TTC 2019 Fleet and Capacity Plans Part II: Streetcars and Buses

Streetcars

There are several related projects in the 2019-2028 Capital Budget and in the 2019-2033 Capital Investment Plan. These include:

  • Completion of the 204 car Flexity order now in progress
  • Purchase of 100 additional cars for growth and expansion
  • Renovation of Russell Carhouse for maintenance of new streetcars
  • Major renovation of Harvey Shops for maintenance of new streetcars, and as the operating carhouse for (at least) 512 St. Clair

Allocation of the New Flexity Streetcar Fleet

As I write this on March 20, 2019, the TTC has received cars 4400-4535 from the Thunder Bay plant and 4572-4573 from Kingston. Of these, prototype 4401 is at Bombardier for production refits, and a pool of four to six cars will be out for major repairs for the next few years.

CEO Rick Leary has stated on a few occasions that the buses now on streetcar routes will come free for service on the bus network by year end when all new cars have arrived, and that all of the legacy CLRV/ALRV (standard sized and two-section articulated cars respectively) will also be retired this year. This directly contradicts his own Capital Investment Plan which shows that buses will still be required into the mid-2020s when, in theory, a further order of 100 streetcars would arrive.

However, even assuming that Bombardier does deliver the last of its order up to car 4603, there will not be enough new cars to cover service on all of the lines. The table below compares service as it existed back in 2006 before the new cars were ordered, the TTC’s plans for Flexity implementation in 2013, the current schedule requirements, and the number of streetcars needed if all routes return to rail operation.

The numbers above are divided into six sets:

  • The 2006 AM peak service requirement for all streetcar routes assuming that there are no construction projects underway. This is a blend of sources to avoid diversions and substitutions.
  • The actual service in March 2019 (current).
  • The streetcar service operated a few years ago on routes that now have full or partial bus operation.
  • A hypothetical March 2019 service assuming that the five routes now with buses (511 Bathurst, etc) were operated using streetcars.
  • The TTC’s June 2013 deployment plan for the new cars.
  • A hypothetical March 2019 service assuming current Flexity service for routes that have already converted such as King, and the 2013 deployment numbers for routes that have not.

For the purpose of this discussion, the ALRV fleet is assumed to have been retired even though, officially, schedules still call for five of them to run on 501 Queen. In practice these, and some CLRV runs, are operating with Flexitys.

The total fleet requirement including spares at 20% would be 216 cars, and this is 12 more than the TTC will actually have without allowing for a half-dozen cars undergoing major repairs. This means that it is impossible to operate the streetcar system without either trimming service or leaving buses on some routes. When there are construction projects that block streetcar service (such as the work by Toronto Water now underway on Dundas), there would be enough cars operate the rest of the network. Otherwise, the most likely candidates for buses are the perennial targets, the Kingston Road services 502/503.

Some routes – King, Spadina and St. Clair – have more service today than the 2013 deployment plan provided, but this means that there are not enough cars to handle the rest of the network as originally planned. Service improvements on the streetcar system are limited to the added capacity that Flexitys will provide on routes still using old cars (e.g. Queen), but there is no headroom from 2020 onward.

Expanding the Fleet

In the 2018 Capital Budget, the TTC planned to acquire 60 more streetcars in 2019-20 for ridership growth, and 15 in 2020-21 for new Waterfront service. In 2019, this has changed to a larger order in the mid-2020s. However, the budget is inconsistent in its presentation of needs and timing.

The chart below is adapted from the fleet plan as it appears in the budget. (The copy I have is in black and white muddying some details depending on colour.) This shows a proposed purchase of 95 cars in 2025-28. It is already out of date because the CLRV and ALRV fleets will be retired sooner than planned. This creates a shortage that prevents full return to streetcar service at the end of 2019 when the Flexity deliveries are supposed to be complete.

Projections out to 2043 show a very substantial increase in the streetcar fleet to almost double the planned fleet in the early 2020s. That’s a lot more streetcar service than we have today. However good this might look, it does not address the challenge that there are not enough cars for the lines and service levels today, and this will not change in the near future.

A few pages later in the budget is a project to purchase 60 new cars which clearly shows the need for 60 cars starting in 2020, with even more in the future. Of particular note is the text about the effect of deferral on service. This project description is obviously out of date, but that is a common problem with the budget.

