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.

30 thoughts on “More New Streetcars For Toronto (Updated)

  1. If one wants to make an apples-to-apples price comparison, they need only compare the current Bombardier press release with the one from June 2009.

    It’s easy to calculate they both cost about $4.2 million.

    Steve: Thanks for pointing out these obvious sources of comparable numbers. The TTC order base price is $851-million for 204 cars, while the Metrolinx base price is $770-million for 182 cars. I will update the main post with this info.


  2. Great news, now any word on the ordering of the Tunnel Boring Machines for Eglinton? That, to me, would indicate additional commitment in solidifying this first phase of the plan.

    Steve: The order for these was approved at the last Commission meeting.


  3. Man, those vehicles look lovely. I cannot wait to ride them in 2014. I have been having a conversation with someone concerning the capacity of each vehicle. The Bombardier press release claims the capacity will be “more than 280”. I personally believe this to be the maximum crush capacity, which I doubt will be achieved. I personally think the actually capacity will be closer to 200 riders. Have you heard anything about the actual capacity?

    Steve: At this point, I have not seen an interior layout for the Metrolinx cars, although I don’t expect it will be too much different from the Toronto Legacy fleet given the absence of stairwells. The tricky part will be that spaces opposite doorways reserved for cyclists and wheelchairs on the Toronto cars are not available on doublesided equipment, and this may displace some seats.

    That 280 figure is definitely a crush load. A good analogy is to look at capacity ratings for existing equipment. Normal service load (W4) is defined as seated passengers plus standees at 2.3 square feet each (sorry, I am using an old document). Crush load (W5) counts standees at 1.5 square feet each. In other words, the crush standee count would be about 50% higher than the service figure.

    On this basis, the W4 capacity for a CLRV is 101, but its W5 capacity is 133. Similarly, for the H series subway cars, the numbers are 235 and 319 respectively. The 235 figure gives a train capacity of 1,410, but in practice the TTC does not shoot for this density of riders, let alone the W5 capacity because it would be impossible to handle station stops in reasonable amounts of time. For service design purposes, the TTC uses a train capacity of 1,000, or 167 per car. Taking away the seated passengers brings the standee count to roughly 100, or about 60% of the W4 load. Looked at from a space point of view, this means standees would have almost 4 sq ft each, a generous amount of space on average, for the service design load.

    This is the average over the peak hour and reflects the fact that trains will not be equally loaded for a variety of reasons. A simple example is that at Bloor-Yonge southbound in the AM peak, it is possible for a southbound train to leave with a light load because there were no connecting trains feeding it from the BD line. Only a slight delay is needed to make this happen, and it’s common for at least one “peak” train to go out half empty southbound.

    People do not arrive at a uniform rate over the peak period and although you might achieve the theoretical maximum load on some trains/vehicles, you won’t do it on all of them.

    Returning to the new LRVs, 280 is almost certainly the W5 load, and of those, about 220 people are likely standees and 60 seated. Using the 1.5:1 ratio brings the standees down to around 155 for a W4 load (with a total of about 215), and service design would be lower still (about 95 standees for a service design total of about 155).

    This means that a three-car train, for service design purposes, has a capacity of about 465, and 15 trains/hour (a 4 minute headway) gives almost 7,000. Because that demand will not be evenly distributed in time, among the cars of the train, or along the route, actual on vehicle crowding will vary. The degree of variation is important here (most affected by service reliability) because more riders are on the crowded cars than the uncrowded ones, and the crowded experience is felt by more riders. This is always the difficulty when riders say service is crowded, often to the point of being unable to board, while the TTC says that there is enough, or even too much, service for the observed demand.

    Good headway management is crucial to getting the design capacity (and all of the associated investment) out of a route.


  4. “The new cars are slightly longer and wider than the “legacy” LRVs.”

