Poor Frozen Streetcars

Over the past week, we have heard a lot about streetcars that were stuck in the yard or failed in service because of frozen air lines.

If the air isn’t dry, moisture condenses and freezes, blocking air movement.  Whatever system that air line runs – such as releasing the brakes – stops working, and the streetcar is stuck just as if it were frozen to the rails.  Think of this as sclerosis for streetcars.

Drying the air has been an issue for the streetcar fleet more or less since it was delivered 30 years ago, and the problem is worse on the long ALRVs than on the shorter, and older, CLRVs.  One can only wonder if this is yet another subsystem where the TTC gambled that things would keep running until new cars arrived.

They lost.

Record cold weather meant anything that was borderline temperature sensitive has failed, and riders have seen the effects.

The new cars are over a year late.  If the wait means they work perfectly “out of the box” I will be ecstatic – the Toronto Rocket subway trains have not exactly inspired confidence in Bombardier.

The partial replacement of streetcars by buses led inevitably to musing by Councillor Doug Ford that maybe we should just make this a permanent arrangement.  The Ford family is well known for looking for any excuse to rid Toronto of what they see as a nuisance.

This begs two very important sets of questions for the TTC and its current chair, Karen Stintz.  Will they rise to the streetcars’ defence not just for the short, post-deep-freeze, but for their long-term future?

First off, cold though it may be, the glaciers are receding, and by the weekend it will be almost balmy.  Ice will melt.  Sidewalk cafés will spring to life.  But what about the streetcars?

According to the TTC’s Chris Upfold, most of the PM peak streetcar service operated on Wednesday evening and they hope to be close to 100% for Thursday.  That’s an important sign that this really is a short term, weather related problem.

Second, whenever someone talks about buses replacing streetcars, we always get into a debate about how bad the bus congestion would be.  In the short term this presumes we even have the buses to spare.  In the longer term it means more buses, the noise and fumes they bring, and, if TTC history is anything to go by, service that will be as little as they can get away with thanks to the cost of all those extra operators.

Yes, articulated buses would carry more, but so will the new streetcars.  The big question for the TTC is “how many new cars will you run”?  They have been rather evasive on this although the streetcar fleet plan does give route by route numbers.  Part of their focus is on trying to get more reliable service, and through that, better utilization of the route’s theoretical capacity.

Anyone who thinks Queen and King might be better off should try the Dufferin bus someday.

Dufferin’s AM peak service is about 23 buses/hour.  Convert that to “short” CLRV streetcars, and it is roughly 16/hour (counting 1 streetcar as 1.5 buses).  The King car is scheduled for 30/hour and some of those are the longer ALRVs.  We would need twice the level of service on Dufferin to handle existing capacity requirements on King.

Back in the 1990s, ridership on the TTC fell through the floor, a loss of about 20 percent that was compounded by the Harris-era abandonment of transit funding.  In 1997, the TTC had enough spare streetcars that they could open a new line – Spadina – without expanding the fleet.

Since then, the standard response to calls for better streetcar service has been “we have no spare cars”.  Riders have seen over 15 years of growth in demand with almost no improvements in service.

The TTC knows it has a backlog and that even more growth is to come.  On top of the 204 new cars now on order, the TTC would like to buy 60 more.

Doing the same thing with buses would take a huge fleet.  Streets that are now “clogged” with streetcars would be even worse off.  Most streetcar lines are four lanes wide with parking banned only peak period, peak direction.  Buses may pull over at stops, provided they can reach the curb, and then they have to pull out again.  The experience for standing passengers is not pleasant, and there is no guarantee those buses would actually clear the middle lane.

If the TTC really believes in streetcars and if Chair Stintz really believes in their ability to handle the strong growth now happening thanks to downtown intensification, they should be telling Doug Ford and anyone else who would listen about what the new cars can and will do.

Yes, better service will cost more money.  Both Stintz and TTC CEO Andy Byford have played the “we can get by” card to keep Rob Ford happy, while riders grumble about service that is full and unreliable.

Now is the time for the TTC to be positive about what the streetcars can do for Toronto, to show advocacy for this important part of our transit system.

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34 Responses to Poor Frozen Streetcars

  1. Richard White wrote:

    “Just to touch on what an earlier commenter said about Sheppard and other parts of the system being knocked out during the storm.

