Farewell To The CLRVs

The TTC has issued a press release with details of the final runs of the CLRV streetcars.

After four decades of service to Toronto commuters, the TTC’s Canadian Light Rail Vehicle (CLRV) streetcars will make their last run on Sun., Dec. 29 – 42 years to the day the first vehicle arrived on TTC property.

Transit enthusiasts will have a chance to win a spot on the final ride.

From Nov. 24 through Dec. 28, CLRVs will operate on 511 Bathurst seven days a week with additional CLRVs deployed as extra service on 501 Queen on weekends only between Roncesvalles Ave. and Greenwood Ave.

On Dec. 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., two CLRVs will run as free service between Bathurst St. and Greenwood Ave. to commemorate the final day of service. The final ride, which is for contest winners, runs from Wolseley Loop at Bathurst St. to Russell Carhouse at Greenwood Ave.

Those wishing to be part of the historic last ride must enter the contest through the TTC’s Facebook and Instagram pages from Dec. 2 to Dec. 6. Ten winners from each platform will be selected at random and each will be awarded a seat for them and a guest on the final CLRV ride on the afternoon of Dec. 29.

The first CLRV arrived on property on Dec. 29, 1977 and entered service on Sept. 30, 1979 on the 507 Long Branch route. The final CLRV was delivered in 1982. In total, the TTC purchased 196 CLRV streetcars, supplemented in 1988 by an additional 52 Articulated Light Rail Vehicles (ALRVs), which were nearly double the length of the CLRV. The last of the ALRV fleet was officially retired on Sept. 2, 2019.

The fleet is being replaced by 204 Bombardier low-floor streetcars. The retirement of the CLRVs means that every TTC bus and streetcar route will be serviced by accessible vehicles as of Dec. 30.

29 thoughts on “Farewell To The CLRVs

  1. I believe that’s about 17 years longer than subway trains? Wow! They really managed to run those things for a long time.

    Well… the CLRVs and myself started and leave Toronto around the same time!

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  2. They should really run more than 2 during the day. If they saw that the 2 ALRVs were uncomfortably crowded on retirement day, why wouldn’t they continue to run 6 CLRVs on the 29th too, regardless of there being a contest.

    As of today, 4207 remains the last ALRV in Toronto. 4204 is already gone to the HCRR and the remaining ALRVs on TTC property have all be removed over the past couple days. This includes ALRVs 4221, 4228, 4230 and 4249 which have all been stripped and sent for scrap already. Unfortunately, there is a rumour going around on CPTDB that 4207 may not be restored by the TTC due to issues with its bellows. I’m not sure of the seriousness or validity of that rumour though.

    Steve you mention that as of Dec 30th all bus/streetcar routes will be officially accessible. I’ve noticed that both in TTC service summaries and on their website, they don’t declare the 502/503 or 505 as accessible, yet it’s reasonable to say that they will never be served by inaccessible vehicles again. In fact for the 505, the TTC website under “route description” explicitly states that no accessible vehicles run on the route despite accessible buses running the route for almost 2 years. Is there any reason for this or is it more poor communication on the part of the TTC?

    Steve: That mention in my post is from the official press release. As for the website, it is notoriously out of date on many things. It’s a part of “customer relations” they have not yet mastered, even though they managed to get an award some years back for the site. That was very much the sort of bogus award developers apply for and often have little competition because there are so many categories. Various industries are awash with such things.

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  3. The contest barring entry is really disappointing and unfair, considering how accessible every other last run has been. Everyone knows that the last run of the CLRV is going to draw interest, the TTC should bite the bullet and deal with that as it is rather an artificially trying to restrict access. The capacity they’ve chosen, too, is astoundingly low – they could double the number of spots and it still wouldn’t come close to the overall crushload capacity of the CLRV.

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  4. I remembered that in 2018 the TTC planned to retire all of the ALRVs (the old bendy cars) by January 2019, which it did seem to have almost happened. According to sources the ALRVs last day in regularly scheduled service was on January 19, 2019, (exactly 31 years ago that day when they first entered service) before being sidelined for the winter months. None of the ALRVs have been seen in regular service since then, except for a couple of days in May of that same year if anyone can recall. It was not until September 2 of that same year, when the last of the ALRVs were formally/officially retired from service for good after they’re last runs.

