TTC 2015-2024 Capital Budget: Streetcar Infrastructure

Updated March 15, 2015 at 8:40 pm: An example of a vintage tram adapted for pantograph operation in Munich has been added to the end of this article. Thanks to John F. Bromley for the photo.

The TTC’s Capital Budget includes ongoing programs to replace worn streetcar rail as well as to upgrade the overhead power distribution system for compatibility with the new Flexity LRVs.

Replacement of streetcar track with infrastructure built to new, robust standards is almost complete on the main lines used by all routes. What remains are sections used for diversions and short turns.

Tangent track on Spadina south from College that was installed for the resumption of streetcar service in 1997 is scheduled for replacement in 2018. The table and the map differ on whether this work will end at Queen or at King. In any event, this will be the first major track replacement over a section constructed to new standards, and only the surface layer (track down to the tie attachments) should have to be removed.

Replacement of overhead contact wire with thicker 4/0 gauge is also well underway, as is the replacement of feeder cables, some of which are very old and are shedding their insulating covering. Intersection and yard upgrades will, together with the new tangent wire, make the system 100% pantograph compatible. When the last of the cars using trolley poles has been retired, the overhead can be further adjusted to remove pole-specific hardware and simplify future maintenance.

This article contains lists and maps of the work planned for 2015-2019.

Streetcar Track

Streetcar Track Plan 2015 2019

The map below shows the plan in graphic format although there are inconsistencies between the tabular version and the maps. Of particular note is the status of Adelaide Street between Charlotte and Victoria which has not been operational for years. Both the track and overhead plans show this section being rebuilt in 2019 and that is hard to believe. If this were only a removal program (such as recent work from Simcoe to York), this would not be part of the TTC’s program.



Also, the intersection of Church & Queen shown as part of the 2019 plan is an odd choice considering that it was rebuilt to new standards in 2009 and appears in the capital budget books as an illustration of new track.


The budgets for the tangent and special trackwork programs are shown in the documents linked below.

Streetcar Tangent Track Budget 2015 2019

Streetcar Tangent Track Budget 2015 2019

Overhead and Power Distribution Reconstruction Program

Overhead reconstruction includes three components: new contact wire and hangers, new special work, and new feeders. These overlapping projects are linked to the planned roll out of the new streetcar fleet.

Another project, now almost completed, is the replacement of TTC overhead poles many of which are over 50 years old. Of the original 5,100 poles, only 832 remained to be replaced at the end of 2014. This work will be completed by the end of 2017.




The budgets for the reconstruction of overhead systems and power distribution are shown in the documents below.

Overhead Reconstruction Budget 2015 2019

Power Distribution Reconstruction Budget 2015 2019

Additional Structures and Facilities

The streetcar system includes facilities such as shops and carhouses, bridges and substations, but budgets for their maintenance are consolidated with other elements of the transit system. I will discuss these in a separate article.

Updated March 15, 2015: In the comment thread, there was a question about adapting vintage cars from poles to pantographs. John F. Bromley supplied the following photo of a Munich car.

Muenchen 256 071027

26 thoughts on “TTC 2015-2024 Capital Budget: Streetcar Infrastructure

  1. Steve, it’s funny how in an articled titled “TTC 2015-2024 Capital Budget: Streetcar Infrastructure” you have failed to mention a single monetary amount whereas articles on Scarborough subway are full of repeatedly mentioning billions of dollars in costs (some real and some imaginary). Are you trying to hide the true cost of the streetcars to Toronto? Furthermore, one of the few advantages of streetcars is easy driverless operation (ask Google to do it if Bombardier can’t), then in order to justify the cost of the streetcars, why don’t we implement driverless technology in them? TTC/Bombardier can’t even do this in routes with rights of way but Google I am sure can do this even in mixed traffic. It will not only save money but also reduce bunching as we will no longer have drivers operating on their own schedules. In other words, we will have better yet cheaper service.

    Steve: The degree of your anticipated bias in my writing is obvious in the fact that you didn’t look at the linked budget pages. The detail is all there for anyone to see.

    As for driverless operation, that is the biggest pile of horse dung I have heard in a long time.


  2. If trolley pole operation is to be be totally abandoned, will the TTC a convert the three historic cars (four of they actually keep a CLRV) to pantograph operation?