    When the storm hit, VP lost power and started running on emergency power. Emergency lighting is designed to provide a lit evacuation route not to keep a station open indefinitely.”

    Richard, thank you for reminding us that subways are not perfect either. If there is a power issue (i.e. power goes down) then there is no subway service, and parts of our subway system are outside too which means that the subway suffers just like the streetcars and any LRT lines.

    Steve wrote:

    “These two issues are related in that Park Lawn Loop, originally proposed as a western terminus for the Waterfront West line, would replace Humber Loop.”

    Steve, is there any word on what is happening with Park Lawn Loop. Personally, I don’t agree with with removing Humber Loop (it would still have its purposes – at least to loop cars) – but the addition loop at Park Lawn is beneficial.

    Steve: Park Lawn is on hold indefinitely pending funding.

  2. The Streetcar advocate in you is coming through stronger than ever before Steve which is good to see.

    If nothing else, all these cold weather issues show that we got caught with our pants down.

    Be it icy wires or frozen pipes there is no denying the fact we need to prepare better for such things.

    On Transit Toronto we have many examples of snow clearing and other vehicles which were at one point essential to daily operations of the TTC. Its a shame the TTC has abandoned all but a few H2s which are now used as work cars because they would have came in handy now mind you the snow clearing car was a modified Witt.

    Long story short Steve, the TTC is partially to blame here. They did not think to plan for this sort of situation in the past and now its come back to bite them.

    Two things Steve that maybe you can answer. Has the TTC considered rotating vehicles in and out of the carhouses in extreme cold, even keep them running to prevent them from freezing up? Also, has the TTC ever considered Glycol on the streetcar wires?

    Steve: Rotating cars through the carhouses could be counterproductive as this would require the doors to be open much of the time, and the loss of the very heat you need to keep the cars warm. As for Glycol, it would almost certainly drip off the wires. The real need is to run frequent enough storm cars to keep ice from accumulating to a point where it cannot be easily removed. The level of icing in Toronto, if what I saw both on wires and on trees was any indication, is well beyond our usual experience.

  3. I think it is fundamental to understanding Doug to listen to his comments. He uses the short term problems of the aging fleet as an entry point to the topic. However, his main point is the frustration that he has when “stuck” behind a streetcar while driving. Doug is the rookie councillor for Ward 2. His opinion on how we in the downtown wards should get around is immaterial.

  4. Deb says:

    As a regular transit rider, I can’t help suspecting the reason behind the Fords’ antagonism to streetcars is that these vehicles run on fixed tracks and therefore cannot get out of the way of the Lords of the Earth whose god-given right it is to drive their cars where and when they please (while talking on cellphones or reading paperwork.) Presumably, in a well-ordered Fordian world, those few buses permitted on the roads would deferentially scoot aside when an Imperial car appeared.

    And I seriously doubt that Karen Stintz is going to take on Big Dougie in view of the municipal election looming in the far, far-off distance. (Why, oh, why do we have to endure such a prolonged election period?)

  5. W. K. Lis says:

    On Tuesday, January 7, 2014, the school buses were cancelled for the day. Why? Where does one see school buses during the overnight? Parking lots of schools or apartments or home driveways. Where do the TTC buses stay overnight? The majority are in garages, so they can start up in the morning.

    Where do the majority of subway trains stay overnight? Outside in the subway yards. Some are indoors, but most are outside. In previous years, I heard about some trains being stored in tunnel sidings. I’m guessing that those were for done for the old trains.

    Where do the majority of streetcars stay overnight? Outside in the streetcar yards. Just like the subway trains.

    Our streetcars are getting old. Why did the CLRV’s and ALRV’s use air, when the A-6, A-7, A-8, A-9, A-11, A-12, A-13, and A-14′s were all-electric? Maybe it was me, but those all-electric PCC’s were a better bred than the CLRV’s and ALRV’s. Hopefully, the Bombardier Outlook streetcars have the better genes this time.

  6. Nick L says:

    Someone should remind Doug Ford that incurring massive cancellation charges by terminating government contracts for the sake of votes is something that the Provincial Conservative Party doesn’t stand for.

