Posts Tagged ‘streetcar’

Questions: What density is needed for ‘Rail’ Transit? Does Anyone Really Know?

June 17, 2010

Simple questions today folks. Over the past few weeks the ugly question of density has been rearing its ugly head in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley concerning transit. Vancouver council is considering major density increases for Cambie Street because it has the Canada line mini-metro and the same treatment is expected for Broadway if ‘rail‘ transit is built. So here we go; if the powers that be say “we don’t have the density for rapid transit“, then what density is needed to sustain it? One just can’t say “we don’t have enough density, when one doesn’t know what density is needed.”

Also, if modern LRT/streetcar can be built for up to one half to one tenth the cost of a metro, then is the density needed to sustain LRT/streetcar one half to one tenth of that needed for a SkyTrain subway?

Could it be that no one knows the answer and the question of density is an urban myth, used both by bureaucrats and politicians to stop any chance of building with LRT/streetcar and an excuse to up-zone residential properties, giving windfall profits to a selected few, mainly wealthy friends of the government?

If we do not know what density is needed to sustain a transit mode, how then can anyone say we don’t have the density for that particular mode?

Would a simple LRT/streetcar line on Broadway, forgo the need for massive densification needed to sustain a metro? Are property deals already being made on Broadway on the basis of a SkyTrain subway?


When Trolleybus and Streetcar Cross Paths

May 11, 2010

In answer to a query from a regular poster, ‘Zwei’ has found a picture of a Russian trolleybus and tram intersection showing the overhead.  I have included from Wikipedia, a short description of tram/trolleybus junctions, locations, and the electric overhead.

Tram – Trolleybus Crossings

From Wikipedia

Trams draw their power from a single overhead wire at about 500 to 750 V, while trolleybuses draw their power from two overhead wires, at a similar voltage. Because of that, at least one of the trolleybus wires must be insulated from tram wires. This is usually solved by the trolleybus wires running continuously through the crossing, with the tram conductors a few centimetres lower. Close to the junction on each side, the wire merges into a solid bar running parallel to the trolleybus wires for about half a metre. Another bar similarly angled at its ends is hung between the trolleybus wires. This is electrically connected above to the tram wire. The tram’s pantograph bridges the gap between the different conductors, providing it with a continuous pickup.

Where the tram wire crosses, the trolleybus wires are protected by an inverted trough of insulating material extending 20 or 30 mm below.

Until 1946, there was a level crossing in Stockholm, Sweden between the railway south of Stockholm Central Station and a tramway line. The tramway operated on 600-700 V DC and the railway on 15 kV AC. Some crossings between tramway/light rail and railways are still extant in Germany. In Zurich, Switzerland the VBZ trolleybus line 32 has a level crossing with the 1200 V DC railway to mount Uetliberg; at many places in the town trolleybus lines cross the tramway. In the Swiss village of Suhr the WSB tramway operating at 1200 V DC crosses the SBB line at 15 kV AC. In some cities, trolleybuses and trams have shared the same positive (feed) wire. In such cases a normal trolleybus frog can be used.

Another system that has been used is to coincide section breaks with the crossing point so that the crossing is electrically dead.


Many cities had trams and fishsticks both using trolley pole current collection. They used insulated crossovers which required tram drivers to put the controller into neutral and coast through. Trolleybus drivers had to either lift off the accelerator or switch to auxiliary power.

In Melbourne, Victoria, tram drivers put the controller into neutral and coast through section insulators, indicated by insulator markings between the rails.

Melbourne has four level crossings between electrified suburban railways and tram lines. They have complex switching arrangements to separate the 1500 V DC overhead of the railway and the 650 V DC of the trams, called an overhead square. Proposals have been put forward which would see these crossings grade separated or the tram routes diverted.


In Athens, there are two crossings between tram and trolleybus wires, at Vas. Amalias Avenue and Vas. Olgas Avenue, and at Ardittou Street and Athanasiou Diakou Street. They use the above-mentioned solution.

From the opening of the tram system in the summer of 2004, trams and trolleybuses in the direction of Pagrati shared the same exclusive lane, about 400m long, on the far right side of Vas. Olgas Avenue, with tram and trolleybus wires side-by-side above a narrow lane of road. The trolleybus wires were on the far right of the lane, away from the trams’ (very wide) pantographs. Trolleybus drivers were required to drive very slowly because the trolley poles were extended to their limits. A change of route for trolleybuses was implemented in mid-2005, ending this arrangement.


In Milan  most tramway lines cross the circular trolleybus line once or twice, so crossings between overhead tram and trolleybus wires are quite commonplace. Trolleybus and tram wires run parallel in some streets, like viale Stelvio and viale Tibaldi.

Close-up of a tram/trolleybus junction.