The actual spending has been moved to 2024-27. It goes without saying that whatever the date, this is an unfunded project.

Adding to the inconsistency is the statement in the 15 year Capital Investment Plan that the TTC would purchase “approximately 100 additional streetcars from 2025 to 2028 to meet demand, at a cost of $510 million”. [p. 54]

A further problem lies in the planned renovation of Russell Carhouse to handle Flexity maintenance similar to the work now underway at Roncesvalles. This will take that site out of operation for two years. Without Russell’s capacity, there would not be enough room to accommodate the extra 60 streetcars if they were procured as originally planned.

The TTC is also considering major changes at Harvey Shops which, as currently configured, can only be used for a small number of Flexitys. The scheme is to revise the layout of tracks and service areas, and to make this an operating site for, at least, the fleet needed on 512 St. Clair. This would very substantially reduce the dead head mileage for 512 St. Clair cars that shifted to Roncesvalles Division from the carhouse at Wychwood, only a short distance north of Hillcrest, in 1978. However, this capacity would not be available until 2028, and the Fleet Plan shown above does not include it. That site would also substantially increase storage capacity on the streetcar system because, in another project, the TTC proposes shifting bus maintenance operations to a new as yet unknown location. This is separate from the construction of another bus garage in the 2020s.

All of this assumes that money will be found to pay for the larger fleet and facility changes needed to accommodate it. In the chart below, all figures are in billions of dollars including inflation. Note that the $370 million for the current 204-car purchase is the remaining money to be spent in years that are part of the Capital Investment Plan, not the total project cost.

The TTC clearly has plans to improve and expand the streetcar system, but there is a deadly combination of constrained capacity growth and rising demand which will not be addressed in the short-to-medium term. That drives potential riders away from transit and adds traffic that streets cannot absorb more demand.

Buses

For many years, growth in bus service has been limited because the TTC has no place to put more buses even if they bought them. This allowed TTC management to avoid the basic issue of how much service was really needed, and budget hawks on Council to avoid increasing TTC subsidies to pay for this.

The chart below is adapted from the fleet plan in the capital budget. The first column shows the fleet makeup before 2014 and then shows the procurements and retirements over the period to 2034.

  • The “Net” column is a check on the arithmetic to ensure that the numbers actually net out. There is an error highlighted in red where the TTC claims it will retire more buses than it actually owns. This has only a small effect on the future fleet size (five out of two thousand buses).
  • There are 200 hybrids and 60 electric buses in the 2019 budget, followed by a pause for one year in 2020 when there will be no purchases. This is partly a result of timing pressure to spend federal PTIF dollars within the required window, and partly to provide an evaluation process for the electric buses.
  • Electric bus purchases will begin in earnest in 2021 with the last of the existing diesel and hybrid fleet being retired by 2033.

The projected service requirements have changed since the 2018 version of the plan, and both versions are shown in the chart. Four planned major events will reduce bus requirements:

  • The Eglinton Crosstown LRT opens in 2021 replacing frequent bus services on several routes.
  • The Finch LRT opens in 2023 replacing bus service west of Keele Street.
  • The Scarborough Subway Extension opens in 2026 shifting the termini of many routes to STC station.
  • The planned expansion of the streetcar fleet in the mid 2020s eliminates the need for buses to supplement/replace streetcar services.

The use of articulated 18m buses will increase by 68 vehicles in 2021 if this plan holds. The next round of artic purchase in 2025-26 will replace the 153 diesel artics now in the fleet, but there are no net additions.

With the shift of the bus fleet to electric operation, the TTC plans to convert its garages at a rate of two per year. However, they have not produced a plan that aligns this conversion with the rate at which electric vehicles will replace diesels and hybrids.

Garage space continues to be an issue. The current capacity across seven garages is 1,631 buses compared to a total fleet of 2,012, a shortfall of 381. Even when McNicoll Garage opens in 2020 adding capacity for 250 buses, there will still be a shortfall with system capacity of only 1,881. A ninth garage to add a further 250 spaces is not planned to open until 2031. That garage, like many projects, sits in the “out years” of the capital plans so that it does not contribute to the shortfall in available funding over the 10-year span of the budget.

This puts the TTC and its would-be customers in a long-standing box when looking at service improvements. For another decade, Toronto will be told that there is no room for more buses beyond the current fleet plans. The planned growth in peak service from 2026 onward is under one per cent per year.

