Who Will Pay for New Streetcars?

A great deal of bilge was pumped out by Ottawa and Queen’s Park over the past few days about the TTC’s proposed order of new streetcars from Bombardier.

In today’s Globe & Mail, John Barber did a particularly nice job of eviscerating George Smitherman, the Minister of Infrastructure, for his apparent total ignorance of the TTC’s funding needs and requests.

It’s no secret that the TTC is looking for new streetcars.  The original bid process had to be halted when no vendor came up with a technically and commercially compliant proposal, and more recently the whole process of getting a second set of bids has been well covered in the media.

Many of us will remember walking through Bombardier’s mockup display at Dundas Square which happens to be in Smitherman’s riding.  Maybe he was out of town at the time and missed it.

Smitherman claims that the City can’t make up its mind what its priorities are.  Strange that in a letter to Dalton McGuinty, copied to Smitherman, dated December 16, 2008, Mayor Miller wrote of upcoming meetings of Finance and First Ministers:

Toronto’s first priority for infrastructure is to build Transit City, the 21st century modern public transit network that our city needs.  The Government of Ontario has demonstrated foresight and leadership in its support for Transit City.  Toronto City Council has unanimously agreed to request the Government of Canada to provide:

  • $368 million toward the streetcar fleet’s replacement and expansion; and
  • the federal $6 billion share of Ontario’s $17.5 billion Move Ontario 2020 commitment for the Metrolinx Regional Transportation Plan.

The streetcar fleet replacement also shows up in the list of funding requests under the stimulus program by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Other related letters to both Queen’s Park and Ottawa can be found on the City’s website.

Meanwhile, Smitherman’s comment that the TTC shouldn’t be awarding a contract without knowing funding is in place shows that he is badly out of touch.  First off, the TTC has not signed the contract, and its execution is dependent on funding being in place.

Second, there is a long history of agencies such as Metrolinx (a provincial body) announcing plans for which they have no funding, and for which even discussion of proper funding won’t happen for years into the future.  There are two subway extensions (Spadina/Vaughan and Richmond Hill) of which the first was not fully funded until long after the project was announced, and the second still does not have full commitments.

That’s how projects like this work.

The streetcar purchase will run over a 10-year period, and funding it can hardly be called a short-term stimulus.  Funding would likely come from some other program, but the funding should come.  Toronto is asking, in effect, for $40-million a year from Ottawa and from Queen’s Park to re-equip the core of central Toronto’s transit system and to anchor the expansion of LRT in our city.

Analysis of 501 Queen Service Winter 2008/2009: Part II Long Branch to Parkside

In the previous installment, I reviewed the headway patterns for the 501 Queen route outbound to terminals at Neville, Humber and Long Branch.  Now I will turn to the operation of the west end of the route between Long Branch and Parkside Drive.  I used Parkside (the east side of High Park, and the continuation of Keele Street south of Bloor) as the eastern end of the measurement because it is at the end of the private right-of-way and because this avoids problems with variations caused by operations at Roncesvalles.

The charts presented here show headways (the frequency and regularity of service) as well as link times (the time needed to traverse part of the route).  Headways are important to riders because they show how predictable service will be, and they also bear on riding comfort because crowding is directly affected by regularity of service.  Link times are important for service planning because they show where and when congestion occurs, and how predictable (or not) the running time between locations will be. Continue reading

Service Changes for May, 2009

Effective May 10, 2009, several service changes, mostly seasonal, will occur.

In addition to these:

Subject to vehicle and operator availability, a PCC will operate as an extra on 509 Harbourfront on Sundays from May 10 to September 6 between 11:30 am and 7:30 pm.

Fare collection eastbound on Queen’s Quay for the 509 and 510 Spadina routes will be handled at Union Station, not onboard vehicles, as in previous years to reduce loading times on weekends after 3 pm.

Continue reading

WWLRT Public Meetings: Park Lawn to Long Branch

There will be two public meetings to discuss the design for this section of the WWLRT, essentially an upgrade of the Long Branch streetcar.

Monday, May 11, 2009
2:00pm-4:00pm 6:30pm to 9:00pm
Mimico Adult Learning Centre
255 Royal York Road

Tuesday, May 12, 2009
2:00pm to 4:00pm 6:30pm to 9:00pm
The Assembly Hall
1 Colonel Samuel Smith Park Drive

For further information, including the display panels from the previous open houses, please see the project’s website.

After the first round in December 2008 where many felt that the available information and proposal left much to be desired, this is described as a “re-start” of a “new consultation process”.

Analysis of 501 Queen Service 2008/09: Part I — Comparative Short Turn Data

A few months ago, I received the TTC’s vehicle monitoring data (a.k.a. “CIS” data for “Communications & Information System”) for 501 Queen and related routes for the months of December 2008 and January 2009.  I have been whittling away at it for the past few months as time permitted, and now it’s in shape to begin publishing commentaries.

Of particular interest are the effects, such as they may be, of the new line management strategies implemented by the TTC.  Operations in the two months differ because of a change in the schedule.

  • December 2008:  Drop back crewing was used at Connaught so that operators would leave westbound on their time while relief operators drove the vehicles to and from Neville.  The intent is to allow the operators to get on time without affecting the through service.
  • January 2009:  A new schedule was implemented in which run numbers remained assigned either to the Humber or the Long Branch service.  The intent is to avoid short turns whose entire purpose is to sort out the relative order and location of each branch’s runs to make sure that they are in the proper sequence westbound.

