Wednesday, January 31, 2007

TTC to consider streetcar purchase - Globe and Mail

TTC to consider streetcar purchase

JEFF GRAY

Toronto's disco-era streetcars could be on their way out as early as 2010 and replaced by sleek, new light-rail vehicles, if plans on the table at today's Toronto Transit Commission meeting are approved.

New "low-floor" streetcars, accessible to the disabled, quieter and bigger than the regular-sized vehicles in the current fleet -- now nearing 30 years old -- have long been on the TTC wish list, especially as it looks to build more streetcar routes.

For the past two years, the city's number crunchers have balked at TTC plans to shop for new streetcars, which carry a likely price tag of about $3-million to $5-million each, insisting instead on a plan to refurbish the existing fleet at a cost of $1-million a car and keep them on the rails until closer to 2020.

TTC chairman Adam Giambrone said the transit agency will present plans today to order new streetcars much sooner, but order fewer of them to keep up-front costs down. To last long enough for their replacements to arrive, most of the TTC's 196 current Canadian Light Rail Vehicles (CLRVs) would still need a lower-cost overhaul.

"It doesn't make them more expensive or cheaper," Mr. Giambrone said of the new plan. "It spreads the cash flow out. . . . It's a question of when do you write the cheque."

Mr. Giambrone said TTC and city finance officials are still going over the numbers. But he said he believes the new formula would make the multimillion-dollar purchase more palatable to the cash-strapped city.

Even if the TTC persuades the city, the transit agency will still need help from the provincial and federal governments to buy the streetcars, Mr. Giambrone said.

Unlike the controversial subway car contract handed to Bombardier last year, TTC officials have said the streetcar purchase -- worth as much as $650-million -- will be put out to tender. TTC engineers have travelled to Europe and the United States to examine new light-rail vehicles in action.

Many cities are buying new vehicles as light-rail enjoys a rebirth, especially in the United States. Germany's Siemens, Montreal-based Bombardier, and Czech-based Skoda all make low-floor, light-rail vehicles, and may be among the firms that compete for the TTC contract.

TTC officials have previously said that Skoda's cars, running in Portland, Ore., were close to meeting Toronto's requirements.

Representatives of the Czech Republic have met with at least one TTC commissioner, according to the city's voluntary lobbyist registry.

Whatever the TTC buys, the car will have to be modified to handle the Toronto system's steep Bathurst Street hill, various tight turns and the TTC's wider tracks.

The city councillors on the TTC will also discuss the transit agency's 2007 operating budget, which has a projected $33.5-million hole. Mr. Giambrone and other commissioners have said they are reluctant to consider a third consecutive fare increase to close the gap.

This is definitely exciting news, as the new light rail cars on the market are modern, sleek, and - dare I say it - sexy. Here's a sampling:

Bombardier FLEXITY family
The FLEXITY Swift was displayed in Toronto a few years back, and gained my seal of approval.



Siemens Avanto
Popular in the United States, and was selected for use in Ottawa before the project was scrapped.



Alstom Citadis
Very popular in Europe, it comes in many body styles and lengths.



Skoda Astra
These are the ones used in Portland, and are very close to meeting the TTC's requirements.



CROTRAM TMK-2200
Arguably the most sophisticated light rail vehicles in the world, and cheaper than many other models.

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12 Comments:

At 2/09/2007 1:32 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The FLEXITY Swift is sitting in the Willowbrook Yard still. :)

 
At 4/13/2007 6:44 AM , Blogger Myrtone said...

TMK 2200 is best, it has pivoting bogies, but these do not need to sweep out at great angles in curves. There are three rooms and two baths, and the rooms are longer than the baths, and a steering mechanism ensures that the bogies are either parallel to the body or least sweep out in curves. On Toronto's broad gauge tramway network, the kurzgelenkwagen construction would leave plenty of space between the wheels. Sure there is another one in production, but the CombinoPlus can consist only of one or more two section units or otherwise be subject to waving motion in curves, which may be a difficulty, but I'm not sure, note, I live in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, and I haven never been to North America.

 
At 5/19/2007 7:24 AM , Blogger Myrtone said...

Also, given the extensive bicycle culture in Toronto, might it seem a good idea for the new trams to include provision for bicycles as well as wheelchairs, prams and shopping trolleys.

 
At 12/11/2007 9:12 PM , Blogger Myrtone said...

Also, I would like the new trams to be designed for bidriectional rather than unidirectional running, and be equipped with pantograph rather than trolleypole current colletion, hand controls rather than foot controlls and task linked driver vigilance device rather than a non-temporal deadman's control.

 
At 12/11/2007 9:35 PM , Blogger Andrae Griffith said...

I would love to see TMK-2200s. I haven't been on one, but they look incredible. The streetcar is one of the city's tourist attractions, and killing two birds with one stone - wowing tourists and moving people in style and efficiently - just makes sense. Since the TTC has decided to go to a 100% low floor design, it should improve this model's chances. However, I don't know if the bidding has closed or not.

All of the mock ups that Torontonians have been shown so far have bike racks inside, and it would be a crime to cut them out of the final product.

The first batch will be uni-directional and will come with trolley poles, but TTC documents show that the trolley wire will eventually be upgraded and cars for Transit City lines will be bi-directional. TTC streetcars have always had foot controls, so I don't see this being changed. However, since the new streetcars will not have onboard fare collection, we will need something else to keep the operators from getting bored.

