A Debut Party for Car 4400

The TTC unveiled the real car 4400 — not the imitation, half-car mockup seen on an earlier occasion — at its Hillcrest Shops today to a crowd of press, politicians and staff.

Representatives of all governments were present.  Councillor Karen Stintz as TTC Chair, Ontario Minister of Transportation Bob Chiarelli, Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig, and Peter Van Loan representing the Federal Government.

Van Loan’s inclusion was rather odd considering that his government famously told Mayor David Miller to get lost (in somewhat earthier terms) when Miller asked for a 1/3 federal share in funding these cars.  Now we learn than some of the federal gas tax transit revenue in Toronto has been earmarked for the streetcar project.

  • City of Toronto share: $662m (55.8%)
  • Ontario share: $416.3m (35.1%)
  • Ottawa share:  $108m (9.1%)
  • Total $1,186.3m

In fact, Toronto gets a flat annual allocation from the federal gas tax that now runs at $154m.  In 2012, the total TTC capital spending (not including projects with their own accounts such as the Spadina extension) will be $1,034m.  This puts the federal gas tax at about 15% of current spending although the proportion rises in future years when the currently planned rate of spending tails off.

I have asked the TTC to explain how they came up with the $108m figure, and as I write this (2:20 pm, November 15), I have not received a reply.  Federal capital grants go into the general pot of capital funding (see pdf page 36 of the TTC Capital Budget).

During her remarks, TTC Chair Karen Stintz joked that she hopes to see Van Loan back soon with a big cheque for the Downtown Relief Line.

This is a fully working car, although we won’t see it out on the street for several months, and even then only for test runs, not in passenger service.  Cars 4401 and 4402 will arrive over coming months to add to the test fleet.

The 4400 sat among representatives of three earlier generations of streetcars each of which represented the technological pride of its age — the Peter Witt (1920s), the PCC (1930/40s), the CLRV (1970s).  That CLRV (and its relative, the articulated ALRV) is odd man out, in a way, because it was, in part, the product of an era when Ontario thought it needed to reinvent the streetcar.  Only one other buyer was ever found for these vehicles as compared with Witts, PCCs and now Bombardier Flexities running all over the world.

The car’s interior is divided into sections, each with its own door very much like a subway car.  All-door loading will spread out the demand through the interior.  Space dedicated for large objects such as shopping buggies, baby carriages, wheelchairs and bicycles will allow them to be carried without plugging circulation.

Although the cars are “low floor”, there is still one step up from the ground into them unless one boards from a platform or widened sidewalk (as on Roncesvalles).  However, that’s the only step, and riders will be able to flow into and out of the cars quicker than they do on the earlier models.

Presto readers are mounted on either side of the entryways.  The rules for Presto use on TTC are not yet decided including whether there will be any need to “tap in” for transfer connections or to “tap out” when leaving a vehicle.  [That’s a separate debate and I would prefer that the comment thread on this article not fill up with a discussion on that topic.]

Visible in the photo below is a small pedestal (left side, just ahead of the articulation) which will hold the fare equipment.  This will be used by passengers who need to pay a cash or token fare while the system is in co-existence mode between current practices and Presto.  Machines will also be provided at busy stops along the routes as the new cars roll out.

The box under the pedestal is a heater/blower (another is located under the seat just inside the door) whose purpose is to keep the vestibule warm even in the winter and an attempt to dry out the floor.

Stop displays hang from the ceiling through the length of the car, not just at the front as on the retrofitted CLRV/ALRV fleets.

Notable by their absence is any provision for advertising on either the interior or exterior of the car.  Something may be fitted in the coves between the top of the windows and the lighting strip, but there is nothing on the 4400.  This would change the look of the cars inside and out.

Here is another view through the articulation showing the fare machine pedestal.  Note that the window has a separate panel at the top.  This is a “flip in” window similar to those on the CLRVs intended for situations where the AC fails and some ventillation is required.  The flip-up seating in the area beyond keeps it clear for use by wheelchairs in a similar format to that already used on the subway.

At the doors, there is a red button for passengers to open them when they are activated by the operator.  Actual operation will likely vary from stop to stop and car to car just as it does today with the CLRVs.  At some stops, the operator will simply open all doors; at others, only doors passengers want to use will open.  This is a common practice elsewhere to which Torontonians will, I am sure, adapt.

This door is also the wheelchair location, and the blue button is intended for a request to deploy the wheelchair ramp.  That ramp has two levels — one is a short bridge to get from a car to a nearby platform, the other is a longer ramp to get down to pavement level.  The operator controls which version is deployed.

Not visible in these photos is an LED strip mounted on the trailing edge of each door.  This will be brightly lit when the doors are open as a warning to passing motorists and cyclists that they should stop.  I hope to get a photo or video of this in operation from the TTC and will add it here when available.

Low-floor design brings seating above the wheel sets, and a mixture of forward and rear facing seats.

The front of the new car, in profile, can be read as a face, here in contemplation of a human.  The paint treatment at this end is different from the rear (see the next photo) with the white stripes swinging down.