    I had to chuckle when I read this. In the various debates regarding whether standard or TTC gauge should be used, a few times I read the argument that TTC gauge could provide the extra width that would be beneficial. Given that we are talking about an extra 2.375″, I generally dismissed that argument as insignificant, but never did I think to make the point that how wide the car is is not solely a function of the gauge of the track.

    Still, the point had more to do with the space between the areas where the wheel assemblies are located, and I am wondering what this dimension is for both types of cars.

    Steve: When you consider that all of the second-hand PCCs bought by Toronto were standard gauge when they were delivered, and that Toronto CLRVs ran on standard gauge trucks in Boston, the TTC vs standard gauge issue has nothing at all to do with vehicle capacity. Remember also that there are clones of Toronto subway cars (which run here on TTC gauge trucks) running on standard gauge systems in other cities.

    You should be able to get the truck centre info from Bombardier’s spec sheets for these cars once they are available online.


  5. The comparison chart shows just how unfinished, untidy, and therefore ugly the front new street cars is (shudder…) when it’s put side by side with the new LRV. Given that the two vehicles are manufactured by the same company. it’s all the more surprising and disappointing.

    Is there no way to have the front treatment of the new streetcars tidied up (perhaps to look similar to the LRV, for system consistency and attractiveness) before delivery? Can the streetcar design team do anything to move the look of the front in this direction?

    Steve: We (the advisory team) have made suggestions, but I am not going to discuss them here. We are awaiting feedback from the TTC.


  6. OH OH.
    The LRT (LRV) design looks better than the Streetcar design.

    Just the front end. The Streetcar design needs more glass up front. They do not have to be the same. All the good looking designs in Europe have lots of glass in the front.

    Steve: The front ends are different because of geometric and weight distribution constraints on the legacy streetcar network.


  7. Bombardier has two different front end treatments as standard for their LRV’s. One is nice and one is butt ugly, the choice is yours. The red car is almost as ugly as the blue Oslo trams from the 70’s. I too hope that they settle more on the red and white style but a number of cities have chosen the other design. Just go onto Bombardier’s web site and check out the different LRV’s they have sold. You can down load the spec sheet for every model sold along with photos. They have a large variation is turning radius and power.


  8. I understand that former TTC-gauge equipment have run on standard gauge lines, but to be fair to those who used the space argument in favour of TTC gauge (even though I didn’t buy it back then), their point seemed to be the space available between the wheel wells in a low floor vehicle. I didn’t buy the argument on the grounds that I expected some pretty much off-the-shelf components to be used and the ability to make a unit for TTC gauge (or even adjustable) would be in the design of the suspension that would be covered in the interior by more or less standard components.

    This would probably make the space between the wheel wells identical for either gauge.


  9. The smart money would have the City of Ottawa wanting to buy the same cars as for Transit City. However, the sordid history of LRT in this city dictates that this will not happen. In fact, many of us fear that we will never see an LRT (and that the most we will see is a heritage streetcar line along Sparks St and the Byward Market) and that any and all future rapid transit expansion will be bus transitway. It seems in this burg nothing gets accomplished because a city council’s decisions are over-ruled by the next city council, who want to send everything for further study.


  10. To the suspicious eye it would seem that the strategy here to place the LRV order way ahead of schedule so that the Transit City system will appear to be more difficult to cancel at a later date by a new mayor/council.

    Metrolinx is one outfit I can’t figure out. They always seemed to be a reluctant participant in the whole Transit City scheme, showing a clear preference for a regional AGT system on Eglinton instead … and now this. What changed their minds?

    Steve: If I were really suspicious I would suspect that they are keeping their options open. After all, a Mark II train will easily fit through the Eglinton tunnel. The real problem comes when you reach the on street sections.


  11. Interesting that the performance specs of the different streetcars aren’t given. (And there isn’t even a PCC on the list to make them look bad!)


  12. Maybe you should add, for comparison purposes, bus specs, and maybe a T1 heavy rail subway car and a Montréal Metro train car as well. After all the new LRV’s will be longer AND wider than a Montréal Metro train car.

