New Streetcars Sooner, Not Later? (Updated)

[This item has been updated to correct some typos, and to add a concluding paragraph that I forgot to put in before publishing it.] 

Yesterday’s Toronto Sun reported that a proposal for 100 of the CLRVs to be refurbished by Bombardier’s Thunder Bay plant is on hold.  Some history is needed to put this in context.

For quite some time, the TTC has looked at new or refurbished streetcars.  New cars always seemed to have an astronomical price tag, but refurbishing was neither cheap nor a long-term option.

Any price quoted for a new streetcar, commonly $3- to $5-million per vehicle, provoked sticker shock.  Oddly, nobody ever mentioned the size of the vehicles in this discussion.  Given the TTC’s long anti-streetcar history (now mellowed to grudgingly accept that there is a place for LRT), the suspicious among us might think that this was a deliberate strategy to make streetcars look prohibitively expensive.

Current talk is for a $3-million car that will be larger even than an ALRV or subway car, and that’s not a bad price for a vehicle of that size (more about service impacts later).  If we can actually get new cars for that price, the comparison against a $1-million CLRV retrofit doesn’t look so bad (almost twice the car and at least double the lifespan for about three times the money).

The CLRVs have done their job for three decades, but unlike their PCC predecessors, they are unloved.  This is no surprise given their troubled history:

  • Conceived as a 70 mph suburban LRV, the CLRV was much heavier than needed for urban operation.
  • The cars originally had sealed windows and no air conditioning.  Then Chief General Manager Michael Warren famously claimed that the effect of cooling when air blows over your face is purely psychological.  We now have windows that open, but they are an inferior design to what might have been had this been part of the car from the outset.
  • The original Bochum wheels were stiff and unsuited to operation on track laid directly in concrete.  Coupled with the inferior track construction standards of the era, the CLRV fleet quickly destroyed its roadbed while rumbling noisily through neighbourhoods.  The replacment SAB wheels (similar in design to PCC wheels) eliminated much of the rumble, and new resilient track did the rest of the work.
  • The Bochum wheels also proved troublesome on many of Toronto’s single-blade track switches.  Because the rubber layer in this wheel forms a ring between the hub and the steel tire (rim), the inner wheel would flex at a switch rather than pulling its mate on the other end of the axle into the curve.  The SAB/PCC wheel’s rubber layer is compressed, not extended, under this condition and so it does not have a problem on single-blade switches.
  • The electronics in the CLRVs have always been troublesome as they date from the early days of solid state power controls.  A design flaw, since repaired, caused road dirt to be sucked into the air filter for the cooling system leading to frequent breakdowns.
  • The CLRVs are high-floor cars that cannot be made accessible.  Keeping them in operation raises serious problems with our major downtown routes not having low-floor vehicles possibly into the 2020s.

The ALRVs are not much better.  One notable problem is their limited acceleration because, with their extra weight, they draw more power.  However, the trolley pole power pickup cannot handle that much current, and the cars lack the nimbleness of other streetcars in traffic because their acceleration is restricted.  The wider headways on ALRV routes are bad enough without cars that can’t move briskly through traffic.

The CLRV program includes the following (this is a direct quote from a recent report on the subject):

  • replacement of the propulsion control system, which has become highly unreliable and difficult to maintain due to obsolescence of electronic and electrical parts; 
  • installation of a new air-conditioning system to attract new ridership, improve customer and operator comfort, and enhance safety by mitigating windshield fog-up during humid days; 
  • replacement of the low voltage power supply (LVPS) to improve reliability and add an alternating current output to power the new air-conditioning system; 
  • changing of the unreliable air brake controller to the ALRV configuration, which has proven to be very reliable;
  • provision of couplers and related hardware and software for multiple unit operation to enhance customer service and reduce mixed-traffic congestion due to “bunching up” of streetcars;
  • refurbishment of the vehicle body, electrical and mechanical systems.  This includes installation of new systems, overhauling electrical and mechanical equipment and components and refurbishing the entire vehicle.  

The TTC Commissioners want new cars, but they are thwarted by the City Budget Advisory Committee and, rumour has it, by Queen’s Park and their love affair with Bus Rapid Transit.  The current scheme is to do 100 cars first, and decide on the rest later on depending on the success of the program and/or the availability of funding for new cars.

