Will Toronto Get More New Streetcars?

Updated June 13, 2018 at 10:00 am: The discussion and actions at the Board Meeting are reported at the end of this article.

Streetcar riders in Toronto are a long-suffering bunch. The size of the fleet has not changed since the mid-1990s despite the addition of a new streetcar line on Spadina in 1997 and the Harbourfront extension to Exhibition Loop in 2000. As the fleet wore out, its reliability dropped, and the now 40-year old CLRVs (single section) and 30-year old ALRVs (two section “articulateds”) are showing their age.

The TTC needed new cars some time ago, and the process of ordering the low floor Flexity fleet goes back to 2006. The first attempt, one that might have brought Toronto new cars about the same size as the ALRVs with a mixture of low and high level floors, was called off when the 100% low floor Flexitys (a design originally for Berlin) became available. That delay, combined with foot-dragging by incoming Mayor Rob Ford, and manufacturing incompetence by Bombardier, has left the TTC with a fleet far below its needs, and new cars straggling onto the property at a glacial rate.

During the past 20 years, population and employment downtown has grown far faster than in other parts of Toronto, and the residential density, once on a downward trend as family neighbourhoods gentrified, is growing. This is not confined to the new south-of-King areas, and is pushing north into the territory of other streetcar lines. The rate of growth is also changing. When the TTC ordered 204 Flexitys, these were expected to handle rising demand through 2027. This date has been revised much earlier to 2020

A major issue for the TTC, and for transit advocates in Toronto, has been the problem of “latent demand”. If the fleet stays the same size or declines, service and capacity follows the same path. The original plan for Flexity roll out onto the streetcar lines focused as much on reducing the number of operators required to carry demand little changed from then-current levels. Now, the TTC acknowledges that growth on streetcar lines went unmet for years.

The 1990s were a critical period because Toronto was coming out of a recession during which the TTC had lost 20% of its ridership, but the streetcar fleet, sized to mid-1990s demand, was unable to expand service as the system recovered. Many of the complaints about “bad streetcar service” come directly from the failure to add capacity as the economy rebounded, and then as the population along streetcar lines began to grow.

Much of the residential growth Downtown between 2012 and 2016 took place south of Queen Street. Almost 50% of all Downtown growth occurred in the King-Spadina and Waterfront West neighbourhoods. The Bay Corridor, King-Parliament and Waterfront Central saw moderate increases accounting for 36% of new residents. As a result of the increase in development in Toronto’s Downtown area, TTC streetcar ridership increased by 20% between 2008 and 2018 which is much higher than what was anticipated back in 2008. Transit mode share across the City has also increased from 23% (2006) to 27% (2016), putting additional pressure on the system.

Recent revision of the projected employment and population growth for Downtown Toronto has introduced higher forecasts which now extend to 2041. The revised estimate of number of new residents in the Downtown is 500% greater than originally projected. The revised estimate of new jobs in the Downtown is 200% greater than originally projected.

The size of the TTC’s streetcar fleet has been unchanged for almost 30 years, during a period of continuously-increasing ridership growth. This has resulted in streetcar capacity, during peak periods, being completely exhausted more than 10 years ago, with no ability to accommodate additional ridership during peak periods. Experience with deployment of the new LFLRVs on the first few streetcar routes has shown that there is an existing unmet, latent demand for peak-travel on the TTC’s streetcar routes. King Street is an excellent example of this. Over the first few months of operation the route experienced an increase of all-day weekday ridership of 16%. There are other factors that have contributed to the ridership increase (such as priority treatments and increased reliability); however, latent demand is one factor driving the ridership increase.

On King Street, the TTC has seen the combined effect of running more capacity (larger vehicles) and more reliable service (the King Street pilot). This number is still constrained by the capacity of service on the street.

On Queen Street, the shuffling of vehicles between routes and the retirement of most of the ALRVs has led, finally, to a schedule that reflects the equipment actually available to operate the route and a net increase in capacity provided, as opposed to scheduled.

Higher-density development is beginning on the Dundas, Carlton and St. Clair routes, and it is spreading away from the central part of the city where the subway is the primary mode.

Future new routes in the eastern waterfront as well as a new link to southern Etobicoke will require even more streetcars.

The TTC projects that by 2033, the peak service requirement will be 287 cars, (345 including spares), equivalent to about 570 (690) CLRVs. At their height, there were only 196 CLRVs and 52 of the larger ALRVs. This is a huge increase in the streetcar system’s capacity, almost to the level of the 745-strong PCC fleet which dominated the system through the 1950s and 60s.

At its meeting on June 12, 2018, the TTC Board will consider a report from staff that summarizes the result of a vendor survey to gauge interest in producing streetcars and proposes the following actions:

Over the coming months, staff will undertake the following:

  1. Request funding approval through 2019 budget process;
  2. Update contract documents based on stakeholder input, contract changes, and lessons learned;
  3. Engage consultant to validate RFI responses (e.g. technical and commercial performance, on-time delivery performance, etc.);
  4. Develop scope and budget for additional maintenance capacity at Hillcrest; and
  5. Report back to the TTC Board in Q1 2019 with recommendations.

The wild card in all of this will be the outcome of the provincial election on June 7, and the degree to which the incoming Premier will support or attempt to sabotage any expansion of streetcar service. Funding arrangements, especially under the federal PTIF scheme, depend on all three levels of government contributing. This effectively gives any one level the ability to veto a project unless there is a change in the rules.

The Current State of the Streetcar Fleet

The Flexity (low floor) streetcar fleet status is summarized in the charts below.

[Source: June 2018 CEO’s Report p. 9]

As I write this on June 6, cars 4400 through 4480 are in Toronto, except for:

  • 4401: This is a prototype car that was used for testing and training. It has recently been sent back to Bombardier to be brought up to “production” specs.
  • 4466: This car was damaged in transit to Toronto, and it has been returned to Bombardier for repairs.
  • Two cars, 4478 and 4480, are not yet in revenue service.

