An Inaugural Ride on 4401

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The rear edge of each set of doors contains an LED strip that flashes to warn motorists.

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There is also a flashing warning message on the rear of the cars.

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The second set of doors includes the ramp for accessibility devices.  In the view below, cameras await the ramp’s deployment.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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 …

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… and from the side.

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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.

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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.

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72 Responses to An Inaugural Ride on 4401

  1. Kevin Love wrote:

    Could my 75-year-old mother put her bicycle in this carrier? Absolutely not.

    This seems to be a case of creating a problem where none exists, just like claiming that space for only two bikes on the bus racks deters cyclists from using transit.

    While I wouldn’t suggest that Kevin’s 75-year-old mother does not cycle all that much, I don’t [know] a whole lot of elderly cyclists in comparison to the total number of cyclists. Furthermore, of the number of elderly cyclists out there, I believe it is safe to say that an extremely few number of them cycle to the level that would require a regular segment of their trip to involve public transit.

    All that said, on the rare occurrence that an elderly cyclist needs to make use of transit for a segment of their cycle journey, I do hope that there is at least one kind soul on board to assist them, if necessary.

    I also strongly suspect that the “if necessary” situation would more likely occur when placing a bike on a bus rack than on an LRV. On the bike rack, one must lift the entire bicycle off the ground and up onto the rack. On the LRVs, the weight of the bike stays on the floor as ONE of the wheels is raised and hooked in place. More awkward to be sure, but no need to lift the bike’s entire weight in the air.

  2. Kevin Love says:

    Steve,

    You appear to be looking at the eventual end state, whereas I am looking at the “right now” measures to get to that eventual end state.

    Yes, I agree with you about end state. For example, in cities like Amsterdam or Groningen there are not (and never will be) such things as front bike racks on busses or bikes on board trams. When the cycle mode share is 70% (as it is in central Amsterdam) or 55% (as it is citywide across Groningen), a capacity of two bikes would be a joke.

    On the other hand, ferries and the Dutch equivalent of GO trains have enormous bicycle capacity to accommodate the vast demand of people willing to pay a fee to take their bike on board.

    The logic is that local buses and trams are local transportation, and so is cycling. But the trains are regional transportation and so must accommodate multi-modal transportation.

    When we finally have a network of safe streets for all people in Toronto, then the pent-up demand for cycling will take off and the cycling mode share will rise to its natural level of 40-60% Then it will no longer be necessary for people to use busses and streetcars to carry their bikes over the dangerous gaps in the local cycle network that exist today. Because those gaps will no longer exist.

    Unfortunately, we are not there yet. And one of the transitional strategies is using local transit to get people over these dangerous gaps in the local transportation network.

    Steve: Note the idea of a supplementary fee for vehicles designed to accommodate cycling. This is not the same as taking over capacity that is intended for non-cyclists on vehicles intended to serve comparatively short trips. I do not agree with your premise that we should pervert the use of local transit capacity to make up for shortcomings in the allocation of road space to cyclists.

    That “end state” is unlikely to arrive for decades, if ever, and you have still not addressed the problem of bicycles on smaller transit vehicles — buses — that will remain on the bulk of the network.

  3. TTC Passenger says:

    How does the gong sound? I played the sound on the Toronto Star website and it sounded more like someone ringing a tea bell than the rich note of the clang from a gong being struck. Granted, there may be a source limitation there since I don’t know how the Star made their recording or if they were provided with a copy of the actual audio file the TTC is using, but it sounded thin to me.

    Plus, the idea that an organization that complains about maintaining supposed complicated electronics as as they age would replace an electric bell with a whole digital audio system on a vehicle intended to last 30+ years is interesting to say the least.

    Steve: The recording was almost certainly one of many that were taken by several members of the media who were clustered in front of 4401 recording the bell and the horn as I sat in the cab pressing the buttons. Such is the life of a media celebrity.

  4. Robert Wightman says:

    Bicycles are not, and can never be, a major component of riders on public transit because they are basically incompatible in large numbers, especially in the rush hour. The last time I took the GO train from Brampton into Toronto some moron took his bike onto the handicap car which is forbidden because: a) no bikes in rush hour and b) no bikes in the handicap car. When we got to Union 3 GO security people were waiting to escort him to their office to receive a ticket and a lecture. Maybe telling off the CSA was not such a bright move.