The high cost per car arises from the fact that new subsystems — propulsion control, air conditioning, low voltage power supply, brake control and couplers for MU operation — are being provided for these vehicles even though they are intended to have only a 10-year lifespan.  Frankly, I don’t believe that number, and if the CLRVs are refurbished, they will probably stay in service for at least 15 years.

By contrast, when the PCCs were rebuilt, they retained much of their original propulsion and control equipment (which was overhauled, not replaced).  Other work consisted primarily of rebuilding the bodies and replacing the wiring.

The inclusion of couplers adds a needless cost to this project.  (A detailed evisceration of the proposal deserves its own post.)  The TTC is convinced that running King cars in two-car trains will improve service reliability.  The fact that the service would be half as frequent has not dawned on the TTC as a significant contributor to making it unattractive.  The effect of larger cars/trains will come with any new fleet, and we will have enough problems with perceived service quality at that time.  We don’t need it on the CLRVs which, after all, would be replaced first on heavy routes like King.

In October, a proposal to have the first 100 cars rebuilt by Bombardier came to the Commission.  The cost/car for this work was about $420,000, leaving roughly $580,000 per car to pay mainly for the new subsystems.  The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 opposed this contract on the grounds that the work could be performed in house by their own members at Hillcrest shops where the TTC has been rebuilding streetcars and buses for decades.  The TTC’s argument for sending the work to Bombardier is the systems integration and testing expertise at Thunder Bay.

The proposal received conditional approval and staff were directed to meet with representatives of the ATU and the Canadian Auto Workers (the union for the Thunder Bay plant) to determine whether the work could be done at a competitive price in Toronto.  I suspect that the ATU hopes that their strong support for the Bombardier subway car order is reciprocated by CAW support for keeping the CLRV program in Toronto.

The municipal election put everything on hold, but one clear bullet in Mayor Miller’s platform is new streetcars.  With changes in the political power structure at City Hall, pressure on the TTC for more service and a clear desire to expand the streetcar system with new LRT lines as soon as possible, a new fleet of streetcars is essential.  The CLRVs may remain for a time, but only to supplement a growing fleet of new cars.

I do not know whether any of the contracts for the CLRV rebuild have actually been awarded, or if they have all been sitting on hold pending the resolution of the location where the work will be done.  The more that are on hold, the less it will cost the TTC to cancel this project.

The real question is who will pay for the new cars and the new maintenance facility they will require.  Queen’s Park and Ottawa seem pre-occupied with discussions of the Spadina Subway extension, and we can only hope that this does not blind them to other needs.  In addition to the existing streetcar network, we need new cars for lines in the Waterfront and, if Council comes to its senses, an LRT network in Scarborough including replacement for the RT.

Modernizing and expanding the streetcar/LRV fleet in Toronto is not a small project, and there are technical complexities to be worked out, but it must start as soon as possible.  The next round in this process will be the TTC’s Capital Budget for 2007 that should appear at the end of January.

The catch-22 in all this is that the CLRV rebuild may be derailed, but the purchase of new cars may also be foiled by lack of funding from Queen’s Park.  Will Toronto and Ontario make a real commitment to streetcars for Toronto?

16 thoughts on “New Streetcars Sooner, Not Later? (Updated)

  1. How will the TTC maintain streetcar service at the current level if half it’s fleet is away being rebuilt in Thunder Bay?  I have heard nothing about this point yet.  New streetcars would obviously remove this obstacle.

    Steve:  There are at present several CLRVs permanently out of service because they are unrepairable, or at least the cost of repairing them is high enough that they’ve been held aside in anticipation of the rebuild prgram.  These would form an initial pool for rotation through Thunder Bay.

    Only 140 of the 196 CLRVs are required for peak service on the current schedule, and this will rise to 156 in January when the west part of St. Clair reopens.  Even with the eastern part added in mid February (maybe), this will rise to only about 160.  A 15% allowance for spares (reasonable for a fleet in good condition) would add another 24 leaving 12 free for a rotating pool.  Note that this means we have absolutely no room for service improvement until either the entire CLRV fleet is rebuilt or we get new cars.

