My New Streetcar [Updated]

This has already been covered in other blogs such as spacing and Transit Toronto, but there are a few observations I want to add to others’ comments.

The TTC launched their public consultation for a new streetcar design (stop already folks — I know it’s a “Light Rail Vehicle”, but real people out there call them “streetcars”) at the last TTC meeting.  Information flyers appeared on TTC vehicles and a website sprang to life.  This is an excellent example of the sort of co-ordinated announcement that is possible when an organization actually thinks about getting its message out.

The TTC wants to show people examples of modern car designs and ask their input on what’s important for the fleet that will serve Toronto for many decades to come.  Bombardier has a partial Minneapolis car in town that will be on view at Dundas Square on Thursday, June 28 from noon to 8:00 pm.

Other public sessions (at this point it is uncertain whether the demo car will be on site) will be held at Finch Station (June 25), Scarborough Town Centre (June 26) and the Albion Centre (June 27).

[James Bow has advised that the mockup car will only be at Dundas Square, not the other locations.]

As someone who works at STC, I will be thrilled to see a display of possible new streetcars just outside the door (I can see the existing ones at Broadview Station from my living room), but it will be bittersweet.

The SRT line was supposed to be an LRT line originally and parts of it were engineered for that technology — the loop and the original low platform at Kennedy — and the signs at Kennedy even had LRT pictographs on them on opening day.  Instead we got an expensive orphan technology, and the planned extension to Malvern was never built.

The TTC studied the question of replacing the RT with LRT and their consultant, Richard Soberman, was clearly leaning to that conclusion at the public meetings.  Then something changed, and the idea of LRT conversion was presented in as negative light as possible.  With the recent funding change relieving the City of responsibility for capital spending on major lines like this, the decision on technology really is out of the City’s hands.  Nominally, it’s the GTTA’s decision, but I fear that the need to prop up the reputation of the technology will trump any other issues.

On Tuesday the 25th, we will have the irony of a display about new streetcars at a location they will never serve.

34 thoughts on “My New Streetcar [Updated]

  1. Although I can understand why the GTAA would encourage Ontario-built vehicles, what incentive do they have to keep this RT technology over domestic LRTs?

    At what point did endorsing the province’s manufacturing sector become synonymous with becoming a Bombardier puppet?


  2. To Kent:

    Bombardier is from Quebec, which means it is the favourite child of Canada, which means Bombardier can sucker cash from Canada for whoever it gets contract from.

    The fact is that there are more incentives for the TTC to get rid of the SRT’s technology than keep, but they are hiding behind capital costs of technology conversion, the big one being track gauge. Shame really, the result would have a significantly more unified (potentially) tri-line junction at Kennedy in Transit City.


  3. The only day I can check out the LRT vehicle would be on the 25th of June at the Finch Station. Where exactly at this station will this car be displayed at?

    Steve: It is unclear whether the vehicle will actually be at all locations. At Finch, the display is inside the station, downstairs, and I doubt the car will be there.


  4. Aman Hayer, the tram your picture depicts is a Siemens Avanto; the Minneapolis tram the TTC are displaying is its (essentially interchangeable) counterpart from Bombardier, the Flexity Swift, and the ones depicted on are all either equivalent or higher-capacity.


  5. Aren’t you being a little hard on the SRT? If LRT ran in an exclusive ROW the cost would be the same. Compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges.

    The RT *technology* is no more expensive than LRT. The rails would cost roughly the same, and so would the vehicles. The difference is in the ROW and stations.

    I just can’t understand why you’re against a light rail technology that is superior to its LRT cousin (automated control, etc.). Look at what Vancouver did with it.

    Steve: This could lead into a huge debate about RT technology, but I will try to keep this short.

    First off, the Vancouver line is an example of the best use of this technology. I was very impressed with what they did operating the Expo shuttle on top of the regular service, and this was possible only with the automation. You may be interested to know that the Vancouver folks eventually kicked the UTDC off of the project for incompetence and took over management and design themselves. We were not so lucky.

