After Côté tribute, council debates Champlain Bridge transit


MONTREAL — The start of Monday’s monthly city council meeting was dedicated to a man who never served as an elected official but whose life left an enduring mark on a city he loved.

After his homage, a large part of the meeting was dedicated to the question of putting a light-rail transit system on the new Champlain Bridge, a topic close to the heart of Marcel Côté. [READ MORE – The Gazette]

In the City of Montreal, City Council is at odds as to what type of transit should complement the replacement of the dangerous Champlain Bridge, which has come under increased scrutiny after the federal government announced its funding.

SEE ALSO: Federal budget promises fix for Montreal’s aging Champlain Bridge, new Windsor-Detroit border crossing – National Post

Montreal’s transit authority is pleading the City Council to vote in favour of a Light Rail Transit (LRT) system on a replacement for the crumbling Champlain Bridge, whereas some stakeholders prefer a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. The LRT line, initially meant to provide an alternative transit option for the corridor with no Champlain Bridge replacement, has been in the planning stages since before the need to replace the bridge was identified.

I was reading about this and came across a concept image for the proposed highway median LRT system, on the official website for the proposed line. The yellow-coloured train looks suspiciously like a Mark II SkyTrain vehicle in a 5-car configuration:

CONCEPT IMAGE - Champlain Bridge LRT, taken straight off of the AGENCE MÉTROPOLITAINE DE TRANSPORT website
CONCEPT IMAGE – Champlain Bridge LRT, taken straight off of the AGENCE MÉTROPOLITAINE DE TRANSPORT website

I did some further digging and found that this image is repeated in the preliminary design studies for the light rail transit system, which is comprehensively suggesting that the desired specifications of the new “LRT” line are fully compatible with linear induction motor propulsion (“SkyTrain technology”) and will be using similar rapid transit vehicles.

SEE ALSO: Highway 10/Downtown Montreal Corridor LRT study

This is made evident by a number of items on the project’s list of desired performance criteria on page 32:

• an attractive service operating at a high commercial speed (over 50 km/h) and a high maximum speed (100 km/h);
• a high frequency (intervals less than every 3 minutes at rush hour);
• a high level of safety thanks to guide rails, an exclusive track, automated operating systems and anti-collision devices;

and on page 55:

3.4.1 Operating mode
Automatic train operation has been retained because, among other things, it allows for reduced service intervals and running
times, increased flexibility for adjustments of timetables and intervals, as well as improved safety, better controlled accelerations,
and greater passenger capacity in each train set.

and on page 56:

3.4.7 Car performance requirements
…The design load of the cars (seated passengers + four standees/m2) is 131 passengers per car. Each train will be made of 5
cars and will therefore have a capacity of 655 passengers.

Notice how this is exactly the passenger capacity of a Mark 2 vehicle.

With 80-90m platforms, frequencies less than 3 minutes, 5-car trains, and high-floor cars on a fully grade-separated right-of-way with 6% slopes… almost everything matches. You name it, SkyTrain has it, and Montreal’s Champlain Bridge “LRT” is also going to have it.

Studies have identified that the proposed rapid transit line, which will be fully grade separated, has a positive benefit:cost ratio of 1.11:1. It is 15km long, and advertises a travel time of just 18 minutes from the outbound terminus to Montreal City Centre.

Montreal Champlain LRT recommended alignment
Montreal Champlain LRT recommended alignment – taken from study

Why this matters

You may recall that I recently started a new blogseries called The Problem with SkyTrain critics, which comes at a time when several SkyTrain or other rapid transit expansions are being debated here in Metro Vanouver. One of the problems I have identified with SkyTrain critics (and will be discussing shortly in more articles on the matter) are the numerous dubious claims of SkyTrain’s “obsolescence” – SkyTrain critics claim that the technology, which was developed in the 1980s, no longer has a place in rail rapid transit planning.

SkyTrain criticsdeny SkyTrain’s potential as a high-quality rapid transit system that generates billions of dollars in transportation, developmental and economic benefits. They clutter our blog-feeds, newsletter sections and comments with endlessly varied suggestions to perpetuate the belief that SkyTrain simply isn’t the best option for investment.

