On Tuesday, May 25, 2021, the TTC will hold a special meeting to confirm that it will purchase the full 60 additional streetcars proposed in their 2020 Fleet Procurement Strategy and Plan. 13 of these cars are already on order thanks to funding from the City of Toronto, and the remainder will come thanks to recently announced funding from the provincial and federal governments.
The project budget includes a placeholder amount of $100 million for the proposed renovation of Harvey Shops at Hillcrest as a small carhouse for about 25 cars. The remainder of the 264-car fleet will fit within existing carhouses at Leslie, Roncesvalles and Russell once renovations are complete at the two older sites.
The costs will be shared among all three governments as shown below:
Updated May 22, 2021:
The TTC’s Interim CFO, Josie La Vita, commented:
As part of their year end process, the City annually reviews its accounts. There was funding left in a reserve dedicated to TYSSE that had not been fully utilized. The reserve can only be used for TYSSE purposes. By applying those reserve funds to TYSSE expenses this frees up the debt that was being used to fund those costs and now can be used to fund other expenditures.Source: Email from Stuart Green, TTC Senior Communications Advisor
Based on the January 2020 level of service on 512 St. Clair (20 cars), that route would use all of the cars proposed for storage at Hillcrest. The project estimate does not include any allowance for the dead-head time that will be saved with a yard much closer to the route than today, and this should be shown as an offsetting saving to the capital cost.
With a fleet of 264 cars and a target spare factor of 18 percent, there should be 224 cars available for service. In January 2020, the peak streetcar service was only 142 cars, partly because the first third of the Flexity fleet is going through a major overhaul to correct manufacturing defects. The change will represent an increase of almost 60 percent in the available fleet. Now all the TTC needs is riders to fill these cars, and operators to drive them.
Although there have been proposals for reconfigured streetcar routes in the past, there is nothing definite on that score. A related issue is the timing of the Waterfront East and Broadview streetcar extensions for which a completion date keeps drifting into the future.
The TTC estimates that this change will also release 50 buses that can return to that network. More buses run on streetcar routes today (about 70 at peak), but that is due to construction projects which tend to occur during periods when the full bus fleet is not required (summer schedules).
I think it’s supposed to be Tuesday, May 24, 2021.
Steve: Actually it’s May 25, so we were both wrong. I have fixed the article. May 21 is today, of course.
Is there enough yard space for additional streetcars beyond this order? Such as for new waterfront lines.
To your knowledge, is this the first time in TTC history that streetcars have been purchased without a specific plan for some of them?
Does this order mean a greater chance for the line across the top of the CNE, or a Coxwell revival?
Steve: Actually there have been plans for service improvements and some route changes in “before” times. The link across the top of the CNE was in the detailed design phase, but has been put on hold thanks to the Ontario Line’s station at Exhibition. What I am really waiting for on Waterfront West is design work on the Dufferin to Colbourne Lodge segment thaht also includes some redesign of the road layout near Sunnyside.
Coxwell? Not a chance. The loop at Coxwell Station is far too small. Waterfront East is far more important.
$100,000,000 for Hillcrest shops update/modification. This much money must be for more than 20 streetcars fleet for St.Clair. Will it include future overhaul capability for all the fleet?
You mention dead-head savings for St.Clair cars. Are they still storing cars on Vaughan Rd. between rush hours? Dead-heading (without riders) is wasteful but typical TTC method. I see it daily with buses going in or out of service with no riders. Wearing out the tires is all this accomplishes. Pending riders stand on the street and watch this waste. It should be reduced or eliminated. Use the KISS method.
What about basing Bathurst Cars at Hillcrest? Would this be possible? What if only rush hour extras were assigned to Hillcrest? That way deadheading could be eliminated for part of the Bathurst fleet. Cars could be in service to/from Hillcrest. Extension of rush hour extras could be between Bloor and St. Clair West at zero cost for infrastructure since tracks are in place for St.Clair service.
Steve: It’s a placeholder amount pending a detailed estimate. There is only room for about 25 cars at Hillcrest, and St. Clair took 20 cars at peak pre-pandemic. Add in 3 or 4 spares and that’s everything with nothing left over for Bathurst.
Buses dead head to garages so that they can take non-standard routes and don’t burn up time serving stops. The trade off is with paying ops to be in service longer. As for streetcars, they are supposed to run in service, but some ops don’t.
Service between St. Clair and Bloor is not exactly in big demand, especially on the shoulder peaks when the carhouse trips occur.
Major overhauls will occur at Leslie which is built for the job.
Certainly in the past, streetcars running off-route in or out of service would still carry passengers. So St. Clair cars would pick up/drop off on Bathurst, and whatever other streets they use to get to the carhouse.
Recent nostalgia: one of my last CLRV rides was out of Bathurst station. We turned onto College eastbound. I believe it was going out of service via Carlton.
Way back nostalgia: riding a tour tram Peter Witt from its downtown route to Wychwood and St. Clair. Quite some gear whine climbing the Bathurst hill.
