The Paris T3 Tram

The city is rightly proud of its accomplishments and this poster is plastered on all city properties.

On Friday 22 December 2006 we went out to Balard and rode the new tramway (T3) which had only opened the previous Saturday.  It was a good thing we checked about  tickets at the Balard station because a new ticket is required for the tram and it must be cancelled in the on-board ticket machines.  Two inspectors went through the tram and found a number of people who were given stern lectures.



The cars are low floor articulated similar to those found in many European cities now.  The tramway is built almost entirely in a reservation in the centre of a wide boulevard although there is some side street running towards the east end.  The entire route seems to be reserved for the trams.  However, because of the frequent traffic intersections together with signalled pedestrian crossings halfway between the traffic intersections, the actual speed is pretty low.  The maximum speed was about 45 kmph but this is very difficult to achieve because of the frequent stops for pedestrian and traffic crossings.  There does not seem to be coordination between the traffic and tramway signals and it was not evident that the trams had any priority or that they set the signals for themselves.

The driver was not very good.  Several times he tried to start before the doors were closed and several times he tried to start before the signals had cleared.  In both cases, the tram would not move but he had to return the throttle/brake lever to neutral and start again.  At station stops his computer display gives a schematic of the tram showing the doors opening and closing.  There are TV cameras at each end on both sides.  When the tram is stopped at a station the two screens show the view from the front looking back and the view from the back looking forward.  When the vehicle starts the displays change to show the view from the front on either side.

The trams all seemed to be full. I would think this would be because this must be, in effect, a replacement for a heavily used bus service.

I went back in the first week of January 2007 when things were beginning to settle down.  It looked as if the traffic engineers had been adjusting the traffic signals as the trams seemed to pass along the route more quickly and effectively.

The main impression I have is that the new tramway is not as fast, not surprisingly, as the metro or the RER.  With this as a model it would be easy to argue that Ottawa should seriously consider a tunnel in the downtown core.  However, trams that would be run through the centre of Ottawa would only encounter traffic at every block whereas the T3 encounters traffic every block and a signalized pedestrian crossing every half a block.  However, it is still a lot faster than trying to take an Ottawa bus through downtown.

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