  7. Andrew says:

    We are not going to design our transit system around extreme cold that is rare in this part of Canada. Pearson Airport had problems too in the extreme cold.

    Ultimately, though, we have to build the downtown relief line. My guess is, if the western portion of the downtown relief line is built west on King and north to Dundas West station, most of the King streetcar except for the Broadview section would end up being removed due to it being redundant. The downtown relief line would likely be entirely underground except for the crossing near the Leaside Bridge and wouldn’t be very vulnerable to severe weather. Obviously the remaining streetcar lines would remain in operation.

    Steve: I really wish people would stop projecting the end of the west side of the King car as a side effect of the DRL. For one thing, it almost certainly will NOT take the alignment via Roncesvalles, and even if it did, there would be very few stops to serve the traffic.

    DRL advocates undermine their position by trying to make the line do too much.

  8. Mikey says:

    Streetcars get blocked by accidents and other unforeseen obstacles, which are inherent disadvantages. But by their definition, these events happen occasionally. Do their likelihoods and impacts really outweigh the benefits of higher capacity in the long run? And is going underground really an appropriate solution to deal with illegal double-parked cars when a far cheaper and simpler solution as better enforcement will do?

    What’s needed in any debate is perspective, something that’s been missing in the subways vs. LRT/streetcars debate.

  9. Annoyed says:

    At this point I am utterly depressed by the fact that when Doug Ford says stupid things, the press covers it extensively and some ignorant segment of the population inevitably agrees with him. Streetcars are now despised by many in the very city that should be their greatest champion. It’s incredibly sad.

    blogto: How_the_ttc_sullied_the_reputation_of_lrt_part_ii

  10. Neville Ross says:

    @W. K. Lis: The cynic in me says that Bombardier didn’t learn from this and made the new cars with the stupid air-electric thing in it (the optimist in me hopes that the TTC bought more of the new cars so that there won’t be big waits to get on them, but the cynic in me says no, they did not, and are going to be playing into the anti-streetcar crowd.)

    Steve, pardon my curiosity, but what is this new streetcar loop?

    Steve: To what loop do you refer?

    Steve: I really wish people would stop projecting the end of the west side of the King car as a side effect of the DRL. For one thing, it almost certainly will NOT take the alignment via Roncesvalles, and even if it did, there would be very few stops to serve the traffic.

    DRL advocates undermine their position by trying to make the line do too much.

    DRL advocates are just another variation of the anti-streetcar/LRT crowd, and hope that the city will be crisscrossed in subways, like many of these proposals that I’ve seen over the years;

  11. William Paul says:

    Yes, disgusting that no one from TTC has defended. They trotted out photo-op yesterday with Kelly et al thanking TTC heroes for their work during power outage and cold but that is usual joke. TO, after being lulled by decade of warmth, was caught unprepared and that is unacceptable. In Ottawa, Edmonton etc, -20 is just another Tuesday, not a major alert … keep your children indoors etc. (When I was kid in 60′s suburbs, you walked to school in -20 … no extra car to drive you & TTC had not allowed us bus service yet either.) Our current media are fearmongers.

    TTC was unprepared. Why were not storm cars out before they got overwhelmed? Why are TTC shocked cars cannot get out of yard in extreme cold? Was there nothing that they could have done? It’s not like they had no warning of both power outage AND extreme cold. Correct me if I’m wrong but this indifference began long before Ford.

    I hope you are right about new cars but it is rather ominous that deliveries are so far behind already.

    On another note how did other cities handle roll out of similar cars/controls? Some ops believe there will be huge learning curve with left-hand controls, specifically emergencies. Right now of course we are all trained to slam on brakes with right or both feet, but with new streetcars if a small kid runs out in front, slamming on brakes involves foot up and left hand ‘slamming’ on the brakes. Quite the difference.

    Steve: Foot up? There are no foot controls on these cars.

  12. William Paul says:

    foot up = I thought there was still a dead-man’s feature on the floor?

    Is it now a hands-on dead mans?

    Steve: Yes.

  13. Robert Wightman says:

    W. K. Lis says:
    January 8, 2014 at 10:44 pm

    “On Tuesday, January 7, 2014, the school buses were cancelled for the day. Why? Where does one see school buses during the overnight? Parking lots of schools or apartments or home driveways. Where do the TTC buses stay overnight? The majority are in garages, so they can start up in the morning.”