    In Scarborough, the issue with RT is that it requires a dedicated right-of-way while the SLRT line as originally planned, was going to run at grade through the Town Centre and up to Malvern. The cost would have been much lower than building an elevated. However, some bright spark (probably at the UTDC) came up with the claim that the LRT needed to be elevated through STC. This would avoid isolating the properties south of the right-of-way, notably the land on which the Bell Canada building sits today. The idea of an intersection with a street (something proposed for many other locations on the LRT line) was not mentioned. This led to the massive elevated structure you see today. By the way, access to all of the buildings south of this structure is from the south, not the north because the bus roadway gets in the way.

    Scarborough Council didn’t really like the elevated, but was misled about its necessity for the LRT line, and therefore the switch to RT didn’t have to fight that battle. This was outright deception in which the TTC connived by supporting the claimed need for the elevated LRT. TTC staff have always claimed that the decision to convert was a political one, but they produced the report showing that an elevated LRT was needed. They may have been doing what they were told, but their hands were not clean.

    If the RT is extended, then it must have its own right-of-way, whereas an LRT line could run at grade. It could also be integrated with other planned Transit City routes so that they could run straight through down to Kennedy via STC. As an RT, it will always be an isolated line.

    That’s why I don’t like the RT in Scarborough.


  6. Come on Steve … you know as well as I do that the TTC will not integrate the new Transit City lines. None of the current E-W N-S streetcar routes run interlined at any time of the day. Why do you think this will change with Transit City? We have subway Y-interchange (worth about $200 million in today’s dollars) sitting completely unused.

    So, even if the SRT was converted to LRT, it would still run separately from the other lines, with forced transfers.

    The fact that the SRT needs its own ROW gives the service reliability (except in the winter of course). Forget about the politics that went into that line. On a technical level, it is superior to LRT, and to our subway system. Downgrading it would be a mistake.

    If the TTC said that they’d interline, I’d agree with you.


  7. The SRT may be more technologically advanced than our subway network, but I seriously doubt that you could call it superior. With complexity comes higher cost, and more opportunities for things to go wrong. The technology certainly increased the price of the SRT beyond LRT levels (almost to subway levels), and has given the TTC problems with icing, computer issues, et cetera.

    I suppose the fact that the SRT operates automatically is an advantage it enjoys that the subway and the LRT don’t, but it has been badly implemented — not an inherent fault of the technology, I grant you, but certainly one more strike against a line that should have been built as an LRT int he first place.

    We can automate the subways. If we put an LRT on grade-separated private right-of-way, we can automate those cars as well. Therefore, the only difference with the SRT is its linear induction engines, and I haven’t seen how it’s superior to other technology. Not in terms of power use, not in terms of acceleration, smooth ride, or engine longevity. The SRT is not superior, just more complicated. And now it’s an orphan, wasting maintenance money.


  8. doesn’t offer much hope that public opinion is going to weigh very heavily in the choice. It collects very little data, and the data that are actually about streetcars are collected in a form (ranks) that’s difficult to interpret but easy to conveniently misinterpret. Looks like PR plain and simple. it’s like the public consultation the city does for zoning changes — “We want to hear your opinion before we ignore it.”


  9. Mimmo Briganti cites the TTC’s current practice of not interlining E-W and N-S streetcar routes nor interlining the subway system despite having the infrastructure to do so to counter the argument about the SRT remaining an isolated system.

    There are other significant disadvantages to having a lone technology that does not have full interconnectivity: what about equipment sharing? If damage is done to an SRT vehicle, nothing can be brought in from another line to take its place. (This is the case for BUS service in Buenos Aires, where each route is operated by a different company!)

    Additionally, the TTC does interline some streetcar services that are mostly the same compass directions. Though I am unaware of the TTC doing this for streetcar operations (I know it does for some short bus routes), the RTD in Denver uses the interlining of its LRT lines to provide some variety in their operators jobs. Instead of driving back and forth over the same route the entire day, a number of runs on one route end at a terminal that is interlined with another route and the train re-enters service on the other route.


