Streetcar Fleet Planning

May’s TTC meeting included a comprehensive presentation on the streetcar fleet situation in response to the Commission’s clear desire to proceed with plans for new cars as soon as possible.  The intent is to take this presentation (along with the Bus Fleet Plan described in a separate post) to Budget Advisory Committee on June 9, to Policy & Finance on June 20, and to Council on June 27. 

The big, first hurdle is BAC where budget hawks have slapped down any attempt by the TTC to advance significant capital and operating improvements to the system.  I will address this situation in a separate editorial post and concentrate here on the substance of the plan.

The current, official capital plans, at BAC and Council’s direction, involve rebuilding all 196 CLRVs (the 4-axle cars).  This scheme is “Option 2” in the current presentation.  The alternative plan, “Option 1”, takes into account requirements for additional cars to serve new lines and ridership growth, and it is this plan that the Commission has strongly endorsed.

Past debates dealt with the streetcar fleet issue piecemeal, and left BAC in a position where it could argue that delay in fleet replacement is a viable option.  This approach guarantees that surface operations (bus or streetcar) always will take a back seat because, somehow, we will make do from year to year by patching up the existing fleets.  The current round looks at things on a system-wide basis, and that’s a big improvement.

First, let’s look at options 1 and 2.

Option 1:

  • CLRV life extension for 100 vehicles starting with a prototype in 2007 and completing in 2011.
  • Replacement of the remaining 96 CLRVs by 64 new cars starting with a prototype in 2010 and completing in early 2014.
  • Replacement of the 100 life-extended CLRVs by 67 new cars starting in 2018 and ending in 2022.
  • Replacement of the 52 ALRVs by 52 new cars starting in 2019 and ending in 2023.
  • Purchase of 20 new cars at a rate of 1 or 2 per year to handle increased ridership from 2010 through 2024.
  • Purchase of 37 new cars at a rate of 1 to 4 per year to handle new lines from 2010 to 2025.

This scheme is shown in the chart below.

May Plan Option 1 Table

Option 2:

  • CLRV life extension for all 196 vehicles starting in 2007 and completing in 2014.
  • Replacement of the CLRVs and ALRVs with new cars starting in 2018.
  • Purchase of new cars for ridership growth and new lines starting in 2018.  This causes a significant fleet backlog to accumulate from 2010 to 2017 assuming that system expansion goes forward as planned.
  • No new, accessible cars would be available to serve a 2015 World’s Fair site.

Here is the chart for that scheme.

May Plan Option 2 Table

Both of these schemes were costed on a 40-year time horizon, and the net present value for the two are almost identical.  The difference lies in the front-end loading of capital cash requirements for Option 1 where new cars are procured sooner than in Option 2.  Moreover, no value is assigned to the fact that with Option 1, we will be able to improve service and open new routes, while with Option 2, expansion can occur only at the expense of the existing streetcar system.

Notable by its absence is any reference to a possible replacement of the Scarborough RT with LRT technology and the additional cars this would require.

Finally, the rate of ridership growth is assumed to be just over 1 percent (see the post on Bus Fleet Planning for more information about comparative growth rates).  If the actual rate of growth on the streetcar and LRT network is closer to 3 percent (the possible new planning target for the bus fleet), then more cars will be needed.

Two previous studies identified possible routes for new or improved streetcar/LRT operations: the Ridership Growth Strategy and the Official Plan.

May Plan Map

The lines shown on this map are not a definitive network, but they give some idea of the scale of planning for routes and fleet that is needed.  The list below shows the studies that are now or soon will be in progress.

May Plan Growth Now

A potential LRT network is not some far-off pipedream, and any delay in addressing fleet requirements threatens these plans.  Moreover, any new LRT proposal would, without the base of a concurrent plan to re-equip the existing streetcar system, bear significant costs to establish the first new maintenance and support facilities for new cars.

The fleet implications are summarized in the following table.

May Plan Growth Options

Note that the number of cars shown for growth (37) is about half of the number (71) for all of the new lines.  The reason for this is that this scenario assumes that the lines shown here will not all be built in the timeframe shown, or will not be built as LRT.  A middle range has been used for estimating fleet size.  If we do find ourself with a city-wide embrace of LRT, then the fleet requirements will go up accordingly.

There has been some discussion in various blogs and emails about the cars under consideration by the TTC.  At this point, Toronto is not locked into a specific vehicle or manufacturer, although obviously Bombardier has the advantage of being the “local” supplier.  Sample cars shown as part of the presentation include those from Bombardier, Siemens and Skoda.

May Plan Vehicles

Rebuilding all of the CLRV fleet defers the decision on new streetcars until at least 2014 and places Toronto in a position where all of its fleet will come due for replacement in the following decade.  This is a recipe for collapse of the streetcar system and stagnation in much-needed system expansion. 

Those who advocate delay cite the provisions of accessibility requirements for Ontario with the argument “we don’t have to finish until 2025, so why start so soon?”  There is a possibility that the target date may be changed and place Toronto in a position where it is forced to replace or abandon its streetcars on short notice.

Let’s put the spending requirements in context.  The 183 new cars included in Option 1 would replace the entire CLRV and ALRV fleets at approximately half the cost of any of the proposed subway extensions.  Additional spending on ridership growth and system expansion would raise this cost, to be sure, but at a benefit to the entire transit system, not to a handful of riders in one corridor.

This plan deserves full debate at Council, not a pocket veto at Budget Advisory Committee.  I will turn to this issue in a separate “editorial” post.

3 thoughts on “Streetcar Fleet Planning

  1. While I realize any speculation is just that: speculation, I’m wondering if you could comment on the proposal to extend the St. Clair streetcar from Keele to Scarlett.

    In my opinion, this change is overdue, especially with the redevelopment going on in the Junction-Slaughterhouse area.  I believe the city has protected the right-of-way, at least, but the first proposals for this extension surfaced, to my recollection, back in 1997. When can we get started on this, do you think?

    Steve:  The EA work for this proposal gets underway this year.  One annoyance that has already surfaced is that TTC staff want the City to protect for an LRT underpass so that streetcars can continue west on Dundas after ducking under the CPR line at Scarlett Road.  This intersection is being rebuilt in the near future, but without provision for a transit right-of-way.  Actual construction won’t happen until the EA is approved and someone decides that this is going to be funded (competing with many other projects for attention).  There’s also the little matter of additional streetcars to operate any extensions. 


  2. All this talk of future vehicles reminds me of something :

    If the TTC is going with a subway car that is essenitally one long car broken into six sections, what are they going to do for trains for the Sheppard Line?

    Steve:  Half of the fleet will still be “conventional” cars that can run as 4-car sets.  That’s all you will ever see on Sheppard. 


  3. Would introducing low-floor LRVs sooner result in any substantial savings from the Wheel-Trans budget?

    Steve:  There are two issues here:

    There is such a backlog of demand that any reduction in demand caused by riders shifting to the conventional system will immediately be back-filled by demand from those who still cannot use it.
    If we don’t get new cars in the 2012 timeframe, we will be left with only the streetcar lines as non-accessible.  This means a large chunk of the city would be disserviced for those who cannot board high-floor cars.

    It would be interesting to know whether there has been a change in demand, or in the mix of rider types, in the growing areas with low-floor buses.


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