TTC To Discuss New Streetcars with Three Builders (Update 1)

Updated August 29:

At the Commission meeting on August 27, various deputations spoke to the issue of the streetcar contract.  I am not going to attempt to reproduce their presentations and, in some cases, the extensive Q&A sessions that followed, but will give an overview.

The TTC has not yet posted the staff presentation on their website.  If it has not appeared by this evening, I will scan and post my copy along with comments in a second update.

Mario Péloquin spoke for Siemens Canada with a brief presentation.  Siemens, for internal reasons related to their corporate reorganization, had chosen not to bid but is now interested in the streetcar contract.  Péloquin was slightly apologetic for Siemens’ not having emphasized their long-standing presence in Canada and Ontario.  Obviously this is not as a rail car builder, but in the many other aspects of Siemens operations.

An Alstom representative, who did not expect to be called on, and who has only about half a year’s experience with the company, spoke briefly indicating his company’s interest in the contract.  It would be useful if Alstom can find someone with more depth and credibility the next time they show up.

Skoda was not present, and TTC CGM Gary Webster said that because they chose not to respond after the RFP cancellation, they are no longer at the table.   Whether Skoda accepts this situation remains to be seen.

Representatives of the Toronto Labour Council and of the Canadian Auto Workers (who represent the Bombardier Thunder Bay plant) spoke of the importance of Canadian content in any contract.  This is a difficult issue because so many subsystems for rapid transit cars are built offshore, and even the carbodies would likely be fabricated in existing foreign plants and shipped to Canada for final assembly.

The TTC and Ontario already have a 25% Canadian content rule, and the Commission passed a motion indicating that they would like prospective builders to work toward a higher goal of 50% if this contract progresses to include the 350 cars needed for Transit City.  A proposal to ask for sliding scale bids based on various levels of Canadian content was not adopted.

Bombardier’s representative, Mike Hardt, spoke about his company’s unhappiness with the process.  Bombardier feels that their bid was disqualified on a technical ground that was not justified, and they are concerned about now being placed in a different, unstructured bidding situation.  Bombardier claims that the mismatch between their cars and the TTC’s existing track system can be remedied by $10.4-million worth of work, but it is unclear of the time period this would cover nor the validity of the estimate. 

The work would involve grinding and filling track mainly at intersections to fit the Bombardier equipment’s wheel profile.  The TTC disputes this scheme and is concerned, legitimately I believe, that this would impose an ongoing requirement to maintain all track to a special standard to avoid safety problems with the new cars.  Ironically, Hardt also stated a few times during the Q&A that Bombardier could meet the TTC spec if they had to, but disputes the requirement.  The positions are contradictory:  either Bombardier could bid a car that met the spec, or they have strong objections to doing so and prefer that the TTC adapt their infrastructure.

Hardt said that if Bombardier’s cars wouldn’t work on the TTC system after delivery, they would be repaired at the vendor’s cost.  Commissioner Perruzza told Hardt to put that in writing.  However, we already know that Bombardier’s idea of “working” includes having the TTC make track changes, and there would doubtless be endless wrangling over whether a derailment was the TTC’s or Bombardier’s fault.  It’s easy to claim you will pay to fix something when you have an escape clause of blaming the client.

Most striking about Hardt’s deputation was the arrogance he displayed toward the TTC.  I was fascinated to watch the faces as one Commissioner after another could not believe the way they were being treated.  If I had presented a deputation half as contemptuous of staff, I would have been at best given my five minutes and at worst told to shut up and sit down.  Even Commissioners of a left-wing bent who support the Thunder Bay workers were driven to far more aggressive questioning than Hardt might otherwise have received.  He did Bombardier and its workers no favours and has likely alienated the very “friends at court” Bombardier might need if the debate comes down to a close decision between proponents.

The following press release was issued by the TTC on August 26.

Toronto Transit Commission staff, tomorrow, will seek approval from Commissioners to enter into a multi-phase bid process with three known and proven manufactures of low-floor light rail vehicles: Alstom Transportation Inc., Bombardier Transportation Canada Inc., and Siemens Canada Limited. The technical requirements remain unchanged.

On July 17 the TTC announced that it had cancelled the Request for Proposal process to purchase 204 new low-floor streetcars. The two bids it received at the June 30 deadline were deemed non-compliant. The TTC said it would review its options to ensure the current streetcar fleet is replaced starting in 2012 with new, accessible vehicles. The recommendation from staff is that the TTC begin discussions with all three manufactures with respect to technical and commercial requirements. A formal competitive pricing phase, including a plan for 25% Canadian content, will be the last phase of the process before a contract award is recommended to the Commission.