The rear end of 4400 seen from the transfer table.  The white stripes at this end simply wrap around the car.

Finally, a view along the runway for the transfer table that moves cars and buses between the shop entrance and the various repair bays.  The mockup version of 4400 is visible in the middle distance.

I must say that having a genuinely new streetcar in Toronto, one that is based on a proven international design, gives me good feelings.  All the same, there remain questions of how the vehicle will perform in service, how riders will adapt to the new layout and fare collection tactics, and whether the TTC will actually improve service capacity (as implied in the Fleet Plan that I reviewed recently) and improve line management so that expected wider headways are not compounded by ragged service and short turns.

The fight for better streetcar service is far from over.

Postscript: What The Design Panel Did

I was one of the members of design review panel recruited by the TTC to tweak the new car design.  The physical layout of the cars was more-or-less settled by the time we came on board, and our opportunity for influence was limited.  The factors we affected were mainly aesthetic including:

  • The use of a different, patterned seat fabric rather than the standard TTC red.
  • The use of a darker red than the bright cherry found on the CLRVs.  It is not as dark as the colour used with cream trim on the PCCs and Witts, but not as bright as the CLRVs.
  • The presentation of a distinct “front” and “back” to the cars by bringing the white stripes down at the front of the car.
  • The presentation of a uniform black stripe down the side of the car (the original version made the doors look like a mouth with missing teeth).

One thing we hoped to see was interior surfaces that had some texture and variation from lighter off-white on the ceiling to a darker gray on the floor.  That idea did not become part of the final version probably for a combination of cost and maintenance issues.

Eventually the cars will go into service and we will see how their layout works in practice and whether it can be improved.

An idea I would particularly like to see would be a subset of the fleet as “art cars”.  We came up with this idea before GO Transit started its own program, but given the state of transit funding and municipal attitudes to non-essential “gravy”, this was an idea that has gone into a deep sleep.  Could we find a sponsor to underwrite a competition for, say, ten cars each with its own “total wrap”, a set of “one of” cars whose designs would change from season to season, year to year?

96 thoughts on “A Debut Party for Car 4400

  1. Hamish,

    It is easy to design safe roads that remove the danger posed by streetcar tracks. Proper design guides people to cross the tracks at right angles so that they do not get a wheel caught and crash.

    For example, see this video.

    This is not a problem with streetcar tracks. It is an easily solved problem with road design and layout.


  2. Silly question: If the existing fleet of streetcars is retired, and the new fleet will be of a defined length, while the technology is antiquated, why not reinstate overhead contactors at switches. Unless they required substantial maintenance to keep operational (and they cannot be worse than the present system to restore switch position) is there really justification in using a more sophisticated technology to return switches to their home position? This wheel has been invented… (though I suppose it would need to be adapted to pantographs).

    Steve: By the time the last of the old cars is gone, the system will be running with pantographs. The real issue is that a new, reliable system for electric switches should have been installed years ago, but it just wasn’t a priority for the TTC.


  3. @(responding to no one in particular)

    RE: A longer streetcar, or streetcar-trains

    As many have pointed out in previous threads, trying to park a 60 metre streetcar train in Toronto’s smaller street-level loops would result in part of the road, sidewalk, or another track being blocked. This would occur at: Neville Park, Coxwell/Queen, McCaul, Wolseley, Sunnyside, Kipling, Broadview Station.

    Regarding underground loops, Union probably won’t be a problem, since it’s being expanded anyhow. Spadina Station might not be able to accommodate 60 metre trains, and I don’t know of any plans to expand it.

    As someone who would admittedly like to see streetcar trains anyhow, a few ideas, and thoughts about them, crossed my mind:

    1) I think the only way to make 60-metre long trains work would be to allow layovers on-street, rather than in the loop, and expand the no-parking zones. Motorists won’t like this at all, but it would still be possible to pass a stopped streetcar. Sidewalks also won’t be blocked either. This probably won’t work for Broadview Station, since there could be no stopping in the existing 505 loop without blocking the sidewalk, and forcing passengers to transfer outside of the station defeats the entire purpose of the Broadview station double-tracking.

    2) I wonder what the feasibility is for rerouting some loops to be more square-shaped, such as Neville Park, so that it can fit a 60 metre train.

    Steve: I know of no plans to run trains of LFLRVs, and you may have noticed the absence of couplers. This is a non-issue.


  4. I hope I don’t look too horrifically ignorant in asking this after reading what you just now said about there not being any lflrv trains but does that apply only to the legacy lines to also the new lines (Eglinton, Sheppard East, etc.) as well?

    Steve: Only to the legacy system.


  5. TTC still has time to fret over how it will enforce fare payment, but what are staffing levels now? And is the transit-specific contingent of Toronto Police officers still active…?

    Steve: The “Special Constables” lost their status about a year ago, and there was some cutback in staffing. The TPS transit contingent still exists, but Chief Blair is threatening to withdraw it as part of budget negotiations.


  6. M Briganti wrote:

    “There is so much fare evasion on Viva, they had to increase the fares recently to compensate, and it’s jokingly now known as Free-va”.