This makes a total of 77 cars available. By year-end, the TTC hopes to be up to 121 cars, roughly a 50% increase. Deliveries will be helped by Bombardier’s second production facility in Kingston that will start shipping in October 2018.

Although 204 new cars represent a net increase in fleet capacity, they do not keep up with need. The chart below shows the scheduled service the TTC projects, and the difference between the available Flexity fleet (red) that must be made up with older streetcars (gray) and buses (yellow). Note that this chart does not include spares which add about 20% to the figures.

However, there is a disconnect between the chart above which shows 121 new streetcars in service by the end of 2018 and the 79 shown in the chart below. The 121 figure includes spares, and so it corresponds to 100 cars actually in service, not 79. The TTC’s capital budget published in fall 2017 included a streetcar fleet plan based on deliveries of only 103 cars by year-end, not the 121 shown in Figure 1 above.

If the TTC actually does have 121 cars by the end of 2018, this would allow some reduction in bus replacements shown below, or an accelerated retirement of the old fleet.

I asked the TTC for clarification of this and here are their replies [email from Bem Case, Head of Vehicle Programs, June 7, 2018]

Q1: Figure 1 shows the number of cars in service, including spares, with this building up to 204 by YE 2019. The interim number for YE2018 is 121. With a 20% spare ratio, this implies that about 100 cars would be available for service. (100 * 120% = 120)

However, Figure 3 shows the evolution of the actual service including the use of other vehicles, and this shows only 79 new cars available for service by year end. This implies that only about 96 cars would have been delivered.

What is the explanation for this discrepancy?

A: General rule for spares ration is 20% for operating spares and 3% for capital spares. Further, as is common with rail vehicle procurements, rework or repair is often required to address quality issues associated with production start-up. The 23% spares ratio does not include any additional vehicles out temporarily for repair.

The 79 vehicles reported for 2018 reflects the number of streetcars in service at the time the report was written – consistent with the CEO report. By the end of the year, assuming 121 streetcars, then yes approximately 96 would be in service by year end.

Q2: Assuming that the TTC does have 121 cars on property by year end, will the additional cars be used to replace buses, or to accelerate the retirement of the legacy fleet?

A: Both. Anticipating a reasonable follow-up question “How many CLRVs and ALRVs would be retired and how many  buses would be returned to bus operations”: we have plan of course that includes a bias towards decommissioning old streetcars, but would like to maintain some flexibility in order to strike the right balance between retiring old streetcars that are increasingly more difficulty and costly to maintain and freeing buses up for bus routes.

Q3: On a related note, even by the end of 2020, the number of new cars in service is shown as only 156 in figure 3. This implies a spare ratio of almost 30%. This drops to about 24% by 2023.

A: Referring to the first response, the total number of vehicles out of service over the next three to four years will include spares as well as vehicles out temporarily to address early production quality issues – this results in the 30% and then a drop down to roughly 23% thereafter.

The transition referred to here occurs in about 2023 (see chart above), and I hope that we will be beyond “early production quality issues” well before then.

Who Would Build New Streetcars

Were it not for the ongoing problems of manufacturing and delivery of the Flexitys, Bombardier would be positioned to automatically get any add-on orders, and provision for this was included in the original contract. However, the TTC Board is more than a little displeased, and they instructed staff to canvass the market for interested bidders. The presentation deck included with the report includes a list [at p. 11]:

RFI Results

Number of High Potential Respondents
Of the 10 respondents, as many as five may prove technically and commercially compliant in a formal RFP
Respondents included:

  1. Bombardier, Canada / Germany
  2. CAF, Spain
  3. CRRC Dalian, China
  4. CRRC Qingdao, China
  5. CRRC Tangshan, China
  6. Hyundai Rotem, Korea
  7. Innekon, The Czech Republic
  8. Siemens, US / Germany
  9. Stadler, Switzerland
  10. Tatra-Yug, Ukraine

Notable by its absence from this list is Alstom who supplied the fleet for Ottawa’s soon-to-open LRT line, and will be building LRVs for Metrolinx. This may be due to an incompatibility between the cars they will produce for Metrolinx and the geometry of the Toronto streetcar system’s curves and grades.

Bombardier has an advantage because they are already producing cars, albeit with well-known delivery problems [p. 12]:

Bombardier, Canada / Germany

  • Poor contract performance, but improving
  • Vehicle is proven to meet technical requirements
  • Options priced at $3.6 million ea. + escalation, tax, and amendments
  • Delivery of additional 60 would start in Q3 2020
  • Various efficiencies (e.g. common parts, maintenance, operations, reduced material/warehousing requirements, standard contract management, and standard customer experience)

As for their competitors [p. 13]:


  • Contract performance unknown
  • Vehicle likely to meet technical requirements after modifications to the carbuilders’ base vehicle platform to meet TTC’s mature network requirements
  • Best price believed to be in range of Bombardier options pricing
  • Delivery of additional 60 anywhere from Q1 2023 for Prototype to Q1 2025 for completed delivery

This would result in a project plan as shown below:

Assuming Bombardier could actually deliver, the timelines are on their side because the entire process of specification, evaluation and prototyping would be eliminated. On the downside, Toronto would continue to be captive to one supplier for its rail vehicles.

Maintenance and Storage Facilities

Although there is some room at Leslie Barns beyond the requirements of the original 204-car order, this will not be able to handle all of a 60-car supplementary order let alone a large number of cars beyond that.

However, once the last of the “legacy” fleet of CLRVs and ALRVs is retired, the existing streetcar maintenance facility at Hillcrest will be of little use because the new streetcars do not fit in a shops designed for much shorter vehicles. The property might be repurposed for the new fleet, possibly with only a small storage yard to handle the overflow from Leslie and supplying cars to nearby routes such as 512 St. Clair.

