Watching award-winning Japanese animated films

I’ve identified below whether they are available in Japanese with subtitles.
I haven’t listed every possible film.

Getting the Japanese version

Apple offers a confusing variety of options for accessing Japanese versions:

  • Apple TV Other Versions. Using the Apple TV device: Buy/Rent – Other Versions – Audio: Japanese (Subtitled). Or How to Watch – Buy/Rent – Press and Hold – Choose a Version – Audio: Japanese.
  • Apple TV Buy – Extras. Using the Apple TV device: Buy, and the Japanese audio version with subtitles is included as a separate iTunes Extra.
  • Apple TV – Buy, Audio Track: Japanese. Using the Apple TV device: Buy, and then when playing, e.g. swipe up and select the audio options icon (it looks like a bunch of vertical bars), then select AUDIO TRACK Japanese.
Year English Japanese Award Availability Review
2007 The Girl Who Leapt Through Time 時をかける少女 Japan Academy Best Animation of the Year Apple TV Other Versions It’s good. Weak ending.
2009 Ponyo 崖の上のポニョ Japan Academy Best Animation of the Year Apple TV Buy – Extras It’s ok. Odd.
2010 Summer Wars サマーウォーズ Japan Academy Best Animation of the Year Apple TV thinks it is a one-episode TV show. English only. Haven’t watched.
2011 The Secret World of Arrietty 借りぐらしのアリエッティ Japan Academy Best Animation of the Year Apple TV Buy – Extras Very good. Loosely based on the book The Borrowers.
2011 Colorful カラフル Japan Academy Excellent Animation of the Year Not available on Apple TV; effectively unavailable.
2012 From Up on Poppy Hill コクリコ坂から Japan Academy Best Animation of the Year Apple TV Buy – Extras It’s good. Bit of a twist part way, but overall good.
2013 Wolf Children おおかみこどもの雨と雪 Japan Academy Best Animation of the Year Apple TV thinks it is a one-episode TV show, available in English only. For Japanese with subtitles, Blu-ray/DVD is the only option. It’s good. Very sad.
2013 A Letter to Momo ももへの手紙 Japan Academy Excellent Animation of the Year Apple TV – Buy/Rent Haven’t watched yet.
2014 The Wind Rises 風立ちぬ Japan Academy Best Animation of the Year Apple TV – Buy Powerful but painful and complex tale.
2014 The Tale of the Princess Kaguya かぐや姫の物語 Japan Academy Excellent Animation of the Year Apple TV Buy – Extras Haven’t watched yet.
2014 Space Pirate Captain Harlock / Harlock: Space Pirate 宇宙海賊キャプテンハーロック Japan Academy Excellent Animation of the Year Not available on Apple TV. Effectively unavailable. (Also this is not the 1978 TV show or the 1982 Arcadia movie.)
2015 Stand by Me Doraemon STAND BY ME ドラえもん Japan Academy Best Animation of the Year Not available on Apple TV. Available on Netflix Canada in Japanese with subtitles. Seems to be for younger children. Computer-generated 3D animation.
2015 When Marnie Was There 思い出のマーニー Japan Academy Excellent Animation of the Year Apple TV Buy – Extras Very good. Touching. Based on When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson in 1967.
2016 The Boy and the Beast バケモノの子 Japan Academy Best Animation of the Year Apple TV – Buy, Audio Track: Japanese Amazing. Highly recommended.
2017 Your Name 君の名は。 Japan Academy Excellent Animation of the Year Apple TV Other Versions Excellent.
2017 A Silent Voice / The Shape of Voice 聲の形 Japan Academy Excellent Animation of the Year Apple TV – Buy. Or on Blu-ray/DVD. This is excellent. But it is also an overwhelming movie about the pain of human interaction, definitely something you need to be prepared to watch, as it deals with the risk of suicide.
2018 Mary and the Witch’s Flower メアリと魔女の花 Japan Academy Excellent Animation of the Year Apple TV Buy – Extras It’s good. Based on The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart in 1971.
2019 Mirai / Mirai of the Future 未来のミライ Japan Academy Best Animation of the Year Apple TV – only available in English or French. For Japanese with subtitles, Blu-ray/DVD is the only option. It’s good. I liked the trains, although the scary train was scarier than it needed to be.
2019 Penguin Highway ペンギン・ハイウェイ Japan Academy Excellent Animation of the Year Apple TV – Buy/Rent Science fiction. With a perspective that reminds you that Earth’s cultures can also be quite distant in their perspectives from one another. Which is to say, very hard to parse cross-culturally.
2019 Okko’s Inn 若おかみは小学生! Japan Academy Excellent Animation of the Year Apple TV – Buy/Rent It’s ok. Doesn’t really cross the cultural barriers well, particularly since the film uses the large eyes style for Okko. It’s a bit as if Little House on the Prairie were set in a Japanese inn, with ghosts, I guess.
2020 Weathering with You 天気の子 Japan Academy Best Animation of the Year Apple TV – Buy/Rent This was ok if a bit hard to parse cross-culturally for the most part, but then completely fell apart near the end. It’s like two different movies stuck together. It’s basically a kind of fantasy life that in the end collides with adult realities.
2020 Her Blue Sky 空の青さを知る人よ Japan Academy Excellent Animation of the Year Not available on Apple TV. Effectively unavailable.
2021 Stand by Me Doraemon 2 STAND BY ME ドラえもん 2 Japan Academy Excellent Animation of the Year Not available on Apple TV. Available on Netflix Canada.

How to watch Sound Euphonium

The Sound! Euphonium 響け! ユーフォニアム television series is a single story arc in two seasons.

The story opens with Kumiko Oumae 黄前 久美子 on her first day of her first year of high school seeing a senior year student at the top of the stairs, and the story arc ends at the end of the school year with that same senior student walking away at the bottom of the stairs as Kumiko watches from above. Kumiko, in other words, symbolically ascends through the course of the year. It is a perfectly closed story arc.

This is followed by a movie covering her second year.

How to watch

Basically you just watch the two seasons back-to-back. As far as I know, only on the Crunchyroll streaming service in Canada. You could just end there; it’s a complete story arc.

Don’t watch the movies first; the first two are summaries of the TV seasons, effectively clip-shows, and the third is a sequel to the TV series.


The story overall is about the Kitauji High School Concert Band Club trying to win gold at the national competition. To do this they first have to get competition gold at the local competition, then competition gold again at the regional competition, in order to advance to the nationals. (More than one band can win gold at a competition, but only selected gold winning bands get to advance, the others are called “dud” golds in the TV show.)

The 65-person band is almost entirely schoolgirls, and the dynamic of the story is basically all about their relationships. Adults play so little part in general that it could almost be a boarding school tale.

While high school everywhere has markers of status, in this particular case it is made very clear on multiple levels who is 1st, 2nd and 3rd year.

This indication of status includes a consistent dress code. Each year has an assigned colour, and keeps that colour as it progresses through its high school journey. When Kumiko joins, the first year tie colour for girls is red, 2nd year blue, and 3rd year green. (There are brown winter and white summer uniforms, with different shades of red, blue and green, but it is consistent throughout.) This extends to the same colours on their shoes and in their track uniforms. The guys don’t wear the year colours, only the girls.

The colours cycle, so as the green 3rd years graduate, the new first years come in wearing green. (In other words it is a cohort colour that follows you for all three years, not a colour that changes to indicate the year you’re in.)

In addition as part of the Japanese language, the senior (3rd) year students all have to be addressed according to their seniority, which renders all their names for the 1st and 2nd year students as –senpai. e.g. 3rd year Asuka Tanaka 田中 あすか is always Asuka-senpai to 1st year Kumiko.

I think, although I’m not sure, that the classrooms are also stratified by year, with 1st year Kumiko on the first floor in 1-3, and Asuka on the 3rd floor in 3-3.

The number of characters and the Japanese naming can make it challenging to follow who everyone is. Last names are used sometimes, typically in more formal settings, so for example when Taki-sensei the teacher is addressing Asuka it is by her last name, and as someone junior to him, just as –san. So Asuka is also Tanaka-san.

Each girl has distinguishing characteristics which is helpful since they are all wearing identical uniforms that differ only by year colour. Reina Kousaka 高坂 麗奈 has purple eyes. Hazuki Katou 加藤 葉月 always wears a red hair clip. Sapphire Kawashima 川島 緑輝 always wears a green butterfly hairclip and has green eyes and green pompoms on her socks… and prefers to go by Midori, as she doesn’t like the name Sapphire.

Why is Sapphire green?

If you’re wondering why Sapphire is green and not, you know, blue, I honestly don’t know, other than green and blue being overlapping in Japanese.

Reader’s Digest says

Hundreds of years ago, the Japanese language included words for only four basic colors: black, white, red, and blue. If you wanted to describe something green, you’d use the word for blue—“ao”—and that system worked well enough until roughly the end of the first millennium, when the word “midori” (originally meaning “sprout”) began showing up in writing to describe what we know as green. Even then, midori was considered a shade of ao. As you can imagine, this sudden switch-over had lasting effects in Japan.


This is drama, not comedy. Animation (anime) in Japan can cover all genres; it’s not just for kids or just for comedy.

Sound! Euphonium is a serious story about Kumiko’s first year. It’s basically entirely about the relationships between the female band members as they work to solve problems. Some of the characters are quite complex and contradictory, particularly Reina Kousaka and Asuka Tanaka.

The high-pitched voices and anime stylings could be a distraction although I didn’t find them so. The only really jarring episode is 2×02 Hesitation Flute とまどいフルート when they go to the pool and you are rather awkwardly reminded that these incredibly serious, hard-working band members are also teenagers.

In its focus on women and story arc it reminds me very slightly of Gilmour Girls and how hard Rory worked, although in almost every other way it is very different. It also has aspects of Glee and Canada’s own Degrassi. But it has to be understood that the emphasis is very different from any of those North American examples, it really is almost entirely about the relationships between the female bandmembers and their dedication and hard work trying to reach the nationals and win gold. Most of the tropes and dynamics you would get in a US high school story just aren’t present.

Probably the most striking thing from a modern North American perspective is the complete autonomy and responsibility of the students – they take the train to school very early, they work very hard all day, and they take the train back home very late. If they have a break, it mostly consists of going with a friend or two from band to a convenience store or fast-food place. That’s the basic frame within which this tale unfolds.

Ultimately it is a way to see another culture’s view of itself and to think about what it means to be human, while being distracted from the realities of your own day-to-day, and on that basis, I think it succeeds admirably.


There is talk of a third season but I don’t know if that would make sense. The story arc is already complete; anything more would just be endless variations on the theme.

There also seems to be a misunderstanding online that each season is a year of school; it is not. The Japanese school year starts in April and ends in March. There are three terms, basically Spring/Summer, Fall, and Winter. The two seasons of Sound! Euphonium together are Kumiko’s first year, in 26 half-hour episodes (plus a bonus episode).

The third movie (Brand New Day / Oath’s Finale / Finale of Oath) is her second year.

To do another year of her high school career at the same pace would be another two seasons, not one more season. Or one more movie. And all of that needs to be accompanied by all of the supporting music that makes it work. It would be a big project to do so. But it would close out the story I suppose.



