Saturday, April 18, 2009

Nine More Days to Unveiling Which LRVs TTC Will Get

Today, the Toronto Star writes about the future of LRVs (light rail vehicles) in Toronto. It's down to two contenders: Bombardier and Siemens. They provide a handy comparison. I was looking first for made-in-Canada credentials, and it's not as easy as it looks.

Bombardier is a Canadian company, but it makes its rail cars in Austria and Germany, with its rail headquarters in Berlin. However, Tess Kalinowski writes, "It could prop up the foundering economy of Thunder Bay, where Bombardier has a plant." Siemens is a German company; it too makes their cars mostly in Austria, but it has other kinds of manufacturing plants in the GTA, and would create 200 jobs here in the GTA to build their LRVs. Toronto's jobless rate is 8.8%; Thunder Bay's 8.6%. I noticed that both companies have set up plants in the US to supply American cities.

On the credibility side, Bombardier has its LRVs in more cities than Siemens and in several big Canadian cities. And so if there were problems with Bombardier's LRVs, you'd think it'd be obvious by now.

On the design side, they will be larger, accessible, about 10 to 20% more energy efficient, bright, and huge plus, air conditioned! But what does that translate to for commuter comfort? Our accessible, energy efficient buses are claustrophobic, dark, have vertigo-inducing seats at the back (amazed no one has broken a leg trying to get down, but maybe they haven't been reported), and require arm strength to get out the back unlike the what-to-me-now-looks-like-unsurpassed-in-design diesel buses that require only body weight to get out; and rubber man abilities to get out the front when even one stroller has boarded. God, I hate those buses!

Going by photos alone, the Bombardier model looks brighter and wider, more room to move inside, especially when maneuvering past those massive strollers everyone favours these days. The Siemens, though white inside, not black like those bloody buses, looks just as claustrophobic. There are large spaces in the Bombardier model for standing room only or wheelchairs or strollers or even those lethal scooters the old geezers zip around in. (And our ostrich city councillors think the Segway would be more dangerous than those. They clearly don't use our sidewalks in certain parts of town. But I digress.)

TTC engineers have focussed on the technical aspects and require the winning contender to modify their LRVs to handle Toronto's steep hills. I blinked at that one, and then remembered how San Francisco reminded me so much of Toronto. Its steep hills are more obvious than Toronto's; but after living in Toronto so long, you stop seeing the endless hills until you have to walk up one.

I am not clear whether these LRVs will be used for the new suburban lines first or will replace the downtown streetcars first. The Spadina line especially ought to be outfitted first because the TTC cruelly broke their promise to make that line accessible when they opened it. According to the Star, the TTC currrently runs 248 Red Rockets. The initial order will be for 204 LRVs, with a possible 364 more for the entirety of Transit City (what the heck is Transit City?).  It is heartening to see the province backing up a major improvement of the TTC and the city willing to spend some capital money. I only hope that in the end, the choice will be commuter-friendly, not ideology-friendly.

8 comments:

Marg said...

All I know is new streetcars are a good idea!

Try biking up Bathurst to remind you of hills-lol!

James Bow said...

The contract that's up for grabs this month is to replace the current downtown streetcar fleet. The TTC hopes to purchase 204 LRT vehicles to replace the 248 CLRV and ALRVs that are reaching the end of (or in some cases exceeding) their 30 year design lifespan.

These new cars will likely be single-ended and _might_ operate with trolley poles (although there is some indication that the TTC is starting to retrofit its overhead wires to accept pantographs). This would be different from the Transit City LRVs which would be double-ended and feature doors on both sides of the vehicles.

However, it's generally accepted that whoever wins the contract this month will have the inside track for subsequent purchases. These include expanding the downtown fleet to cover new lines to the Portlands, and the "suburban" Transit City fleet. The advantage here is that, though the "downtown" and "suburban" fleets would be different in the way I described, you could probably still use the same parts in both vehicles.

James Bow said...

P.S. "Transit City" describes the City of Toronto initiative, launched in 2007, to establish LRT routes beneath Eglinton Avenue, on Finch West and Sheppard East, as well as possibly on Jane Street, Don Mills and in Scarborough.

The EAs are either complete or are in the process of being completed. The Sheppard East LRT is expected to break ground later this year, pending a funding announcement from the province. The province has already announced $9 billion in funding for the Finch West LRT (Don Mills to Humber College), the Eglinton LRT (Airport to Kennedy with the stretch between Keele and Leslie underground) and replacing and expanding the Scarborough RT to Malvern. These projects are expected to break ground in 2010, with completions between 2012 (Finch) and 2016 (Eglinton).

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

LOL Marg! Or that one on Yonge near York Mills!

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

James, it would make sense for the TTC to use the same overhead wire method everywhere for long-term efficiencies, but the pantograph would certainly look different!

Thanks for the info on Transit City! I get lost in all the different names politicians use for the transit projects. It really is too bad they won't fix the problems building an RT in Scarborough (instead of extending the subway) caused in transferring to the subway and are replicating the same problem on Sheppard. And I wonder what happened to the subway extension north to York U and beyond that the province set money aside for years ago.

James Bow said...

The York University/Vaughan Centre extension is currently under construction, now that funding from the province and the feds was freed up earlier this year. The major work begins next year, but they've started work now with sewer relocations around Downsview station, and land-swaps around the York University area.

As for the Scarborough RT issue, extending the subway would be too expensive, and the Scarborough Centre is a bit of an artificial transfer point. It's not where people at Kennedy want to go, but it's where the TTC has routed them with the buses. What is called for is for the subway to essentially subdivide at this point, with branches heading northeast into Malvern (via STC), north up Kennedy and east along Eglinton. None of these branches has the demand that merit a subway, but an LRT would just about cover it.

Of course, the interchange at Kennedy would have to be redesigned to improve passenger convenience, but that's part of the Scarborough RT replacement and extension project.

We're still working on the details. It's entirely possible that the Scarborough RT will be replaced with an LRT and interlined with the Eglinton LRT.

You should check up on Steve Munro's blog (http://stevemunro.ca/). He'll keep you up-to-date on transit developments in the city.

Mark Dowling said...

"Bombardier has its LRVs in more cities than Siemens and in several big Canadian cities."


Siemens has LRVs (SD360s and U2) in Calgary and Edmonton. Bombardier acquired UTDC after the current Toronto streetcars were built. That leaves Skytrain/SRT, which I suppose might be classifiable as LRVs. BBD might break the tie if you include the O-Train but Siemens were contracted to replace those before Ottawa City Council and John Baird threw it into chaos.

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

Mark: I wrote that based on The Toronto Star writing that Bombardier has LRVs in: "Vancouver's Skytrain, Montreal subway, Ottawa's O-train; refurbishing LRVs for Edmonton." And Siemens: "Its Sacramento plant makes LRVs for that city, Edmonton, Calgary..."

So I gather Bombardier and Siemens sometimes trade places (the John Baird reference sounds interesting)? And wasn't it UTDC that built the cars for the Scarborough RT?