    As cited in the references provided by Calvin Henry-Cotham, fare evasion on VIVA seems to be an urban myth. About 400,000 passenger inspections were conducted on VIVA in 2011 (5% of VIVA riders) and determined a fare evasion rate of 1.38%. Hardly an epidemic!

    Of course, the fact that there are about 25 YRT/VIVA special constables and 4 Fare Media Inspectors, both of whose “main function is revenue protection”, helps with compliance!


  7. Steve wrote:

    “Less seats than two CLRVs. Partly this is due to some of the seats being a bit roomier, and partly due to expanded standee space.”

    Thanks TTC for telling me to stand. Why should I take a new streetcar if I have to stand because the TTC does not want to place enough seats on their streetcars. This is potentially going to go against the new cars – but as they are not in operation yet, I will make my final decision once I see the cars in operation – but certainly based on the pictures above, the TTC could have placed a couple more seats in at certain points if they wanted to.


  8. It appears as though the prototype’s trolleypole wasn’t engaged during the media conference (although it’s not very clear in your photograph). Do the new streetcars have a battery onboard to keep its lights on?

    Steve: I believe that the car was running on an auxiliary power feed.


  9. While this streetcar certainly looks attractive and modern, it is somewhat disappointing that Bombardier still went with the conventional Flexity Outlook model based on the classical “two-rooms and a bath” scheme with five sections and three (semi)-fixed bogies. The only reason such trams have succeeded in some European venues is because the track was built from the start (or in some cases, modified) with very generous curvatures. This is not the case in Toronto. One need not go any further than Melbourne – another “legacy” system, similar in many respects to ours – to see how inferior such designs are when running on traditional layouts.

    Any idea by how much the bogies can actually pivot? Given the very tight curve radii on the TTC’s system, it would be interesting to see how these cars will negotiate curves around the city and if there will be any visible spike in track wear once they hit the streets in consistent numbers.

    Although this is a moot discussion now, I wish we had gotten a truly state of the art streetcar with pivoting bogies, such as the fully low-floor Skoda 15T tram the Alstom Citadis X04. Or for that matter, a Bombardier Flexity Classic with conventional wheel-set bogies, even if it is not 100% low floor.

    Steve: The wheels can pivot, but not much, relative to the carbodies. As for other cars, Skoda was not allowed to bid, Alstom chose not to bid, and the TTC which had originally looked at the Minneapolis Bombardier car, decided instead to go for 100% low floor in what was at least partly a political, not a technical, decision. Ontario is very much Bombardier country, and that plus the peculiarities of the Toronto system made it less of an open bid than it might have been. That said, the bid from Siemens was 50% higher than Bombardier’s.


  10. Calvin said

    “Ah, no. The test is not if the streetcar has stopped, otherwise it would be an infraction each time a vehicle passes a streetcar that is not moving.”

    The discussion was about when passengers are getting on and off streetcars. Obviously if there’s no one planning to get off or on the streetcar, there would be no infraction.

    Let me rephrase what I said then for those who choose to be pedantic.

    The test is whether the streetcar has stopped for passengers to get on/off at a location where there isn’t a safety island, not whether the doors are open for passengers to get on/off at a location where there isn’t a safety island.

    Calvin said

    “Since it is rather difficult for passengers to get on or off a streetcar when the doors are closed, the doors being open are a good practical test.”

    It’s a lousy test. It’s highly dangerous to pass a streetcar just as it’s arrived at a stop, before it’s opened it’s doors. The door can open and someone can step out before the vehicle has stopped. And a pedestrian might err and step off the curb in front of a moving vehicle, as they would expect that the car would stop. Trying to turn it into a question of whether the doors are open, rather than whether the streetcar has stopped for passengers to get on/off at a location where there isn’t a safety island puts people’s lives in danger.


  11. I predict these new streetcars will be a disaster. Not only are they many months behind schedule the main order is a long way off. These are a catalog item in use in many other cities. Some modifications for TTC as regards tight radius curves etc. Nevertheless they should be ready to roll much sooner.

    Let us hope the three cars work out in trials and that meaningful attention is paid to customer reaction to such things as facing quad seats that few will appreciate.

    Why is it everything the TTC gets new is worse than what they already have? The present streetcars were obsolete the day they hit the streets. The steep and high entrance steps are far worse than the then existing PCC cars as was the electrical system. I recall when they first went into service the rough/jerky accelerator and apparent lack of training in their proper use. It took a long time to work that out if ever. Lack of opening windows in a non-air conditioned car was just plain stupid.

    These new cars are another step backwards. Their extreme length (double that of the present cars) will cause traffic problems but worse will result in inferior service since we just know the TTC will cut service by dispatching fewer cars.

    We should go back to PCC trains!


  12. I noticed that the trolley pole rope is tied to a fixed eyelet at the bumper level. Does it really not have a retriever spool? Does this mean the pole is only meant for carhouse moves where there are no major differences in wire height and therefore all street testing will require the pantograph?

    Steve: Interesting. I will ask about this.