    Steve: There is a limit to the amount of research I will do on my readers’ behalf.


  13. @ Dwight: Only the ALRV prototype was MU capable. The production fleet doesn’t even have any room behind the rear skirt for a coupler because the space is filled with brake air reservoirs.

    I don’t know why everyone’s so keen on the latest LRV rendering. Both front ends look bad, but the newer one looks worse as far as I’m concerned. It’s unlikely the final design will be exactly like this because the couplers are not depicted. Even if they can hide away somehow, the look will be different. It’s funny how even the rendering shows the major problem the curved glass will cause by obscuring the destination sign with reflections. I’m sorry guys, but it’s crap!


  14. Good for you guys.
    In my city, we can’t afford to keep the bus line running.

    Phil, North Ohio.

    PS: Wish your links were darker.

    Steve: I will work on changing the links to make them stand out better.


  15. The LRV order doesn’t seem that far ahead of schedule. With the first cars for TTC not coming until 2013, will we really have the 35 new cars for 2014 for Sheppard East?

    Besides … there’s probably not much stopping the other 147 cars going to Ottawa for their LRT when a government change inevitably kills the other lines. 🙂


  16. So what was the logic for having non-TTC gauge on the new lines? It seems rather foolish to have two non-compatible gauge systems. I understand that the “legacy” lines have tight turns that prevent the TC vehicle from running on them.

    But using all TTC gauge would allow the flexibility to run “legacy” vehicles on the TC lines. I can see many situations where a problem with the TC vehicles would make this desirable.

    Steve: Metrolinx was convinced that the gauge issue had a cost premium, and moreover it was raised, I believe, by an unsuccessful bidder as an example of how the TTC skewed the competition to Bombardier. That’s hogwash, but in these times of oh so politically correct procurement, the argument affected the design even though the cars came from Bombardier in the end anyhow.


  17. It is important to consider just how terribly suburban Ottawa really is when weighing the feasibility of LRT there. I think that beyond the planned downtown tunnel segment, LRT in other less densely populated parts of Ottawa forces an unnecessary transfer into the system, and given Ottawa’s heavily peak-oriented service, I doubt if LRT frequencies would be very good outside of rush hour.


  18. ” The front ends are different because of weight distribution constraints on the legacy streetcar network”

    A 30 metre long Flexity tram weighs approx. 30 tons.
    Add passengers , for another ( say )10 tons.

    Redistributing (not necessarily adding) 150 lbs. of glass, fiberglass or carbon fibre moulds on the front end shouldn’t cause derailment problems.

    The Tram rendering on the TTC site does look better than previous renderings.

    Steve: It’s the placement of the trucks which are one of the heaviest components of the cars. You can’t just average the weight of the car over its length. Also, the overhang of the Transit City cars in front of the trucks likely creates clearance problems on the legacy network.


  19. NF said: “Besides … there’s probably not much stopping the other 147 cars going to Ottawa for their LRT when a government change inevitably kills the other lines. ”

    You know, Toronto and Ottawa do have a past history of exchanging vehicles (Class BB cars to Ottawa; Trolley Buses to Toronto; GM new-looks [2900 series]/GM artics/Orion Icarus artics to Ottawa; 50 small-Witts built in Ottawa sent to Toronto), but even with a gift of 147 cars, Ottawa City Council will find a way to screw up the deal. That’s why the City is giving $200 million+ to Siemens for a cancelled project. Ottawa does not do decision making very well.


  20. and re: Jonathon and Ottawa Peak travelling times.

    Ottawans would get used to transferring from bus to LRT, if the LRT line was of significant length that it would improve travelling times. The current idea of the line between Tunney’s Pasture Stn. and Blair Stn. is about as short as you can go before you end up being redundant enough to lose traveling time (deep downtown stations with long escalators notwithstanding) as is the case with the Sheppard subway. I do believe, whatever the length, that frequencies would still be in the good range of ten to twelve minutes or better.