Prior to the close of the original RFP, the TTC retained a Fairness Monitor, Hon. Coulter Osborne, to ensure the process was followed as set out in the RFP. He concurred with staff’s decision that both bids received by the TTC were evaluated fairly and in a manner consistent with 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 original RFP was issued. The TTC met recently with representatives from Alstom, Bombardier and Siemens. Each indicated they could build a streetcar that meets the technical requirements established in the original RFP.

If the recommendation is adopted, TTC staff will report regularly to the Commission on the status of discussions. The TTC believes the multi-phase bid process is the best option to ensure it obtains new streetcars that will meet the city’s needs. It also allows for questions or concerns to be discussed without the rigors of a formal RFP process.

I will add to this item after Wednesday’s Commission meeting.

38 thoughts on “TTC To Discuss New Streetcars with Three Builders (Update 1)

  1. I think the ttc should just accept a bid from 2 of the 3 companies and go from there. You know that they are going 99.9% accept Bombardier’s bid so they might as well order some cars from there to make sure this fleet will be delivered in time.

    As for the other companies (Siemens or Alstom) it will take them more time to get a streetcar ready for Toronto so in saying this they should use this bid for Toronto’s Transit City proposal. This will make the TTC’s streetcar fleet diverse unlike the bus fleet which is going to be dominated by Orion VII’s with more than 300 now on order.

    I don’t think Torontonians want to see the same type of vehicle on each street corner. Another advantage in accepting 2 bids is that foreign companies will start to consider Toronto as a place to supply new vehicles. I think this is the TTC’s last chance. If they only accept Bombardier it will be very difficuly from this moment on to get foreign companies to bid for new vehicles. If they choose foreign more companies wil want to supply vehicles to Toronto and Bombardier will still be here after all.

    And another thing why doesn’t the TTC make all there vehicles bi-directional. This can be a way of reducing infrequencies on the 501 by simply putting crossovers on portions on the track so if there is a delay a streetcar can switch tracks temporarily to get past the delay. I dont know why they don’t use their brains. It shouldnt be a problem on right-of-ways since it doesn’t interfere with traffic.


  2. So… The TTC probably would not made the 2012 date. What has changed that Alstom, and Siemens now say they can build the streetcars?

    To be honest, I am having doubt if the CLRV’s can even make it to 2012. They are really showing their age.


  3. Hi Steve,

    Whilst my negative feelings toward 100% cars is well known to those who know me, it is perhaps time to think a little “outside the square”!

    The problem with 100% cars is the rigid trucks at the ends, hence my recomendation for 70% cars as the ends are on conventional rotating trucks, the centre trucks are “axle-less” hub wheels and are pulled through the curves by the lead truck (with rigid trucks, this is going to be huge problem with single blade switches).

    The “outside the square thinking” is, as the Toronto cars will be single end, why not go for a 90% car, that is, the lead truck would be conventional and all the others (including the rear) would be fixed, the lead truck doing all the tracking for the curves. There is no technical reason why this could not be done, every other variation has been built and some of these border on the bizare. The very clever Vienna ULF cars that only have a single “axle” (stubs) in each location instead of 2 and the really weird contraption that Dusseldorf is trying where, because of the very reasons I cite about poor tracking of rigid trucks, their new 100% low floor cars actually have a pony truck like a steam loco (a small guiding motorless truck) under the front of the car, this is covered by a large disc like “Ubangi” lip around the front of the car that would be murder in heavy traffic.

    Compared the the above, my idea is tame BUT, it could be a good compromise. The floor above the conventional truck in most modern 70% cars is just one step up.

    Transit Advisory Consultant


  4. I agree with greg king with his theory on 100% low floor cars. Recently I was in Budapest where they use the Siemans Combino streetcars. Here they have a low floor in the centre portion of the car for the passengers and a high floor in the drivers cab. The low floor is achieved by placing the axles and junk under the driver and placing wheels (minus the trucks and axles) along the sides of the car and converting the space above the wheels to seating.

    I am pretty sure this is what Greg is talking about when he says 70% low floor and it could work here. The cars are double ended and are wheel chair accessible. The seating in these cars is along the perimeter but I still feel this is the best bet for Toronto. They are functional for the passengers inside the car and there are no steps at all anywhere in the passenger areas. We can never acheive 100% low floor because that would mean no trucks and axles, however by placing them below the driver and making the centre portion low floor we can achieve what we are looking for.

