Who Will Build Transit City’s Fleet?

In a press scrum after today’s TTC meeting, Chief General Manager Gary Webster was asked about the follow-on order of streetcars for the Transit City lines.  Given the planned opening dates, these vehicles must be ordered fairly soon.

Webster replied that the optional order had not yet been placed, and that with the new legal framework around Metrolinx, that agency has approval powers over acquisition of cars to be used on lines funded by Queen’s Park.  Brad Ross, TTC’s Director of Corporate Communications piped up that the cars may not even be built by Bombardier.

Metrolinx certainly has chutzpa!  Quite recently, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced funding for the Sheppard East LRT, and proudly claimed that jobs would be created at Bombardier to build cars for this line.

More to the point, do we really need to go through the entire procurement cycle all over again?  What does Metrolinx hope to bring to a repetition of the bidding process?  Are they just throwing their weight around, or are unseen interests bent on derailing the Bombardier deal?

26 thoughts on “Who Will Build Transit City’s Fleet?

  1. Steve you had to burst my bubble. I was just starting to feel good about all the announcements regarding transit here in TO and this wrench is thrown into the, what I thought, were concrete plans. Toronto needs massive investment in it’s transit ifrastructure if this city wants to remain economically competitive the way the world is changing. When I look at some European and Asian cities and the amount of money they are pumping into their own transit systems and I see them leaving Toronto in the dust.

    My former long term home, and where I learned to appreciate all forms of public transit, Vancouver, will have rapid transit to its airport in Richmond before Toronto and my birthplace of Montreal have such infrastructure in place. I am not jealous of these other cities that are making great strides in public transit I just wish Toronto councillors but their pesonal egos in the closet and help some of these plans become reality.

    Steve: Actually, Vancouver has the Canada line because the Feds helped to pay for it as part of the winter olympics bid. Many of our problems with getting transit built here rest on the hatred for Toronto encouraged by politicians of every stripe throughout the country, including in BC. When BC or Alberta builds a line, it is a wonderful investment in their manifest destiny as the new economic centre of the universe. When Toronto wants to build something, they are being greedy and wasteful.

    The airport link in Toronto should have been part of GO Transit, but political machinations in Ottawa prevented this and instead we have a piece of pure political pork where a private company will run the service at much higher cost to travellers. In Vancouver, you will ride to the airport on a regular transit fare (with appropriate zones), and the service will be very frequent. In Toronto, you will pay over $20 one way, and get four trains per hour stopping at only a few locations. There is no comparison.

    Like

  2. Call me biased for having worked on behalf of one potential bidder for the TTC’s 204-car replacement fleet, but I think the Transit City order should be thrown open to all qualified builders.

    I can’t say that having Metrolinx involved in this will be a joy. Their lack of knowledge and skill is still overwhelming. My cat probably knows more about streetcar technology from having slept on top of the various bidding documents relating to this first TTC order than the “experts” at that lamentable provincial agency.

    Nor am I anti-Bombardier. I have a great deal of respect for many of their products, such as the BiLevels. They aren’t quite the technological pikers some people suspect them of being. But Skoda, Siemens and Alstom should at least have a shot at this order if we are going to gain the financial benefit of competitive bidding. If Bombardier tops their bids, so be it.

    Just as an aside, Gary Webster consistently went out of his way all through the tendering for the 204 city cars to ensure that other potential builders wouldn’t walk away before the Transit City order was put out for bids.

    So, let the bidding begin!

    Like

  3. Sounds like Metrolinx had done more harm than good. Looks to me that Sheppard line would be done till 2015 and Eglinton push to 2020. The Jane and Don Mills lines won’t be funded. The waterfront west would be funded through the city. Streets would be ripped apart, but work stalls cause no money is coming out of Metrolinx. We might as well rebuild our streetcars and use them instead.

    Metrolinx shouldn’t be able to control all the cars acquired for the Sheppard line, at least not the 33% that the federal will be funding.