    Steve: Who knows? That’s so many years in the future, and much will depend on whether we have a penny pinching Commission who feel that anything to do with tourism is “gravy”. Don’t forget the way they priced charters on a “cost recovery” basis which, in effect, took the cost of maintaining vehicles they use for their own promotion and spread it into the charter rates.


  3. Keep the streetcars that have a right of way and replace the mixed routes with bi-articulated trolley buses.

    Steve: That will be quite a challenge on King, and eventually on Queen as well as development spreads north.


  4. In 1929, the YONGE streetcar route operated with 10 cars equipped with pantographs. The overhead switch-changing contacts were inverted for the test, and all operators changed the track points manually.


  5. It looks like Spadina LRV’s are ready for using their pantographs, followed by Bathurst LRV’s later this year.

    When is the big day going to occur?

    Steve: No date for conversion has been announced yet.


  6. Not to be too nerdy about “the plumbing” but I assume the replacement of the track on Richmond is not on the list because it was a 2014 project that was postponed last fall as the watermain work ran late. I assume it will be done in 2015 – I think the contract was actually awarded last fall. I also note that there is no mention of the King/Parliament special work that was on these lists a few years ago but never done (ideally adding a south to east turn possibility.). Finally, though I realise there is lots of new development going in around Victoria Street between Queen and Dundas I will be amazed if the track there can safely last until 2018 – it is dangerous to walk or, particularly, cycle over already.

    Steve: No track work is shown in the consolidated project list for 2015 on Richmond Street, but sewer work is still listed for the central section.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Steve: The degree of your anticipated bias in my writing is obvious in the fact that you didn’t look at the linked budget pages.

    But look at your article titled “How Much Will The Spadina Subway Extension Cost?”, there in spite of the links; how many times have you stated dollar figures? Or look at any of your many articles on the well-worthy Scarborough subway, there in spite of the links; how many times have you stated dollar figures? But any article on Downtown Relief Line or Streetcars, you fail to mention any dollar amounts (sure you have links). In the future (just to be fair), please only include links for any costs related to the Scarborough subway and not mention them explicitly.

    Steve: The Scarborough Subway does not yet have detailed budget pages or breakdowns of project components such as those I listed for Spadina. Thet article, rather obviously, went into much detail precisely because that level of information has not been widely discussed until quite recently. Now why don’t you just stop pouting.


  8. I had heard that cars 4460-4603 were to be delivered with pantographs only. Had Bombardier been able to stick to the original schedule, we would have seen the 60th car in the first half of this year with cars on Dundas already… yet many intersections along that route (and Queen, the next in line) still have yet to get converted to proper overhead.

    It looks to me like the late deliveries have let the TTC slack and push more capital spending to future years.

    Steve: That was the original plan, but it was changed some time ago. The TTC’s overhead reconstruction plans were never aggressive enough to have finished the conversion earlier.


  9. I’m also impressed the TTC thinks they can run heavy service across Dundas and Broadview for 3 more years before fixing it. Looking at that intersection last summer, I’m surprised there haven’t been any major derailments yet.

    Steve: Yes, it’s a real mess, at least in part because the concrete is disintegrating. I discussed this years ago with the now-departed head of track construction, and was told that the last time Broadview track was gone, they got inferior quality concrete. Why this has been left in place or at least not fixed (it has been falling apart for a few years) is a complete mystery, and one of the many examples of how selective the TTC can be about maintenance and safety.


  10. The Munich photo is great but hopefully there are some archive photos of that early panto test!

    I noticed something interesting with the new overhead at Dundas West Station. Previously it had all been updated. Recently it was again modified partially with another different variation of the hanger hardware. The pan gliders were also removed (temporarily?) on the street portion. I find it odd that industry-established hardware is being tested and rejected. Perhaps the tendering process ended up giving them something less than ideal. I’ve already seen clear examples of improper installation though.

    Steve: Yes, I have seen cases where the installation was not of the best quality, although generally things are pretty good. The real test will come when pans actually operate on some of this stuff and we see what they missed, notably at intersections.