    I do not believe Bombardier has this in mind. My personal feelings for Bombardier are that they have one model and it cannot be modified, making them a cookie cutter car. I say we go with a European company for the tender. They seem to know what they are doing better than we do.

    Steve: In fairness to Bombardier, they are a “European” company when it comes to light rail vehicles. I am getting a bit tired of all the flag waving for what will basically be a final assembly job for whoever gets the contract. The designs both for the car and for its subsystems are not Canadian and never will be because the market here is too small. The real issue for Bombardier and for the CAW workers at Thunder Bay is that every piece of work that can be added to that site’s order books helps to keep it alive.


  5. The CLRVs may be showing their age, but I suspect this is due to a drop off in the maintenance regime on the cars. It’s like the Peter Witt trailer trains on Yonge in the early 50s – do the bare minimum to keep them running because they are not going to be around for long anyway. If they wanted to spend some money on the cars, they could look good and run well right up to their last day.


  6. There is the current system, which is for better or for worse not going to modernize, and then there are the Transit City routes. These are two different systems that need two different vehicles. The current order should be a Portland-streetcar type vehicle that can take the tight turns, rough rail alignment, etc. while Transit City will require big, multi-car, fast-moving LRTs that run on right of way or in tunnels. Why is the TTC trying to end up with the worst of both worlds by mashing out an unrealistic compromise that handles both?

    Steve: Not to mention that the builder of the Portland cars, Skoda, isn’t among the three suppliers with whom the TTC will negotiate.


  7. Vic said, “You know that they are going 99.9% accept Bombardier’s bid…” and, “As for the other companies (Siemens or Alstom) it will take them more time to get a streetcar ready for Toronto…”

    Where exactly do you get this information from? Just because of the untendered subway car order for BBD, you cannot automatically conclude that the streetcar order is a sure thing for them. If it was, why was the TTC so quick to reject their bid as being technically non-compliant?

    Furthermore, just what is your source of information that Siemens and Alstom will take more time to have a streetcar ready for Toronto? Surely, it is not because they chose not to submit a bid in the original RFP? I don’t believe they simply said, “Oh well, we can’t have a car ready in time so we won’t bother to submit a bid!” I strongly suspect they took a look at all the specs the TTC laid out and had reason to believe that no one could meet it 100% and rather than spend the resources on submitting a bid, they simply sat out what they believed was a first round. If they gambled on that possibility, they won the bet, because we are now into round two and they are in the ring.

    Richard white: the Siemens Combino *IS* a 100% low floor vehicle. The driver’s cab is not part of the floor space when considering the percentage.

    The TTC’s concern is with a step existing where a passenger has to move and eventually being the cause of someone’s fall and subsequent lawsuit.


  8. If Ontario wants to keep Thunder Bay going then it should keep orders flowing for GO Transit bilevels and look to them to build regional railcars to expand service in southern and eastern Ontario.

    It could also find ways to partner with BC and Alberta to expand West Coast Express/start Calgary rail commuter services respectively by financing their acquisition of refurbished older GO locos and cars. (A Calgary GO Train wouldn’t make much dent in their projected $8.5bn surplus)

    TB will almost certainly receive a follow on Toronto Rocket order too to make the YUS all Rocket if the TTC capital plan is completed.

    In short, there could be enough work to go around without giving TB an LRV line it currently doesn’t have, if the political will was there to bet the farm on transit rather than auto manufacturers.


  9. “why doesn’t the TTC make all there vehicles bi-directional.”

    Double sided cars lose some seated capacity because of door wells. That being said the TTC probably loses some capacity when streetcars are parked in the street unable to reverse back to a crossover and around some blockage such as a car vs streetcar collision.

    Steve is right on Bombardier Transportation – some releases refer to it as a German firm, given its Berlin headquarters.


  10. Yes,

    The Combino is 100% low floor and they at least have the operator at the correct level. Whilst the TTC may have a concern about steps inside the car (vis the 70% car) and, in my discussions with, they cite two to three steps, their fears are ill founded.

    Both the Bombardier Flexity Classic (Adelaide,Frankfurt,Norrskoping) and the 70% version of the Citadis (Dublin, Montpelier) have only one step to the higher level of the trucks, this is accomplished by having the motors outside the truck frame as on the rigid trucks for the 100% cars but are free to rotate.

    I would suggest they contact these systems and see how many falls they have, the number would be very small. The doors are all in the low floor zone and only those travelling longer distances tend to use the raised section.