As for the “approximately 100 cars” contemplated in the chart above, that would require considerable space. By comparison, Roncesvalles and Russell carhouses will each have about 50 Flexitys after the base 204-car order is delivered with little room for expansion.

Staff do not propose to address that issue until 2025 [see p. 7 of the presentation], although this does not align with the timeframe in which such cars would be delivered.?

What Capacity can Streetcars Provide?

From time to time, the question arises of why we simply don’t build a subway to replace the streetcar routes. King Street is currently operating with about half of its trips in the core area served by new, larger cars.

  • 504 King: 22 cars/hour (about 1/3 are Flexitys)
  • 514 Cherry: 9 Flexitys/hour
  • 503 Kingston Road: 5 CLRVs/hour

This gives a total of 20 CLRV and 15 Flexity trips/hour. Replacing all of the CLRVs with Flexitys would add almost 30% to the route’s capacity.

On routes which now operate with older cars, replacement by Flexitys could provide a very substantial capacity increase on current headways, let alone with more frequent service. Whether riders will ever actually benefit from this remains to be seen.

Updated June 13, 2018 at 10:00 pm:

Discussion at the Board Meeting

During the Board meeting considering this item, there was a strong sense of wanting to get on with procurement of new streetcars sooner rather than later. This took two forms.

One was a discussion of whether Bombardier should be given the 60 car supplementary order now in recognition of compatibility and (probably) lower cost as this would continue an existing production run. Acting CEO Rick Leary stated that until he sees Bombardier actually achieve a delivery rate of 20 cars/month as planned in fall 2018, he is not prepared to recommend giving them more work. Leary reported that he spoke to Bombardier the night before the meeting, and that they would deliver 89 cars by the end of the quarter. This will be a challenge considering that deliveries only appear to be up to 4482 so far (with 4401 and 4466 missing).

Although the chart showing the fleet mix earlier in this article includes the survival of some ALRVs into 2020, it is likely that they will all be retired by the end of 2019 because the data behind that chart assumed a slower delivery of vehicles than is actually happening. Note, however, that the chart also shows some of the new cars arriving in 2020, and this assumes a quite brisk delivery that one would expect from an add-on order rather than a completely new procurement.

Another more troubling discussion arose from comments by Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong who spoke about a meeting between him, TTC staff and a vendor (who turns out to be CRRC according to lobbyist registry records).

Minnan-Wong begins his remarks saying that there is information the other members of the Commission should know, indicating that up to this point they were not involved in the discussion. He reported that a Chinese bidder was prepared to build to the TTC’s spec a prototype vehicle in 18 months, and that the remaining cars could be built in six months. Minnan-Wong commented that this means the cars could be here in two years from signing a contract, although this assumes no time for actually testing a prototype and determining what changes would be required for the production order. He went on to say that TTC would probably not want the cars this quickly because of carhouse capacity limitations (as discussed in the report).

Minnan-Wong asked for confirmation that the original “sticker price” for the Flexitys was $6 million, and staff confirmed that number. What they did not mention was that this contract included training and spare parts, the built-in startup costs to produce a new vehicle, and provision for cost escalation during the life of the contract. Staff also confirmed that the price for add-on cars would be $3.6 million plus escalation and taxes.

The issue here is that one member of the Commission and a representative from the Mayor’s office were engaged in discussions with a potential vendor. If this were a formal bid process, that type of contact would be prohibited, but it appears that one would-be vendor’s trying to get a leg up is considered to be acceptable.

This led to a proposal that the TTC put out an RFP immediately to get bids, but that proposal runs aground because there is no funding approved in the City’s budget nor any Council approval for this project (it is “below the line” in the TTC budget). Whether vendors would take such an RFP seriously is an issue not just for this contract but for future bids where there could be concern that the TTC was on a fishing expedition and the volume of work needed to produce a bid was not worth the effort. This could artificially narrow the list of willing bidders.

The Board agreed to defer the report to their July 2018 meeting so that staff could pursue the issue further. We can only hope that this will include an evaluation of the readiness of all potential bidders to respond quickly rather than taking the results of a private meeting as gospel.

29 thoughts on “Will Toronto Get More New Streetcars?

  1. You write: On the downside, Toronto would continue to be captive to one supplier for its rail vehicles.

    While this is true for the streetcar network, would it also be true for the LRTs? Line 5 Eglinton/Crosstown is set to have Flexity Freedoms, but Alstoms are there as a backup (using them on Hurontario otherwise) and for Finch. This still leaves at least some heterogeneity with regards to suppliers in the GTA (even though it isn’t the TTC in particular).

    Perhaps when the Line 2 T1s come up for replacement other suppliers may be looked at with a keener eye as well.

    Besides the FUBAR situation with the Flexitys, has Bombardier messed things up terribly in the past?

    Steve: I agree that other suppliers are available for LRTs assuming that a new government at Queen’s Park does not banish any existing and future plans. Talk to me on June 8.

    As for Bombardier, they have had problems with several orders to one degree or another. The H6 cars were considered to be lemons and were replaced before their due date. The TRs have taken a long time to reach acceptable performance, although now they are showing very good numbers. Then there is the little matter of their being disqualified to bid on a big order for NYC. Their European operations do not seem to have this sort of problem.

    As for Line 2, it is possible that the Scarborough Subway and an accelerated push for ATC on the BD line will accelerate the T1 replacement project. Bombardier has a leg up with the TR trains so recently supplied.


  2. Big mistake was ending the PCC rebuild program which would have given a reliable mini-fleet at minimal cost with a proven track record.

    Another good choice might well have been a modern PCC built new in Europe where they exist.
    The PCC was a simple car without any computer crap. Result, dependable and easy to operate.

    The existing cars now being retired were NOT a step ahead. They were problematic with their controls (jerky) and a step backwards for easy access due to high and steep steps as compared to PCC’s.