The movies are all available in Japanese with English subtitles on Apple TV.
Note that some of the translations differ slightly from the TV show; the TV series subtitles are definitely more slang-y / earthy than the movies.

The Four Movies

There are two summary movies for year one, then a year two movie, and a side-story movie.

I would recommend watching the entire two seasons of the TV series, then (if you want) the two summary movies, being mindful you won’t see anything much new.

Then definitely watch Liz and the Blue Bird, as it is a new story not seen in the TV series.

1. Sound! Euphonium: The Movie – Welcome to the Kitauji High School Concert Band 劇場版 響け!ユーフォニアム~北宇治高校吹奏楽部へようこそ~ summarizes the first season (episodes 1×01 to 1×13) and ends with the results of the local competition.

2. Sound! Euphonium: The Movie – May the Melody Reach You / Todoketai Melody 劇場版 響け!ユーフォニアム~届けたいメロディ~ summarizes the second season (episodes 2×01 to 2×13) and ends with the results of the national competition.

If you’re a serious fan you can watch the 2nd year movie (Brand New Day / Oath’s Finale / Finale of Oath) although it is a bit just a variation on the theme.

3. Sound! Euphonium: The Movie – Our Promise: A Brand New Day (also translated more accurately as Oath’s Finale or Finale of Oath) 劇場版 響け!ユーフォニアム〜誓いのフィナーレ〜 is a completely new story of Kumiko’s 2nd year.

You do get a complete concert that you may feel you have missed from the first year, and it does leave an opening for a further storyline, with a mysterious card Asuka gives Kumiko.

There is also an aftercredits scene that reveals a new role for Kumiko.

4. Liz and the Blue Bird リズと青い鳥 is a side movie. It focuses on two characters that are fairly secondary in the main TV series and movies, Mizore Yoroizuka 鎧塚 みぞれ and Nozomi Kasaki 傘木 希美. It is quite a beautiful standalone movie, with a different style than the main Sound! Euphonium series. It should be watched last.

Presidents United – A Program of Selected Readings


1776 by David McCullough

Available in abridged (5h56m) and unabridged (11h33m) audiobook versions, read by David McCullough. I’ve listened to the abridged version.

For a different lens on the Revolutionary War, I highly recommend Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick as a companion read. Unabridged audiobook (13h18m) read by Scott Brick.

John Adams

John Adams by David McCullough

Note there are two audiobook versions: abridged (“a program of selected readings”) read by the excellent Edward Herrmann at 8h46m, and unabridged read by Nelson Runger, 29h54m. I’ve listened to the abridged version.

Thomas Jefferson

The John Adams biography by McCullough actually has a fair amount of Jefferson during the long time he and John Adams spent in Paris.  They were, at that time, great friends.

I haven’t found a biography of Jefferson that I liked.  A lot about how he is amazing, not enough about the complex mess of being a slave owner.

I will make the rather eccentric suggestion of Thomas Jefferson’s Crème Brûlée by Thomas J. Craughwell, which gives another view on his time in Paris.  Jefferson brought his slave James Hemings with him to Paris, in order for James to learn French cooking.  Unabridged audiobook read by Alan Sklar.

You can also get a bit of a brief side-angled view on Thomas Jefferson in Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen E. Ambrose.  Unabridged audiobook read (with some eccentric pronunciation) by Barrett Whitener.

Abraham Lincoln

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin but that is quite an outside-in view. Abridged audiobook read by Richard Thomas.

I prefer Lincoln’s first and second chapters in Goodwin’s Leadership. Unabridged audiobook, multiple readers (one reader per President).

Theodore Roosevelt

A lot of Roosevelt books.

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin, abridged audiobook read by Edward Herrmann.

A sort of background story mostly about Theodore Roosevelt Sr. with a view of Theodore Roosevelt Jr.’s early life, in Mornings On Horseback by David McCullough, abridged audiobook read by Edward Herrmann.  Excruciating detail on Roosevelt Sr.’s death & some subsequent tragedies.

Two chapters on Theodore Roosevelt in Leadership by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Unabridged audiobook. Richard Thomas reads the chapters about Theodore Roosevelt, which may jar slightly if you remember him reading Lincoln’s life in Team of Rivals. But he’s a very good reader.

Roosevelt’s own writing in Through the Brazilian Wilderness. I read as a paper book. I couldn’t finish it. Gives you a sense of his worldview though.

Roosevelt’s fairly bonkers sense of adventure in The River of Doubt by Candice Millard, unabridged audiobook read by Paul Michael.

Woodrow Wilson

Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan?

But this is not really about Wilson per se, he’s just a character in the war and peace narrative. He was actually a terrible racist but this doesn’t show up in the narrative as far as I can recall.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin, abridged audiobook read by Edward Herrmann.

But I got a better sense from his first two chapters in Goodwin’s Leadership. Unabridged audiobook, multiple readers (one reader per President).

Harry S. Truman

A really comprehensive portrait in Truman, abridged audiobook (5h34m) read by David McCullough (the author) and with some really good use of archival audio of Truman himself.  There is an unabridged version (54h11m) read by Nelson Runger but I can’t imagine listening to that much detail about Truman’s life.  Even at 5 hours abridged it was a lot to take in.

And that wraps my recommendations of history books on this particular topic.

Online shopping in Ottawa in a crisis

Unfortunately the pandemic means that in-person local shopping is limited for many.  My goal is always to find local Ottawa suppliers that can deliver, then Ontario suppliers, then Canadian suppliers.

I try to avoid a certain giant US online retailer that shall not be named, as well as Silicon Valley and other venture capital gig-economy companies.  Removing the gig-economy cuts out most grocery store delivery options (as well as a lot of restaurant delivery options).  For restaurant delivery see separate blog post Ottawa takeout in or near Centretown in a time of crisis.

Below are just the online shopping sites I’ve used, it’s not intended to be a complete list of all possibilities.  It’s an eclectic list but hopefully it may help you locate some household supplies.

Many stores fit in more than one category.

Health Supplies – Ontario – Has a variety of pharmacy supplies as well as some food basics including oatmeal and rice.  As the main Ontario option it has had high demand but it seems like they’ve improved their capacity as it is now pretty fast.  You can find info about their COVID-19 actions; some employees tested positive in June 2020.  Delivery used to be mostly by UPS but now in Ottawa mostly by TForce.

Jean Coutu – Quebec (and Ontario and NB) – Has a variety of pharmacy supplies.  They have a store on Montreal Road in Ottawa, as well as several across the river in Gatineau.

London Drugs – Western Canada; BC, Alberta, Sask., Manitoba – Has a variety of pharmacy supplies.  This was my go-to when was overloaded with orders.  Note there is an issue with the website showing delivery options.  If you use a saved address it may tell you no delivery options are available.  Try entering your address again as a new address, putting in the province first.

Shoppers Drug Mart has an oddly limited online presence.  There are basically two Shoppers channels, Beauty and Wellwise:

  • Shoppers Beauty – Kind of an odd assortment of offerings.  Definitely not all of the products available from the main store.  Delivery is from local stores via (presumably gig-economy) PigeonShip.  This has some potential efficiencies, but PigeonShip will not bring packages upstairs in apartment buildings.
  • (Shoppers) – Home health supplies including thermometers.  (Despite the similar name this store has nothing to do with Well . ca)

Oral Science – Quebec – Curaprox toothbrushes and interdental brushes (which are a kind of dental floss alternative).

Cleaning Supplies

terra20 – Ottawa – Local delivery by Personal Touch Courier.  Has Nature Clean fragrance-free products.  (Used to deliver locally by Canada Post, not sure if they still use postal delivery locally anymore.)

Cleaning Supplies – Sanitizer

  • Dairy Distillery from planet groceries and many other local stores
  • Top Shelf sanitizer from Perth about 90km from Ottawa.  They have 946ml spray bottles of sanitizer along with 946ml refills.  If you’re in Ottawa you should be able to get local delivery – make sure you select Local Delivery instead of Shipping.
    • Note that Top Shelf local delivery will not deliver upstairs in apartment buildings; you will have to come down to accept the delivery.
  • Dillons sanitizer but they’re in Beamsville which is 500km from Ottawa near the US border with Buffalo, so not exactly local.  At the time of this writing (November 2, 2020) they offer 750ml spray bottles of sanitizer only.

Household Supplies

Canadian Tire – Canada / Ottawa – Took Canadian Tire a while to get its online ordering working, but it’s working well now.  You must select a local (Ottawa) store as your shopping site, otherwise it may tell you it can’t ship to your location.  Lots of bulk household supplies.  You may have difficulty getting Canada Post to deliver heavy bulk supplies to an apartment though.  Smaller sizes from may work better for delivery.

The Unscented Company – Quebec – You can order directly, including bulk orders e.g. 500 unscented dishwasher tabs. – Toronto – I used NeatSpace to get SimpleHuman garbage bags, but they appear to be permanently sold out of all SimpleHuman products.  They have lots of products for organising your space.

You can get SimpleHuman garbage bags (“liners”), including Code E bags, from Bed Bath and Beyond Canada

The Bay – Canada / Ottawa – For various reasons, including months-long support request delays, I can no longer recommend The Bay.

Computer Supplies

Staples – Canada / Ottawa – Has some bulk household supplies (intended for offices) but mainly I use it for computer supplies, including Apple devices and accessories.  Often does not provide delivery tracking codes.

Canada Computers – Canada / Ottawa – Very complicated ordering online for delivery; they mostly expect you to order online and then pickup in the store.

Home Office Supplies

Staples – Canada / Ottawa – I got a blackboard and chalk.


Perfect Books – Ottawa – Curbside pickup or delivery for book orders.

Gaming Supplies

Carta Magica – Ottawa – Very quick service.  Magic: the Gathering (including individual cards), Dungeons & Dragons, dice and other gaming supplies.  Local deliveries by Canada Post.

Strategy Games – Ottawa / Montreal / Toronto – Board games, including a particular focus on chess.


Simons – Canada / Ottawa – Make sure you check the details of the materials before you buy.  A lot of their stuff is made out of various kinds of plastic.  But you can get higher quality clothes made out of natural fibres as well.  Also note that, although Simons is not exactly fast fashion, some designs are only on their site for a few months.  If you find something you like that fits and want more, consider rebuying it quickly otherwise it may no longer be available.

Bushtukah – Ottawa – Outdoors / sports clothes.  Icebreaker, Smart Wool, Patagonia etc.  Also some sports gear.  A good alternative to MEC now that MEC is no longer a co-op. – Quebec – Yes it is just a Canadian outlet of an international brand.  Nice thick warm mostly-woolen socks though.


planet coffee / planet groceries – Ottawa – Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies recommended.  A lot of single grocery items (e.g. one apple, one banana) if you just need small quantities of produce.

Buchipop Burrow Shop – Ottawa – A big variety of local produce.  Great place to discover local suppliers: Nat’s Bread, Kettleman’s bagels, Suzy-Q donuts, Maverick’s donuts, Life of Pie, Spudnik’s chips.  Has Pristine Gourmet canola oil (from Waterford, Ontario).  Won’t deliver upstairs in apartment buildings (you have to come down to get the delivery).