As far as bus routes go, some runs do continue in service on their regular route until some short turn point where they head off to the garage.
I can’t imagine that we’ll see streetcars into Coxwell station – but it’s not the Coxwell station loop that’s the issue. Lots of ways to fix that, with the city owning the parking lot to the south of the station.
(though I wish they’d build a simple pedestrian walkway along the east side – or better yet an entrance from the station mezzanine to the parking lot)
Sorry for going off topic, but is there anywhere I can read about the proposed or considered “redesign of the road layout near Sunnyside”? What is or was planned or considered?
Steve: I have created a page to hold various documents related to earlier studies about Waterfront West.
Too early for any plans/track diagrams for the Hillcrest conversion? Also, I believe you mentioned in a earlier post, the TTC was looking at property at Gunns loop as a possible storage site.
Steve: Too early for that. There have been preliminary ideas, but nothing definite. It also depends on other works they might do at the same time such as repurposing Davenport Garage.
Gunns Loop does not make sense, and it was never something I might have suggested. Have you looked at it recently? It is not surrounded by empty land any more.
Here’s a potential thought regarding St Clair service. I know in the past when there was talk of Transit City and the route along with Jane that the St Clair service would be extended, but what about running the route to Jane station? My guess would be that it needs 4-5 extra cars but it could also allow for more bus route modifications in the area. I also remember reading something and I will try to find it again, but it was a potential streetcar network redesign. I recall seeing a bunch of the routes being cut in length, for service reliability, and also to have more or less service in certain areas based on ridership.
Also, do you think the city would put down more tracks in some areas to allow new routes? Or to service different areas?
Steve: The idea of extending the St. Clair line westward was tied in with the proposed Jane LRT in Transit City. Even if that line is built, it will be standard gauge and will not be able to interoperate with St. Clair. Moreover the south end of the line, if it is built at all, would likely go underground as Jane is too narrow for a streetcar right-of-way.
I have not seen or heard any plans to cut route lengths, and the idea that this would be done for “reliability” is pure hogwash. This may well have been a scheme floating around when they thought they would be short of cars.
Is there a possibility of “repurposing Davenport Garage”?
i.e relocating it’s services or further condensing it’s portion of the site so that the “Hillcrest Barn” portion of the site can be expanded to accommodate more vehicles?
I always thought it would be more efficient to have the 509, 510, and 511 lines in the same ‘house’ as the 512, particularly in terms of dead heading.
Steve: Davenport Garage is not very big. There was talk of converting it to office space or to a TTC museum. The whole of Harvey Shops will probably not be repurposed, only the eastern half, because some of its existing functions will remain. The sliver of property to the north is not very wide particularly in the context of storing cars in a north-south direction. There is no way to fit the 509-510-511 fleets into that site. Something to remember too is that Hillcrest will remain important for the future electric bus fleet as it is a major support site for electric equipment. It will be years before the need to maintain diesels vanishes, and even then there are still body repairs and maintenance regardless of propulsion technology. It’s not as if Hillcrest is just sitting there unused.
Hillcrest is a crowded property. I just looked at it on Google Earth maps and surprised at how little open land remains. Long LRV streetcars need lots of rail that is for sure. $100,000,000 to rebuild one building seems excessive considering its square footage would pretty well be the same. Might be better to spend one hundred million dollars elsewhere.
I vote for reopening Wychwood! One original car barn remains and ought to be sufficient for routine maintenance. Vacant land to the south could be for relocation of dog park etc. Replace several tracks for overnight storage. Capacity for say, 60 cars! St.Clair and Bathurst routes at a minimum even if service extended westward on St.Clair as well as extending streetcar service north on Bathurst to St.Clair West Subway station and Wychwood. For sure its cost should be less than one hundred million dollars.
Steve: There is more going on at Hillcrest than just creating a new carhouse, but the project is bundled for funding purposes. There was a study a few years ago that looked at repurposing various pieces of land, some for office space to repatriate functions now in rented quarters elsewhere. Also, only about half of the Harvey Shops building will become the new carhouse.
Wychwood is no longer available because it has been transformed to a park and community centre.
Is the per-unit cost of 4604 — 4663 significantly greater than the per unit cost of 4400-4603? (will their serial numbers of the new vehicles be 4604-4663?)
Steve: This is tricky. The total authorized amount for the streetcars (separate from work at Hillcrest) is $468-million. That’s $7.8-million per car. The original 204-car contract worked out to about $6.5-million per car, but there is inflation to be taken into account. In both cases, the price includes warranty and spare parts, although it will probably not include as large an allowance for training on the add-on order depending on how similar (or not) the cars are “under the covers”.
I think I commented, at the time, when a Bombardier executive whined that Bombardier had ended up losing money on Toronto’s first 204 Flexity streetcars. Boo hoo.
