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.

[Original Post and News Release below]

I have just received the following press release from the TTC.  I will comment on this once the dust has settled a bit.

News Release

July 17, 2008

TTC cancels streetcar RFP Bids ruled non-compliant

The Toronto Transit Commission today announced that it has cancelled the Request for Proposal process to purchase 204 new low-floor streetcars. The bids it received have been deemed non-compliant. The TTC is now reviewing its options to ensure the current streetcar fleet is replaced starting in 2012 with new, accessible vehicles.

The TTC received two submissions for the $1.25 billion project. TRAM Power Ltd. and Bombardier Transportation submitted bids, but upon review TRAM Power failed to pass step one of the bid review process as it was not commercially compliant. Bombardier Transportation failed on step two – a technical evaluation that required a pass/fail on key criteria related to negotiating the tight turning radii on the TTC’s existing streetcar rail system.

A Fairness Monitor was retained to oversee the procurement process and concurs that the TTC has followed the process as set out in the RFP and also concurs with the cancellation of the RFP.

Under its procurement rules, the TTC may contact any vendor, including those who responded to a Request for Expressions of Interest, a process undertaken before the RFP was issued, and begin discussions to determine what, if any, issues or concerns any of the companies may have with respect to the requirements of this RFP.

The TTC is confident that it can work with a vendor to remain on schedule and meet its needs for new streetcars, including the option to purchase up to an additional 364 streetcars for Transit City. Using the specifications set-out in the original RFP, the TTC will now contact known and proven streetcar manufacturers to identify and discuss the issues that led the companies to a decision either not to bid, or to submit a bid that is not compliant.

This process will take approximately four weeks to complete. The TTC will then make a recommendation to the Commission on next steps.

The Toronto Transit Commission moves 460 million people every year – about 1.5 million riders every weekday. The TTC is the third largest public transit system in North America servicing some 4.5 million people in the Greater Toronto Area, with a network of subways, streetcars, buses, and a specialized service, Wheel-Trans, for people who require accessible transportation. An arms-length agency of the City of Toronto, the TTC is committed to meeting the growing needs of the region with subway and light rail expansion, carrying an additional 175 million riders by 2021. For more information, visit


Media contact: Brad Ross, Director, Corporate Communications, 416-393-3598 or cell, 416-206-3727

42 thoughts on “TTC Cancels Streetcar Request for Proposals (Update 4)

  1. Hi Steve:-

    When elected would you consider appointing me the ‘Minister of SRT Promotion’ please and may I suggest that Hamish would be ideal as the Minister of ‘Highway Expansion’!!! What a transportation team! Almost as good as a past federal government appointing a Quebec inter-city bus operator as the Minister of Transportation, eh!

    Just drove along that stretch of Davenport yesterday and was relating to my passenger, the history of the Toronto Suburban’s stillborn attempt at connecting Guelph with Yonge and Summerhill with an inter-city electric railway.

    Mr. D.


  2. Steve said: “Only if we move the capital to Toronto and the official residence to Casa Loma…”

    At least then we could still call it “Capitol Hill” 😉 Then for security purposes we would add a moat around the building (to make it a ‘real’ castle) complete with swan boats with lasers for eyes and saddle seats for Mounties. Tourists can pay to ride the boats which will complete a round-trip in 22 minutes. If the Tories are still in power we’ll name the attraction “Blue 22”. Of course we’ll have to use 50 year-old refurbished diesel-powered swan boats, no wheelchairs allowed, and access in and out of the building will be heavily restricted due to the frequency of boats.

    If the Liberals are in power we’ll call it the “Red Rocket”. Unfortunately you’ll have to wait an hour between boats because they all run together in a pack (a ‘flock’?) with the lead one so overcrowded that it goes really slow.

    The elected MP’s can take up residence at the nearby George Brown College Campus where they might actually learn something.


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