  10. I have ridden the Combino cars and the Flexity Swift and they were both great vehicles. I believe that the combino cars had derailment problems in Melbourne and other places when they first started. My preferrence is for a vehicle like the Flexity Swift because they have normal trucks under the outer sections and NOT because they are made by Bombardier. I think that our single blade swithces will prove a problem to the low floor axle less trucks and therefore the fewer of them the better.

    I am taking off on a two month sail around the lower three great lakes and will let you know what I find in Cleaveland (the correct spelling) and Buffalo.


  11. Well said, John.

    It’s hard to leave three of the eight want, when you would hope that all eight would be incorporated.

    Of course, they left out better service and Proof Of Payment on all lines to speed them up. Must’ve been an oversight….


  12. Linear induction is superior technologically because it involves less moving parts, and less moving parts mean fewer breakdowns. It can also accelerate the vehicle much faster, and the SRT can run with 60 sec headways. Can our subway do that?

    And safety — if anything falls to track level, the cars will sense it and stop. I just think the SRT gets a undeserved bad rap here.

    To my knowledge, there are no LRT cars with built-in automation off-the-shelf.

    Steve: The acceleration (and deceleration) rate of any electric rail vehicle is limited by the ability of people not to fall over, not by the technology of the motor. PCC streetcars in their early day of development had to be detuned a bit as they had such jackrabbit takeoffs (and this was in the late 1920s). Also, the acceleration rate affects the power draw of a train, and the faster you want to speed up, the more power you must be able to draw from the system in a shorter time. This affects both the power control system on the train and the capabilities of the power distribution infrastructure. LIMs have nothing to do with it.

    60 second headways are a nice idea, and the subway will be able to do this, within reason, once its signal system is replaced. Indeed, the technology of the new control system for Yonge is a relative of the one used by the RT. The constraints on headways are always station service times and terminal configuration. If you have dinky little trains, the terminals are simpler and the crossovers are not occupied for as long a time. If you have lots of riders, dwell times can be considerable. Just look at Kennedy where even with drop-back crewing and double-sided loading (possible only because of the platform arrangement), trains do not just pop into and out of the station.

    LRT cars are not built with automation off the shelf for the fundamental reason that LRT, by definition, does NOT run in locations requiring automatic train control and a completely closed guideway. That’s part of the “Light” concept which the RT misses by a mile. (Sorry, but the rhythm of that phrase just does not work in metric.)

    Intrusion detection is possible on any system provided that you want to invest the money in it. Vancouver did this with technology they got from Israel (the US wouldn’t let an American supplier export it due to security concerns). It’s a relative of the stuff that is used to monitor unguarded border crossings. They had to work at preventing “false positives” every time a bird landed on a fence or on the right-of-way.

    I don’t mind debating technologies, but please don’t use extraneous arguments that have nothing to do with the actual situation in Scarborough.


  13. OK, let’s debate it. Your proposal is to convert the SRT to LRT and extend it outward in branches from its current terminus.

    This has two downsides. First, if the service on the existing SRT trunk is x, then if line branches in two at STC, the service on each branch is x/2. Three branches, and it’s x/3 on each branch. The branches get crappy service. This isn’t like the old Bloor-University system, because the branches don’t have an alternate “crosstown” route. And, you know the TTC won’t run extra service on the trunk.

    Then, because the branches are on semi-exclusive ROWs, and subject to delays by traffic lights, the reliability of the trunk route is compromised. So whereas before you had regular headways on the shared section of the line, now you may have irregular ones.

    When you weigh all of this, it’s better to leave the SRT intact and build LRT from STC as self-contained lines that can operate at independent frequencies. Of course it means an extra transfer, but this is the TTC.

    When you put all of this together, it’s better to leave the SRT alone and

    Steve: At this point, Mimmo’s comment ends. I do not know if he has met an untimely fate at the hands of a masked LRT advocate, or merely clicked a little too soon. In any event …

    The assumption that combined headways will give crappy service is nonsense, although from an operational point of view reasonable spacing is a nice idea. In effect you are saying that the TTC couldn’t run good service if their lives depended on it, and we shouldn’t trust them to run a streetcar (oops — LRT) line properly.