TTC management plans to bring forward a service plan later in 2019 which will examine future demand. A vital part of such a report will be to look not just at minimal ridership and fleet growth, but to consider what happens if service improves at a substantial rate. Oddly, there is provision for this in the streetcar fleet plan, but not in the bus plan.

The 15-year Capital Improvement Plan includes construction of a collision centre and heavy overhaul facility for the bus fleet. This would release space now used at Hillcrest allowing it to be repurposed as a new streetcar shops and depot. The engine shops now at Hillcrest would become obsolete with the migration to an all-electric bus fleet.

 

16 thoughts on “TTC 2019 Fleet and Capacity Plans Part II: Streetcars and Buses

  1. So, are the ALRVs essentially all retired at this point? Are there no plans to use any of them at all this year?

    Steve: As I write this, none of them is in service, and I will be surprised if they get out again. There are enough Flexitys that the few remaining ALRV runs scheduled can be covered by the new cars.

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  2. Would it not be possible to retain 20-30 of the “best” CLRVs to handle even one route? ….just to take the pressure off for a year or two? Are they in such rough shape that they couldn’t hold out long enough to be of any use? Thanks for all the analysis you provide!

    Steve: If you look at the CLRV reliability chart in my recent article about the TTC Board Meeting, you will see that there is a huge drop in reliability for CLRVs in Dec. 2017 through Feb. 2018. That chart only measures failures that result in service delays of five minutes or more, never mind cases where cars simply do not get out of the yard.

    I can see the CLRV fleet surviving to late 2019, but unless we have a balmy winter, not beyond. Moreover, the TTC would make a call on schedule designs for January in early October at the latest, and so it’s not as if they can change their mind at the last minute. As an example, the last-minute decision by the City to defer the work at King-Queen-Roncesvalles required schedule changes both for the streetcar operations and at Mount Dennis garage that would have provided the replacement shuttle services. This took place on very short notice with staff working over a weekend so that operators could sign up the revised schedules.

    Don’t forget that Dundas is likely to come back to streetcar operation once the Toronto Water project finishes later this year. Bathurst seems to be on again, off again, and I have not heard anything definitive about plans for it next winter. There will be a track construction project in the fall at Queen & Kingston Road that will cause the east end of the 501 to be bused, but once that’s done, the only thing blocking full streetcar operation over the winter is the availability of cars. 2020 brings a few projects that will cause bus replacements, notably the KQR project, but to some extent that will overlap the summer period when bus requirements are below their winter peak.

    A related question will be just how hard up the TTC is for buses for any proposed service improvements. As long as Council starves them for funding, that problem is self-limiting.

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  3. The following comment was left in another thread by J Graham on March 12, 2019. In anticipation of this article, I saved it for publication here. The comment has been trimmed to remove speculation about car allocations to routes as more up to date info appears in my article.

    That will be a key report – the fleet plan. Having only ordered 204 “new” cars there will be just enough vehicles to do 1:1 ridership replacement. The new car count is at 132 delivered, less 6 not active, 2 “unknown” due to flash flooding, and 3 in “testing” phase – so about 121 active, ready to roll cars. We are getting close to the point that we could have LFLRV’s on all routes, if it wasn’t for spares, repairs and training cars!

    [Snip here]

    Logically the TTC needs more cars. The deferment of the extra 60 cars will be harmful to the system, ridership and hopefully somebody’s political career. Better to order 100 – that would allow 261 working cars and 43 spares. TTC would then have enough to provide decent service on the existing routes.

    We can hope that the deferment of the additional cars is due to TTC management waiting and watching Bombardier’s delivery performance on the last of the original order. They could also be waiting and watching for better “mean Distance Between Failures” performance, before committing. Allowing Bombardier to finish production and not ordering would be very costly. Any other source for additional cars would have a long lead and require a different set of spares. No cheaper time to order than while production is still running – keep these decent manufacturing jobs here in Ontario.

    But with the top brass at the TTC preferring to retire the legacy ALRV and CLRV cars prior to “winter 2020” and orders for additional streetcars deferred/delayed, one wonders if it is time to use the Rail Fan signal and call on Save Our Streetcars to ride again. Without a solid plan to build the streetcar fleet to meet ridership demand, some routes will stay bus-tituted and as infrastructure wears out, possibly become abandoned in favour of buses. Toronto has had a long and fruitful history of streetcars, do not let it die.