    By the way, Bombardier, like all producers, have all modes 70% and 100% cars. Bombardier tend to sell 100% cars to metre gauge systems as, due to the narrower gauge, the cars don’t “hunt” as much on curves and tend to perform better. With Toronto’s extra wide gauge and extremely tight curves, the hunting is exaserbated.

    Steve: “Extra wide” is only 2 3/8 inches greater than standard gauge. PCCs were designed to operate on a variety of gauges and it’s amusing that the industry has forgotten the lessons of that car.

    Finally, whilst the Skoda is a good reliable car, they are quite small (they have not produced a longer version yet) for TTC’s needs and they have the worst of both worlds, a 60% floor and rigid trucks, the cars were made very simple (I have no problem with that!!!) and are driven fairly slow by large system standards.

    Steve: Skoda has a longer 100% low floor car about to be unveiled. Yes, it’s brand new, and that’s probably a strike against it for the TTC who can’t risk an unknown, but the company is at least rising to the market’s demands.



  11. Richard: Actually, Bombardier have at least four models of tram currently on offer, and at least as many other in the wings should anyone want to order them. Their original proposal for Toronto was the 70% low-floor Flexity Swift, for which they substituted the Flexity Outlook (an entirely different vehicle, despite the similar name) when the 100% requirement was added. The problem is less Bombardier being inflexible, and more the TTC wanting custom vehicles for off-the-shelf prices.

    Siemens, by contrast, have two current models (the Combino and Avanto), and Alstom have only the Citadis.


  12. With Montréal planning for a 3 route tramway (streetcar) system for their city, I am sure that they are looking over the TTC’s shoulder. As they would be looking for trams/streetcars for their proposed system, they are letting the TTC do the search for them.

    While Bombardier is a Montréal based company, they would be starting afresh, and so could build their system to the limits of whatever company they decide on. But I wonder if Montréal should sit with the TTC in negotiating for the vehicles and not on the sidelines like the rest of us.


  13. Steve, can you help me out? I was wondering what the rough capacity of Bombardier’s T-Bay plant is. I have heard a number at around 12, but have no idea how accurate this is (or isn’t).

    Steve: Sorry, but I don’t have this info. To some extent it depends on the number of shifts Bombardier chooses to have active.

    If anyone with good knowledge of the plant’s capacity feels like commenting here, please do so.


  14. RE: Double end cars etc. Seating should not be treated as an after thought. People in cars don’t stand and they don’t sway from side to side on perimeter seating. The old passenger train formula was , “Getting there is half the fun.”

    If the TTC really wants to get people out of their cars they should at least start thinking in terms like, “getting there is reasonably comfortable.” Crush loads are de-humanizing. Over the years TTC vehicles have had fewer and fewer seats in order to increase space for crush loads and the removal of more seats in the back part of the CLRV’s is only the latest gambit in this regard.

    Steve: It should be noted that with double-ended low-floor cars, the complaint about doors on both sides does not have as great an impact as with high-floor equipment. In today’s cars, there is usually a space without seats opposite the exit doors, and this would have to be a stairwell for a double-ended cars with doors on both sides. For a low floor car, there are no stairwells, and we reclaim the floorspace occupied by steps.

    The only lost seating is for the duplicate operator’s cab.


  15. Calvin:

    “Where exactly do you get this information from? Just because of the untendered subway car order for BBD, you cannot automatically conclude that the streetcar order is a sure thing for them. If it was, why was the TTC so quick to reject their bid as being technically non-compliant?”

    The TTC in my opinion simply did this to make the bidding process look fair and not solely onesided towards Bombardier. If you can remeber they have received critisism from other companies in the past especially on the subway contract.


  16. Vic said, “The TTC in my opinion simply did this to make the bidding process look fair and not solely onesided towards Bombardier.”

    I do remember the criticism from not only the public, but from other companies (particularly Siemens) over the subway contract. While it is easy to conclude that the TTC is just putting up a facade so it looks open to others while all along making BBD a foregone conclusion, it is just as easy to suggest that the TTC wants to avoid the criticism so badly that they wanted to be able to exclude them any way possible. When the only other bid that came in was from a company with no on-the-street production, they needed a way to open the door for someone besides BBD.

    Both of these are the extremes: either BBD was it from the beginning, or they were to be denied from the beginning. The reality is somewhere in the middle, and it does us no good to predict foregone conclusions.


  17. The thing to remember about the subway contract, and IMO should have been emphasized by the city is that the new cars are for the most part T1s with a new body.

