Public transportation is facing challenging times. The effect of global climate change, combined with rising energy prices and significant growth in urban populations, mean that the need for sustainable mobility—particularly in cities—has never been greater.
By 2025 there will be 27 cities in the world with 10 million inhabitants or more. The increasing number of road-based vehicles—2.5 billion estimated for 2030, compared with 580 million in 1997—will lead to a dramatic increase in congestion.
In light of these developments, streetcars and light rail vehicles are currently experiencing a worldwide renaissance as they provide a sustainable solution for all these challenges.
The issue of urban congestion has focused attention on the need for improved public transportation. Many cities around the world recognize that streetcars and light rail are effective in transporting large volumes of commuters efficiently and without detriment to the environment. As a result, numerous public transportation agencies are opting to either rejuvenate their existing light rail infrastructure or construct complete new systems from scratch.
Increased environmental consciousness and soaring fuel costs are also motivating more and more people to opt for public transportation. Streetcars and light rail vehicles are energy-efficient, consuming three to five times less energy per passenger than automobiles traveling with an average of 1.2-1.4 people. These public transit vehicles can transport up to 250 passengers at a time and, as a rule, operate for a period of 30 years or longer.
Bombardier Transportation manufactures light rail vehicles to meet city transportation requirements with its BOMBARDIER FLEXITY family. The company has created its latest vehicle—the FLEXITY Freedom—specifically to meet the needs of North American cities and public transit systems.
Bombardier designed the FLEXITY Freedom as part of its modular light rail vehicle platform, combining proven elements with innovative technologies to save energy, emit no carbon dioxide, and reduce visual and noise pollution.
The vehicle offers a 100 percent low floor, entirely step-free interior; an extra wide (8-foot, 8-1/2-inch) carbody; two-by-two seating with maximized aisle width; and an easy-to-configure interior layout. The FLEXITY Freedom can be adapted for urban and suburban rail networks; is available in three- and five-module configurations; can be either uni- or bi-directional; has a maximum capacity of 251 passengers; and can be coupled to form trains of up to four cars, yielding an overall capacity of more than 30,000 passengers per hour per direction.
Its key features include optional catenary-free operation; the combination of low floor technology with conventional axle wheel-set bogies for a smooth ride; and a modular design that provides easy access to components and systems.
Bombardier is currently building 204 streetcars and 182 FLEXITY Freedom light rail vehicles for the Greater Toronto Region.
An artist’s rendering of the Bombardier FLEXITY Freedom light rail vehicle on a proposed track near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.