The Ice Storm and the Deep Freeze Post Mortem

This article has been created to hold reader comments that accumulated elsewhere on the transit system’s reaction to recent appallingly bad weather, the power outage and the general miserableness that stood in for life in Toronto.  Please leave new comments, other than those specifically related to the streetcar system (which has its own article) here.

10 thoughts on “The Ice Storm and the Deep Freeze Post Mortem

  1. Toronto streetcars are out of service again. They were out of service during and after the ice storm. Better get the Eglinton Crosstown completely buried. LRT is okay for warmer places like Rome and Los Angeles.

    City TV News Clip

    Steve: Total BS. Maybe we should stop running airplanes too as they clearly are not a cold weather technology, to continue your logic.

    LRT runs in many cold and snowy cities. The problem lies with the cars, their design and their age. They have air dryers on them, but they don’t seem to be working particularly well. According to the TTC, the problem is worse on the ALRVs than the CLRVs.

    The clip you linked, by the way, includes my comments about how we have tax money to spend on a new subway line, but not on making the existing system more robust. This will be a big issue generally as Toronto and Ontario assess storm preparedness – are we willing to pay more taxes to fund infrastructure that is more resilient under severe weather conditions?


  2. Where is David Gunn when we need him? Oh yeah, he is away from all the nonsense. Which is what the latest TTC streetcar air brake problem is. Gunn’s State of Good Repair is what is needed not hundreds of millions for a stupid Scarborough subway extension. (Saw you on the news!)

    Why is this suddenly a big problem? Did they forget to put antifreeze in them? It is cold in the subway too but no sign of problems with those cars and they too are old at least many of them are. Do they not put something in the air reservoirs to reduce condensation? Is this a another case where somebody forgot winter needs special measures? Like the bad winter two years ago when the knuckleheads failed to declare a snow emergency banning blocking roads and streetcars could not pass?

    There is really no hope for this bunch!


  3. The Sheppard subway is completely underground and it managed to get shuttered for several days … just saying.

    I had a peek at the city’s Infrastructure Coordination and Mapping tool a while ago and it showed that most if not all of the current stops are getting curb cuts which points to stop retention including stalwarts like King at Victoria. I can’t seem to find the same map again so I hope the TTC has had a change of heart.

    Steve: The point about Sheppard and several other parts of the system where service was suspended is that it is not enough to have traction power. One must also have signals, communications and station power. If we have learned anything in the past weeks, it should be that really being able to withstand a major weather emergency isn’t simple, nor is it cheap, and there will always be something we didn’t think of. The question is not to assign blame, but to look at how quickly we were able to work around limitations, and then fix things for “next time”.


  4. Re: Commuter: “LRT is okay for warmer places like Rome and Los Angeles…”

    …and Calgary and Edmonton and Minneapolis. One wonders how those vehicles cope in weather that’s routinely colder than what we experienced today. Your thoughts?


  5. Just to touch on what an earlier commenter said about Sheppard and other parts of the system being knocked out during the storm.

    When the storm hit, VP lost power and started running on emergency power. Emergency lighting is designed to provide a lit evacuation route not to keep a station open indefinitely.

    With that being said, the next day the power was entirely lost at VP which meant no lighting or life safety systems such as a fire alarm. When I took a shuttle past there in the day it was beyond dark in there to the point of invisibility later that night.

    The law states that a building cannot be occupied without working life safety systems. Perhaps you could get away with a tech and a fire watch but there is no way in hell the TTC or the Fire Marshall would permit occupancy of a subway station without any working life safety system.

    These systems require constant power hence why Sheppard and VP were closed until stable power was restored.


  6. James Bow says:
    January 7, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    Re: Commuter: “LRT is okay for warmer places like Rome and Los Angeles…”

    “…and Calgary and Edmonton and Minneapolis. One wonders how those vehicles cope in weather that’s routinely colder than what we experienced today. Your thoughts?”

    Don’t forget Oslo, Gothenburg, Warsaw, Moscow, Krakow and a whole lot of other cities in Northern Europe.


  7. To say that Toronto and the rest of the GTHA do not enforce rules to remove trees (or at least big leaning branches) that can damage electrical wires would be an understatement. What happened to common sense? Good luck dealing with ice storms when the LRTs and electrification of GO lines happen. Then again, Toronto was always brain dead.

    In my neighbourhood, one house refused to cut down dangerous branches and eventually caused a power outage in my neighbourhood a few years back. Then when the ice storm came in December 2013, that same house had fallen branches that damaged their car!!!


  8. It strikes me that there needs to be a line drawn separating natural events which are common enough to warrant accommodating, and weather events which must be dealt with as they come. Streetcars are probably not very tolerant of volcanic eruptions either, (to draw a ridiculous comparison) and we sensibly don’t attempt to adapt our system for that event. Is the cost of ice-storm-proofing the city warranted (at least with respect to certain modes of transit) or would the money be better spent elsewhere? I suspect the answer lies somewhere in between. Perhaps our city should accept the notion that there may be a couple days each winter season where things just won’t work very well and get on with making the other 363 days better.


  9. Here we go again. 3 routes are canceled due to icy road conditions. I swear to god the TTC overreacts to every little thing. I like Byford and the gang but enough is enough.

    My father has been a bus operator for 25 years now and has driven in conditions far worse than what we are dealing with today. He has driven buses down icy hills and bridges without routes being canceled notably the 116 through the Guild.

    I understand the need for safety and all but come now … a little patch of ice and the system shuts down.

    Whoever makes these sorts of decisions is an idiot. While we’re at it Warden station is quite slippery due to slush and burst pipes in the washrooms … perhaps it needs to be closed all winter due to hazardous conditions?

    Who knows … if they keep it open buses might slide down the ramp coming in off St Clair or customers may slip and fall on the terrazzo while running down the stairs for a bus!

    This overcautious behavior needs to stop … again another reason why we need a clean slate in management at the TTC.


  10. Do the LRTs in Toronto have panto-graphs that will become de-icers if another ice storm comes like December? This is what Waterloo is going to have. The vehicles can also operate in partial blackouts.

    Steve: Same cars. Same pantographs.


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