    If the line is extended some distance, a great deal of the transferring that now happens at STC will vanish because people will already be on a car, and the need for clockwork headways at this point will diminish. Minor upsets can be sorted out down at Kennedy for the return trip.

    Why wouldn’t the TTC run extra service on the trunk? It is conceivable that we could have all service on a completely protected line as far as Markham and Sheppard and then send some service through on a less segregated right-of-way from there onward. It’s called a short-turn, a concept not unknown to the TTC.

    Yes, there is a possibility that a delay on the outer end of the line will affect service on the inner end. Just like it does when the switches freeze up at McCowan, or the computer system is down and the line is on manual operation, or an operator has a leisurely crew change, or a host of other problems that plague the line today. I have frozen my butt off enough times on STC platform or in trains with doors sitting wide open somewhere along the line for minutes on end that this is not idle conjecture.

    Your argument is a rehash of the TTC staff position on this, one which I feel misrepresents tha actual tradeoffs involved.

    Other comments here (some not published) have advocated extending the RT north of Sheppard. The further this technology goes, the more the cost difference over LRT will be. The Malvern LRT goes up there for a reason, but a direct service to STC would be very useful. It is the RT that’s in the way.


  14. Steve

    My thoughts on the term “Light Rail”, –I may not be right, but it’s the way I see it!

    The term “Light Rail” seems to confuse many, in what is explained to them as light rail or what they believe is light rail or what they see in other areas that is called light rail.

    I beleive that what was called a streetcar, electric interurban or radial in our cities, suburban and rural areas many years go comes under the umbrella coverage of the term light rail transit (LRT) or light rail vehicle (LRV) today. I’m sure some would be quick to point out that there is certainly a difference today between a streetcar in Toronto or Philadelphia and a light rail vehicle the likes of which we see in places like Minneapolis, Houston, Calgary, Buffalo, Cleveland, Tacoma, Portland, to name a few. Yes, there certainly are differences but I believe they still all come under the term light rail. If one were to look at the word “Truck”—what image would that bring up? It could be a pick-up truck, dump truck, flat bed, refrigeration unit, tractor trailer, cement and on and on—but, they still come under the classification of what we call a Truck. For simplification would it be easier if we were to say LR/streetcar or LR/tram for the busy downtown cores where tighter curves are encountered, closer stops are required and possibly smaller vehicles as opposed to LR/suburban, which would have the larger cars, passenger stops further apart, higher speeds, and probably higher capacity, or then again we could just use the modern term “light rail vehicles” which would cover all! The thing about all light rail vehicles in general is that whether they be high floor, low floor, articulated, straight frame, wider, or longer, is that the vehicles are equally capable of running in mixed traffic, on P/R/W, on elevated structures or underground, and the benefit is a smooth, comfortable means of moving large numbers of transit passengers safely, efficiently, and cost effectively.

    The RT in Scarborough, in my opinion, would come under the classification of “mickey mouse”. I suppose, if mickey could actually speak, he would be quite disheartened to be named in such an association and wouldn’t want anything to do with such a political endeavor that was going to “invent the wheel”—I think even mickey knew that the wheel had been invented a long, long time ago.



  15. A few words on interlining-

    The subways obviously no longer interline (well… they did earlier this year on weekends 😉 ), although it was a nice idea and just had a few unforeseen complications. The current streetcar network is VERY much interlined. As already pointed out, the 504 and 505 are an example of interlining, as is the 509 and Union-bound 510 (remember that the actual terminus of the 510 route proper is the Queen’s Quay and Spadina loop, not Union Station, which is a through-service operation on the 509), as is the 511 and 509 (albeit little more than a shared terminus). The 501 and 502/503 all also are interlined, as their routes are running on the same track from Queen and Coxwell to Queen and McCaul(502)/Church(503). The 506 is not interlined as a route (unless it short turns), but it actually does use interlining when it become the 306 at night (goes to Dundas West Stn. instead of the High Park loop). Seeing as the 508 is not worth mentioning since it’s a partial-501, that means the only really non-interlined streetcar route in Toronto is the 512… (which, if they wanted to at any time, could run through-service on the 511 😉 ).