    A few years ago TTC celebrated 100 years of St.Clair Streetcar service and they operate one of the rebuilt PCC’s and I had a ride on it! It was only moments before I felt the fast, smooth acceleration and speed of the PCC! WOW! I thought to myself “This is what I remember about these cars!”


  3. Steve said: “The wild card in all of this will be the outcome of the provincial election on June 7, and the degree to which the incoming Premier will support or attempt to sabotage any expansion of streetcar service. Funding arrangements, especially under the federal PTIF scheme, depend on all three levels of government contributing. This effectively gives any one level the ability to veto a project unless there is a change in the rules.”

    Isn’t the way the PTIF scheme works simply something decided on by the federal government? I mean, Ottawa makes the PTIF rules, no? If Trudeau wants to stick it to Ford on this issue (as he might calculate to be advantageous to him), he can just change the PTIF rules in the next budget to allow the federal and municipal governments to fund projects without provincial involvement.

    Furthermore, in which way can the Province sabotage streetcar developments in Toronto (besides withholding funding)?

    Steve: I have already Tweeted about the PTIF rules and have received a supportive response from Adam Vaughan about making a federal-city funding arrangement work even if the waterfront transit line is not a provincial responsibility. As for the streetcars, aside from funding, I suppose the province could try to meddle, but at some point Doug Ford is going to have to be Premier of Ontario, not mayor-in-waiting of Toronto. Funding is the big issue, although of course Ford could make other projects (not even necessarily transit) dependent on “efficiencies” at the municipal level.


  4. Um, there was an election yesterday. Toronto will not be getting more streetcars and may not have any 5 years from now if Mr Deco Labels has anything to do with it (and as Premier, he will have everything to do with it.)

    Steve: See my previous reply.


  5. Silence ensues!

    Steve: I am keeping my powder dry for a more considered response to the election once there is something concrete to address. There is no point in writing an “end of the world” piece. My real concern is the degree to which Doug Ford will be distracted from his job as Premier by fighting old grudge matches against the City of Toronto.


  6. Raymond writes: Big mistake was ending the PCC rebuild program which would have given a reliable mini-fleet at minimal cost with a proven track record.

    I don’t think that’s possible given the new accessibility requirements. Old cars don’t have wheelchair/low-floor access, stop announcements, or whatever else is required.

    Steve: And, quite frankly, by now even rebuilt PCCs would be totally worn out.


  7. Should be remembered that one LFLRV (IE. Bombardier Outlook) is roughly equate to two CLRV’s in length. Capacity-wise, the CLRV has a crush load of 132 passengers versus 251 in an Outlook. The problem remains is that some people continue to board and exit through the front door, and no other door of any streetcar (or bus for that matter).

    Steve: I don’t believe either of those “crush load” numbers. A CLRV is somewhere around 100 with a design load of 70. The only way to get 251 on a Flexity would be to take out some of the seats.


  8. Raymond, there is no mistake in converting to a more accessible fleet. I too loved the PCCs, (though iconic Toronto for me will always be the front face of a CLRV, or the sound of an ALRV straining to meet its power requirements).

    I am a person of modest disability (I don’t require assistive devices, but have low tolerance for some activities/movements). I have felt guilty/ashamed that I can’t share that love of streetcars with those who have physical disabilities because they cannot access those high floor cars.

    One significant reason, among many, for the design/decision to order Flexities (new streetcars in general) was to address the fact that without them, persons with significant disabilities are shut out of the downtown core entirely. Imagine not being able to access Queen’s Quay, King, Queen, Dundas, Carlton/College/Upper&Lower Gerrard, or Roncesvalles, Bathurst, Spadina, Broadview. The Flexities are a necessary, welcome correction to a historical oversight, and a significant upgrade in accessibility infrastructure that will take Toronto forward.

    Questions/Comments for Steve:

    Steve, on “why we simply don’t build a subway to replace the streetcar routes”

    A: at the very least because “simply building a subway” is not possible in Toronto!

    1. If Leslie can hold “a few more than intended” and Roncy and Russell can only hold 100 between them; are we really looking at a “modest” yard at Hillcrest? Why not rebuild it with the intention of storing: 509-510-511-512?

    Steve: It’s a question of how big the property at Hillcrest would be with the old Harvey Shops torn down or substantially remodelled (I think the former is far more likely), and how much of its function such as the paint shops and some other facilities that would still be needed for the bus fleet could be shifted elsewhere.

    2. I would imagine that all CLRV/ALRV are retired before this subsequent order is due to start, so why would we have to wait until after the order started delivery to revise Hillcrest? Is this a funding issue?

    Steve: Some of the timelines in that report don’t make sense, and I await a clarification from the TTC. Funding will certainly be an issue, but there is no point in ordering beyond that first group of 60 and having no place to put them.

    3. Is the factor of having the entire legacy streetcar fleet “under one provider” a significant benefit or significant drawback? It is my understanding that the vehicles are performing very well, and if that quality maintains, and if the new plant provides equal quality, then the primary issue (delivery) will work itself out (and parts will be easy to come by, and cars will [in 40 years] be cannibalized for one another while a new fleet starts its delivery.

    Steve: If Bombardier could clean up its act on manufacturing and ongoing quality control/reliability, then there is nothing wrong with a “monoculture” of cars. After all, that’s the situation on the subway with two fleets, and we will probably alternate replacing each fleet every 15 years (ie a 30 year lifespan) forever.

    4. Lastly, many of the articles you’ve written have been informed by the idea that these supplemental cars were intended for the newer waterfront services, not as a means to add to long-latent demand. Beyond the Western Waterfront/Eastern Bayfront and Portlands lines, do you see a likelihood of other bus routes being replaced by streetcars, by demand (Dufferin, despite possible logistical issues with a northern loop) or simplicity (i.e. Coxwell, Christie, Parliament, Wellesley East [i.e. retain bus from Yonge to Ossington])?

