The Air Conditioned Streetcar

Car 4041 has been plying Spadina Avenue this week showing off a trial installation of air conditioning on a CLRV.  This morning when I went for a ride, the weather was moderately warm, not boiling, and it was fairly humid.  The car had a partial seated load as it was right behind its leader.

The A/C is nowhere near as aggressive as it is on some buses or on the T1 subway cars.  Moreover, depending on where you are in the car, you may not feel the effect at all because the cool air does not blow out evenly.  If the car were packed and/or if it were much hotter, I doubt that the unit would be able to keep up with the load.

This brings me to the question of having windows that open on air-conditioned vehicles.  Aside from the fact that on cooler days we could save energy by just letting air blow in from outside, if the A/C cannot keep up with the heat and humidity in the car, a sealed car would be even less comfortable than what we have now.

When I rode back north on a non-A/C car, I sat beside the open window and was actually cooler than I had been on 4041.

If this is an example of what we’ll get on new or rebuilt streetcars, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

8 thoughts on “The Air Conditioned Streetcar

  1. Hi Y’All,

    Being a Wahiington, DC native and being acquainted with A/C transit vehicles for years, including the famed “Silver Sightseer” PCC car and hunderds of A/C buses, I have a few comments on transit A/C.

    First, the A/C system must be quite strong with a good airflow pattern throughout the vehicle.  A transit vehicle will be making frequent stops with the doors open quite often and the A/C MUST handle this without significant temperature fluctuations.  The best system for air distribution is to have a supply duct running along both sides the length of the car with the return air register at or near the rear.

    As for the windows they should be openable for two major reasons — A/C isn’t 100% reliable and in milder weather when the A/C isn’t necessary reducing wear and tear on the system.  Granted, there is a problem with certain passengers opening windows with the A/C going, but having the windows closed must be enforced by the operator.

    Being a former operator with A/C GMC new-looks and road coaches dealing with non-cooperative types, I would simply call in to report a disturbance and if necessary have the passenger set off my bus.  The most frequent abuse would be someone in the rear most seat opening the window to have a smoke!  I countered this by getting old screws from the junk box and screwing/wedging them into the bottom of the window frame from the outside so it couldn’t be pushed open!  It worked!

    Barry S.


  2. Hi Guys,

    The A/C unit on 4041 is the same unit we use on buses here and is quite reasonable (remember, Australia is the driest continent on earth and we get some stinkers here in summer) for a bus, it may need to be a bit more beefed up for a streetcar. 

    Having said that, on our B class artics, we have locakable windows (only upper windows, not as deep as the CLRV) and this SHOULD be done with your cars no matter what type of A/C unit you are using.  They simply have a lock inserted so the window cannot be opened when the A/C is working.  If the A/C fails or the weather is milder, the motorman uses his key to unlock the windows so they can be lowered, ain’t rocket science!!

    Melbourne Oz.


  3. Air conditioned cars are a large step forward for the TTC.  I remember reading one of the “features” of the CLRV was that its forced air circulation system made an air conditioner redundant.  The fact the TTC is admitting that air conditioning is necessary should be applauded.

    I saw the 4041 on my lunch, and I took a photograph of it.  There are still windows that can open.  This in my opinion is troubling.  Many people like to keep the window open for some reason.  What’s the point of air conditioning if windows are opened?  I have also seen people disposing of garbage with the open windows and stick their arms out the window.  All this creates a large legal liability.  Who is responsible if someone’s arm get injured by dangling it outside the window?

    A sealed system will always be the most desirable.  Today is not hot, however, we do not know if the driver turned the AC to max.  I think it depends on the driver.  It would be absurd to think that the AC on the TTC T1 metro has only two settings: On and Off.  In addition, a sealed system has the advantage of filtering out pollens.  This makes people with allegies a lot more comfortable when riding the TTC. 

    However, if the TTC is willing to spend some money, they can purchase a climate control system.  The computer will mix in a correct amount of AC and outside air to ensure that a temperature is maintained.


  4. My experiemce with A/C on transit was with GO (25 years of it!):

    At some point in the fall, GO sends its cars through the shops and the A/C is turned off and sealed (this is the explanation of the GO crews).  If there are any warm days from then on, you are stuck in a train that only has heat.  The reverse move happens in the spring.  I’m not sure if they can turn the heat on with the A/C unsealed.

    Didn’t TTC experiment with A/C on a couple of PCC cars, many decades ago? (4399 comes to mind).

    Steve:  I have only a vague recollection about previous A/C tests.  Obviously on the subway and on buses, the A/C is enabled all of the time and adjusts to ambient conditions although there are days I wish the T1’s were not quite so glacial.  The level of A/C needed to deal with a half-empty car is much lower than that needed for a packed one in the rush hour.


  5. No PCC was ever air-conditioned.  In 1948-49, 4398 and 4399 were delivered with forced air ventilation and no cranks for the windows.  These lasted less than a year. 

    Earlier experiments with modern cars were applied to 4089 from June 1995 until about May 1997, and to 4238 from October 1995 (good time to start!) through May 1997.  Both units were then removed although 4238 was held out of service for several years awaiting replacement parts.


  6. There is another change made to car 4041.  The centre pole in the front entrance door has been removed.  There are still handrails at the front and back of the entrance, but there is a very wide space with nothing to hold onto.  I thought this was dangerous and didn’t see how it would add much benefit regarding the speed of loading/unloading.

    Steve:  There have always been concerns about loading delays at the front doors thanks to all of the railings, but the main culprit is the one that forces a single stream past the operator so that folks can’t slip by the farebox.  Of course, if we used POP, this would not be an issue.

    Also, the TTC announced some time ago that the double seats to the rear of the rear exit doors were going to be replaced on one side by single seats.  I have been on the “test” model and thought that this was a big improvement.  Why was this project not completed?

    Steve:  The TTC feels that people still bunch up in the front half of the car and the change isn’t worth the effort.  Until we go to all-door loading, the back-end of the car will always be a problem.


  7. I was speaking with a operator about the tepid temperature on car 4041 the day that I was on it.  He tells me that when the car was intially put into service it was much too cold.  (He said, if I recall, that you could “hang meat” in the back half of the car.)  His speculation was that the inadequate cooling was probably the latest “test” setting before they finally got it right. 

    Some of the new Orion buses are quite “overcooled”, though based on the quality of the last batch, the air conditioners should start failing soon.


  8. Just a quick comment about the removed center pole at the entrance. The TTC’s removal of these poles has managed to reduce the accessibility of the new streeetcars. My girlfriend has a disability which means that she uses forearm crutches to get around. She requires two handholds to climb the stairs unassisted. Now, with the centre pole gone, the two side grips are much too far apart for her to use. Once the new cars become common, she will effectively be unable to use them by herself.

    When I asked the driver about this, I was told that the flip side was making it easier for strollers etc. Well, I have to say that accessiblity for people with disabilities should be a much higher priority for the TTC than strollers.


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