  16. Hi Steve and Harold:-

    Mickey Mouse indeed. Unfortunately ICTS hijacked the poor rodent. He proved that he could pilot a steamboat so could have been made Commodore of a Scarborough ‘Swansit’ System. Sorry to be so so sibbilant, sirs!

    At least we were spared mag-lev!

    Dennis Rankin


  17. Re comment 18 (and others) I have always been of the impression that “inter-lining” meant that a vehicle on a route would reach the end of its assigned operation for that specific route and at that point became a vehicle on a second route to a different destination, often then returning to the starting point of the second route and then once again becoming a vehicle on the first route. I believe the Forest Hill route is interlined with another, but not being a bus freakazoid (no offense intended to anyone – please don’t write letters) couldn’t tell you which one.

    Steve: Christie Bus.

    This is a common practice on a few European systems, and no doubt elsewhere. The interpretation used in comment 18 seems to refer not to interlining but common (or duplicate) operation. As far as I know no 504 car becomes a 505 (or vice versa) at Broadview Station or Dundas West Station, for example. There ARE a couple of 503 cars that, upon reaching York and King at the end of the AM rush, now turn west and enter service on 510, however even that is not truly interlining, they’re just changing route assignments to save some mileage between that point and Russell CH. Let’s not refer to shared routes as interlining, because they’re not.

    Steve: This is turning into a debate on semantics, not transit operations. The issue here is whether service quality would be compromised by having more than one “route” (defined as a service between two defined points) operating over a shared piece of track. For example, a service from Kennedy Station north to Malvern mixed with one east along Sheppard. These may or may not run on multiples of a common headway. There could even be a short turn operation that only went to Sheppard Avenue and stayed entirely on the LRT right-of-way.

    I really don’t care what we call it, and plan to DELETE any future comments on this topic without mercy.


  18. I paid a visit to the display at Scarborough Center today. One of the questions strikes me as being odd. Why is the TTC asking people whether they want windows that they can open? In the age of air conditioning, do people really need to open windows? There is also an issue of the new trams travelling at high speeds with people’s arm sticking outside the windows.

    The display did not have too many pictures of Bombardier’s products. This is sad. This under-representation does not represent a fair process. There was no mention of the power saving technology that the new trams would bring. For example, the Bombardier MITRAC technlogy can cut power consumption by 30%. This should be an important criteria for selection if Canada wants to meet its Kyoto committments.

    There does not seem to be a sense of patriotism at these events. The police department purchase Chevy Impalas over Toyota Camrys because they are produce in Canada. Bombardier should be the sole source where TTC purchase their equipment from. Even if the TTC overpays for the trams, that extra profit can be channeled into the aerospace division to help compete against Embrarer. How many Canadian companies that has revenue over $1 billion and are not involve in resource extraction? Very few. With one of the few remaining Canadian icons, why aren’t we willing to support it?

    There is one more point I want to add about the ICTS system. The next generation MkII vehicles have the ability to “catch up”. For example, if a train is 20 seconds late leaving Kennedy, the train computer can run the car at 100 km/h instead of the usual 70 km/h to make up for the lost time. ICTS cannot solve all the problems in the world, but it is an all in one package that packs the most amount of technology.

    Steve: The question about windows is quite straightforward. Some people prefer to have a breeze rather than A/C, and for considerable periods of the year it is not hot enough to justify the extra energy consumption to run an A/C unit when all that is needed is a breeze. In the spring and fall, a breeze through a window is far preferable to a sealed vehicle with A/C. Moreover, a sealed vehicle must be taken out of service if the A/C fails because it becomes intolerably hot.

    The power savings cited are relative to an older conventional propulsion technology, not to current solid state gear such as that already used on our subway cars. This is not an inherent huge advantage for Bombardier.

    If anyone doubts that Bombardier is well represented, just look at the fact that it’s their demo model that was at the mynewstreetcar launch, and their model that will be at Dundas Square on Thursday. The TTC is going out of its way to avoid giving the impression that this is a done deal for Bombardier given all of hte flak they took over the subway car order.