    Steve: Originally, the 60 add-on cars were at least in part for new lines in the waterfront, but the growing demand, as set out in the report and in other City planning studies, pushes forward the need for a bigger fleet. When the TTC ordered the 204, they intended a replacement ration of well below 1:1, closer to a match on capacity with a small bump. Now they are seeing the latent and growing demand, the option of cutting back on the number of cars in service is much less attractive, and longer term will come the need for more service.

    As for other new routes, I do not see any of those you propose:

    Dufferin has problems, as you note, and is a street on which transit priority is impossible.

    The others run into problems with having light demand (look at the service frequencies) and structural problems at loops both for geometry and load bearing capabilities (Coxwell and Castle Frank Stations).

    Thanks as always. I look forward to Andrea’s strong opposition to Doug’s anti-transit (which is anti-mobility/anti-labour/anti-productivity/anti-profit) nonsense. I am looking forward, past this election cycle, to 345 streetcars in Toronto for my 50th birthday in 2033!


  9. When you think about it and look at the chronology, the streetcar fleet didn’t stay the same as lines were added, it actually shrank. The fleet consisted of the full CLRV + ALRV fleets plus the rebuilt PCCs until the end of 1995 when the PCCs were retired. After that happened, Spadina opened and Harbourfront was extended which really spread the remaining LRV fleet thin.

    So, Toronto desperately needs streetcars. It’s too early to know what a Doug Ford provincial government is going to do with respect to public transportation so provincial funding is a big question mark. The city may end up having to strike a two way deal with the federal government outside of the PTIF structure or may end up having to go it alone.

    Selecting a vendor is a more interesting problem. Design modification, prototyping, and validation of anybody else’s streetcar is going to consume time and the costs will be included in the order price. All that’s out of the way with Bombardier. If the production problems can be sorted out, and that is an if, with both Thunder Bay and Kingston’s lines going, it would cost less and possibly take less time to have them keep building more of the existing streetcars. And you’d also avoid maintaining two parts inventories, differing operator and maintenance training, albeit at the risk that if a fleet-wide problem is discovered down the road from now, it’ll affect every single streetcar. On the other hand, if Bombardier’s delivery woes continue, it’ll be even more streetcar deliveries adversely affected.

    To be fair to Bombardier, the H6 basketcase subway cars were a UTDC/SNC-Lavalin product.

    With respect to a PCC mini fleet, the last rebuild took place starting in the mid-1980s and ended in the early 1990s, and was intended to provide streetcars for 604 Harbourfront and the Spadina line except Spadina opened after those rebuilt cars were retired and they got kicked off Harbourfront because of noise complaints. I really don’t know how much merit was in those noise complaints. I don’t think anybody ran a PCC and a CLRV down there in the dead of the night and took measurements to objectively evaluate noise production between the two types of cars.

    Steve: At the time, the planned rebuild of the PCC fleet was supposed to give TTC enough cars to provide for Spadina/Harbourfront thanks to the ongoing service cutbacks through the 1990s. The scale of the PCC rebuild was cut back, and no new cars were ordered. Then traffic congestion started to stretch running times requiring wider headways because there were no cars to provide the same frequencies with longer round trips times.

    The PCCs were definitely noisier than the new cars. I suspect there was also a problem with the new cars wearing in a track profile that was unkind to PCCs and contributed to the squeal.

    In any event, in 2018, a PCC fleet rebuilt in that time period would also have been up for replacement by now. Or a re-rebuild at a minimum. Consider the work SF Muni’s had to do on their ex-Philadelphia PCCs. They had recently been overhauled by SEPTA before retirement, got overhauled again by Morrison Knudsen before entering service in San Francisco and are now being cycled through Brockville for another heavy rebuild; the late-80s/early-90s TTC rebuild wouldn’t solve the fleet problem of today. Not retiring the rebuilt fleet would have averted some of the fleet size issues of prior years though and a mini fleet running on the Harbourfront would’ve been great but that opportunity got blown back in the 90s and isn’t coming back. Heck, as it stands, the TTC isn’t even willing to put out one PCC for four hours one day a week anymore. Toronto, as everyone will tell you in case you don’t know, is a world class city. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we get to have nice things that other, actual world class cities get to have.


  10. How do the American cities that operate PCCs cope with what must be ever increasing maintenance costs? Is there any type of ‘heritage funding’ for elderly streetcars anywhere?

    Steve: I don’t think there is any special heritage funding, but there is a cottage industry in overhauling PCCs that avoids the need for each city to have a full shops. Also, I don’t know how many cars still have all of their original equipment.

    One fond memory from decades back: I was in Pittsburgh and on a shop tour where the PCC rebuilds were in progress. There, sitting on the floor, in a wooden crate, was a brand new PCC controller.


  11. Brookville has a great line of streetcars. A small fleet of their Modern Streetcar with off-wire capability ought to be considered if for no other reason than comparison AND to put Bombardier on their toes!

    Their new built old style New Orleans cars would be a good tourist attraction. Maybe get one real New Orleans car as well and use it as a tourist draw to visit New Orleans!

    Run Brookville cars on a Junction route running from Dundas/Bloor up through the Junction to Runnymede without overhead wires recharging at Keele would make the run. Get the Junction BIA involved to offer free shoppers service “hop on/ hop off” and free evening dining customers to promote RIDE and discourage impaired driving.

    If the TT&C does not want to do this get another operator! Bombardier/Car2Go/Uber.

    People say “Think outside the box” I say “Throw the box away”.

    Steve: Anything that involves building new trackage is a non-starter unless it serves a dense area like the waterfront. Building a tourist line in the Junction is precisely the sort of frivolity anti-Toronto, anti-streetcar people would seize on. If there is to be a tourist car, run it on existing tracks.


  12. If the TTC says in 2027 they will need 100 additional cars above and beyond the current 60 car option with Bombardier then the course should be to exercise the 60 car option and go with one of the other makers for the 100. That would work with the timelines without adversely affecting service and should make everyone a little bit happy except for Bombardier.


