Tram on Tires – Guided Light Transit (GLT), the ultimate BRT



Guided Light Transit or GLT is a hybrid bus/tram system, where rubber tired vehicles are guided by a single rail and the TransLohr GLT falls into this category. It has been long realized that for a bus to obtain higher performances to compete against LRT, it must be guided. The Achilles heel of BRT in busways is that the kinetic envelope needed for BRT operation is much greater than LRT, thus the land take for a busway was much more expensive than for light rail. The Ottawa busway cost more to build than for originally planned for LRT! To reduce the kinetic envelope for buses, they must be guided and the German O-Bahn addresses this problem by side wheels running on a cement guide-way. Visually ugly, the guide-ways have not proven popular and are almost impossible to locate in city centres, which means the O-Bahn operates just as a bus in the city. In Germany, this problem has been some what overcome by O-Bahn track-sharing with LRT on reserved rights-of-ways and in tunnel; though problems still persist.

By guiding a bus by a single rail (monorail?), flush with the street (like a tram), enables the GLT to safely operate in city centres, within its kinetic envelope thus providing the bus with most of the benefits associated with light rail- but at a cost as GLT became only a little cheaper than LRT, but with a much more limited capacity than light-rail and limited productivity as GLT buses can’t operate in multiple unit. In Paris, GLT is more expensive to build than tram!

The new Paris tram-on-tire or GLT line Saint Denis-Sarcelles (6.6 km) will serve some popular destinations, as well trying to revitalize strategical urban areas. Many modal interchange points will be located along the route: Marche de Saint-Denis (T1 tramway line), Saint-Denis Basilique (metro Line 13), Garges-Sarcelles (RER local railways Line D), besides many other bus interchange stops.

A further standard tram line (steel wheels) will also serve Seine-Saint-Denis department, connecting Saint-Denis, Epinay-sur-Seine, Villetaneuse and serving Universitè de Paris XIII-Villetaneuse. It will interchange with metro L13 (Saint-Denis Porte de Paris stop) and tram T1 (Gare de Saint-Denis stop), but not directly with Saint Denis-Sarcelles line.
RATP (official site)

What is interesting to see is the cost of  Paris’s new GLT, CAD $52.7 million/km is much higher than Le Man’s new LRT line costing $31.2 million/km. or Paris’s tramway T-3 cost of $42.5 million/km! It seems the TransLohr GLT or tram on tires is very expensive for what it does and like SkyTrain, be built in very numbers.

It is important to note, when provincial politicians espouse the notion of Bus Rapid Transit as an alternative to LRT, Rail for the Valley must expose this nonsense as both BRT and GLT could be more expensive to install than light rail and certainly GLT/BRT will cost more to operate than LRT.

Country France
Line Saint Denis-Sarcelles
Inhabitants District 11.175.000
Date opening 2011
Future development:
Length (km) 6.6
Track sections
Stops 16, average distance 400 m
Platform doors
General characteristics
n. of vehicles 15
n. of cars per vehicle 3
Type rubber tyres bi-directional
Vehicle dimensions (m) length 30, width 2.2
Vehicle capacity (pax) 127
Frequency 5’/
Type of guide/gauge central rail
Speed Km/h Comm. 18, Max —
Accel./Decel. (m/sec2)
System capacity
Ridership 30.000 pax/day
Total cost 33 M Euro/km
System builder LOHR
Model Translohr STE3

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2 Responses to “Tram on Tires – Guided Light Transit (GLT), the ultimate BRT”

  1. Justin Bernard Says:

    Why would RATP build an orphan technology line amongst many(successful) tram lines?

    Zweisystem replies: The problem is GLT is just too expensive to build and only supports a small niche in the public transport family. As with all proprietary transit systems, it carry the seeds of its own obsolescence. If TransLohr stops production, what then?

    Remember the Elcasset in the 1970’s, or BETA in the 80’s, all long gone. I’m not saying that the TransLohr is bad, but it’s small transit niche dooms its marketability. SkyTrain suffers from the same problems, but that is another story.

  2. JP1985 Says:

    Not sure Translohr is a good fit for North American post WWII suburban areas. Where it might be of some value however over traditional buses and streetcars is in cities that have central streetcar tunnels such as Boston, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. In those cities prior to the 1950s & 60s, there were more streetcar lines that fed into the central subway, which usually ran in mixed surface traffic in outer sections. Today every time the possibility of re-establishing streetcars in those outer areas (in Boston think Watertown & Jamaica Plain) gets mentioned people get very worried about tracks in the road causing bicycle accidents and potential visual blight as a result of the overhead catenary wiring. In Italy there’s a Translohr section that operates on a battery thereby not requiring overhead wiring. Even better if Translohr could come up with a hybrid prototype that used some type of non-electric clean fuel power along surface sections, and then switched to overhead electric underground. Bi-directional Translohr service also requires only 2 tracks instead of 4, possibly lessening worries among bicycle advocates. Have not seen it yet, but would like to see some track-sharing between Translohr & traditional streetcars. This would require an additional central track in mixed sections. This is probably best left to the Germans to figure out. With some tweaking, Translohr definately has the potential to serve as a happy medium for BRT & streetcar fans alike.

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