LRV Design Turns to the Public

The TTC has launched a new website devoted to the design of the new Toronto streetcars.  The video on the opening page is a bit cheezy, but the basic idea of the site is to solicit feedback from people about these cars.

I am sitting on a review panel for this process, and in our first meeting the common thread was that we all wanted to talk about more detail than was on offer.  It will be interesting to see what the general feedback is, and how much of it is reflected in the final design.

Meanwhile, Long Branch riders take note:  the graphic for this consultation shows a car signed “501 Long Branch”.  You will get new cars eventually, although they may not show up very often.

69 thoughts on “LRV Design Turns to the Public

  1. I just visited the TTC streetcar website, and I was thinking of Wile E. Coyote’s nemesis for some reason, so I figured a name idea for the new LRVs could be “Roadrunners”. Sort of makes sense, as they would ‘run’ down the ‘road’.

    Now perhaps if the engineers at Bombardier could be persuaded to include horns that go “mmeep meep!”


  2. For David Eustache – the suggestion of Roadrunner is great, probably why it was chosen and is now in use for commuter trains in New Mexico. I think they’d object. If we’re getting into cartoon characters, there’s always Speedy Gonsalez.


  3. John Bromley said: “If we’re getting into cartoon characters, there’s always Speedy Gonsalez.” …which has already be taken by a purple-hued hippopotamus in those cellphone commercials. And we’ve already had hippo-buses and even an April Fools TTC parody of one. Still, rather appropriate an image as a somewhat bloated and slow animal.


  4. Calvin,

    Having the front door able to open while the vehicle is motion is advantageous time saving feature in cases where there is only 1 or 2 people boarding at the stop. These people will most likely be standing at the stop pole and therefore close to the front of the car. PCC cars did this. Think of it like a bus where only one person is getting on, and the front doors pop open just before it stops.

    Off topic: The idea of all the doors on a subway opening before the train stops in a station is not that strange either. A quick ride on the Montreal Metro or especially the Paris Metro (where some trains roll up to 10-15 feet with the doors open before it stops) shows the benefit of having that extra second for people to start alighting. In Paris where headways on some lines are around 1 minute, every second counts.


  5. As I was writing about all doors opening on a subway before it was closed, I was thinking about Buenos Aires where this is common practice.

    Even the modern subway (Subte) cars open before the train is completely stopped, but the real treat is to ride on the 1905 vintage cars. With these, the latch to open the door is enabled well before the train comes to a stop, but the closing of the door is done by some sort of counterweight mechanism that does not kick in until the car gets moving – sometimes not until it is in the tunnel! 😉


  6. Good point about the New Mexico Railrunner Express service, John. One element of that project worth noting is the eye-catching paint scheme. The head and body of a roadrunner appears on the locomotives and the Bombardier BiLevels having sweeping tail feathers that continue down their entire length on an ivory background. That’s the kind of visual design that needs to go into the Toronto Flexity cars.

    And when is someone going to think of engaging North America’s only industrial designer totally dedicated to rail and transit projects? That’s Cesar Vergara. I profiled him five years ago in the business section of the Toronto Star and the CPR employees’ magazine, Momentum.

    I’m sure the TTC hasn’t even considered Cesar because they wouldn’t even know who he is. That’s what happens when an organization is infected with that “Not Invented Here” syndrome. Pity.


  7. W. K. Lis says: “What indication do the current European trams use to tell drivers to stop at open doors, or do they go without?”

    European streetcars don’t usually require passengers to cross a lane of traffic to get to the sidewalk. More generally, drivers are assumed to know what the law is and not need reminding.

    However, if we can’t have accordion doors with reminders on them, I favour lowering a spiked boom which lies on the road between the back of the streetcar and the sidewalk when the doors open. A few shredded tires, and drivers will soon learn.

    If that’s a bit extreme, how about a camera which take a photo of any car that tries to pass when the door is open, including the licence plate?


  8. How about “Baby Rockets?” These new cars will be great for people with small kids. We currently prefer to use the 94 Harbord/Welsley bus instead of the College Car because it is super awkward getting the stroller up the stairs and around the metal pole thingy at the top. I think the paint scheme looks great, but the main thing is that these vehicles will be accessible to all.


  9. I shudder at the thought that these things will be “stroller friendly”

    What ever happened to the common courtesy of folding your stroller on a busy vehicle? Rather these days we have a culture of “I have a child so I am entitled to push you out of the way”.

    Steve: When I was on Peter Silverman’s show last weekend, we had a caller who went on at some length about the behaviour of people with strollers. They noted that in Ottawa, if there is a stroller already on a bus, the operator can refuse to allow another. I can see just how well that would play here in Toronto.