  13. One small point about fleet size: we continue to look at the figure of 204 Flexities as the terminal figure for the current order, however there is also the matter of the damages on that order, which I recall the TTC saying at one point they would accept as vehicles. Hopefully they will stick to that and we will end up with 210-214 in early 2020 plus whatever comes next.


  14. Not sure [of] all the love for the ancient PCCs. Clearly they were a step backwards from horse-drawn trolleys. Can you imagine the efficiencies we could create by restoring that?

    And I don’t know where wklis gets a crush value of 132 passengers on a CLRV. Sometimes I think these bizarre comments come from people who never actually use transit.

    Steve: I suspect you are wrong on that count, at least for wklis, although it is easier to believe a crush load of 132 on an ALRV (design load just over 100).

    I’ve stood with my feet at the top of the back steps of a CLRV, holding the rest of my body in the stairwell – as it’s crowded so tight, there’s no space for my body, but need to stay off the step. It’s given me the view to count what a crush-loaded CLRV really is. And it’s less than 90. I’ve seen slightly better after an event at Exhibition, where the loading is a bit more uniform at the terminus, it’s the summer, a very young crowd that’s not overweight like most of us, and people aren’t carrying briefcases, and the like.

    There’s no way you get 132 passengers in Toronto on a CLRV in rush hour unless everyone in the seats, is wearing a baby in a carrier!


  15. Steve wrote: “Although 204 new cars represent a net increase in fleet capacity, they do not keep up with need.”

    Steve, you have pointed out the number one issue I have always had with the order. The CLRV/ALRV fleet is/was made up of a total of 248 vehicles. The new order has 204 vehicles. I don’t personally care how many more people one Flexity can carry over a CLRV if I have to wait longer to get onboard.

    If the TTC had ordered 248 (or better yet made it 250 for simplicity) then it would have had more total capacity at the same service level. Bingo, part of the problem would have been solved. But no, that made too much sense for the TTC!

    Steve: At the time, the growth in demand (not to mention latent demand) was something the TTC totally missed, although provision for the extra 60 cars as an add-on was a partial cover for this. Also I suspect there as a question of keeping the total project cost down to a level that Ontario was prepared to pay 1/3 of.


  16. The CLRVs may have been quieter than the PCCs by the time Harbourfront opened, but not with the initial deliveries as designed. The wheels were not resilient and made a lot of rumbling noise. For a while, PCCs were mandated for late evening/overnight service since they made less noise. 4047 was outfitted with resilient wheels, and sounded much more like a PCC, and soon enough all CLRVs were changed over.


  17. I’m guessing that provincial transit funding is going to seize up for the next four years in a quest for “efficiencies.” But there’s a chance that the push for a DRL will accelerate. In the short term, the Queen streetcar might have to stop during construction, which will free up some streetcars, and then the DRL itself will free up more streetcars as well. If the Finch LRT gets cancelled, there’s a chance that the province will still be on hook for the vehicle order, and those could maybe be transferred to the city. Or, there might be a shuffling of transit funding where the city is able to upload the funding of some things to the province, but the city will have to take on the funding of streetcars entirely by itself. We won’t need more streetcars for the waterfront because a monorail will be built there instead.

    Steve: DRL construction that would disrupt Queen is not going to start within the new government’s mandate.

    As for the Finch line, those cars have always been floaters with possible repurposing for Hurontario. Alstom must be a bit nervous right now. Those cars would not work on the “legacy” streetcar system, and Alstom has not bid on the supplementary order.


  18. Regarding Hurontario LRT, has anything been signed by the Liberals & any building consortium?

    Steve: No.


  19. Steve said: “Anything that involves building new trackage is a non-starter…………”

    How about those new streetcars in China that run on a PAINTED single “rail” ? Amazing!

    Probably built on schedule too!

    Steve: There is too much technological BS coming out of China these days. Can I say one thing about a “painted rail”?



  20. I doubt that Alstom is all that “nervous” right now. Nothing is more lucrative than “breakage fees” especially if Alstom’s lawyers have done a good job of defining “liquidated damages, which are not a penalty”. They might find that the best thing for them is to avoid having to do any work and just collect the loot. (See gas plants.)


  21. This is going to ramble a bit because I’m going to deal with a bunch of things that came up in the comments, so apologies in advance.

    Bombardier might be in for some cancellation penalties as well if the Finch, Sheppard, Mississauga, and Hamilton LRTs get scrapped since the Metrolinx LRV order would have to be drastically reduced to be sized for Eglinton only. During the election campaign, Doug Ford said he’d honour the Mississauga and Hamilton LRT commitments but muddied the waters by saying the committed money could be used for other stuff if city councils changed their mind. This all assumes that these commitments are kept and politicians aren’t exactly well regarded for their record on keeping promises. The biggest issue here is that Metrolinx and Queen’s Park loafed along taking their sweet time doing not much of anything of value instead of getting the job done and the contracts to build signed, sealed, and delivered during the window when these projects had strong support across the board. I don’t want to write the obituary on these lines just yet but their future is clearly a lot less certain now than if contracts to build had been awarded four weeks ago or more.

    Steve: Yes, one of the most frustrating things going right back to the original days of Transit City has been the endless delay as Queen’s Park deferred actually doing anything with projects to stretch out the actual spending. Into that gap came first Rob Ford, and now Doug who may let projects vanish simply through local machinations rather than actual hands-on provincial cancellation. And you can bet there will be lots of misinformation about just what “LRT” is and what its effects will be.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Alstom included some hefty cancellation penalties in their Metrolinx contract given they accepted stiff performance penalties in the same contract. One of the things that surprises me about Alstom’s decision to sit out the TTC RFP is the fact that they committed to building a plant in the GTA to build the Metrolinx order so it’s not like they’ll be without a manufacturing facility nearby to do a TTC order. It’d be interesting to hear what the business reasons were for declining participation.

    Steve: I suspect that Alstom plant would simply disappear as it is little more than a plan at this stage.