If that Bombardier executive’s whine was correct, and Bombardier lost money on the contract, I suspect it was not because the executives who signed the initial contract, submitted a mistakenly low bid. If they did lose money I suspect it was due the decision to use their Mexican plant for chassis the workers at Thunder Bay claimed were unacceptable. That chassis work ended up being re-done, in Ontario. Deliveries were delayed for years. Presumably Bombardier’s costs ballooned.
Steve, do you know if this contract for the additional 60 vehicles relies on any plants outside Canada?
Steve: No, although I can check on this. The funding announcement mentioned work at their plant in La Pocatière, Qu&eacture;bec, which is also the plant where the frame repairs are being done on the first 70-odd cars that had bad Mexican frames. I think that the idea with all of the subsidy money involved is to keep work in Canada as much as possible.
I may have voiced this suspicion before, that rivalry triggered Bombardier’s Canadian Quality Control inspectors to not accept parts from Mexico, built by Mexican workers paid a significantly lower hourly wage, that were actually of acceptable quality. I suspect Canadian workers may have turned down the work of their lower paid Mexican opposite numbers to keep jobs in Canadian plants.
Steve: That is not true. I spoke on more than one occasion with the TTC’s engineer in charge of the project and he told me about some of the QC problems that were caught before cars even left Mexico. Basically it was an untrained workforce on top of bad project management by Bombardier.
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Further to my last comment… If Bombardier had been able to honour its original delivery schedule, and we had exercised the clause that allowed us to add 60 vehicles to our original order, at the original price, those vehicles would all be operational now, wouldn’t they? I was riding a new vehicle that passed 4603, when it was undergoing its acceptance trials.
Steve: The add-on price is based on the original price plus inflation.
Am I remembering correctly – did a debt-ridden Bombardier sell off Bombardier’s Rail Division to some other large firm recently? If so, do the new owners have smarter high level management?
Steve: The new owners are Alstom, a very reputable firm in a wide product range and good management.
In 2013 Bombardier was one of the World’s largest manufacturers of trains, LRVs and streetcars. It seemed to me that they had grown so large under the philosophy of “If you can’t beat them, buy them” – and had gone into more debt to buy competitors, like the Mexican competitor that built the Mexican plant that Ontario workers claimed supplied unacceptable parts.
Bombardier ended up controlling the designs of several low-floor LRVs that were very similar to the Flexity design. It was my impression they tried to maintain the capability to manufacture those rivals to the Flexity, just in case the transit agencies that had ordered those LRVs wanted more of them.
I think the Cityrunner was one of those basically redundant designs Bombardier ended up controlling.
I read that after their purchasing binge over 75 percent of Bombardier’s Rail Division’s manufacturing facilities, and over 75 percent of the Rail Division’s executives, were outside of North America, and this was one of the reasons the Flexity Outlook construction was poorly managed.
It was my impression that Bombardier wanted to maintain the ability to restart the production lines for the now redundant designs it acquired from its former competitors because they did not want to say, “if you are ordering new vehicles, buy our new Flexity vehicles, they are just as good as the older vehicles we sold you.” I suspect they feared those transit agencies would say, “If Bombardier is trying to sell us a new design, not duplicates of the proven design we previously purchased, we might as well consider the competing designs from Combino and Seimens.”
I suspect Bombardier built chassis for the TTC’s Flexity vehicles in Mexico, as part of a strategy to trickle enough work through all their plants to maintain a cadre of skilled workers in case the transit agencies local to those plants asked them to start up the production lines for the vehicles those plants were originally built to manufacture. Just like (some) Canadian politicians will favour local manufacturing jobs in Canada, presumably Mexican and European politicians favour jobs in their jurisdictions.
Steve: Bombardier grew by acquisition, but really did not digest what they got well, and many of the pieces continued with their own products and management. Bombardier Transportation was headquartered in Berlin, and Thunder Bay was an outpost. The Canadian management was a revolving door. One of their weak points, and this goes back a few generations of subway cars, was the integration of parts and technologies from multiple sources, The Flexity started out as a European design, modified for Toronto, and built in plants that had never worked on this sort of thing before. It’s no surprise there were problems.
Since the cars have arrived, I have heard about ongoing issues, but not just with the vehicles. TTC Streetcar equipment management is not in the best of shape and some of our problems with reliability are “own goals”.
1993, wow. Is it too cynical of me to ask whether this is Toronto’s route that’s been planned the longest, is still officially being considered, and hasn’t been built yet?
Steve: I think that the DRL holds that record!
I recently passed by Russell Carhouse and it appears as though the three westernmost storage tracks have been removed. Are those tracks being re-laid? (and/or am I mistaken re: removal)
Also, are the heritage cars still on site there?
(Admittedly this is a topic-adjacent inquiry)
Steve: The TTC is building a new noise wall along the west side of the yard, and is also going to rebuild the yard tracks. As for the heritage fleet, I’m not sure where it is, but I am sure other regular readers can enlighten us.