This is the first article in a series reviewing the details of the TTC’s 2016-2025 Capital Plan. The topic here is the plan for the TTC’s three “conventional service” fleets: subway cars, streetcars and buses.
The Capital Plan provides for two types of spending: vehicle acquisition and major overhauls. No transit vehicle lasts until its design life without overhauls, and these are a substantial portion of the annual budget
The fleet plans for each mode are summarized in the charts linked from each section of the article. The information in them has been adapted from the TTC’s Capital Plan “Blue Books” which contain details on every project. In some cases, the numbers have been reformatted for clarity, and information has been consolidated from multiple charts.
Subway Fleet Plan
The TTC owns two fleets of subway cars which are assigned to the two major routes on the network:
- The T1 series operates on the Bloor-Danforth line (2), and a few of these cars also operate on Sheppard (4). The T1s now on Sheppard will shift to BD in the next year or so.
- The TR series operates on the Yonge-University-Spadina line (1). Delivery of this fleet is still in progress, and there will eventually be 76 6-car trainsets on YUS, and 6 4-car trainsets on Sheppard replacing the T1s.
The YUS fleet of TRs is considerably larger than required for service to day, but this excess will be consumed when the Spadina extension to Vaughan (aka the TYSSE) opens in late 2017, and by service increases planned once the line switches completely to Automatic Train Control (ATC) in 2019-20. (Specifics)
The Sheppard line will have its own dedicated fleet of TR trainsets by 2017. Current plans call for the same level of service as today out into the indefinite future, although there is one “contingency” train that could be used to boost service if needed.
The BD fleet of T1s is also larger than required for service because, until the ATC project came along, some of the T1s would have remained on the Yonge line serving the Spadina extension. The excess will not be consumed until the planned 2023 Scarborough extension (SSE) opening. The T1 fleet will be due for replacement in the mid-2020s when it reaches the 30-year lifespan, and the next generation’s order can be sized based on then-known requirements for service. With the T1 fleet, the TTC will only be able to operate every second peak train beyond Kennedy Station onto the SSE, and full service cannot be provided until the TTC has more trains.
Several related projects affect planning for the BD line, and as they are currently structured, they leave the TTC with conflicts in project timing.
- The BD line is to be upgraded to ATC signalling once the YUS project is finished, and this will likely run concurrently with the construction of the SSE. The SSE would be built as an ATC line much as the TYSSE is today, and so it could only be operated by trains with ATC systems.
- The T1 fleet does not easily support conversion to ATC, and this is further complicated by its age. The capital cost of ATC for the T1s would be considerable, and it would be a short-term investment.
- The next generation of trains for BD is not scheduled to enter service until 2026-31, well after the SSE is supposed to be open.
- Storage for trains is at a premium, and the TTC is fitting in extra storage tracks wherever it can on the system. Expansion of Greenwood Yard would be very difficult given its shape and location in a residential district. Ideally, the TTC would like to have a second yard on the BD line somewhere in the west end, and investigation of potential sites is underway. The only additional storage planned for the SSE project is a set of tail tracks to hold six trains, but no new yard.
I posed a series of questions about this to the TTC. The replies come from Mike Palmer (Deputy Chief Operating Officer, responsible for subway operations) via Brad Ross (Executive Director, Corporate Communications).
Q: The replacement fleet for the T1s will not begin to arrive until 2026 with the order spread out to 2031.
A: Procurement actually needs to start in 2016/2017 for us to meet the original timescales. We are procuring differently based on lessons learned from the TR, namely:
Early prototyping with probably 3 trains. This is to allow for through testing and getting the passenger compartments correct to avoid the mods such as low ceiling grab rails, and exterior announcements where mods post production [are] not best practise and expensive, i.e getting the interior right at construction and design is the best way to go. (We all have degrees in hindsight!)
Delivery would be stretched out over a longer period to realize the optimum production schedule (time versus cost), i.e. a faster rate is disproportionately expensive per unit cost.
We need to modify carhouse/yard locations and find new ones as well. So modifying Wilson at the same time as delivering new trains, expanding the fleet size and dealing with 6 car permanent consists was far from ideal.
Q: On the TYSSE, the extension was originally planned with a conventional signal system as an interim measure so that T1s could operate to Vaughan. However, this plan was changed and the TYSSE will now be one of the first areas to get ATC. The TR fleet plan was adjusted to account for this some time ago so that the YUS would have an entirely ATC-ready fleet by the time the TYSSE opened.
A: TYSSE will be the second section on the ATC project. We changed suppliers last year as it made no sense to install traditional signalling on green field leaving it as old fashioned signalling when we have the time now to include it in ATC.
