New Light Rail Vehicle Update

The TTC agenda for next week includes a report on the status of the new LRV project.

Seven companies expressed interest in bidding, although one dropped out.  They are:

  • AnsaldoBreda
  • Bombardier
  • Kinkisharyo (No longer participating)
  • Mytram
  • Siemens
  • Skoda
  • Vossioh-Kiepe

The TTC plans to include public participation in the evaluation of possible new cars.  This will include a website (presumably not designed by the wizards responsible for the existing one), and would-be vendors will be asked to provide a car for viewing.  I suspect that this will cull a few more from the list as the expense of bringing a car to Toronto is substantial, and only someone with deep pockets and a fair hope of winning the bid would undertake this.

The current plan is to award a contract in June 2008 with the prototype cars delivered in 2010.  Cynics among us will point out that this corresponds with the next municipal election cycle.

The nub of this issue is funding.  Council is pursuing a tri-partite arrangement with Queen’s Park and Ottawa, a scheme that could very well see this in limbo for years. 

We don’t have years.  The cars proposed here will only cover replacement of the existing fleet let alone expansion into new routes.  Maybe with our “new revenue tools”, Council will shoulder more of the cost locally and we will stop holding the transit system hostage to three-way political haggling.

13 thoughts on “New Light Rail Vehicle Update

  1. The problem is that some of the revenue tools likely to be used (probably including a car registration tax) don’t push car rides to transit as the tax won’t be penal enough to dump the car but it will be a flat tax so people who drive to work or take transit to work will pay the same rate.

    We need a parking tax on car parks including office buildings and schools, so that 905ers pay a penalty if they won’t take transit. We should consider closing the City Hall car park or radically offloading the TPA’s properties to fund capital for transit.

    Once that’s in, let’s talk about road pricing. But any tax must act as part-carrot rather than as mere indiscriminate stick – but given the attitude of the city in its meetings on new taxes, we’re likely to get a lot of new, unfair but easy to levy taxes which don’t raise a lot of money and which largely exclude from its effect drivers coming into the city.


  2. I am very happy to hear that TTC is considering in buying new streetcars. About the funding, I feel the provincial and federal governments are ignoring The One Cent NOW! campaign. This seems like a childish idea, I think municipal agencies should have donation boxes where we can get rid of pennies. I think pennies are a waste of money and they should put in good use. Not only in funding of new streetcars, but also other municipal services as well.


  3. My Vote is for either, Skoda or Siemens. Both are experienced with building LRT systems in a North American Context.

    Siemens would be great because their trains look like Subways running at grade, so it would make them an easier sell to Subway proponents. Plus they have a very confortable ride, plus they have worked quite well in both Calgary and Edmonton.

    Skoda has recently helped Seattle Build its LRT network. So they too are quite promising. Nice thing about Skoda is that they can be used as either LRT or Streetcar. But I would prefer Toronto use something different for its LRTs than it does for its streetcars (make the LRT plan easier to sell).


  4. I notice that Alstom is absent from this list. Are Citadis streetcars unsuitable for use on the existing network, or does Alstom simply not have a significant presence in Canada?

    Steve: I don’t know why various companies bid or didn’t bid. There were technical briefing sessions earlier this year, and it is possible that even if Alstom participated, they may have decided not to bid. This could be due to compatibility and/or concerns about establishing a Canadian manufacturing base.


  5. yeaaaa I think Siemens should get the contract their combino streetcars are nice, they do really good work:)

    Steve: We have to see what they bid first, or if they bid. At this point, it’s only a list of interested potential suppliers.


  6. Although in principle I agree that Toronto should shoulder the costs for its public transit system. Toronto (and other large cities) based upon an article in today’s Globe that city dwellers pay more in taxes than we receive in services (see
    Granted big cities like Calgary and Toronto have deeper pockets to pick than less urban and rural areas. But I don’t believe that ratepayers have the inclination for tax increase even for a worthy cause like public transit. Mississauga, Vaughan and others have promoted themselves for years as being a lower tax jurisdictions close to Toronto. A big tax increase is likely to cause more flight to suburbs. Several of the big banks have moved staff outside the city. Short of creating a “new” metro level government with taxing power across the GTA and as long as the suburbs are getting a free ride we can’t afford more taxes in the city. (Question: Operating cost recovery thru fares GO vs. TTC, who gets more subsidy?)

    What we really need to do is put pressure on provincal and federal politicans elected in Toronto to start doing more for Toronto. The federal government especially is awash in cash currently, cash that could be used to buy new vehicles and build new lines. For years the representatives we sent to Queens Park and Ottawa effectively ignored the city. It’s time to wake them up and both will be facing elections soon!


  7. I have ridden both the Combino Cars in Melbourne and the Flexity Swift cars in Croydon (London) and they are both great vehicles. When it comes to choosing I doubt that there will be much contest. The Cars will be built in Thunder Bay by Bombardier and will be of the Flexity Swift design. They have North American experience in Minneapolis operate in 7 other cities around the world.

    The Combino cars in Melbourne are very pleasant to ride but are 100% low floor. I cannot find a dual level car on their website but I suppose they could make one. I believe that the Combino cars had problems with derailment at the middle trucks when they first cam out. It would be interesting to see them on single blade switches as Melbourne has double blade switches. The Flexity Swift cars are not as sexy as the Combinos but they are functional, Have only one low level axle less truck and are built in Thunder Bay. I bet there will be lots of pressure from the two higher levels of Government to buy Canadian even if GATT says that you can’t do that. The cars have a 99% probability of being Bombardier Flexity Swift cars with a large part of their construction happening in Thunder Bay. The cars are very good so I don’t have a problem with them, just be ready for political reality.