    We have reached the point where TTC planners working on the Waterfront schemes seriously talk about converting an existing line from streetcar to bus in order to free up vehicles for new routes.  This is madness, but it shows how desperate our situation really is.


  2. The transit EA for the Eastern Waterfront is, I think, underway (any word on progesss?) and if the very sensible plan to have public transit available when the first residents move into the area (West Don Lands seems to be moving ahead well) the TTC will need to have something sorted out by 2009 for West Don Lands and certainly by 2010 when East Bayfront should start getting residents.  (W D L residents could use the King car initially as I gather the section along King is the first to be developed.)

    Assuming that the transit EA recommends streetcars (and this seemed to be the preference in the preliminary meetings) they had best “get on with it” VERY soon if they not only need to lay track but also buy more vehicles.  To take streetcars off one, older, route (which one, St Clair??!) to put onto a new one is bizarre and it would be crazy to decide to go with bus service in the Eastern Waterfront just because buses were available and streetcars weren’t.

    I assume it is faster to buy additional new buses than to get new streetcars since buses are fairly standard while TTC streetcars are not available ‘off the shelf’.  Steve, perhaps sometime you could summarise the capital cost of a new bus vs a new streetcar on a ‘per passenger’ basis and give some idea about delivery times?

    Steve:  The next round of Community Liaison Committee meetings for the West Don Lands and East Bayfront projects will be in January.  These are not widely advertised because they are intended for the working groups that have already formed for these projects.

    In the short term, yes, we could by additional buses faster than getting new streetcars, but that would not deal with several problems including how they would connect with Union Station, design of a streetcar right-of-way for initial use by buses, the number of vehicles required to handle projected demand, and the noise of all of those vehicles in a new residential neighbourhood.

    The lead time for a new bus is about two years, and for a new streetcar at least three years although this is partly due to startup considerations.  The TTC needs to select a vehicle and test it on our system before commiting to a full purchase.  Then there’s the matter of a new carhouse and physical changes to the system such as adapting the overhead structure to handle pantograph power pickup.  Decisions on these issues are needed this year if we are going to hit an opening date for waterfront service in the 2010-11 timeframe.

    Cost comparisons are not straightforward.  The capital cost of a bus per passenger space is much less than that of a streetcar, but that’s not the whole story.  First, there is the different crew:passenger ratio for streetcars that reduces operator costs.  Next, there is the question of what the upper reasonable limit on bus frequency is.  In the very short term, we might get away with it, but the service would be less attactive without a good connection at Union, and we would not be planting a “transit first” flag in the waterfront.  Finally, the capital cost of the LRT infrastructure and vehicles is spread over a much longer term than it would be for a bus fleet.


  3. Any thought that the new cars will be “only” #3 million each is right off the wall.  One needs only review the pages of Tramways & Urban Transit or other European fan or trade magazines to know that would be the minimum cost in EUROS, not dollars, and it won’t buy the joyful items such as air conditioning for all (perhaps just the driver, a new trend in Europe), electronic READABLE signs, kneeroom, and oher creature comforts.  I’ve seen prices as high as five million (again EUROS) for the best cars and on top of all that are the peripherals, such as stops that will still require a 300mm or so first step to that wonderful “accessible” low floor, overhead alterations (poles jsut won’t work) and more.

    Sticker shock is going to be such that we can only hope the local pols don’t have collective heart attacks, or maybe that would be a good thing in a few cases, but I digress.

    The budget committee and others always suggest doom and gloom for everyone when they talk of tax increases but somehow it ALWAYS seems, in the end, to be 3 percent and we all go away happily wagging our tails.  Many wouldn’t mind a bit more if they could see that the money was going to go to realistic projects that better life for us all rather than just the lefties pet projects that inevitably cost two-to-three times what they first claimed (and I’d bet they personally knew that would happen because that’s the nature of politics in this city the last several years).


  4. John – to add to that sticker shock the switches will have to be replaced.  IIRC – Steve you mentioned that they’ll have to be double blade instead of single?  Plus the design of the new eurostyle trams is that the driver is totally separated from the passengers, with automated ticket purchase required rather than jamming people through the front.