  13. Assuming the spare factor in the streetcar fleet rollout plan is correct, the new streetcars would mean a total reduction of four fewer vehicles running on the system. This is almost a 1:1 replacement ratio.

    I really don’t understand what the concern is with the impact on service frequency.

    Steve: Look at page two of the table you linked. It is not a 1:1 replacement and on some routes there is quite a drop in total vehicles assigned — Dundas goes from 19 to 12, St. Clair from 25 to 16. What we don’t see here is the effect on off-peak service which is already ragged on many lines.

    As for the planned total cars in service, it is 157 LFLRVs, versus 165 CLRVs and 38 ALRVs. From a fleet size perspective, we would have 204 new cars replace an existing fleet of 247 of which 52 are ALRVs. None of these are 1:1 ratios.

    You need new batteries in your calculator.


  14. nfitz wrote,

    The discussion was about when passengers are getting on and off streetcars.

    Precisely, which is why I was pointing out some of the ambiguities of the current law.

    Let me repeat what my whole point was, for those who appear to have missed it in all the minutiae:

    I believe that we need to have our Highway Traffic Act updated to disallow any passing of streetcars when they display flashing lights.


  15. Steve wrote:

    “Look at page two of the table you linked. It is not a 1:1 replacement and on some routes there is quite a drop in total vehicles assigned — Dundas goes from 19 to 12, St. Clair from 25 to 16. What we don’t see here is the effect on off-peak service which is already ragged on many lines.”

    It’s not just off-peak service, it’s peak service too. Both are going to be affected, and peak service (i.e. rush hour) is a lot longer than in the past. I do fear a huge decrease in service along the entire streetcar system. I said it before, and I’ll say it again, the cars should have been shorter and more cars ordered. That way service levels might have been maintained or at least not [altered] to the same degree.


  16. The calculations of replacement ratios leave me very sad. The arrival of new vehicles looks like a situation where a group of people try to push a square peg into a circle, where passengers are talked about but almost immediately forgotten.

    George Webster said to Feds that streetcars in T.O. carry daily 300K passengers. Is that number accepted by TTC management and TTC commission? Is that number surprising, politically (in)correct or does it belong into some sort of secret envelope, which is too hot to handle?

    Convenience of passengers (that is their decision to use the streetcar plus their time spent waiting for its arrival) has been left out. Gradual increase of people who live in old TO has been left out. My conclusion is that politicians have prepared for general public nice and tidy political/capacity trap which will have to be resolved again post-2020 — that is where to get additional space for new carhouses, where to get more electricity for the system, how to beat the famous gridlock and how to educate and retain more drivers.

    Steve: The most recently published counts for daily ridership by route for 2011 are:

    Bathurst                  17,600Carlton                   40,900Downtowner & Kingston Rd.  7,800Dundas                    31,900King & Lake Shore         57,300Queen                     43,500Spadina & Harbourfront    55,400St. Clair                 32,400Total                    286,800


  17. TorontoStreetcars wrote:

    based on the pictures above, the TTC could have placed a couple more seats in at certain points if they wanted to.

    But they did not want to.

    I haven’t been able to see the new car, but I did check out the mock-up and there seems to be little difference, so my comments are based on the mockup.

    The aisle seemed to be narrower than the one on the current cars, although that may be in part because the seat backs are taller and the side of the seats is solid. This will make the aisle effectively narrower, as buggies’ wheels will not be able to slide under the seat, and because the high solid ‘wall’ of the back-to back seats will make it more difficult to squeeze by.

    There are two relatively large ’empty’ areas, but these have been created with specific purposes. One is for wheelchairs and large buggies that need the ramp to get on and off, the other is for bicycles (since the cars won’t have bike racks like the buses) and other large items that don’t require the ramp.

    Having the buggies in these areas will make it easier to get to empty seats, so they will probably effectively increase the available seating.


  18. I’m looking at the pictures of the interior and I see that the stanchions by the doors bend toward the walls and away from the aisle as they go up, making them harder to reach at shoulder height for people standing in the aisle. Placing the stanchions farther out of reach as you go up has not worked out well on the Toronto Rocket subway cars hasn’t worked out well for people stuck in the aisle near the doors compared to all of the older cars where they were straight vertical bars that didn’t become more difficult to reach with height, so I’m disappointed that this design issue has been repeated with the new streetcars. I’m even more disappointed that obviously the TTC didn’t learn and avoid some of the known pitfalls of the Toronto Rockets. It makes me wonder what other problems have been repeated on the new streetcars that aren’t visible in the pictures but are still waiting to be discovered.


  19. My blunder on the fleet count. I’m afraid I don’t understand what the “Procurements” and “contingencies” row mean, and what the difference is from the “LFLRV total” and “spares” rows.

    If decrease in service frequency is a big concern, why didn’t the commissioners opt for a larger number of streetcars? Also, the length of these streetcars does not preclude us from purchasing more in the future.

