Our New Streetcar: The TTC Wants To Hear From You! Really! (Update 3)

Updated Dec. 19 at midnight:

At the Dec. 18th TTC meeting, the reports linked below were discussed along with a technical report and appendix from Booz Allen.  Note that these links point to the National Post’s site where they are linked from this article.  As and when the TTC puts them on its own website, I will alter this link to point to the TTC’s copies.

Thanks to Mark Dowling for alerting me to the documents on the Post’s site.

From a friend who attended the meeting, I learned that organized labour made a strong showing arguing for Canadian content and, of course, for the contract to go to Bombardier in Thunder Bay.  Some members of the Commission echoed this position.  I can’t help thinking that they are overplaying their hands on this one.

First off, Bombardier is the only potential bidder with a Canadian rail car manufacturing facility, and this gives them a leg up on costs against any other contender.  Second, the TTC’s decision to opt for a 100% low-floor specification narrows the field of potential suppliers.  At this point, I would be extremely surprised to see more than two bids for this contract, and given the obvious inside track Bombardier has, why Siemens would waste their money bidding against them is a difficult question. 

This gives us the impression of an open proposal call, but there is clear evidence of a desired outcome, and we’re back at the Toronto Rocket subway car order mess all over again.  Light Rail has enough problems in Toronto, not to mention an uphill battle to secure funding from Queen’s Park and Ottawa, without the odour of a predetermined contract.  The last thing we need is for Ottawa to say “you didn’t run the bid properly” as an excuse to back away.

Booz Allen is a major consulting firm for Light Rail projects, among others, and has participated in many studies and designs for new and expanded systems.  The material in their report is drawn from  experience on other systems, and they are vendor-independent.

The information here is no surprise to anyone familiar with the component costs of rapid transit vehicles.  A very large proportion of the new LRVs will be sourced offshore because that’s where components are manufactured.  Half of the cost per car comes from components that are not manufactured in Canada, and this order of LRVs isn’t remotely close to the quantity that would justify anyone setting up a local plant.

Because any 100% low floor car will be based on a European design, the engineering and fabrication work will be done overseas since the expertise and facilities already exist. 

Best case, Booz Allen estimates that 25% of the value of the car order can be provided in Canada, and of this, a goodly chunk is not going to be the work of the folks at Thunder Bay.

If the TTC were to insist on a higher Canadian content, this would effectively lock out every bidder except Bombardier, and even then Toronto would pay a premium to have overseas manufacturing capability duplicated in Canada.  Indeed, if the Can-Con level is set too high, nobody will bid.

Whoever gets this order will be building light rail equipment for the Toronto area for decades.  As I have said before, I have no brief for any would-be supplier, but want only that Toronto gets an excellent car at a good price. 

This contract, plus the Transit City add-ons, will give us Toronto’s streetcar/LRV fleet well into this century.  This is our last chance, after all the years wasted on alternatives, to get LRT right, for it to be a credible form of transit in the GTA.  The last thing we need is a lemon, or “the Edsel of streetcars” as a former TTC Chief General Manager described the CLRVs.

The Request for Proposals will be issued in early 2008.  The next moves are up to the potential bidders and transit’s “funding partners” to prove how serious they are about the future of rail transit in Toronto.

Updated Dec. 18 at 12:30 pm:

The report to be discussed at the Dec. 18 meeting is now online along with its attachment (a 4.2-meg pdf). 

This includes:

  • statistics about the existing system (fully built-out, the Transit City network will raise the proportion of TTC riding carried by some form of LRT/streetcar to a much higher level, over twice today’s streetcar riding) 
  • the timelines for the evolution of the fleet from the current CLRV/ALRV mix to the new cars (some new lines such as Waterfront East and at least one Transit City line will open before the existing fleet is completely replaced)
  • information on the planned scale of the Transit City network (note that the Waterfront East and Kingston Road projects still do not appear as part of the overall plan)
  • a map showing areas of geometric difficulty such as steep grades and tight curves
  • samples (including one rather elderly car) of vehicles worldwide

The original post follows below.

In what has to be one of the least advertised events surrounding the proposed new streetcar purchase, the TTC will hold a meeting for public input.  Here is the press release:

Dec 14, 2007 10:27 ET

TTC to Hold Special Meeting: Tuesday, December 18, 2007

TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwire – Dec. 14, 2007) –

A special meeting of the Toronto Transit Commission will be held Tuesday, December 18, 2007 at 4 p.m.

The purpose of the meeting is to deal with the following matter:

1. Low Floor Light Rail Vehicles – Request for Proposal

The meeting will take place in Committee Room # 2, Toronto City Hall, 100 Queen Street West.

For more information, please contact

Toronto Transit Commission
Marilyn Bolton
Media Relations
(416) 393-3741

Note that this announcement hit the wires mid-way through Friday morning, and the meeting is not listed on the TTC’s website.  With a 4 pm start time, it is just early enough that anyone who wants to speak to the subject must make special work arrangements to do so.

According to an article in today’s National Post, TTC Chair Adam Giambrone says that “this deserves some public debate”.  The first thing about public debate is that you have to tell people it is happening, and then you have to hold the debate when they can attend. 

Why has this suddenly appeared?  Does the TTC want a figleaf to cover its criteria for new cars? 

There are two obvious issues:

  • Should the proposal call specify that only 100% low floor designs are acceptable, or will alternatives be allowed?  Will versions that have mixed floor heights be judged differently from those that do not? Are we (or more accurately, our “funding partners”) prepared to pay a premium for a completely low floor?
  • Should there be a Canadian content requirement, and if so, at what level?  Many components of Toronto transit vehicles are already sourced offshore.  Moreover, the leisurely production rollout makes it hard to understand why anyone would tool up a Canadian facility without significant subsidy incentives for much beyond basic assembly.

If we are going to debate alternatives, this must be done on an informed basis, but the TTC has not made any background material available for review in advance of the meeting.  I have no brief for any model or design, but find it odd that the TTC seeks public input in such an obscure way.

44 thoughts on “Our New Streetcar: The TTC Wants To Hear From You! Really! (Update 3)

  1. I would really like to provide some detailed input to them, but unfortunately cannot get to the meeting. I assume they will be accepting written submissions though. Do you know how I might best go about doing that?

    Steve: Write to gso@ttc.ca for your correspondence to be included in the agenda, preferably before about noon on Monday. (“gso” stands for “General Secretary’s Office”)


  2. I think they mean “them” debate the issue, not public as in citizens.

    Steve: Yes, I agree, even though the National Post seems to have the idea that this is some sort of opportunity for public input.


