Montreal Public transit needs to get with the times
For some time now a standard message is coming from all levels of government: use public transit. There are many reasons for this recommendation, from avoiding traffic jams to weather conditions in the winter, to road works in the summer, and lately, to fight climate change. Car emissions are indeed the primary cause of gases contributing to climate change. But one thing is the very sensible message inviting us to use public transportation; another thing is the availability and reliance of public transit. In fact, in Montreal, especially, public transit faces a significant problem: the service provided by the Société de transports de Montréal (STM) leaves much to be desired. And the situation seems to be worsening these days.
A few years ago, the STM started to renovate its bus fleet. The most significant change was the introduction of low-floor buses following a trend that began in Europe a couple of decades earlier. The idea was to make the vehicles easier to board by the elderly as well as accessible to people on wheelchairs. Those changes were certainly commendable, although the first such buses had little stability for those standing –the majority of passengers, since these new buses had fewer seats– and then they were plagued with several technical problems. “Nine public transit agencies pulled the buses made by Nova Bus. The Quebec manufacturer has asked the transit agencies to inspect the vehicles after finding the glitch in buses delivered between 2016 and 2019” according to a report by the CBC-Radio Canada. “Nova Bus will have explaining to do, the mayor (Valerie Plante) says Montreal’s transit agency (STM) took 282 buses off the road and advised commuters there would delays on some lines” according to the same source.
Montreal Public Transit needs to go GREEN
In the effort to move away from fossil fuel, Montreal has introduced hybrid (diesel-electric buses) and some 100-per cent electric vehicles as well. However, it has also been revealed that the hybrid models show a percentage of reliance on the diesel engine as opposed to the electric one, disappointingly higher. Regarding the electric models, one of the problems facing not only Montreal but other cities that have adopted the model is the long time needed to charge the batteries of the buses.
On a previous occasion, we already addressed the issue of one-hundred per cent electric buses needing too much time to charge their batteries. If Montreal wants to solve some of these problems it may look at the solution some cities in Europe have found: the introduction of In-motion Charging (IMC) buses. These are the new generation of trolleybuses which are hybrid- electric (using overhead electric wires) and batteries. In that previous article we cited transit specialist Alon Levy who mentioned the case of Swiss cities that already had trolleybus networks which by introducing this new generation of trolleybuses that charge while moving –connected to the overhead wire– they could later extend their range using their batteries, without having to stop for recharging as the current battery-electric buses (BEBs) do. Levy also pointed to a problem that our buses might be experiencing too: “it looks like BEBs struggle when it’s too cold (below freezing) or too hot, and on routes with hills.” Sound familiar? It is very much Montreal’s climate and topography.
In conclusion, to have a smooth ride on the bus, as our municipal authorities promised, some very drastic changes to the approach to the acquisition of vehicles should be taken. The experience of Swiss and other European cities introducing IMC buses could be something worth trying.
Feature image: An IMC trolleybus in Switzerland, is charged while connected to the wires then it may run on batteries on streets without overhead wires