More New Streetcars For Toronto (Updated)

Updated on June 15 at 11:30 am:  Thanks to “nfitz” for pointing out that the base prices for both the TTC and Metrolinx cars are available in Bombardier press releases. 

Updated at 11:50 am:  A link to Transit Ottawa’s website has been added.

We gathered at an odd, odd-of-the-way spot — the GO platform at Kennedy Station — a small band of media, government aides and friends of MPPs.  In the background, SRT trains came and went from the upper level of the subway station.

The occasion?  Metrolinx and the Government of Ontario announced Cabinet approval of the extended “Big 5 in 10” project funding and the  purchase of 182 new Light Rail Vehicles for the Transit City network.  The “Big 5” announcement was no surprise — an agency like Metrolinx doesn’t publish a plan like that without knowing approval is certain.  The real news was that Ontario has embraced LRT by actually ordering vehicles.

The irony of the location, a site where we might have seen Toronto’s first LRT line three decades ago, made this event one I just had to attend even if I will have to wait almost a decade to see the new cars rolling out of Kennedy on a rebuilt, extended SRT.

This order builds on the already-approved TTC “legacy” order of 204 LRVs from Bombardier.  That contract included an option for up to 400 additional cars of which 300 were assigned to Metrolinx and the remaining 100 stayed with the TTC.  If Metrolinx wants to bump its order, it has six years to exercise the option for its remaining 118 cars.  This lies well within the timeframe of announcements for another round of LRVs for Toronto or possibly other Ontario systems, but on the timescale of transit planning, is short enough to focus attention on the question “what’s next”.

The new cars (5MB pdf) are slightly longer and wider than the “legacy” LRVs, and the Transit City lines have been designed to match the specs of an “off the shelf” vehicle rather than the more restrictive TTC streetcar system.  A comparison chart shows the major differences between the two new fleets as well as the existing CLRVs and ALRVs.

The contract price is $770-million not including taxes, spare parts and future change orders.  This $4.23-million unit cost compares favourably with the TTC’s $1.2-billion contract for 204 cars (roughly $6-million each), but the actual difference will only be in the range of 5-10% according to Metrolinx CEO Rob Prichard.  Much of the difference lies in the way the TTC and Metrolinx quote pricing and inflation (the TTC’s is an all-in price because as-spent dollars must be quoted in capital budget projections).

The TTC and Metrolinx would do well to present a price reconcilliation so that everyone can make an apples-to-apples comparison.  The last thing we need is a bunch of ill-informed Mayoral candidates presenting the difference as an example of how streetcars are too expensive in Toronto.

Updated June 15:

The base price for each set of vehicles can be found in Bombardier press releasesThe first of the new cars will run on the Sheppard East LRT scheduled to open in 2014.  The remainder of the fleet isn’t needed until 2019/20 when the Finch, Eglinton and (rebuilt/extended) SRT lines are scheduled to open.  This puts much of the order at the back end of the TTC legacy car deliveries running to 2018.  Bombardier and their workers in Thunder Bay are quite happy to see production continuing at their plant.  They have committed to 25% Canadian content, and Bombardier hopes to improve on that figure.

Metrolinx order: 182 cars for $770-million, or $4.23-million each

TTC order: 204 cars for $851-million, or  $4.17-million each

This order sets the technology pattern for other LRT projects in the GTA including Hamilton, Mississauga and Kitchener-Waterloo if any of these progresses beyond the planning stage.  Less clear, however, is the relationship with Ottawa whose LRT scheme recently got back on track with announced 1/3 funding from the federal government.  Siemens was the chosen supplier for the original Ottawa proposal, and will no doubt have a presence in any revival of that scheme.

So begins the long-overdue introduction of LRT to suburban Toronto, although much remains just lines on a plan.  There are the “Phase 2” elements of the four LRT lines, the proposed Sheppard East extension south to University of Toronto Scarborough Campus, the rest of Transit City, and who knows what beyond the 416.  The UTSC extension proposal will be on the Metrolinx Board agenda for its June 29, 2010, meeting, while the remainder awaits the “Investment Strategy” and discussions on how to fund a growing regional network.