The Bistro Tram – Is it the right menu for the interurban?


Two previous postings – and – talk about long distance rail travel from Vancouver, East to Abbotsford, YXX, and Chilliwack and one must think of amenities for the transit customer. The proposed interurban service must be user-friendly from the start, to gain a solid consumer base and a ‘Bistro‘ car, serving light refreshments maybe the ticket to make a long journey more enjoyable and give the service some panache; offering something different.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, German transit officials, in order to attract ridership, offered ‘Bistro‘ trams with small kitchens to serve light snacks, coffee, and even beer and wine. The ‘Bistro‘ cars were widely accepted where used, but the first ‘Bistros‘ were converted from old stock, though making many a long tram journey more pleasant when one could sip a coffee or have a breakfast croissant, were cramped and somewhat uncomfortable. Later, larger articulated ‘Bistro‘ cars came with toilets, tables at some seats, and other amenities and have become an icon on transit systems with longer routes. Karlsruhe Germany is a good example where  ‘Bistro‘ cars ( and observation cars) operate on some routes as long as 210 km.  The following video clip shows a bistro tram on the inter-urban line which links Düsseldorf and Krefeld in Germany.

The proposed Vancouver to Chilliwack interurban service should consider having a ‘Bistro‘ car for the the 90 minute plus service. Certainly, offering snacks and fresh coffee on the service  would be very user-friendly and a positive in attracting customers. It could even be call a ‘Starbuck’s‘ or ‘Blenz‘ car if they were so interested in operating the service. Today’s modular construction of light-rail vehicles makes it easier than one would think, in designing (some modular cars have a ‘Bistro‘ module) and building  a Bistro.

So, is a ‘Bistro‘ car on the menu for Rail for the Valley’s plans? If not, maybe it should be, it just might be the ticket to sell the project to the politicians and the public alike!


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3 Responses to “The Bistro Tram – Is it the right menu for the interurban?”

  1. David Says:

    I must admit that every time I raise a concern you’re able to find a creative solution. What ever did you do before I started tormenting you? 😉

    Bistro service is a great idea. I’ve never been on the WCE, but it has Cappuccino Car written on the side of the train in places. Does that mean that coffee is available on board?

  2. zweisystem Says:

    There is always a light-rail solution for a transit problem. Grades too steep? Try a rack and pinion LRT.

    Long journey? Bistro tram. Track sharing, diesel light-rail, two system LRT. It is the inherent flexibility of the mode that has enabled modern light-rail to adapt to most situations and demands.

    Let us not forget, LRT is not and I stress is not a panacea, but a proven method in reducing congestion and improving the quality of public transport. Sadly, the provincial government and TransLink (who consider LRT as a poor-mans SkyTrain) do not wish to acknowledge the success of the mode. The real loser is the transit customer, who is stuck with buses and 2 (soon to be 3) gold plated metro lines. one hopes that the combined groups advocating the “Return of the Interurban” can convince the powers that be to rethink future transit planning by including LRT.

  3. mitch Says:

    A friend used to work for a company in the SF bay area. He boarded a light transit car and his workday began – he was paid from the time he boarded to the time he disembarked. He drank coffee and did his job at a reasonable onboard work station. He had internet access and cell service. The train made it possible for him to work and so he did not fret – he worked, or relaxed at his option and it was anything but a waste of time.

    I think of this and grind my teeth as my car sits idling on the #1 on my happily infrequent trips to Van city. I think about how I could board the train in Chilliwack near Yale Road, drink coffee and do wut-evah until I arrived in dwntwn. Visit my grandson in New West by inter-lining with Skytrain and then re-joining the Southern line again for a trip home, sipping a Chilliwack Pale Ale perhaps, or a cuppa Saltspring coffee. If the ticket cost $10 or even $15, I would be ahead. And no sitting on a linear parking lot with 10,000 other furious commuters, tapping our steering wheels and muttering, “Go! Idiot . . .”

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