Ottawa Bagelshop and Deli

Prepared Meals

Red Apron – Ottawa – You have to call 613-695-0417 and they will set up an account for you.  Once you have an account you can order by phone or by email.  You can get a weekly email with updates about what is available the next week.  Although Red Apron does all the preparation work, these are meals to be cooked, so you will need a kitchen with the basics including an oven, a stove top, frying pan, saucepan, casserole dish, baking sheet / baking pan etc. You can’t just reheat in a microwave.  Reopening January 4, 2021.

Red Apron – I think the rule is the weekly Dinner to Your Door meals are delivered regardless of price, but for all other orders it must be over $50 in order to get delivery.  Note that meals have been selling out before the weekly email is sent, so check the website directly if you don’t want to miss out.

Thyme & Again – Ottawa – You can order online.  All orders must be over $50 in order to get delivery.  Although Thyme & Again does all the preparation work, these are meals to be cooked, so you will need a kitchen with the basics including an oven, a stove top, frying pan, saucepan, casserole dish, baking sheet / baking pan etc. You can’t just reheat in a microwave.  Reopening January 7, 2021.


terra20 – Ottawa – Camino (Ottawa-Gatineau), Galerie au Chocolat (Quebec), Zazubean (British Columbia?), Theo Chocolate (Seattle, Washington)

Burrow Shop – Ottawa – Chocosol (Toronto)

Peace by Chocolate – Nova Scotia – Could be useful if you want to ship to someone within the Atlantic Bubble, although of course they will ship anywhere in Canada.

Café Delice have an online store for Leonidas Belgian chocolates and coffee  Website says they deliver, $7 flat rate standard shipping Canada-wide.

Salty Licorice

There are some Ottawa-area Dutch stores but I haven’t tried them.  Jacobsons has an ok salty soft licorice called Lakrids 2.


Jacobsons – Ottawa – A wide variety of high-quality products from dishcloths to ginger jam, but their online site is never up-to-date.  Every order is immediately followed by a phone call from them explaining what you can actually order.

I was going to mention MEC but they’re not a co-op anymore, so no link for them.

Ottawa Light Rail Transit LRT Technology Forum 2009

The City of Ottawa held a Light Rail Transit (LRT) Technology Forum on June 19 & 20, 2009.  It had presentation slides and recorded presentations from other cities and from transit vehicle vendors, as well as background documents.  It was basically the start for a discussion about what rail transit system technology or technologies the city should choose.

If you want to see info on the final decision the City made, read Ottawa 2009 Rail System Selection.

In typical City (and NCC) fashion the entire LRT Technology Forum website was deleted, so the best one can do is try to reconstruct something from the shattered fragments of the site that happened to be archived in the Internet Archive (in general this is a haphazard automatic process, unless someone takes the time to manually archive pages and files).  Note that the Archive doesn’t automatically save PDFs, so most of the PDF links on archived webpages won’t work, unless specifically highlighted below.  Archive date in parentheses after each link.

Main page (November 2, 2011)

It looks like cities presented on June 19 and vendors presented on June 20, 2009.

Transportation manufacturers’ presentations June 20, 2009:

9:30 – 9:55 a.m. – Alstom (not archived)
9:55 – 10:20 a.m. – Bombardier (not archived)
10:20 – 10:45 a.m. – Kinkisharyo (PDF, December 29, 2009)

Slides from the vendor and city presentations

I found some interesting single slides from the Alstom and Bombardier presentations on Urban Toronto.  Of particular note, Alstom appears to recommend a metro for Ottawa, rather than an LRT.

Ottawa LRT Tech Forum 2009 - Alstom - Transit Systems per traffic needs

Bombardier clearly needs a better graphic designer.  ART stands for Advanced Rapid Transit, and is basically a Bombardier branding for a particular type of metro.

Ottawa LRT Tech Forum 2009 - Bombardier - Each technology has its own domain

The Toronto presentation depicted modes and passengers per hour grouped into separated (“exclusive”) or non-separated Rights of Way (ROWs).

Ottawa LRT Tech Forum 2009 - TTC - Transit ROWs and Technologies

More Missing Presentations

  • calgary_en.pdf
  • vancouver_en.pdf
  • toronto_en.pdf (slides for Mitch Stambler presentation)

Missing Videos

  • jun_19/toronto_mitch_stambler.wmv (Mitch Stambler, Toronto)

Ottawa 2009 Rail System Selection

I now understand why Ottawa chose a low-floor LRT rather than either a high-floor metro or a mix of a metro in the core and LRT at the edges.  I’m not convinced we wouldn’t have been better off with a core metro and edge LRT system, although it would have meant transfers at the edge of the system.

Ultimately we chose an all-LRT system that optimised for the suburban commute rather than for core urban transit.

The documentation is only about the general system, it doesn’t describe why we chose the particular vehicle we are using on Line 1.

Ottawa Transit Commission met on November 18, 2009.

On the agenda for their consideration was the Rail System Selection Report, ACS2009-ICS-TRA-0017.

The direction given was

That Transit Committee recommend that Council approve that the Rail technology for the City’s Rapid Transit Plan be Light Rail Transit (LRT).

They had narrowed the rail system selection to two options: high-capacity light metro (a high-floor system, like traditional subway cars), and low-floor lower-capacity light rail.

They didn’t envision running the high-capacity system outside the core, which created a problem: outside the core (out into the Greenbelt and beyond, the suburbs, “the extensions”) passengers would have to switch to a lower capacity, possibly non-separated (“non-segregated”) light rail system.  They concluded it would be better to have light rail throughout rather than two systems.

They were trying to optimise over three different kinds of transit networks, which I think in retrospect was a mistake.  They were trying to optimise across a high-capacity core network, a lower-passenger-volume extended network into the suburbs, and a secondary network of supporting transit routes, including an at-grade surface rail route on Carling.  In my opinion, this was too many things to try to do with one vehicle.  (See section Three different transit systems for more info.)

They cite a Delcan Transit Technology Choice Report (PDF) commissioned by the city (copy in Internet Archive).  But here’s the thing, they don’t cite this part of the report:

The combination of Light Rail Vehicle with a CBTC system to provide 20,000 pphpd [persons per hour per direction] has not yet been proven in revenue service.

This seems a rather important oversight.  Nevertheless, the Delcan report did recommend LRT.

You can compare the Transit Commission key summary with the Delcan report’s key summary below.

I would note that the criteria “At least five years in revenue service” was not met by the Citadis Spirit LRT vehicles that were ultimately chosen.  (Nor for that matter by the low-passenger-volume Citadis Dualis vehicle the Spirit is based on.)

Ottawa City Council met on November 25, 2009.

The direction given was

That Council approve that the Rail technology for the City’s Rapid Transit Plan be Light Rail Transit (LRT).

Motion CARRIED with Councillors B. Monette and G. Hunter dissenting.

SIDEBAR 1: If you’re wondering what the difference between system types is, for a metro basically think subway cars, and for light rail / LRT basically think long streetcar.

A metro is always grade-separated (completely separated from car traffic), whereas an LRT may be surface rail sharing space on the street with cars (although in the end Ottawa decided to have an LRT that is completely grade-separated).

A metro has much higher capacity to move passengers per hour (on the order of up to five times the top LRT capacity).  A metro is high-floor (wheels are below the floor), while a modern LRT is typically low-floor (wheel bumps are inside the passenger space).  You can find a bit more info in my blog post Ottawa LRT design issues, low-floor versus high-floor.  END SIDEBAR

SIDEBAR 2: The analysis was informed to some extent by a Light Rail Transit (LRT) Technology Forum held in June 2009, however with the forum webpages gone, I have had to reconstruct some of the information that was presented. Of particular interest would have been the presentations by transit vehicle vendors but these aren’t online.  I did find a couple slides from the presentations that help explain more about the number of passengers a metro can carry versus an LRT.  END SIDEBAR

Transit Commission Rail System Selection Report – Discussion



The Delcan rail technology study compares the two rail technology options based on a set of criteria that reflected the above noted principles. The following table summarizes the comparison of the technology options:

Criteria Description Light Metro LRT Manual Driver Automated Driverless
Maximum passenger capacity in the core >20,000 pphpd Best Fair Poor Best
Low passenger capacity in the extensions >5,000 pphpd Good Best Good Poor
Ability to build a non-segregated system in low-density areas Poor Best Required N/A
Comparative total system capital cost All Phase 1 network, infrastructure and vehicle fleet Good Best Good Fair
Comparative life time operating and maintenance costs All Phase 1 network, infrastructure and vehicle fleet Best Good Poor Good
Proven in service At least 5 years in revenue service Good Good1 Good Good1
Suitable for the climate in Ottawa Operated in a climate similar to Ottawa Good Good Good Good

Footnote: 1 In order to meet the 2031 core capacity requirement, the vehicles associated with the LRT system will require operation with less distance between them. This requires a modern Automatic Train Control (ATC) system based on a Communications Based Train Control (CBTC) system.

The study reveals that the implementation of a high capacity Light Metro style system could, as LRT is implemented in suburban areas, divide Ottawa’s transportation network which would result in a fragmented network. This dual mode network is not desirable given the overall associated costs.

The choice of a Light Metro system would effectively increase overall lifecycle costs due to the higher capital costs of segregation in the western corridor, which would offset any operational efficiencies.

In contrast, an LRT system permits a more efficient capacity match for the ridership prediction throughout the main core and outlying regions maximizing the overall flexibility in continuing to grow the system up to and beyond 2031.

The LRT system provides capacity in the downtown core, but will necessitate the use of automatic operation to maintain operational efficiency with higher ridership in later years.

The rail systems technology recommendation also reflects Council’s direction in approving the North-South LRT EA and the Riverside South Community Design Plan (CDP). These documents identified the technology selection for the future North South Corridor as LRT. The integration of this technology to the Tunney’s Pasture to Baseline corridor was an important consideration in the development of a technology recommendation.

In conclusion, Light Rail (LRT) is recommended as the preferred technology choice for deployment in Ottawa as it:

  • Has less impact on the urban fabric and allows the ability to integrate both non-segregated and segregated systems,
  • Provides the necessary capacity for the ridership predictions in the main core,
  • Can accommodate low passenger capacity in the extensions outside of the main core,
  • Has lower total system capital costs than Light Metro,
  • Can accommodate Ottawa weather conditions


Delcan Transit Technology Choice Report – Passenger Volumes and Predicted Ridership


The [2008 Transportation Master Plan] TMP planning process was supported by a regional transportation model that projected future (2031) transit ridership through the downtown of Ottawa would reach 14,400 persons per hour per direction (pphpd) between Bayview Station and the future Downtown West Station (to be constructed as a part of the Downtown Ottawa Transit Tunnel project).

Additional volumes of passengers emanating from the N-S Line and the STO routes from Gatineau could increase potential volumes to 20,000pphpd should any future interprovincial rapid transit link feed into the planned TMP network west of the downtown. Based on this, and to provide an adequate spare capacity to accommodate future growth beyond 2031 and for the purposes of the technology selection, the ultimate capacity is considered to be 24,000 pphpd. It should be noted that for reasons of development constraints, the core may not increase beyond this ridership capacity.