    It’s the sort of thing that, literally, could be portrayed as being against motherhood, but it’s really a matter of good manners. The problem with those SUV-sizes strollers is that “collapse” is not something they do.

    The ones that really, really annoy me are the strollers containing not babies, but shopping.


  10. What about strollers that hold 5 year old kids? They must be trying to pass off those kids as under 2 years old, since under 2 they ride free.


  11. I’ve been on buses in Ottawa, and 2 parents (mother and father) came on board and gave me and my friend very dirty looks because we initially refused to give up our seats (in the wheelchair position) so they could slot in with their stroller. When we did get up, and they lifted the seats so they could slot in, they continued to give us dirty looks. Had the driver not taken the bus out of service (IIRC this was at Hurdman) I may well have said something.


  12. I assume that Steve would have been right on top of when the TTC pages were published (some of the better TTC web pages I’ve seen, I should note). So, I was surprised to see that the deadline for submissions is so close to the date Steve posted the link. A month to respond might have been nice. Oh, well. :-/

    I have to say that I worry a lot about the use of TTC red (in any of the various shades I’ve seen). FWIW, the red provided by the TTC seems more of a vermillion/scarlet than it’s usual maroon…. It’s WAY too dangerous and therefore irresponsible a colour for a TTC vehicle. The grey accents are not much better, because they blend into the tarmac.

    I lashed up some thoughts and images based upon the white blank slate provided by the TTC. Given previous comments, I feel compelled to refer to this as the white swan. You can see the evolution of my design here.

    As for a fun name, it’s “White swan in a TTC blanket.”

    I’m no artist, but you’ll see my reasoning on the page. Artists feel free to pillory the design. 😉


  13. Nick J Boragina said:

    I’ve been on buses in Ottawa, and 2 parents (mother and father) came on board and gave me and my friend very dirty looks because we initially refused to give up our seats (in the wheelchair position) so they could slot in with their stroller. When we did get up, and they lifted the seats so they could slot in, they continued to give us dirty looks.

    Seems like a very good idea for me. It would keep the aisle clear for people getting on and off — a significant problem on the TTC.

    I wondered if the reason for the ‘dirty looks’ was that this was actually OC Transpo policy. A quick search of the system brought up the PSA: Strollers in OC Transpo buses page issued February 24, 2010 which states:

    Ottawa – City Council is working to balance the needs of all transit riders whether it be parents travelling with a child in a stroller or persons with disabilities boarding an OC Transpo bus. Co-operation is the key element to ensure that all passengers travel in a safe environment.

    Caregivers carrying a child in a stroller are asked to put the stroller in a space designated for wheelchairs if there is one available. If a wheelchair position is not available, open strollers are allowed in the aisle unless they interfere with other passengers or with the safe movement of transit users. If this happens, the operator may ask the customer to fold the stroller. (This is current practice.) If an open stroller is in a wheelchair area and someone with a wheelchair requires that space, the stroller will be required to move. As always, customers can fold and stow their strollers upon boarding. By doing so, they can sit in the Cooperative Seating area with their child on their lap.

    A communication campaign directed at customers who use strollers will be deployed to assist them when travelling with children on the transit system.

    Perhaps this is something the TTC might look at.


  14. BTW, can I make a plea to make the car numbers (and any TTC logos) small and discreet? Surely, they need only be large enough and visible enough to be functional when needed by TTC staff close to the vehicles. The public really is not interested in seeing good design thwarted by administrative ‘stuff.’


  15. Didn’t the Toronto Civic Railway (the original city owned street railway, before growing into the Toronto Transportation Commission) used green as their primary colour. Why not use green instead of grey on some portions of the new streetcars, both as a nod to history and to show that the streetcars are “green”.

    Steve: Metrolinx is making noises about having the Transit City cars in GO Transit green. The Civic used a darker shade.


  16. I don’t think the size of the numbers currently used on the streetcars is too intrusive. I think the PCCs that got the large – huge! – numbers back in the 1980s hold the record for excessively big typeface on a streetcar.

    Steve: And those huge numbers, believe it or not, were intended to make it easier for Route Supervisors to tell which car was off in the distance. That, seriously folks, was a TTC response to the problems of line management.


  17. For anyone who’d like to whip up a design or three quickly, I’ve put up colour-area templates which, combined with the corresponding TTC images, make it easy to get a tolerable-looking image with minimal work.

    For the templates and brief instructions, look here.