    I don’t know about school buses but many diesel trucks have on board diesel fired heaters or electric block heaters which heat the anti freeze to keep the engine blocks warm. I think the reason for not running them was the length of times would have to wait out side in sub zero temperatures if the school buses were late, and they would have been late because of road conditions.

    School buses are usually built on truck chassis and have relatively light rear ends compared to transit buses so they fish tail more easily.

    There are a lot of TTC buses that are parked outside at night as well as buses for other GTHA transit agencies. The big advantage of the buses is the average age of their fleet. It is a lot less than 35 years.

    William Paul says:
    January 9, 2014 at 7:26 am

    “foot up = I thought there was still a dead-man’s feature on the floor?”

    There is a pedal on the floor but it is to adjust the height of the floor. I believe that the chair height is fixed or only moves over a small range. To compensate for this the floor moves up and down so your legs are in a comfortable position.

    Bombardier, Siemens, Alstom and many other companies run LFLRVs in countries with colder climates than Toronto. One thing I believe that they all have are hydraulic disk brakes and door mechanisms instead of air brakes and door motors. This will eliminate the problem of moisture freezing in the air lines and valves.

    I think that the subway cars will keep their air brakes because these are easier to connect if a dead train has to be pushed. The good train will provide air to the dead train.

  14. Stuart says:

    One rather important aspect always seems to get left out of the bus-vs-streetcar argument (“debate” is too grand a term for what comes out of RoFoDoFoBoZos’ mouths) is that rail, whether heavy or light, provides a far, far more comfortable ride than that of buses. I ride the 512 & YUS regularly, plus any of several bus routes that get me to/from the office. The rail travel is smooth, quiet, and odour-free (passengers aside ;-) whereas the buses are bumpy, jerky, noisy (engine, air brakes, door-opening & kneeling-warning beeps), and often smell of diesel, especially when idling in stations.

    The 42 Cummer is such a rough ride that I cannot contemplate using my laptop over most of the route – every second letter is a typo from all of the jerks and bounces. Remember what the bus ride was like on Spadina before the streetcar ROW went in? You had to keep your jaw closed or you’d risk breaking teeth.

    Passenger comfort is a BIG DEAL when you are trying to attract riders. (It’s one of the reasons people are swayed by “subways, subways, subways” – not just that subways are underground or fast; they’re way more comfortable.)

  15. Ed says:

    Something close to 1,000 buses came into service after the CLRVs were already in service, and have already been retired. This includes the last GM New Looks, late Orion I models, all the buses (Flyers, Classics, Orion Vs) in the 6000 series, and Orion V and VI models powered by natural gas.

    Do buses, in general, have issues with the air system freezing up?

    The late days of the all-electric PCCs showed that the brakes could still go wrong (and fail). However, I don’t think the problems preferred cold weather, or any other particular weather.

    Steve: I believe a lot has to do with both the efficiency of the air dryers on the vehicles, and whether the air piping is poorly located for exposure to cold.

  16. Gord says:

    Trust me, buses had a very hard time going into service as well! Bus garages are still very cold in winter; yes, there are heaters mounted at roof level, but they do not keep the buses “toasty” warm. This past week, I have taken buses into service (from Birchmount Garage, which has a combination of indoor and outdoor parking) that were parked overnight inside the garage. Buses parked outside were started and running to warm them up prior to being taken into service (much to the consternation of the Garage’s neighbours, I’m sure). Buses parked inside were not running and went into service “cold”.

    It has taken close to 2 hours for the interior of the bus to warm up. We had many buses fail to enter service due to low air or no air. When it is cold, the fittings on the air lines contract and allow the air to bleed as well as allowing moisture to enter the system. Many routes had buses “stripped” to cover streetcar replacements and subway/SRT shuttles. Coupled with less than full service being met, these “stripped” buses aggravated the inability to provide full bus service to the bus routes.

    Temperatures inside the garages are still cold enough to allow one to see one’s breath, and metal surfaces such as the door control handle are painful to touch with exposed skin. We also have been experiencing many buses going “disabled” on the road due to cold related mechanical issues. The recent cold snap has not been a picnic for those of us charged with actually operating and providing the front line service.