    Like

  4. While unseen forces may be at work, I have a hard time believing Metrolinx can take this project on too. I have to assume this is just some bureaucratic such and such.

    Steve, have you had a look at the GO Expansion report from today’s Metrolinx meeting?

    Steve: Not yet. I have been socializing rather than burying my nose in GO/Metrolinx agendas.

    I think they have their hands full.

    http://www.metrolinx.com/Docs/Agendas/Jul13_09/Agenda_Item9-GO_Transit_Expansion_Plans_and_Capital_Projects.pdf

    http://www.metrolinx.com/Docs/Agendas/Jul13_09/Agenda_Item9-GO_Transit_Expansion_Plans_and_Capital_Projects-P_Deck.pdf

    Links courtesy Waterloo Warrior over at UT

    Like

  5. From the time it was announced that Transit City lines would be designed for “off the shelf” LRVs, I had commented to others that this meant that they would not necessarily be built by the same vendor as the legacy cars.

    Though there are a number of advantages to having a fleet that would involve similar maintenance skills and even common spare parts, having a “threat” that it wasn’t necessarily a done deal is helpful in getting the best price. After all, the streetcar deal has the option to order TC cars with no determined price. Funny thing, since they should be able to just go to their price book, and apply a discount for being such a good customer (read: one placing a substantial order).

    Metrolinx notwithstanding, there will probably be some small savings in using the options on the back of the streetcar order. Having the lines built for “off the shelf” models will be useful in the future when additions and replacements are needed and more suppliers will be able to just bid from their catalogue.

    As for Harper claiming that jobs would be created at Bombardier to build cars for this line, that sounds like a typical conclusion made by anyone (his advisors included) who is just not in-the-know about transit. Sadly, this view is shared by much of the public: The streetcar deal was waiting funding at the time; it was with Bombardier and the only other offer was too highly priced; of course this means the TC cars would also be built by them!

    Like

  6. I think that this is an example of somebody stirring the pot to make it stink. It makes no sense to have two different types of equipment on the legacy and TC lines. Granted they have different voltages but there would still be a lot of common parts, doors, seats, windows etc. I only hope that they don’t want to start having multiple types of LFLRV’s running in Toronto.

    There would actually be an argument to have all the planned lines in Ontario use the same type of equipment and the same gauge. Since the cars will have a different voltage and not be compatible with the legacy system or the subway then they should probably be built to standard gauge. This would allow interchangeability with other new lines being planned for Peel, Hamilton and Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge. I know it is hard to think of Toronto operating trams that are standard gauge but perhaps it is time. Maybe they could run on the SRT tracks, probably not.

    Like

  7. We had a great chance on making Metrolinx a body that can look at the needs of all the different authorities and create a body to buy goods in bulk so we can get our buses for the cheapest price we can. Of course it fails as is always in Canada with progressive ideas in transportation issues.

    Steve: The volume of buses bought by the TTC (and railcars for that matter) is such that we are already getting low pricing. If there is any argument, it could be with TTC specs and procurement practices, but Metrolinx would have to establish that they can do better. The same applies for many other goods.

    Like

  8. Am I missing something here? Webster’s statement is that the provincial framework gives Metrolinx approval authority. How did we get from that to “Metrolinx is up to something”?

    Steve: The question is whether Metrolinx simply wants to vet the proposal, or whether there’s a move afoot to re-open the tender and give other vendors a shot at bidding on the Transit City cars. The carbuilding industry is a dog-eat-dog world, and losing bidders don’t give up easily. All the same, given that Siemens’ bid for the Toronto order was 50% higher than Bombardier’s, they have some serious pencil sharpening to do, and then there are the companies who didn’t even bid.

    For political reasons, any bidder will be held to a high Canadian content requirement, and this really raises the bar for any bidder who does not have an established manufacturing presence.

    Like

  9. Just to be clear… the reporter speaking with Gary was trying to understand why the Eglinton Crosstown tunnel’s diamater couldn’t be determined today given the fact the TTC knows the “dynamic envelope” of the new streetcars just ordered – the 204 replacement vehicles for the legacy system.