SEE ALSO: The Problem with SkyTrain Critics – Denying the Benefits Part I

But, this is the second example I have uncovered as of late that shows that the technology we use in SkyTrain is becoming a serious rail rapid transit option for cities worldwide. In another recent blog article, I brought to light that Kuala Lumpur [SEE HERE] has approved an additional 36km of SkyTrain expansion in addition to the ongoing 17km extension of the Kelana Jaya Line. Other extensions are taking place in Sendai, Japan and in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The Guangzhou Metro recently opened a new metro line using SkyTrain technology, which already carries over 700,000 passengers daily.

The success of SkyTrain (in particular, the Canada Line) has also inspired the Montreal airports authority to advocate for a light metro-type shuttle to the airport.

SEE ALSO: Montréal-Trudeau Airport Light Rail Shuttle Study
The JFK AirTrain was one of the rapid transit systems mentioned in the Champlain LRT study as a reference, alongside the Millennium Line and Canada Line in Vancouver.
The JFK AirTrain (which uses SkyTrain technology) was one of the rapid transit systems mentioned in the Champlain LRT study as a reference, alongside the Millennium Line and Canada Line in Vancouver.

22, KPU Geography, J-POP enthusiast. Founding director of SkyTrain for Surrey.

Montreal may use SkyTrain technology for Champlain Bridge “LRT”
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5 thoughts on “Montreal may use SkyTrain technology for Champlain Bridge “LRT”

  • January 19, 2015 at 11:18 am

    I’ll make it short.

    1.Japanese Hitachi Linear Induction technology both used in Japan and China are not compatible with Bombardier technology by design. Don’t believe me call Bombardier!
    2. Chinese versions of the linear Induction Linear Induction technology are not cross compatible with many of the earlier Japanese systems, don’t believe me, ask Hitachi!
    3.The LRT for the Champlain bridge will be Bombardier Flexity vehicles, the Skytrain technology was too expensive to maintain and too expensive to adapt to the surface conditions in downtown Montreal and require extremely expensive concrete above grade rights of way to connect it to the bridge. Bridge designers want a low cost rail system that will use the same ramps as cars (trains will be physically segregated from traffic). Montreal transit officials want a street loadable system in downtown Montreal.
    4. The federal government have said that any transit facilities attached to bridge will have to paid by the Province and Cities involved. The design has space for 2 segregated transit lanes. The transit mode is not up to the federal government since they refused to pay any more. The province has said no to anything but a simple rail line or Bus Rapid Transit line. The most likely situation to develop will be, a BRT line slowly converted to surface LRT when their is enough money.
    5. The Trudeau Airport Transit Line to Downtown was killed by CN and CP since the people who did the study (Montreal Airport Authority) did not take into account that, they don’t own the lines that this train will need, the railways do. The ATM Agency that runs Montreal’s Commuter Rail System and VIA Rail both have plans to increase use of these lines. The CP Rail section of the line is already at capacity. The CN owned Track going into Central Station does not have enough capacity to do what it does now and run a separate airport express train that will legally and functionally have to be on separate rights of way from the existing railway tracks. The cost of this planned line was triple what it was supposed to be! $1.3-$1.7 Billion when the province and feds only budgeted around $400 million. A conventional Commuter Rail type service was what senior governments had imagined, both governments agreed, despite the screaming from SNC Lavlin and Bombardier that, the cost of their Linear Induction technology is just too expensive to be effective! Given the planned passenger levels of 3-5000 p/h/d at the peak hour.

    • January 23, 2015 at 8:47 pm

      Look… I realize it’s your goal as much as others to get transit planners thinking they way they should be, but you’re not going to go anywhere if you keep pulling baseless statements, unsourced numbers and bold assumptions out of your behind. You clearly have no understanding of the industry around linear motor rapid transit systems, and neither does anyone you follow.