    Not exactly a minor change, but there’s still a lot of commonality there, something we just wouldn’t get with an all new fleet from a new supplier; in fact we have an unbroken series of evolutionary development from the same team from the 1965 to today, and as far as I’m concerned abandoning that much experience just doesn’t make sense for the sake of appearing open.


  18. Robert Lubinski said: “The CLRVs may be showing their age, but I suspect this is due to a drop off in the maintenance regime on the cars.”

    That may be true to a certain extent, but today for the first time I saw CLRV 4005 with security cameras on-board and associated warning decals at both sides of each set of doors. This follows recent installation of completely new operators’ consoles and stop announcement/GPS system hardware in the entire CLRV fleet. These represent substantial investments into vehicles that are supposedly going to be unceremoniously scrapped at the earliest opportunity. Even four more years of service would not be enough time to justify this cost. (This particular CLRV is from the oldest group built!)

    At what point does The Commission finally admit they’re going to have to go ahead and complete at least some manner of life extension program? Not only are they dropping substantial sums of money upgrading the CLRVs to the level noted above, but delays to the new streetcar procurement and inadequate service levels may demand that the current fleet be kept around much longer than anticipated.

    On a related note, if you’ve taken a look inside the Hillcrest Shops any time over the last decade you’d have seen numerous CLRVs stripped to the bare steel frame and being rebuilt almost completely from scratch. How this doesn’t represent a ‘life extension program’ is beyond me. How it doesn’t explain the unreliability of the fleet these days is also a mystery. How it should then cost a rediculous amount of additional money for an ‘official’ life extension program I can’t understand.

    Steve: There is actually an overhaul program for 132 CLRVs in the works. This will keep a core fleet going until there are enough new cars to replace them, as well as providing some allowance for growth in service and new lines such as the Waterfront routes.


  19. If 100%-low-floor is the criterion for streetcars, why are Orion VIIs approximately 70% low-floor yet accepted?

    If we need to avoid interior staircases for passenger safety, why does every Orion VII have them? What about the steps to the outside on Classics, Flyers, old Orions, and Fishbowls?


  20. Kristion mentioned the overhaul of the CLRV’s and Steve mentioned the 132 cars to be overhauled, this is gratifying for the very reasons Steve and Kristion cited, in Melbourne, there was much haste to dump the Z1 and Z2 class cars as the Citadis and Combino’s came on line (which was really dumb on another level, the more modern Z3’s have never received any kind on overhaul whilst the earlier cars had mid life overhauls to 70% of the fleet making them more reliable than they ever were) sending many to museums and even more to scrap, they were then embarrased by a rapid increase in pax numbers (due to good service, traffic congestion and high fuel prices etc.) and many stored cars were returned to service, some requiring much rebuilding, there are around 45 still in service out of 115 and they are still short of cars, hence the lease of the long Citadis cars. The TTC would be well advised, even when they have a full new fleet, to keep a large group of these cars in active/passive storage and not be affraid to use them when required.

    A question Steve, do they intend to keep the ALRV’s in service? I find these excellent cars though I don’t have a lot of experience with them.

    Steve: Yes the ALRVs are remaining in service, but they will eventually be retired when the last of the new cars arrives.


  21. On a somewhat different note and I appologise in advance if this is out of line.

    In Melbourne, we have what is known as “The Colonial Tramcar Resturant” This has been running now for about 20 years (I trained a number of the motormen on them) and started with one car, it’s popularity grew so much that the original car has been replaced and the fleet is 3 cars and all are used. The cars are done up internally to look like the “Orient Express” dining cars and you eat whilst travelling through the streets of Melbourne, it is so popular that it is booked out for months in advance. The company now has an operation in Milan and is working on one for Budapest.

    Toronto is ideal for this type of operation, you have so much non service track that a 4 hour dinner tour could run almost without running on service lines. In Melbourne, as all or trackage (virtually every inch) is in service so, sheduling is a fine art. The cars don’t have to be old cars, a couple of CLRV’s painted up outside and transformed inside would do quite nicely. Any thoughts??

    Lastly, on Sunday the 7th of Sept, we are having a PCC tour of as much non-revenue trackage as possible, it will run for 4 hours and the more that turn up (all are invited) the cheaper it will be, at present we are working on around $40 per person. Come along, we’ll have a lot of fun. The tour starts at 10am at Russell car house.


    Steve: Given the TTC’s sterling example of other parts of its operations, would you really trust them to feed you? Would the menus be up to date, or would specials from four months ago still be posted?