    Finally, as to the Mark II RT cars, the capability of playing catch up has been in the system since the very first day of the Mark I’s and was used on Vancouver’s first line as a standard way to cope with delays. Of course, there is nothing to prevent a streetcar (pardon me, LRV driver) from putting their foot the the floor a bit more heavily assuming that running at higher speed is (a) safe and (b) permitted as a mode of operation. Streetcar drivers have been doing this for as long as I can remember. You don’t need a computer to go faster when you’re late.


  19. Much as we need A/C on days like today, I’ve spent enough time on freezing GO Buses first thing on a cool summer morning to know that a windows that opens would be an asset.

    As to where we source the equipment, I don’t care. Bombardier is an international company, much like GM and Toyota are in the car business. (Police buy Chevy’s and Ford’s because those companies are in the business of selling police cars in North America. Toyota probably doesn’t see that niche as worthwhile yet, they’ve got the high margin truck market to take over first.) We need less interference from politicans in the process and making Canadian content a requirement is just that. It doesn’t create or save jobs in Canada, it simply increases the cost for minimal benefit.

    I want the best equipment for the lowest cost. By best I mean best suited to our needs, most reliable and cost effective to run. What ever is chosen should be on the merits of the equipment itself.

    As to automation, keep it simple. The TTC doesn’t seem to do high technology very well.


  20. Benny – Bombardier is a private concern not an arm of the state and thus subsidising private owners is not to be undertaken lightly.

    Much of its manufacturing base is not in Canada but in Mexico, Northern Ireland, England and elsewhere and if Bombardier gets the LRV contract much of the components will be manufactured outside of Canada in cheaper locations and imported for assembly. Allowing other constructors to bid is why Bombardier gets to bid on and win orders for operators like SNCF.


  21. As far as this question of windows opening, I always agreed with having windows that do not open with the thinking that a good hvac system and no windows is more efficient.

    However, after sitting on the ViVA RTV today with no air conditioning (not sure if the driver was lazy or it was broken or something) in what must have been >35°c inside the bus, I have decided that all vehicles should at least have some sort of passenger windows.

    Steve: Nothing like some real world experience.


  22. Most European vehicles with (to use the old phrase) “picture windows” have opening flipper panes at the top of at least some windows, usually 50%, sometimes more, and generally, since the 1960s, have opening roof vents as on buses here (haven’t been on an Orion low floor in Toronto – do these still exist?).

    Air conditioning in European transit vehicles is a fairly recent phenomenen (although Mannheim had 20 Duewag cars from the 1970s with WONDFERFUL air, quite refreshing on a hot day back then). Even now many hotels do not have it, nor private homes, although with the increasingly hot summers overseas sales are increasing dramaticaly). The new generations of low floors in Europe USUALLY have air conditioning, some only for the driver’s cab, but my experience in May in Halle, Germany confirms that not everyone thinks their passengers should be comfortable – it reminded me of the TTC CLRVs as originally configured – 30 degrees outside, 45 inside. Intolerable. TTC cars must have capability to open windows in some fashion.


  23. I haven’t had a massive amount of experience with the current air-conditioned buses on hot summer days. But in my experience so far, they seem to work very well. But often you see that there are windows open inside. (I have to give credit to one lady, boarding the 25 at Pape the other day, someone started opening up the hatch, and she complained to him that it would be warmer that way … the bus was wonderfully cool for the half-hour ride!).

    I’m wondering if the answer for new streetcar vehicles is that they the windows should be kept sealed, because it is difficult to stop people opening windows when they shouldn’t, particularily on 3-unit vehicles, where the driver is going to be separated (after all, you can’t open windows on subway cars!).

    Perhaps as part of this, there should be a service requirement that if the air-conditioning isn’t functioning and the outside temperature is about 25 degrees, that the vehicle would have to be taken out of service (I’ve certainly seen Via taking passenger carriages out of service if the air-conditioning has failed).

