Plans for New Streetcars?

TTC plans for a new streetcar fleet moved onto the front burner at the April 19th meeting of the Commission.  After a staff update on the CLRV rebuild program and possible timetables for new streetcar purchases, the Commission decided that:

  • Only 100 CLRVs will be rebuilt, not 196.
  • New streetcars will be procured with a prototype to be delivered in 2010 and production deliveries from 2011 through early 2014.
  • The Commission will take a package consolidating all information about streetcar fleet planning through the committee cycle (Budget Advisory, Policy & Finance, Council) in May. 

The rationale for the TTC’s position is:

  • New or additional cars would only be purchased as part of a fleet replacement program so that quantities would be sufficient for an economy of scale.
  • If we rebuild all 196 cars, and do not buy any new cars, we will not be able to make any service improvements or system expansions until about 2018 when the next batch of streetcars is up for retirement.
  • 2018 is beyond the proposed dates for various Waterfront initiatives, a World’s Fair, and some new suburban LRT lines.

In short, putting off an order of cars is not a viable option. 

During last year’s budget discussion, this had been the TTC’s position, but they were bludgeoned into submission by the budget hawks on Council.  Little support came from the transit-friendly Mayor who was fighting larger battles with overall funding of the City’s budget.

Now that we’re out of crisis mode, we need to take a hard look at transit fleet planning and LRT needs in particular, and this leads to the May report.  This will be a compendium of all aspects of various LRT/streetcar plans including figures presented at the April TTC meeting and information from the July 2005 report on future streetcar needs.

We need to see a real push from TTC Commissioners (who are also members of Council) and leadership from the Mayor’s Office.  In a recent Toronto Star article, David Miller fantasized about a network of LRT lines in the city.  Well, you don’t get new lines without new cars, and it’s time for Mayor Miller to support an aggressive LRT fleet plan.

Here’s my own overview of the situation.

[A warning:  The following material is for the folks who like lots of details.  There’s no way to make this stuff sexy or amusing, but it’s important that all of the info be in one place.]

The July 2005 Report

This report gives fleet requirements for a number of different aspects of current and proposed operations including:

  • Current operations assuming no construction shutdowns of any line
  • Service increases due to congestion
  • Service increases due to population growth
  • Service increases for Ridership Growth (over and above the previous two points)
  • A “low” estimate for additions to the network including:
    • West Don, East Bayfront and Port Lands LRTs
    • Bremner Boulevard and Waterfront West LRTs
    • Kingston Road LRT east from Victoria Park to Lawrence
  • A “high” estimate for additions to the network including:
    • All of the above
    • Don Mills from Danforth to Steeles
    • Eglinton East from Don Mills to Kingston Road
    • Finch Hydro Corridor East
    • Finch Hydro Corridor West
    • Eglinton West from Black Creek to Renforth
  • Maintenance spares at 17%

Notable by their absence are:

  • St. Clair West proposed extension from Keele to Jane, and possibly to Kipling
  • Scarborough/Sheppard extension options based on LRT rather than subway
  • A generous, “ridership growth” replacement ratio for CLRV replacement at a factor better than 2 new cars for 3 old ones.

The report is unclear on the vehicle type used in fleet estimates because CLRV and ALRV numbers are used interchangeably.  I have assumed that any new cars are comparable to ALRVs in size.

The April 2006 Report

This report gives various scenarios for new or rebuilt car requirements.

CLRV Rebuild

The prototype car would be completed in 2007, and production would ramp up to 30 cars per year by 2009.  Depending on whether the second phase (96 additional cars) was included, the program would end in late 2011 (after 100 cars) or at the end of 2014 (196 cars).  

These cars would wear out in the 2020 to 2026 timeframe.  This is after the most optimistic (distant) requirement for full system accessibility in 2024, a date that could be advanced.  Therefore, we might not get the full value out of the Phase II rebuilds.

The rebuild budget for Phase I is $140-million (including $10.3-million for couplers as discussed in another post).  For Phase II, the budget is $102.7-million.  The major differences are the lack of startup costs and the fact that only 48 cars (rather than 100) would get couplers in Phase II.

New Car Procurement – Option 1 – Complete CLRV Fleet Rebuild

If all 196 CLRVs are rebuilt, the TTC would plan to start replacing them in 2018 with deliveries ramping up to 30 per year by 2021 and completing by 2024 in time for accessibility requirements.

However, in the same timeframe, the ALRVs will reach their 30th birthday.  The report is silent on the need to replace these cars.

If no new cars are arrive before 2018, there will be a significant backlog of requirements to accommodate growth and expansion of the system.  This is unacceptable for obvious reasons.  First, there would be no cars for the new showcase routes on the waterfront (including a World’s Fair line), and second, we would have to start converting streetcar routes to buses to free up equipment. 

There are only two potential candidates for bus conversion (Kingston Road and Long Branch) which between them would free up only a handful of vehicles.  Moreover, these are both routes that are part of LRT expansion schemes and converting them to bus operation would be counterproductive.

New Car Procurement – Option 2 – Overhaul 100 CLRVs

If only 100 CLRVs are rebuilt, the TTC would replace the remaining 96 cars in the 2010 to 2014 timeframe.  A 64-car purchase is proposed to handle that.

Moreover, we will require additional cars for various growth and expansion plans, and this adds a further 27 cars.  A problem arises here because the number of cars needed on this account in the April 2006 report is much lower than the number shown in the “low” scenario of the July 2005 report.

Putting It All Together

Current Operations

The current schedule, assuming no bus substitutions caused by construction, requires 159 CLRVs and 36 ALRVs.  If we allow for spares at 17%, this brings us to 186 and 42 cars of each class respectively.  This leaves us 10 spare cars of each type.

On the CLRV side, these cars will be required as a pool for the rebuilding program.  Modest additions to existing services can be made with spare ALRVs either directly, or as replacements for CLRVs which would be released for other routes. 

This gives us almost no room to accommodate riding growth, improved service quality or new routes until the end of the CLRV rebuild project and/or the arrival of new cars.

By 2011 when the first phase of CLRV work is completed and we begin to receive new cars, there will be a backlogged requirement of 19 cars for modest growth, plus about 11 cars for new lines on the waterfront.  In other words, the first 30 new cars will be consumed simply to make up for deferred service improvements plus the first of the new lines.  If growth in demand runs higher than TTC projections, we will still be short equipment.

This is before we make any allowance for replacing the CLRVs that are not rebuilt.  They will have to remain in service to 2012 or longer depending on the rate of new car delivery and the rate of system and service expansion.

By 2018, we need to start replacing the ALRVs.

System Expansion

Waterfront-based expansion will require 40 cars plus spares by 2021.  Kingston Road adds another 12.

If we get into the “high estimate” range and add lines like Don Mills, Eglinton East or Finch, even more cars will be needed.

Combining all of these factors, we get an ongoing requirement for 20 to 35 new cars per year for the decade starting in 2011 depending on the options chosen.  I am sure this could keep the Bombardier plant in Thunder Bay moderately happy.

The details are on a spreadsheet here .  Note that there are two tabs for this file.  One has the current fleet requirements while the other shows details of various replacement and expansion scenarios.  These values are taken from the TTC reports of July 2005 and April 2006 with adjustments to correct for things that were omitted or not presented consistently.

Now that we have the details, we need a serious debate and commitment to a streetcar/LRT network in Toronto.  This cannot wait for more interminable, tri-partite negotiations.