    As for September 7th, it’s my 60th birthday and I will be busy with the film festival and other festivities.


  22. Is TTC asking a supplier to provide a streetcar that runs on the present tracks no matter what condition they are in?

    And continue running on the same tracks, which may or may nor be maintained, for many years to come.

    Steve: At the risk of pointing out the obvious, Peter Witts, PCCs, CLRVs and ALRVs have been doing this for the better part of a century. Low floor design imposes certain constraints, but until now we’ve been denied info from Bombardier’s competitors about what their cars can handle.


  23. I’m encouraged by Kristian’s comment, however new operator consoles and GPS equipment don’t cover things like motor maintenance, the electronic control package, trucks, etc. Those are the nuts and bolts so to speak, that need to be kept up. I remember the last 10 non-rebuilt PCCs in 1990 were equipped with CIS – likewise a technology investment in vehicles that had a short life ahead of them (less than a year for all but two of those cars) but were otherwise falling to bits, literally.

    This is good news.


  24. Are you really saying that the soft-spoken non-native speaker from Siemens and the new guy on the job at Alstom really gave a stronger presentation than a guy who had (a) attitude and (b) something to say?

    If you’re also suggesting that, on a tie vote, Bombardier would lose just to teach them a lesson about appropriate deference to Sandra Bussin, is that any way to run a government?

    Really: Only in Toronto is having a personality considered a character defect.

    Steve: “Personality” comes in many flavours. Some people don’t know when to shut up, and some people prefer to insult their audience rather than win them over. Bombardier showed that they think they have this contract in the bag and can be as uncivil as they want.

    It’s not a question of teaching them a lesson. The issue is that they have burned up a lot of good will that might otherwise come their way.

    If someone else has a good car that meets the TTC’s specs and has 25% of good, union-made Canadian content, Bombardier should start to worry.


  25. Joe Clark asked why we accept Orion VII’s that are not 100% low floor. The answer to this is to take a look at an Orion VI, or a Nova LFS. In the latter, the earlier models were “low floor, right to the back”. What they don’t tell you is that all the rear seats are a (very large) step up, and while you *might* be able to walk to the back with a serious mobility problem, getting up that step to one of those seats will be difficult for you. Even I personally have trouble maintaining balance on those “inside” seats while the bus is going around a corner as there is no place I can rest my foot for leverage. The Orion VI did not have this problem, rather, it lost horrendous amounts of space due to the inability to place seats over the rear wheels, or the engine. Buses of these models can be found easily in either Peel (Mississauga, Brampton) or Durham (Oshawa to Pickering) counties for anyone seriously interested in checking it out.

    As for Bombardier, the more I hear about the goings-on, the less I hope they win this contract. I’m starting to think this Canadian-content thing is bunk. They keep talking about “Canadian jobs”. That’s fine and dandy, except, Canada is pretty darn big. Building a streetcar in Thunder Bay is going to do very little for a worker toiling in some workshop in Sydney Nova Scotia, or a cashier in Vancouver. Frankly, if we can’t afford to save jobs in Oshawa, why save them in Thunder Bay? Because Thunder Bay voted Liberal provincially, while Oshawa picked the NDP?

    In reality we do these things because of those “Silly” Americans. We like to bash them, and point out that the state of Texas does not have a single subway (thanks to lack of funding) but those “Silly” Americans do have one pretty darn good idea – every public transit bus in operation there was purchased for 20% of the cost. The US government kicks in the other 80% so long as the bus passes a “built in the USA” standard. Why we don’t have this in our country is beyond me.


  26. Also to add (I never finished my thought on the low-floor bus argument) I dont really see how a 100% low-floor vehicle will be so much better then say a 70% low floor one. Ottawa’s O-Train is not 100% low floor, but the area between the doors is. Only the very front and rear are raised. If we say “100% or bust” then we will “bust”. We need to allow for reality to set in, that our turns are very tight, hills very steep, and trying to go over all of that with wheels that are “hidden” away in small areas of a low-floor tram is going to be extremly difficult, if not impossible. We need to keep an open mind here.


  27. What Nick has said is what I’ve been saying all along but, one thing I did suggest to TTC Management was, as this is one of the biggest orders in North American postway streetcar history, these builders are aching for it, they have supplied demonstration cars in the past to other systems when trying to win a contract.

    In Melbourne the former Adtranz demonstrated the Eurotram they borrowed from Oporto, I had the pleaseure to drive it briefly – but it would not go around our corners-and Siemens supplied a Lisbon Super Combino.