    Also for safety reasons, with the amount of narrow tunnels that are proposed on some routes, such as Eglinton, it might be safer to not be able to let peope stick arms out of windows.

    Steve: Taking vehicles out of service for non-working AC just adds to the fleet size needed to provide service given the usual failure rate. I have been on subway and RT cars with failed AC units, and they are impossible to ride on hot days. This sort of experience does not endear the TTC to passengers.

    I would far rather have the ability to get fresh air through a window than have to depend on the AC unit to pump air into a bus or streetcar even when the weather outside is perfectly enjoyable. That will save far more energy than might be wasted by someone opening a window on a hot day.


  24. Opening windows are a necessity but they need to be designed in an intelligent fashion. Ignorant/selfish passengers have a habit of opening windows un-necessarily when the A/C is operating, which thoroughly disrupts the circulation required to make the A/C effective. The stupidest arrangement I’ve ever seen was on the RTS buses where every openable window was of the ‘top-flipper’ type and the vent outlets for the HVAC system were located directly above. Passengers would keep opening the flippers, thereby deflecting large volumes of freshly cooled air straight outside the bus! Seems like a great solution to Global Warming though… that is until you realise how much extra diesel fuel is consumed powering an A/C unit that never accomplishes its goal. Wasted power would still be an environmental issue in a poorly planned LRV. People are already going to have to smarten-up and keep the windows shut when the rebuilt CLRVs get A/C, but at least in that case most of the window openings are at seat-level. I’d hope that the TTC would eventually instruct their Operators to at least close any open windows when doing their end-of-route vehicle checks if the A/C is running that day (same for heating season).


  25. With regard to air operation and window positions it should be possible to include a “lockout” switch on the operator’s console that would allow the operator to de-active opening windows when air is in use, and allow open windows when it is not. It’s merely an engineering matter requiring some electronics and window catches. Of course there should also be backups accessible through the car itself. I’ve never seen this done (maybe I should patent the idea) which doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been, but a properly engineered system would solve the problem and the passenger-compartment switches could be activated in emergencies.

    Steve: To cross-pollinate this discussion, maybe we could have Presto readers so that people willing to pay a surcharge could open the windows for fresh air!


  26. Hey everybody..

    I’m a TTC streetcar operator and I’ve had many debates on this topic and i just wanted to hear what you guys think…. How do you feel about the Driver being completely sectioned off by a wall or glass sliding door or whatever it is. The operator is in a cockpit type room and has no interaction with the public. What do you think?


  27. Hi Steve and Nodrog:-

    Well Nodrog, just the topic that I was discussing with a Queen Operator today. My opinion is that for a rapid type operation, where a passenger can ask the fare collector their riding questions, it’s OK. The enclosed cab there gives the Operator and ultimately the entire train that extra bit of security that may be required from time to time too.

    But on a surface vehicle, where the only employee the rider sees is the Operator, they’re the ones who need to answer the patrons queries. As far as security goes, all that goes on in the vehicle can potentially be witnessed from outside and inside the car, full separation from the public is not quite so essential. As was exhibited at Dundas Square the ability of the Operator to be an Ambassador for the system for the majority of patrons who are not out to harm or harass the motorman is lost. A minimised cab is more appropriate when the motorman will be required to assist with directions.

    Dennis Rankin


  28. Sorry to post on an older thread, but I’ve been curious about this for awhile. Pictures of some of the European vehicles show them operating on a green ROW. Esthetically, I think it’s gorgeous, and the there’s no doubting the strong pro-environment message. Just wondering if there’s any reason we wouldn’t consider something similar here, if we haven’t already?

    I didn’t get a chance to see the Queen’s Quay project last summer but I understand (and please correct me) that there was a temporary “lawn” laid out as part of the demonstration.

    Steve: The grass grows greener in the warm climates! On Queen’s Quay, there was no grass on the streetcar right-of-way, but in the former eastbound curb lane. There were also many, many pots of flowers.


  29. One key thing they need on the new streetcars are wider seats with more leg room. The new low floor buses have incredibly tight seating in the raised section in the back.

