The TTC unveiled its new subway trains earlier today, in a press conference at Downsview station that had bemused commuters wandering in from the other side of the platform, where the existing subway was in regular service. Mayor David Miller joined TTC Chair Adam Giambrone and representatives of the federal and provincial governments to show off the new cars, and told the throng of reporters and subway riders that the new subway trains represented “the continued revitalization of the lifeblood of Toronto, which is the Toronto Transit Commission.”
The six-car vehicles come complete with such technological bells and whistles as voice-activated passenger alarms, closed-circuit surveillance cameras, and LED screens that display service updates. Recorded announcements tell riders which side doors will open on, and blinking route maps show the train’s next stop and direction of travel.
“It’s really something else,” said subway driving instructor Kevin Brown, who helped test the new vehicles and whose father drove the first G-class subway train from Eglinton to Union Station in 1954. “You’re going ahead twenty or twenty-five years with this thing.”
One thing you won’t find on the new trains are walls separating the cars. The interior space is connected by wide gangways, making the entire train—all four-hundred-and-fifty feet, two inches of it—one giant hallway. Also missing are the centre poles, replaced by a set of ceiling-mounted grips. The point of all this is to make room for a lot more people—one hundred per car. That’s an eight to ten percent increase over current trains.
For TTC lines already packed beyond capacity, fitting more people in each car is one of the chief ways to keep up with ridership growth. The other is Automatic Train Control, a new signaling system meant to let the TTC safely pack subway tunnels with more trains running in tighter sync. Miller expressed high hopes that the new trains would ease congestion on the TTC’s most overcrowded line. “When they’re fully implemented with Automatic Train Control, the capacity of the Yonge-University line will probably increase by thirty percent,” he said.
Accessibility is another major focus of the design. The roomy interiors include more dedicated spaces for wheelchairs, whose locations are indicated by blue lights on the trains’ exteriors. Carol Anne Monet, a member and former chair of the TTC’s fifteen-member Advisory Committee on Accessible Transportation, talked to us about ACAT’s role in planning the accessibility features: “It was great, we made suggestions for people with hearing impairments and with visual impairments…and it’s great to see all those suggestions incorporated.”
Monet voiced some disappointment that the new trains would not roll out on the Bloor-Danforth or Sheppard subway lines. “It would be better,” she said. “Of course, the cost is prohibitive.”
Riders on the Yonge-University-Spadina line will be able to catch glimpses of the new trains over the next two months as they undergo testing, but TTC representatives say they won’t be in regular service likely until some time around March 2011. If you can’t wait that long, you may be able to step on board at an “open house” that the TTC plans to hold sometime in the next two weeks.
Photos by Christopher Drost/Torontoist.