      1. First off, Hitachi is not the sole developer of linear induction technology in Japan. In fact, no linear induction transit system in Japan has ever been the product of a single company. Hitachi, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Nippon Sharyo, Kinki Sharyo, Tokyu Car Corporation, and Mitsubishi have all constructed linear motor cars and have often done so in collaboration with each other. For example, Osaka’s 70 series cars were jointly developed by no less than four (4) different companies. They have all been able to overcome differences in power collection methods, voltages, and system designs to provide Japanese cities with the requested systems. It probably wouldn’t be nearly as much of a challenge to try and integrate with Bombardier’s system – and these companies have collaborated with Bombardier in the past (see below)

      2. You cannot and will not back up your claim that there’s no compatibility between Chinese and Japanese LIM systems, because no source will cater to your desire to mislead. The Guangzhou Metro was also a result of collaboration within the industry, and three Japanese companies were among the lead participators. Canada also had a stake in Guangzhou’s Metro: the bogies on these cars are actually from Bombardier (BM-3000 and later Flex 2000), which theoretically makes the Guangzhou Metro a direct extension of SkyTrain technology. However, the linear motors that are outfitted to the bogies were supplied by Mitsubishi rather than by the contractor that manufactures Bombardier’s design. So in short: Mitsubishi linear motors, strapped to Bombardier bogies, attached to a car design developed in joint by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and CSR, and manufactured in joint by Kawasaki, CSR and Itochu Corp – operating on the three busiest lines of the Guangzhou Metro carrying well over 1.5 million people daily. You probably wouldn’t want to believe me, in which case I have bad news for you: I don’t need to ask any of these companies, they ALL have confirmation of it on their websites:
      On Kawasaki’s participation:
      On Itochu’s participation:
      On Bombardier’s participation:, additional info
      On Mitsubishi’s participation: (link to original untranslated release in Japanese:

      3. You’re once again making things up. If you didn’t read the study attached to this post, full grade-separation is already a part of the project assumptions. The line will enter downtown Montreal on an elevated train line paralleling the commuter railways. There is no on-street running. It would, among other things, hamper the quality of the final transit service.

      I have no major comments for 4 and 5. However, with regards to 5, this transcript of a presentation from a few months ago by the Montreal airport’s president ( would suggest that the rail link proposal for Montreal Airport has never changed from its Canada Line-inspired proposal.

  • January 24, 2015 at 7:38 am

    Daryl I am a transit planner and have been for 2 decades. I don’t need to know that they still build with Linear Induction Technology. The issue is that it is a niche market technology compared to other more simplified and cheaper rail technology. Niche market items like this are by their nature, relatively expensive. Actually talk to the people who fix and maintain these items. As they age, Linear Induction Technology isn’t cheap or easy to maintain. The single proprietary provider of spare parts Bombardier, is now debating whether they will stay in the market because they have so few orders.

    No transit technology or system is perfect but if you are Bombardier and your transit vehicle division is just barely making money and many other divisions like aerospace, are losing money and have to decide what facilities to keep open which do you choose, cheap to operate LRT technology which is getting hundreds of follow on orders a year and has a total of over 3000+ vehicles in its Flexity line (since the late 1990’s) already in service. The conventional powered full scale Metro market which Bombardier has sold more than 4200 of their MOVIA technology trainsets since 1995 and continue to get large orders for. Or do you choose a Linear Induction Technology powered Light Metro system that has no more than 180 vehicles orders in the next 4 years and has had only 628 in the last 35 years (more than half of which were before you owned the technology)?

    Are they building with this technology in Asia yes they are but, it is small minority of all Asian orders. They are definitely very few new orders in North America or Western Europe, Vancouver being the only exception. This market, North America and Western Europe is where the majority of Bombardier’s core customers are. This is the transit market where they have the most competitive advantage.

    If Bombardier is facing in Asia at least 3 different companies in Japan alone producing a similar product then, considering its low sales its even more likely that, they will leave the market for this product. Its such a small market for them and your facing 3 competitors in Japan and a how many in China? I know a Korean company has a similar LIM product too. The Asian market for Light and Full sale Metro technology powered by Linear Induction Motors seems to be quite full already and Indian companies haven’t even entered the mix yet. Bombardier has some hard choices ahead.

    We have trouble in paradise here! Considering the falling budgets almost everywhere in Europe and North America for transit operations and most every senior level of government needing to balance their general spending budgets as well as the need, especially here in Canada to cover the expected massive increase for anything regarding Health Care. If you don’t have secured tax dedicated for just transit by 2017 – 2018, like Ontario is starting to do, you are going to see massive contraction in your total transit budget.