Based on the above a number of different technologies were evaluated for suitability. Some technology choices such as monorail and heavy rail were discounted based on the evaluation criteria.

To meet the predicted ridership two generic system technology choices were considered more suitable to the City of Ottawa and carried forward for further evaluation:

  • Light Metro (as in the Skytrain system used in Vancouver or the Mini-subway as used in Kobe Japan) is more operationally suited to development in the downtown core, and
  • Light Rail (LRT) (as used in Calgary or Minneapolis) is a better selection for urban planning and implementation outside of the main core, while also being able to operate in the main core.

The combination of Light Rail Vehicle with a CBTC system to provide 20,000 pphpd has not yet been proven in revenue service.

Editorial note: Delcan’s table is similar, but not identical, to the one in the City Rail Selection report.  Delcan’s third row “No more than one transfer and no in-line passenger transfers” is simply dropped.  Table embedded as an image below.

Delcan - Transit Technology Choice Report - metro vs LRT comparison table
Note 1: In order to meet the 2031 core capacity requirement, the vehicles associated with the LRT system will require operation with less distance between them. This requires a more modern Automatic Train Control (ATC) system such as the Communications Based Train Control (CBTC) system.

A key finding of the report is that the choice of technology determines the future flexibility of a transportation network within Ottawa. By developing a Light Metro style system, the core will meet its capacity prediction targets and have sufficient margin for growth beyond the prediction; but the report finds that the potential capacity within the core may not warrant such a system.

The implementation of a high capacity light metro style system may divide Ottawa’s transportation network into a set of fragmented, unconnected and disparate transportation modes, which will multiply staff costs, overheads, maintenance and spares and maintenance facilities. This fragmentation will also cause numerous onward transfers between transport modes for daily passengers moving into the core from the suburbs.

The choice of a Light Metro system will effectively increase transportation costs due to higher costs of segregation for the outlying suburbs, which may result in lower efficiencies of running and potentially higher ticket costs.

In contrast, the report assesses the corridor with an LRT system which permits a more efficient capacity match for the ridership prediction throughout the main core and outlying regions.

The LRT system provides capacity for the main core but will necessitate some development of automatic operation to maintain operational efficiency at the end of the planning period and beyond. With this automation there will be some consequential development risk of migration of technology to the Light Rail Vehicle (LRV), but this should be balanced with the fact that any technology implementation within Ottawa’s climate will carry some residual development risk for manufacturers and integrators. However with the additional implementation of an automated system, the initial capital costs for both LRT and metro may be offset with a reduction in long term operating costs.

A hybrid version of driver operated/automated LRT provides long term flexibility to transit network planning and the possibility of on-street running, a lower cost segregated corridor and the reduced complexity of driver operation in the suburbs. More importantly the passenger is provided with minimal onward transfers when commuting: a key element in attracting ridership.

Light Rail is recommended as the technology choice for deployment in Ottawa as it:

  • Provides the necessary capacity for the ridership predictions in the main core,
  • Can accommodate low passenger capacity in the extensions outside of the main core,
  • Results in less fragmentation of the network, reducing the need for onward transfers,
  • Has less impact on the urban fabric and allows the ability to build a non-segregated system in the Greenbelt,
  • Has comparative total system capital costs with Light Metro,
  • Has comparative life time operating and maintenance costs with Light Metro,
  • Allows better integration of technology for the Carling-Lincoln Field’s corridor.
  • Provides greater network flexibility and promotes development of the transportation network in the core,
  • Is a proven design, and
  • Is more suited for the climate in Ottawa.


Three different transit systems – One vehicle to rule them all?

Continuing with extracts from the Delcan report (PDF), pp. 1-3.


For the purpose of this study, the ultimate rapid transit network has been divided into three categories:

  • Core Network – from Baseline to Blair Stations.
  • Extended Network – including future extensions to the rail network as well as the corridor south of Bayview (the O-Train line) and the future connection to Gatineau.
  • Secondary Network – including all remaining BRT Transitways, transit priority routes and surface-operating rail routes such as the proposed Carling and Rideau-Montreal Road corridors.


Core Network
Delcan - Transit Technology Choice Report 2009 - Figure 1 Core Network
It’s hard to read the stations, the ones indicated from left to right are Baseline (end of line in the west), Lincoln Fields above it, Bayview at the intersection of the two lines, South Keys at the end of the central south line, Hurdman and then finally Blair at the end in the east.

Extended Network
Delcan - Transit Technology Choice Report 2009 - Figure 2 Extended Network
This is not a great diagram; they should have done the extended network in a different colour.  The core network in the centre is in pale red, the Extended Network is the dark red at the edges.  They have not really highlighted stations so much as indicated neighbourhoods – Terry Fox in Kanata in the west, Fallowfield (with possible VIA rail connection?) and Barrhaven Town Centre in the south west, Riverside South in the south centre, and Orleans Town Centre in the east.

So basically their thinking was that they needed high-capacity in the Core, and lower capacity in the Extended, but they didn’t want there to have to be a transfer to change between systems from extended in the suburbs to core in the central part of town.  Also they thought that they might use at-grade surface rail crossing the Greenbelt and possibly in some of the rest of the extended network rather than grade-separating it all.  So the decision was to use low-floor LRT for the entire thing.

Secondary Network (Carling)
Delcan - Transit Technology Choice Report 2009 - Figure 3 Secondary Network Carling purple
Secondary network (at-grade surface rail) in purple.

This is the last piece of the puzzle, which is that in addition to possibly running surface rail through the greenbelt or in the suburbs, they also envisioned running a secondary transit surface rail line along Carling.


The challenge in 2020 is that we ended up making different decisions than foreseen in 2009.  We’ve decided on a completely grade-separated network (which is the correct decision).

Core network – We built Tunney’s Pasture to Blair Station in Stage 1.  We will build Baseline to Tunney’s Pasture in Stage 2.

Extended network – Eastbound we are building Blair to Trim in Stage 2, but not Blair to Millennium.  Southbound we are building Line 2 to Riverside South and the Airport Link in Stage 2.  Westbound we are building as far as Moodie in Stage 2.  Only in the proposal stages are the full westbound extension to Kanata, and the full extension to Barrhaven, both in Stage 3.

Secondary network – There are zero plans on the books for a Secondary Network (surface rail at grade) on Carling.

So we procured for a mixed grade-separated and at-grade system, but that’s not what we’re building.  By the time, if ever, that we do put in surface rail, it will be time to select different vehicles anyway.

Avatar The Last Airbender

Avatar: The Last Airbender is an animated TV series that aired in three seasons from 2005 to 2008.  Each season is titled as a book – Book 1: Water, Book 2: Earth, Book 3: Fire – with individual episodes as chapters.  There are 61 episodes in total.

It is very well done.  The world-building, the characters, the writing, the animation and the voice actors all work together to make a great story.  It is self-aware without being too self-aware.  Sincere, thoughtful and heartfelt but also with a great sense of humour.

The episodic and travel-quest nature of the story open up the possibilities of many different tales, and the show takes advantage of this freedom within the larger narrative arc.

It also does some clever things to subvert expectations.

It is amazing what they accomplished particularly considering they have about 22 minutes to tell each episode of the story.

It has fully-realised characters, with their own personalities and motivations.  General Iroh is a really interesting character, warm-hearted and strong, and gets an appropriately powerful Tale of Iroh in the anthology episode 2×15 The Tales of Ba Sing Se.

To the extent that it ever hit a false note, it is more in playful experimentation, in the teen episode 3×05 The Beach.

For me the play-within-a-play episode 3×17 The Ember Island Players didn’t work, but what they’re trying to do is both necessary and complex.  The purpose of the episode, as they come near the end of their story, is to give dedicated fans a reminder that this is in fact just a story, to give them a chance to get a bit of distance as the end of the three season arc approaches.  It’s a very hard balance to strike, because the play-within-a-play has to be self-reflective but also entertaining.  It’s made particularly hard because the show is already self-aware, so it’s hard to have an extra layer of awareness on top of that.  In animation, I thought Reboot did it well, revisiting their adventure as a musical, but they only spent five minutes on it, not an entire episode (in the last episode of Reboot season 3, “End Prog”).

Stargate SG-1 did play-within-a-play fairly successfully in 5×12 – Wormhole X-Treme!, and much less successfully in some other episodes.

Avatar: The Last Airbender is available on iTunes as three separate seasons, or as a single omnibus.  The downside to the omnibus is that it doesn’t separate out the episodes by book, it just lists them 1 through 61.

SIDEBAR: There are some issues with the iTunes versions and the Apple TV application.  The iTunes versions don’t do a good job of smoothing over the commercial breaks.  The screen just suddenly goes black, for a noticeable amount of time.  And the Apple TV application doesn’t have any concept of skipping intro and recap, which is not great because the first minute and a quarter or so of every episode is intro and recap.  Also the beginning of season 3 had some distracting digital artifacts, turning smooth animation into digital jaggedness.  END SIDEBAR

If you’re wondering why Katara is wearing a green Earth Kingdom dress at the end of 3×21, it’s because she (and the rest of Team Avatar) were about to attend an event hosted by Earth King Kuei. This only becomes clear in the first graphic novel, The Promise.


There are five accompanying graphic novels, but they don’t retell the story, they extend it.  They’re basically an additional season of the show, added from 2012 to 2017.  Just as the TV series was about the events leading up to a battle to end a war, the books are about what happens as they try to put the world back together after the war.  The books are all by a single creative team, so they are unified in the storyline and style.  Each book of the graphic novels is available in three parts, or collected into a single omnibus edition.  The ending of the last book, North and South, is basically a second ending of the Avatar story arc.

  • The Promise – 2012 – hardcover “library edition” February 2013 – ISBN 978-1616550745 (hardcover no longer available) / paperback omnibus June 30, 2020 – ISBN 978-1506717845
  • The Search – 2013 – hardcover library edition February 2014 – ISBN 978-1616552268 (hardcover no longer available although you may find some at Chapters Indigo) / paperback omnibus October 27, 2020 – ISBN 978-1506721729
  • The Rift – 2014 – hardcover library edition February 2015 – ISBN 978-1616555504 (hardcover no longer available although you may find some at Chapters Indigo) / paperback omnibus February 23, 2021 – ISBN 978-1506721712
  • Smoke and Shadow – 2015-2016 – hardcover library edition October 2016 – ISBN 978-1506700137 (hardcover no longer available although you may find some at Chapters Indigo) / paperback omnibus not yet announced
  • North and South – 2016-2017 – hardcover library edition November 2017 – ISBN 978-1506701950 (hardcover still available at the time of this writing) / paperback omnibus not yet announced

If you want the sense of staying within the Avatar storyline, you really want to end with North and South.