  17. Scott says:

    Hopefully what happened during the last election isn’t going to happen again where politicians who make policy based on truthiness, say statements in public and the media just broadcasts it without any analysis and opposing politicians are more worried about optics than pointing out the holes in these arguments. From what I’ve read, not only would replacing the streetcars with articulated buses be more expensive, but can you imagine buses the size of transport trucks running down these narrow streets every 5 minutes? The noise and fumes would be intolerable for anyone walking along the street, sitting in a sidewalk cafe, or siting on their front porch or balcony. If I had a business or condo along those streets and the city put in buses, I would start a class-action suit.

    I’d like to see one of the upcoming televised debates for electing the mayor focus on transit. Hopefully one of the candidates will do what Councillor Josh Matlow did at the Scarborough Subway debates at City Hall, where he challenged the mayor to answer some basic questions about LRT. The mayor has all along has kept repeating that LRT is part of the “war on the car” and now everyone believes it, yet any document I’ve seen about the lines on Finch and Sheppard say there will be no loss of car lanes. Funny the media never pointed that out at the last election.

  18. Q.K. Lis wrote:

    “Our streetcars are getting old. Why did the CLRV’s and ALRV’s use air, when the A-6, A-7, A-8, A-9, A-11, A-12, A-13, and A-14′s were all-electric? Maybe it was me, but those all-electric PCC’s were a better bred than the CLRV’s and ALRV’s. Hopefully, the Bombardier Outlook streetcars have the better genes this time.”

    I always remember the PCCs as being reliable. Maybe it’s just nostalgia on my part.

    Steve: By the end of their lives, the PCCs were nowhere near as reliable as they were when new (or as designed to be).

    Neville Ross wrote:

    “The cynic in me says that Bombardier didn’t learn from this and made the new cars with the stupid air-electric thing in it”

    How is the air-electric system ‘stupid’?

    Steve: There is nothing wrong with air (the subway uses it) provided that the vehicles are designed so that the air can be kept dry and the pneumatics working properly at low temperatures. Some of our subway cars used to have air system problems too, although not any of the current fleet.

    Neville Ross wrote:

    “DRL advocates are just another variation of the anti-streetcar/LRT crowd, and hope that the city will be crisscrossed in subways, like many of these proposals that I’ve seen over the years;”

    And thanks for calling me anti-streetcar. I am certainly not anti-streetcar and I support the the DRL. I see it providing an alternative route in many cases, it can potentially serve some areas better than the current system, and can provide an ‘indirect’ benefit to the Queen and King cars. Depending on their destinations, some people may use the Queen/King cars to get to and from the DRL. For example, if I am going downtown on the 501 from Etobicoke, I might jump off the 501 at the DRL and take the DRL the rest of the way.

    Steve: Unfortunately, I see too often an argument that the DRL will allow the TTC to get rid of the Queen and King streetcar lines. This is a bogus argument because it ignores (a) the very different character of the likely station spacing on the DRL vs existing streetcar routes, (b) the low probability that the western leg will be built, especially on the Roncesvalles alignment favoured by some. Each route has its place in the network.

  19. Robert Wightman says:

    William Paul says:
    January 9, 2014 at 5:52 am

    “On another note how did other cities handle roll out of similar cars/controls? Some ops believe there will be huge learning curve with left-hand controls, specifically emergencies. “

    I believe that releasing the handle will cause an emergency brake application. That is not hard to learn. How do bus drivers fare when they switch to the subway with hand controls? The vehicle is still a street car and will have similar characteristics. It does not take long for the mind to figure out how the vehicle will respond to the controller. You do not have to worry about skidding out of your lane or having the rear end slide sideways, at least as long as you stay on the tracks.

  20. Robert Wightman says:

    I believe that the PCCs switched from air electric to all electric because a loss of air meant a loss of braking ability as they were air applied not spring applied air release brakes as on newer cars.

    An air braking system also means that a disabled car can still have brakes that work when coupled with a system that includes air lines. I do not remember if the CLRV couplers included air lines. I seem to recall that Boston had post war PCC cars with air brakes so that the brakes would work in the tunnels if one car went disabled.