  11. There is, of course, the TTC’s rather odd decision in 2014 to install new overhead wire over ‘wrong way’ (and thus unused) track – and even over asphalt where unused track had been removed. Examples are, or were, on Wellington and Richmond, I have not checked in the last few weeks. This odd decision was discussed on an earlier thread in 2014, at that time Chris Upfold explained they always did this but that is not really so as there are certainly examples where there is only one line of overhead on a one-way street.


  12. The Adelaide one is a little bit weird (my office overlooks Charlotte St, so I’m pretty familiar with that loop). It’d definitely open up some interesting possibilities. The key bit for me is the overhead extension along Adelaide to Bathurst, implying a future track extension in that direction. That’s where it really gets interesting, as it opens up a number of interesting options:

    * 508 service could turn north at Spadina (later Bathhurst, possibly in the ROW from Grimes’ motion), and go through the core along Adelaide, avoiding the worst sections of King at morning peak.
    * If the WWLRT is rising from the ashes, especially in the Colborne alignment, a service that runs along Adelaide would be relatively ideal for avoiding exacerbating the issues on King.
    * (Really stretching here) the 502 could be extended loop down Peter to Adelaide.
    * Similarly, the 503 could be extended to cover the ongoing expansion of high density offices toward Spadina, looping up Charlotte and back along Adelaide. For the evening peak this would also offload traffic from eastbound on King.

    Basically, I’m assuming this is a way of bringing more service through the growing west end and into downtown without making King/Queen worse. It’d also be a good relief valve if there are diversions or construction downtown, since you could now run diverted King or Queen service along Richmond/Adelaide through the core, instead of jamming both onto one set of tracks.

    (Waiting for Steve to tell me all the ways I’m probably wrong… :))

    Steve: The link over to Bathurst (like a few others on that map) is only a feeder, not new overhead. See also the links from Dundas West north to St. Clair, and from Queen north on, I believe Carlaw.


  13. The overhead replacement map shows replacement work scheduled for Kingston Road in 2016. Is this correct? Wouldn’t this have been done as part of the track replacement project?

    Steve: Look at my photos of the line reopening. Bingham Loop was restrung, but not the tangent wire anywhere else.


  14. Hi Steve,

    I’m confused by some of the projects listed for Tangent Track replacement.

    Wasn’t McCaul done just a couple of years ago?

    Steve: McCaul south of Dundas was done, but not to the north.

    And wasn’t Bathurst between Queen and Dundas done when Wolseley Loop was replaced last year (and if not, shouldn’t it have been?!)

    Steve: No, the work was only at Wolseley Loop. This section of Bathurst north to Dundas was undergoing water main reconstruction, and this delayed the trackwork for this segment.

    Why does track at St. Clair West station have to be replaced so soon after the ROW construction?

    Steve: The sections in the ramps leading to the loop are set in concrete and they were not replaced during the right-of-way construction.

    Why aren’t intersections and tangent track work coordinated so as to minimize the number of track shutdowns? Is there a practical reason for this I’m not seeing?


    Steve: Intersection work occurs on a different cycle from tangent track and the construction effects are quite different. Typically, a three-week blitz includes demolition of the existing track and roadbed, construction of a ew foundation, and installation of the new intersection on top. Schedule periods tend to be about six weeks long, and this gives extra weeks to finish related work such as utilities and sidewalks while bus service navigates through the construction area. The process for tangent track usually involves a moving set of activities with road demolition, construction of new foundations and installation of track proceeding in parallel section by section. Access to intersections is essential for the special work projects, and tearing up nearby tangent track would complicate things quite a bit.

    The main point however is that in many cases there is no relationship between the date when the tangent track is due for replacement and the condition of intersections. One example where this was co-ordinated was work on Queen East near Russell Carhouse.


  15. Oops, as Steve noted I was looking at the feeder map. The rest is probably still possible for explanations for why they’d reactivate that section. I can’t see it only existing for diversions, the TTC wouldn’t spend money on that… would they?


  16. I wonder if the Adelaide replacement is to make a new looping option for the 503/508 Via Wellington and Adelaide. I know the 508 currently runs right down king and to parliament in the mornings but it otherwise loops at church, the 503 loops at York, and it gets both routes off king at peak right in the core. Otherwise it does seem quite suspect!