    And for the LRT planning – here’s hoping (crossing fingers) that the TTC learns what LRT could do (read Denver, Edmonton, Calgary, San Diego) – rather than only separated lines (i.e. Spadina – which is neither light nor rapid)


  5. I confess to gagging when I read above that the Ontario Govt. seems to have a preference for BRT.  Aside from the technical arguments in favour of LRT/streetcars there is the simple fact that people really don’t like buses.  Good surface rail transit seems to beat out bus and even subway transit (yes subways are appreciated as faster but there is no real affection for them – tunnels get depressing.

    Question: Why are streetcars going back on St. Clair west of Spadina Station? Is that not scheduled for reconstruction to PRW?

    Steve:  The streetcars will return temporarily pending the start of construction sometime in 2007.  Thanks to the fact that St. Clair West Station’s reconstruction wasn’t done in 2006, they will have to bus the east end of the line again for a few months whenever they get around to that part of the project.


  6. At that price, maybe streetcars will be ditched just as the trolley coaches were — I don’t know how anyone can justify spending that much money per car … absolutely ridiculous.  What are they made of … gold?  And, how many buses could you buy for that same price?  If the streetcars didn’t run in mixed traffic, I’d say it would be worth it.

    As much as I like streetcars (from a railfan perspective), this should make everyone think.  At that price, you could probably get started on a KING or QUEEN subway line, and offer a real service improvement.  If a QUEEN line was built, you wouldn’t need streetcars on King, Queen, or Dundas.

    If the TTC was smart, they would have staggered new purchases over the last ten years instead of waiting for all of it to pile up now.  Where are they going to find $600 million to $1 billion dollars to replace the whole fleet?

    Steve:  This is typical Toronto planning, and part of the reason we lost the trolleybus system.  If you have management and politicians who are not really committed to streetcars and LRT, everything waits until the last moment and then everyone complains about the cost.

    Meanwhile, if we buy, say, 130 new, larger cars at even $5-million each, this is $650-million.  To put that in context, it would pay for only 1/3 of the cost of the York University subway extension.


  7. An interesting discussion all around. My two-cents worth:

    I’d agree that any refurbished cars would end up remaining in service for at least 15 years. 
    On the funding front, the city is hobbled by having so many begging bowls out at once (i.e. pleas for ‘New Deal’, waterfront funding, and transit).  The trouble is that anything that gets put in one bowl takes away from what will end up in the others.  The mayor is putting post of his political capital into the addressing the first bucket.  In my view this is bound for failure — we should be looking at flatlining operating expenses for the city as a whole for the next three years.  The funding requests should focus on capital projects rather than bailing out the operating budget. 
    From everything I’ve read, $3 million / car is for an unmodified, bare-bones vehicle — and not including the maintenance facility/switch changes mentioned above.  I’d say the min. cost for CLRV replacement is $800 million. 
    A big problem the TTC has in requesting this much dough at this point is that there is no plan of any sort to go along with it.  In my view, a plan should lay out how the current downtown network with be morphed into an arterial LR system that provides rapid transit service.  This would see some streetcar routes dropped — and others extended and reinvented as true light rail.


  8. [W]hen the PCCs were rebuilt, they retained much of their original propulsion and control equipment (which was overhauled, not replaced). Other work consisted primarily of rebuilding the bodies and replacing the wiring.

    There was a good reason for this : it was because — now wait for it! — they were better built vehicles!

    Steve:  Actually, the physical construction of the CLRVs is very good.  It’s the subsystems that need overhaul and replacement.  The PCCs were good cars, but by the time they were rebuilt, they were falling apart.  Their technology, however, was not obsolete, and it was kept for the “new” cars.

    Queen’s Park’s favoring of BRT is not surprising.  After all, McGuinty is from Ottawa and the Transitway is the great Saviour of the Transit Universe (never mind that the original concept of the Transitway, as I have mentioned before, was to convert it to LRT once the population levels demanded it).

    The Toronto-Ottawa comparsion reminds me of something else: outright streetcar abandonment, which, no matter what some of the comments mentioned by others above, is complete folly, especially from an environmental persepective.

    Since you were there, Steve, how close were we to losing our streetcars, and how close are we again?  It is my understanding that the company that studied and recommended the dismantling of the Ottawa streetcar system was the same one hired by Toronto.  Incidentally, one of the main reasons for streetcar abandonment in Ottawa was — I kid you not — a concern that the power facilities would be an easy target for a Soviet missle attack, thus crippling transportation in the city.  Why a similar attack on a bus garage was not as plausible is beyond me.

