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”.

Updated April 25:

Bombardier has a website nominally showcasing the Toronto cars, but this is left over from a previous marketing campaign and does not show the Toronto design.  However, there’s a nice photo gallery.


The total recommended $1.286-billion cost of the order for 204 LRVs comprises several items:

  • The base price of $993-million (Canadian dollars, 2009) including all taxes.
  • Escalation provision of $145-million based on a formula described in the staff report.  In brief, this allows costs to rise at 85% of the rate of inflation as measured by various standard indices.  The allowance here is priced on the assumption of a prevailing 3.5% per year over ten years.
  • Foreign currency adjustment provision of $17-million.  This will be a one-time adjustment based on prevailing currency rates at the date the contract is finalized.  If the Canadian dollar appreciates in the interim, this will be to the TTC’s favour.
  • Spare parts at $14-million.
  • “Specified options” — add-ons to the cars requested for pricing by the TTC but not included in the base configuration — $67-million.  These items were not listed, and we don’t know which of these might be included in the final version.
  • Potential contract changes — $50-million.  Nothing specific is proposed at this time, but this is a 5% provision relative to the base price.

There will be a $56.9-million offset to the total price due to the GST rebate payable to  municipal agencies.  This value may rise depending on the terms of the proposed harmonization of Ontario’s sales tax with the federal GST.

The question of per-car cost relative to industry norms came up a few times.  Direct comparisons are tricky because of local conditions (special options, size of order), but the TTC stated that this contact fell in roughly in the 75th percentile of car costs.  In other words, about 3/4 of the orders currently are lower while 1/4 are higher.  This position will likely change for the Transit City fleet (see below) which is not a special configuration.


Compared with a “standard” Flexity model, the car has:

  • A reconfigured front section with the single door relocated behind the truck 
  • The second and fourth sections have one double door each rather than two doors

These changes are triggered both by the car length and the truck placement necessary to provide proper dynamics.  All trucks are powered to handle the grades on the Toronto system including situations where a disabled car needs to be pushed uphill (for example out of an underground station where the approach ramps are between 6% and 8% grades.

The cars will have 62 seats, comparable to an ALRV but spread over a longer vehicle.  Specs for the existing and future fleets are:

  • CLRV:  15.4m long, 130 crush load, 74 service design load
  • ALRV:  22.3m long, 205 crush load, 108 service design load
  • Flexity:  28.2m long, 260 crush load

I believe that TTC engineering is overstating the capacity of these cars by analogy to the ALRVs shown above.  Note the difference in ratios between the design loads (used by Service Planning) and the crush loads (used by engineering to calculate the maximum axle load of the cars).  My guess is that a service design load of 150 would be in the likely range given the car’s size.  However, all door loading may, by improving passenger distribution, allow the TTC to achieve a higher design load without sacrificing rider comfort.  We shall see once the cars are on the street.

In his remarks, Chair Adam Giambrone pointed out that with the expected demand on this fleet, the TTC would get back to the level of streetcar ridership seen in 1928.  This is a bit of a stretch considering that the 1928 was much, much larger than the capacity of the Flexity “city” fleet.  I suspect he has included some or all of the Transit City capacity and demand in that statement.

The TTC claims that they will not double the existing headways, but will take a balance between capacity, demand and the attractiveness of service.  This will require close monitoring to ensure that the destruction of ridership seen on Queen thanks to headway widening and poor service management is not replicated system-wide.


The TTC does not have committed funding yet from Queen’s Park or Ottawa, but they are in active discussions with both levels of government regarding this.  There will likely be an up front payment at contract signing (common in transit equipment orders, and the balance will be spread over the deliveries in 2011-2018.  This means that the total subsidy from any government will stretch out through many budget years and election cycles.

Toronto and the TTC have made it clear to both governments that funding for this new car order is the “number one ask” for stimulus fund.  However, projects that will receive Federal stimulus spending are supposed to be completed within two years, a requirement that challenges provincial and municipal governments across Canada for projects far less complex than an LRV purchase.  Which envelope, if any, Ottawa uses to fund this project remains to be seen.  Changing the rules for the stimulus program would open up complaints of special treatment for a large Toronto project, and it would push “stimulus” spending well beyond the fiscal periods when it is supposed to generate employment.

The bids are valid until June 27, 2009, and the contract will not be awarded without funding guarantees in place.  This process often can be tedious as each government waits to see whether someone else will bring more money to the table, or what offsets might be available in other projects.  The TTC needs to have a “Plan B” in place is some, but not all, of the funding is announced by June 27.  This could involve placing a partial order with more to follow once the funding is worked out.