For reasons best known to the TTC, relief crews were available during Christmas Week, but there was no extra line management.  Therefore, that week is in a way an example of a “do nothing” approach, although under less than the most strenuous circumstances.

Anyone who was in Toronto this past winter knows it was much worse than the previous few years and we had a particularly bad December.  This shows up in the service quality, but generally for the period needed to get the roads back in proper shape.

Because I now have data for December 2006, December 2007, January 2008, December 2008 and January 2009, we can review operations over three winters, a variety of weather conditions and different management strategies. Continue reading

Bombardier Recommended for Low Floor Streetcar Order (Updated)

Updated April 25, 9:30 am.  I have added material from the media briefing and the staff report that I did not have time to incorporate in the original article.  The additional material is appended below after the break. 

On April 24, the TTC announced that Bombardier has won the competition for an order for 204 new low floor streetcars for Toronto.  The staff recommendation will go to the Commission itself for approval on Monday, April 27.

Both Bombardier and Siemens bid on this tender, and the proposals from both vendors were considered to be compliant both on technical and financial grounds.  Therefore the question came down to cost and with Siemens’ bid over 50% higher than Bombardier’s, there was no question about the winner.

The vehicles will be a modified version of the Flexity car with three powered two-axle trucks and five car sections.  Bombardier has not yet updated their site with information about the vehicles (as of 2:00 pm EDT April 24).  An illustration of the proposed car is in the Toronto Star’s article posted earlier today.

Although not guaranteed, this contract places Bombardier at the front of the line for supplying cars to the much larger Transit City system, especially if that builds out to anything near its full extent.  The contract includes provision for add-on orders, but the TTC will be negotiating their price separately as the Transit City cars will have significant differences affecting their cost:

  • Transit City will be built to specifications that allow off-the-shelf cars to operate on it — no tight curves or steep grades.
  • The TC cars will be double-ended and double-sided.
  • The TC cars will likely have only two powered trucks rather than three.

Subject to funding, a process still under negotiation with the Federal and Provincial governments, the first prototypes would arrive in Toronto in mid-to-late 2011 for non-revenue testing.  Production deliveries would start in 2012 and stretch out to 2018 by which time the last of the existing CLRV and ALRV fleets would have been retired.  A new carhouse, likely in the Port Lands, will be required to house this fleet while the older cars would run from Russell and Roncesvalles.

Postscript:  I cannot help mentioning that the illustration of the new car shows a vehicle facing westbound on Queen at Bay signed “Neville”. Continue reading

High Speed Rail Symposium

Updated:  The start time for this event is now 1:00 pm, not noon as previously announced.

There will be a symposium on high speed rail on Saturday, April 25 from 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm at the University of Toronto, Bahen Centre for Technology, 40 St. George Street (just north of College), room 1130.

Pre-registration is required via the sponsor’s website and the cost for the event is $10.

Please note that this announcement does not constitute an endorsement of high speed rail as a priority for rail passenger service.  It may be an appropriate technology, but it needs to be part of a much larger view of rail and of intercity passenger services generally.

The Freedom of the City — A spacing erratum

The Spring-Summer issue of spacing is out, and with it my latest column on transit matters.  Some gremlins in the editorial office got hold of the piece and mangled the opening a bit.  Here’s what should have been there.

The item begins with a quote from the Paris transit system’s website:

Se déplacer et circuler où l’on veut quand on veut, est un gage de liberté pour le citoyen.

This is rather badly translated in spacing to:

To move itself, circulate where one wants when one wants, is a liberty pledge for the citizen.

That’s the most literal of translations (I didn’t do it), and it should have read, more freely, something like:

To travel, to move about, where one wants, when one wants, is a badge of freedom for the citizen.

The original title of the article was The Freedom of the City, not For the love of Toronto as it appears in the magazine.  You can understand how the title flows directly from the quotation, but of course in French, there is the subtle echo of the importance of “liberté” as an essential part of national history and pride.

The next sentence on that web page is:

Le développement des Transports Publics répond à ce besoin.

The RATP sees its role in fulfilling that goal, of making the citizenry free to move about the Paris region at all times and to all places.  We’re a long way from doing that in Toronto, but haltingly and far too slowly, things are changing.

My apologies to spacing readers who are probably wondering why such a fractured translation appeared in print.  Such are the joys of being edited by others.

The main thread of this issue is “Grey Spaces”, those not quite public, not quite private spaces in our city we all pass through, or might want to visit, but which are not, strictly speaking, “open” for our use.

Buy the magazine (available in better bookstores).  Read all of the articles!  And thanks!

The Shape of the Suburbs

John Sewell’s new book The Shape of the Suburbs: Understanding Toronto’s Sprawl provides the jumping off point for a panel discussion on how the suburbs developed as they did and where we might go from here.

Where:  The Gladstone Hotel (Queen & Gladstone, accessed via 501 Queen and 29 Dufferin or whatever your favourite form of transport might be).

When:  Tuesday, April 21.  Doors open at 7, panel discussion begins at 7:30.

Cost:  $5, or free if you buy the book.

Who:  John Sewell (moderator), Mayor Rob Burton (Oakville), Deputy Mayor Jack Heath (Markham), Mayor Steve Parrish (Ajax), Kim Storey (architect, urban designer, partner in Brown & Storey Architects)

This event is part of Pages Books’ This Is Not A Reading Series.