Re: Trackless Trams – pros and cons

Something up north is now being spoken of as a trackless tram.

The irony in Queensland is that a regional city has higher-capacity street
public transport than the capital city.

Tony P

On Thursday, 18 November 2021 at 22:47:41 UTC+11 TP wrote:

> I see some very concerning signs about Melbourne's trams in that piece.

> First, it surprises me to read that there's no political intention to

> update the coverage of the system by building logical extensions to new

> centres and train stations - which is something that's done in tram systems

> around the world, including Australia outside Melbourne. This would help

> explain the otherwise puzzling stagnation (including patronage) of the past

> few years.


> Secondly, the proposed downgrade to smaller trams (in contradiction to the

> earlier logical stance, cited by Daniel, that larger trams were needed to

> address the ongoing critical capacity shortfall).


> Thirdly, we now have this guided bus talk being worked up, which is not a

> solution at all because it provides little more capacity than an

> articulated bus service but with greater establishment costs. However, such

> a guided bus would provide the same capacity as the smaller next generation

> trams, which suggests a little conspiracy is afoot.


> It seems to me that they're not going to boldly announce the closure of

> the tram system, as they did in Sydney, Brisbane etc. They're going to

> whittle it away by stealth, putting a ceiling on capacity and gradually

> hiving off under-performing parts of the network to convert to "BRT". It

> would certainly explain the lack of enthusiasm for progressing system

> accessibility, the huge backlog in which will became a convenient excuse to

> convert routes to buses. The question is - is this only Labor or also the

> attitude of the Liberals?


> It goes without saying that Melbourne doesn't deserve to go down such a

> path. It would be a disaster.


> Tony P

> (who thinks the pieces of the puzzle are finally falling into place)

> On Thursday, 18 November 2021 at 21:26:46 UTC+11eme...@... wrote:


>> Just one comment on the need for upgraded roadways or not.


>> In Adelaide on the O-Bahn busway, which is a very similar operation in

>> principle, the concrete pavement has worked reasonably well. It's getting a

>> bit rough now, but that's after about 35 years, so not unreasonable.


>> However, in the CBD itself with conventional asphalt paving, the pavement

>> in the Grenfell/Currie Street bus-only lane suffers quite badly from

>> development of ruts, and requires a lot of attention. A guided bus would be

>> worse, because the wheels would traverse a much narrower path over the

>> paved surface.


>> Thus, from the Adelaide expexperience it would seem that a conventional

>> asphalt pavement would be insufficient, and a reinforced concrete pavement

>> is required. Now, in that case, the cost difference between tram and guided

>> bus isn't quite as much as the promoters of busway would have us believe.

>> Next, if that's the case, why not hedge the bets on taxpayers' money, and

>> put rails into the busway anyway. If the busway fails, or if the busway

>> supplier decides to abuse their monopoly, then the conversion to a

>> conventional light rail is feasible. Finally, there's no reason why a

>> mixed bus and tram service couldn't run down such a corridor.


>> On Thu, 18 Nov 2021, 7:47 pm Greg Sutherland, gregsut...@...>

>> wrote:





>>> Trackless Trams – pros and cons


>>> - Post authorBy Daniel

>>> - Post dateThu 18 November 2021


>>> - 7 Commentson Trackless Trams – pros and cons



>>> [image: Trackless trams at Chadstone (Artist impression)]


>>> Federal Labor is getting behind


>>> a “Trackless Tram” idea for a route from Caulfield via Chadstone and

>>> Monash Uni to Rowville, pledging $6 million for a business case if they win

>>> power next year.


>>> *The proposal is* to run from Caulfield via Dandenong Road past

>>> Chadstone, then Ferntree Gully Road, Blackburn Road past Monash University,

>>> and then along Wellington Road and Stud Road to Rowville.


>>> The route is very similar to the current 900 Smartbus route, but is more

>>> direct between Caulfield and Monash, and is claimed to be faster.


>>> The map below (from this document


>>> shows the route, and proposed travel times for TRT (“Trackless Rapid

>>> Transit”) against other modes from locations either side of Monash.

>>> [image: Trackless tram: Caulfield-Rowville proposal]


>>> Note the map shows a connection with the proposed Suburban Rail Loop

>>> station at Monash University. This station won’t actually be on Blackburn

>>> Road, but nearby.

>>> The problem with trackless trams


>>> Trackless Trams are controversial in some circles. The Public Transport

>>> Association of Canberra has this new article talking about the hype and

>>> reality around the technology


>>> .


>>> A Trackless Tram is arguably an elaborate bus. It typically includes:


>>> - battery electric vehicles (eg it’s not a trolley bus using wires)

>>> - vehicles designed to look like trams

>>> - dedicated right of way

>>> - some special tech for a smoother ride than the average bus


>>> So it’s basically a fancy guided

>>> Bus Rapid Transit system

>>> operated by battery electric vehicles.


>>> One claim I’ve heard is that Trackless Trams are used in 200 cities.

>>> This is a wild over-estimation… but Bus Rapid Transit *is* used in

>>> about 200 cities (including Brisbane


>>> Sydney and Adelaide) – possibly this is the origin of the claim.


>>> Another, earlier claim about Trackless Trams was their suitability as

>>> driverless vehicles. This seems to have disappeared from most recent

>>> proposals – I suspect the technology has not been shown to be ready for

>>> prime time.


>>> There are other concerns. *The weight of the vehicles* necessitates a

>>> special heavy duty road surface


>>> This means they can’t regularly divert off the route if there’s a

>>> disruption, and it also means the construction cost may be substantial, as

>>> it might include moving underground services. If the road surface is

>>> unsuitable, you get problems with damage to the road.