Q: On the SSE, it does not make sense that a conventional signal system would be installed from Kennedy northward only to be ripped out later, but you will not have an ATC capable fleet to operate all of BD until 2031. There appears to be a timing problem with the SSE, T1 replacement and BD ATC projects that could trigger the need to advance replacement of the T1s just as happened on the YUS. In turn, that would advance the spending needed for the new fleet and yard capacity (at a minimum for co-existence of two fleets).
A: We agree and have already reached this conclusion. See below.
Q: Would anyone care to comment on the misalignment of the timings for these projects?
A: There are five projects in the future on BD which have serious interdependencies
- T1 replacement
- Scarborough extension
- New storage facility
- One-person train operation
Some are below the line and some are above the line. However, the dates and order of projects don’t align, so to minimize changes and maximize efficiencies the correct order should be
- New storage facility (ready for permanent 6 car consists
- New trains (ready for ATC)
- ATC or OPTO (with ATC and OPTO ready trains)
- ATC or OPTO
- Scarborough extension
By doing these in the right order, the TTC will save money and time — we won’t have to modify trains for ATC if they arrive ATC ready, OPTO equipment would be built in during manufacturing, etc., etc.
This situation begs a difficult question for the SSE project. If it is to open in 2023, then either the replacement of the T1s must be considerably accelerated, or a way must be found to deal with the non-ATC T1 fleet. Both of these represent new capital costs during a period when the City’s budget is already straining to handle committed projects.
An important part of the Capital Plan is the overhaul of vehicles at various points during their lifespan. Subway trains do not simply run for 30 years, and major overhauls are needed at various points along the way. The T1 fleet goes through a major overhaul every 5 years, and plans for the TR fleet originally called for a 7 year cycle. In practice, the TRs require more frequent truck and wheel maintenance (every 4 years) to deal with noise and vibration complaints, and some other components require a 5 year cycle.
Finally, there is the question of yard and maintenance space. The TTC has pressed every available space into use for train storage to handle the combined size of the T1 and TR fleets which exceed original projections because some of the T1s were to have remained on the Yonge line as noted above. Additional storage has been or will be provided at:
- Keele Yard
- Kipling Station
- Greenwood Yard (conversion of the standard gauge freight delivery track to a TTC gauge storage track)
- Wilson Yard (expansion to support the TYSSE project)
In the long term, simply storing additional trains in various pockets around the system does not fully address maintenance needs because these locations have little or no provision for running repairs and cleaning. Conversely, adding space to existing yards also has its limitations because this does nothing to increase maintenance and servicing capacity in the carhouses, but adds to the number of trains that must be shuttled through servicing bays on a daily basis.
Future subway routes include the Scarborough Extension, the Relief Line, the Yonge Richmond Hill extension, and possibly even a Bloor West extension. Only the first stage of the SSE (6 trains) uses the existing fleet, and all growth thereafter will require trains, storage and maintenance capacity.
The streetcar fleet plan has been updated to reflect three major changes:
- A revised delivery schedule for the 204-car order now outstanding with Bombardier,
- A change in the retention plans for older cars to focus on the larger ALRVs (two section cars), and
- Incorporation of capacity improvements using the combined LFLRV/ALRV fleet in advance of a future add-on order of new cars.
The approach to route capacity is an important change because it allows service on many lines to see replacement of existing CLRVs with new LVLRVs on a one-for-one basis thereby providing almost twice the capacity. The follow-on order of new cars now explicitly is used, in part, to replace the remaining ALRV fleet.
This is a much improved plan compared with earlier versions that would have retired the ALRVs as soon as possible, and actually would have reduced total fleet capacity because the pace of retirement would have been greater than the pace of additions to the fleet, even without allowing for Bombardier’s late deliveries. Although the total scheduled service stays roughly the same for several years, the change in fleet makeup adds to service capacity.
Recently, the TTC substantially revised its bus fleet planning to improve maintenance and availability, and to smooth out requirements for new vehicle purchases. Part of the Hybrid bus fleet will be retired earlier than its planned lifespan to reduce maintenance costs. 286 of these vehicles will be kept for their original 18-year life.
There is a severe shortage of garage capacity because of the delay in building a new garage in northern Scarborough. This was among the “savings” that Rob Ford’s service cutbacks brought. In the short term, the TTC will lease a 250-bus site somewhere (the location is still under discussion and not announced), and McCowan will open in 2019. Even then, the fleet will be larger than the total system capacity although there will be some relief from this as new rapid transit lines open in the early 2020s (Eglinton and Scarborough).
The fleet plan does not include any purchases of articulated, higher-capacity buses, although McNicoll Garage has been designed so that it can be used by either standard or artic vehicles depending on the future fleet mix.
In the years 2016-2019, there is a total of 131 buses for “Customer Service Initiatives”. These are improvements to services based on the more aggressive plan to rebuild and expand service that started in 2015. Each year’s vehicles are rolled up into the base requirement for the following year.
As with the rail fleets, buses require regular overhauls during their life to reach the 18-year target.