  3. What exactly are the benefits of 100% low floor versus partial low floor? Is there any reason we should be demanding this?

    Steve: The main argument is that this gets rid of all the steps inside of the car, and the obvious analogy is to the problems with the steps in our partially low-floor bus fleet. If we can have 100% low floor, it’s certainly preferable, but there is the question of cost and also the technical issues with low floor trucks navigating our track system. Siemens and Bombardier both claim to have licked the track problem, and so all that remains is some idea of price. If the proposal call only accepts 100% low floor cars, we will never know what the premium is over a mixed-floor model.

    This can be taken various ways: Our “friends” in Ottawa may decline to fund an “expensive”, “gold plated” model if they think they can get away with paying for a cheaper version. After all, it’s the same Finance Minister as the Harris days in Ontario. Queen’s Park may take the enlightened view that this will be a car not just for Toronto, but for the GTA, and they are on the forefront of complete accessibility. I smell a nasty finger pointing session coming for this one, and really believe that Queen’s Park should be prepared to fund the extra cost, such as it may be, if only to embarrass Ottawa.

    I was not impressed with the Bombardier model that was here in the summer because of the steps but also because of the amount of space taken up with under-seat equipment cabinets, even in the high floor section. A decidedly unappetizing car from a rider’s point of view.

    We may be seeing the idiocy of closed-in underseat space that almost beset the new subway cars in the name of “security”. The problem is that people put their feet in that space. One wonders if the TTC’s boffins actually ride the system regularly enough to understand such basics.


  4. So much for building on the momentum of the successful Cherry St. consultations. Let’s face it, the TTC has already made up their minds.


  5. I have previously commented that there was absolutely no reason for going with mostly low floor, notwithstanding any concerns about having a step within the car to the seats on each end. Having used the system in Minneapolis a few times, the step seemed to be a non-issue, but I suppose all it takes is one idiot to trip and file a claim. I do wonder if the same type of car could be built with a not-too-steep incline in place of the step.

    That said, after getting back from a two-week trip to Melboune, I really don’t see what the big issue is with 100% low floor. They use both Alstom Citadis as well as Siemens Combino (both 20 m 3-section units and 30 m 5-section units) that are both 100% low floor.

    The Citadis have better passenger movement throughout the whole vehicle, though the seats are on a step up from the low floor and the cars seem to be a bit of a sound amplifier as it seemed every track joint made itself known to you. They seemed to have a higher acceleration rate than the Combinos.

    The Combinos were quieter, but I found that the space near the front most door was rather tight. Maybe because I was travelling during rush hours and used that door most of the time, but there is room for about 3 people to stand immediately inside the door before there is a tight manouver past the front seat. The doors in the suspended sections entered to a wide open space with few obstructions. I suppose a different seating arrangement could fix the problem at the front.

    I really don’t see what the issue is with Toronto’s track, other than single point switches. How much does this enter into the reliability equation for 100% low floor cars?

    Melbourne has turns that are as tight as Toronto as well as hills that are as steep, perhaps even steeper in some cases. The specification about one unit being able to push a disabled unit up a hill might be an issue. In Melbourne, they have “disabled tram recovery” trucks that do the pushing when needed.


  6. [The following comment arrived unsolicited from Vossloh-Kiepe, and it has not been edited.]

    One of Toronto’s columnists referrred to us as the “dark horse” proponent and we are pleased to hear that there will be a public discussions albeit at rather short notice. Our 101 year old company has been extensively involved in high floor, 70% low floor and 100% low floor light rail vehicle projects in Europe and we have supplied thousands of electric propulsion systems for urban transit systems in both rail-bound a rubber-tired vehicles. Depending upon who you talk to in Europe the trend for light rail, after 10+ years of experience with 100% low floor, appears to be going in the direction of 70% low floor as a factor of economics and engineering. However, 100% low floor is politically appealing as it provides the notion of better accessibility for the mobility impaired. This notion definintely needs to be more closely examined and we suggest asking the experts from mobility impaired organizations such as the March of Dimes, the War Veterans and similar groups.

    The 100% low floor design requires shorter car modules sections and more articulation joints so that it resembles a caterpillar. The 70% low floor will have only 3 sections and portions of the car will be about 5 inches higher so yes of course this may easily be ramped within a 90 foot long vehicle.

    The TTC requirement to push a disabled CLRV up a hill requires that the 70% low floor have 3 powered trucks (bogies) and that means the center portion of the car with the 3rd powered truck will be elevated as well. Most 70% low floors are with powered trucks on the ends so the TTC 70% will be slightly different.

    The new TTC streetcars will be rather “heavy” light rail vehicles and this necessitates a bolstered redesign. They will have to manoevre 11 meter radius curves in tunnels and outside. The question arises how will an overweight 100% low floor behave on such a tight curve in a narrow tunnel and how does one rescue passengers from a derailed vehicle in such a situation.

    Currently only the TTC CLRVs are known to be able to successfully manoevre these tight curves in tunnels. The CLRV has powered trucks, as does the 70 percent low floor, so we already know how a 70% low floor will perform in this environment. Hence, we also know how both CLRVs and 70% can be rescued. We also know how they behave in deep snow.

    Concerning Canadian content we have believed from the outset that this is extremely important. This stand to be the largest single light rail order in the world and we have strived to find a local partner to build these vehicles in Toronto. Our initial discussions centred on having them built at the TTC’s own Harvey Shops on Bathhurst and we wanted to involve the TTC’s own workers. Harvey Shops could unfortunately not accomodate the 90 foot lengths. We then found more suitable facilities at the old TTC Shops on Danforth by Coxwell, still hoping to involve TTC workers and thereby create hudnreds of local jobs. In November we announced that we will be partnering with Martinrea International (TSX: MRE) to build these vehicles right here and hence ensure a maximization of Canadian content.

    We think price is important and that affordability both in acquistition cost and life cycle cost needs to be closely examined. We can say quite precisely what a 70% low floor will require throughout its lifespan in years 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 but we can only estimate what 100% will be like beyond its first 5 years.

    We look forward to continuing our participation in this project and offering Canadian vehicles that will perform as well if not better that the current CLRV fleet (that we find by the way are rather remarkable and comfortable).


  7. I did end up sending in a suggestion that the TTC look for two new vehicles, one for the mixed traffic streetcar system an one for the Transit City System. I think politically it would be easier to sell to people that a the LRT is more than a streetcar.

    But still this whole Transit City thing has left me wondering. When I think of LRT I think of what is operating in Calgary and Edmonton. But Transit City leaves me wondering, is this system going to be different from the one operating right now in Calgary. If it is like the Spadina or St. Clair Car, then I can say without a doubt that it would be very different from [what] operates in Calgary.