    R Wightman


  8. We should not automatically award contracts to Bombardier on the basis of being Canadian, because they are the only maker of streetcars in Canada. This effectively makes them a monopoly. In addition, there may be technical reasons that make them more or less suitable for Toronto.


  9. Michael,

    Thank You for that link. It was very informative. I am shocked looking at those numbers:

    Calgary -2,253
    Toronto -1,717

    Where does the money go?

    Toronto, I guess it goes to the 905 region. Which is equally wrong.

    But what about Calgary? Calgary’s Suburbs are part of city limits. Calgary has always just annexed any new suburbs. So the money is not going to the suburbs either. I guess it’s all going to the Rural Regions of the province, who are far over represented in the legislature (some Suburban seats in Calgary and Edmonton poor into the rural regions of the province).

    Toronto and Calgary are the economic engines of the country. The fact that the two cities are the most short changed raises a lot of questions.


  10. Another factor affecting a Siemens bid may be the experience of the subway car bid and the cancellation of the O-Train. Unlike Alberta, Siemens have not had a happy time gaining business in Ontario.

    It would be nice to have the extra revenue for Ontario that building in Thunder Bay would bring but it would be even better if one of the contenders offered to locate the plant in the 416 (or BBD located the LRV line at their Downsview facility) and bolster our rapidly shrinking industrial base in addition to the property taxes and other economic benefits of the additional jobs.


  11. AnsaldoBreda – Absolutely NOT! They have a consistent history of ugly and unreliable products.

    Bombardier – I hate to admit it, but the Flexity LRVs are actually pretty decent. The Croyden trams have some trouble with wheel noise and front-end wander, but these issues should not be difficult to address.

    Kinkisharyo – I don’t know about the reliability or noise of their recent models, but everything they’ve produced since the Boston Type 7’s has been horribly ugly and bulky. If they made something resembling the Boston cars for us then I’d be happy with the look, despite the mass of open electrical gear on the roof. Kinkisharyo might have been a decent option. Too bad they’ve dropped out.

    Mytram – I know nothing about these guys. Can anyone provide links?

    Siemens – The very latest SD-series models are ugly compared to the slightly earlier ones. They could probably give us a decent price however.

    Skoda – The Skoda car is an absolute NO based on the design specifics I’ve seen. There are only two trucks on this thing. The long centre section is completely suspended between the end sections. I won’t try to comment in detail, but I have a really bad feeling that this design is crap and will be prone to early wear and shaking.

    Vossioh-Kiepe – I would have to say no to this one because it uses only two wheels at each articulation joint instead of four. This is a recipe for heavy wear and derailments on turns.

    Here is what I think we need in terms of features:

    – Real trucks at all locations, whether or not the centre truck(s) have split axles to accomodate the low floor. Anything else results in excessive side shaking/wandering and wheel/rail wear.

    – No hub motors! This is when a motor is essentially an integral part of a wheel when the wheel has no through-axle. These motors absolutely scream like a banshee! The Combino is an offender as such.

    – A ‘normal’ windshield slope. There is absolutely no good reason to stretch the front of an LRV out with a 45 degree nose! The vehicle becomes longer than necessary and the increased reflection on the glass makes the destination sign hard to read. Why we are sloping the front of our new subway cars in beyond me.

    – Hide all electrical gear on the roof from view. Just because it’s on the roof doesn’t mean it is out of sight. Those awful square boxes on top of the ALRVs made them butt-ulgy compared with the CLRV. But that doesn’t compare with many worse offenders out there in the rest of the world.

    – Avoid plug-doors. This type of door is mechanically complex and often unreliable. There have been many other experiments with door types on TTC buses in recent years and still nothing beats the basic flip-open doors for simplicity, speed and reliability. Their only down-side is narrow openings. Some sort of middle-ground should be possible.

    – Don’t make them look a certain way because it’s supposedly fashionable in Europe! The design should be practical and attractive on our own terms.

    Please make our LRVs reliable, quiet, smooth, attractive and practical. Let’s do some real quality research into all aspects of the vehicle and take lessons from elsewhere, whether or not Bombardier is a ‘shoe-in’. Against a lot of the newest LRVs the CLRVs really aren’t that bad, but you have to travel and experience the other vehicles to understand that. When I actually went to San Francisco and rode one of the Boeings I was pleasantly surprised in many ways. We need to take certain good aspects from everywhere and combine them to make a quality vehicle that pleases everyone and doesn’t cost us a fortune in maintenance.


  12. At the Harvey Shops tour two weekends ago (again, a wonderful job by the TTC) there was a mention that the TTC would be able to host a LRV builder on their property in a lease agreement so that they could “build Canadian” for the bid. Hillcrest was one such site, the former Lansdowne Carhouse another. (Though not mentioned, I could see Danforth Carhouse as another good site as well).

    I look forward to a transparent but comprehensive RFP assessment that gets the TTC a good price but also meets the specifications and designs that we need or desire.

    I have rode the Kinki Sharyo LRVs in San Jose, California, and thought that they gave a good, smooth ride and a good low-floor configuration. The centre area between the articulated joints is used for seating, but also an interesting vertical bike rack. I have also rode Flexitys in Croydon and found them to give a nice ride and they function well in a mixed environment of street running and open track.


  13. Kristian said, “Siemens – The very latest SD-series models are ugly compared to the slightly earlier ones.”

    All the SD-series models I have seen are high-floor (some for high platforms, some with steps).

    Siemens has the S-series low floor models like the S70 in Houston, Charlotte, and San Diego. Plus the Combino used in a number of cities including Melbourne. These models are orders of magnitude better looking than the SD-series cars.

    Take a look at


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