    In 2015, the TTC considered to extend the life of the ALRVs by up to an additional 10 years until the additional 60 streetcars were to arrive in the city by then, but in the end, despite these efforts, unfortunately they failed to improve reliability.

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  5. It is a shame that the TTC is only opening the final run to contest winners. Nonetheless, I hope to ride on one of the final runs.

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  6. Hi Steve. Why did they say that some of the older CLRV and/or ALRV streetcars were to stick around until around 2024 Steve when all of the 204 new Bombardier low-level cars were suppose to all be in service between by December and January 2020? Was there a glitch in some of the previous TTC reports? Were they suppose to retire all of the older-model streetcars by the time all of the 204 new low-level cars have arrived in Toronto as they had said in previous years?

    Will the 204 new low-level streetcars be enough to provide service on all streetcar lines or are we still going to have a streetcar shortage?

    So just to be clear, as it was in previous years, the plan was to always have all of the 4000-4199 and 4200-4251 cars done from revenue service when all of the 204 new low-level streetcars arrive, is that correct?

    So just to be clear Steve, how many streetcars are required to provide service on all streetcar lines across the City of Toronto?

    Steve: Once upon a time, the old cars were intended to stay longer, but a few years ago it was clear that this was not going to work out. The new cars should all have been here some time ago, and when Bombardier says that they are “on time” this is relative to a much revised schedule. By the time the old cars were to be retired, we would be getting a follow-on order of new ones. That was the original plan.

    How many cars do we need? That depends on the assumptions going in. I refer you to my March 2019 article on the subject. Note that since that was written, some routes have already had additional requirements because of schedule changes and these are not reflected in the numbers shown there.

    There is supposed to be a new fleet plan coming out in December as part of the 5 and 10 year service strategy paper. I will comment more when I see what the TTC proposes.

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  7. By New Year’s Eve, 2019, the last CLRVs will be retired, and the last route to operate mainly with CLRVS is “511 Bathurst”. It’s been fun riding these CLRVs – and their double-length articulated cousins the ALRVs which were retired earlier this year – to get to and from the Canadian National Exhibition (the “Ex”) for an unspecified number of years. One thing I will never forget is the high-spirited excitement of the passengers riding the CLRV (and ALRV) streetcars to the Canadian National Exhibition. These streetcars will be gone, but not forgotten.

    The retirement of these older streetcars will leave the TTC with a streetcar shortage, even with the completion of the order of the new low-floor Flexity Outlooks by year’s end (December 31, 2019). This means that some routes will be either continuing with or switching to temporary bus replacement (or “shuttle bus operation”); “502 Downtowner” and “503 Kingston Road Tripper” routes to continue operating with buses. Besides a streetcar shortage, track work (construction) is another reason for temporary bus replacement and free up streetcars to be redeployed. Which streetcar routes will we see track work being done during the next year (2020)?

    Steve: I already answered this question, although the info is preliminary because the schedule has not been nailed down yet:

    • Queensway from Roncesvalles to Parkside (scheduled for 2019, deferred, might be postponed to 2021)
    • Dundas and Howard Park from College to High Park Loop
    • Victoria from Dundas Square to Queen
    • Church and Wellington from King to Yonge

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  8. Surface Route Aficionado: As stated above the last CLRVs are retiring next month, and there will be a special final farewell run on December 29, 2019, to commemorate the official last day of regular CLRV streetcar service. (the catch being this time, its only open to the contest winners). Its final run comes exactly 42 years to the day when the first CLRVs were delivered to the TTC to undergo extensive testing prior to entering service two years later. Hopefully the TTC will save anywhere from 1 to 3 CLRVs for special occasions or private charters joining with other retired TTC vehicles (i.e. Peter Witt, PCC and most recently, the ALRV) after retirement, and possibly use them as summer weekend extras between May and September. From January 20, 2019, onward, (except for a couple of days in May of 2019) none of the ALRVs have been operating in regular service due to major mechanical issues before their official/formal retirement just a few months ago with a special final farewell trip on September 2, 2019. Even when after the CLRVs retire next month, we’re still going to have a streetcar shortage, with some routes being supplemented by accessible buses during rush hour alongside with the low-floor Flexity streetcars.