    What are your thoughts Steve?

    Steve: I expect that we will see two different cars, one for the “city” network and one for the “suburban” Transit City routes. There are obvious points of intersection such as the Waterfront lines which clearly will be part of the existing city network and will operate with its cars.

    Comparing Toronto to Calgary is tricky as, indeed, are comparisons between any cities. Each location has its own history and decisions that were made along the way. For example, Calgary had a dense grid of streets downtown and was able, politically, to create a transit mall serving a very high capacity “streetcar” line. There is no equivalent situation in Toronto because we already have the subway network serving the dense area. Calgary’s network is both a feeder an a distributor whereas Toronto’s has separate modes for each role, in the main.

    Calgary chose to build its lines along available rights-of-way, in some cases in arterial roads that are quasi-expressways by comparison with suburban arterials in Toronto. The primary function of these lines is to get people downtown, whereas Transit City’s purpose is to provide a network of routes conncting existing and future (re-)development in the suburbs. We are already seeing strip malls from the 50s and 60s as development sites, and the character of our suburban streets will change a lot over the coming decades. Somehow, I don’t think they will ever reach the intense pedestrianization of downtown (the width of the streets if nothing else will look after that), but there will be a lot of demand for local riding. This affects stop placement and implies that transfers between LRT lines and connecting bus routes will be done more in a “streetcar” style, on street, rather than at dedicated stations.

    Speed will be dictated by stop spacing, the frequency of crossings for traffic, and the fare collection system which must be set up to encourage fast boarding via all doors.


  8. I sent an email to Adam Giambrone a while ago about the decision to only accept 100% low-floor vehicles. I got a detailed and technical reply back from Gary Webster, Chief General Manager.

    I’d still think requiring 100% low-floor vehicles is not a good idea. It is possible that some builders will be overcome the problems listed below, the 100% low-floor will cause bigger problems or cost a great deal more.

    I left out the list of cities operating 100% low-floor vehicles because I don’t think it is relevant.

    Dear Mr. O’Connor:

    Re: Streetcar Order

    Thank you for your email of October 24, 2007, to Chair Giambrone concerning low floor vehicle configuration. In response to your many questions, I would like to advise the following:

    1. I appreciate your understanding that we must take our responsibility seriously to ensure that the vehicle that we finally select will serve Toronto safely, reliably and with the least life-cycle cost;

    2. The over-riding mandate for this procurement project is to provide full accessibility and to improve customer service, therefore, high floor vehicle is not an option;

    3. I agree with your assessment that low floor trucks face considerable challenge with the TTC’s tight radius curves and single point trackswitches. For this reason we have specified that:

    a) the truck frame shall be designed to meet certain pliability criteria to negotiate the TTC’s special track work;

    b) the vehicle’s dynamic behaviour shall be analyzed to demonstrate acceptable flanging forces in safety against derailment calculations under tight horizontal curves;

    c) the carbuilder shall incorporate the TTC track geometry dataset as digitally surveyed and projected to fully worn condition in their safety against derailment simulations.

    Based on extensive preliminary engineering discussions with the carbuilders, and based on the fact that technology for 100% low floor vehicles has evolved steadily since the mid-1990’s, we believe the risk is manageable. For interest, I am attaching a list of transit properties that are currently operating 100% low floor vehicles.

    4. I should note that the challenge would have been accentuated if the centre truck of a 3-truck vehicle were not powered but fitted with independent rotating wheels on stub axles instead. While the middle truck with a stub axle arrangement could offer a level floor between the two high floor end trucks, TTC’s gradeability requirement with limited mixed-traffic adhesion (traction) availability dictates that all wheels need to be powered. Therefore, the use of conventional high truck design would result in either a two-bathtub design by dropping/suspending the floor space between the trucks to form a 50% low floor configuration, with two sets of steps at the ends of the vehicle and 2 sets of steps fore-and-aft of the centre truck, or steps at the ends and 1 step combined with ramps bracketing the centre truck. In one proposed typical layout for partial low floor with a powered centre truck, the following features are cause for concern:

    a) One of the two wheelchair positions would be on a ramp due to the short flat floor area across the doors;

    b) Ramps at a 1:10 ratio in the longitudinal direction would be too steep for safety and customer service purposes;

    c) Two narrow doors on the high floor areas are at the tapered ends of the vehicle to meet the TTC’s tight dynamic envelope (in-swing/out-swing). This would create a wider gap between the steps and the service platform. This is a CLRV/ALRV issue that we wanted to address for reasons of accessibility and shorter service stop dwell time;

    d) Having two of the doorways at approximately 350 mm and two end high floor doorway bottom steps at approximately 250 mm makes level boarding for future service stop platform difficult.

    5. As we want to use the base in-city vehicle design for Transit City vehicles, a typical partial low floor design with conventional high floor trucks, regardless whether the centre truck is powered or not, would lack flexibility and have inherent limitations to meet our desire to adapt the base vehicle to a double-ended, double-cab, doors-on-both-side vehicle for equipment commonality and reliability reasons. Their major limitations are:

    a) No room for designated wheelchair spaces when doors are on opposite sides of the small flat areas;

    b) Double cabs would mean only three sets of doors on one side of the vehicle. This compounds the less-than-optimum doorway provision problems for a single-ended in-city vehicle, and impacts significantly customer service and passenger flow for Transit City operation;

    c) Placement of bike racks can be challenging;

    d) Concerns about different doorway entrance height noted in 4(d) above would also apply.

    6. You were correct in suggesting that the current streetcars are heavy. We strive to implement an aggressive weight control program for the new low floor vehicle. However, we should note that the vehicle will be designed for a 30-year life, with the pre-requisite longitudinal and side-impact structural strength requirements. The new vehicle will be almost twice as long as the CLRV, will carry twice as many people as the CLRV, but still has only 6 axles as on the ALRV. Hence the axle load will be higher. However, we will ensure that the unsprung mass is under control so that the impact load to the track is minimal. Our track design and construction method have improved during the much delayed recent track rehabilitation program. We believe that the new vehicles would not cause undue deterioration to the track system.

    7. With regards to the overhead system, we will continue using the trolley pole but may convert it to pantograph gradually for a number of benefits, both from operational and maintenance points of view. The Transit City network will adopt a pantograph catenary system to allow higher speed and bi-directional operation.

    Thank you again for your interest in our light rail vehicle project.