    Steve:  My concern is that if we spend any more time postponing a decision and a commitment to streetcars, we will eventually see a change in government to a bunch of auto-oriented louts who think that the solution to everything is just to widen all of the roads.  Some of the comments coming from the federal Tories have that sort of flavour, and I’m sure that they have their adherents in these parts.  We really are at a crossroads.

    There are no polite words for the collection of idiots whose idea of being pro-transit is to build a few subway lines that will never, ever have demands to justify their existence when much better networks of LRT could serve expanded versions of the same areas for less money.  Transit throughout the GTA needs a real infusion of investment, and blowing it all on a Spadina/Vaughan and Sheppard/STC pair of boondoggles is criminal.  We would lose more than the streetcar system, we would lose the ability to make transit everywhere a strong alternative to driving, and we would lose the infrastructure we need to sustain the Official Plan goals of population growth.

    The ridiculous political situation — where we must bow and scrape to Queen’s Park because the Treasurer wants his precious subway line — skews every discussion we might have about the future of transit. 


  9. About “the ridiculous political situation”: is the spadina extension basically a done deal by this point?  If not, what would it take to turn it around?  Is there a coordinated campaign to stop it in favour of more reasonable transit investment?

    Steve:  Right now, it’s the apple of Queen’s Park’s eye since it goes to the heart of the Treasurer’s riding.  Ottawa is playing hard-to-get, but may climb on board to curry political favour in that part of the world while appearing to be pro-transit.  This will be a rerun of what happened when Jim Flaherty was Ontario Treasurer, and Queen’s Park gave the TTC all the money it wanted for the Sheppard Subway, then walked away from transit funding.  The Mayor is gung ho on this project, and frankly I don’t understand why beyone playing politics with Queen’s Park.

    The only way this will come unglued will be for us to somehow get past the fall 2007 Ontario election.  Ottawa could drag its feet long enough, or announce it as part of the 2007-8 budget and then be defeated so that we miss another budget cycle.  Rumblings in the press suggest that we will hear a commitment from Ottawa, and so billions will go down the drain for one project while the rest of the system starves for cash.

    Also, we haven’t heard a peep out of York Region who have to pony up 1/3 of the cost of the section north of Steeles West Station, but that’s not as critical as we still need to have a full-blown EA for that section of the line.


  10. Dear Steve:

    The CLRV’s, while well made, are heavy and very high floored. 

    Steve:  I am not advocating that this design be copied at all!  Only pointing out that structurally the cars are in good shape because they were so overbuilt to begin with. 

    I have ridden on low floored LRTs in other countries and none of these seme to have provision for front entrance because of the “truck” design.  They all had short sections with 4 wheels, longitudinal seating with the motors under the seats and driving the wheel on the same side of the car in front and behind.  There did not appear to be any cross body axle and this allowed for a very low floor.

    The cars that I saw had three of these section with two longer section suspended from articulations between two truck sections.  The longitudinal motors made it nearly impossible to have doors in these sections so it would be impossible for the driver to check fares and issue transfers.  This would require a POP fare system which we all know the TTC loves.  It might be possible to extend the cab sections enough to put in doors but this would make passenger flow very poor.

    Steve:  I suspect that long before we see new cars, we will have moved to a smart card system and the concept of pay-as-you-enter fare collection will be disappearing.

    The cars I rode on had a surprisingly smooth ride, were extremely quick to load or unload and were all double ended.  I hope that the TTC is going to seriously look at double end cars if they have any plans on expanding to true LRT as they make it much easier to provide turn backs.

    Steve:  Double-ended operation will be essential on any new suburban LRT network where loops at the side of the road are impractical from a traffic point of view, and expensive (assuming the land is even available) from a property point of view.

    Keep up the fight and maybe we can try these cars out in our wheel chairs in 20 years.

    Robert Wightman


  11. What would the impact on vehicle price be if the TTC were to go with more traditionally-sized cars rather than the extra-long ones?  For example, would we be able to get smaller vehicles for $2M each, as opposed to 50% larger vehicles for $3M each?