Funding is already in place for some of the Transit City fleet as well as for the small additions needed to operate the eastern waterfront services.  This money and those projects cannot go anywhere without a base order of cars for the existing system.

Canadian Content

The bid called for a minimum of 25% Canadian content, but the degree to which this might be exceeded was not included in the requirement.  Therefore, we don’t know if the actual values are higher for either bidder.

The TTC plans to negotiate with Bombardier to study increasing the percentage.  If this has a cost implication, the funding agencies will have to decide whether they want to pump more money into the order to increase the local benefits.

Delivery and Commissioning

The first three prototypes will arrive in mid to late 2011 (the date depends on who you talk to).  This is roughly a year later than originally planned due to the delays in concluding the tender process.

The prototypes will be extensively tested in non-revenue operation, mainly at night, to ensure that they can operate on the Toronto track geometry.  Production deliveries will begin in 2012 stretching to 2018.  During that time, the CLRV and ALRV fleets would be gradually retired although, clearly, the rate of retirement can be adjusted to match the ongoing demand for streetcar service much as the PCC fleet backstopped the new CLRV fleet three decades ago.

The original rebuilding plan for the CLRVs would have included replacement of the electronics among other subsystems, but the cost of this work could not be recovered over a long enough time, given the need for the system to be accessible by 2021.  Therefore, buying new cars is cost-effective.  Under different circumstances, a mixed fleet might have lasted longer.

A few cars from the existing fleet will be retained for historical purposes, but I doubt they will engender the same warm, fuzzy feelings of the PCCs or Peter Witts.  They will also be devilishly hard to maintain given that their control systems use expensive, hard-to-source technology once the cars reach “heritage” status.

A new carhouse is planned for the Port Lands on a site yet to be selected, and it will be connected to the existing system via Leslie Street from Queen.  This fits in with the overall plan for eastern waterfront transit service, but does not make the new carhouse conditional on completion of the western access via Cherry and Queen’s Quay.  The budget for the new carhouse is $345-million.

Roncesvalles and Russell will remain active for the CLRV and ALRV fleets.  Modifying them to handle Flexity cars would improse a requirement to bring old buildings up to modern codes, and this would have to occur concurrently with day-to-day operations.  The maintenance requirements for Flexities are completely different because of their low-floor configuration, and the longer cars would affect track layouts in some parts of the existing yards.  The eventual fate of the old carhouses is unknown, although there is probably a case for building a yard on the Roncesvalles site to handle west end operations.  Any decision on this is years away.

There is no specific plan yet for assiging new cars to existing routes.  One could argue that they should go first to routes with exclusive rights-of-way like St. Clair, Spadina and Harbourfront, and mixed operation of new and old fleets could produce serious problems with uneven loading and inconsistent fare collection procedures.  However, an argument can also be made for very busy routes like King where streetcar congestion is becoming a real problem and a barrier to running more service even if we have the cars.

The TTC and the City must also address transit priority issues on the mixed traffic routes.  This issue has dragged on for years with little action.  Ridership growth is hampered by poor and unreliable service, and part of that arises from missing or inconsistently applied “priority” signals on transit routes.

Fare Collection

Implementation of the Flexity fleet requires the TTC to move fully to proof-of-payment for its streetcar system.  Moreover, the option of paying a fare to the operator will vanish, and some substitute must be found.

At this point, the TTC seems to be hedging its bets on smart cards due to the high projected cost of implementing Presto! system-wide.  One option mooted by Chief General Manager Gary Webster was to use fareboxes within the car that would issue receipts for tickets, tokens and cash.  This sounds like a recipe for confusion, not to mention the inevitable mechanical problems and complaints this will generate from passengers who are unable to pay a fare.

The TTC will also have to get serious about roving fare inspections at all hours of service.

Transit City Fleet

Within a year, the TTC must place its first order for Transit City equipment in order that it will be available for start of service on Sheppard in 2012 and Finch a year later.  The contract provides an option for additional cars, but these will be more or less “off the shelf” designs because Transit City will be engineered to match the capabilities and constraints of industry-standard vehicles.  They will likely have only two of three trucks powered, and will not be required to handle tight curves like the “legacy” network’s fleet.

The Waterfront West line, should it ever be built, will not be able to use Transit City cars because it will operate over a great deal of existing trackage.