    Gary Webster

    Chief General Manager


  9. That raises one more question for me, Will the LRT in Toronto have Traffic priority?

    When I look at the Spadina Line and the St. Clair Line they are missing is traffic priority. Although those lines are very deep in the inner city, so that might be the reason why they lack Traffic Priority (there is no Traffic Priority in the downtown Transit Mall in Calgary). But in the Suburbs every station has traffic priority.

    Steve: Some of the “priority” is alleged to work on St. Clair, but I have not watched it in detail enough to see when this actually happens. Spadina is, as you know, the subject of an ongoing battle between the TTC who wants it turned and the City’s Transportation staff who feel that giving Spadina priority will screw up traffic on the cross-streets. This issue is still deadlocked.

    In the suburbs, there will be a few interlocking issues. How often are there going to be places where traffic can cross the tracks, and how many of these are at major intersections where timing of the cross-traffic is considered as important as the LRT operations? What sort of headway will the LRT services run on, or in other words, how often will an LRV be at an intersection looking for priority treatment in one direction or the other? Will LRT operations be able to use the through green time for the roads they run on, or will they be restricted to a short window when there are no conflicts with left turns?

    These are design issues that must be addressed over the next year as future traffic operations are studied for each line.


  10. Let me be devil’s advocate here. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen anyone in a wheelchair on the subway or on low-floor buses.

    All this extra money being spent on low floor, retrofitting subway stations, etc — wouldn’t that money be better spent on increased WheelTrans funding and better service there? A disabled person really needs door-to-door service and special attention, so I can’t for the life of me understand why we’re doing this, unless it’s a new law. I know women with strollers and the elderly would also benefit, but most elderly people can make it up three steps, and drivers should assist the elderly and women with baby strollers.

    From what I hear, low-floor cars will not be able to provide as smooth a ride as the CLRVs, and this double-length car is a bunch of crap. We don’t need double-length cars. Instead of 204 double-length streetcars, we need 408 CLRV-length ones with couplers that would allow 2-3 unit operation. Find a manufacturer who can make a lighter CLRV — that would be by input.

    Look at how the ALRVs decimated headways — do you really think these new cars will make things better? I can just see the 25 minute waits for a 511 in a few years. Yep — that is rapid transit. Instead of going forward, we’re moving back.

    End of rant.


  11. I will attempt to make it to the meeting. Luckily I am holidays right now.

    Bombardier have other models that are better suited to an urban environment. Makes you wonder why they chose a model that was specifically built for one US city. Toronto has no need for such a vehicle. Bombardier could have spent the time, and showcased some of their other models.


  12. In response to an earlier comment, the Flexity was NOT designed for one American city. The particular version in Minneapolis is unique to that city, but the Flexity design has been sold in several (five IIRC) throughout Europe. The demo unit we’ve seen was built for the Minneapolis program, and we’re really just getting it because it’s available.


  13. M. Briganti – yes there is legislation on the books with respect to making new transit vehicles disabled accessible, but also recall that WheelTrans costs 10x per ride what standard transit does at present, and that with an ageing population with a consequently higher proportion of mobility issues, we will not be able to simply tell everybody to use wheeltrans in the years to come but must restrict it to transporting people to and from mass transit stops.

    “the driver can help” – this basically means that drivers must be physically capable and trained (reducing the pool of available applicants) and as I noted this will mean the driver having dismount and remount at more and more stops as the population ages, increasing journey times.

    “double length is crap” – the 50m trams Dublin is proposing to buy from Alstom will be triple-CLRV length and 100LF. The current 40m 70LFs (already upgraded from 30m 70LF) are packed to the rafters on 4 minute peak headways because the service provided is what people expect from LRT with, for instance, passenger displays at stops and onboard.

    Here’s the real problem with LRT in Toronto – people here don’t consider streetcars to be a premium service over buses, just equivalent to them. In Dublin people ride trams who wouldn’t ride a bus if their life depended on it – these people are modal shift from cars, what we need to unblock the city rather than merely stabilise existing ridership.

    How do we make streetcars nearer to subways in the public mind – not just in journey time but in the whole experience? This question should be uppermost in the minds of the City and TTC planners when approaching the streetcar issue – and part of it means setting minimum headways as there are on the subway network, ridership standards be damned.


  14. Re: M. Briganti’s rant:

    First of all, it is a law: the Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires a fully-accessible transit system by 2025. It’s worth noting that much of Canada is significantly behind the United States on this issue, where the Americans with Disabilites Act was passed in 1990.

    The basic idea behind making the main system accessible is independence. When I want to go downtown, I don’t need an appointment and I don’t need to decide my destination or return times in advance. If I want to hop on and off the Queen streetcar ten times while I do Christmas shopping I’m not inconveniencing anyone else or relying on the kindness of strangers. But that’s because stairs aren’t a problem for me, so today’s TTC suits me just fine. As much as WheelTrans provides an essential service, my impression is that what it does best is get people, many of whom have multiple disabilites, to their doctors’ appointments. That’s not the same as providing independence to most people with disabilities, and it’s hard to imagine it reaching that point without absurdly high costs.

    And cost is an issue: with the aging baby boomers, there will be far more people for whom stairs are an obstacle. Some of these disabilities aren’t visible, and most of them don’t need (or perhaps want) “special attention”. If we expect them to all take WheelTrans — which already has a much higher subsidy per ride — or get personal assistance from operators, the operating costs will be far higher than the capital costs for retrofits and any premium for an accessible fleet.


  15. I’m a little bit unsure of the TTC’s choice to replace the CLRVs and ALRVs with a smaller number of a longer fleet. The total capacity of the fleet will increase (the total crush load of the fleet will increase from 36532 to 53040, according to the numbers in the presentation), allowing for substantial ridership growth. However, headways will increase somewhat, by replacing 248 streetcars with 204. (This will be less substantial than it seems, due to the high spare ratio required for the old CLRV/ALRV fleet. A much larger percentage of the new streetcars will be actually be running in AM peak service, at least when they’re new, making this difference much smaller).

    Peak service should not be a problem, as headways won’t be much longer than they are now and the larger streetcars will provide significantly more capacity. I am more worried about off-peak service, especially evening service, when the TTC will inevitably be tempted to cut costs by running streetcars infrequently. I hope that the TTC implements minimum service standards on streetcars, like the subway, to prevent this – otherwise, headways will be unacceptably long. Nevertheless, off-peak service headways will invariably increase substantially with the new streetcars.

    Steve: This is an issue I have been drumming into various heads for months now. The length of time someone has to wait for a car, coupled with the reliability (or otherwise) of one showing up at all, is at least as important as the time that will be saved by new “rapid transit” lines. The TTC has a bad habit of lavishing resources on the subway lines and running far more service than the riding would justify if they were judged as surface lines are. The rationale is that the huge sunk cost of the subway needs to be underpinned with investment in good service. The same attitude needs to apply on the surface lines on whose success the future growth of the TTC depends.