    It makes me very nervous to hear Adam Giambrone (or anyone else) downplay the cost by saying that because the new vehicles would be larger, the TTC would only have to buy 67% of the current fleet to match it in passenger capacity.  Presumably a 33% smaller fleet will require a 33% cut in streetcar service across the board — in peak hours, because there are no more streetcars to run, and in off-peak hours, because the financial analyses will show that (surprise!) fewer vehicles are required to accommodate demand.  I hope I am missing something, or that there are behind-the-scenes measures to deal with this (e.g. a policy to maintain existing off-peak headways).  There are one or two routes that could benefit from the larger vehicles (Spadina, if cars can load from all doors), but it is a pretty basic principle that there is a positive relationship between service levels and ridership, and it doesn’t seem as though anyone is acknowledging the harm the larger vehicles could do to surface transit across most of downtown.

    Steve:  There are some savings in longer vehicles because they still only have one set of electrical controls, air systems, operator cab, etc. but for a larger vehicle.

    I too am saddened to hear Adam spouting the “party line” from TTC management about the 2:3 replacement.  This will wreck service on the lines that do not already have ALRVs.  We have already seen that Bathurst and Queen suffered disproportionate ridership loss and this is almost certainly due to the double whammy of budget cuts and ALRV-influenced headways.  If anything, we need to increase the number of cars if only to keep up with the demand for better service. 

    Of course, while we’re cutting service downtown, we will still run trains every 5 minutes to the middle of fields in the burbs until after 1 am.

    Hello Adam?  Remember better service to make up for the cuts of the 1990s?  Remember the Ridership Growth Strategy?  Do you really want to wait for a Carlton car that is scheduled to arrive every 10 minutes, and shows up even less frequently while transit control “adjusts” service with the handful of cars remaining on the line?  If Chairman Giambrone is going to show pro-transit colours, I hope that he has been misquoted, or will issue a strongly-worded “clarification”.


  12. Actually it appears a deal between Toronto and York Region regarding funding for the extension of the Spadina subway has already taken place:

    All signs seem to point to waiting for federal funding in the upcoming budget and the project will have lift-off.

    Steve:  Yes, if and when the feds sign on, we will launch into a process that will see a big pot of money tied up for years to come.  Place your bets now on how long it will take before the City of Toronto claims that it cannot afford any other transit projects.


  13. With regard to Bob Wightman’s comments on low floor cars in Europe I too have ridden most types currently being manufactured. Some are cramped inside, not so much just because they’re low-floor but because the loading gauge of many systems requires a much narrower car. They still work, but you get to know your fellow rider quite well by the end of the journey. And seating can be in some odd positions because of the wheel housings (but some buses have always been like, so it’s just a matter of gettingv used to it).

    As to front doors, many cars do have access at the front. The car that I personally advocate as ideal for Toronto, given a proper width unlike examples running in Europe (the loading gauge issue) are the Bombardier cars in Linz, Graz, Geneva and other places also have a front door, if it were deemed absolutely necessary for at least some fare collection. The Vienna ULF (ultra low floor, 100mm above track) has double width front doors and absolutely incredible access for those less fortunate in getting around! I was prepared not to be totally amazed by those cars before I’d actually visited, and came away very impressed ad with a much higher opinion. If the problem of fare collection on new cars becomes an issue, either of those models are ideal (and they’re fast, quiet and comfortable to ride). And, the Vienna car requires less infrastructure (read platforms) for access.


  14. My understanding is that you were at one point skeptical of the idea of eschewing rebuilding the CLRVs.  If I’m reading this post correctly, you seem generally favourable to this now.  Would you say that this correctly categorizes your views?

    Steve:  No it does not.  There are a number of interlinked arguments, and their relationship changes as we get closer and closer to the point where we have to put up or shut up about buying new cars.