    It’s important to remember that the option to negotiate with Bombardier for Transit City vehicles isn’t a guarantee that Bombardier will build the TC cars. That’s how the RFP was structured. So, without knowing today which type of vehicle will run on TC, we can’t say what the dynamic envelope will be in the Eglinton tunnel.

    My comments were not designed to suggest Bombardier won’t build the LRVs, they may very well. Rather, I was attempting to clarify why the tunnel boring machines for the Spadina subway extension (the basis of the question) may not serve our needs when building the Eglinton line.

    Brad

    Steve: Thanks for the clarification. The reason I quoted you was that there have been questions flying around both on this blog and elsewhere about how solid Bombardier’s hold on the Transit City car contract might be, and I wanted to make clear that comments showing that it’s not a done deal were being made openly.

    Like

  10. My view has been frequently expressed here – the TC cars should be tendered (untendered contracts are bad public policy because the tender process allows a little more light to shine on the plans being made) and they should not necessarily be “new streetcar” analogues – even if built by BBD – given the different nature of the lines especially Eglinton LRT and Scarborough (L)RT, which seem to me to be closer to the C-Train than the existing downtown cars. We will have paid to build the Flexity line – other municipalities should “do their Canadian duty” and keep it rolling.

    Now, if Bombardier Transportation wanted to move its corporate headquarters to the City of Toronto from Berlin – say to Islington Station…

    Like

  11. Two things. First, Brad Ross is one of the most open TTC people I know, his twitter feed is amazing.

    Secondly, I think this is really much ado about nothing. Just because it “might not” be bombardier, does not mean it “certainly will not” be bombardier.

    Like

  12. It really doesn’t matter who builds Transit City’s fleet – given that both the Transit City and legacy fleets are so large, there are few economies of scale (both in manufacturing and fleet maintenance) in combining them. Now given that that the TTC already has an option with Bombardier to build the new streetcars, it would probably be cheaper to exercise that option, but as always, the city must make sure it is getting the best value for its money.

    Like

  13. Brad Ross Says:
    July 10th, 2009 at 8:45 am

    “Just to be clear… the reporter speaking with Gary was trying to understand why the Eglinton Crosstown tunnel’s diamater couldn’t be determined today given the fact the TTC knows the “dynamic envelope” of the new streetcars just ordered – the 204 replacement vehicles for the legacy system.

    “It’s important to remember that the option to negotiate with Bombardier for Transit City vehicles isn’t a guarantee that Bombardier will build the TC cars. That’s how the RFP was structured. So, without knowing today which type of vehicle will run on TC, we can’t say what the dynamic envelope will be in the Eglinton tunnel.

    “My comments were not designed to suggest Bombardier won’t build the LRVs, they may very well. Rather, I was attempting to clarify why the tunnel boring machines for the Spadina subway extension (the basis of the question) may not serve our needs when building the Eglinton line.”

    The TTC subway engineer that I talked to at a public meeting said that the tunnel diameter would by about 30 cm greater for the Eglinton line because of the increased height needed for the catenary. This would seem to indicate that the tunnel would also be wider than the subway tunnels as they tend to try to keep them circular. Unless they reduce the height of the cars it would seem that the tunnels, if twin bore, would be slightly greater than for the Spadina extension,

    Like

  14. Looking at the second link James gave regarding GO expansion, page 10 of the PDF shows that the Seaton/Locust Hill corridors would run along the CP tracks – the midtown corridor and the Barrie line is scheduled for a new station at St Clair. That would certainly enhance GO’s abilty to move people around the 416 (though I hope the former would include a station on the segment shared with the Richmond Hill Line).

    Like

  15. Honesly I think we need fleet variation. As we can see today the CLRV’s are practically falling apart (I know age is a part) but as you can see when one domino falls, the rest will start to fall as well. If the new Bombardier cars fail early, chances are there would be problems with the other cars. As we know implementing new technology isn’t always a 100% perfect right when its released. If that situation ever occured, what would the TTC do than, run buses?

