TTC Cancels Streetcar Request for Proposals (Update 4)

Updated July 20, 10:00 pm:

TTC Chair Adam Giambrone now admits that his statements about information in Bombardier’s bid referred to TTC staff remarks, not Bombardier’s submission itself. 

See coverage in the Globe and Star.

I can’t help finding this situation very embarrassing for the bid process, and distressing because of the potentail for delay in procurement of cars for both the “city” streetcar system and for Transit City.

Updated July 18, 4:10 pm:

Additional media reports in the Globe Report on Business and in the Sun.

Updated July 18, 6:30 am:

Media reports on this issue appear in the Star, Globe and National Post.

Updated July 17, 10:10 pm:

When a story this big lands at 4:30 in the afternoon via a press release, there is usually a flurry of interest and followup information, but so far things have been fairly quiet.  In the absence of specific comments, here are a bunch of questions for everyone involved:

  • Why did Bombardier tell us throughout the RFP process that they had a car for Toronto, and happily let the CAW shill for them to keep jobs in Thunder Bay, only to turn around and bid a non-compliant car.  Did they think that the TTC would automatically turn to them for an alternate design without widening the field?
  • The TTC press release states that they can sort out the problems with some manufacturer over the next four weeks.  How is this possible unless Bombardier already has a “plan B” ready to go? 
  • Why was the TTC so confident, when they changed their spec midway through the process to require 100% low floor vehicles, that this would not compromise bidders’ ability to propose a compatible vehicle?
  • What parts of the spec, beyond the tight curves on our street railway system, are impediments to other vendors, or are they just tired of all orders going to Bombardier and not bothering to waste their time on a bid?
  • Has the TTC considered whether other operators of “legacy” street railway systems in North America might also have a need for cars that fit on older systems where PCCs had no problem operating for decades?
  • What is the future of our streetcar system with an aging fleet of CLRVs and ALRVs rumoured to be less than 100% available?  Will the TTC at least commit the resources needed to get all of its current fleet back on the road?
  • How will a delay in acquiring new “city” cars affect plans for Transit City?

Inevitably, opponents of the TTC and of LRT in general will seize on this foul-up to show how the TTC can’t plan properly (as if we had any sterling examples elsewhere in these parts), and how an all subway, BRT and maybe even RT network is just the ticket.  They would be wrong, and any agency or politician who attempts such an attack will get no quarter from me.

Yes, this is a bad situation.  Toronto dithered for years about new versus rebuilt streetcars, finally opted for all new, then changed their spec to all low-floor, and now faces a delay for which there really wasn’t any room in the schedule.  Moreover, they still don’t know who will pay for the new fleet.

Metrolinx for its part is still pulling together a regional transportation plan, but seems to be pricing themselves out of the market.  Their plan has a huge capital and operating cost, and does nothing to improve local transit service, an essential part of any regional scheme.  Any move by Metrolinx to slip into a perceived vacuum at the TTC would be complete folly.

Indeed, Metrolinx was specifically set up not to be a local transit operator for fear of alienating the 905 municipalities forming the heart of its Board.  The last thing Metrolinx needs is having to explain what passes for service on the Queen Car.

The TTC needs to be upfront about the problems, about why so few bids were received and about what can be done to get real competition.  They need to re-establish Toronto as a credible city in which any vendor other than Bombardier actually has a chance of winning business. Continue reading