    I am not your enemy, I am still stunned that you online guys in the Vancouver area, Zwei included, haven’t joined up in a alliance (regardless of your technology choice) to create some kind of coherent mass on line pro transit message for your upcoming referendum. I know Zwei is very anti Translink and would like to see it knocked down but he is pro transit. Considering if Translink doesn’t get that new funding from the local sales taxes, its essentially dead. I sat down with a friend of mine who is a forensic accountant and took a more than quick look at Translink’s funding scheme. The first big problem that they have is that, all the funds they collect are regressive taxes that can’t by their nature easily keep up with inflation, even at the best of times. Secondly, all their current taxes with the exception of the property taxes and fees are actually declining. Translink’s property tax and fee money is growing but its growing at a rate of less than inflation. The fuel tax paid to Translink which was already in decline is now in severe decline with the drop in gas prices. Forget a Broadway subway, forget LRT, say good by to real BRT (you have glorified express bus routes). You guys are going to have a problem soon just buying new buses. Your existing services will have to be massively cut back and expect huge increases in fares just to balance the budget unless these new funding measures pass. This should be your number one issue not squabbling over a expensive niche transit technology.

  • January 24, 2015 at 9:08 am

    Forgot to mention this, Bombardier doesn’t make much money unless they sell you a complete vehicle. They can partner with any company they like to provide bits of technology to someone else’s trains but, that just makes them a sub contractor. They don’t make much money doing that. They are car maker they have to sell you a whole vehicle not part of one to make money. Once they sell you it then they sell you spare parts, service equipment and or lately they just do it for you. Due to the fact that, many transit operators don’t want to hire any staff themselves and pay their costs, so they have the vehicle provider do it for them for a fee. But unless they get the vehicle sale nothing of any value happens. Bombardier is closing no less than18 European based production facilities because of they have purchased companies and all their factories and found out that they have way too much production capacity for their products. At one point 31 Bombardier facilities were being considered for closure worldwide, that’s just in the Railway and Transit vehicle division.

    Oh yes one more thing. A bit of friendly advice. You have to be careful about announcements coming out of Quebec. They have been like this since I was University 25 years ago. Older friends confirm this is something consistent in the culture in Quebec going back many decades. They seem to have a habit of making announcements about infrastructure projects much earlier in the process than in the rest of Canada. In Ontario for example no one would make grand public statements about a infrastructure project or even begin a real planning processes for one unless, there was a fairly good chance the project will actually happen. Even with that, nearly half these projects in Ontario end up never getting built.

    If it wasn’t for the feds the entire Champlain Bridge would be a dream. The province is essentially broke for all intents and purposes. Of all their transit/infrastructure announcements in the last 30 years coming out of Quebec, Montreal specifically, and boy have there have been many! Maybe 5 or 6 of those transit related projects over that time have actually been built or delivered. The ones that actually get built are usually quite small in stature, line extensions and rail vehicle replacements. Unless there is massive support by all levels of government and industry, grand infrastructure projects never get built in Quebec. They start with great pictures and fanfare and eventually it all just disappears. I am not being insulting, its just what historically has happened.

    A friend/neighbor of mine who is a big Ottawa area cycling advocate has always marveled about the great cycling infrastructure Montreal has installed.

    Another friend of mine who I went to school with and is a planner in the Montreal area, if he were in the same room would more than likely shoot back at my cycling advocate neighbor the same thing he said to me and say, “yes, because cycling infrastructure all we can afford to regularly build”!

  • January 30, 2015 at 7:53 am

    The writer seems to be confused about the technologies described. The “skytrain” technology has light-weight vehicles with relatively small wheels and (and THIS IS IMPORTANT) a linear motor propulsion. This propulsion would be totally unsuitable for Montreal. The Canada line is NOT sky-train technology. It is older traditional heavy rail technology with rotary electric motor propulsion and current picked up form a third rail. It would also function with overhead wiring. It comes from a Korean design. To an uniformed observer it may look similar to the original (UTDC) Skytrain since it is also partly on structure and has a similar front., It has larger wheels and is essentially made up of coupled units of two cars which an be lengthened into more units if needed. Operation is driver-less, the same as the Skytrain operation. But the hardware is completely different. .Why do all these discussions not make this point? What you see for the Champlain proposal is an illiustration that uses the coaches of the “skytrain” but will obviously NOT be that technology.


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