Today the TTC took the media on a short excursion with its new streetcar, 4401, from Hillcrest Yard to Bathurst Station and return. I spent a good deal of the trip being interviewed by others, and so my photo coverage is limited. However, over on the Torontoist site, there are lots.
Our journey was done at a leisurely pace. This was the first daylight voyage for one of the new cars, and it attracted a lot of attention. We seemed to arrive at Bathurst Station in almost no time, and this was in part due to the extremely smooth ride. I made a point of sitting directly above one of the trucks (the point of where the carbody has the least ability to move independently), and even going through special work, the vibration was not annoying.
The curve into Bathurst Station from the north was more notable for the fun of seeing both ends of the five-section car at the same time (the turn is over 120 degrees) than for any sense of difficulty making the turn.
Air conditioning was quite pleasant onboard, and the car maintained a comfortable temperature even with the doors open at Hillcrest Yard. The generously sized windows give a good view of the passing street, although it will remain until night operation to see just how much the tinted glass cuts external visibility.
Daytime test runs will become more common now that the TTC knows the vehicles work and won’t be the source of massive service tie-ups.
What I really look forward to is seeing and riding these cars in service. How will loading times be improved? Will the accessibility features work and be accepted as designed? How easily will passengers adapt to the new fare collection scheme as it gradually rolls out across the system? How long will it take for operators to drive these cars through Toronto streets with the same confidence and speed as they do with the CLRVs?
Car 4400 is about to move to Ottawa for climate testing at the National Research Council. From there, it will return to Thunder Bay to be retrofitted with improvements developed during the test phase. 4401 and 4402 are still on the property, but they too will go back to Thunder Bay for retrofits. The TTC is holding off giving the green light to the production vehicle run to get the greatest benefit from the testing that remains, but shipments will begin in fall 2013 for a spring 2014 rollout.
Sitting in the loop at Bathurst Station, there was (as operators of railfan charters would know it) a “brief photo stop”. The media went crazy of course with everyone getting in each other’s shot.
No, there is nothing wrong with the destination sign. The LEDs in the sign are not all lit at once, but the image “scans”. We don’t see this effect (just as we don’t see flicker on a TV screen or computer monitor). It will be almost impossible, except with a long exposure, to get a picture of these cars with all of the text in the signs readable.
A related issue is that during the daytime, glare on the side windows can make the signs above the doors difficult to read (in the photo below, the sign is in the shade). The transit industry solved the problem of brightly-lit signs a long time ago, and I don’t understand why the TTC has taken a step back here.
More media at Bathurst Station with a few real customers mixed in. We managed to create a minor gap in the 511 Bathurst service.
On board, everyone was interviewing everyone else, and there was a lot of jostling of camera crews. This work amazingly well thanks both to the stability of the ride and the space available in the vestibules. The view below looks through one of the articulations where, on the right, Mike Filey (one of the original Streetcars for Toronto Committee members) chats to with the Sun, while Metro Morning’s Matt Galloway sits across the aisle.
The view below looks from the rear of the car forward with most of the passengers off of the vehicle. The rearmost door opens just to the right of this area.
The cars have four sets of doors. At the front and rear are single-width doors, while the two middle sets are double width. There is only one step up into the car from the pavement. When cars are at safety islands or station platforms, the height difference will be considerably less.
This is the second set of double doors (the third entrance counting from the front). It opens onto the vestibule intended for cyclists, although both central vestibules will no doubt accumulate their share of shopping buggies and baby carriages. Seats in these areas flip up (like the seats in the wheelchair section of the TR subway cars) so that, by default, they are out of the way and passengers are encouraged to sit elsewhere if possible.
The rear edge of each set of doors contains an LED strip that flashes to warn motorists.
There is also a flashing warning message on the rear of the cars.
The second set of doors includes the ramp for accessibility devices. In the view below, cameras await the ramp’s deployment.
When the operator has a ramp request, the doors will remain closed until the ramp is ready. The ramp is in two sections, and only the outer one would be used at stops with platforms. This has been the subject of some discussion because it turns out that the TTC has platforms of varying heights and some were too high for this ramp. They are being modified.
In the second stage, another ramp segment appears, and this allows the outer one to fold down to ground level, wherever that may be. In the example here, there is a slight crown on the pavement around the streetcar tracks, and so the bottom of the ramp is actually lower than “street level” at a typical stop. Note that the doors are still closed even though the ramp is fully extended.
Side panels flip up on the ramp, and the doors open to match the width of the ramp. This ensures that someone leaving the car does not pilot their scooter or chair off the edge of the ramp.
From the side, the ramp at full deployment, with, yes, more media including the National Post’s Peter Kuitenbrouwer artfully reflected in the car door. The blue button on the door panel is used by riders to request a ramp deployment from the street. A matching button is found inside (see later photo).
The request panel from inside the car is at seat height so that a passenger on a wheelchair or scooter does not have to stand to talk to the operator.
In the two central vestibules there will be Presto card readers. Here, a mocked up box with duct tape stands in for the final product to give a sense of size and placement. During the transitional period to full Presto use on the TTC, these machines will issue a fare receipt to that riders can transfer to other non-Presto routes. Riders with other fare media will use machines at major stops or onboard to pay their fare and get a receipt. Metropass holders will simply board and show their passes if challenged by a roving fare inspector.
In a previous thread, some readers have asked about the provision for trolley poles and pantographs to co-exist on the system. This is accomplished by installing “sliders” alongside the frogs so that pantographs will ride down and under the junction without snagging on it.
To date, only frogs where lines join have seen these adaptation, and the TTC is finalizing the design for crossings. As described to me, the trolley part of the new crossing frogs will have a downward bow so that the crossing itself is the lowest point, but the approaches slope upward. The sliders will bring the pantograph down, and then the frog will descend to meet it, with the process reversed on the outgoing side.
Here is a frog in Hillcrest with the pole of 4401 seen from the rear …
… and from the side.
Here is the operator’s console. The controller handle is on the left of the seat, and the dashboard beyond contains switches for functions that would not be engaged while the car is in motion (emergency cutouts, for example). Two video screens show system status (left) and the video monitors from various points inside and outside of the car. The right hand panel includes all of the passenger-related functions. The two white buttons activate the gong (synthetic) and the horn (very loud).
There is a smaller version with basic controls at the rear of the car under a locked panel for backup manoeuvres.
And finally, your intrepid correspondent. The seat is very comfortable although some of the controls are a bit of a reach for someone with short arms. I did not make off with the 4401 as my preference is for a business car with a built-in kitchen, bar, easy chairs and lots of stained glass.