SIDEBAR: Side stories – The Lost Adventures is set during the main run of seasons 1 through 3. Team Avatar Tales is set during and after this period.  Both Adventures and Tales have a wide variety of styles, some different from the regular Airbender style.  Katara and the Pirate’s Silver, with a title that sets it apart from most of the stories, is set during season 2. I would say you would have to be pretty superfan to read these. They are not part of the main storyline. END SIDEBAR

Beyond that there are new graphic novels but with a different creative team and a different focus.  The tale of the airbender is over.  The transition to the next story begins.

Bridge Book

Imbalance is basically a bridge book between Airbender and Korra.  It is scripted by Faith Erin Hicks, unlike the five main graphic novels.  It is available as three separate parts, or as a single omnibus edition.

  • Imbalance – 2018-2019 – hardcover library edition June 16, 2020 – ISBN 978-1506708126 (hardcover no longer available although you may find some at Chapters Indigo)

The Legend of Korra

The sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender was The Legend of Korra.  It ran from 2012 to 2014.  It’s set 70 years after The Last Airbender; it’s a completely different storyline with different characters.  I haven’t watched all of it.  It also has accompanying graphic novels.


There are currently two Legend of Korra graphic novels, again making an additional season of the show in book form.

  • Turf Wars – 2017-2018 – hardcover library edition March 26, 2019 – ISBN 978-1506702025 (hardcover no longer available although you may find some at Chapters Indigo)
  • Ruins of the Empire – 2019-2020 – hardcover library edition September 22, 2020 – ISBN 978-1506708935

I would say basically they did an amazing thing with The Last Airbender and accompanying graphic novels.  And that is always hard to follow up in a sequel.

Ottawa Line 1 LRT route comparisons

These are rough map route comparisons, at 10km scale from Google Maps, of Ottawa’s core transit Line 1 running the Citadis Spirit, with other jurisdictions that run the only comparable train, the Citadis Dualis.

Basically you can see the other cities are doing edge routes (suburban commuter routes).  Nantes and Lyon are basically running commuter trains to smaller communities.  Both of the Paris trams are outside the Boulevard Périphérique, the ring road that defines the traditional core of Paris.

As Ottawa’s Stage 2 is not running yet, don’t use the Ottawa transit times end-to-end as a comparison with other cities.  All of the map route in blue is currently run by buses.

Ottawa – Line 1 Stage 1 (in red) and Stage 2 (roughly, in blue)

Ottawa Line 1 LRT Stage 1 and approximate Stage 2

Tram-train de Nantes à Châteaubriant (in blue) – 1h 7min station to station

Tram-train de Nantes à Châteaubriant

Tram-train de Nantes à Clisson (in blue) – 29 min station to station

Tram-train de Nantes à Clisson

Tram-train de l’Ouest lyonnais (in blue) – 25 min station to station

Tram-train de l'Ouest lyonnais

Ligne 4 du tramway d’Île-de-France – Bondy to Arboretum (in yellow) – 29 min station to station

Ligne 4 du tramway d'Île-de-France

Ligne 11 Express du tramway d’Île-de-France (in black) – 14 min station to station

Ligne 11 Express du tramway d'Île-de-France
For more information, see previous blog posts Ottawa Line 1 LRT train passenger number comparisons and Citadis Dualis and Citadis Spirit tram-train.

Ottawa Line 1 LRT train passenger number comparisons

Ottawa’s Citadis Spirit is not being used the same way as comparable vehicles.  Ottawa’s Line 1 LRT, at the core of our transit network, is supposed to carry over a hundred thousand passengers per day, millions of passengers per month, tens of millions per year.

For direct comparisons, there are none, as no other city yet uses the Spirit.

Ottawa Citizen – October 20, 2019 – ‘A significant milestone’: LRT network hits 3 million rides

Ottawa’s Confederation LRT line has surpassed three million individual rides after just over one month in service, according the city’s general manager of transportation.

Ottawa’s Line 1 Citadis Spirit train is based on the Citadis Dualis tram-train, which is used in only three cities: Nantes, Lyon and Paris.  The Dualis is used as a lower tier lower-volume commuter transit system, not as a primary transit system.  What do I mean by this?

Almost every use of the Dualis carries fewer passengers per year than Ottawa’s Line 1 LRT was intended to carry per month.

Nantes-Châteaubriant (723,700 passengers in 2018) and Nantes-Clisson (664,851 passengers in 2016) both carry fewer passengers per year than Ottawa’s Line 1 is supposed to carry in a month.

Lyon-Brignais passenger numbers were hard to find, but according to Wikipedia the train carries about 8000 passengers per day.  This means that it also carries fewer passengers per year than Ottawa’s Line 1 LRT is supposed to carry in a month.

Both of the Paris trams are outside the Boulevard Périphérique, the ring road that defines the traditional core of Paris.

Paris tram T4 (which uses a mix of Siemens S70 Avanto vehicles and Citadis Dualis vehicles) carried 8 million passengers in 2018, with a drop to 3 million passengers in 2019.  Paris tram T11 Express had 5 million in 2018 and 6 million in 2019.  So you can do the math – at best the T4 and T11 Express each carry in a year what Ottawa carries in roughly two months.

If you want to see maps of how the different routes compare, see my next blog post Ottawa Line 1 LRT route comparisons.

Switching back to the Citadis Spirit, and looking at projected use, even Toronto’s Finch West LRT is only supposed to move 46,000 passengers per weekday, less than half the volume of Ottawa’s Line 1 LRT.

See my previous blog post Citadis Dualis and Citadis Spirit tram-train for a lot more comparison information.

Data Sources

Citadis Dualis and Citadis Spirit tram-train

to create the Spirit, [Alstom] had adapted the Citadis Dualis vehicle, then in service in Nantes and Lyons. He said changes had been made to the propulsion system in order to accommodate different braking and acceleration “parameters.” Crucially, the vehicle’s systems had been “winterized” to accommodate temperatures as low as -40 C. … “This is not a huge redesign” – Ottawa Citizen – March 2020 – Inside the slow-rolling disaster of Ottawa’s $9-billion LRT project – above information based on a 2013 International Railway Journal article

So Ottawa has the Citadis Spirit vehicle, which is based on the Citadis Dualis tram-train.

Proposed Actions

So what can we do now?  I suggest the following, and given the issues with secrecy and lack of information related to current project, I would encourage that all information sharing and any decisions made should be public, open and transparent.

  1. The City of Ottawa should partner with all cities that currently use or are planning to use the Citadis Spirit or the Citadis Dualis.  These are the most closely related train models.  This may sound daunting but it’s pretty simple since the total number of cities is three for the Spirit (Ottawa, Toronto and possibly Cali) and three for the Dualis (Nantes, Lyon and Paris), for a total of six.  We should use this partnership to pool expertise about maintaining and running the Spirit and Dualis (keeping in mind we are using these trains in different ways, with different passenger volumes).  This should include conversations in all cities not just with maintenance employees and managers, but with train drivers and passengers.
  2. The City of Ottawa should partner with Gatineau (who are planning to get a tram) to see if it is possible to test train models other than the Citadis Spirit on Ottawa’s tracks.  In particular it would be very interesting to see if a Citadis 405 tram, or some sort of winterized version of the 405, is more reliable than the Spirit.
  3. Could OC Transpo eventually run a mix of Spirit and 405 trams on Ottawa’s tracks when we get to Stage 3?  Would it introduce more maintenance and operations problems to have two different kinds of trains?  (Keeping in mind we’re already going to be running two different kinds of diesel trains on Line 2, the Trillium Line.)

I know this post arrives in an environment where people are already stressed by Ottawa transit and the many ways in which so many parts of the transit system are having problems, from switches to in-station arrival displays and many more.  There are many complex factors involved with Ottawa’s Line 1 issues; there isn’t any one single cause of the problems.

I recognize that it will be easy to characterize this post as “Ottawa bought a lemon”, which is not the intent.

The City of Ottawa has bought 34+38 = 72 Citadis Spirit tram-trains, and our stations are all designed for low-floor vehicles.  We can’t switch now to high-floor metro cars.  (For some discussion of low-floor vs. high floor vehicles see a previous blog post.)  And we can’t replace 72 trains with new vehicles.

If you want to skip ahead to the problems reported with the Dualis, the section is
History of Technical Issues, however almost all of the articles are in French.


The Citadis Spirit (used only in Ottawa to date) is based on the Citadis Dualis tram-train.  There are only approximately 100 Citadis Dualis trains, used in three cities in France (Nantes, Lyon and Paris). There are news reports (in French) of the Citadis Dualis having problems in all three cities.

The initial use of the Dualis was for rural/suburban commuter rail.  Nantes and Lyon rural/suburban lines using the Dualis carry fewer passengers per day than Ottawa carries per hour at rush hour.1

In Paris, the Dualis is used in the T4 tram line (along with the Siemens S70 Avanto tram) and the T11 Express tram line. Both lines are unusual in that they are run by the national rail company, SNCF, rather than the Paris transit organisation, RATP.  They are also the lowest passenger volume Paris tram lines, sometimes by a wide margin (e.g. in 2018 the T1 line carried over eight times the passengers of the T4, and over ten times the passengers of the T11 Express).

Both of the Paris trams that use the Dualis are outside the Boulevard Périphérique, the ring road that defines the traditional core of Paris.

The T4 and the T11 Express lines also carry dramatically fewer passengers than Ottawa’s LRT Line 1 was projected to carry; the T4 carried as many passengers in all of 2019 as Ottawa’s Line 1 carried in a month and an entire year of T11 Express passengers in 2019 would only be two months of Ottawa Line 1 passenger volume.

Also, the T11 Express is the second worst tram line for reliability.  (The T4 line is the worst, but the data are from before the Spirit was added to the line in September 2019.)2

There is at present no other use of either the Dualis or the Spirit anywhere in the world.

Wikipedia reports 24 Dualis trains for Nantes, 24 for Lyon, 15 for the T4 and 15 for the T11 Express.

Two additional tram-train lines using the Citadis Dualis are planned for Paris:

In terms of the Citadis Spirit, the next city will be Toronto, with trains on the Finch West line (estimated to be ready in 2023) and trains on the Hurontario line (estimated to be ready in 2024).3

The only other potential customer that I am aware of is Cali, a city of over two million people in Columbia, which is planning for Citadis Spirits for two suburban commuter lines, starting in 2025.4

So basically, we should partner with Nantes, Lyon, Paris, Toronto and Cali.

And I mean seriously partner, with a coordination office and a kickoff public conference hosted by Ottawa.


The Citadis Dualis is a tram-train (hence the “dual” moniker) announced by Alstom in 2007.

its tram build enabling it to run through the city, while its performance as a train allows it to transport passengers at 100km/h once on the outskirts of town
– Alstom – 25 April 2007 – Alstom to deliver 31 trainsets of its new Citadis Dualis model to SNCF / Alstom va livrer à la SNCF 31 rames de son nouveau Citadis Dualis

If you’re unfamiliar with the terminology, a tram / streetcar / trolley is a surface rail system that runs in the shared street space of a city.  In the US and Canada they’re often sharing the street with cars.  Toronto still has streetcars.  Ottawa’s last streetcar ran in 1959.  Trams, like buses, typically have stops at the edge of the sidewalk.  A tram-train is a tram that can switch from being a surface rail tram in a city centre, to running on a suburban “main” railway line (including the ability to switch between lower voltage overhead lines to higher voltage lines).  The Citadis Dualis is a tram-train, although it appears it is mostly used as either a tram or a train, not usually switching from one to the other on a route.