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  9. Surface Route Aficionado: Please note the 502 Downtowner service (which operates from Victoria Park and Kingston Road in the east travels along Kingston Road, and Queen streets to Queen and University or somewhere west of there in the west) has been suspended indefinitely and the 503 Kingston Road took the place of the 502 service schedules instead. (Though the 503 goes from Victoria Park and Kingston Road in the east and travels along Kingston Road, Queen, King, Church and Richmond streets towards York in the west and back).

    Steve: The west end loop of the 503 is via King, York, Richmond, University to King. It does not operate on Church Street.

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  10. It is a shame that the extra Flexity option was not exercised. Anyway, now that the Flexity assembly operations and supply chains are being dismantled, Bombardier will no longer be able to use economies of scale to provide any extra streetcars for cheaper which means that other competitors will get a fairer shot but two different vehicle types will create problems with regards to custom garages, spare parts, etc and I am wondering if all these difficulties won’t make the case for buses stronger? Some streetcar routes like Bathurst and Dundas are usually bus operations anyway.

    Steve: The TTC has had multiple vehicle types in all of its fleets since it was created in 1921. This does not seem to be a problem for the bus fleet, for example.

    By the way, you might like to try posting under something approaching your real name.

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  11. Steve: The TTC has had multiple vehicle types in all of its fleets since it was created in 1921. This does not seem to be a problem for the bus fleet, for example.

    But until recently, you were saying that it would be a problem in explaining your support as to why Bombardier should provide additional streetcars. Buying any further streetcars from Bombardier is no longer politically feasible given the countless screw-ups of this Quebec based company. Let us invite Siemens with German science and engineering being the best in the world.

    Steve: No I was not saying that as a reason not to buy from another vendor. There was a time when Bombardier might have provided an add-on order quickly, leaving aside reliability issues which ruined any chance of their getting more business.

    As for German expertise, the Flexitys built in Europe work just fine. Bombardier has admitted that they screwed up in underestimating what would be needed to port the experience of their European work force to workers in Canada and Mexico.

    And, oh yes, Bombardier Transportation is headquartered in Berlin. Anyone who thinks this is still a Canadian company must be a snowmobile fan.

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  12. Did they accelerate the retirement? Back in October 2018, a TTC official told me at Leslie Barns that the last of the old bendy ALRV streetcars would be retired by the middle of 2019 (which it did happen on September 2, 2019) and that the last of the CLRVs would be retired by somewhere in between the years of 2023 to 2025, was that ever planned or was this information incorrect? So why the push to stop use of the CLRVs on December 29, 2019 instead? Because some got rebuilt a few years ago and could last for a few more years even when all the 204 new cars arrive to supplement peak service on some routes, despite that they’re not accessible, until they become impractical to maintain.

    Watch the YouTube video for more.

    Steve: The plan to keep the CLRVs out to 2024 was based on (a) the requirement that all non-accessible cars be retired by 2025 and (b) the assumption that the cars would actually remain reliably that long. The commentary on the sound track of that video reflects an earlier plan, and after bad problems with reliability during the cold winter, the TTC decided to retire all of the CLRVs this year. One can argue whether it would have been better to try to keep the CLRVs alive as opposed to using buses to fill in on some routes, but that’s the path the TTC took. The management is not exactly pro-streetcar, but recognizes that the busy routes really cannot be served well by buses.

    Even TTCriders a public transit advocacy group stated last year, “We’re all waiting for Bombardier, but we still won’t have enough streetcars to replace inaccessible ones”. Is that correct? [See Twitter thread]

    Steve: Yes, that is correct and is hardly news. The problem has always been that the plans originally assumed an add-on streetcar order, but that has not materialized. Even the 60 cars contemplated would not be enough to handle latent demand, projected growth and new lines (waterfront west and east).