  17. Given the importance of the Dundas West Stn and Broadview Stn streetcar termini for the system, does it make sense to consider underground loops at those locations? That would be similar to Spadina Stn loop.

    Bathurst Stn is OK with the surface loop; that loop is very large and easily accommodates both streetcars and buses at all times. Main Stn is probably OK as well, it has less traffic and hardly any chance for new routes in future.

    However, space appears to be a concern at Dundas West and Broadview, causing delays on the existing 504 and 505 routes, and blocking any chance to run other routes to those termini. (508 to Dundas West? Cherry Street routes?)

    Steve: There are basic problems at both locations. Aside from the need to build ramps south of Bloor/Dundas and Danforth/Broadview (for which there really isn’t space at the latter), any underground loop is going to be the same size as the existing surface loop. The major difference would lie in being able to use the space now occupied by roads (Edna Avenue at Dundas West and Erindale Avenue at Broadview) as well as the bus loops and parkland as part of the transit loop. I am not sure how easy it would be, especially at Broadview. There is the small matter of utilities and, at Dundas West, the existing mezzanine level of the subway station which may extend east under Dundas Street.

    I live at Broadview and see the congestion it faces all of the time. Recently, there is a problem with the King schedules which have been padded to avoid short turns, but in the process can create clouds of streetcars at the terminals.


  18. When was the last time a streetcar would have been able to run across Adelaide from Charlotte to Victoria? The 90s? I seem to recall the gap at University being there for a long time, preventing charters from using Adelaide.

    If the tangent on Adelaide gets replaced, but there’s no current plan for new specialwork, what will they do at the Adelaide/York intersection? Would they just have the tracks cross with no curves for now?

    I remember watching the specialwork at Adelaide/Victoria being installed below my office in 2000. It’s a pleasingly symmetrical layout. It’ll be nice to see a streetcar finally use the east-to-north curve.

    Steve: Roughly 1990, when the first construction on the Bay-Adelaide Centre began, Adelaide became impassible to streetcars. The track west of University was already in rough shape, and years of pounding by construction trucks at the condos in that area have not helped at all.

    A few years ago, the TTC advised me that they were “protecting” for curves at York & Adelaide, but with the removal of track west of York, I’m not holding my breath. The whole question of the diversion trackage downtown seems to be something the TTC really has not given much thought to, even though downtown transit operations are a hot topic.


  19. Steve:

    “I live at Broadview and see the congestion it faces all of the time. Recently, there is a problem with the King schedules which have been padded to avoid short turns, but in the process can create clouds of streetcars at the terminals.”

    It will be interesting what happens when they switch to the new 504 streetcars at Broadview. The simultaneous arrival of three 30-metre long streetcars will be interesting.

    Currently car 1 and 2 fit on the platform, but car 3 can just get past the edge of the platform, forcing everyone to get off the front door.

    So with the new streetcars, one can fit on the 504 platform, the second one can only unload through the front door, blocks the sidewalk, and the third is parked on Broadview.

    505 is in even worse shape, but doesn’t run as frequently. Car number 2 will barely be able to unload through the front door and will both block the sidewalk, and both northbound lanes of Broadview!

    If TTC hasn’t got a plan yet on how to extend the platforms, and realign the track exiting the station, then someone has got their head up their assets!


  20. @nfitz: were I to hazard a guess on Broadview Station, I suspect the opening of the Cherry St branch will mitigate that pretty heavily, since (IIRC) half of 504 Eastbound cars will go down Cherry instead of up Broadview. That doesn’t help Dundas, but if they can manage headways effectively that’ll be less of an issue, as you noted.

    I do wonder if the Cherry St Loop will be used for any other route than 504. I could see it being a better option for 508 than the on-street loop at Parliament, especially during peak hours. Though if the 508 is going to use the reborn Adelaide track, it could route Spadina > Adelaide > Parliament > Richmond > York > King and avoid King/Queen as much as possible through the core, making the Cherry Loop not useful.

    Steve: Don’t hold your breath for track on Adelaide. Also, The 508 is very infrequent and unreliable — Cherry needs something better than this. I can easily see a 504 scheduled short turn overlaid on the main route operating between Dufferin or Roncesvalles and Cherry.


