Rumours About Siemens and New Streetcars (Updated)

After last week’s TTC meeting, an article appeared in the National Post claiming that the TTC had just authorized purchase of 96 new streetcars from Siemens.

Expo bid drives TTC to buy 96 streetcars

100 others to be refurbished: Service expansion in anticipation of winning bid for 2015 World’s Fair

Susan Kirwin, National Post    Published: Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Toronto Transit Commission yesterday agreed to buy 96 new, low-riding streetcars and refurbish dozens more of its existing stock, which will be coupled together on busy routes, as it prepares for a crush of possible visitors if the city succeeds in its bid for Expo 2015.

The commission agreed to buy 96 streetcars from Siemens Transportation Systems of Germany.  Another 100 of the TTC’s existing streetcars will be refurbished, including about 75 that will be coupled at a cost of $100,000 each, in a bid to help stop them from bunching up during rush hour.

Transit advocates are not happy with the refurbishing and coupling plan, preferring that all-new streetcars be bought.

“It seems like a foolish expenditure for a short period of time,” said Steve Munro of the transit advocacy group the Rocket Riders.

King Street has been discussed as a possible site for the new two-car streetcars.

Mr. Munro said the coupled cars would not fit at either Spadina or Union Station: “It’s a nice idea, but it doesn’t physically fit.”

[Remainder of article deleted]

© National Post 2006

The statement in this article is totally incorrect.  The TTC has not made any commitment to buy cars from anyone because, among other things, there has been no proposal to Council for the project nor has there been any formal comparison of possible suppliers.  Indeed, the question of whether Bombardier has the exclusive right to build cars for Toronto is still open notwithstanding the fact that Ottawa (which was in Ontario the last time I looked) is planning to buy from Siemens.

[For an archived copy of an article on the Siemens/Bombardier issue by Jeff Gray of The Globe, go to Transit Toronto’s site.]

The quotation from me about “the foolish expenditure” refers to the plan to equip the rebuilt CLRVs with couplers so that they can run in trains.  Trains would only be operated on routes where there is heavy demand, and these would be the first to get new cars.  Therefore train operation would be at best a short-term thing.  Moreover, there are geometric constraints that prevent us from easily using trains especially on Spadina.

Even so, we plan to spend $100,000 per car to make this possible.  This is an outrageous waste of money.

Later in the Post article:

[TTC’s Mitch Stambler, Manager of Service Planning] said Toronto’s bid for the 2015 World Expo makes it necessary to ensure the city has streetcar capacity.

“We might have to move 20,000 people per hour in both directions,” Mr. Stambler said. “If we have to move that kind of volume, we would have to have coupling.”

The TTC asked me about MU street operations on routes like King last year long before anyone thought about an LRT link to the fair.  This argument is an afterthought to justify an untenable proposal.  We certainly would not need couplers on 148 CLRVs as proposed in the TTC’s budget for the complete fleet reconstruction.  More importantly,  any such link would run with the new, accessible fleet, not with the CLRVs.

[See also my post here.] 

I strongly disagree with David Fisher who, speaking as a member of Rocket Riders, advocated no CLRV rebuilding at all.

We need to do both:  refurbish some cars and buy new ones so that, between both projects, we will have enough working cars to keep the streetcar system alive and allow it to expand over the next decade.  Arguments about making the entire fleet accessible are fine, but the point at which we might have bought a completely new fleet to replace the CLRVs passed years ago. 

The purchase of new cars to replace even half of the CLRVs will face a rough ride at the City.  Strong support by the Mayor’s office is essential to rein in the budget hawks.

As I understand the Commission’s motions, staff have been instructed to prepare a comprehensive proposal for the renewal of the streetcar fleet including rebuilding half of the CLRVs, purchasing new cars to replace the other half, and any other related issues.  They hoped this report would hit the May round of committee and Council meetings, but I expect that June is more realistic.

Siemens was never mentioned.  If someone has evidence to the contrary (and not just another quote from the Post), please send it to me.

The National Post screwed up that story big time.

One thought on “Rumours About Siemens and New Streetcars (Updated)

  1. At my recent visit to the CNE, I took the time to browse through the 2 competing mock-up designs from Seimens/Bombardier. My personal evaluation is that the Bombardier design is better in all aspects. My biggest complaint about the Seimens design is the seating layout which creates a bottleneck right in the middle of the streetcar. I don’t think a stroller would get through with transit riders actually sitting in the seats. There is no room between the seat bottoms and the doorways because the seat body goes all the way to the floor in a single piece. This is the problem throughout the Seimens design, there is simply no room on the floor for feet, bags, packages, or anything else that transit riders would actually carry daily. You really need to struggle and try to get around the Seimens model with a backpack and stroller with kids in tow to appreciate the Bombardier design.


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