The TTC will negotiate with Bombardier for a price on such cars, but if they cannot secure acceptable terms, then the order could go to tender.  Whether anyone else will bid is another question, but that’s the plan.

Intriguingly, everyone at the media briefing spoke of Eglinton as part of the Transit City LRT network and it is clear that the TTC expects to build it that way, not as a so-called extension of the Scarborough RT.  At this point, nothing has been announced on either the Eglinton or “RT” line’s technology.

95 thoughts on “Bombardier Recommended for Low Floor Streetcar Order (Updated)

  1. Further to Karl’s comments, the comment about Viva is not quite right. True, convenience stores are sparse in the 905, but the Vivastations are needed for either paying cash fare or using tickets already purchased elsewhere.

    An onboard vending unit is not a far-fetched idea for the legacy network. Melbourne uses these for the purchase of single fares (good for 2 hours, rounded up to the next hour). See for a photo. Other choices of fare media are available from just about every convenience store and newsstand.

    Onboard fare purchasing is also available on the PreMetro LRT in Buenos Aires. See for a photo of this. Single fare there is just $0.60 (CAD$0.24) or $0.90 with a transfer to the subway (CAD$0.36). I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the TTC to copy their fare practice, though! 😉


  2. M. Briganti said: “Why you prefer those earthquake rattle boxes called PCCs is beyond me” … obviously you missed out on the heyday of the Witt cars, which were unaffectionately known as “bone shakers” compared to the PCCs. I grew up riding PCCs and on good track they are nearly as smooth a ride as the CLRVs. While PCCs gave you whiplash in stop and go traffic, CLRVs can be just as bad when the spin/ slide sensor is malfunctioning, so let’s call it even.

    It’s the last 25 years of track in poor condition (which we’ve finally almost fixed) that have led to bumpy and bouncy rides on all types of cars. We have to hope that the track maintenance regime doesn’t let the conditions slip back to the way things were in the 90s, or the new cars will become “earthquake rattle boxes” as well. The upkeep of track has to go hand in hand with the new fleet or else its life will be shortened.

    Steve: My current favourite piece of unmaintained track is on Queen at Mutual, a short stretch that somehow was missed in various rebuilding programs, where it sounds like you’re going over special work even though Mutual Loop was removed before I started riding streetcars.


  3. Many European systems have fare vending machines & cancellers (where necessary, for multi-use tickets) onboard the trams themselves. Much cheaper to buy a machine or two (max) for each car than put them at stops. Nothing wrong with self-service, it’s been around since the 1960s overseas.

    Most European buses in tram cities do not have fare-issuing machines, just the trams. There are exceptions, so please don’t fill Steve’s blog with long lists to prove me wrong.


  4. If I remember correctly…Melbourne has ticket vending machines on the train itself….if you are a weekly/monthly/yearly card holder you don’t need to swipe. The only time you need to swipe is if you have a “per ride” or “per hour” card which can be bought on the tram and swiped. At busy stops you can buy/swipe/get your card before you get on the vehicle, this saves loading time, but it also means the tram can start moving and everyone still hasn’t paid…which saves a lot of time….

    If someone asks to see your card, it better be a monthly pass or have been swiped in the last little while…they also add the additional option of having your pass only valid in a specific zone, which means that if I have a monthly pass for zone A, and need to go to zone B, I can just buy a two hour pass for zone B on my card…this would be good for Toronto where most people only need two areas most of the time (say oakville->toronto), but if they need to go to markham, they can buy a two hour extension…

    They have other friendly options for tourists (valid only for routes areas with major tourist destinations), as well as seniors/students, sunday passes, early bird passes (imagine it was cheaper to get to work if you left an hour early, employers would love it), even passes for companion health care workers…

    In Toronto most locals would have a card and cary it around with them even if they were an occasional user. The tourists usually start out at major transit hubs (Union, Airport) or hotels which would have cards, or from other tourist destinations (ie. leave the car for the day) which would also have larger machines. The onboard machines would get refilled during layovers, if necessary (and could inform operators if they were getting low on cards).


  5. The tourists will be fine as long as the TTC does a good job of detailing just what the systems for payment are. And this has to be more than the poor attempts that they make now.