    Steve: For the record, it was the “Streetcars For Toronto Committee”.

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  4. In retrospect, was it a mistake to have gotten rid of Wychwood? Could the property be re-bought from the city at some future date and a Wychwood 2.0 carbarn be built (incorporating the existing heritage building)?

    Steve: I agree that it was a shame to lose St. Clair carhouse when we did, but it took a long time (longer than expected) for the idea of a growing fleet needing a new carhouse to be part of TTC thinking.

    The changes needed at Wychwood to service high floor cars would not be kind to the existing interior, let alone whatever added structures might appear outside (compare to Roncesvalles). I think they are better off recycling Harvey Shops. This also has the advantage of continuing an existing industrial use rather than trying to re-establish one within a residential neighbourhood.

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  5. Did the TTC keep any couplers when they were removed from the CLRV’s? I wonder if the TTC can dress the last running CLRV as it originally was on its retirement day.

    Steve: I don’t know. Maybe others reading this comment can illuminate the situation. Those couplers were removed a very, very long time ago.

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  6. This needs to be brought to the attention of the TTC board and Toronto City Council. Even when the TTC receives all 204 new Flexity streetcars from Bombardier, there still won’t be enough vehicles to cover all streetcar lines, so they may need to use some of the 20 to 30 CLRVs available (depending on their condition) and supplement some with buses as well or else there may be a service fleet shortage on some routes during peak hours. Now that the 501 Queen route is getting the new Flexity streetcars, I was told it will take well into the summer to have the entire line switched over to the new vehicles, when the 501 is done, which route will be next in line for new Flexity streetcars? Will it be the 505 Dundas, 506 College/Carlton and 511 Bathurst routes? We all know that most ALRVs (the TTC’s old two-section articulated streetcars) are now retired from service and will be completely retired – one way or another – later in 2019. It’s suspected that CLRVs are here to stay for a while longer, given that the 506 has not received the new Flexity streetcars yet (not even one) which is going to be one of the last routes to get them. What do you think everybody?

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  7. It sounds like they are looking, in expanding the fleet, to possibly convert at least one or two routes beyond the Waterfront projects, to streetcar operation. I wonder what routes they may consider. Of course, thinking that the extra cars would be used to boost service on current routes is foolish….

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  8. I’m sure this probably has been address somewhere, but I’d rather get it out my system. Can TTC not use a former Bus garage, Davenport, Danforth, Lansdowne, temporarily to address the lack of space after McNicoll opens? Even if its just light storage? Or even a space to lease out for a short time?

    Steve: Davenport is too small, and is not structurally sound even for some light uses. There is a project to do some rebuilding mainly for office space. The garage was not built for standard sized buses. Danforth is about to be partly redeveloped for a new police station. Lansdowne has just been given over to housing on the east side, and will be used on the west side by Metrolinx as a staging area for the Davenport Diamond project. None of them have fuelling facilities.

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  9. I keep returning to this point, but a settlement of the Bombardier dispute in cars could put 6-12 cars in play (depending on deemed value per car and an estimate of the “5%” liquidated damages). Not a lot but would absorb the impact of the welding rebuild and produce relatively known good (at the 15K MDBF level, at any rate) cars. I feel like on one hand the beancounters would prefer hard cash, and on the other hand the procurement folks would like a bigger order to dangle at Alstom and others. In the meantime, operations are writing reports predicting the need for >204 streetcars and the dream of C/ALRVs soldiering on is being crushed by reality.

    It’s difficult to see TTC being excited about Flexities on the 505, given how they “solved” the dwell time issue on 504 by redirecting operator breaks to Springhurst and Distillery, and the same platform issues at Broadview and presumably Dundas West. CLRVs once the streetcar option reopens, and buses once the CLRV option closes?

    There has been so much chopping and changing of the 502/503 equipment, routing and service hours that it hardly seems to matter what equipment gets chosen. Would there really be that much uproar if that route too also saw permanent switch to buses?