    Remember that during off-peak hours the 90-series Transitway routes are also supplemented by a number of 80-series routes, most if not all of which would be replaced by the LRT through the downtown. As for off-peak service, the 95 between Blair and Orleans Stns. in the east, and Tunney’s and Fallowfield Stns. in the west/south have been getting quite busy over the last couple of years. Even if the LRT would properly go further west than Tunney’s Pasture and further east than Blair, the service would still be as good as, if not better than, the current 90-series service.

    But, that all depends on whether or not the line EVER gets built! I wish I could have seen all this development in Toronto happen years sooner (Network 2011 would have been wonderful!). Now I live in a town that at times has too much Toronto-envy; so much so that it gets in it’s own way because “how does Toronto do it (in the positive or negative)” comes up in the thought process way more than needed, or admitted to. It may be a sign for the positive, however, that the current mayor, a politician somewhere between John Tory and Mel Lastman, has little chance of being re-elected. He’s the one who allowed the previous LRT plan to be scuttled, and who also (a pox on him!) uttered the term “World Class City” about Ottawa. Might as well just annex Ottawa onto the east end of Scarborough!

    Steve: There are a few places in between I would rather annex first, although I doubt they would think kindly of the idea.


  21. Did you find out how many of the bogies per streetcar/light rail vehicle will be dummy or traction? Would one set of bogies be able to move the vehicle on level surface or inclines, if one set goes off-line.

    Steve: The Transit City cars have two powered trucks, the “Legacy” cars have three. The reason is that the maximum grade for the Legacy cars is 8% and a car must be able to push another of the same kind up this hill.


  22. Ottawa has plans to run 6 car trains (Day 1 will have 3-4 car trains). I don’t know if the TC vehicles are the right fit. Plus given their history I don’t think giving a sole-source contract to Bombardier would improve their reputation.


  23. Kevin: If the legacy system is going to stay unidirectional, then its fleet wouldn’t be able to run onto the new lines anyway, since they will probably have some centre platforms and definitely won’t have any loops. If there’s no possibility of interlining in either direction without massive rebuilding of the old system, it probably makes sense for the new system to be as standard and off-the-shelf as possible.


  24. David Cavlovic,

    Can you leave your anti-O’Brien screed off this forum?

    I, for one, as a new Ottawa resident am thrilled O’Brien cancelled the old plan.

    Simply building something for the sake of building something is absolutely moronic.

    Tell us what was great about the old plan? For the most part, it replaced an already existing (and adequate) transit line (the O-Train). It ran for almost a quarter of its lenght through the greenbelt. And it would have served new subdivisions with density targets less than some developments in Toronto’s 905 suburban belt.

    All that for what? It would scarcely have made a dent on bus congestion in the core. Would have done nothing for the vast majority of commuters who travel East-West. (Heck, towards the end they were not even planning on running the LRT through the core at all!) And it would not have generated anywhere near the operational savings that OC Transpo was counting on to allow it to expand transit services in the future.

    So what was the benefit of the old plan? That it would build something?

    To top it all off, by Toronto standards it should have been a subway. Ridership through the central portions of the Transitway is approaching 10 000pphpd. In Toronto, this is subway worthy. Note for example, how Transit City proposed burying the Eglinton LRT through the central portions of the city. So why would Ottawa have been any different? A tunnel was needed. Without the tunnel, Ottawa would have traded bus congestion for tram/LRT congestion.

    Larry may not be popular in Ottawa…in some circles. But he made the right decision. Siemens was not paid $200 million. They were paid $37 million for the settlement.

    How was Ottawa rewarded for cancelling the old plan? Instead of the previous pledge of $400 million in federal and provincial funding, Ottawa is now set to receive $600 million from each level of government. And both Queen’s Park and the feds have indicated that they will support further expansion of the LRT as well. Would that all cities had Mayor who fail like that!

    ps. If you had attended any of the open houses, you would have realized that they are planning to run more than once every 10 minutes. The LRT isnt’ just displacing the 90 and 80 series buses. In the east it’s displacing all the 20 and 30 series buses during peak. Headways maybe as low as 4 minutes during peak and will definitely be under 10 mins during off-peak (somewhere around 6-8 mins). It depends on how they configure the trains, but unless it’s the dead of night, you won’t be waiting 10 mins or more for a tram.