>>> Another big problem is establishing one line with *unique technology*.

>>> This means high establishment costs, and difficulties with unfamiliar and

>>> new equipment. (Victorian public transport doesn’t have a good record with

>>> new technology. Myki’s okay now, but remember the mess when it started



>>> Perhaps this wouldn’t matter so much in a city with no existing

>>> medium-capacity transport system. But Melbourne already has a huge tram

>>> system


>>> and has considerable expertise in building, maintaining and running them.

>>> And although a Caulfield to Rowville line (of any technology) might need

>>> its own depot, a tram track connection with existing route 3 at Caulfield

>>> would mean new tram fleet could easily access existing tram maintenance

>>> facilities.


>>> Alongside issues of new/unique technology are the risks of *vendor

>>> lock-in*. No single manufacturer has exclusive rights over established

>>> standard tram or bus technology, meaning that future expansion or

>>> maintenance is more flexible and price-competitive. Not so Trackless Trams.


>>> Finally it’s worth noting that in the Chadstone/Monash Trackless Tram

>>> proposal, the vehicles would have their own dedicated lanes along the

>>> route, but they’d still cross paths with other traffic at intersections.

>>> When asked, the Vicinity proponents said they were *not proposing for

>>> traffic priority* at intersections – presumably to keep the cost down.


>>> So it’s in danger of being not much faster than Melbourne’s existing

>>> lane-separated tram and bus routes.

>>> The advantages of Trackless Trams


>>> Challenges aside, if Trackless Trams are a fancy form of battery

>>> electric Bus Rapid Transit, what does that mean?


>>> It becomes about marketing.


>>> In Victoria they don’t want to build tram lines – there’s been continual

>>> resistance to even very short but logical extensions


>>> very few recent extensions built, and the proposed Monash/Rowville

>>> light rail idea

>>> seems

>>> to have gone nowhere.


>>> And of course they never properly resource buses. Even the premier

>>> Smartbus routes never had adequate weekend frequencies



>>> But Trackless Trams *have got people excited*. Political buy-in means

>>> that from this Caulfield-Chadstone-Monash-Rowville proposal we might

>>> actually get a willingness to provide a good service: a direct route, high

>>> frequency at all times, and speed.


>>> Maybe it is just a fancy bus. But as far as I’m concerned, they can call

>>> it whatever they want if it provides some good outcomes for passengers.


>>> Hopefully the special “track” surface requirements would mean that

>>> on-road priority couldn’t be watered down later by allowing other vehicles

>>> to intrude. And the plans seem to include high-standard stations with good

>>> pedestrian access into Chadstone and other destinations.


>>> And yes, it might end up being cheaper and quicker to build than light

>>> rail. Maybe.

>>> [image: Queue for 900 bus, and Oakleigh extra bus, Chadstone on Boxing

>>> Day]


>>> What about fixing the buses?


>>> It’s important to remember that while some people don’t see buses as

>>> “real” public transport, when it comes down to it, there’s no shortage

>>> of people who will use them


>>> if they’re provided when and where people want to travel. Make them good

>>> enough, and they are popular



>>> So while the powers-that-be make up their minds on Trackless Trams, why

>>> not fix bus route 900


>>> Beef up the frequencies to at least every 10 minutes at all times, make it

>>> more direct (the stop at Huntingdale isn’t really as important when the 601

>>> shuttle is running – and this could be extended to run on weekends and late

>>> evenings) and improve the on-road priority.


>>> Perhaps a truly effective bus service would undermine the Trackless Tram

>>> idea too much. But on the other hand, it could also help justify further

>>> investment – in that, or in conventional light rail.

>>> TT: doubts remain


>>> It’s not hard to see why Vicinity/Chadstone wants better public

>>> transport to the centre. No matter how big they make their car park, it’s

>>> still a constraint on shopper numbers.


>>> *Trackless Trams have potential.* But doubts remain around the costs,

>>> for this proposal the lack of traffic priority, and most importantly the

>>> risk of an immature, orphan, proprietary technology.


>>> Some sources indicate the government is seriously considering the idea.

>>> They will need to tread very, very carefully.

>>> Share this:


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>>> -



>>> - TagsChadstone, Monash

>>> University, Trackless

>>> trams


>>> ------------------------------

>>> ←Beg buttons for motorists


>>> ------------------------------

>>> 7 replies on “Trackless Trams – pros and cons”

>>> Philipsays:

>>> Thu 18 November 2021 at 8:38 am



>>> According to the weights in the linked paper, ordinary road surfaces

>>> would be suitable as these vehicles will have gross weights lower than

>>> similarly sized trucks, and axle weights within the limits that apply

>>> across the nation. That would be essential because they need to use tyres,

>>> and tyres (of a normal size that will fit into a truck, bus or ‘tram’)

>>> aren’t be rated for unusually high loads unless speed and distance are

>>> limited.

>>> The trouble with these vehicles is that they would lack the stability

>>> that is provided by rails. Using a multi-articulated bus – which is what

>>> they are – would require either a sophisticated control system to

>>> manipulate the couplings, suspensions and brakes to avoid sway and maintain

>>> straight-line tracking, or it would require very low speeds. Possibly both.

>>> The paper briefly mentioned updating ADRs to suit these vehicles, but this

>>> is not a trivial task and has never happened quickly. It will be especially

>>> difficult when (if) authorities ask for evidence that the vehicles will be

>>> dynamically safe. They are not magic. There is a reason actual trams have

>>> tracks.



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