    Brakes that are spring applied must be cranked into the off position before the car can be moved. I do not think anyone wants to do this in a tunnel, especially if it has third rail power.

    Railways have trouble with their air brake systems in very cold weather because the seals shrink and air leaks out of the hose couplers and the brake valves. There were a lot of late GO trains during the cold snap because of cold weather problems but GO trains tend to be away from public view most of the time and not stuck on Dundas Street in front of Bob or Doug’s SUV.

  21. Nick L says:

    Steve said:

    This is a bogus argument because it ignores (a) the very different character of the likely station spacing on the DRL vs existing streetcar routes, (b) the low probability that the western leg will be built, especially on the Roncesvalles alignment favoured by some.

    I’d also add that the DRL would encourage the TTC to add “501A & 501B” and “506A & 506B” routes in addition to existing through service to help solve the short turn problem that the TTC has with streetcar service.

  22. Drug Addict says:

    If instead of wasting money on useles numbering of the lines, it could have been spent on upgrading even one of these out of srvice streetcars; consider how many thousands of people would not have had to wait for as long as an hour in minus 25 degrees temperature (minus 40 with the wind chill)? Dropping the decades old line names that we have all grown used to and replacing them with numbers is a purely political move intended for nothing but to market the Downtown Relief Line / DRL without have to include the word Downtown in it’s name as it could then conveniently be called say Line 5 or something. Please write to your councillor, TTC Chair Karen Stintz, and the mayor to ask TTC CEO Andy Byford (who pioneered the numbering idea and is pushng heavily for it) to stop playing politics with our tax dollars.

  23. Michael Hobble says:

    Steve:

    Unfortunately, I see too often an argument that the DRL will allow the TTC to get rid of the Queen and King streetcar lines. This is a bogus argument because it ignores (a) the very different character of the likely station spacing on the DRL vs existing streetcar routes, (b) the low probability that the western leg will be built, especially on the Roncesvalles alignment favoured by some. Each route has its place in the network.

    Just what do you think the potential DRL stop spacing would be Steve such that we’d need to keep either the 501 or 504? I’d imagine stops along the east-west section would be located at Roncesvalles, Jameson, Dufferin, Dovercourt (or Atlantic), Strachan, Bathurst, Spadina, John/Simcoe, Bay/Yonge, Jarvis, Parliament, River, Broadview, and Carlaw.

    This is comparable to the Eglinton-Crosstown’s and Bloor-Danforth’s stop spacing; and if stops were this close together it’d be hard to justify an overlapping streetcar route.

    Steve: If you get stops that close together, you will be very lucky, and moreover, you are expecting stops on Queen (say) to do double duty for both Queen and King, not to mention the substantial populations south of King to the rail/expressway corridor. Also, your alignment presumes the Roncesvalles route which simply does not make sense as compared to the Weston rail corridor. There is a much stronger argument for conversion of the ARL/UPX facilities in the rail corridor to operate as a “rapid transit” line once we get past this insanity of the “need” to provide this premium fare service to look good in the eyes of the world for the Pan Am Games.

    Also, of course, you presume that the DRL would run via Queen when it would much better be placed along Front/Wellington. But I have been through that argument before, and don’t expect to convince the pro-Queen faction who seem to forget there is a huge population south of their chosen corridor.

  24. Mikey says:

    Speaking of the old CLRV’s, I’ve noticed numerous changes to the CLRV’s appearances since the late 70′s, aside from the removal of the couplers. For example,

    1) the silver bars that ran directly under the white stripe were replaced by the greyish reflective tape,

    2) the yellow/black safety stripes on the doors have been replaced by stop sign images,

    3) the yellow/black safety pattern on the “bumper” (or rear anti-climber) has been changed to red/white.

    I’m curious to know what necessitated these minor changes? Did motorists take yellow/black stripes less seriously?

    Steve: The “Stop” sign emphasized that it wasn’t just a warning, but a legal requirement. As for the colours, I think that they’re just staying with the basic TTC colour scheme.

  25. Mikey says:

    And speaking of couplers on the CLRV’s, I saw a clip from the early 1980s that showed a CLRV with a rear coupler and a front skirt. Was it physically possible to install the safety skirt without removing the coupler? If so, why would the TTC have bothered doing away with the couplers themselves?