    Sure, they will have to re-gauge BUT, if they are sure their product will work in Toronto, they should be prepared to prove it. In my many years of streetcar experience, one thing I have learned is, there is a gulf of difference from the drawing board (or the computer CAD these days) to practical service.


    Steve: What is the minimum curve radius in Melbourne? I cannot find it anywhere.

    Meanwhile I agree on a practical demonstration. The last thing we need is a multimedia show that looks great, but when the cars get here, they don’t perform.


  28. There’s a great amount of excellent tech perspectives here – much of it wasted on me unless I make the time to read it all carefully. But I’m glad of it being here – thanks.

    Echoing a thought of uSkyscraper not picked up on: why not two types/fleets of the streetcars – one for the existing system, and one for the newer lines?

    I suppose the lighter PCCs are too much to hope for, though it is more friendly to older urban buildings.
    What are the tonnages of the newer models being discussed? What are power consumption rates?

    And in terms of overall energetics, maybe the two-wheeled self-propelled vehicles work better?


  29. Hi Steve,

    Melbourne’s minimum radius is 18 mtrs and these are being pushed out where possible to 22 mtrs due to effect of the rigid 100% low floor cars. Toronto’s minimum is 11 mtrs, hence my great concern. The slightly wider gauge just compounds the problem.



  30. It is absolutely mind-blowing that Bombardier thinks $10mil is an insignificant amount of money and that we should have to spend it to accomodate THEM. Given that we’re likely going to have to eat that figure one way or another I agree with what I read from the TTC’s position that it should go towards engineering of the new vehicle rather than up-rooting every special-work intersection in the city. This is beside the fact that the TTC seems to have pretty much forgotten what a rail grinder is (on the surface trackage anyway). They’re also occasionally lazy with proper junctions between new and older trackwork. (See Dundas west of Lansdowne for a sterling example of a bad transition.)

    Boston had to completely re-write their track maintenance specs and policies to save the track-hopping Breda cars. The initial and on-going costs for this are rediculous considering that they are one of the oldest systems in the world and never had to be so exacting. Why should we have to do the same? This is like telling a person that they should have to re-engineer their body because food producers no longer want to offer product that is safe to eat! “You’re just going to have to spend your life savings on surgery and anti-rejection drugs.”

    I am also concerned that the three remaining manufacturers in the running all subscribe to the fatally-flawed design of hard-mounted trucks. It is unfortunate that Skoda is out of the running because they finally got it right with their 15T concept car. They put fully-pivoting trucks under the articulation joints where they belong and solved the floor-height problem by placing fully-pivoting trucks directly under the nose and tail. (The only minor problem with the rendering is the destination sign placed behind the upward-sloping glass, but that is easily changed.)

    What exactly are the implications of awarding a contract and then ending up with an unsuitable prototype? Who eats the costs? Do you think there is any reasonable possibility of even just one vendor supplying a demonstrator prior to award of contract? (Like Trampower would have before being forced out of the running?) It would put Bombardier in a very awkward position if anyone else offered to do that.


  31. Kristian is right on the money again but, in fairness to Bombardier (I’ll not be drawn into the public relations blunder of theirs), they actually do have a car that meets the criteria, at least for getting around the corners, the Flexity Classic which is running in Adelaide, Frankfurt and Norrskoping. Frankfurt was a prime example of deciding that the 100% car was not for them, they were early customers of a very attractive car, the Siemens built version of the Adtranz Bremen type, Frankfurt called it the R class and had to relay curves due to the car striking other cars because of the lateral sway caused by it’s design. They then chose the Classic because it alleviated these problems. This is a 70% car with one step up over the trucks, all doors are low floor. They are superb vehicles.

    As for Trampower, I’m afraid they were never in contention, whilst I applaud their attempts at a simple low floor car (I’m all for that, one of the reasons for high unit cost is all the bells and whistles), it is not much more than a caravan on steel wheels, the man behind it is also convinced that rail only has to be as deep as the rail head!! The prototype caught fire and one end was burnt out when running trials in Blackpool. Fortunately, the public were never allowed to ride it.

    Finally, I just can’t see why the politicians (I don’t think it’s TTC staff) are so wedded to 100% low floor anyway when clearly, as all the builders and those with experience are telling them, 70% cars will do all that they want.



  32. Skoda is now asking to be included in the discussion.

    “As the Toronto Transit Commission struggles to get its stalled $1.25-billion plans to buy a new streetcar fleet back on track, the Czech firm Skoda Transportation says it was surprised to be left off a new shortlist for the contract and has developed a new vehicle it could modify to work on the city’s tight turns.”