    Seating’s bad enough on the new subway cars. The TTC seems to think people aren’t gaining weight. Most of the population unfortunately is. I’m 6 feet tall and relatively slim, and I’m squished in those seats. Such miserly seat spacing does little to attract people to transit.


  30. The seats are too HARD! Bring back the foams cushiony seats! I can feel my spine sitting in those darn seats — and, clean them … they’re filthy!


  31. Hi Steve. I’ve snipped the bulk of a post from my blog and reused it here, to get your thoughts, as I’ll bet you’re not reading my blog (it’s rarely about transit, I’m afraid).

    Steve: Apologies for dropping my comments inline, but I prefer to answer the different threads as they appear so that readers hear the “conversation”.

    When I attended the info session at Yonge and Dundas, I crossed paths with a gentleman who was just giving it to one of the volunteers – his argument basically boiled down to: “it’s all fine and dandy to make the streetcars wheelchairs accessible – what about making the street wheelchair accessible?” If we are truly going to emulate the euro model as Minneapolis did, we’d be looking at converting major streets into ROWs – I don’t see the merchants of Little Italy allowing this for the 506, for example. What makes the Minneapolis line work is that among other things they took entire blocks in the downtown and converted them to ROW combined with pedestrian ways. Now, I’m all for it, but I don’t see how that would fly on some of our major routes.

    Steve: Actually, this sort of thing has already come up in a few design exercises including the waterfront lines and proposals for Roncesvalles Avenue. In brief, the solution is to move the stops away from the intersections so that the sidewalk bellies out in an area that would otherwise be full of parked cars to meet the streetcar tracks. In a few cases, where no right turns are possible, you can do this at the intersection, but each stop treatment is site-specific.

    This same gentleman was also passionately arguing against streetcars in the downtown, period. He asked the billion dollar question, “Why aren’t we building subways instead?” Naturally, I piped up that no one exactly has $20 billion floating around, and his response was basically, find the money. Now, I know this has been beaten to death here, but he had what sounded like intriguing ideas about funding that I am simply too ignorant of the basic laws of economics to refute, so I thought I would try and recall them here as best as possible and see what you might have to say.

    His main example cited the city of San Francisco in the Depression, wanting to build one of the bridges that crosses the Bay (it wasn’t clear to me which one). No one had the money for this, but the city secured an interest-free loan from the State – possibly the Federal level too, this was after all a conversation in a crowded mockup of an LRT – that they were able to pay off by 1960. I’m sure there are all sorts of reasons why this wouldn’t work here – but could it? The other thought he had was that the City could sell bonds to raise the capital funding. Again, it strikes me as improbable, but I’m not in a position to say.

    Steve: The City already sells bonds to raise capital, and they strive to keep the total borrowing at a rate where they can afford to pay the interest. It’s no different than someone buying a house they can’t afford to carry. In fact, the City’s credit rating is strongly affected by whether the bond agencies feel that the City will be able to sustain its borrowing and pay its debts reliably.

    The City could not afford to borrow all of the cost of something like a Queen Street subway, and that’s why they turn to Queen’s Park and Ottawa.

    The reason that I felt it worth sharing this at all (and didn’t chalk it up to the ramblings of some nutter) was that the gentleman in question identified himself as the owner of a well-known restaurant downtown that has been there for years. So, fine, he knows a little about money. He also said that he has a disabled son, which is why he’s more passionate than some on the issue of accessible streetcars. I suggested to him that he’s the one with the ideas, he should be contacting City Hall with them, but he didn’t seem to think it was worth trying. So what I’m wondering is, whether we’re talking about subways or streetcars, do his funding ideas hold any water? With the recent threatened budget cuts, it would seem that thinking outside the box is overdue anyway.

    Steve: I hope, if this gentleman’s resto is on King Street anywhere from Simcoe to Spadina, that he is open to some sort of priority treatment in the area for transit. This doesn’t have to be the full blown close-the-road scheme floated by the TTC, but the way the roadspace is used must be changed. I have already talked about stop design, and another important modification would be to extend the no-parking periods at the end of both rush hours.

    Thanks for cross-posting.


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