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  13. I think that buying from Bombardier is okay as long as these are not made in Canada. Canada is okay at building cars and buses but if you want to buy trains, planes, ships, or 5G equipment – then let us face it that we have to look to places like Germany, Japan, and China as these things are too advanced for building in Canada.

    Steve: Canada has built lots of things very well. The issue with Bombardier as a company is that it chose to grow by acquiring new product lines (aircraft) and expanding its manufacturing base (buying rail car manufacturers), but consistently failed to integrate its capabilities and fell short on its construction management for the streetcar order. If Canada has a problem, it is a business community that wants to expand profits without building a real base on which to do so preferring to milk existing assets while there is something left in them.

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  14. Hi Steve, when did the CLRVs get the horns installed? Some people have said that there is/was no such thing as streetcar horns on the TTC and only buses and subways had horns on them. These air horns on the CLRVs will be missed, and I was able to produce a streetcar horn with my mouth before. Should the TTC ban the use of streetcar horns in some areas between 7pm and 7am daily except for urgent situations due to noise complaints, the streetcar horns can be very loud, horrible, stressful and irritating. Did they change to tone in streetcar horns back in 2012, the ones prior to that were not that irritating, but the ones up until this point were more irritating than ever. Here is the other one.

    Steve: The CLRVs were retrofitted with horns that came off of retired subway cars. They varied in loudness.

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  15. Given the latent demand, do we have any sense of what the plan is here?

    Will buses be used to fill in for the next 10-15 years? Will they order more streetcars?

    Steve: I am waiting to see what the TTC proposes in its 5-10 year service plan to be revealed next month. The big problem is the huge backlog of capital spending requirements and the lack of money to pay for them.

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  16. AJ voiced regret that the TTC did not exercise the option to add 60 Flexity vehicles to the order. Yeah, but that option had to be exercised before Bombardier delivered the first 60 vehicles. I think AJ is forgetting the undertainty over whether Bombardier would be able to deliver the initial set of vehicles. I don’t think it was feasible to risk an additional 60 vehicles, at that time.

    Presumably Bombardier would be happy to agree to sell us an additional 60, or 120 vehicles, at a higher 2021 unit price.

    I didn’t comment about it at the time, but about a month ago a Bombardier executive said Bombardier lost money on the The TTC Flexity order. Even if this were true, I am surprised he said it. No one is going to be sympathetic.

    I think that the TTC should probably buy the additional streetcars from Bombardier, whose design is already capable of the TTC’s legacy tight curves – even at 2021 unit costs.

    Ottawa seems to be less than happy with their LRT vehicles.

    The Flexities make me happy, every time I get on one. But I think they have weakness they will share with the Crosstown’s Flexity Freedom vehicles. Couldn’t they have more doors, or wider doors?

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  17. The Flexity design allows for longer end sections, more overhang with double width doors, and longer suspended sections which can have 2 sets of double doors. Unfortunately you need at least 25 m minimum turn radius. These cars are usually around 150′ long versus the Flexity’s 100′.

    The Ottawa LRTs are more like this. The ones on Eglinton could have been built like this but the TTC, who originally designed the line, wanted standardization as much as possible.

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  18. Steve,

    With the end in sight for the CLRVs, I am reminded of a photo you took of a CLRV in operation and you used the word “trundles” to describe the vehicle when it was in operation. I thought to myself “that is the PERFECT word to describe the C/ALRVs when they’re in operation”.

    When you see a Flexity, does the word “trundle” come to mind? If not, what’s the new “in operation” word that you would use to describe the new fleet?

    You also called the C/ALRV fleet “tanks on rails”. Spot on.

    I’m going to miss these beauties.

    Cheers!

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  19. Hi Steve,

    Do you know any chance which CLRV streetcar units will be the last to operate on the final day?

    Steve: No.

    Also, I was wondering if you knew how many rides warrants purchasing a monthly metropass, assuming that I am paying an adult fare ($3.25) and want to purchase an adult metropass? I generally take the TTC two times a day, five days a week, coming in and out of Toronto (I’m travelling to and from Vaughan using YRT).

