TTC 2015 Fleet Plans (Updated)

Updated March 2, 2015 at 9:20 am: This article has been extended with additional illustrations and information from the detailed TTC Capital Budget. The original version was published on January 28, 2015.

Within the TTC’s 2015 Capital Budget, the Fleet Plans give an indication of current thinking on the evolution of TTC service. Now that Toronto appears to have a pro-transit administration at City Hall, the plans are somewhat out of sync with a revived interest beyond “subways, subways, subways”. The details in the plans need review, and this will affect planning in future budgets.

Some policy decisions are evident within the fleet plans, although these have not yet surfaced in public discussions.

The Bus Fleet


2015 will see the last of the lift equipped (“LE”) buses bringing the fleet to 100% low floor status.

New bus purchases in 2015 will increase the fleet by 30 buses net of retirements, and the size of the fleet continues to grow through 2020 when the Eglinton-Crosstown line opens. This is a major change from the plan presented in the 2014 budget. [The chart below was prepared by me from the 2014 version of the Fleet Plan.]


The total fleet required in 2020 has increased from 1,956 standard sized buses (or their equivalent in a mixed fleet with articulated vehicles) to 2,192, an increase of 236. Over half of this change arises from an increase in the allowance for maintenance spares to 18% of service needs in 2016, and from the capital spare pool needed for major overhauls. (These figures were not shown separately in the 2014 plan.)

                                    2014 Plan    2015 Plan    Change
Total Service Requirement in 2020     1,698        1,803        105
  Operating                                          325
  Capital                                             64
  Total                                 258          389        131
Total Fleet                           1,956        2,192        236

A related problem arises from the lack of garage space. In the 2014 plan, there was already a shortfall requiring the construction of McNicoll Garage that was presumed to open in 2020. With the new plan, there are more buses for service improvements in the short term, and a larger fleet in the long term requiring yet another new garage. The Capital Budget is silent on this issue.

Update March 2, 2015

The relationship between the bus fleet size and garage requirements is shown in the following chart.


The blue bars show the number of buses stored at various garages, but this number does not include vehicles at Harvey Shops for major overhauls and repairs, nor does it include vehicles returned to manufacturers for warranty work. The red line shows actual garage capacity, and the numbers in white show the excess or (shortfall) in system capacity.

The fleet grows in 2016 not just because of planned service improvements, but because the TTC will move to a higher spare factor (18%) to compensate for the increased complexity of bus technology and to improve in-service reliability. As shown in the table above, over half of the change in fleet size goes to the expanded spare pool, not to on-street service.

Completion of the Spadina extension reduces peak service requirements slightly both through the ending of construction-related additions to service, and from the restructuring of the bus network, but this shows up only as a temporary halt in the rise in requirements for service. The fleet grows because of the change in the spare factor.

A big drop in the fleet happens following the opening of the Eglinton Crosstown line in 2020. However, projections beyond that date appear to make little provision for growth even though the next rapid transit expansion, the Scarborough Subway, will not come into service until 2023.

The Streetcar Fleet


The streetcar fleet plan has changed for 2015 with the inclusion of a rebuild program for 30 of the articulated streetcars (ALRVs). This will allow for preservation of capacity on King and Queen during the transition to the new low floor cars. In the previous plan, the new cars would have entered service on the standard (CLRV) streetcar routes, but the larger ALRVs would have been retired first. This would have left the system without adequate capacity for service on the ALRV routes well before new cars entered service there.

The footnote about “New Opportunities” is a likely reference to the waterfront which might consume some of the new fleet before the proposed 60-car add-on order can be delivered.

Also, the rate of deliveries for the new cars shows a proposed ramp-up to an annual rate above the originally planned 30/year as a “catch up” provision for delays. Whether Bombardier can actually achieve this rate remains to be seen.

Update March 2, 2015:

The table above has been replaced with a version that has better resolution, albeit without the colours of the original.

The planned overhaul of 30 of the articulated streetcars (ALRVs) is described in the detailed capital budget.