    Steve: I will walk through the buildup of the rows of the tables:

    LFLRV Total: This is the running total of LFLRVs in service as per the plan. For 2014, 33 is the sum of the cars assigned to routes 510, 511, 509 and 505. In following years, this is the sum of vehicles added plus the previous year’s total to give a running count of total requirement for service. Note that this hits 157 in 2018 at the end of the rollout. (There is some provision for increased service on a few lines in the out years, but by 2018 everything has been converted to LFLRV operation in the plan.

    Spares at 20%: The value is 20% of the row above, and represents the number of vehicles required in addition to the scheduled service for ongoing maintenance and, in the short term, warranty repairs and retrofits of design changes. This percentage should be lower once the fleet is established, but the TTC is being conservative until they see how the cars actually perform.

    Total required: The schedule service plus the spares.

    Procurements: Vehicles purchased in each year. Three are shown for this year – the prototypes 4400 to 4402.

    Available: The running total of the procurements. The total LFLRVs delivered by the end of each year.

    Contingency: The difference between total requirements and the actual fleet. If, for example, the TTC has an unforeseen need for more service than the fleet plan calls for, this is how many cars are available. Note that this is a small number right out to the end of the plan. One thing not shown here is the effect of any Waterfront Toronto projects which have money in their respective budgets for additional cars that would be added to the end of the order. One that will come into operation in the timeframe we are looking at is Cherry Street. It won’t require many cars, and will likely operate as a service overlaid on the King car. When it starts operation in spring 2016, there will still be spare CLRVs to tide the TTC over as rush hour extras if push comes to shove, or by then the TTC may be able to shave the spare ratio a bit.

    The sections below for CLRVs and ALRVs work the same way in reverse with retirements gradually depleting the fleet. A huge issue for service quality will be that if an LFLRV is not available, it should not be replaced by only one CLRV as this car would be hopelessly overloaded (it’s bad enough now when CLRVs substitute for ALRVs. It will probably take a very big stick to beat this concept into TTC management who seem to regard one streetcar as more or less the same as another for service purposes.


  20. @Deborah Brown

    I remember Skoda creating a page dedicated to Toronto’s future streetcars, although it looks to me that the model they were proposing would not have bogies that could pivot as much as the 15T. Either that, or the bogies could pivot but the vehicle wouldn’t be 100% low floor.

    If the TTC realises a need to have pivoting bogies, I’m sure that technology will get its chance.


  21. As another commenter pointed out, the fleet number at the front should be white-on-red like the current streetcars and not the invisible black-on-red.

    Here’s an article from the Star that was put out last year that has a diagram of the internal layout. That should make it easier to visualize I hope.


  22. The comment about the dropping of the naming contest and another referring to the last successful naming contest – The Toronto Rocket – made me think maybe we should unofficially adopt the name Toronto Rockettes.


  23. Push button opening of the doors, both inside and out, is going to cause a lot of annoyance at first, in my estimation. It’s standard in Europe, and I still find it disconcerting, having become so accustomed to Toronto’s treadles and automatic (or operator-instigated) door opening.


  24. Could it have been motorists’ complaints that influenced the decision not to replace the current fleet on a 1:1 basis?

    Steve: No. Originally, the TTC was going to get rid of all of the ALRVs and half of the CLRVs. Half of the CLRVs would go through a major overhaul including replacement of their aged electronics. This was when they were looking at cars with a mixed low/high floor configuration about the same length as an ALRV. After the decision to go for longer, entirely low-floor cars, the need to keep the CLRVs was eliminated. The only part motorists play in this is that on very close headways, streetcars tend to take over the road, but also bunch badly because of interaction with the cycle time of traffic signals.

    Considering that new fleet is equivalent to about 400 CLRVs on a capacity basis, and it is replacing a fleet of 195 CLRVs and 52 ALRVs, there is a substantial increase in fleet capacity. Remember that the order was placed at a time when motorists’ concerns were not first priority in the Mayor’s office.


  25. I’m concerned about the push button doors from an accessibility standpoint. Are blind and vision impaired passengers expected to just feel around for these little buttons?

    Steve: The short answer, probably, is “yes” although it is not uncommon for such riders to get assistance from other passengers. This will be an issue at lightly used stops and times of day when a helping hand may be harder to come by.


  26. Steve wrote:

    “After the decision to go for longer, entirely low-floor cars, the need to keep the CLRVs was eliminated. “

    In the opinion of someone at the TTC who wanted reduced service – which is exactly what is going to happen. Why couldn’t the TTC see this? Without a 1:1 ratio there WILL be less service and that is a given. I don’t care about capacity be the same, or whatever, there will be a longer wait between streetcars.


  27. @Torontostreetcars

    The problem is NOT the length of the new streetcars, but the low number of vehicles purchased. Long streetcars are a good thing, but the small order is an unfortunate coincidence and misconception among those who thought that the streetcar system faces solely a volume-capacity problem, rather than a service reliability problem.


  28. Transity Cyclist wrote:

    “The problem is NOT the length of the new streetcars, but the low number of vehicles purchased. Long streetcars are a good thing, but the small order is an unfortunate coincidence and misconception among those who thought that the streetcar system faces solely a volume-capacity problem, rather than a service reliability problem.”