When the very first Dualis vehicle was presented in Nantes in 2010, SNCF described the tram-train (PDF, Internet Archive) as follows:

Avec le Tram – Train, la SNCF propose une solution de mobilité nouvelle pour répondre à un besoin croissant des Collectivités de développer les transports en commun du centre vers la périphérie. A la fois tramway et train, il pénètre au cœur des villes à la manière d’un tramway et circule sur le réseau ferré régional.

The Citadis Spirit is basically a winterized, North American version of the Dualis.  The Spirit was announced in 2013.  Ottawa uses it solely as a train: LRT Line 1 is completely grade-separated (it is always separated from car traffic; it never intersects with any streets, always going either over or under them).

Alstoms Citadis-Dualis tram-train with a configuration similar to that of Ottawa has been operating for nearly two years in the Nantes suburbs and more recently in the city of Lyon at a speed of up to 100 km/h.
– Alstom – 13 February 2013 – Alstom to provide 34 light rail vehicles and maintenance services for Ottawa

With a similar configuration to Citadis Dualis tram-trains used in the French cities of Nantes and Lyon, the version of the Citadis Spirit for Ottawa will be a 100% low-floor LRV with a top speed of 100 km/h and space for bicycles. It will be equipped to operate in ‘extreme’ winter conditions.
– Railway Gazette – 14 February 2013 – Alstom launches North American light rail vehicle with Ottawa contract (presumably based on Alstom PR)

La configuration du Citadis Spirit est similaire à celle du Citadis-Dualis qui circule depuis près de deux ans dans la Région pays de Loire à Nantes et plus récemment dans la Région Rhône Alpes à Lyon
– Alstom – 15 mars 2013 – Spirit, le tram-train choisi par la ville d’Ottawa au Canada

the Confederation Line will be more like a light metro with underground stations in the city centre, 100-second headways and CBTC train control. Citadis Spirit is based on Alstom’s Dualis tram-train but will be adapted to meet North American requirements such as load levelling for step-free boarding at stations, and changes to the propulsion system to adhere to braking and acceleration parameters.

It will also be winterised to cope with temperatures as low as -40°C. “This is not a huge redesign” – International Railway Journal – 25 September 2013 – Canada and USA are poles apart on transit funding

In Europe, more than 200 Alstom tram-trains (Citadis Dualis and Regio Citadis) have already been sold and have travelled more than 50 million kilometres. This Alstom technology is also being exported with the Citadis Spirit, adapted to the North American market and adopted by the cities of Ottawa and Toronto in Canada in 2013 and 2017.
– Alstom – 14 December 2019 – Alstom’s Citadis Dualis tram-trains begin commercial service on the Tram 4 extension between Clichy and Montfermeil

It’s important to understand the Citadis tram product line is not the same as the Citadis tram-train product line.  The Dualis and Spirit tram-trains are very much a niche within Alstom’s much larger (20 times larger) tram business.  The Dualis has only been deployed in 3 cities.  The Spirit in one.

So it’s very misleading when news reports jumble the much larger tram business together with the niche tram-train business.

So the question to ask is not “How reliable is the Citadis?”.  The question to ask is “How reliable is the Citadis Dualis?” as that’s the closest to Ottawa’s Spirit.  And the answer, available pretty much exclusively in French, is that there are news reports of reliability issues.

If you want to skip ahead to the problems reported with the Dualis, the section is
History of Technical Issues, however almost all of the articles are in French.

Why did we choose Light Rail instead of a Metro?

You can read Ottawa 2009 Rail System Selection to get the details of why Ottawa City Council chose a low-floor LRT rather than a high-floor metro.  The summary is that they thought we would have a very mixed system, with a high-passenger-volume grade-separated core and a low-passenger-volume at-grade surface rail extended network running through the Greenbelt into the suburbs.  They wanted to use the same technology throughout, so they choose low-floor light rail.

Here’s some info from a question in the FAQ on the original Ottawa Light Rail website.

Q: What is the difference between LRT and Light Metro?

A: The principle difference between LRT and Light Metro is that Light Metro requires a fully segregated system, while LRT can function on both segregated track and track run on roadways shared with other vehicular and pedestrian traffic. This added flexibility to LRT is well suited to Ottawa’s need for a system that can accommodate both high volume in the core and significantly lower volume further out.

from Ottawa Light Rail » FAQ » What is the difference between LRT and Light Metro? (Internet Archive, May 12, 2011)

Why did we choose the Citadis Spirit?

The short answer is I don’t know.  You’d have to ask the people who wrote the specifications and procured it.  You’d also have to look at exactly what other vehicle options were available at the time of procurement.

I could speculate that they wanted the high speed (100km/h) to cross the Greenbelt, and that the distances that the LRT will traverse made it look like an urban-suburban tram-train model.  They may not have known early enough that LRT Line 1 would be completely grade-separated.  And there may have been some thought they we might actually use it as an actual surface rail tram eventually e.g. on Carling.  They also may not have understood how high the transit passenger peak demand was during Ottawa’s weekday rush hours (before the era where many people were required to work from home).

One would hope they understood the Citadis Spirit was a new niche model of a train that was based on an already niche model (Dualis) in very limited use in France.  And that they realised the Dualis only started service in 2011.  And that they knew the Dualis was being used as a low volume suburban commuter train, not an urban core transit system.  One would hope.

Choosing the Spirit should have been flagged as a high risk given that the Spirit would be deployed in a fully-operating, high volume existing transit system, not as a brand new low volume transit system that would slowly grow.

In any case, there is zero chance of revisiting low-floor trams versus high-floor metro now.  To change to high-floor metro we’d have to rebuild literally every single station.

In theory we could use a different model of low-floor vehicle though, if it is compatible with all the other technology we’re using, including the signalling and control systems.

Why do we use two Citadis Spirit trains stuck together?

The two trains together (which is train terminology is called a consist) have become our standard vehicle.  You’d have to ask OC Transpo for the full answer, but my understanding is the plan was that they would run single trains during low volume periods such as weekends, but the overhead (and associated component failure risk) of coupling and decoupling the trains wasn’t worth it.

A second question would be, now that we’ve decided to have double trains, why don’t we just buy (or create) one long train?  And the answer as far as I know is basically that Alstom doesn’t make or support a model of the Spirit that is that long.  We use two 48m trains with 300 passenger capacity coupled together, making a single 96m train (a consist) with 600 passenger capacity.  The longest Spirit configuration Alstom has described online is a 50m train with 370 passenger capacity.

It is unfortunate that the coupled design we’re using to get the desired capacity means that a big chunk in the middle of our consist is two complete unused train cabs.

UPDATE 2020-08-02: A good question is whether any of the cities using the Dualis run it coupled.  I haven’t researched it, but it seems from Google Images that some do.  It looks like Nantes-Clisson and maybe the Tram T11 Express both use coupled trains.  END UPDATE

Passenger Volumes and Usage

Nantes and Lyon Passengers

The initial deployment of the Dualis was as a commuter train, with much lower passenger volumes than in Ottawa.  The Dualis was used for what the French call small lines – “petites lignes“; low-passenger-volume lines running from a city to a small town or village (these types of lines have been pretty much closed in Canada for decades).

  • Nantes
    • Nantes – Châteaubriant: 8 trips per day (in 2020); 3,650 passengers per day (in 2015); 721,000 passengers per year (in 2017) – duration 1 hour 7 minutes for 64 km
    • Nantes – Clisson: 19 trips per day (in 2016); 458,175 passengers per year (in 2015?) – this line runs a mix of direct express trains and tram-trains – Monday through Thursday 19 tram-train trips, and Friday 23 tram-train trips
  • Lyon (Tram-train de l’Ouest lyonnais, Lyon – Brignais) ~8000 per day (« le trafic est d’environ 8 000 voyageurs par jour en 2017 », according to Wikipedia)

It’s hard to get a lot of detail about the actual Lyon line usage.  If you want 152 pages of a Master’s thesis on the background of the Lyon line though, you can read:

Éric Fauconnet. Mise en œuvre de l’offre de service tram-train de l’Ouest Lyonnais. Enjeux pour la SNCF et défis organisationnels. Gestion et management. 2012. (PDF) HAL Id: dumas-01896797 (landing page)

Note: Nantes – Châteaubriant daily trips from Tram-train Châteaubriant-Nantes and verified against TER train booking schedule online – Horaires & Trafic – Nantes (Toutes gares) à Châteaubriant Tram Train.  Clisson tram-train (“TT”) trips were from Horaires Ligne T2 Nantes – Vertou – Clisson (PDF link no longer available).

Nantes’ population is 309,346.  Châteaubriant’s population is 11,974.  Clisson’s population is 7,187.

So basically Ottawa has a niche train that is currently unique in the world, based on a niche train (approximately 100 vehicles) used in three cities in France.

What do I mean by much lower passenger volumes?  Nantes and Lyon trains carry fewer passengers per year than Ottawa Line 1 LRT is intended to carry in a month.

For more detail on passenger numbers, see next blog post Ottawa Line 1 LRT train passenger number comparisons, and for more detail on how the maps of the routes compare, see Ottawa Line 1 LRT route comparisons.

In retrospect, we might have been better with a winterized Citadis X05 tram, e.g. a Citadis 405, rather than a tram-train.  Presumably the Spirit was chosen in part because it can go 100km/h versus the 80km/h max of the 405.  But the 405 is a much more mature technology.  (That being said, I don’t know if a winterized 405 exists, but presumably the 405 could be modified in the same way that the Dualis was modified.  What we would lose in the theoretical reduction in max speed we might gain back in reliability.)

(If someone has a detailed technical comparison of the Dualis versus the Spirit, and the Spirit versus the 405, I would be happy to add more information to this post.)

Is a tram-train a tram?

Alstom has two product lines in this area, very clearly separated.  Here’s their own categorization from their Rolling Stock Solutions:

This is two different kinds of vehicles under one brand umbrella, which makes it confusing to distinguish between them.  But notice how they are described separately.  They have different histories, with different numbers of trains deployed.  The purpose of the tram-train is to go faster than the tram, to serve suburban commute distances, while also being able continue on into cities that have existing tram lines in their cores.

Here’s what Alstom says about the Citadis Dualis tram-train:

Designed to bridge city center and its suburb, Citadis Dualis is able to penetrate the city core as a tram and travel along regional railway tracks, thanks to special features involving power, safety and comfort.
– Alstom PR – 7 December 2012 – Alstoms Citadis Dualis tram-train now in service on Western Lyons second line

So let’s compare the two offerings.

