Funding for New Streetcars (Updated)

Update June 19 at 10:20 am:  My interview today with Metro Morning is now available online.

The Toronto Star and Globe & Mail report that Premier Dalton McGuinty and Mayor David Miller will announce that the purchase of 204 new streetcars Toronto will proceed.  This is expected to occur on Friday in Thunder Bay.

There is no word at present on the status of funding from Ottawa.

Meanwhile, a study prepared for Bombardier shows that there would be significant benefits to both Queen’s Park and Ottawa both for job stimulus and for tax revenue that would come back to them from this order plus the follow-on option for Transit City cars.  The study is available on the Globe & Mail’s Toronto Blog (in small print down at the bottom of the article).

An important component of the calculation is the premise that the Transit City fleet will have 50% Canadian content, not 25% as in the initial 204 cars for the “legacy” streetcar system.  This substantially increases the economic impact of the combined order.

One troubling comment in the Star’s article is that the existing cars are “failing so fast, the TTC anticipates having to use buses on some routes later this year”.  Well now, if memory serves, TTC staff were asked to produce a report on fleet availability and planning back around the start of 2009.  This was expected to surface in April, and the latest I have heard is that we might see it in July.

Considering that the TTC will have parts of various lines shut down for track or other repairs, the idea that they don’t have enough cars that work is laughable.

  • 512 St. Clair won’t see service west of Bathurst until late 2009 at best
  • 504 King is cut back to Queen and Roncesvalles this Sunday until late 2010
  • 505 Dundas is cut back to Bathurst Station for July and August
  • 502 Downtowner and 503 Kingston Road will be replaced by buses for the August and September periods due to track replacement at Bingham Loop (why this is taking so long is a total mystery, and I cannot help thinking that it is a handy excuse)

The reliability problem with our streetcar fleet is known, but what is alarming is the lack of information about what is really happening.  The TTC wrings its hands about problems with adding service to accommodate new demand, and they don’t even have enough working cars, they claim, to run the existing service.

Why are they failing?  What is happening here?  What’s the big secret?  Are we simply trying to save money by cutting back on maintenance?

Answers please!

43 thoughts on “Funding for New Streetcars (Updated)

  1. I have a weird feeling that Metrolinx is taking everything over sometime soon. When I say everything, I mean everything. Just like in greater Vancouver with their boondoggle of a setup. The feds are not putting their so called fair share in the perspective of the Ontario Liberals, and the city of Toronto is a wrench in the works of the Liberal goal. I am getting the vibes and I think it’s coming sooner then later in some form.

    Steve: The problem is that Metrolinx is (a) making kind noises toward local operators and (b) is utterly incompetent to do something like this. What is in the works is some creative accounting to allow assets to be held on the Province’s (e.g. Metrolinx’) books so that they can appear as a “balance” against all the money advanced via subsidies. This preserves the fiction that the added debt Ontario will take on actually is matched by an asset, although selling that asset would be tricky unless they got desperate like Mike Harris with the 407.

    Infrastructure Ontario (aka “IO”) is a far more dangerous organization.


  2. As far as reliability goes, does anyone know how the ALRVs in Salt Lake City and Sacremento are doing? Did the sale involve any kind of rebuilding? For that matter, are they even still in service?

    Even if the cars aren’t suitable for use here (and why wouldn’t they be, going from pans to poles shouldn’t be too hard, and PoP is going to be required for the new cars anyway) they could be a good source of spare parts.

    About preservation, if I had to guess I’d say that HCRR will probably end up stripping a lot of the electronics from their CLRVs and rebuilding the controls with PCC systems… That said you might be surprised whats possible with antiquated electronics when the demands become preservation of a small number of museum pieces by enthusiasts rather than day in day out maintenance of a major fleet.

    It also leaves me wondering if Phily might be interested in some CLRVs if we were to keep them in shape to retirement (they’re the only place I can think of running a directly equivalent car in NA, and are going to need more if route 23 and 56 ever go ahead with reconversion; I doubt there’s enough PCCs floating around to repeat the PCC II program.

    Steve: I don’t know if the control equipment in the US-based ALRVs is the same as is in the Toronto cars. If not, then the parts may not be as “spare” as they seem.


  3. On antiquated control systems: I remember reading that one model of British cars (DMU? EMU?) had 8086 chips in them. (Sorry, was that the number of the original PC CPU?) What is the availability of those chips now? Even the supply of used PCs will end.

    Having been involved with computers all my working life, I’d prefer to trust myself to something a blacksmith could fix.

    Steve: Actually, I believe that a lot of aerospace/defense equipment is based on very old technology that has not been updated. There have been reports of infected PCs on the space shuttle that are running antique versions of Windows. (Please don’t start a UNIX/Windows debate here. I have retired from the IT industry and don’t want it worming its way into my “hobby”.)


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