    I don’t know what the likelihood of getting a shop tour at Brookville would be but there’s a good chance you’d get to see new-in-crate PCC controllers there. The Newark PCCs that MUNI picked up a number of years ago and their double ended PCCs are being re-equipped with new European manufactured Westinghouse equipment to replace the original GE gear on those cars. My understanding is that all of the PCCs that MUNI’s cycled through Bookville have had their motor generator sets replaced with a static converter plus a blower fan for the controller compartment so they more closely represent the later European cars from a technology perspective. When you consider the antiques MUNI puts out all day, every day, that the MBTA puts out in Mattapan, that San Diego puts out reversed pedals and all, that El Paso will be putting out, you really have to question the excuses here about no PCC for four hours a day, one day a week during summer only, insane charter prices, and now the new requirement for an empty chase car following behind. I’ve said it before, there are a lot of places that don’t seem to have the problems that Toronto has with various things. Electronics, the PCC car, E6 film development, whatever, you name it. If it’s a problem in Toronto and all you get are cheap excuses about why it can’t be done, it’s usually pretty easy to find a shop somewhere else that can take care of what you need albeit not necessarily nearby.


  22. What happened to the swan boat contract?

    Steve: I am hoping that there is a new cabinet minister looking for lots of photo ops and gullible enough to nibble on this scheme.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I need some input on my thinking here.

    Toronto orders a huge number of streetcars at once, then waits 30 years to order another huge number. Meanwhile, the original supplier has left the business or lost the dies or something.

    How about they order one a month (which BBD seem capable of) for 25 years? This would deliver 300 cars. Then they could keep it going as the earliest cars would be worn out.

    And during the delivery the specs could be altered to match new ideas or technology.


  24. David Young’s said: How about they order one a month (which BBD seem capable of) for 25 years? This would deliver 300 cars. Then they could keep it going as the earliest cars would be worn out.

    That’s what they do with buses, except now they’ve ordered a whole bunch at once because of (if I recall) an expiring transit subsidy. It’s probably a mix of factors, but I suspect that it’s cheaper for the manufacturer to build several hundred in one go due to economies of scale. The bus model is great because it evens out the expense to a continuous stream, rather than an enormous one every few decades that is much more difficult to budget for.

    This is likely a problem with most rail transit fleets, especially those with custom requirements like Toronto’s streetcars or London Underground’s deep-level Tube trains, because they’re not off-the-shelf products like buses are.

    The real reason, though, is that the CLRV and ALRV are already way past their expected lifespans, and we need new vehicles now, not in 20 years. It would be rather difficult to switch to a different purchasing model when the vehicles stay in service for decades.

    Steve: The financial folks at the City keep raising the issue that they should buy vehicles in smaller quantities to even out spending across many years rather than creating hills and valleys in the capital requirements. And then somebody comes up with a special subsidy program, or lets a fleet age beyond its best before date requiring that everything must be replaced in one go.


  25. Steve says: “The financial folks at the City keep raising the issue that they should buy vehicles in smaller quantities to even out spending across many years rather than creating hills and valleys in the capital requirements. And then somebody comes up with a special subsidy program, or lets a fleet age beyond its best before date requiring that everything must be replaced in one go.”

    Left hand, don’t meet right hand.

    One problem with our current local government is not raising taxes to a responsible and adequate level to afford all the programmes and services the “taxpayers” – er, citizens benefit from each year and then adjusting them for ongoing cost increases. Another problem is that they seem not to think about things getting old and breaking down, because that will not happen in the lives of their mandates – although Maria Augimeri has been serving for 33 years and even Denzil Minnan-Wong was in almost a quarter-century before opting for provincial politics this year, with 5 others between them.

    The left hand of City Council could also blame the right hand of the Federal and Provincial governments, who seem to prefer throwing out money to municipalities when an election is nigh or when a by-election (or is that “buy-election”?) can change the colour of a riding in their favour. Instead of getting elected and taking power and thinking: “Hmmm, what needs to be done in the realm of transit – our responsibility too! – and what will benefit the most residents of the entire city and address latent demand and overcrowding at the same time?” , transit is an afterthought.

    Subsidies work when they are ongoing, so that local councils can plan to use that money and combine it with local funds on a regular basis and so transit planning is not a hiccup and a mad scramble to design-and-build-something-now-or-the-money-will-disappear forever use that ends up serving no useful purpose overall. The best thing, too, is that subsidies work for all political colours – red, blue, orange, green, other – because transit users are happy when transit is being funded – and built – and maintained – and repaired regularly. And they do remember that. Plus, cities can then order a large enough quantity of vehicles to keep the supplier happy while providing that number of vehicles to replace or enhance an existing fleet’s capacity and not breaking the bank. It also shows the subsidizer and the transit user that the impact is visible and that further funds can continue the benefit.

    Letting a fleet age beyond its useable life is unforgiveable, not to mention dangerous and a waste of money that could be used as part of a complete refurnishing – not refurbishing – of transit equipment, be it subway car, streetcar, bus or WheelTrans vehicle. Making transit garage staff hold together vehicles with spit and baling wire is, apparently, only excusable if you, yourself are not riding in said vehicles, claiming, instead that you are finding “efficiencies.”

    All levels of government need to acknowledge the importance of any transit system to the professional, smooth and “efficient” functioning of a city or town. And they all need to cut through the political crap that they, as elected officials, can spout for their pet projects and re-election plans and actually work together to plan and fund transit systems that work to help the most people.

    As they say, “Plan your Work and Work your Plan.” But do, as an elected official, make sure the Plan is actually going to Work!!!


  26. I have a question about process: Given how far along the processes are for both the Hurontario and Hamilton LRTs with plenty of memorandums and agreements signed with Metrolinx and money already budgeted by Queen’s Park, can Metrolinx proceed to construction on these as the last of the procedural Is and Ts get crossed with the municipalities or does it have to go through Queen’s Park yet again?