    For the same plus some examples, which took well under 5 minutes each using the templates, look here.


  18. What is the length of the new streetcars as compared to the ALRVs?

    Steve: The lengths of Toronto cars are:

    CLRV: 15.4m
    ALRV: 23.2m
    Flexity: 30.2m


  19. Steve said: “…to make it easier for Route Supervisors to tell which car was off in the distance.”

    Hmmm, so much for hopes of advances in technology (GPS for cars on digital maps, etc.), let alone line management.

    Steve: You have to imagine Route Supervisors with a spyglass looking off into the mists to see which of their ships are in view. Of course, if the TTC ran a marine fleet, half of it would never reach shore.


  20. Thanks, KPS, for the templates and examples. One thing was abundantly clear from your examples: the change from white to cream makes the vehicles look positively ancient.

    It shows how such small changes in colour, shape, and font choice all work together to seriously date an overall design, and, therefore, how important it is to get the small details of the overall design right. This truly is a part of the deployment process where the bureaucrats should not be allowed. It would be all to easy for them to say, “those are the colours we used before, so let’s go with them.” Your cream examples of positioning of light colouring are great, but having that colour be cream would seem to be a huge, retrograde mistake. Sorry, history buffs. 😦

    As a complete afterthought, it does occur to me that a white vehicle and some sort of TTC red, might allude well to the Canadian flag, which might keep a few Feds. slightly happier. 😉


  21. Steve said: “…if the TTC ran a marine fleet, half of it would never reach shore.”

    If the TTC ran a marine fleet, they’d surely be swams. (Typo almost intentional.)


  22. In the link to the Metrolink report under ‘Transit City: half a loaf’, page 23, where they indicate the number of cars needed for the first four Transit City lines, you’ll find a paint scheme variation that I could actually live with. If there were a bit more red around the windows on the intermediate modules, it’d be almost perfect.

    Note the Metrolink logo on top of the TTC logo. I don’t know which boffin came up with this but it’s really very nice.


  23. John F Bromley wrote: “If there were a bit more red around the windows on the intermediate modules, it’d be almost perfect.”

    Hey! Consensus in Toronto. Your description is pretty much what I had suggested (no, I hadn’t seen the Metrolinx pdf before your post). Maybe we should start a campaign. Whom should I call? 😉


  24. Steve: In a response to David O’Rourke’s posting, you said the Flexity has a length of 30.2m. But in your posting of April 24 (, you cited a length of 28.2m. Was the length in the April 24 posting incorrect?

    In some earlier posting on coupled CLRVs, you mentioned that two coupled pairs of CLRVs would not fit in Union or Spadina stations. It seems that the Flexity is only slighty shorter than a coupled CLRV pair: 30.8m(2*15.4m) + gap for couplers.

    Steve: The length for the Flexity is taken from the latest set of TTC drawings I have. Possibly they have been growing while we were not looking. I will check on this.

    The issue at Spadina is different from that at Union. Today at Spadina, cars tend to pull only far enough onto the platform to be able to unload, although some operators have the sense to pul two carlenghts into the station and leave room for a following car. The loading platform will be a bit tight, but not impossible, and the front door will likely be beyond the current “end’ of the used portion of the platform. Either they will move the barrier, or simply not use that door, which will be a single door anyhow. At Union, the unloading side can handle two CLRVs, but the loading side is again quite tight and the solution may simply be not to use the single door at the front of the car.


  25. Hi Steve,
    I’m new to your site – glad I found it. It was interesting (ironic) to read in the last paragraph:
    “the graphic […] shows a car signed “501 Long Branch”.”,

    … and then read some of your archived articles in the “Queen Car” category. I especially liked the mention of the Beach passengers who hi-jacked the 501 at Kingston and forced it to go all the way to Neville. I hadn’t heard that story before.

    I do have to say in criticism however, that in all the articles I’ve read so far you seem to be viewing the 501/Queen issue from a Humber-centric perspective, and don’t seem to have much awareness (or at least coverage) of the issues in the Beach at all.

    ***Warning – Start of Rant***
    As a foolish Beacher who is a four minute walk from the Neville Loop, who naively sold her car after moving here thinking “I’m right by the streetcar line – I can be a good citizen and take transit”, I can attest to the utter insanity that is transit service east of Waverly (the closest bus stop which is a 15-20 minute walk from here). For us, there is NO alternative!!! Well, actually I lie – there are alternatives: 1) a 20 minute walk to Waverly, 2) a 20 minute walk uphill to Kingston Road, 3) the “other” TTC – which we’re using with increasing frequency. And of course, in rush hour there is the Beach Express for which you can have the privilege of paying double fair and then sit in gridlock due to the congestion caused by that other insane idea – a bike lane on Eastern that starts and stops in the middle of no-where, and is one short block north of a dedicate bike path that goes all the way downtown through parkland. My husband and I have given up, and we’re considering buying another car.