    I had ridden buses in smaller towns long before I came to Toronto in the mid 90’s. Once I was here I was puzzled by how people were just climbing on the back doors of buses at some subway stations and I also was puzzled about how I managed to get on the subway without ever paying a fare. (because I naively walked in where I shouldn’t have)

    Only when I got home to my hot 37th Street room (it was July) and unfolded the map was I finally able to figure out what they must mean. There was a very faint pink colour on some stations and not on others and I eventually was able to figure out what this pink meant, not without turning the map over and over a few times.

    Alright, so I rambled here – but the occasional rider and especially the tourist may not have a clue what P.O.P. means. It’s all familiar to the regulars, but there are enough “irregulars” on the system to warrant a few paragraphs (not just point-form lingo that looks like they paid by the word) on every map at every station, and even the paper ones that you may still be able to get, not to mention on the website itself.

    There’s nothing worse than being baffled by the system. You have money and you get a ride. Anything more complicated than that needs to be explained and everyone will get it.


  6. This tender has been handled poorly from a political point of view. Baird and Smitherman have basically said they have not agreed to fund these cars. Smitherman, blowhard that he is told the Notional Pest “Oh the city have said they’re going to do the contract with Bombardier. And in the next breath I heard we were paying for it. So that was a bit challenging” – and I suppose it’s a bit brave to tell the people of your riding you’re not willing to help fund streetcars that run through your own riding.

    Steve: It is totally disingenuous for anyone in Ottawa or Queen’s Park to pretend that they have not been asked to fund these cars. The order has been in the TTC’s plans for a few years, and there have been many discussions about how to pay for it. If there was not going to be an agreement to fund, then both levels of government had plenty of time to say “no, don’t ask” and scotch the deal along with everything dependent on it.

    Let’s be clear on a few things.

    1. Regional development is NOT a responsibility of the City of Toronto. It is not Admiral Giambrone’s job to have a good news story when he stumps for candidates in Thunder Bay in future elections. Canadian content should be secured on the commitment of funds by senior governments and not the other way round. I’m not arguing against CanCon, but unless it’s 416Con the benefits accrue to other levels of government so they should be the ones covering the price premium that entails. Indeed, we should be demanding that Ontario provide financial assistance for the new line itself just as they were offering millions to Sergio Marchionne to build Alfa Romeo sports cars a few months back.

    2. Transit City should be, clearly, a secondary project to the downtown cars. Why? Because buses aren’t going to be AODA non-compliant and/or scrapped in a few years. The notion that we go to buses on the 501 while digging a tunnel under Eglinton is unacceptable.

    3. We’re being used, and we should be fighting back. When it came to the TC announcement, there were no caveats that it wasn’t shovel ready – unless they meant TTC was going to build an LRT on Finch West with no cars running on it?

    4. Those of us who warned that this tender would be trojan-horsed into a TC order, irrespective of the possibility that a different manufacturer’s car would be superior or most cost-effective ON TC LINES are being proved correct. Nobody has yet shown to my satisfaction what the advantage of giving BBD preferred status is, or even that Thunder Bay will be able to produce 600 cars in the timeframe required. I would argue that even within the TC order, we might see a common loading/track gauge but differing cars on Eglinton and former SRT compared to the other lines. The economy of scale argument is seriously diluted by the sheer numbers of cars we are contemplating. One can imagine a line of thinking in TTC that because Bombardier deserve the TC order because they took on the tougher assignment in the downtown cars. That should not be how it works when you’re spending other people’s money.


  7. Just wondering what the options are if we don’t get the other 66% of funding? Is there a potential to go ahead with the order anyway and either take out a loan, or implement other revenue streams to help pay for the last two thirds? How much is due prior to delivery? Would the third cover the initial buy, and then we have 2 or 3 years to figure out where the other funds are coming from? I’m wondering if this is a good time for Toronto to start charging a fee to those driving in from the 905?


  8. We have about 8 years before the last cars are delivered. Eight years to raise about $800 million. That’s about $100 million/year, or $33 per year per Torontonian. I think we can afford that, even if the senior levels don’t ante up!


  9. I don’t see having vending machines at each stop as that expensive. I’d note that there are already city-owned vending machines on both sides of long stretches of many transit routes – on every block. These take cash and credit cards and print out coded, time sensitive tickets.

    Steve: They would have to be reworked to vend transit fares as well as parking receipts, but your comment is a sound one. Making it happen, however, should be an interesting exercise in interagency co-operation between the TTC and the Parking Authority.


  10. John Barber of the Globe & Mail has a good column today on the disingenuous Smitherman. It is ridiculous for him to claim the province knew nothing of the TTC need for new LRT cars.