  16. Steve – will you be doing a write up on the Booz Allen report regarding Canadian Content for the new streetcars? I note Quebec imposed 65pc CanCon on the bilevel order, which surprise surprise only one bidder could manage.

    I’m not sure how we can ensure a vibrant transit manufacturing sector in the long run if we make it impossible for new entrants to get a foothold through reasonable CanCon levels.

    Steve: I’m waiting for the Booz Allen report to go up online so that I can refer to it. I was not at the meeting, but understand that the TTC will look for only a 25% Canadian content in the order. One point about bi-level passenger cars that’s important here: they are not self-propelled and have no complex electrical and control systems as you would find in a subway car or LRV. That makes it a lot easier to hit a higher Canadian content value because the expensive subsystems found in powered equipment are not present, and these will always come from offshore because there isn’t a large enough domestic market for anyone to justify building them here.


  17. Well if in the Suburbs there is a maybe, I guess that is good for now.

    I don’t expect the downtown section to receive traffic priority. We don’t even have that in Downtown Calgary, the 7th Avenue Transit Mall doesn’t have traffic priority. Although some more densely populated stations such as Sunnyside Station do have traffic priority.


  18. Quick question…why are we designing the new LRT/streetcars to accommodate the small turning radii at all the turn-around loops?

    Won’t the new vehicles be bi-directional, meaning if we want to perform the dreaded “short-turn”, or if we need to move cars in different directions, can’t we just more the driver from the front to the back and cross over to the other tracks?

    Or am I mistaken?

    Steve: For the new Transit City lines, I expect that we will see double-ended cars. For one thing, the tunnel sections will be much cheaper to build and more flexible to operate with crossovers than with loops.

    However, for the city system, it would be a huge upheaval to retrofit existing loop locations for double-ended operation, and the loops would still be needed for the single-ended CLRV/ALRV fleets that will continue to operate for at least a decade.

    Another problem is that many tight curves are not at loops per se but at locations where the street geometry forces a fairly tight turn. This problem will remain even if we got rid of all of the loop issues.


  19. Hi Steve,

    Given that the present order will replace the aging vehicles on the existing streetcar lines, rather than power the new Transit City lines, what is the rationale behind the decision to order vehicles much larger than ALRVs? Larger vehicles are more expensive to build and operate …

    Does the TTC expect a large ridership growth on the “old” mixed-traffic lines? Or, is that just because smaller streetcars are no longer being manufactured?

    Steve: Partly the problem is that small cars are a rarity, and partly that the TTC has this rather odd idea that lines with fewer cars running further apart won’t get tied up in traffic as much essentially by removing traffic jams of streetcars. However, this is based on the premise that you have frequent service to begin with, a rarity on Toronto lines.


  20. Re: Matt’s comment First of all, it is a law: the Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires a fully-accessible transit system by 2025

    I am a little curious as to how “fully” we’re actually talking here. I’m hardly an expert on disability law here, but can the claim be seriously entertained that making a particular 30% of a vehicle unavailable to wheelchair-bound occupants is discriminatory when riding in that 30% versus the other 70% offers no tangible or distinguishable benefit?

    GO, for instance, has just ordered another load of bi-level cars and has taken delivery of these shiny new fellows for the 407, and everything I’ve seen has run with the assumption that both vehicle types will be an integral part of their fleet for the foreseeable decades. Now, I’d guesstimate that in those cases the accessible portion of the seating would be around 35% and 45%, respectively, which is far less than 70%. Is this just a case of GO’s lawyers returning a different conclusion than the TTC’s as to what “fully” means? Or have I perhaps missed a report budgeting out how they’re going to install elevator shafts in 500ish buses and train cars over the next 18 months?

    Facetiousness aside, there does seem to be a rather weird patchwork of operating protocols across municipal jurisdictions in Ontario with respect to accessibility. This has always seemed strange to me in that one would assume the legal framework would be uniform across the province, or if rulings were drawing on the Charter, the entire country. For instance, following the audible stop announcements decision in provincial court, the TTC has indeed been installing the necessary hardware across their network with all the fun budgetary implications that we’ve heard of. While I can’t speak for some of the other GTA systems, I know that Hamilton’s HSR has never called out stop announcements (let alone spell them out on an LED display) and I haven’t seen the slightest evidence of any change coming down the pipeline on that front.


  21. Tom, no need to brainstorm lift designs for double-deckers: “fully” accessible doesn’t require 100% low floor. (That was a TTC decision because they didn’t like what they saw with partial low floor designs.) The TTC says it’ll meet accessibility requirements for its bus fleet by 2010, and that relies on all those buses with high-floor sections in the rear. The word “fully” simply means you can’t pick only the most popular routes or stations to make accessible (as much as that’s a good starting point).

    The Ontario Human Rights Commission is working on getting the stop announcements ruling applied across the province.


  22. Hi Steve and Dave:-

    Two other points that I feel are detrimental to the use of double-ended streetcars in an as intensively used system as Toronto’s, are terminal time increases and minimized passenger accomodation on board.

    Unless there is another Motorman to take over immediately from the arriving Operator, unecessary time is taken to change ends. Not that this happens all of the time anyhow, but if it was possible and desirable to have a car load and immediately leave again, single ended cars offer the best option for operating choices. Too a following car does not have to wait for the leaving car to clear the crossover before pulling up to the loading area, again a few seconds (which could be critical) are saved. (See some of your comments Steve in other posts on terminal time at the ends of subway lines).

    Inside the car, if a second set of doors have to be allowed for then seating and safe use passenger space is minimised by these extra doorways. The second operating area is also out of the equation as a high capacity passenger space thereby further minimising passenger accomodation.

    As I am writing this a third consideration comes to mind; cost! Extra doors and double the control positions are extra unnecessary costs for both purchase and maintainance reasons. Too, double the doors and the operating controls, now there’s the doubled oppotunity for that equipment, as it ages, to fail; ergo, now there is a flunked out car on the line or an extra out-of-service vehicle at the carbarn. The cheap old Toronto Railway Company would only entertain the use of double end cars when absolutely necessary. Those guys were the original penny pinchers when it came to making cost effective choices in vehicle hardware.

    And Steve I agree that in the tunneled portions of the new LRT system will in some cases be long enough to require some short turning capabilty, but the extra cost in installing a loop or two in those tunnels would likely pay for itself in the vehicle economies as noted above in the overall scheme of the perceived longevity of the installations.

