The New Streetcars - don't act so surprisedMajor news outlets are now reporting the story, but credit must be given to wil9402 on the Canadian Public Transportation Discussion Board for reporting that only two companies have submitted bids to build the next generation of Toronto's streetcars.
One is a company from UK called TRAM Power Ltd. They have built a prototype which operated in Blackpool for a few years, but haven't really made a name for themselves until now. The other is Bombardier.
Surprisingly, Siemens did not bid on this contract, citing technological and financial reasons - but this might actually be a good thing. CBC Radio reported earlier today that Bombardier was unaware of Siemens pulling out, hinting that Canada's favorite transportation company may have lowballed their bid If that is the case, and Bombardier is awarded the contract, then the citizens of Toronto stand to gain. Of course, the TTC could re-issue the tender, but I have a feeling that it was the unique requirements of Toronto's network (or maybe the Can-Con requirements) that kept the European manufacturers from bidding.
If Bombardier is awarded the contract, the new vehicles will likely resemble their FLEXITY family of European Trams, will be 100% low floor, and will feature all-door boarding with an alternate fare payment system. Hopefully, this will take the form of the Presto smart fare card, and not some stop-gap solution while the TTC crawls on its Presto implementation. They will be uni-directional, and will only have doors on one side. The first cars will be equipped with Trolley poles, but will be upgradeable to European-style pantographs when the network is ready.
As for the cars to be used on the Transit City network, there is some confusion. Initially, the TTC had indicated that these cars would be based on the downtown cars, but would be longer, have cabs at both ends and doors on both sides. Now, there are suggestions that the Transit City cars will be based on off-the-shelf designs, making them incompatible with the downtown network. I think that this would be shortsighted, as maximizing existing maintenance facilities at TTC carhouses will save us money in the long run.
The first vehicles should appear in Toronto around 2010, around the same time as the new subway cars arrive. It should be a very interesting year for transit in Toronto.