Citadis trams

  • Current generation: 5th generation (X05 series, e.g. Citadis 405)
  • First launched: 1999 AD?
  • Type of vehicle: tram (travels on urban streets, sometimes with fully or partially dedicated lanes)
  • Maximum speed (5th generation): 80km/h
  • Number of trains: over 2000 in service
  • Number of cities: over 50

Citadis tram-trains

  • Current generation: effectively the first generation (Citadis Dualis and Citadis Spirit)
  • First launched: first train shown in Nantes in December 2010?
  • Type of vehicle: tram-train (suburban train in Nantes and Lyon, tram in Paris)
  • Maximum speed: 100km/h
  • Number of trains ordered: ~100
  • Number of cities: 3 (Dualis), 1 (Spirit)
  • Future cities: +2 (Spirit in Toronto and possibly Cali, Columbia)


  • tram has been around a decade longer than tram-train
  • tram has ~20 times the number of vehicles compared to tram-train
  • tram has ~10 times the number of cities compared to tram-train

Report after report, including from both Ottawa and Toronto, characterizes the Spirit as part of the larger Citadis family.  But without a component-by-component technical comparison, there’s no way to know if this is meaningfully true.  Given that there are many more trams deployed than tram-trains, with many fewer reports of problems for trams that I’m aware of, it seems like they are not comparable technologies.

Here is how the Spirit gets framed as part of the larger deployment of Citadis trams, even though it is not a tram:


Used in 40 cities around the world, the Alstom Citadis currently moves more than 2 million travellers per day. / Chaque jour, ce véhicule transporte plus de deux millions de passagers dans 40 villes dans le monde. – Ottawa Confederation Line – Vehicle (Internet Archive) / Ligne de la Confédération – Véhicules (Internet Archive)


Over 2,300 Citadis vehicles sold to 55 cities around the world, the Alstom LRV can handle the toughest winter and hottest summer. / Avec plus de 2300 véhicules Citadis vendus dans 55 villes dans le monde, le VLR d’Alstom résiste aux hivers les plus rudes et aux étés les plus chauds. – Metrolinx – Citadis Spirit Light Rail Vehicle / Metrolinx – Le véhicule léger sur rail Alstom Citidis Spirit 

I’m not going to claim every government website and news report has space to go into technical detail about how one vehicle compares to others, but nevertheless, instead of the broad statements from Ottawa and Toronto above I would go with something more like “the Citadis Spirit, based on a deployment of approximately 100 Citadis Dualis trains used in three cities in France”.

This business of “used in more than 50 cities around the world” – it’s not just a nuance.  Those 50 cities are using Citadis trams.  It makes it sound like we must be an outlier if everyone else can run these vehicles.  How do those over 50 cities manage?  They manage because they’re using different vehicles with a much longer history of development, operations and maintenance.  Citadis series trams are not Dualis or Spirit tram-trains.

More than 2,300 Citadis range cars sold to 50 cities, including Barcelona, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, Dubai and Ottawa. – Toronto Star – How do Toronto’s light rail vehicles compare? It’s Bombardier versus Alstom

This just seems a mismatched comparison to me.  To make an inexact analogy, if you’re writing about Brand X sedan cars, do you talk about the fact that a million Brand X trucks have been sold?  Just because they have the same brand name in front of them doesn’t make them the same vehicle.


Citadis Spirit (Ottawa LRT Line 1)
OC Transpo O Train LRV 1107
Youngjin / CC BY-SA

Citadis Dualis (Paris Tramway T4)
Citadis Dualis Arboretum Tramway T4 2019 02
Idris2000 / CC BY-SA
You can be sure the above vehicle is a tram-train because if you look very closely, it says TT 407 on the end.  All the SNCF tram-trains have TT numbers.

History of Technical Issues


Nantes – Châteaubriant

Including many issues caused by frost (givre) on the overhead catenary power line.  SNCF came up with a catenary heater in 2019 to address frost problems, but apparently they didn’t install them on enough of the line, as they’re still having the problem in 2020.

NOTE: The Nantes-Châteaubriant catenary is at 750 volts. Ottawa’s is at 1500V.  At higher voltages frost on the catenary is less likely.


« Le temps perdu ne se rattrape pas »
la ligne a, l’automne et l’hiver 2014, été polluée par des problèmes techniques, informatiques et organisationnels à répétion et des supressions de trains par paquets.
– ouest france – 25 novembre 2015 – Tram-train Nantes – Châteaubriant : la fréquentation en hausse


Ras-le-bol des retards et dysfonctionnements dans la circulation des tram-trains sur la ligne Nantes-Châteaubriant : le vice-président du Conseil Régional Roch Brancour se fâche contre la SNCF et suspend un versement de huit millions d’euros. Ce vendredi, le gel a de nouveau provoqué des retards.
– Info France Bleu – 1 décembre 2017 – Problèmes sur le tram-train Nantes-Châteaubriant : la Région tape la SNCF au portefeuille

Par ailleurs, le courant utilisé sur la ligne est d’une tension similaire à celle employée en zones urbaines, soit du 750 volts. « Avec des lignes sous cette tension, le givre peut se former, ce qui n’est pas le cas avec du 25 000 volts, généralement utilisé sur des réseaux situés en rase campagne », notait Dominique Gehl, responsable du pôle ingénierie Bretagne – Pays de la Loire de la SNCF, à l’occasion de l’interruption du 1er décembre.
– ouest france – 5 décembre 2017 – Pourquoi, avec le givre, le tram-train entre Nantes et Châteaubriant reste à quai


Comme l’an dernier à la même époque, la ligne de tram-train Nantes-Châteaubriant ne peut circuler ce mercredi matin en raison du givre. Une fine couche de glace s’est déposée sur les caténaires qui fournissent en électricité les trains. Et cela suffit à paralyser le trafic. Du produit anti-gel a été appliqué, sans succès. La circulation n’a repris que vers midi, à la faveur du redoux.
– 20 minutes – 21 novembre 2018 – Nantes-Châteaubriant: Le tram-train bloqué par le givre ce mercredi, les habitués en ont marre

Le scénario du 1er décembre 2017 se répète. Le givre a raison de la circulation des trams-trains entre Nantes et Châteaubriant. « Aucune circulation n’est possible à cause du givre qui s’est déposé sur les caténaires », indique les services de la SNCF.
– ouest france – 21 novembre 2018 – Le givre bloque le tram-train entre Nantes et Châteaubriant


Le recours à un tram-train plutôt qu’à un classique TER avait également été salué comme une innovation pleine de promesses. Cinq ans plus tard, le bilan n’a pourtant rien de fantastique. Certes, la ligne de 64 km a permis à bon nombre d’habitants d’abandonner la voiture pour aller travailler à Nantes. Elle a aussi favorisé le développement urbain de plusieurs communes au nord de la Loire-Atlantique (Nort-sur-Erdre, Sucé, Abbaretz, Issé…). Mais les motifs de déception ne manquent pas.

Pannes trop fréquentes
La fiabilité du tram-train est, elle aussi, pointée du doigt. Retards « fréquents », « absence de trains » pour cause de panne, « gel des caténaires le matin » sont des critiques régulièrement citées par les usagers.

Confort insuffisant pour les longs trajets

Le confort du tram-train est également sujet aux critiques. Aux heures de pointe, certaines rames sont bondées, en raison des problèmes de disponibilité des trains citées précédemment.
– 20 minutes – 4 mars 2019 – Nantes-Châteaubriant: Pourquoi la ligne de tram-train déçoit

un tram-train qui circulait vers le nord du département est tombé en panne …

L’origine de la panne serait liée à un « dysfonctionnement électrique ».
– ouest france – 26 octobre 2019 – Tram-train en panne : 176 passagers doivent regagner la gare en marchant sur les voies


la liaison tram-train entre Nantes et Châteaubriant est momentanément interrompue sur une partie de son tracé.

En cause, la météo de ce lundi matin qui sans être extrême a tout de même provoqué une panne d’alimentation par la présence de givre sur une caténaire, du côté de Doulon.
– france 3 – 6 janvier 2020 – SNCF : la ligne Nantes-Châteaubriant perturbée par le givre

Nantes – Clisson


Un incident technique sérieux sur le TramTrain de l’Ouest Lyonnais le 3 décembre a conduit la SNCF a retirer l’ensemble de ses rames pour une expertise, depuis le service est particulièrement perturbé entre Nantes et Clisson où circulent des matériels identiques
– franceinfo 3 pays de la loire – 6 décembre 2013 – Nantes Clisson : TramTrain, toutes les rames rentrent au garage

Pourquoi sont-ils arrêtés ?
Un incident est survenu mardi 3 décembre, vers 21 h 30, en Rhône-Alpes, sur une rame Citadis-Dualis identique à celles qui roulent entre Nantes et Clisson. Une roue s’est bloquée. Le train, qui quittait une gare, a dû être stoppé et ses quinze passagers évacués : il n’y a pas eu de blessé. La circulation de tous les Citadis-Dualis a été interrompue, le temps de trouver l’origine de la panne et de la solutionner.

« Il n’est pas acceptable qu’un matériel neuf connaisse de telles avaries. L’urgence est aux solutions, mais, ensuite, toutes les responsabilités devront être établies », écrit le président de la Région
– ouest france – 12 décembre 2013 – Nantes-Clisson : le tram-train durablement à l’arrêt ?



Après l’incident survenu sur le réseau de l’Ouest Lyonnais (rupture d’essieu et blocage de roue), la SNCF a décidé de suspendre jusqu’à nouvel avis l’exploitation de l’intégralité des trams-trains Dualis d’Alstom.
transportrail canalblog – 14 décembre 2013 – Dualis : c’est plus grave que prévu


La société doit d’ici là faire changer sur le matériel une pièce maîtresse du système de roulement, apparue défectueuse lors des différentes expertises menées après l’incident survenu vers l’Arbresle. «Les rames seront remises en circulation au fur et à mesure que cette pièce aura été changée», indique-t-on chez Alstom, sans détailler le calendrier de reprise.
– 20 minutes – 13 janvier 2014 – Le tram-train reste à quai

Depuis le 05 décembre dernier, les trams-trains de l’ouest lyonnais sont à l’arrêt. En cause : le déraillement d’une rame et le constat d’un défaut technique sur une pièce maîtresse.

Le choix de la SNCF et l’investissement de la Région sur ce matériel innovant font polémique. Pour les syndicats de cheminots, le matériel est inadapté.
– franceinfo 3 – 9 janvier 2014 – Tram-train de l’ouest lyonnais à l’arrêt : une reprise progressive est annoncée

[Suite à un incident technique sur l'Ouest Lyonnais un plan de transport est adapté]© France 3 RA

A 2018 article in Mobilités Magazine summarizes some of the issues and fixes:

  • Changement de boîtes d’essieux
  • blocage intempestif des portes
  • Changement de pantographes

Le nombre de pannes a fini par provoquer une réunion de crise à la Région des Pays de la Loire le 13 avril dernier.

Les équipes du service après-vente d’Alstom et de la SNCF ont, aux dires de la Région des Pays de la Loire, jusqu’à la fin de l’année pour « réduire de la moitié » les incidents sur les trams-trains de la région. Dans le concret, passer de 120 à 60 pannes donnant lieu à un retard de plus de 5 minutes par million de kilomètres (définition du taux d’incidents). Ce qui permettrait à la SNCF de respecter enfin son plan de transport de 35 aller-retours par jour vers Châteaubriant et 23 vers Clisson en rames doubles.