    Dennis Rankin


  23. “Fully accessible” does not mean “100% accessible”. The act, which can be found at http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/Download?dID=238371 does not say anything about 100% accessibility.

    I am not a lawyer, but my interpretation tells me that a transit agency must move towards providing all of the services they offer to be accessible. That, I believe, means that anywhere the system can take someone, a mobility-restricted person must also be able to get there using the system.

    It does NOT give anyone the right to sit at any specific seat and look out any specific window! I challenge anyone to cite the specific part of the Act if they believe otherwise.

    Also, there is nothing in the Act about a 2025 deadline. That is not to say that there are no regulations that state such a deadline, just that it is not in the Act itself, despite what some individuals may post.


  24. I did not like the mess involving the Subway Car deal. By not putting the deal out for public tender, the TTC and the city has pretty much put itself in a bit of a straitjacket. I don’t believe the reports coming from third parties saying that the TTC got the best deal from Bombardier.

    I have to say this, I’d rather ignore all the protests from Organized Labour (given my views on this subject) and go for the best deal possible, regardless of whatever “Canadian Content” is involved. If that means Toronto will get its streetcars fully assembled from Germany, then so be it. Thunder Bay should not have to complain, they already got the rail car order for their plant.

    Of course, if Bombardier does provide the “best” deal possible for the streetcar contract, ahead of all its competitors, whatever “Canadian Content” is provided, then so be it. At that point I will somewhat agree that this is a win-win situation for the TTC and Thunder Bay. Of course, this is provided that the specifics of the bidding process are open for the public to see.


  25. That subway car thing is unbelievable. The final insult was the trumpeted claim by all involved that the new “Toronto Rockets” would be “the most reliable subway cars yet”. You can’t know the reliability of something you haven’t built and tested, especially long term. It is statements like this that give me little faith in Bombardier or the TTC. Also why does the mockup have a solid black front? I thought that was banned after the original black-faced H-5 ran over and killed a tunnel worker.

    One of the most frustrating things that I simply can’t understand is the downhill slide which many transit vehicles have taken in reliability and general smoothness of motion. Engineering and technology have advanced by leaps and bounds over the past century. Our streetcar system has been around that long and worked perfectly well through a large number of vehicles and builders. So why is it that experienced modern-day carbuilders and the TTC itself look at our system today like it’s something from an alien world?!? I realise that the move to low-floor is a somewhat new challenge. What I don’t get is why everybody is so quick to throw away conventional wisdom and instead push difficult or fundamentally flawed technologies. I can state countless comparisons experienced first-hand where much older light rail and subway cars perform dramatically smoother, quieter and more reliably than their newer counterparts.

    As for Canadian content, it’s a bit of a crock no matter who wins. Bombardier sets up local assembly in or near every country they win a contract from, or partner with another local company. The same goes for most other companies as well. Whatever company wins a tender still does much of the work in other countries or buys most of the components from third-party manufacturers anyway. I can’t understand why Vossloh-Kiepe would be showing interest as a carbuilder when their primary business is electrical components and systems for other companies cars. They have previously partnered with Bombardier and I would have to think that most of the components currently used by Bombardier are actually from Vossloh-Kiepe. If Bombardier wins then they likely do as well.

    Siemens’ interest has to have something to do with the effort they’ve gone to to build a presence in the North American market. The number of vehicles sold by them to US properties is quite respectable, but likely doesn’t represent a significant enough return on their investment. I don’t know why they are so intent on giving us the Combino model, a vehicle I’m absolutely dead-set against after having experienced it first-hand in Amsterdam. (Yes, I know that was the Combino and it has been re-engineered as the “Combino Plus”, but it is still fundamentally flawed.)

    Interestingly it was Vossloh-Kiepe’s rep writing to you that had the best attitude and made the most sense of the whole ‘group of seven’. Local fabrication at a TTC property easily connected to the track system, and also favouring a partial low-floor design. I really hope to see them win the contract for a refreshing change in the way we communicate and do business in this city. Siemens’ attitude is ‘trust us, we’re engineers’, and Bombardier’s attitude is that they are Bombardier. Both have failed to impress me with their engineering and style, and especially not with their attitudes. With the TTC under-cutting the performance goals stated in the original RFP to now pursue 100-percent low-floor, I’m not impressed with their attitude either. I can see we’re headed for failure.


  26. Does anyone know how Toronto’s horizontal and vertical curves compare with those of Philadelphia, Boston and San Francisco? I can tell you from experience that some of the turns in the Philadelphia Streetcar-subway are terrifying! These four cities would make for a very interesting comparison study, especially considering that each of them uses a different track guage – San Francisco is narrow-guage, Boston is standard-guage, Toronto is TTC-guage, and Philadelphia is broad-guage. Each has also taken a different approach to wheelchair access – San Francisco uses station-length high-level platforms or dedicated single-door platforms with a ramp at other locations; Boston purchased partial low-floor cars; Philadelphia installed wheelchair lifts, and Toronto did absolutely nothing! Each of these systems is of nearly the same age (I believe) and each has owned first-generation LRVs from the late ’70s or early ’80s.


  27. Hi Kristian:-

    SanFrancisco’s streetcar system is standard gauge, but its cable cars are narrow gauge.

    As to the curves, I recall a friend’s movies of a Pittsburgh PCC car (another of the Pennsylvania broad gauge systems) in an eastern residential neighbourhood coming down an approximately 10% grade, made a 90 degree right turn of about 40 to 45 foot radius and then immediately climbing another 10% grade. The wheels were outside of the PCC’s skirts but it did it and it was a regular route, not an amusement park ride!


    Steve: Pittsburgh is standard gauge. The line you’re thinking of was probably 21 Fineview which had ferocious grades and cars with extra strong motors. When this became a bus route, the buses did not follow the streetcar line because they couldn’t handle the terrain.


  28. Kristian, San Francisco Muni is standard gauge – you’re probably thinking of the cable car system, not really applicable here.

    You want workable technology? Maybe we should buy some 80 year old Milan Witt cars which run perfectly every day. Oh wait, too bad, that won’t work as they’ve just announced that, because of the unreliability of their 100% low floor cars built by Breda, they’re going to give them a complete overhaul, repaint them in the original yellow and white of 1928 and keep them running another 20 years or so. Not an impossible task if you maintain workable technology properly, just look at Muni’s cable cars! Part of their reasoning to spiff them up is also the fact that the Witts are a Milanese icon. Interestingly, on 13 visits to Milan I’ve never seen a Witt break down, while other types were occasionally pushed or towed in, almost always by Witts!