    Steve: No. The skirt precluded the coupler.

  26. Mikey says:

    What exactly are storm cars? Do they have any special equipment or features that distinguish them from regular streetcars, or are they just regular streetcars that run on the system before/during a storm?

    Steve: When there is an ice storm, cars are fitted with special attachments on the trolley poles that can chip ice off of the wire. There is a limit to how effective this can be depending on the rate of the ice buildup, and the tradeoff against extra wear on the wire that is already clear of ice. For snow storms, the purpose can be simply to keep the track clear and to exercise the switches. The TTC has not had actual snow clearing equipment for many decades.

  27. Robert Wightman says:

    Let’s put things in perspective:

    The ice storm was, I believe, a record setter for this area and the cold temperatures were the coldest since 1978 or 79. The streetcars were not the only vehicles with cold weather problems. A number of GO trains and buses were cancelled for mechanical problems. Subway and SRT service were also severely impacted.

    With most of the media being located downtown it is much easier to get a picture of dead streetcars than to find a place to photograph a dead subway or GO bus. That being said there is no excuse for the poor maintenance that caused 1/4 of the streetcars not to get into service. One would expect the cold to cause problems with some of the vehicles depending where they were in their maintenance cycle. A car is less likely to have problems starting if it has a new battery but if it 5 years old?

    The vehicles that had the greatest problem were the ones designed by the UTDC.

  28. Nick L says:

    Steve said:

    The TTC has not had actual snow clearing equipment for many decades.

    You know, I’ve often wondered if there would be any value in the TTC revisiting that to see if there was a way to ensure that people “taking a minute” don’t block streetcars after the snowplows go through.

  29. Nathanael says:

    Looking at that webpage, it appears that Toronto has NO work cars for the streetcar system.

    This is actually rather disturbing. I can’t think of another rail system, anywhere, which has zero work cars. Even if you trust rubber-tyred vehicles to do snowplowing (which I wouldn’t), almost every system with overhead has a “wire car”. I guess Toronto lost those (the “crane cars”) in the period when everyone expected the system to be shut down, back in the 60s, and never got around to replacing them.

    Steve: Yes, there are no work cars on the streetcar system. Once upon a time there were two crane cars, but one suffered damage by splitting a switch at Queen and Kingston Road, and it was retired just as you suspect because streetcars would be eliminated “soon”. Oddly enough, this car wound up at the Rockwood streetcar museum, rebuilt. The second crane car could not do the same sort of work as the pair had (picking up log strings of rail), and given its age it was retired.

    All that said, track construction is done differently today with special work pre-assembled in panels and delivered by truck to worksites. Tangent rail is welded into strings and stored on street for future work, rather than being welded in the curb lane beside a work site.

    When the TTC needs to work on the ballast on The Queensway, they borrow Rockwood’s tamper which, conveniently, is TTC gauge.

  30. Robert Wightman says:

    Nathaniel says;

    “This is actually rather disturbing. I can’t think of another rail system, anywhere, which has zero work cars. Even if you trust rubber-tyred vehicles to do snowplowing (which I wouldn’t), almost every system with overhead has a “wire car”.”

    I believe that at least one overhead truck is a “high rail” vehicle and can operate on the Queensway. Actually having an overhead truck versus an overhead car is an advantage as it can drive out of the way to let service through.

    I do wonder what TTC and Metrolinx are going to do to plow the rights of way with centre poles when the snow gets deep. There is not a lot of clearance for rubber tired vehicles and they tend to slide on snow and ice. It would have been nice if the TTC had kept some of the trucks and controllers from the older subway cars without electronic controls.

  31. Nick L says:

    Steve said:

    All that said, track construction is done differently today with special work pre-assembled in panels and delivered by truck to worksites. Tangent rail is welded into strings and stored on street for future work, rather than being welded in the curb lane beside a work site.

    Of course, if the TTC were to adopt this approach to non-special track work construction to take advantage of the new roadbed design, it would give Rob Ford and his supporters horrible nightmares.

    Steve: I am trying to imagine that arrangement on King Street, or maybe trying to get around one of our tighter loops.

  32. Bob Patrick says:

    I commend Byford for wanting to buy 60 more streetcars to increase frequency.