    These points are:

    The CLRV fleet is well-build physically (overbuilt actually) but contains a lot of obsolete technology that will be expensive to replace and upgrade,  The shorter the lifespan of a rebuilt car, the less it makes sense to buy all of this new equipment which actually has a design life far longer than the 10 years intended for the rebuilt cars.  If this program goes ahead, these cars will have no trouble remaining in service for at least 15 years, and anyone who says otherwise is trying to play down the lifespan of high-floor, non-accessible equipment.
    We need new cars now.  First off, there is the backlog of service requirements to handle rising demand, as well as the new lines on the drawing boards.  We are in a situation where we could build new lines and have no equipment with which to run them.
    The order size for new cars should include an allowance for growth and for service improvements.  Neither is taken into account in current plans and comments attributed to Adam Giambrone.
    There are a number of costs associated with a new fleet including a third carhouse with maintenance facilities appropriate for cars that have their equipment on the roof.  There needs to be a medium to long term plan for carhouse requirements that will accommodate both the rolling migration from a CLRV/ALRV fleet to the new cars, as well as the overall growth in the system.  Additional costs involve any track and overhead changes needed to handle the new equipment.  All of these costs need to be identified up front, painful though that may be.  I prefer that we have everything on the table rather than an endless string of add-ons so typical of many TTC projects.

    Some commentary.

    (1) It seems to me that the TTC needs to decide what type of service it wants to provide using new vehicles – before it goes shopping.  I agree that moving to fewer, larger vehicles will change the nature of the service.  With low floor and elimination of pay-as-you-enter (speeding up service), the larger vehicles might work on heavily travelled routes.  They wouldn’t work so well on lower volume routes that rely on reasonably frequent service.

    Steve:  I will comment on service frequency in a separate post.

    (2) The political equation around the extension to Vaughan is likely as much to keep 905 swing votes happy as it is Greg Sorbara’s pet project.

    Steve:  I wonder what those 905ers will think when they discover that various GO Transit improvements are on hold because all of the money is going into the subway project?  The “elephant in the room” problem affects Queen’s Park as much as it does Toronto.

    (3) I’d have to disagree with comment #5.  Two of the most successful transit systems in North America (OC Transit and Montreal’s system) run bus routes very successfully.  A single bus route in Montreal carries more passengers than just about any particular LRT system built in the US.  Fashion-conscious Montrealers don’t seem to mind taking buses.

    Steve:  I agree that any claims that somehow rail modes mysteriously generate riding is not an argument worth taking to the bank.  What tends to happen is that rail lines are implemented and get far better service, not to mention tolerating low usage rates, than bus services because they are prestige projects.  In Toronto, we have the interesting contrast of the Sheppard Subway which runs a ridiculously high ratio of service to demand, and the Spadina Streetcar.  The latter is carrying somewhat more people during peak, but hugely more during the offpeak when the service is actually better, at times, than in the rush hour.  It’s the level of service, comfort and reliability that determine the attractiveness of a line.


  15. If low-floor LRVs are purchased, what are TTC’s plans for housing/maintaining these vehicles.  As I understand it, the existing carhouses are not suitable for low-floors.  Will the TTC rebuild the existing properties or build new on different sites?  If the latter is chosen, where on existing routes can carhouses be built, without raising the wrath of the NIMBYs?

    Steve:  A new carhouse would likely be built somewhere in the eastern waterfront which would place it close to proposed new lines as well as to the existing Queen Street trackage (depending on how far east it was built).  Since the area does not have existing residential communities, NIMBYism is not an issue.  It’s hard to say what the future holds for existing Russell and Roncesvalles sites depending on the speed with which the existing fleet is replaced.


  16. One of the recent comments on a post mentioned TCRP at plus a more specific reference to TCRP report 114 on Low floor light rail vehicles.  It is a thorough report on several transit companies experience with LFLRT vehicles operating on a variety of track configurations including streetcar routes.

    In June 2005 TTC initiated a procurement process to determine the potential issues with LFLRT vehicles in Toronto.  There were several major issues, but the most serious appears to be the center wheel assembly.  Since there is no room for an axle, the 4 wheels are independently suspended with a resulting loss of guidence from ajoining wheels.  Experience is derailments on sharp curves (TTC specifies 10.9m), at single point switches (standard with TTC) and poor track conditions.  None of the bogies shown in the Bombardier online catalogue are designed for tighter than 15m radius curves.  Since the problems appear to be related to the physical constraints imposed by the low floor design rather than minor clearance issues, these issues may be difficult to resolve and the consequences of failure will be severe (derailments).

    The report also includes considerable discussion on track and wheel maintenance where specific contours need to be maintained (although this may be related to high speed operation).


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