March 15, 2010

Spread the word, Invite your friends in Vancouver – this is not just a Rail for the Valley event


Granville Island, Vancouver
Saturday, March 20, 2:00pm
Granville Island Olympic Line Station

(Click here for the event on Facebook)

This may be your last chance to experience Vancouver’s state-of-the-art 2010 Streetcar while it’s still in operation. (Rides are free!)

The Streetcar Demo has been a phenomenonal success, but the trial is slated to end on March 21. In light of its success, there is a major push on to extend the service indefinitely. Such a small line (only 1.8 km long, from Granville Island to the Olympic Village) could end up being the tiny seed that begins the construction of a light rail and streetcar network eventually encompassing the whole of Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

Click here for more background:
Streetcar named desire shows transit future (The Province, Feb. 28, 2010)

So, LET’S RALLY, and Ride the Rails on Saturday March 20 the first day of spring, in support of Light Rail and streetcars for Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

Take the whole family, and make it a day. After the rally, visit Granville Island on the first day of spring!


For the time being (at least until March 21), getting to Granville Island is transit-friendly:
1) Get onto the Canada Line (If you’re take Skytrain, the connection to the Canada Line is at Waterfront Station)
2) Get off at Olympic Village Station (6th Ave).
3) Ride the Olympic streetcar!

CARPOOLERS: let us know if you need a carpool, or if you can carpool somebody.

Trams for the 21st Century – Siemen’s Combino

December 10, 2009

With Bombardier’s two Flexity Outlook trams arriving in Vancouver, let’s take a look what the other companies have to offer for trams for the 21st century.

Siemen’s Combino modular car

The Combino is a low floor tram made by Siemens Transportation Systems and first model came off the assembly line in 1996 at the Duewag works in Düsseldorf, Germany. Because of its modular design using standardized components, resulting reduced costs, the Combino was for a time one of the most successful tram types on the market. They were sold to twelve transportation operations and a further development was sold to two others. In 2007, a new generation of Combinos was sold to Berne. The Combino line of modular trams is expected to be superseded by Siemens with new line of trams called Avenio, which have been built on the design technology of Combino.

The tram is largely made out of aluminum, with a welded under-frame to which the body framework is bolted in sections, which means that the Combino can easily be adopted to different lengths, widths and gauges. The length of the trams varies from 19 metres (62 ft) (Nordhausen “Duo” and Melbourne D1) to a world record 54 metres (177 ft) (Budapest), accommodating between 100 and 350 passengers. All versions are designed to have a 300-millimetre (11.8 in) floor height and a 10-tonne (11-short-ton) axle load. It can be built as an unidirectional to bidirectional vehicle with driving positions at both ends, and for TramTrain operation or for operation on unelectrified tracks, the DuoCombino with an additional diesel propulsion system, is offered.

The Combino tram uses (can be adapted for other voltages) 600V DC overhead power and which convert this to 400V 3-phase AC power for the regenerative low wear motors via 3 IGBT PWM inverters. On board controls, lighting and air conditioning run at 24V DC.

In early 2004, Siemens admitted to problems concerning the stability of the car bodies and, as a precautionary measure, instructed all public transportation services to take all Combinos with a service mileage of more than 120,000 kilometres (74,565 mi) out of service. Torsion forces generated in S-curves were much higher than anticipated, leading to cracks around the articulations between the car modules. Subsequently, hairline cracks were found in the joints of the aluminum bodies, which could cause the roof to collapse in the case of an accident.

Siemens launched a three stage process of rebuilding the 454 modules affected, which now reinforces the modules to give an expected 30-year life. The cost of the rebuild programme was put at €400m or CAD $620m. 

Over 500 Combino’s have been built and  in operation around the world and the Combino tram has now been superseded by the Avenio modular tram.

Budapest's 54m Combino caterpillar tram

Vancouver 1940. A map of streetcars and interurbans in Vancouver

April 28, 2009


Here is a map of LRT or streetcar operations Vancouver and vicinity in 1940………………… back to the valley interurban.

Lawned rights-of-ways = non-user friendly & green transit

March 28, 2009

In stark contrast to SkyTrain’s and RAV/Canada Line’s (in Richmond) ugly elevated concrete viaducts, Europe is greening their tram-lines. European transit authorities are lawning their tram routes, creating a park like atmosphere, which is further enhanced by trees, shrubbery and statuary. Tram lines, either ballast and tie on the ground or elevated on a viaduct can be an eyesore, but by ‘greening‘ the tram formation and making it a linear park certainly makes new LRT lines an easier sell to local residents; making the tram-line non-user friendly. Even the German Federal Railways (DB) are experimenting with lawned rights-of-ways for ecologically sensitive areas along the railway’s mainline.


The photo shows a Grenoble tram, with a simple station, operating on a lawned rights-of-way, as it were operating in a small park. Certainly the Arbutus Corridor is a natural for lawned light-rail tracks, but also imagine if you will, lawned interurban line in Cloverdale, Langley, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack, with the Valley interurban becoming a vast linear park connecting town centres. Talk about green transit!