    Steve: Please see my separate post on this issue. It includes a link to John Barber’s article.


  11. Robert Lubinski’s comments on Peter Witt and PCC riding qualities brought back a childhood memory. I used to think any PCC ride was rough until one summer evening when my parents, brother and I took a ride on that Belt Line Tour Tram which used the Witts. One ride on a Witt caused me never to complain about a PCC ride on the TTC being rough again! If there’s anything I can’t fault the CLRVs and the ALRVs on it’s the the riding quality.

    Steve: You will get a chance to check out a PCC on Harbourfront starting tomorrow.


  12. If the PCCs (or at least one) are going to be out in ‘regular’ service, does that mean they’ve had the GPS and stop announcement systems installed? If not then I would think the operator would be required by current policies to announce every stop. I won’t be able to get down there to check it out anytime soon so perhaps someone can find out.


  13. TTC Passenger says:

    “Two out of three trucks powered has me a bit concerned with respect to the implications it would have for acceleration and braking rates (keep in mind, dynamic braking’s not available on unpowered axles). This won’t be a huge issue of the Transit City lines have widely spaced stops but if they’re tightly spaced, the impact on schedules and average speed could become significant. These were the factors that led London Underground to decide to have all the axles in the 92 stock and later tube trains motorized.”

    The Acceleration/deceleration rate for 4 out of 6 axle’s being powered is 2/3’s of ¼ of g or 5.3 ft/s/s or 1.6 m/s/s which is above that which a human finds comfortable. I have ridden many vehicles with only 2 powered trucks out of 3 and they can knock you off your feet with acceleration. The problem comes when you enter the constant power curve versus the constant accelerating force portion. If you want to go to a high enough speed then having all axles powered is an advantage but for the speeds that the legacy or the TC cars reach there should be no problem. Did London have 2/3 of their axles powered or were they running true trailers? If you want to get up to 80 mph like GO then it is helpful to have all axles powered.

    TTC Passenger says:

    “Huh? I kept beating that to death in the comments here suggesting that it’d be possible to examine the pole and shoe assembly and modify it to get the electric current handling rating up high enough for the new cars. Everybody was adamant that trolley poles couldn’t be modified like I suggested and therefore pantographs would be used on the new cars with the necessary changes to the overhead wire. How’d the impossible suddenly become so possible?”

    There were many electric locomotives that had upwards of a 1000 hp being powered by a single trolley pole. This is 100 year old technology here; it has been done before.

    Fare Collection:

    I have ridden many tram lines and other modes of public transport in over 30 cities in the world that speak at least 10 different languages. Now I speak English relatively well, French comme ci comme ca, German, Dutch, Norwegian, Flemish, Danish, Swedish, Spanish, Israeli, Greek, Egyptian, Thai, Cantonese, Urdu and Punjabi less well. However in all cities it was easy to figure out how to pay the fare and where to buy it. Usually it was done at the hotel, a place that most tourists are familiar with. Also more people speak English passably than other languages so the odds are that they will be able to if they are in Toronto. If they can’t then the odds are better in Toronto that they can find someone who speaks their language than elsewhere. I doubt that many tourists will make their initial ride on a Toronto Street Car at the corner of Queen Street and Munro Park. They will probably ask the concierge at their hotel how to ride or the friend or relative with whom they are staying. I think that you are making a mountain out of a proverbial molehill.

    Steve: Munro Park is almost at the east end of the Queen line, and has no relationship with my family, as far as I know.

    Legacy PCC’s:

    I remember on the last Friday before Labour Day in 1965 standing by Russell Division around 3:00 p.m. when the Ex was running full tilt and there were races at Greenwood. The Inspector said to an operator “I wish there was another car available; I need to send out a race track tripper.”

    The operator said: “The Witt is available.” And 2766 made two full trips from McCaul to Woodbine as a race track tripper, and no one who rode it made any comment about it being different, except for the two little old ladies who liked the fact that it had an extra fold down step in the front and thought that it must be a new design. I wonder how many people will notice that the PCC is different.


  14. I have been examining the specs for the low floor bogies (Wheel sets) and they do not appear to have track brake systems. The dynamic braking appears to be an improvement on current technology, but appears to depend on the power storage of Mi-Trak. In addition to dynamic brakes they appear to use hydraulic brakes.

    Are there any additional specs avalilable at this time?

    Steve: Only whatever is on Bombardier’s website.


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