    My point exactly – it is a mistake. While I concur it is better to go all low-floor rather than a combined fleet, the TTC needs more streetcars to meet demand and increase service in the future. This won’t be happening now. The longer waits will simply drive people away from the TTC (excuse the pun.)


  29. Regarding the number of Flexitys ordered and maintaining service levels, does the Flexity Outlook design allow for the creation of a “stubby” Flexity (3 sections rather than all five) if the city wanted to order some in the future to add service flexibility?

    Steve: Yes, there is a 20m version of the Flexity Freedom, the version now being marketed in the USA. Like its 30m cousin, it would have to be adapted to Toronto’s track geometry. This option was likely not available when the TTC placed its order — the Flexity 2 had not even been announced at that time, although some of its features were, I understand, incorporated in the Toronto car.


  30. Steve said: This option was likely not available when the TTC placed its order

    Actually, I wonder if the real reason is that they would have been too short to have them delivered with a trolley pole and a pantograph installed and thus faced with rebuilding them at some point to install a pantograph, the TTC took the easier option and ordered the full length Flexitys.

    Steve: I don’t remember any discussion at the time of a shorter version. Also, originally, the TTC seemed set on staying with trolley poles which is why the conversion of the overhead infrastructure didn’t start earlier.


  31. I’ve seen a feature on Bombardier’s website called the MITRAC energy saver, which as far as I can tell is a capacitor that stores braking energy and allows for operation off wire for a short distance, and claims energy savings as well. Is it known if the new streetcars will have this feature?

    Steve: Yes, I believe that they do, although the Bombardier handouts merely refer to “energy efficient systems” without naming them explicitly. It is worth remembering that when the TTC ordered its cars, the Flexity 2 had not yet been announced, and it was the first on which Mitrac energy saving equipment is listed as standard. The Toronto car is a hybrid of “Flexity 1” plus some of the features of the later generation car.


  32. Is there an option for more streetcars that could be added near the end of the order?

    I don’t think the lower fleet number is as bad as a lot of posters above are saying, considering they’ll be more reliable and should be faster loading and unloading during the peak. But the optimist in me hopes demand on the streetcar routes go up once we get a much more comfortable and sleek ride, and that we could later expand to a 1:1 service ratio to what we have now…

    Steve: Yes. The original contract with Bombardier included provision for the Transit City cars as well as the “legacy” fleet replacement. Beyond the 204 original legacy cars, the TTC had an option for 400 more. When Metrolinx took over responsibility for the TC lines, the TTC assigned part of the contracted volume of cars to them, but kept some for additions to the “legacy” system fleet if need be. The exact split was not part of the public report. Note that the Kitchener-Waterloo project will also acquire cars through Metrolinx and will soak up some of the overall room in the contract. All that said, a total of 604 cars is a huge fleet, much bigger than the TTC streetcar fleet was at its height, and so there is a lot of room for growth.


  33. When I’ve considered the following:

    -the TTC was planning for a shorter ALRV-length vehicle (23 metres),
    -longer 40 metre Flexities are not uncommon (7 module vehicle), and
    -even our smaller loops can hold 40 metres or more (measured using the tape measure on map.toronto.ca),

    My question is why did the commissioners under Giambrone stop at 30 metres, and not go longer? Is there a part of the streetcar system that cannot hold 40 metres that I’m forgetting?

    (I’ve assumed that an addition of 2 modules is 10 metres, based on an earlier comment by Nick L).

    Steve: Even 30m is tight in many locations. Here are a few examples:

    Spadina Station Loop can only hold three CLRVs (about 1.5 LFLRVs) unless the TTC changes the way that it uses the platform space. St. Clair West Station Loop can only hold two CLRVs (one for eastbound, one for westbound) at the loading platform. How this is going to operate with 30m cars, I don’t know. Broadview Station Loop cannot hold three CLRVs on the inside (King) track, only one CLRV plus one ALRV. A longer car is possible, but only just, at Broadview. Union Station Loop is certainly small, and even the proposed new layout is designed for 30m cars. Given the point where the turnoff to the Bremner line (which may never be built) would be, expanding to longer cars would be difficult.

    And, of course, all of the new safety islands and similar construction on St. Clair, Spadina/Harbourfront and Roncesvalles have been designed for 30m cars.


  34. Mikey said:

    My question is why did the commissioners under Giambrone stop at 30 metres, and not go longer? Is there a part of the streetcar system that cannot hold 40 metres that I’m forgetting?

    I’d just like to point out that we should be grateful that they didn’t go with longer cars based on how the TTC calculates their schedules. (Think “the larger the vehicle, the smaller the number that run every hour”) That’s why, hopefully, the TTC will take a long, serious look at getting shorter Flexitys at some point in the future before the production line in Thunder Bay shuts down.

    Steve: It’s interesting to note that the TTC’s website says that service frequencies won’t be affected much during off peak periods and on less-frequent routes:

    At off-peak times, and on less busy streetcar routes, we expect to have little or no change to the frequency of service. The new streetcars will provide more capacity than is provided by the current service.