    Steve: Buses fall apart too. So do subway cars. I won’t say anything about the RT as an example of “new technology”. We could argue it either way. If the Bombardier cars turn out to be a great success, then we could have a huge fleet of wonderful cars. If they are lemons, and half the fleet is by someone else, they may be lemons too, just a different variety. The biggest question mark is the ability of the new cars to navigate the existing streetcar system. The Transit City cars will runs on lines built to the spec of the car. All vendors have had problems with some of their equipment, and we hope that we get a good design.

    Like

  16. Steve Said: The volume of buses bought by the TTC (and railcars for that matter) is such that we are already getting low pricing. If there is any argument, it could be with TTC specs and procurement practices, but Metrolinx would have to establish that they can do better. The same applies for many other goods.

    I was thinking outside of the scope of not only the TTC but also the Go Transit area. Like Ottawa or Thunder Bay. Once every couple of years the systems that are small can scrape together a request to metrolinx to get a deal if 300 buses are ordered in total. Windsor, Ottawa, Thunder Bay, and say Belleville scrapes 300 buses, then those cities can save a few bucks and may even budget an emergency spare or two for their fleets in their systems. TTC doesn’t order very often so we need to cut costs in this fashion whenever possible.

    Steve: I believe that the Ministry of Transportation has been doing that sort of thing already, and this function has moved over to Metrolinx. As for GO, they buy different buses for their highway services that don’t come from the same builders as city buses.

    Like

  17. Also, if we are going to pick a new supplier, why not build the TC lines to standard gauge? Sure we’d have two different fleet gauges, but I don’t see how that’d be a huge deal. Right now it does not work because only, what, 6 trains (SRT) use standard gauge while the rest of the TTC (100’s of rail cars) use TTC gauge. If however we built the entire Transit City network to standard gauge, we would not find it to be a white elephant. As well, subway cars are no longer brought to Hillcrest for repair (ever since Greenwood opened) so why would we need to do so with the new TC cars, why not build a “new” hillcrest, so to speak, to keep them up and running.

    Steve: Depending on future plans for the St. Clair route such as operation over Jane Street trackage to an Eglinton West carhouse, the die may already have been cast as, of course, the rebuilt 512 is TTC gauge.

    Like

  18. Steve wrote about combined procurement, “I believe that the Ministry of Transportation has been doing that sort of thing already, and this function has moved over to Metrolinx.”

    I know that the buses that YRT will be receiving this year are part of such a deal that combines it with a few other agencies.

    Like

  19. Steve: “Depending on future plans for the St. Clair route such as operation over Jane Street trackage to an Eglinton West carhouse, the die may already have been cast as, of course, the rebuilt 512 is TTC gauge.”

    Does anyone know how the TTC plans to run 600 V cars on 750 V? Are they going to run everything through a switching power supply so that input voltage does not matter or are the electrical systems tolerant of such voltage swings?

    Steve: I think the people who muse about interconnecting Transit City with the legacy network have not thought about technical issues like that.

    Like

  20. I’m beginning to think that perhaps TC should be standard gauge.

    I had thought it should be TTC gauge in order to share maintenance facilities and allow movements using each others’ tracks, particularly with the 512.

    However, if TC lines will be using 750 volts that might make such use difficult, if not impractical, it might make sense to keep them separate.

    Should this be the decision, and should it be decided that the SRT be converted to LRT, then the re-gauging of its tracks comes off the to-do list.

    Like

  21. The Bombardier vehicles seem to me to be better suited size-wise to TC than the legacy routes. There’s a reason that they don’t run ALRVs on the 506 or 505, and I’ll bet it has nothing to do with turn radii. The larger, higher-capacity cars are run on Queen and King where they’re more needed. I’d like to see a fleet of smaller cars maintained for use on routes in off-peak hours so that headways still make sense. Or are we assuming that ridership will continue to increase?