    But here we come to the wonderful gift to the Beach neighbourhood of the Ashbridges Bay LRV Storage facility, which will not only NOT improve transit service to the Beach, it will also have the wonderful side benefits of:
    – causing huge traffic congestion on Lakeshore and whichever streets are chosen to route the cars through to it, impacting not only local Beach traffic, but all traffic between the downtown core and south Scarborough;

    – running 2/3 of the city’s new streetcars in the wee hours of the morning – WITH NO CORRESPONDING LOCAL IMPROVEMENT IN SERVICE – either past a senior’s residence, or just outside the front door of several homes in the middle of the night,

    – making the gateway to a major tourist area into an industrial park while simultaneously destroying parkland currently used by literally thousands of people;

    – breaking an existing legal agreement with residents which guarantees that that site can only be used for water treatment plant expansion (which is badly needed btw);

    – destroying berms created on the site for the express purpose of buffering the community from any chlorine explosions at the water treatment plant (according to long-time residents at the “community consultation” meeting (hahahaha) those de-railed CN cars carrying chlorine – which prompted the evacuation of most of Mississauga – were destined for Ashbridges Bay). Can we say BP? Safety plan, environmental assessment – do we need to have one of those? Apparently not.

    – etc, etc, etc…

    You get the picture. I’m a bit fed up. It frequently takes my husband 10-20 minutes LESS time to drive to Pharmacy and Steeles than it takes me to take the 501 to Yonge St.
    ***End of Rant ***

    I know there isn’t a snowball’s chance in h*** of getting any of this changed, but thanks for listening!

    Steve: There is no intent to play down the Beach in the articles about Queen, but some of the emphasis on the west end comes from the fact that the Beachers have been very squeaky wheels at the TTC and for a time got far more than their fair share of attention thanks to Sandra Bussin’s presence on the TTC. Meanwhile, service to Long Branch is even worse than service to Neville.

    I have a more general issue with service on the 501. TTC management refuses to deal with some basic problems of line management and service reliability, despite more than ample evidence in their own vehicle tracking data. The queues of cars at Neville are caused by the constant addition of padding to running times to deal with “congestion” and the need for long layovers for operators whose trips across town take a very long time.


  26. Hmmm, in my previous rant I forgot to mention design concerns.

    I know we’re only talking graphics here but, as someone who has to routinely navigate past streetcars sitting on Queen St. with their 4-ways on in front of a long line of cars that don’t move because it’s not obvious to them that there are two streetcars already parked in the Neville Loop, which means that they need to go AROUND the double-streetcar (sometimes two streetcars), I strongly suggest that the new cars CLEARLY differentiate when they are stopped for passengers, vs. when they are stopped and require traffic to proceed around them.

    BTW, the new longer lengths will mean that two cars in the loop will either cut off one lane on Queen, or mean more “blinking” cars on the street, with traffic lined up behind them.

    And for those times when it’s not possible for traffic to proceed around the parked streetcars due to parked cars…

    I’d suggest an LED sign in back with operator programmable messages.

    Last but not least, in consideration of our experiences during the eastern seaboard power outage where it was impossible to see the stopped streetcars until you were almost on top of them – I hope this time they forgo the newest technology and put some good old fashioned reflectors on them.


  27. Hi Steve,

    BTW – in your rider stats for the Queen car – where you include the 502 and 503 ridership numbers – you might also consider including the 143 Express numbers. When I worked downtown I only took the 501 until I figured out that the 143 existed. Most new residents east of Wineva go through the same procedure: take the 501 to work; get extremely frustrated; start to find excuses to drive; find out about the express bus; realize “my god – is that ever expensive”; stick it out on the 501 for another week or two; rejig your budget; abandon the 501.

    Steve: The TTC does not include ridership numbers for the premium express routes in their more or less annual report of route usage. See Service Improvements for 2008 at page 43 of the PDF (Appendix C).


  28. Hello Steve,

    Has the design panel met or made any decisions about the streetcars yet?

    Steve: Yes, but we are awaiting confirmation that these have been incorporated into the accepted scheme.


  29. No matter what the design is I wonder how these new rolling road blocks will be able to climb that hill on Bathurst Street to get to route 512.

    Steve: That’s in the spec. They also have to be able to push a dead car up the hill.


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