observing of passenger loadings and off-loadings. Did I hit a fluke day or did this operator just time the speed to match the traffic lights better with practice?

    Dennis Rankin


  22. Mr. Munro,

    I see your point about stop spacing on the Eglinton LRT. (I believe so, at any rate). Bloor-Danforth spacing, in my opinion, is much more in line with the stated ideals of Transit City. I, for one, would be much more favourable to a more locally-oriented service for the Eglinton line if a parallel or nearby express service were proposed.


  23. Slow-peddle says:
    April 4, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    “Mr. Munro,

    “I see your point about stop spacing on the Eglinton LRT. (I believe so, at any rate). Bloor-Danforth spacing, in my opinion, is much more in line with the stated ideals of Transit City. I, for one, would be much more favourable to a more locally-oriented service for the Eglinton line if a parallel or nearby express service were proposed.”

    Are you asking for more stops on the Eglinton LRT and a parallel express service or a local bus service on Eglinton? The LRT will be faster than any express bus service on Eglinton and there are NO nearby parallel streets on which to run the “express bus”. West of Yonge I think that you are looking at Glencairn to Caledonia and Lawrence west of there. East Of Yonge, Roehampton runs 1 block north of Eglinton (this would not please Steve’s relatives) at least to Laird and perhaps Brentcliffe but east of there you are back to Lawrence.

    A subway, either HRT or LRT, cannot have enough stations because of cost to provide a decent local service. I am in favour in most areas of the wider stop spacing with a parallel local service where necessary. The problem with the TTC’s Rapid Transit is that it isn’t all that rapid if you have to ride it a long way. Why anyone in Markham or Vaughan would want the bum numbing ride to the downtown is beyond me when they could have a much more rapid and comfortable ride on GO.


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