    Steve: In theory, I suppose “yes” is the answer. However, you might recall that there is still a “signed agreement” to build the Scarborough LRT. I have not noticed a lot of movement on that file. If there are enough politicians to get in the way, I am sure the new government will be happy to oblige.

    Steve wrote:

    Yes, one of the most frustrating things going right back to the original days of Transit City has been the endless delay as Queen’s Park deferred actually doing anything with projects to stretch out the actual spending. Into that gap came first Rob Ford, and now Doug who may let projects vanish simply through local machinations rather than actual hands-on provincial cancellation. And you can bet there will be lots of misinformation about just what “LRT” is and what its effects will be.

    Agreed. It’s immensely frustrating. I remember one evening I was hanging out with a friend talking about Transit City and we went on the TTC’s website and looked at the job postings on my then new iPhone 3G just to put the time in perspective. There was a posting for an electrical engineer to work on Transit City whose job portfolio explicitly excluded traction power, signalling, and life safety systems. We were both puzzled at this point, wondering what the job would entail and it sounded like mainly lighting and utility circuits but this one task was to design a signature Transit City light fixture. I started joking half seriously about how Transit City’s going to get cancelled if they’re going to waste time, money, and effort on frivolous junk like that. Shortly after, Dalton McGuinty deferred half the funding and it became $4 billion now, and $4 billion “later”. The problems is, the stars rarely align, and when they do, it’s only for a brief period of time before they drift back out and things unravel. Projects have to get past the point of commitment quickly enough to avoid cancellation and knowing this, I was deeply concerned and frustrated. I think David Miller understood the urgency and the risks of deferment too given the announcement he recorded and had played in the subway. Meanwhile, in all that intervening time, the only thing that’s getting built out of Transit City and the Metrolinx 905 projects for certain is a truncated version of Eglinton Crosstown, while over the same period of years a lot of people over in Queen’s Park and Metrolinx earned good livings dragging everything out interminably, eventually, after a period of many years, delivering a whole lot of nothing.

    I really hope Toronto gets enough new streetcars and some badly needed line extensions into the portlands. No sane person would suggest developing that massive area without laying in the supporting infrastructure that’s required. I don’t see the city telling condo developers to dig wells, install septic tanks, and figure out electricity generation on their own because running municipal water, sewage, and hydro is expensive and the city shouldn’t have to pay for it. Why public transportation is treated differently is something I don’t understand.


  27. Steve said: “When the TTC ordered 204 Flexitys, these were expected to handle rising demand through 2027. This date has been revised much earlier to 2020”

    That would mean given the reality of ordering and delivery today, that even if Bombardier were to deliver at a rate of 1 vehicle per week, they will really not be able to get ahead of the situation, in terms of need, because by the time the city can do the paperwork, and get things moving, they will be behind the requirement for transit regardless. The reality of delivery means there is about 2 and 1/3 years left to complete, and that would place us in 2020.

    If Bombardier can sustain good vehicles and 1 a week, and promises to sustain this for the additional cars (likely should be more than 60), would it not make sense to make this a continuation?

    Steve: If Bombardier had not so badly screwed up their credibility, and their competition not been so ready to step into the breach, that would be an obvious conclusion. Incumbency has its advantages for any supplier, and I am quite sure that CRRC’s real game in going after the streetcar order is to be positioned to bid aggressively on the next order for subway cars for the BD line refresh.

    In any event, Bombardier claims that once they start shipping from both Kingston and Thunder Bay this fall, the delivery rate will go up to 20+ per quarter (21 are scheduled for 4Q18). The current schedule calls for them to be up to 121 cars by the end of 2018 (that’s about 40 more counting from today), and then ship the remaining 80+ in 2019. The problem is all in the timing and their lack of credibility until they actually do deliver at the 20/month rate.


  28. Steve:

    In theory, I suppose “yes” is the answer. However, you might recall that there is still a “signed agreement” to build the Scarborough LRT. I have not noticed a lot of movement on that file. If there are enough politicians to get in the way, I am sure the new government will be happy to oblige.

    How many politicians does it take to change a transit plan?

    Steve: The number required is inversely proportional to the size of the ego involved.


  29. It seems obvious that to meet latent demand and future growth (waterfront lines, Broadview extension, etc.) more streetcars will be needed. And regardless if they are Bombardier or XYZ brand, more storage space will be key. If Hillcrest is renovated will it provide enough capacity? If the TTC gets a second type (different spares, maintenance schedules/facilities, etc.) would a separate yard be required?

    Steve: When the TTC talks of needing a further fleet of up to 100 cars, this will pretty much demand another yard beyond the capacity Hillcrest can provide. It would make sense to concentrate a second vendor’s fleet simply for the purpose of spare parts and maintenance expertise. However, this is a long, long way down the road. We will do well just to get the first extra 60 vehicles ordered in the current climate.

    Due to Metrolinx forcing the new LRT lines to be standard gauge expansion of the legacy streetcar system is limited. Should the long term plan include re-gauging of track and stock to standard gauge for long term integration?

    Steve: Regauging the “legacy” system is simply not possible as co-existence of two gauges would make trackwork very, very complex and expensive. There is no need for the two systems, Metrolinx and TTC, to have a common gauge.

    Do you know if the Finch West LRT is a dead duck now?

    Steve: I suspect that it will at least be on life support. We gave not yet reached the point of a Pythonesque “dead parrot” sketch, but it no longer has a critical mass of politicians in the right places to push the project forward. We’re into another “we deserve a subway” situation, and nothing will be built.

    Could/would Ford flip the Sheppard LRT back to a subway extension?

    Steve: He has already made a Sheppard subway to STC part of his plan, and the LRT as a continuation east on Sheppard is not part of his view of the network. We will be lucky to see the Eglinton East LRT built considering that Ford opposes any new on-street construction. It will be interesting to see how much support for this project remains on Council after the election in the fall.


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