    It will be intriguing to see how well they hold to this when the rollout actually starts.


  35. One obvious comment about the 40m car that Steve did not mention is cost. I’d assume it would cost more to construct an even longer car. This might have lead to even few cars purchased and thus even more reduced service frequency.


  36. @Nick L

    As has been pointed out earlier in this thread, the real enemy is the small fleet order, not the length of the vehicle, and it’s really disappointing me to see streetcar advocates attacking one of the best features that’s supposed to be an improvement and totally ignore the real problem here.

    I also think shorter-streetcar-advocates may be underestimating the unit cost of shorter streetcars per passenger space. The cost does not vary proportionally with vehicle length because of fixed components such as driver cabs. A fleet order of 340 three-module streetcars would probably be more expensive than 204 five-module streetcars we’re getting.


  37. It’s just like saying LRT will provide more frequent service than subways, just because LRT has a lower capacity per vehicle than subways. This argument was made during the LRT-versus-subways debate by the Pembina institute, and we all know it’s one of the BS LRT arguments.

    Frequency driven for service quality should be independent of the individual vehicle capacity (provided that frequency isn’t driven by capacity demands). The TTC can run frequent service with long streetcars if it wants to, and the real objective here is to convince them that they should maintain their frequencies, not decrease vehicle capacity.


  38. Are there any modern streetcars with external bike racks? The internal space is nice, but I very much doubt that there will be room for even one bicycle in the streetcar in rush hour.

    Despite the “there’s room for one more on the roof” attitude towards crowding, I have yet to see passengers riding on the bus bike racks. So there, unless there are already two bikes on the rack (which is unthinkably rare), you have a place for your bike.

    Steve: Such things do exist, but I would not hold my breath to see them implemented here. Front racks such as those on buses are not likely because of both the car’s profile and clearance issues on curves. Any kind of supplementary storage such as a trailer brings problems of its own with how it would perform as part of a “train”. I could be quite cynical about this and suggest that cyclists will display their well-known sense of entitlement to occupy the space reserved for them inside the new streetcars. This also brings us to the question of the TTC’s general prohibition against bicycles on transit vehicles during peak periods, but that’s another issue the TTC will have to decide.


  39. Mikey said As has been pointed out earlier in this thread, the real enemy is the small fleet order, not the length of the vehicle

    And since the TTC uses capacity demands to determine frequency, at least when politics don’t get in the way, you start to realize why I was suggesting the TTC look into purchasing shorter Flexitys once the current order of 204 is filled.

    In addition, unlike with the shorter buses debate, additional maintenance costs will be minimal due to them using the same parts supply, maintenance facilities, and repair personnel as the 30m Flexitys. However, there is the question of yard space.


  40. @Nick L

    “And since the TTC uses capacity demands to determine frequency, at least when politics don’t get in the way, you start to realize why I was suggesting the TTC look into purchasing shorter Flexitys once the current order of 204 is filled.”

    It appears to me that if capacity is the determinant for frequency, then it has been applied to surface transit routes only. For some subway routes (Sheppard), the frequency provides way more capacity than required. This double standard is the real problem that I am trying to highlight.

    I also outright disagree that we should purchase shorter vehicles just to appease the TTC’s double standards. I see nothing wrong with politics intervening to ensure system-wide frequent service is provided above what capacity would require. Don’t insist on making vehicle capacity and service quality enemies here.

    I would be interested in reading your response, but this is probably the last time I’ll post about why we shouldn’t go with shorter streetcars.

    Steve: The TTC’s Service Standards are very generous to the subway with a policy headway maximum of 5 minutes at all hours. A related issue is that the cost of just having the subway open is substantial with station and maintenance staff who must be available even if the trains are not heavily used.

    As I said in a previous response, the TTC website claims that service will be improved with the new cars, and that off-peak headways will generally not change. We shall see.


  41. Steve wrote

    “The exact split was not part of the public report”

    Back in June 2010 when the option was given to Metrolinx, you reported

    “That contract included an option for up to 400 additional cars of which 300 were assigned to Metrolinx and the remaining 100 stayed with the TTC.”

    Steve: Thanks you for mining my old archives. I am not sure whether 300 actually was the finally number Metrolinx took, but can check on that.

    Steve also wrote

    “The TTC’s Service Standards are very generous to the subway with a policy headway maximum of 5 minutes at all hours”

    What are the loading standards for the subway lines on Saturday’s. I complained recently to TTC that the Danforth line east out of Yonge at 5:30 pm on a Saturday is always packed very tightly with the 5-minute frequency, and asked what the Saturday afternoon loading standards where, and the response I got was that they couldn’t tell me, because it changes all the time during the day (???).

    Steve: According to the most recently published standards (2008, at page 8), the off-peak subway average load should be 500, a seated load. We know perfectly well that it’s worse than this at many times of the day, but in these times of fiscal restraint, don’t expect to see much change. For frequent surface routes, the new Ford/Stintz standard is a seated load plus 20%. Depending on the vehicle in question, this can be close to a peak period standard load, but don’t let that bother the folks who also tell us about the importance of “customer service”. It will take us years to get back to a Miller-era service standard because many other things such as keeping up with growth will take budgetary precedence.