This work will proceed with 6 cars in 2015 and 12 in each of 2016-17. The cars will be re-wheeled in 2020-21. The budget for this project is $25.8-million including inflation.

Although the new Flexity streetcars are only in their early days of service, plans for the first major overhaul appear in the later years of the Capital Budget beginning in the early 2020s and ramping up to 40 cars per year. The scope of the overhauls will be better known once experience with the cars reveals how robust they are and which components will require work.

The Subway Fleet



The subway fleet plan shows a few items of interest:

  • For the Spadina line, there is a provision for two trains for a Wilson short turn in 2014. These two trains were, in fact, added to the regular service, not to a short turn operation.
  • The long-proposed extension of the St. Clair West short turn to Glencairn (using the centre track between Glencairn and Lawrence West) is now included for 2015 service. Note the arithmetic error where two trains are added for the extension, but the total only goes up by one. Moreover, it is hard to believe that extending trips from St. Clair West to north of Glencairn is physically possible with only two more trains.
  • The extra trains for the Spadina/Vaughan opening are shown in 2016 requirements, but may not actually be needed until 2017. An alternative, staged opening of the route is among the options now under study with a report on the entire project due from consultants in March 2015.
  • Extra trains for closer headways are now shown in 2019 when the ATC project is expected to be complete.
  • Two growth trains originally planned for the Bloor-Danforth line in 2018-19 were shifted back to 2014. No additional service is planned on that route until 2026.
  • Equipment for the Scarborough Subway will come from the existing T1 fleet which is larger than current needs. (Originally some T1 trains would have stayed on Yonge, but they would not be compatible with ATC operation and have become BD spares.) This would provide an offset in the subway extension budget because the current fleet would not require a new yard, nor would it require the purchase of more cars. Both of these are now included in the SSE budget. The costs would come in future years when ridership on the extended BD line drove fleet and yard expansion, but this would likely be treated as a separate project, a hidden future expense.
  • There is no provision for increased service on the Sheppard Subway, ever.
  • Procurement of replacement trains for the T1 fleet has been pushed back to begin in 2026 and complete in 2030. This has implications for ATC implementation and service improvements to headways below the level possible with the existing signals.

Updated March 2, 2015

The original fleet plan tables, above, have been replaced by versions with improved resolution.

Subway cars, like all transit vehicles, do not run forever without major overhauls. The details and budgets for these overhauls are shown in the tables linked below.



For reference, there are 370 cars in the T1 fleet, and there will eventually be 480 in the TR fleet.

51 thoughts on “TTC 2015 Fleet Plans (Updated)

  1. “OK, I’ll go into some detail, because I have done a lot of research into the business.”

    Thanks for all the details — fascinating. Do you know what this implies for LRT and streetcar? Might it make sense for those vehicles to be battery-operated as well, at least for parts of their routes, and do battery-operated buses significantly change the decision making about whether a line should be rail or bus?


  2. Nathanael said:

    thermal control over the battery temperature is essential

    Winnipeg is buying battery-electrics from New Flyer as we speak, even if supposedly it’s for a “test period” (of four years).

    If the Winnipeg trail has positive results, then I’d be willing to go all-in on electric. Does San Joaquin only compare operating costs? Electric buses obviously require electric infrastructure. I’d like to see battery operations in a Canadian winter environment before switching the fleet.

    Between now and 2022, Toronto will replace a quarter of it’s fleet and expand by 10%. Half of that is in the next four years, so the difference in waiting for someone else to test the waters first is 20% of the fleet. A 10-12 year lifecycle is around 2/3 the lifecycle that non-electric buses in Toronto.

    Using 2012 numbers of 7120 km of bus routes, 1540 buses for peak load, and 17kph average surface speed, I come up with a number between 9K and 12K km per year per bus. Similarly, assuming $1M per bus, regardless of type, you get $55.5K/yr for diesel and $83.3K/yr for electric, a difference of $27.8K/yr. To save $27.8K/yr in fuel costs at $0.55/km, you need to drive over 50K km per year, about 4 times as much as we do now.

