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Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Next Generation is Just Plain Uncool-------& that's crazy
MONTREAL – Amid a late-summer heat wave that boosted the temperature in part of the Montreal Island subway system to as much as 34 degrees Celsius, its operator is sticking to its guns and won’t add air conditioning to the specifications for its next generation of métro cars.
Michel Labrecque, board chairman of the Société de Transport de Montréal (STM), Tuesday rejected an air-conditioning demand issued by Richard Bergeron, leader of the Project Montréal party.
Bergeron had just repeated to reporters that the STM should equip all new rolling stock – métro cars and also buses – with air conditioning.
He presented a detailed series of rebuttals to objections raised against his party’s proposal during a city council meeting last week by Marvin Rotrand, vice-chairperson of the STM.
A combination of design changes to the next generation of subway trains can be expected to cut peak temperatures in the underground system by “three or four degrees” Celsius, Labrecque said at a city hall news conference that began as Bergeron’s was winding down.
While the electrically powered métro trains currently in service generate about 80 per cent of the heat inside the system through acceleration and braking, the design for the next generation should cut this by “about 25 per cent,” to about 60 per cent, Labrecque said. The STM also is roughly halfway through a 20-year program to improve ventilation through shafts that link subway tunnels to the surface, he added.
The debate boils down to priorities and available money, added Rotrand, stating frequency and punctuality of transit service are rated much higher as priorities by users than summer temperatures.
Heat levels in the transit system triggered fewer than 100 of the 17,000 to 18,000 complaints and comments submitted to the STM by users last year, Labrecque said.
The timing for the subway system is “crucial,” Bergeron said, given that a fleet of replacement métro trains still up for bidding is expected to remain in service “for the next two generations,” to about 2065. That’s about a half-century after deliveries are expected to begin and almost a century after the city’s subway system initially entered service.
Labrecque said the transit agency plans “a pilot project” next summer to try out air conditioning on longer-haul bus routes. That echoed remarks he’d made last Friday.
But the details for what Labrecque called a benchmarking study haven’t been finalized, he told reporters Tuesday.
Bergeron, accompanied by city councillor François Limoges, said a higher comfort level would draw additional users into the transit system.
Questioned by reporters, both said they could not predict how many commuters would choose to forgo private vehicles for buses or the métro if summer heat was not an issue.
“Bergeron admits he does not know if air conditioning will bring in lots of new riders,” Rotrand said.
“He can’t come close to proving” that such a move would bring more ridership and, thus, prove cost-effective.
Rotrand pegged the overall price tag of Bergeron’s proposals at about $225 million, although that figure includes retrofitting existing equipment.
Bergeron estimated the cost of a gradual changeover to air conditioning at “perhaps $2 million,” on an annual basis.
About 95 per cent of private vehicles now sold provide air conditioning, Bergeron said, up from about 5 per cent in 1980.
Transit users “should be able to benefit from a quality of service comparable to what is quasi-standard to its competitor, the automobile,” he added.
Mayor Gérald Tremblay and his administration “should take into account that transit users are not second-class citizens,” Bergeron said.
Bergeron said the greenhouse-gas emissions avoided by taking one private vehicle off the road would allow 12 busses to be equipped with air conditioning without any net additions of greenhouse gases