    Steve: This depends on whether you are paying a cash fare of $3.25 or the “token” rate via Presto of $3.10. Also if you buy a monthly pass on a pay-as-you-go basis, it is $151.15, but if you have a 12-month subscription, it’s $138.55. Divide the value of the pass by the fare you would otherwise pay to get the break-even point.

    If you are taking only 40 trips a month, you are below the break even rate only for the combination of an annual pass and the assumption that you would otherwise pay the cash fare. If we assume you would pay $3.10, then the break even for an annual pass is 45 trips, and for a monthly pass is 49 trips.

    This is basic math. Take the pass price and divide by the fare you would otherwise pay.

    By the way, note that if you pay cash, you do not get the benefit of the two-hour fare under Presto and so any extra travel you might do enroute could cost you more. With a pass, you have unlimited riding.

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  20. Hi Steve,

    Do you know if the Flexity issues on Queen Street will affect the CLRV Sunday specials? I heard that the main (Queen Street) part of the route passed inspection.

    Steve: I asked TTC’s Stuart Green on Twitter, and he confirmed that the CLRVs will NOT go out until the line reopens.

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  21. Flexity streetcars returned to 501 Queen on Saturday morning, and CLRVs have returned to 506 Calrton (according to NextBus). I suspect that many of the damaged Flexity cars are still out of service awaiting replacement parts as there are 11 CLRVs but only 2 Flexity cars on 506 Carlton. According to the TTC service summary for the period beginning November 24, 2019, there should be no CLRVs scheduled for 506.

    So ironically, the CLRVs are now replacing their Flexity replacements. Perhaps in 2020, the TTC should retain what is left of its CLRV fleet for standby duty while it accumulates a bigger supply of Flexity emergency brake system parts.

    Steve: It is ironic that there are more CLRVs in service on November 30 than on any recent day, and moreover that the CLRVs are saving the TTC from Flexity problems just as the PCCs saved them from CLRV problem 40 years ago.

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  22. I spotted the odd CLRV running on 501 and 504 today, in addition to the dozen or so on 506. They cars on 501 and 504 are not showing up on NextBus however.

    Steve: Running as extras, they will have run numbers that don’t correspond to anything in the schedule. This is a Nextbus “feature”. Broken as designed, and a long-standing problem.

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  23. What website or app do you use to track where the CLRV’s are in real time? Every time I go to whereismystreetcar, it labels the vehicles as buses and PCC’s, which is just confusing.

    Steve: On a desktop, I use Nextbus and call up full screen maps of routes. Here is 506 Carlton. The non-Flexity vehicles do not have an accessibility symbol on them, although this is also the case for the AM peak bus trippers, but the vehicle symbols are clickable for their numbers.

    This does not work on a handheld device. There you can use Transsee which has both a text list and a clickable vehicle map.

    If you want to know where the CLRVs are regardless of route, you can use this Transsee link, although it depends on the fact that there are so few of them still active because the command limits its output.

    TTCTracker has a display of the “Legacy Fleet” which gives a menu of vehicles showing which are active on a route, with clickable links to pull up location detail.

    I’m sure there are others and each has its advantages, quirks and disadvantages depending on the type of search you want to do. I don’t spend my time rummaging through available apps, and so this is not an exhaustive list.

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  24. What about the extra cars Metrolinx ordered from Alstom for the Crosstown because it was worried about Bombardier delays? Could the TTC and Metrolinx get Bombardier to change some of its Crosstown vehicles to the downtown type, since otherwise Metrolinx will have more streetcars than it knows what to do with? Or did Metrolinx ever figure out a solution for that (maybe use the excess cars on Hurontario)?

    Steve: The cars Alstom is building will get used somewhere, but not on the downtown system. Many things would have to change, and a big problem would be the minimum curve radius. If the TTC is going to order more cars, they should be based on a design that was engineered for a street railway system with TTC-like characteristics.

    All that said, the degree to which Alstom could be pliable about what it builds would depend in part on how far along they are in setting up their supply chain and manufacturing capability. In other words, how far down the road they are to a Metrolinx spec rather than a TTC spec.

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