    Amsterdam’s Combinos were possibly the worst of all those of the initial design that were built. Why? I don’t know. Most others for whatever reason didn’t deteriorate as badly and most have been re-engineered and work fine – I’ve ridden the priginal Combinos in Basel and Freiburg (meter gauge) and Erfurt (standard gauge) and experienced no discomfort, as we did on Combino’s in Amsterdam. That, of course, is other than being a bit cramped. Most of those are not as wide as what TTC would get, usually between 2100mm and 2450mm, while TTC would get 2650mm cars with wider aisles. The new Combinos (some of those are now in Freiburg) were very smooth.


  29. Philadelphia is a particularly interesting comparison. They are actually the only other system in North America directly comparable to the TTC, and I believe they do have some similar curves. That said, they’re on a different replacement cycle, and have some time left on the Kawasaki units they’re running now.


  30. Capitalism is always a win lose proposition and never win win. If the Canadian content is specified too low, it will mean less jobs for Canadians. Given that Ontario is hard hit in manufacturing, I am sure McGuinty would do everything possible to have the new trams produced in Thunder Bay.

    Even though Bombardier Transportation is based in Berlin, it is still a Canadian company. Any extra profit it generates from this tram sale will be funneled towards the C Series jetliner program. This will create jobs for Canadians outside of transporation manufacturing. Siemens will not do that.

    History has taugh us that purchasing first generation hardware is not a smart choice. 100% low floor trams are first generation hardware. The Siemens Combino and Bombardier Berlin models have no proven reliability records. If these new trams requires new bogies after 5 years, it will be the TTC who will pay for it.

    100% low floor trams also have another problem too. The are not structurally strong. The Bombardier Berlin car can only achieve a top speed of 70 km/h. Remember that the CLRV can achieve a top speed of 120 km/h. The reason is that those trams are built like catapillars with many gangways. An open structure like that is not strong. I don’t want to imagine what would happen in an accident.

    The slower acceleration on the Combino and Berlin models will hurt Toronto a lot. There are simply too many stops on the Toronto tram lines. At least on a partial low floor like the Flexity Outlook, faster acceleration can make up for that. I still believe that we should remove some tram stops. 1000m to 1500m spacing will allow for much more faster service.

    Steve, why is the TTC not abandoning the trolley pole? How can a bidirectional double ended tram run with a pole? These new trams will last us well into the 21st Century. Surely, we should order them with pantographs so that the TTC do not have to retrofit them later on.

    On a side note, the Globe and Mail interview with Mr. Harper pointed that there will be no major spending initiative by the Harper administration during 2008. Don’t expect any windfalls from Ottawa. Let’s hope he fund MoveOntario first.

    Steve: 1000 to 1500m stop spacing? On surface routes? The subway stops more frequently than that except for a few locations. When people write here clamouring for subways rather than streetcars, they dont want the stop to be a 1km walk from their residence or job. A 1km stop spacing on the Transit City routes will lead to demands for a parallel bus service both for convenience and for accessibility.

    Put this in the context of Queen Street: Neville, Wineva (Main bus), Kingston Road / Coxwell, Leslie, Broadview, Parliament, Yonge, University, Bathurst, Ossington, Dufferin, Lansdowne, Roncesvalles. Note that I have lost connections with some closely spaced north-south routes to fit your specification.

    Considering the number of places the cars must stop for traffic lights anyhow, letting people on and off is almost mandatory. There is a small handful of excessivly close stops such as York Street, bothways, and Simcoe westbound. If anything, the problem today is the proliferation of traffic lights at locations that are not carstops. Because transit priority signalling does not look more than one block away, the traffic lights don’t have time to react to an approaching car before it reaches the intersection.

    The TTC does plan to move from trolley poles to pantographs. This is mentioned in Stephen Lam’s presentation from the December 18 TTC meeting. In the city system, the move will be gradual, but all Transit City lines will be built for pantographs from day one.


  31. Don’t know how I got narrow guage stuck in my head for San Fran, but I might have been thinking about old Los Angeles. San Francisco does feature some frighteningly ‘abrupt’ single-point switches though which the newer and heavier Breda cars have a habit of derailing on – a perfect example of supposedly modern LRVs being heavier and less reliable then their predecessors. They don’t just look like monstrosities…

    Interestingly, when I visited there I found the Boeing cars to be smooth, quiet and remarkably nimble on steep hills. I found no problems with them whatsoever, but of course the working ones were the only ones that made it out of the yard! They obviously used a lower gear ratio than normal and got me wondering how much better the CLRVs would have behaved if they hadn’t been geared for high-speed suburban service they never saw.

    What I can say for certain about guages, and this is really interesting, is that San Francisco actually has active rail systems using three different guages – narrow for the cable cars, standard for the MUNI streetcars, and a bizarre broad guage for the BART subway. Is there currently or has there ever been another city that can boast that statistic? (Is that something to be proud of?)

    As for the Combinos, I really can’t trust them no matter how much they’ve patched-up the original design. I guarantee you that they will cause excessive wheel and rail wear on sharp curves because the spring-mounted bogies can’t freely swing thereby violently driving the entire weight of the carbody against the rail edge. (A freely-swinging truck helps ease a car’s weight into and out of a turn and also doesn’t generate elastic snap-back effects.) Even if it proves to be barely technically acceptable, the interior layout necessitated by the design is thoroughly inappropriate for the needs of Toronto and especially on the new lines. I also find them visually unappealing and unimaginative. This should greatly concern the folks involved with the new streetcar purchase because as a child of the ‘LRV Age’ I’m supposed to like such designs according to their attitude. Almost everything built today either copies each others’ versions of the same ugly or is freakishly unique and dramatically worse! I’d like to see a design respectful of history and one that doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb on the streets of Toronto. Coincidently I’ve had visions of a modern-day Witt… (I must be an idiot)


  32. Tom’s comments on the percentage of accessible seats on a GO train are far too high.

    There is only one accessible car on a train (one crewman, even if there is more than one car with the capability) because there is only one raised ramp on the platform. This is 25% of the cars in a 4 car train, and about 8% on a 12 car train. And only the seats in the bottom section are accessible — I forget what proportion this is, but it takes it down to 2 or 3% on a long train.


  33. Hi Steve:-

    Pittsburgh was (and still is) indeed 5′-2 1/2″ or Pennsylvania broad gauge. At the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington, way south of the City of Pittsburgh near the end of what had once been one of the many Pittsburgh Railway Company interurban lines, is their collection which consists of an unregauged New Orleans Perly-Thomas Car as well as a Philadelphia car, both also 5′-2 1/2″. Alongside the museum’s in use right-of-way is a short bit of standard gauge track for their railway collection and at one time a physical connection to the PRR branch which parrallels the original stretch of the museum’s line.