  25. “It’s the placement of the trucks which are one of the heaviest components of the cars”

    I realize that. I am an engineer and capablble of carrying out the required calculations on weight distribution.

    ” … the overhang of the Transit City cares in front of the trucks ‘likely’ creates clearance problems on the legacy nwtwork.”

    A possible issue ( ‘likely or real’) but I doubt if the Strasbourg or Porto snouted designs would fly in Toronto.

    There are a number of designs on the Bombardier web site which are more dynamic (not by much) than the rendering on the TTC web site.

    Actually I do not care, as I will be using the Eglinton LRT most often, if it is ever built, and my wife, an Architect, had no complaint with the most recent design of the front end. She had a complaint of some other component.


  26. Keith: If you got over your upset over my concerns about Larry O’Brien, you would have noticed, first of all, that my complaint was not specifically about O’Brien, but about the political situation that plagues our city council ( a situation, alas, that plagues many city councils across this country). In an environment like that, starting to build SOMETHING is better than waiting till the cows come home until a shovel actually hit the ground. And that, I fear, is going to be the situation with the current plan: i doubt we will see it in our lifetime, but i would love to be proven wrong (if the city and NCC keep bickering on the western portion, though, I might unfortunately be proven right) You would have also noticed that I WAS arguing that service on a proper east-west LRT WOULD be better than ten minutes or so. What part of “I do believe, whatever the length, that frequencies would still be in the good range of ten to twelve minutes or better” did you not understand? If you carefully read what i had stated you would have not needed to mention the express 20 and 30 series routes: those are the routes that would provide a hub and spokes service to the LRT that I had inferred at the beginning of my post. As for you saying “Heck, towards the end they were not even planning on running the LRT through the core at all!”, you then contradicted what you said further down by mentioning the tunnel through the downtown core. Yes we need a tunnel. I don’t recall me saying otherwise. And the Siemens payment is not quite over (which, by the way, i am not upset with. They were led down the garden path). It is still possible that they will get the vehicle contract, and could potentially provide a better vehicle than Bombardier, though there are great advantages to having a “universal vehicle” for LRT systems across the province.

    And, to be fair, even though I’m a Jim Watson fan, I do fear he will do what O’Brien did and send the current plan to another financial review. We may lose the downtown tunnel and that would be a disaster. I also do not support a buses only tunnel. That would be a folly beyond belief.


  27. ROB in North Toronto says:
    June 16, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    ” The front ends are different because of weight distribution constraints on the legacy streetcar network”

    “A 30 metre long Flexity tram weighs approx. 30 tons. Add passengers , for another ( say )10 tons. Redistributing (not necessarily adding) 150 lbs. of glass, fiberglass or carbon fibre moulds on the front end shouldn’t cause derailment problems.

    “The Tram rendering on the TTC site does look better than previous renderings.”

    Steve: It’s the placement of the trucks which are one of the heaviest components of the cars. You can’t just average the weight of the car over its length. Also, the overhang of the Transit City cars in front of the trucks likely creates clearance problems on the legacy network.

    Don’t forget that the legacy trams have all wheels powered; whereas most articulated cars do not have the centre truck powered. This was done to allow the cars to push other cars up the hills in the subway stations and on Bathurst Street. If you go to Bombardier’s site and look at the specification for the flexity cars used by different operators you will find them with all wheels powered, 5/6 of the wheels, 5/8 and 2/3 of the wheels powered as well as very different minimum turning radii and motor power.


  28. I am concerned that even if we finally get articulated cars that don’t accelerate like slugs this will be un-done by poor tracking and handling on curves. What good is a full-size sports car if you have to drive it like you’re on a go-kart track?


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