ANOTHER IMPORTANT UPDATE! (October 27th, 2016) Corrected the bit about the South Shore. And added some grim news about the lack of oversight, and the possible (pronounced "likely") conflict of interest. Thanks to Mike Berthold for the South Shore corrections. No thanks to the Quebec Government for insisting that this go ahead.
IMPORTANT UPDATE! (October 20th, 2016) Please read below.
Lest you thought, from my last "Why?" entry that I have a one-track mind...
Well, I don't just do articles about close friends who were cruelly ripped from one's life by some still unknown entity that I'm calling an Elephant....
(I'm calling what killed her the Elephant, not her, let's be clear. She was not an elephant. She was a Peacock. See http://raakone.livejournal.com/44786.html)
Oh no, no no no, I also do...other things. This is about mass transit. Specifically, about a rather badly thought plan. The The Réseau Électrique Métropolitain, or REM
Pictured: That band who made it big in the 90's who share their name with a badly planned transit system.
This is being planned by the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, or the Quebec Deposit and Investment Fund, or often called "The Caisse" in English.
They're basically a mega-pension fund, sort of owned by the Government of Quebec. They recently decided to get into the infrastructure game. Without any input from anyone else.
Yes, they're basically the Sledge Hammer of investment groups. Now, it would be foolish of me to not give a map of their proposed network first. I'll do that, then I'll point out all the holes in their plan!
Ok, I will tell you that part of this network makes sense. Emphasis on "part." Specifically, between "Central Station", across the river to the East (or "South" in Montreal speak), and down to Rive-Sud. This is going to give a rapid transit link to Nun's Island, and run in the middle of the Champlain Bridge! This idea was meant to happen. Right now the South Shore just has two commuter trains (one of them being mostly rush-hour only, and neither of them running on weekends), a single Metro station (Longueuil-Université-de-Sherbrooke), and assorted bus lines of varying frequencies (some of which require switching to the Metro at that lengthily-named station in Longueuil) UPDATE Again: This may have a slight issue, but only slight. The proposed end may be in the middle of nowhere. There's several places on the South Shore, several important bus terminals (and one Metro station) that could be connected to, at least one or two of which will be seriously considered. There's Longueuil-Université-de-Sherbrooke Metro station, which is also a bus terminal. It may not be going there. HOWEVER, There's the Panama terminus, which looks NOTHING like this...
(Above: The WRONG "Panama" Terminal) because it's actually in Brossard, not Panama.) And there's also "downtown" Longueuil. And also the Brossard-Chevrier Park'n'Ride lot (over 2000 spots, served by a couple of buses. Would be a natural choice for the train) Chances are Panama and/or Chevrier will have stops there. Seems very likely. At least they're not totally clueless.
What makes less sense? The part through the Mount-Royal Tunnel. Why? They'd have to completely overhaul the entire line to Deux-Montagnes.....a route that was last overhauled in the summers of 1993 to 1995 (requiring complete shutdown during those times) It went from museum piece (spare parts had to come from China and Poland!) using relics from World War I...
To pride of Montreal's commuter rail network, and the only "mainline" electrified passenger rail service left in Canada!
Previously, they needed a crew of 6 people, and had to manually open and close all doors.Now it's two people, and it's done automatically. Previously they needed a flagman for entering a tunnel. They used to be one of the only lines still using telegraphs to give "permission" for trains to moved, and they sometimes picked the "orders" up from a hoop while moving! The only reason service isn't more frequent, a) there's only so many trains available, and b) there's bottle-necks. Between Bois-Franc and Deux-Montagnes, there's only two places where trains can pass each other. They were supposed to double those tracks a long time ago. It's like having a state-of-the art super highway....with a section with only one lane in either direction!
The line is now owned by the AMT, who runs the trains on it (that they also own). But the CDPQ wants to just tear up everything, replace it with 1,500 volts instead of 25,000 (if you're going to have lots of trains, it's better to use a higher voltage), they'll have to replace everything, and there's also problems with that connecting line, the trains to Mascouche (the turn-off is past Mont-Royal), they use special locomotives that can run under wire in the tunnel and diesel everywhere else. Changing wires would mean changing all the locomotives, if that's even allowed, becaue usually "normal" trains and "Light Rail" are not allowed to co-mingle on the same tracks. Not to mention the question of loading gauge.