    Steve: Ooops … you have used the wrong reference numbers. 7120 is the kilometres of route, not of distance travelled by buses. The total bus mileage for 2012 was 124,996k, and this makes the average mileage per peak vehicle 81.2k. The average mileage per fleet vehicle is lower due to spares. You have to include the spares because they contribute to maintenance costs (more engines, more batteries, etc) even when they sit in the garage. Allowing 18% for spares (the TTC’s new target standard), this means 1540 buses plus 277 spares for a total fleet of 1817. That yields a mileage per bus of 68.9k. This is higher than the 50k threshold you cite. Then we get into the question of city versus suburban driving and the relative efficiency of different propulsion systems.

    Isaac Morland said:

    Do you know what this implies for LRT and streetcar?

    Overhead catenary is preferable to batteries. Environmentally, there is no GHG savings for one over the other, but batteries have toxic waste disposal at the end of their lifecycles. Economically, catenary has a higher capital cost, but lower incremental costs. Finally, for maintenance, battery vehicles are more expensive to maintain and have a shorter lifecycle.

    Steve: And direct power feed to the vehicle eliminates the conversion losses to/from the battery subsystem.


  3. Matthew Phillips said:

    “Between now and 2022, Toronto will replace a quarter of it’s fleet and expand by 10%. Half of that is in the next four years, so the difference in waiting for someone else to test the waters first is 20% of the fleet. A 10-12 year lifecycle is around 2/3 the lifecycle that non-electric buses in Toronto.”

    I would argue, TTC needs to stay close to the leading edge but off the bleeding edge. The notion of battery powered buses at this juncture, given the route lengths and other issues on many of the routes, I would be concerned that –

    1. We have not enough buses to take any chances.

    2. The means to support rapid battery change outs and other support that would ideally be provided would require a substantial set-up and not something that Toronto can afford to fail at, and Toronto does not appear to have much flexibility in terms of having excess capacity in any area.

    We need to have a high quality service, but do not need to show technical leadership, just know how and when to follow. There is no advantage really to being first.


  4. @Malcolm N:

    I was arguing against battery-powered buses prior to 2019/2020, by which time we’d have some evidence from Winnipeg, which I suspect won’t be completely rosy. Anything before then is highly risky and ill considered.


  5. Does anyone know what happened to the test of electric buses with quick charging stations that was supposed to happen in Montreal? I believe that it was done by Bombardier.


  6. Montreal ran a Chinese electric bus test between March 31 and April 28, 2014 on 8 bus routes. The bus could run for 250km under ideal circumstances (ie not winter). At 17kph, that’s 14:42 per day, so in Toronto you’d need either bigger batteries, or a second bus to cover the evening.

    Prior to 2013, Montreal bought 8 Italian electric buses that lasted for 10 months before being pulled from operations due to continual breakdowns due to overheated batteries.

    The Montreal quick-charge stations trial has been delayed from 2007 to late 2015 with operations in 2016.


  7. Matthew Phillips says

    “The Montreal quick-charge stations trial has been delayed from 2007 to late 2015 with operations in 2016.”

    Thanks for the quick answer. I did not know about the previous battery operated bus trials. When I was in Chattanooga TN in 2010 they had a system of battery operated buses, 30′ long IIRC, that they ran as tourists shuttles.

    The company that made the buses was located there and this was a test and demonstration for the buses. The buses had to be replaced during the day as they could not run for the full cycle. The garage and service facilities was on the main line and if they needed to to run more buses they could swap out the battery pack in about 10 minutes. The service was unimpressive except as shuttle that spent a lot of time sitting.


  8. Most of the older battery-electric buses had undersized batteries. :sigh: Also, frankly they were mostly from seriously off-brand manufacturers. The situation has changed in the last few years.