    Bicycles in any number are not a practical mix with most public transit vehicles and that fact should be recognized. I can’t take my car or my motorcycle on the bus why should my bike be any different, especially at rush hour?

  5. Jeff says:

    Regarding the electronic gong, I’ve heard on a few Youtube videos that the gong sound is identical to the ones found in Europe where it sounds like very short fire alarm (not a single strike that we are used to hearing in Toronto). Do you know if they have modified the gong recording or is it dependent on how long the car operator holds the button?

    Steve: When I was pushing the button, I got the same strike each time. Indeed, it was hard to get repeated fast strikes. The horn, on the other hand, is very loud unlike some of those anemic horns recycled from H-1 subway cars on the CLRV/ALRV fleets.

  6. Robert Wightman says:

    Darwin O’Connor says:
    July 25, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    “Having bicycle storage will give cyclists the flexibility to take transit one leg of their trip, in case it is raining or something. That increased flexibility will encourage more people to take up cycling which means the streetcars may be less crowded over all.”

    If a motorist is downtown and his car breaks down can he tie it to the back of a bus and get towed home? NO! He has to call a tow truck. If a cyclist gets tired of riding then call a tow truck or a cab; don’t put the rest of the transit riders out. The situations are the same except for the size of the vehicles.

  7. Richard L says:

    For those interested in the emergency couplings, there is a HD video showing the LFLRV coupled fore and aft to 2 CLRV’s.

    The author, ttcgeek, has other HD videos of the LFLRV on night test runs.

    Steve: In response to an earlier comment in this thread, the communications cable between the vehicles is clearly visible in the first video.

  8. Fred S says:

    I do realize that cycling and transit is starting to get a bit off-topic here, but want to respond to some comments about it. Perhaps a new article for this topic is warranted, especially as Bixi might be currently relevant as well.

    Bikes on mass transit is very inefficient, and those who mentioned bike-use in the Netherlands along with transit may not have the right idea about it. The Dutch actually don’t encourage bringing bikes on trains, trams, and buses at all. There are some provisions for it, but it’s not really expected. Indeed you need to pay extra to bring a bike onto intercity trains (similar to our GO, but with much higher frequencies, and almost more comparable to our subway), and it’s difficult to bring them onto high-speed trains.

    However, bikes AND mass transit work together very well, and are one of the best solutions to the “last mile” problem. This is something the Dutch realize, by building enormous bike parking areas around train stations that can accommodate thousands of bikes. The Netherlands is famous for stating that on average there are two bikes per person in the country. Many people ride their bikes to their “home” station, take the train/metro/tram, then have another bike at their “work” station.

    In Toronto, you can see how the bike posts outside many subway station fill up every day, so many people have already taken to biking-to-transit. I think bike infrastructure should be focused around subway and GO stations, and good bike parking provided. As well, large bixi stations should be concentrated around the subway stations (though, I’m not convinced the TTC should take over Bixi, but that’s another rant).

  9. All the discussions about the digital gong and horn got me to thining: perhaps they should consider a digital steam whistle from the trams on Coronation Street that one can occasionally hear in the background.

    Don’t laugh (at the thought of a steam whistle sound on a modern vehicle, or even of watching Corrie for that matter!): the automated train that moves people at Denver’s airport uses an automatic announcement to let people know the doors are closing that has the sound of a conductor shouting “all aboard!” followed by a steam whistle.

  10. Kristian says:

    That video is quite the sight. Amazing that they had to make the new vehicle communications cable-compatible with the existing fleet. (This is unlike the situation in the subway where G, M/H, T and TR trains cannot/could not be electrically linked via the couplings.) This raises the question – are the CLRVs/ALRVs and LFLRVs actually trainline-capable and performance-matched? In the video all three cars have their poles up and this manoeuver would have required at least two of the three cars to be actively propelling and braking. Were all three active?

    Steve: The communication cable is just that — it allows for signals and voice to be co-ordinated between someone at the front of the train and whoever is actually driving further back. There are no vehicle control circuits, and the equipment cannot be trainlined. The CLRVs originally had couplers and can run MU (I have ridden a train of CLRVs on test in Boston), but interoperation between vehicle types is not possible.

  11. Kristian says:

    The question remains, in a train of three LRVs one vehicle surely cannot provide all the force to move three, so which ones were powered? Was this by very careful pedal application simultaneously on more than one car? Do the additional motors on an LFLRV allow it to push/pull two CLRVs at once? What on earth would the point of this test have been?