The train tracks themselves are the same "gauge", or distance between the rails. "Standard gauge", or 4 feet, 8.5 inches, or 1435 milimetres, if you want to be metric.
LOADING gauge, however, is the width of the train. The new trains will be narrower than those Deux-Montagnes trains I showed you. Also, as they may look like this....
With the doors raised, it means you'll need high platforms, closer to the trains (we can't have gaps). Thus, we can't run ANY conventional trains (which are wider) on these tracks. They would have to replace EVERY platform on the Deux-Montagnes line. Not to mention, if connecting to the existing platforms at the airport, change those, also. Removing the old platforms and catenary (that's the overhead wire that provides the juice) to replace it will add to the cost!
So replacing a well functioning line with this....experiment? And put in by people who don't know what they're doing?
Not such a good idea!
I love the idea of having a link to the airport. Let me rephrase that, I WOULD, except that there are flaws with that!
And let me show you the map again.
Why? The Airport line. It's needlessly roundabout and convoluted. There exist existing railway lines, and all that's needed is the "final miles", instead of this plan which requires much more new track.
Want to know what a connection that isn't hare-brained looks like? I'll give you TWO examples. Heathrow Express, which connects London's busiest airport to Paddington station...
They added a branch to an existing rail line, from Paddington, added tunnel, and overhead wires. 15 minutes, every 15 minutes. Now let's go to Toronto's Union Pearson Express....which is called UP for short because of how positive it sounds. Connects downtown Toronto to its main airport.
In that case, they used existing trackage most of the way, just had to add a very short spur, was the most direct existing trackage, in this case they needed dedicated platforms (high doors), but not any electrification. So see? Those examples are how a connection to the airport SHOULD be. The REM, on the other hand, they not only drop the ball, they kick it into their own net.
Because this new network is being designed to return a profit, they'll cut costs. Not just by having the trains all automated, but having them shorter, requiring shorter platforms. but where will all the people go? The way their plan works, if they take of the Deux-Montagnes line (Please, NO!), it will go from....
(State of the art electric rail line) to (Cash Cow) Reduced capacity, everything else excluded from the line (not just light vs. heavy, but also loading gauge, and automatic trains should not share tracks with manually driven ones, a question of signalling)
Not only would the AMT be affected. This project would also affect VIA-Rail Canada
You may be thinking "what? VIA?" Others may be wondering "What is VIA?" Theyr'e the intercity passenger rail provider in Canada. Think of them as the Amtrak of Canada.They announced an ambitious plan in early April for high frequency rail, including new trains, a couple of new routes (including a North Shore route to Quebec City), and electrification of at least part of the network. Sounds so sweet. But REM threatens to put the breaks. And the president of VIA seems a bit oblivious of this. By "a bit", I actually mean "very." I mean as in totally, and utterly, Clueless!
(Sad thing is, these fictitious California schoolgirls seem to understand the situation better than he does!)
Follow this link here to Catbus' take on it.... http://www.cat-bus.com/2016/10/via-torpedoed-regional-rail/
Here is, in my view, the most important image from that article...
Now, VIA has plans to use the "North Shore" approach to Quebec City (currently, they run the same way as the "AMT Mont Saint-Haillaire Line") They serve Montreal at Central Station/Gare Centrale, at the southern end of the Tunnel Mont-Royal.
If the REM line goes through, it will be problematic for VIA, especially as there'll be those stops in the way, please see my note about loading gauges, it will help. If the trains cannot use the tunnel, they'd have to take a more circuitous route. Or alternatively, depending how REM is set up, VIA Rail could be shut out of Central Station altogether, necessitating a change from VIA train to REM train to get "downtown." Requiring people to change to get downtown kind of robs intercity train travel of one of its main benefits, as you can't really build an airport downtown, with concerns about tall buildings, higher risk of something going wrong (if there's a crash on takeoff or landing, who will be affected?), and the NOISE!