    To answer other questions: Yes, overhead wire is *strictly* superior to batteries. (Although all modern trolleybuses now have small batteries to drive past wire power failures, and this feature might be desirable in streetcars as well.)

    And, this doesn’t change the rail vs. bus choice much. The advantage of rail is that you can quite easily make a train longer, and with more people-carrying capacity, than you can even with an articulated bus, and you can do it with the same driver expenses (which are usually dominant over fuel expenses in developed countries.)

    Also, if you have long, fast express or limited-stop runs, battery buses are simply wrong for them, and probably will be wrong for them for a long time. The advantages over fuel buses are entirely in stop-and-go traffic, because they don’t really use any energy while idling and they recover energy while braking.


    One of the interesting things I’ve learned from this discussion is that Toronto is running its buses into the ground. No other transit agency I’ve looked at expects to get 18 years out of its buses, and none of them run the buses 24 hours a day, either (even on 24-hour routes) — they pull them out after 12 or 18 hours for overnight maintenance.

    Given the age and heavy duty cycle, I’m surprised any of your buses still work.

    Steve: The TTC routinely had buses lasting 18 years or more, but those were better-built vehicles (the GM “fishbowls”). They are still reviewing the ideal age for a bus to be retired. As for the duty cycle, few North American transit systems have our level of off-peak demand, and it’s easy to send most vehicles back to the garage after only 12 hours when most of them don’t stay out into the evening.


  9. Matthew Phillips said:

    “I was arguing against battery-powered buses prior to 2019/2020, by which time we’d have some evidence from Winnipeg, which I suspect won’t be completely rosy. Anything before then is highly risky and ill considered.”

    I was actually arguing we should wait until they had demonstrated success broad enough to actually have a very clear idea of how they will endure – which would mean waiting until somebody had essentially killed theirs, and we had a very clear notion of how they would perform 12 or more years out. I would say a 4 year test was not enough. I was in fact arguing that while your position is far more conservative than the notion of moving now, even it is too ready to jump in. A four year test in Winnipeg is not a real indication of the technology being good. Need to have some degree of a life cycle understanding. I can see after a 4 year test buying some buses and seeing how they perform on routes, however, would need to be a small enough fleet introduced gradually enough, that if we become aware of issues in say year 6, that we are not stuck with a huge issue, when we had been planning a 18 year life cycle and a 9 year battery life.

    Steve: It is worth noting that problems with longevity and reliability of some components on the Natural Gas buses, and more recently the hybrid fleet, did not show up right away. I have no problem with “green” technology that works, but there are too many charlatans who just want to make a quick buck on contracts they would never win in an open competition. That’s how we got the CNG buses that replaced our trolleybuses, and we were forced into hybrids by a federal subsidy program that wouldn’t consider any alternatives. Unfortunately, the battery industry was not up to the challenge, and the claimed savings, even without reliability problems, were not at the anticipated level.


  10. My expectation was that in 4 years we would find Winnipeg had a negative experience and kick the can down the road for another decade or two. I honestly believe that driverless technology is going to transform transit before carbonless technology.


  11. It’s not just the GM New Looks that lasted a long time. Flyer D901a from the 1980s lasted over 20 years, and even the corrosion-prone Orion V lasted 18 years. The 7000 series Orion V buses, now all retired (except for one on Toronto Island) lasted 18 years on heavy, almost round-the-clock usage on Finch East and Steeles East.

    On the other hand, CNG buses were either retired or converted to diesel, and the Orion VI didn’t last long at all. The problem is not even low-floor versus high-floor. The high-floor RTS buses are on their last legs and retiring by the month, while the low-floor Flyers are soldiering on, apparently in good condition.

    Battery-powered buses, like hybrids, theoretically can charge the batteries while stopping. However, there is a large amount of energy required in winter to heat the bus, and in summer to cool it. It’s incorrect to say that there’s no energy being used while idling, because of all the “hotel power” needed. The diesel engine on the TTC’s hybrids is running all the time; as far as I know, it does not have any kind of shut-down where the bus runs on batteries only.


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