  34. Steve, Pittsburgh is Pennsylvania Broad Gauge, not standard. The 21 FINEVIEW PCCs had standard motors but enhanced brakes.

    Steve: I stand corrected.


  35. Re: the debate about 100% low-floor cars.

    My car “died” at the end of November. When you have to lug your hockey equipment home on the TTC you apppreciate the low floor buses or more correctly the lack of steps you have to climb to get on.

    That leads to the following question: “Can we not just raise the boarding platforms-at least on the new Transit City routes- to allow people with mobility issues, strollers, and even hockey equipment bags to board?” I seem to recall seeing some footage a decade or so ago of system in the US where platforms of raised from street level and a ramp comes out from the vehicle to meet the platform.

    Obviously that would not be a solution for the routes that run in mixed traffic where passengers walk out from the curb to board. For those routes you would need some form of low-floor entrance/exit access regardless of whether it is 100% low-floor inside.

    Steve: The intention is that the platforms for Transit City routes will be level, or very close to level, with the floor height in the new cars. For street loading, the floor is one step up from the pavement.


  36. Before the Peter Witt streetcars appeared on the streets of Toronto, by the then new Toronto Transportation Commission, in the early 1920’s, the tracks had to be relaid to accommodate the large sizes of the the cars. They were not only longer, but also wider, than any of the older streetcars of the time.


  37. On the topic of Pittsburgh, and I’ve been meaning to ask since the last time they came up in discussion – I’ve seen photos of the last group of PCCs operating there. While they all had pantographs, one of them had some odd additional contraption that looked like a really stubby trolley pole. Anyone know what that was and what it was supposed to be used for?

    Perhaps I should expand my quest for comparison to include all pre-light rail North American systems having at least one continuously operating segment since conception. Correct me if I’m wrong, but those systems should include the following cities:

    – Boston, Cleveland, Newark, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto.

    If anyone can come up with complete specifications for all of these they deserve a prize! I would like to know minimum radius, maximum grade, track guage, single/double point switch useage, pole or pantograph, wheelchair access treatment, and usage of low-floor vehicles including percentage of floor space. Bonus points for LRV car types used (in service or retired), year entering service by type, car lengths, and manufacturers.

    So we’ve established that century-old and still operable streetcars are capable of manouvers now deemed near-impossible feats with modern technologies. Just what exactly is the problem here? And why is it that the TTC wants 100% low-floor in very restrictive circumstances? Further, why are they insisting on this when the European experience with such cars has supposedly led to a movement back towards partial low-floor?


  38. Kristian asked about the Pittsburgh system and the pantographs and poles on the PCC cars. I can’t answer the question on the “stubby” trolley pole on the picture of the car that you saw, but when Pittsburgh was in the long, slow process of changing the overhead system over from “direct suspension” to “catenary”, their cars had both a regular pole on the back and a pantograph fitted on the front. This allowed the cars to use the whole system as the overhead conversion took place.



  39. Hi – interesting reading. There is a write up in puported improvements in the Queen streetcar service in the Beach in the recent Beach Metro. (Steve Munro’s name is mentioned in this article. )

    It seems that the TTC will try to manage headways – which I understand to mean the distance or time between cars going past a stop – rather than keeping to an exact schedule (ha ha ha.)

    From what I’m reading, there are limits to how much improvement there can be. As per the article, we may see “instead of wait times of 30 minutes, the headway might drop to 20.” That isn’t what I call urban transit – sorry. (One time in my life I’ll actually agree with Councillor Bussin.)

    Steve: I found that remark very offensive. If the TTC cannot manage better than a 20 minute headway east of Woodbine Loop, they really have not understood the problem.

    It seems that whichever method of short turning ‘management’ is chosen – any vehicle turned @ Queen and Kingston means less than scheduled service East of that intersection.

    In reading this thread, it seems that these headways might actually increase again once these new streetcar vehciles are introduced. OK – I’ll probably be retired by then. As these are going to be bigger and therefore less frequent. My dad would say that the cart is being put before the horse – i.e. a vehicle is being purchased to be able to run technically on the track – but what type of service is being provided?

    Is this being done for a few rail enthusiasts and TTC engineers? I don’t think these are the most important stakeholder groups.

    Steve: I’m a rail enthusiast too, and my biggest concern is the damage that the TTC has done for the credibility of this mode by the way that they operate streetcar lines with the minimum possible service and the maximum possible inconvenience for riders.

    A few other comments.

    Traffic measures:

    Queen streetcars already get a lot of priority. The traffic light timing on the intersections give the E-W axis roughly 2/3 of the cycle. The city has also replaced some traditional x-walks with on request lights. The delay on these lights (i.e. between when the pedestrian presses the button and gets to cross) is close to 2 minutes sometimes – instead of the immediate flashing light as in the old cross walks.

    Lastly, most major intersections already have no left turns during the rush hours. We already have a lot of trucks (including small semis) coming through our side streets to avoid Queen. I don’t see how much more can be done to make life easier for the streetcar without causing more of this.

    Steve: I think that the TTC has overstated the remaining options for controls on traffic. They still have not abandoned the idea that they are not really responsible for the mess on that line, and seek any excuse to point at other causes, however small.

    Premium service?:

    Someone commented that Torontonians don’t see streetcars to be premium service over buses. No real mystery here – they aren’t. In the Beach, people pay a premium for the 143 bus – because it is express. I don’t know what people in Dublin do – but in Toronto, the less time spent getting around the better – because it means more time to work, spend time with family, etc. (We actually seem to get better sevice when the TTC is running buses on Queen for the 501. )

    Steve: What always amazes me is the amount of bus service the TTC puts on as substitution for streetcars when there is construction. I was up on St. Clair earlier today and the buses were running in packs of two and three with very frequent service. If the same resources were devoted to the streetcar line, riders wouldn’t be complaining about service levels. This is a consistent practice and it gives buses an undeserved good name as an alternative to streetcars.

    One big difference is capacity, and the fact that for a given level of demand buses will come more frequently than streetcars based on design capacity of each vehicle. This gets back to the issue with large new cars.


    This is becoming more and more important as there are more people who are ambulatory but have difficulty with steps. (BTW – the US is way ahead of Canada on this. We met some people who visited Niagara Falls from the US – they couldn’t believe how few accomodations there were for people with any level of disability).

    For the current streetcars, we can easily wait 2-3 minutes while someone with a walking cane is helped up or down the steps. This happens frequently on Queen. The kneeling buses are a godsend for these riders.

    LRV age:

    I’m not sure if this means an era – or what happens while we wait for one.


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