(Above: Just making sure you all understand part of the reason why you don't have downtown airports, and thus, downtown train stations are important. I don't believe for a second that airplanes sound like vuvuzelas!)
Of course, there is pushback when we pushback. Phillipe Couillard, head of the Quebec Liberal Party, and Premier of Quebec, insists that this project must go ahead, there's too many delays, we should all be for this, we shouln't be debating this...
(If you understand French, get the article it's from here.... http://www.lapresse.ca/actualites/montreal/201610/17/01-5031262-train-electrique-couillard-presse-de-construire.php)
Listen, when a politician tells you that something is so important that we shouldn't be debating it like that, 99.44% of the time that is what SHOULD be done
Yes, this often!
There are others who are getting the message out to just how terrible the REM is. I'll give a shoutout to two Facebook groups, https://www.facebook.com/pourunmeilleurprojet/?fref=ts ("Pour un meilleur projet que le Réseau électrique métropolitain" = "For a Better Project Than the REM"....yes, it's in French), and also https://www.facebook.com/Trainsparence-100310043739823/?fref=ts ("Trainsparence"). They are good places to go if you have Facebook, for a good look at this attrocity of a system.
Also, there's a petition to sign...https://www.assnat.qc.ca/fr/exprimez-votre-opinion/petition/Petition-6281/index.html Give a VALID EMAIL, because they will check it before your "signature" is counted.
Also, here's a list of four reccomendations that could make the REM actually make sense, this is from "Pour un Meilleur Projet", and was translated decently on "Trainsparence".....so here goes....(my comments are in parentheses, because!)
1) changed the REM West Island branch to follow the HQ electric lines by Salaberry (there are places where power lines go, and there's huge empty spaces, by necessity for safety, buildings or trees there would be dangerous. But having a rail line by there? Not so dangerous)
2) used technology comparable with existing AMT lines & do not waste $1 billion to electrify the already electrified 2 Mountains line (So the "Good REM" that I wouldn't complain about, if it has to go through the Tunnel, then make it an electric train with the same loading gauge as the AMT trains. And driven manually! I know, it's not as sexy as those automatic light-Metro things. But this would make more sense)
3) Agree to share the Mt Royal tunnel (this part is obvious)
4) optimize the south shore route to go to existing bus terminals; (my earlier comments, and seems likely.)
And now, I'll add a fifth one...
5) Integration, integration, INTEGRATION! If the ticketing system is not compatabile with existing commuter rail, bus, and Metro services, what's the point? And there must be decent interchanges with existing rail and Metro lines, if there isn't, it's signs of a badly designed system.
UPDATE: That last part will definitely not happen. The AMT (that agency with the blue ribbon logo I showed you earlier) will not be involved. They will split into two entities, one for commuter trains and "suburban" bus services, called RTM (Résau de Transport Métropolitain) and the other one, the planning arm, will be ART (Agence Régionale de Transport or Agence de Résau de Transport) will theoretically planning things, making sure the whole network of networks makes sense, etc. Except that they will have no oversight or input whatsoever into REM, because REM is private, except that it isn't, even though it will be. Because of their unique position. So they'll have carte-blanche. And again, this whole integration thing will not be done. Despite a lack of a body-count or gratuitous amorous scenes, the public transit landscape in Montreal may resemble THIS....
A Lannister, I mean, a CDPQ always pays its debts! And then dumps them onto the Quebec and Canadian taxpayers, no doubt! So the average commuter will be stuck in the middle of Cersei vs. Tyrion, I mean, CDPQ vs. the ART.
Also, the CDPQ happened to recently buy a 30% stake in Bombardier, a company that makes, besides other things, rail cars, and is based in Quebec. Chances are, they and the government will "railroad" the bidding process so that Bombardier gets it. I smell a conflict of interest here.
As always, this piece will be updated for any reason! Have any thing I forgot to say? Let me know!