  12. Bradley Wentworth says:

    I repeat this obscure but vital point every time the bikes-on-transit point comes up: some provision for carrying bikes on transit (bike racks on TTC buses are a great example) is necessary in a city that wants to encourage cycling as a primary mode of transportation for more than die-hard cyclists. Why? Not foul weather, not multi-modal trips: if your bike breaks down.

    I can cycle the city with freedom and confidence, and without tools or a lock (provided I can bring my bike inside my destination) if I know that in the event of a flat tire there is some way I can get my bike onto transit. Maybe not immediately, maybe not at rush hour, but some time. The other alternatives – a long walk; an expensive taxi ride with the bike dangling precariously and illegally out of the trunk; or hunting for a bike shop, may not be attractive or possible.

    There are other just-in-case scenarios for the stranded cyclist: injury, unexpected trips requiring a transit leg, or too-drunk-to-bike. Hopefully these are rare or rarer than flat tires. Pretty much every person I know who gets around primarily by bike only uses transit in these cases.

    Steve: There’s a big difference in space requirements for occasional broken down bikes and taking over substantial space for regular commuters. These are two completely separate requirements.

    I am amused that it is the transit system’s job to supplement the shortcomings of cycling technology.

  13. Dan Wigglesworth says:

    Bicycles on Streetcars continued — Bixi?

    As I see it, the shortcomings of cycling is not in the technology but in the culture — and in this respect the cycling culture (as we are discussing it) shares a significant shortcoming with the (typical) automobile: private ownership by the traveller.

    This is where vehicle sharing services like Bixi (and car2go/autoshare/etc) succeed: They adopt the same successful approach as public transit: When a trip is completed, the traveller conveniently dispenses with the vehicle. Being freed from managing a vehicle (storage / repair / financing / etc) is the very feature that makes public transit vehicles — in spite of all the shortcomings — so successful.

    A couple of slots dedicated to bicycles on a streetcar would make marginally more sense if they were dedicated to a shared bicycle service such as Bixi. Naturally, there’s even more sense to having numerous bixi stations along the streetcar route. Looking at this this way, it seems plain that privately owned vehicles (bicycles) on the TTC should be discouraged.

  14. Robert Wightman says:

    Kristian says:
    July 27, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    “The question remains, in a train of three LRVs one vehicle surely cannot provide all the force to move three, so which ones were powered? Was this by very careful pedal application simultaneously on more than one car? Do the additional motors on an LFLRV allow it to push/pull two CLRVs at once? What on earth would the point of this test have been?”

    Railways used to double head steam engines all the time and on many lines locomotives were coupled on the end to help push freights up hill. Neither case had any form of multiple unit control. The lead engineer would give 2 blasts of his whistle and start his engine. As soon as the other engineer felt the slack he would start his engine. No great synchronization required. Stopping was handled in a similar manner. At least these guys can talk to each other. This was probably done as a test to check out the possibility of it. Aside from going down the Bathurst Hill I can’t think of any where I would want to do it. (Any pictures of an air car in the Wheat Sheaf around?)

    Steve: If I recall, the car that stopped in for a drink was an all-electric.

  15. Kevin Love says:

    Steve wrote about my writing:

    “…you have still not addressed the problem of bicycles on smaller transit vehicles — buses — that will remain on the bulk of the network.”

    Kevin’s comment:

    My fault; I should have been clearer. In my opinion, the example to follow is that of The Netherlands. Where there is (usually) precisely zero provision for carrying bicycles on local buses. For the simple reason that there is really no need for such provision when the cycle mode share is in the 40-60% range.

    Look at the reasons given by recent commentators here for taking their bicycles onto the bus. They just don’t apply in The Netherlands.

    1. Speed. Dutch CROW engineering standard cycle infra means that cycling is probably much faster than local buses.

    2. Breakdowns/flat tires. That level of cycle mode share means that if the bike breaks down there is probably a close by bike shop. And Dutch bikes are made to be much more sturdy and reliable that the typical Canadian Tire cheap, crappy and unreliable bicycle. Yes, this includes things like kevlar tires. I use Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires and never, ever get flats anymore.