– 25 avril 2018 – Les déboires du tram-train d’Alstom (Internet Archive):


T11 Express


A cause d’une « avarie de matériel », la toute nouvelle ligne reliant Epinay au Bourget (Seine-Saint-Denis) ne fonctionnera pas jusqu’à lundi.
Le Parisien – 1 septembre 2017 – Le couac : le Tram 11 Express à l’arrêt tout le week-end

Une élue de Seine-Saint-Denis a écrit à la SNCF et à Ile-de-France Mobilités pour s’inquiéter des dysfonctionnements fréquents de la toute nouvelle ligne de tram-train reliant Epinay-sur-Seine au Bourget.

« Je m’inquiète des pannes récurrentes sur la ligne, et de la qualité dégradée du service rendu aux usagers », indique l’élue du canton d’Epinay-Pierrefitte-Villetaneuse, trois communes traversées par la nouvelle ligne. Nadège Abomangoli exprime aussi « de fortes inquiétudes concernant la sécurité des voyageurs ».
Le Parisien – 8 septembre 2017 – Des inquiétudes sur le nouveau T11 Express

Studies and Reports

In 2014, as part of the planning for the T12 Express line (Tram-Train Massy-Évry) in Paris, a report was produced: Le projet de Tram-Train de Massy Evry : enjeux et problématiques du point de vue des représentants du personnel (PDF)

Of note is section III.2.1. Dualis : des problèmes de fiabilité and all sections under III.2 (slides 25 through 29).  Unfortunately the text is all trapped in the PDF format.  Here is my hand transcription of part of slide 25, which may have errors.  Note the phrase “We propose here to revisit the assessments collected from the train conductors [not sure if this is conductors or drivers], which evoke the multiple recurrent malfunctions that are mainly linked to the trains [the equipment].” (my translation)

Les rames tram-train Dualis circulaient déjà dans l’Ouest Lyonnais et sur le réseau TER de Nantes pour la liaison Nantes – Clisson ; elles viennent d’être déployées sur la liaison Nantes-Châteaubriant.

Nous proposons ici de revenir sur les appréciations recueillies par les conducteurs de ces rames qui évoquent de multiples dysfonctionnements récurrents et principalement liés au matériel :

    • des problèmes d’accouplement en UM et de liaison électronique ou informatique en cabine,
    • des avaries lors des changements de bout,
    • des avaries liées à la présence d’humidité en cabine,
    • des dysfonctionnements liés aux portes, [yes, this translates as “malfunctions related to the doors” or simply “door malfunctions”]
    • et plus généralement, des pannes furtives, difficiles à catégoriser et tracer, comme nous l’ont expliqué plusiers agents de conduite : « parfois on n’a même pas le temps de retranscrire les défauts dans le carnet de bord, ils disparaissent et puis après ça revient. C’est déprimant » ; « On nous dit souvent d’attendre avant d’appliquer les procédures, les défauts partent d’eux-mêmes ».


Annex 1. Reference Documents

As you can see above, Alstom provides not just the trains, but is subcontracted to provide 30 years of maintenance for them.

SIDEBAR: The Regio-Citadis tram-train pre-dates the Dualis, and is a hybrid (diesel or electric) train, unlike the Dualis and Spirit which are electric only.  END SIDEBAR

Annex 2. Toronto Citadis Spirit

Toronto/Metrolinx likes to use the terminology Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) sometimes.

I can’t tell how many vehicles have been ordered for the Finch West LRT.  I’ve seen 19, 18, and 17.  The FAQ says 18, which means they would have three backups as they’re planning to run 15 vehicles in regular service.  Also, bizarrely, they never say “Spirit” in their documentation.  Always Alstom train/LRV/LRT.

I’m also not clear on the total Metrolinx order.  Up to 46?  61?  62?  Alstom said 61 in 2017.

Alstom – 12 May 2017 – Alstom receives order for 61 Citadis Spirit light rail vehicles for Greater Toronto and Hamilton area / Alstom remporte une commande de 61 véhicules légers sur rail Citadis Spirit pour la région du Grand Toronto et de Hamilton

Alstom will supply Metrolinx a 48-metre Citadis Spirit, which has a passenger capacity of 321.

Metrolinx – Finch West LRT and Finch West LRT Project FAQs (PDF)

  • Expected Completion: 2023
  • trains that will run on a dedicated track (a dedicated lane in the centre of the roadway, separate from regular traffic)
  • will run every 5-7 minutes during peak hours
  • (estimated) 46,000 passengers per weekday
    • estimated that the Finch West LRV will carry approximately 2250 passengers per direction per hour during the peak period by 2031; the capacity of the Finch West LRT is up to 6,300 passengers per hour per direction
  • A total of 15 Light Rail Vehicles (LRV) will be operating during both morning and afternoon peak hours, with 5 minutes in between trains (also known as “5- minute headway”). During off-peak hours, there will be 8 to 10 trains in operation with 7 to 10 minutes between trains.
  • 18 Alstom vehicles will be used for the Finch West LRT
  • The Alstom LRT vehicle is 48 metres in length. The vehicles can carry up to 336 passengers (120 seats + a capacity of 216 people standing).

Metrolinx – Hurontario LRT

  • Expected Completion: fall 2024
  • 292 passengers (according to their Twitter)
  • will run every 7.5 minutes during peak hours (according to their Twitter)

You can see a rendering of the train with Hurontario livery in a 2017 tweet.

In general I found it difficult to find much detail at all about the Hurontario vehicles.  They really need an FAQ.  Seems like it will probably have 44 vehicles available?  Seems like it will operate at-grade but with some kind of partial separation?

If you’re really ambitious you can try reading the 1838 page Hurontario LRT Project Agreement (PDF).

Metrolinx – The Alstom Citadis Spirit Light Rail Vehicle

  • Alstom will build vehicles for the Finch West LRT and Hurontario LRT projects.

Metrolinx – August 2, 2019 – Sophisticated mock-up of a light rail transit vehicle [Citadis Spirit] becomes Ontario festival star

Toronto Star – October 12, 2019 – Metrolinx not concerned about Ottawa LRT issues, despite having order in for the same vehicles by Ben Spurr

Annex 3. Cali Citadis Spirit

Santiago de Cali, Columbia is proposing a commuter train (Tren de Cercanías) service that would use the Citadis Spirit.  Timeline appears to be 2025.

Gobernación del Valle del Cauca – Santiago de Cali, December 12, 2019 – Gobernadora entregará estudios de prefactibilidad avanzada para el tren de cercanías siga su curso / [Request for] advanced prefeasibility studies for the commuter train (modified Google translation)

The above page is the most detailed, with substantial info on the choice of the Citadis Spirit, including the diagram which also shows up at the end of this section in a tweet.

They propose a Citadis Spirit train, which corresponds to one of the systems that can be adapted.

These are the different trains and it was defined at this stage that the most appropriate to the characteristics of the system is the 42-meter long one with 3 wagons, bidirectional so it has a driver’s cabin at both ends, and they will be used according to the direction of the route. (Google Translate)

[Image 3. Length and capacity (at 4 people per square metre) of Alstom Dualis / Citadis Spirit (approximate translation)]

El País – December 12, 2019 – Primer tramo del tren de cercanías en el Valle estaría listo en el 2025 / First section of the commuter train in the Valley would be ready in 2025 (Google Translate)

El País – December 13, 2019 – Los otros datos de los estudios del tren de cercanías que tendría el Valle / The other data from the studies of the Valley commuter train (modified Google translation)

El Pais - Cali - train - infogram - map - large
Infogram map from above article.

Systra presented a pre-feasibility study on May 19, 2020.

City Hall of Santiago de Cali – Entregan proyecto de prefactibilidad del Tren de Cercanías / Suburban train prefeasibility project delivered (Google Translate)

City Hall of Santiago de Cali – Los estudios de prefactibilidad del Sistema Férreo del Sur del Valle avanzan: la tecnología sugerida es un Tren-Tranvía / Prefeasibility studies of the South Valley Rail System advance: the suggested technology is a Train-Tram [tram-train] (Google Translate)

Gobernación del Valle del Cauca – El Tren de Cercanías del Valle superó la fase de prefactibilidad / The Valley Commuter Train passed the prefeasibility phase (Google Translate)

El País – May 19, 2020 – Obras del tren de cercanías en el Valle iniciarían en el primer semestre de 2023 / Works on the commuter train in the Valley would begin in the first half of 2023 (Google Translate)

It should be remembered that the proposal will have two independent rail lines, but that will connect to a central station located on Carrera 7 with Calle 25, in the center of Cali.

While the first line begins in Yumbo, crosses the Valle del Cauca capital and ends in Jamundí with a length of 38.2 kilometers, over which there will be 31 stations, the second line covers the section from the Cali power station to Palmira with a length of 30.5 kilometers on which 16 stations would be located. In addition, there would be two branches that would detach towards the Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Airport and the center of Cali. In other words, the commuter train would have a total of 74.2 kilometers of railroad. (Google Translate)

The Twitter account Cali Projects @ProyectosCali says

In the pre-feasibility studies, a Citadis Spirit train is proposed, this train has 3 variables and for Cali, a 42-meter, 3-car train with a capacity of 346 passengers is being designed with the possibility of linking trains to increase their capacity to almost 700. (Google Translate)

I would note that the above image considers the Dualis and the Spirit basically interchangeably.

There’s also a video in a tweet from February 2020. I can’t embed the video but you can click the “video tweet” link below.

Annex 4. Paris tram reliability

This is about the end of my Spirit rabbit hole, looking at spreadsheets of Paris tram usage and reliability.

You can find the necessary data at Observatoire de la mobilité en Île-de-France (OMNIL) – Chiffres détaillés > Transports en commun en chiffres > Trafic annuel et journalier and Chiffres détaillés > Transports en commun en chiffres > Qualité de service.  Note: none of the quality of service PDF links on the OMNIL website work, use the directory link below instead.  The last PDF files are from June and July of 2019.

It’s basically open data for Paris transit.

All you need to do is pull the graph from the Quality of Service spreadsheet to see that Tram T11 Express (which is entirely Citadis Dualis) is the second worst.  Tram T4 is the worst, but the data are from before the Spirit was added to the line in September 2019.

Paris - OMNIL - Attente sur le réseau tramways - 2019

In terms of passenger volume, basically the takeaway is that the T4 and the T11 Express are the lowest volume lines, in general by a fairly wide margin.

T4 had 8 million passengers in 2018, with a drop to 3 million passengers in 2019, T11 Express had 5 million in 2018 and 6 million in 2019.  This compares with the highest-volume tram line, the T3a with 68 million passengers in 2019.  It’s hard to do exact comparisons because the T11 Express just started in mid-2017, and I don’t know why the T4’s traffic is dramatically lower in 2019.  (From the annual traffic Excel spreadsheet, tab 3 “Voyages annuels Tram et Bus”.)

For comparison, Ottawa’s Line 1 LRT would have been expected to have over 2 million passengers per month outside of vacation periods, or in other words, considerably higher passenger volumes than either of the Paris trams.  It had already hit 3 million passengers a month after its launch date.