  33. I just looked at, the website for Inekon (the Czech part of Skoda). They actually have a section dedicated to the Toronto bid, although this is now out of date. It has a number of images of the Trio model (as used in Portland) pasted into photos of Toronto. There is still text in the page header which reads, “Inekon is a bidder for Toronto Transit City – Light Rail Plan.”

    Interestingly they were clearly proposing this model during the RFP but would not have qualified after 100% low-floor became an absolute requirement. From what I’ve seen in the detailed drawings and fabrication photos on their site I’m pretty certain this car would have had serious problems with smooth operation and early failure of the articulation joints. (It is nothing like the the T15 concept which they are likely proposing now.) The only visual blemish is a large, poorly-placed electrical box in plain sight at the front of the roof. Otherwise it is a good looking car and they clearly have the right idea, also revealed by the statement, “The design is brand new modern approach and preserves the genius loci of a town that has both historical and new buildings.” This message is clearly lost on many other builders.


  34. Hi Guys,

    Has there been any further news yet about the low floor debacle??


    Steve: No. The TTC is talking to Bombardier, Siemens and Alstom, but there’s no new yet.


  35. When I was trying to get the TTC to see reason re the low floor cars, I “boldly” suggested that, if the builders and the politicians were so confident in their products, they should get a demo vehicle here to prove me (and most of us) wrong once and for all about 100% low floor cars running in Toronto. I was told in no uncertain terms that, it was impossible, could not be done (the gauge issue never even entered into it).

    Strange how Vancouver has announced they will be have two, not one but two, Flexity Outlooks from Brussels running a demo line for the winter Olympics in 2010 being sponsored by Bombardier!!!!

    Perhaps they know something Toronto doesn’t, or are the politicians to afraid to admit they are wrong??


    Steve: And this in a city where Skytrain rules the system! Amazing how that historic streetcar line downtown provides a platform to show off modern technology. A vintage interurban car should look intersting sitting beside Bombardier’s equipment.


  36. Must be handy having a standard gauge street railway so people can loan you their stuff to be used rather than have it propped on flatbed trucks…

    Steve: Blame the people who built the TTC and its predecessor systems. Note that I was not alive at the time and cannot be accused of lobbying on behalf of the carriage makers.


  37. And don’t let them use gauge as an excuse, any company after such a huge order, will gauge convert a car for the job, it ain’t rocket science.



  38. Where are these very steep hills in Toronto? When I have travelled in Toronto by tram all I have found (on all the currently in service tracks and some not normally in service) are level or gentle slopes. The steepest ‘hills’ seem to be those at subway entrances.
    The CLRVs were in very good condition in 2004 when I was last there, can they really have greatly deteriorated? See comments about Melbourne’s Z1 and Z2 cars – mostly in good condition but scrapped willy nilly.
    The best TTC should do is to lengthen the CLRVs by hanging on the rear a low floor extension. It will give about 36 extra seats, plus level boarding access from suitably raised platforms – does TTC have any yet or is it still in the same state Melbourne was before it started its program of installing raised areas at all stops – now about 25% complete. (Low floor is pointless unless stops have raised platforms to give level boarding.)
    The extension can be supported on a single wheelset – if correctly placed it will always be along a radius of a uniform curve, and not too far out of alignment on entrance and exit curves. Considering a typical PCC wheelset of say, 660 mm dia, it is obvious the centre of the axle is at 330 mm above rail head level. This might be 380 mm for the top of the axle. Allow 50 mm clearance and the bottom of the floor in the gangway above the axle must be 430 mm and the floor surface there could be 450 mm above rail level. Allow 3 m to the doorways, and it is clear that a 150 mm slope in 3000 mm (1 in 20) will be hardly noticeable. So a standard wheelset could be used without problems.
    The extension would be basically an enclosed frame, unpowered, as light as possible. Seating four bays each side of facing seats 2 + 2 in the centre between the doors gives 32 seats, add andother four at the rear in the tapered end, and possibly a couple forward of the front door either side of the steps down from the original car, plus possible tip up seats in the wheelchair areas, less any seats lost from the rear of the CLRVs where the extension is “bolted on”.
    Can be done. Will give an extra 10 to 20 years life and comply with disability requirements. Better still, since there is no major electrical complications, can be built by any local engineering firm, given the plans and a competent workshop/workforce. Final fit at TTC’s shops – 100% Ontario build!


Comments are closed.