    On a related note, I’m currently loving the 504 replacement buses on Roncesvalles. With the city strike, the construction hasn’t started yet, and the buses are offering fabulous frequent service from Queen to Dundas West – such that the smaller capacity is hardly felt, even in rush hour. I’m still concerned about vehicle size affecting headways what with the footprints needed at terminals. With the forecast higher speeds achieved in TC due to more distant station spacing and underground sections on Eglinton, I think the reduced headway and larger vehciles will be fine there.

    And as others have said, it seems a given that it will be more sensible to have vehicles share the legacy and TC routes if for no other reason than the parts and vehicles are interchangable. (Provided of course, that the Bombardier cars don’t prove to be duds like the Icarus buses…)

    Like

  22. Further to comments above about procurement, the following statement appears in the Metrolinx Annual Report for 2008/09:

    “In June 2008, Metrolinx took on the oversight for TPI [the Transit Procurement Initiative] from the Ministry of Transportation. In December 2008, we announced the winning contracts for the 2009 joint transit bus procurement. Contracts for up to 160 buses — valued at up to $70 million — were awarded to New Flyer Industries Canada, ULC and City View Bus Sales. […]

    “Twelve GTHA municipalities are participating … and [this] has resulted in approximately $10 million in universal taxpayer savings over two years.”

    Like

  23. I don’t think the 600/750v issue is really all the complicated. I’ve read that at least some of the recently developed electonic subsystem equipment that is produced for supply to the transit vehicle manufacturing market is fully tolerant of that range. This means that one standard product covers all the low-voltage markets without modification. Systems around the world use various voltages lying anywhere in this range, not just one or the other.

    This ties in to the issue of unique track guage. It not a significant factor in the cost of a vehicle. Every system in the world orders vehicles with customized options. “Off-the-shelf” is just a starting point. This is especially important when considering that the new Canadian-content percentage requirements force local production to be tooled or started up from scratch locally. The argument that our local technical specifications for Transit City drive up the unit cost dramatically is rather silly (the legacy lines are an entirely different issue). We will never order a ‘universal’ vehicle design for the entire Provice worth of future systems and we should not be making compromises in Toronto to accomodate a few LRVs in Kitchener. An extra 1-3/16″ room for adjustment on the ends of each axle doesn’t require re-engineering for the trucks or carbody from scratch. (If it does then fire your engineers and your strategic planners because you won’t be competitive as a manufacturer.)

    Like

  24. Steve: “Depending on future plans for the St. Clair route such as operation over Jane Street trackage to an Eglinton West carhouse, the die may already have been cast as, of course, the rebuilt 512 is TTC gauge.”

    I don’t think this should be viewed as conclusive. St. Clair could easily be re-gauged the next time its tracks are rebuilt. Note that St. Clair is different from much of the rest of the existing network in that it doesn’t cross or even touch any other lines. The existing network has been almost completely rebuilt in the last few years; it could have been re-gauged except for the tiny little problem that large parts of the network would have had to shut down for years waiting for necessary trackage to be rebuilt. Instead, each piece is rebuilt and once each piece is done the entire network is again operational.

    St. Clair would not suffer from this problem and could be re-gauged independently, and also changed to TC standards in other respects.

    The more I read the less justification I see for building the new lines at a non-standard gauge. They won’t connect to the existing network at all for some time, and even then it sounds like things like interlining and even deadheading will be of minimal utility.

    Steve: St. Clair will not undergo a major rebuild for 25 years, and I don’t think that the locals would take to kindly to an attempt to do the whole thing at once. Also, the new track construction places the steel ties whose track supports are built to TTC gauge in the lower layer of concrete. The intent is that this layer is much more permanent than the track above. If you want to regauge, you have to tear out everything.

    I think regauging St. Clair is a dead issue. The real question is the gauge of the TC network and a recognition that the two networks will never interline.

    Like

Comments are closed.