  42. Ironically, talking about longer & shorter versions of the Flexity makes me think of the flexibility of the old streetcars and the ability to easily combine them into trains.

    I guess they never went beyond 2 car trains (with the PCCs) in Toronto, but I wonder if there were any other cities had longer versions of streetcar trains?

    Steve: The longest I know of was in Cleveland with 5-car trains, although I believe that these were rare. Boston routinely ran 3-car trains in the peak period.

    The advantages of the low-floor, multi-segment car have to be weighed against the flexibility of the older streetcars. I suppose it would be nice if there was a compromise product (but the TTC rejected anything less than 100% low-floor).

    Well, perhaps one day Bombardier will have a ‘flexible Flexity’ with segments that can be swopped in and out as needed.

    Cheers, moaz


  43. Steve wrote

    “I am not sure whether 300 actually was the finally number Metrolinx took, but can check on that.”

    I also noticed a Globe & Mail article using 182.

    Steve: It’s likely that the cars for KW will come out of the Metrolinx allocation as well. Over the next few years, it’s hard to predict the movements in city and provincial politics and planning and how this could affect the number eventually acquired.

    Steve also wrote

    “According to the most recently published standards (2008, at page 8), the off-peak subway average load should be 500, a seated load.”

    Thanks for that. 396 would be a seated load, so 1 passenger per every 4 seats extra. My own observations at about 5:30 pm on Saturdays would be a lot closer to 3 or 4 passengers per every 4 seats extra. Closer to 800 per train leaving Yonge – perhaps a little less as the ends are likely emptier. Still it suggests they are ignoring their own loading standards.

    Steve: A point of clarification. When the 500 standard was set, this was based on the seating layout of the earlier H series cars which held 20 passengers per “compartment” except for the space taken for the cab. One car’s seated load was 76 making a trainload 456, not 396.

    Of course the standards have an escape clause saying “subject to budget” which has been used to avoid all sorts of otherwise justified service increases.


  44. Steve: The longest I know of was in Cleveland with 5-car trains, although I believe that these were rare. Boston routinely ran 3-car trains in the peak period.

    I believe that I saw a few 3 car trains of articulated cars in the rush hour on Riverside in Boston last May.

    Steve what is the number of cars operating when all the lines are in operation with streetcars?

    Steve: The last time this was the case was over winter 2011/12 before reconstruction of Spadina and Harbourfront started.

    The AM peak assignments were:

    Route                            CLRV   ALRV
    511 Bathurst                      10
    506 Carlton                       32
    502/503 Downtowner & Kingston Rd. 13
    505 Dundas                        18
    509 Harbourfront                   7
    504 King                          38      7
    508 Lakeshore                      3
    501 Queen                                31
    512 St. Clair                     23
    510 Spadina                       15
        Total                        159*    38

    The total number of CLRVs in service is actually slightly higher because of some trippers that were not included in the route-by-route counts in the service summary.

    I believe that some lines that run with headways approaching 2 minutes would operate more efficiently with a 3 minute headway as this would reduce the problems of too many streetcars trying to get through the same traffic light cycle. This would mainly affect King and Spadina and would increase the capacity by 1/3 if they ran LFLRV’s instead of CLRV’s. Of course every second car on Spadina would need to go to Union.

    Steve: The TTC has the same attitude to close headways. I am not convinced that the benefit would be as great as claimed given bunching that happens naturally anyhow due to less than rigourous headway management. Also, the worst locations (e.g. Spadina and King) have other problems including the lack of transit priority signalling for the west to north turn and construction activity. Queen & Roncesvalles has a long three-phase cycle that more or less guarantees no more than one car per phase per direction. This is compounded by stop placement and cars pausing to enter the carhouse. Some locations have the effect of overlapping routes, notably Broadview and Queen. Finally, the TTC adds to delays at stops by insisting that cars pull right up to the stop before opening their doors. This generally adds one traffic signal cycle to stop service times. Many operators ignore this rule, and their trips run noticeably faster as a result.


  45. Re Mikey @ Deborah Brown, the Skoda-Inekon design for Toronto is here.

    It is designed for 12 metre curves, unlike the Skoda 15T which is designed for 18 metres (15 Metres in depot) and it is 100% low floor. If you were able to have the 15T you would have most seats facing forward. I don’t know how riders will take to travelling backwards as I imagine they would be used to facing forward in the existing streetcars!

    The Skoda-Inekon design also has a decent number of doors unlike the Bombardier which will prove its Achilles Heel in a busy mid-city environment. But I understand that consortium was ignored because the streetcars had to be built in Canada. Pity.

    One suggestion with the ticket readers – they should be on the stanchions on the other side of the aisle opposite the doors, not in the doorways themselves. Having people blocking the doorway while swiping tickets blows out the dwell times. Better to have people inside the streetcars doing this, leaving the doorways unobstructed for movements.


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