    3. Rain. You are not made of sugar and will not melt. Rain jackets work well. And when everyone else is also arriving at work a bit damp, you all joke about it and get on with work.

    The problem in Toronto is that there are serious gaps in the safe cycle network that require local transit to fill the gaps. These gaps also seriously reduce the cycle mode share. Toronto can easily, quickly and cheaply reallocate street space from cars to create Dutch-style protected cycle infra everywhere. All that is lacking is the political will to simply do it.

    When we do, this means that cycling is not only safe, it becomes the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of getting from A to B for a large number of local trips. That is how we get 40-60% cycle mode share.

    Cars certainly are not fast, easy or convenient in Toronto. See, for example, this report on the Ministry of Transportation’s 2008 Travel Time Study.

    Needless to say, if cycling was safe, easy and convenient, large numbers of those people would take it up in a heartbeat.

  16. nfitz says:

    TTC is reporting that they are closing Queen between Parliament and Broaview overnight next week for Streetcar testing. See also the diversion notice.

    Interestingly the Queen detour is Broadview, along Dundas and back south on Parliament. I asked TTC how this would work with the switch at Broadview/Queen plugged, and I was told that the switch would be unblocked for the testing.

    Which seems odd … I thought it was blocked because of derailment issues on the curve. Perhaps it’s the switch itself leading to derailments, and perhaps not an issue if it’s blocked open instead of closed?

    Steve: I have asked the TTC to clarify the situation with this switch. It is interesting to note that there is another diversion for repairs on the east-to-north switch at Parliament & King.

  17. nfitz says:

    Yes, that switch repair in interesting. As far as I can tell, it’s been broken pretty much since it was installed.

    Have they finally got a plan in place to fix all these switches?

    Steve: There has been a capital budget item for years to replace the electronics in the switches which have been unreliable going back to the introduction of the ALRVs (which triggered the changeover from a contactor-based system in the first place). Perish the thought that the ever so safety conscious TTC would actually fix something so fundamental as electric switch controls.

    I keep hearing that they are working on a new system, but nothing happens.

    Systems all over the world have electric switches, and I despair that the TTC can’t manage this. Once they fix the switches, they might turn to “transit priority signalling” that really gives priority to transit.

  18. L. Wall says:

    If they’re still doing testing I can only assume that production deliveries haven’t started yet which of course means another delay.

    Steve: I received a note earlier today that I will post in due course. It mentioned that production deliveries will start before the end of 2013, and the Spadina cutover will be in late 2014. Stay tuned for more.

  19. nfitz says:

    What is a “Spadina cutover”? I’m not sure if this is a reference to construction, or the start of new vehicle service (which I assume wouldn’t occur 9 months late).

    Steve: Yes, it is the change to running LFLRVs, and the TTC planned to convert Spadina all in one go rather than one car at a time.

  20. L. Wall says:

    In the fleet plan, Spadina will require 12 LFLRV’s + 2 spares. Unless my math fails me, if production deliveries are to begin before the end of 2013 at the leisurely pace of 3 cars per month (36 per year as called for in the fleet plan) the switch over date on the 510 shouldn’t be that far off in the future.

    Steve: I suspect that they want to switch over the 509 at the same time when it reopens, now planned for August 2014. That will account for a few more cars. Then there is planned trackwork next year that will close College/Spadina for one month, a project that if past practice is any indication will happen in July or August. But, yes, it is a leisurely rollout.

  21. nfitz says:

    Steve: I have asked the TTC to clarify the situation with this switch.

    I was heading home from King/Parliament around 11 pm this evening, so I took the opportunity to walk down Queen and check out the 4401 streetcar trials. My gosh, that thing can move fast …

    At Broadview there was a 501 coming, that would get me up Broadview at least as far as Dundas, so I jumped on. It did indeed go through that switch. Very, very slowly, with at least 4 TTC people outside watching very carefully. So usable, but hardly normal operation. I doubt you’d want to be using it for a detour in rush hour, with all the 501, 502, and 503 vehicles going through.

  22. Richard L says:

    YouTube contributor “ttcgeek” has a video showing the speed test of 4401 on Queen Street using a pantograph. It appears that an operator used auxiliary controls at the rear to run the tram in reverse. The interior appeared to have a lot of sand bags – perhaps to simulate passenger weight?

    Steve: Yes. They have been varying the “passenger load” to see the effect on vehicle height, clearances, braking, etc.

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