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Evidence of meeting #39 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was bus.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Étienne Lyrette  Corporate Advisor, Governmental Affairs, External Relations and Strategic Planning, Société de transport de Montréal
Serge Carignan  Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Société de gestion et d'acquisition de véhicules de transport
François Chamberland  Director , Engineering Service, Operation, Société de transport de Montréal

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Mr. Holder.

May 29th, 2012 / 9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

Thank you. I'd like to thank our guests for being here today.

I'd just like to make the point that something not being new technology doesn't necessarily make it bad technology. I really appreciate the testimony that you've provided today, because if you've followed our hearings thus far, we've been getting more information about the use of propane, natural gas, and the like. So I find it very fascinating to have your testimony today.

Mr. Carignan, I'd like to understand this a little better. I do appreciate that STM is responsible for the Island of Montréal, the bus systems, and you seem to be responsible for everything.

9:55 a.m.

Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Société de gestion et d'acquisition de véhicules de transport

Serge Carignan

It's for the nine transit authorities, including STM. We do joint procurements when we purchase buses. The buses that are used in Quebec City are the same as those used in Montreal, except for the colours of the seats and the exterior.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

How did that come about? I ask because you have, dare I say, a monopoly, a leadership role in guiding all of the various municipalities in la belle province. I'm just trying to understand better how that came to be, because that will help frame my next couple of questions, please.

9:55 a.m.

Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Société de gestion et d'acquisition de véhicules de transport

Serge Carignan

It started actually when Montreal Transit was purchasing a high volume of vehicles. Trois-Rivières, which purchased 20 buses for three years, wanted to buy into the contract. So STM was buying buses for everyone, but at some point they said, well, this is a full-time job and a full-time team should take care of it. So we created what we called ATUQ. It's the nine transit authorities brought together. And we have an office now with permanent employees who purchase the buses for the nine transit authorities. You must understand that we have to compromise, that we have to discuss with the nine of them to make sure that the product we're purchasing is sufficient and that it meets the needs of all nine transit authorities.

Added to that, we've given ourselves a role of looking at what's being done throughout the world. And if something is done in Montreal, we want to share that information with the rest of them, and if something is done outside of Montreal, we want Montreal to share the data. So we provide that service and that commonality.

9:55 a.m.

Director , Engineering Service, Operation, Société de transport de Montréal

François Chamberland

Perhaps I can add something. STM is a huge bus operator, so we have a responsibility to the smaller ones to test new things. I have many engineers and technicians working for me. If you take the Trois-Rivières society, they have no engineers. So they use AVT, Serge's group, to get information from us and it's really a matter of coordination among everybody.

Huge bus companies like those in Montreal and probably in Toronto and Vancouver have this responsibility to test these things with our knowledge, with our engineers, with our mechanics, with our technicians. For example, we don't do that too much with the metro, because on the metro side, we're not a big metro, so we leave those experimentations to the Paris metro, to the New York metro. Because even if it's very big, the metro in Montreal in comparison to other metros is small.

So these big metros have a responsibility to us to test all those new technologies. But we do that on the bus side, because I think we're the fourth largest bus fleet in North America, in Montreal.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

Your focus, though, would be on hydroelectricity, because of the natural circumstances in Quebec where hydro power is so readily available. Have you found any application for that same technology throughout Canada? Have you shared that with others?

9:55 a.m.

Director , Engineering Service, Operation, Société de transport de Montréal

François Chamberland

Yes, in Vancouver they have the same hydroelectricity that we have. They have a lot of it. If you look at the whole picture, if you look at all the pollution you make from well to wheel, throughout the cycle, it changes if you're in Montreal or in Calgary. I can understand that Calgary wants to use natural gas. It's right there. To use natural gas in Montreal, we have 4,000 kilometres of pipelines, with leaks, so it changes the amount of pollution you make on the way. You have to make sure the electricity you're using is clean, because in some countries they burn very nasty things to make electricity. It's not because it's electric that it's clean. You have to have clean electrical sources.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

Based on that, Mr. Carignan, a couple of us around the table have talked about regulatory barriers. You mentioned the Fiat bus from Europe. You said that you would like to be able to acquire a vehicle for more than one year, but there were some regulatory barriers. I thought you said you'd like to purchase the vehicles, but it wasn't practical. But when you were asked why, I think I heard you say you didn't have an answer. But there has to be some reason behind that. I think this committee would be interested in knowing it.

10 a.m.

Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Société de gestion et d'acquisition de véhicules de transport

Serge Carignan

I worked for Transport Canada in the past, and they have very strict rules. It's hard to change any of them. It would be a major overhaul and a major introspection for them to look at the European standards, compare them with our own, and then decide to accept what the Europeans are doing. If they have a new standard coming up in two years, they're going to accept that voluntarily without having anything to say about it. In Canada, the safety standards are based on the American standards, although they differ a little with daytime running lights, labels, and stuff.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

I have to stop there, sorry.

Mr. Sullivan.

10 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and my thanks to our guests.

Tramways are very expensive to install because the infrastructure is expensive—laying rails, etc. Have you considered tramways on existing rail corridors?

10 a.m.

Director , Engineering Service, Operation, Société de transport de Montréal

François Chamberland

No, the existing railway corridors in Montreal are already used by suburb trains. You don't have enough people around those tracks to use a tramway there efficiently. A tramway has more capacity than a trolley bus, because a tramway can be six cars or eight cars in length. It's like a small train. To make it worth it, you need a huge number of people living around the tramway or travelling in that corridor for short distances. A tramway does not go that fast; it's not a suburb train.

When you have very few people to transport, you use small buses. If you want to transport more people in one direction, you use 12-metre buses. After that, you have articulated buses. You can use trolley buses on these sites. At one point, all the buses are in line, one behind the other, so you need something bigger. Then you can look at maybe double-articulated buses, which I haven't seen in North America yet. Then you look at tramways, and if the tramway does not do it, you have to look at the metro.

10 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

In Europe, they already use contactless tramways—they are electric, but without wires. Is that something you're considering in the future?

10 a.m.

Director , Engineering Service, Operation, Société de transport de Montréal

François Chamberland

I have to correct you. They're not contactless. The one in Bordeaux has a power pickup in the ground. That would not work in the snow and ice in Montreal, that's for sure.

The other system is from Alstom, and it also touches the ground. They would have to show me that it works with two inches of ice, like we have in Montreal. So on the ground, if it's not induction, magnetic or something, I don't think it would work in our winter.

10 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

And nobody has built any of those yet?

10 a.m.

Director , Engineering Service, Operation, Société de transport de Montréal

François Chamberland

No, magnetic...is too expensive.

10 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

It's like my toothbrush.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Do you have a magnetic toothbrush?

10 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

10 a.m.

Director , Engineering Service, Operation, Société de transport de Montréal

François Chamberland

Yes, but with a little more power.

10 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Everybody who's got a little powered toothbrush has contact with the inductive battery charging that goes on.

10 a.m.

Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Société de gestion et d'acquisition de véhicules de transport

Serge Carignan

It has to be close. The proximity is essential for that type of technology.

10 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Right, and so snow might get in the way of that.

10 a.m.

Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Société de gestion et d'acquisition de véhicules de transport

Serge Carignan

Well, if you're an inch too high, you're not going to get the....