  21. I echo concerns on Broadview station. You could *maybe* fit two new cars on the King platform, definitely not Dundas … and I suspect the King line won’t see much permanent reduction in frequency with the new cars, rather just a sorely needed increase in capacity at similar headways to today.

    Steve: Actually, two of the new cars will not fit on the King platform. If there are four CLRVs in the station at the same time (and “in” is a generous description), the back end of the last one blocks the curb lane forcing pedestrians and traffic around it. The situation is quite unsafe, but you won’t hear the “safety conscious” TTC on the subject.

    I can just picture it now – one fateful day, particularly bad bunching and delays to the lead car will cause three 504’s to show up, effectively at once. By sheer luck, a 505 will be hot on their heels, but unable to reach its platform as the third 504 is sticking out past the fork. If, by sheer coincidence*, another train of any kind shows up before the first 504 is able to unload and reload all of its passengers (longer than normal as it was late), this 5th train will – at a 30 meter car length – entirely block Danforth Ave*. The only traffic able to move will be southbound Broadview.

    *This is seriously a stretch with the new cars and remotely useful route management and everything, and of course the 5th car would know not to pull into the intersection. Still … a scary thought, and it would not be the first time I’ve seen that many cars at that station!

    Steve: It is not unusual to see queues of streetcars outside of the station that cannot even make the turn off of Broadview. This is compounded by the excessive running time King cars have today, and a similar problem exists at Dundas West Station.

    The TTC’s solution to problems is just to add more running time, but this fails miserably when schedules for bad storm days are operated when the sun shines. Even the ATU has talked about moving to headway based management rather than schedule based management, but that’s not a philosophy the TTC appears willing to embrace. To be fair, the longer the line, the more challenging this can be, but it’s not impossible.


  22. Steve just a thought on youe response to the 508 via Adelaide and your desire to see a 504 overlaid via Dufferin and Cherry.

    Would they not first have to replace the track on Dufferin and in the loop to bring it up to revenue standard or was that done during the watermain work?

    Steve: The track on Dufferin was rebuilt in 2012.


  23. Re: Streetcar Queues at Broadview

    I suppose there is another possibility…In the age of POP drivers will be able to open all doors and passengers can exit the streetcar and enter Broadview Station via the street entrance where they can show their proof of payment to the overwhelmed collector.

    Should also mention that buses will likely be stuck in the station if the streetcars block the bus exit.

    Cheers, Moaz


  24. Perhaps the TTC needs to look at redirecting some lines away from Dundas West and Broadview. I don’t know about Broadview (the geography seems more restrictive there), but I think there are options at Dundas West. They could run some track down Bloor to Keele and add a loop there, or further down Dundas West to Runnymede (connecting to St. Clair there would also give them a shorter route from Roncesvalles to St. Clair). Or maybe they could even investigate putting track on Ossington and a new loop at Ossington Station.

    None of these would be cheap, but they’d have to be cheaper than excavating Dundas West.

    Steve: Cars that go to Runnymede still have to loop through Dundas West (both ways), and that does not make much of a contribution to capacity. Ossington is a non-starter because it’s too far east.


  25. Hi Steve,

    I heard that we had a pilot of trolley buses in the 90s to replace bus service, and for some reason it fizzled away. What about replacing streetcars though? Especially lines that share the road with cars. Trolleys are also powered by electricity, yet the capital costs seem so much lower! Detours would be much cheaper to build, accidents would no longer create hour-long delays. They can even run in their own separated lanes in the middle of the road on St Clair.
    Plus they are so much quieter than both streetcars and buses.

    So why not trolleybuses?

    Steve: No, there was only a proposal to expand the TB network, but it was killed off by the natural gas lobby and a bus builder who wanted an untendered contract for CNG buses, plus boffins at the Ministry of Transportation who were supposed to be working on new technologies, but had nothing to show for their efforts.

    TBs have their place, but most of the streetcar lines either have or are expected to reach ridership levels (thanks to all of the development in the “old” city) that will be beyond TB capabilities.

    On a somewhat more cynical note, I find it’s always interesting that people bring up TBs as a replacement for streetcars when the real low-hanging fruit lies with many “suburban” trunk bus routes. Usually this gets us to “oh we don’t want those wires, etc, etc”. I’m not putting you in that camp, just observing that it’s distressingly common.


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