 
At 12/12/2007 7:36 AM , Blogger Myrtone said...

"The first batch will be uni-directional and will come with trolley poles, but TTC documents show that the trolley wire will eventually be upgraded and cars for Transit City lines will be bi-directional."

Why don't they just make them bidirection from the start? That way they will be able to put an end to turning loops. Also, as for tye of collector, it is possible to design overhead wires for both types of collector (as opposed to coverting the netowrk to pantograph operation section-by-section) as we have here in Melbourne over much of the network (they could have done that in the disco-era). Besides, pantograph current colletion is standard on the modern European designs.

"TTC streetcars have always had foot controls, so I don't see this being changed." It would have to, all modern trams from Europe are avalible only with handheld master controllers and not pedal controls.

 
At 12/12/2007 12:27 PM , Blogger Andrae Griffith said...

It would take years to convert the entire network to eliminate the turning loops, and the work simply couldn't be done fast enough. The first cars will begin arriving in 2010, so its loops for the foreseeable future. The ones that do come with trolley poles will be upgradeable to pantographs according to reports I've seen.

As for hand controls versus foot controls, the TTC is ordering a custom made vehicle anyway, so what the world considers as standard equipment has never factored into their equation. Besides, it will all likely be electronic anyway, so the computer probably won't care if its getting its commands from above or below the dashboard.

 
At 12/12/2007 10:04 PM , Blogger Myrtone said...

"It would take years to convert the entire network to eliminate the turning loops, and the work simply couldn't be done fast enough."

But we could install crossovers near the loops, and if the minimum radius of the turning loops is less than the rest of the network (I'm not sure, but I suspect so), and such crossovers were installed, than the newer trams would not need to negotiate such tight turns, this is an advantage to the bidirectional approach, especially for 100% (which the TTC have decided to go along with) low floor trams, where bogey movement is constrained.
"The ones that do come with trolley poles will be upgradeable to pantographs according to reports I've seen." Why not equip them with both types of collector right from the start, besides, both types of collector can use the same wires, as we've done here in Melbourne for many years. TCC engineers have traveled to US and Europe, but they didn't come here, why? They would have seen. It's like this, not all trolley wires are that straight anyway, they do still stagger but over a much greater length.
"As for hand controls versus foot controls, the TTC is ordering a custom made vehicle anyway, so what the world considers as standard equipment has never factored into their equation." What equation? The hand held master controller is as standard on new tram designs (including custom made ones), as two pedals and a steering wheel have been on road vehicles since the very early days of motoring.
"Besides, it will all likely be electronic anyway, so the computer probably won't care if its getting its commands from above or below the dashboard." Even older systems didn't "care," but there are other factors too, use hand controls frees up the footwell. The reason foot controls are almost universal on road vehicles is to keep the drivers hands free for steering. But trams drivers do not need to steer (an advantage for fixed route operation) and so trams do not need steering controls, so the hands are free for the task, so why would anyone provide foot controls on trams instead, well, I read about this, it was done on PCCs to keep the drivers hands free for ticketing. But this will no longer be an issue with the elimination of onboard fare collection, this no longer places any demand on control design. As far as I know, one ALRV already has hand controls (I read about this).

"All of the mock ups that Torontonians have been shown so far have bike racks inside, and it would be a crime to cut them out of the final product."

I didn't realise that.

 
At 12/12/2007 11:50 PM , Blogger Andrae Griffith said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 12/12/2007 11:50 PM , Blogger Andrae Griffith said...

Re: Crossovers vs Loops

At the rate things are completed in Toronto, the cars will have been here for 3 years before all the loops are completed. Having said that, there is no reason why a double-ended car could not be used right now. Just because it has a second cab doesn't mean you have to use it.

Re: Trolley Poles vs Pantographs

There is a big debate in the transit enthusiast community about the compatibility of the wires with pantographs. If the wires we use are the made to the same specifications to the ones you guys use, then its a no brainer. However, I suspect it isn't made to the same specifications. Minor modifications would have to occur in the tunnels, where the wire is somewhat recessed into a channel in the ceiling.

Re: Hand controls.

I guess it doesn't really matter how its controlled, provided its safe. Also, a recent episode of BBC Top Gear showed that the first car two have the layout we know today was a 1916 Cadillac Type 53. The Austin 7 copied the layout in 1922 and took the world by storm. That fills my pointless trivia quota for the day.

Also, you are correct, there is one ALRV that had hand controls and also had a pantograph. However, 4900 was a prototype and met its fate at the scrapper.

 
At 12/13/2007 2:34 AM , Blogger Myrtone said...

Re: Crossovers vs Loops.

Okay, but surely the new trams will not be added to all routes at the same time, we could install crossovers on routes as the new trams are added. Though, if even bidirectional trams still have to use the loops, they will still have to negotiate those curves, taking away one of the advantages.

Re: Trolley Poles vs Pantographs

Well, their overhead wires do look similar to ours, tunnels only make up a small part of the network anyway.

Re: Hand controls.

I would like to know whether 4900 also had driver's vigilance device?

 
At 9/26/2008 2:58 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! I am from Croatia, Zagreb :) The tram is great althought it would be great if it has more seating places and to be a little less noisy :)

 

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