  33. Jeff Wegerson says:

    BRT So I searched for BRT and found nothing. Is that topic thoroughly dead and buried around here? Or is it really big time OT. To me BRT is a slippery slope to streetcars. If done right. With dedicated lanes and pre-pay boarding and they are as fast as streetcars. Faster if cars allowed to mix with streetcars. Then when they become so frequent or crowded to prove their need you upgrade to streetcars or trams.

    Just saying.

    Steve: The problem is not really “streetcars”, it is the dedication of road space and signal time at intersections to transit to the disbenefit of other road users. When people talk about “BRT” in Toronto, they make reference to mega-BRT implementations like Curitiba, but at the end of the day, are barely prepared even to let curb lanes be reserved, some of the time, if it’s not too much trouble, for buses. VIVA is building BRT, but the service they are actually operating is not exactly frequent. Moreover, in areas where there isn’t room for exclusive transit lanes, there is no plan for BRT.

    Until we are prepared to give up at least two lanes’ worth of road width (more when one allows for stations) exclusively for transit, then it does not matter what letter comes before “RT”. This is a fight over road space, but it’s the LRT plans that are taking the brunt of the debate.

  34. Norman Bates says:

    About the Bombardier Flexity Outlook LRVs:

    TTC transit users should be forewarned that, unlike the existing CLRV and ALRV streetcars, the windows of the imminent Flexity Outlook LRVs cannot be opened (with the exception of those having emergency handles, of course).

    Passengers will therefore be obliged to rely upon forced-air ventilation and heating during winter and air conditioning during the summer months.

    Since mechanical failures and glitches can and do occur on public transit everywhere, we can rest assured that the Flexity A/C will sporadically conk out on the hottest, most humid of days at which point ALL PASSENGERS WILL BE OBLIGED TO DISEMBARK so that the LRV can be taken to the nearest maintenance facility for repairs. This safety procedure was confirmed to me by a TTC transit official at the May 24, 2014 Russell Carhouse event.

    Now visualize this: it is rush hour and 30 degrees plus Celsius on a packed downtown Toronto Flexity LRV. The aircon suddenly crashes and it soon becomes unbearably hot. Seniors and small children onboard are particularly at risk.

    Then comes the announcement:

    “All passengers please leave the streetcar to take the one behind. Sorry for the inconvenience.”.

    Needless to say, all of the potentially 70 seated and 181 standees will be less than pleased to evacuate and wait for that next available streetcar behind where limited room — if any — can be found. It may also be pouring rain.

    I post this heads-up warning because I personally experienced a similar situation onboard a similar Flexity Classic LRV in Adelaide, Australia.

    On one afternoon, the A/C was off and the internal temperature felt way over 38 degrees Celsius, at which point I (being a “cold-blooded” Canadian) eventually had to ring the bell and disembark on my own volition, even though no actual evacuation announcement was made in that instance–presumably because the driver assumed that the remaining passengers (local residents) were acclimatized to such “downunder” climactic conditions in any event and probably would not have been inclined to disembark for the next LRV.

    I suspect it is no accident that Toronto’s Flexity LRVs will enter revenue service beginning August 31, 2014 when most of the uncomfortably hot and humid summer days have passed.

    Let us hope, therefore, that any serious aircon bugs will have been fully worked out to preclude the inevitable angry, overheated, disembarked passengers beginning in the summer of 2015.

    Flexity Outlook LRV link

    Flexity Classic LRV link

    Steve: I should remind readers that (a) subway trains also have sealed windows, and so this is not just a streetcar issue, but also (b) the CLRVs had sealed windows when they arrived and NO AC at all. Then Chief General Manager Michael Warren, in a spectacular display of stupidity, claimed at a TTC meeting that it was only an illusion that people were cooler when air blew over them. This was after an incident in which a packed CLRV on Bathurst had its windows pushed out by an angry load of riders, and a swinging window struck a streetcar travelling in the opposite direction.

    A bigger challenge than non-functional AC will be simply getting the units primed and ready to run each spring. We know from another comment here that for the bus fleet, the TTC took rather longer than it should have to performing the annual setup work for the AC season, even though near-summer conditions were already upon us. That sort of cock-up is as much of a threat as the sealed windows.

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