An Inaugural Ride on 4401

Today the TTC took the media on a short excursion with its new streetcar, 4401, from Hillcrest Yard to Bathurst Station and return.  I spent a good deal of the trip being interviewed by others, and so my photo coverage is limited.  However, over on the Torontoist site, there are lots.

Our journey was done at a leisurely pace.  This was the first daylight voyage for one of the new cars, and it attracted a lot of attention.  We seemed to arrive at Bathurst Station in almost no time, and this was in part due to the extremely smooth ride.  I made a point of sitting directly above one of the trucks (the point of where the carbody has the least ability to move independently), and even going through special work, the vibration was not annoying.

The curve into Bathurst Station from the north was more notable for the fun of seeing both ends of the five-section car at the same time (the turn is over 120 degrees) than for any sense of difficulty making the turn.

Air conditioning was quite pleasant onboard, and the car maintained a comfortable temperature even with the doors open at Hillcrest Yard.  The generously sized windows give a good view of the passing street, although it will remain until night operation to see just how much the tinted glass cuts external visibility.

Daytime test runs will become more common now that the TTC knows the vehicles work and won’t be the source of massive service tie-ups.

What I really look forward to is seeing and riding these cars in service.  How will loading times be improved?  Will the accessibility features work and be accepted as designed?  How easily will passengers adapt to the new fare collection scheme as it gradually rolls out across the system?  How long will it take for operators to drive these cars through Toronto streets with the same confidence and speed as they do with the CLRVs?

Car 4400 is about to move to Ottawa for climate testing at the National Research Council.  From there, it will return to Thunder Bay to be retrofitted with improvements developed during the test phase.  4401 and 4402 are still on the property, but they too will go back to Thunder Bay for retrofits.  The TTC is holding off giving the green light to the production vehicle run to get the greatest benefit from the testing that remains, but shipments will begin in fall 2013 for a spring 2014 rollout.

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Sitting in the loop at Bathurst Station, there was (as operators of railfan charters would know it) a “brief photo stop”.  The media went crazy of course with everyone getting in each other’s shot.

No, there is nothing wrong with the destination sign.  The LEDs in the sign are not all lit at once, but the image “scans”.  We don’t see this effect (just as we don’t see flicker on a TV screen or computer monitor).  It will be almost impossible, except with a long exposure, to get a picture of these cars with all of the text in the signs readable.

A related issue is that during the daytime, glare on the side windows can make the signs above the doors difficult to read (in the photo below, the sign is in the shade).  The transit industry solved the problem of brightly-lit signs a long time ago, and I don’t understand why the TTC has taken a step back here.

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More media at Bathurst Station with a few real customers mixed in.  We managed to create a minor gap in the 511 Bathurst service.

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Rebuilding Broadview & Gerrard

Updated July 23, 2013 at 2:50pm:  TTC overhead crews finished their work earlier today and handed the intersection back to City of Toronto crews for reinstallation of the traffic signals.  North-south streetcar service resumed on 504 King and 505 Dundas just before 2:00 pm, and the 506 Carlton service is expected to be back on its normal routing for the afternoon peak.

As of 3:45 pm, the 506 Carlton route was off diversion.

Updated July 21, 2013 at 6:15pm:  The TTC has received clearance from the Ontario Fire Marshall and the City of Toronto to begin rebuilding the power distribution system and contact wire for streetcars.  As mentioned in the note below, this will take several days, and regular service will not resume until late in the week.

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