How Many Streetcars Do We Need?

Recent comments by Adam Giambrone, Chair of the TTC, suggest that 30 to 40 percent of the streetcar fleet is out of service in the shops, and that bus substitution will be required on some routes come the fall.

Those of us who follow the TTC have been waiting for a definitive fleet plan for some time, and hope to see one, finally, in the July Commission Meeting Agenda.  Meanwhile, I thought that I would set the stage by reviewing the current scheduled service to see how it may evolve over coming months.

The fleet contains 195 CLRVs (one of the original 196 has been scrapped) and 52 ALRVs.  The scheduled service beginning June 21 is 123 CLRVs and 38 ALRVs.  This is 63% of the CLRV fleet and 73% of the ALRV fleet.

Peak AM requirements by route are:  Bathurst (9), Carlton (32), Dundas (14), Queen (31 ALRV), Lake Shore (3), Downtowner and Kingston Road (11), King (27 CLRV + 7 ALRV), Spadina (15), Harbourfront (6), St. Clair (6).

What we don’t know is the number of cars that are permanently out of service with problems that cannot be or are too expensive to fix.  In effect, we don’t know what the true size of the available fleet might be.  A CLRV overhaul program is in progress (the affected cars are those with the new entrance layout and revised rear seating), but this is not as extensive as the original plans to replace major subsystems such as the electronics package.  This program takes some number of cars out of the pool, but should gradually replenish the fleet.  We don’t know how quickly this is happening, nor how reliable the “new” cars are.

In August, peak requirements will drop by another 11 cars when the 502/503 routes are converted to bus operation, although this will be offset in the fall when the 505/506 routes revert to their standard arrangement in the west end.  The May schedules for these routes required 53 cars in the AM peak compared to 46 today.  A further 9 cars will be needed to restore the 504 King line to its May schedule.

Late in 2009, the 512 St. Clair line’s service will be restored at least to Oakwood, later to Lansdowne.  However, this route is now using a captive pool of cars trapped north of the underpass work at Dupont and Bathurst, and there are, I believe, enough cars in that pool to handle this extension (combined with appropriate schedules where cars spend more time in motion than laying over at terminals).

The TTC needs to explain how it plans to manage streetcar service over the next three years, not to mention service improvements for capacity and the commencement of service in the eastern waterfront.  How long will new streetcars simply make up for failing CLRVs and ALRVs rather than contributing net new capacity to the network?