    I am a bit worried about the potential for a Hillcrest rebuild into a streetcar division for massive cost explosion in comparison with a relative greenfield site, with streetcars getting blamed for that expense including relocation of the former uses which may have happened either way. It’s a shame that Lambton Yard is so busy lately (so busy that Flexities have been sitting in yards for days waiting for a slot on the TTC spur) as a slice of it might have been viable as a streetcar yard in conjunction with a small extension of 512. The industrial lands between Old Weston Road/Union Street and the Georgetown South corridor might also have worked – removing the Old Weston trackage, even if in a non-operational state, might end up a short sighted move!

    One thing that did intrigue me was the mention that Obico had the potential to store multiple modes. Do they mean subway cars and buses … or possibly subways and a streetcar facility? The advent of e-buses might make co-locating streetcar and bus storage (if not maintenance) viable in some respects.

    Steve: I believe the original idea for co-location was for GO trains and the subway as GO already owns the Obico sub.

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  10. Is there going to be a Beaches Streetcar Parade in Queen St E at Easter? Is there a ALRV that could run? Do the Peter Witt and PCC 4500 still run? This may be the last year too for trolley pole operation before full switch to pantographs.

    Steve: Yes, the Easter Parade will include everything except an ALRV.

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  11. Before, they wanted 204 new streetcars, we said ‘yes’. Then, they wanted 60 more new streetcars, we said ‘may be’ and we were genuinely considering it. Now, they want 100 more new streetcars for a total of 304. At some point, we have to say that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH and that there are other parts of the city, region, province, and country who need funding as well.

    Steve: Oh poor Scarborough TTC Rider, your biases are showing. Do you know that the streetcar system was basically frozen at the level of service it operated in about 1995, and improvements have come only recently with newer larger cars and supplementary bus service. 204 cars will not keep up with the backlog of demand, and we need more. There is also the new Waterfront line which is still in the cards.

    Meanwhile, the bus fleet has grown by 1/3 in the past decade, and with it service all over the suburbs. There is a new subway line to Vaughan. GO Transit expansion continues.

    You say “we” said yes. As the self-appointed spokesman for the great and powerful land of Scarborough, you are so kind and generous.

    Get off your high horse.

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  12. Have they even thought about the terminal dwell time issue for the 505? I know Paula Fletcher wants the TTC to somehow redesign Broadview to fit two flexities, but even if that happens it would only solve one end of the line. They can only avoid this for so long!

    Steve: The TTC keeps adding running time to the 504 and this causes backlogs of cars at the stations even though they are supposed to take all of their layovers at Distillery and Dufferin Loops. Dundas had running times trimmed recently, but it is still common to see three buses in Broadview Station at once thanks to bunching.

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  13. Mark Dowling said: “One thing that did intrigue me was the mention that Obico had the potential to store multiple modes. Do they mean subway cars and buses … or possibly subways and a streetcar facility? The advent of e-buses might make co-locating streetcar and bus storage (if not maintenance) viable in some respects.”

    The problem with using Obico as a streetcar barn is that it’s currently too far removed from the streetcar network. At bare minimum, you would have to first convert the 44 Kipling South to a streetcar route just so that you would have a connection with Obico without having a lot of non-revenue track.

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  14. New streetcar seating layout is very awkward to say. I wonder if designer ever took ride in any streetcar. I doubt that. I am very upset that this is what we are stuck with for decades to come. I am so upset that I would like to see chief designer punished so that we has to take ride, every day in his new design. Now that we have more new cars on the tracks I choose to skip getting into new car if I see old car approaching. Everyone that I talked too hates it. I will make citation of the article in Chronicle Journal:

    “The chief interior designers should know that commuters would rather stand than sit on one of the little quads on the new streetcars. Yes, if a person boards and nobody is sitting beside the window, of course, she or he takes a seat. Yes, if a second person enters and the only choice is facing a seat, opposite, but not into the face and knees of a fellow passenger, OK. Acceptable. But by the time a third passenger steps inside and looks for a seat, she or he will stand instead.”

    So people choose to stand instead of sit and face another person. Also, seats are very high for average person. Not for me, but it is funny watching people with legs dangling.

    I am very sad about this and I do not think anything can be done at this point. My wish is that whoever, from the politicians, do not see issue with this be for speed to take streetcar ride at least once a day.

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  15. The seating layout is the way it is on the new streetcars be due they are low floor and the wheels stick up through the sections where they are. In order to have a decent number of seats, they’re configured the way they are. It’s the same with low floor buses. When you lower the height of the vehicle you still need to make room for the wheels and other equipment that would normally be underneath the floor.

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