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Toronto’s New Streetcars: the TTC Answers Your Questions

Wondering which route will get them first, or about those seats that face each other? You asked, and the TTC answers.

Last week, the TTC gave us our first official look at the new streetcars that will be rolling down city streets starting in 2014. Almost immediately came the questions. How will Presto work, exactly? How will these vehicles interact with cars on the road? And what is up with those seats where people face each other?

We passed along the questions that came up most often to the TTC. The project’s vehicle engineer, Kevin Seto, and TTC spokesperson Brad Ross, have some answers—

David van Geest: I definitely don’t drive downtown, but I can plainly see that it’s hard enough to pass a streetcar as it is. Don’t longer streetcars just exacerbate the problem?

There will be fewer streetcars on the road (204 versus 247 today), and with all-door boarding, less time will be required to service stops, thereby reducing the need to overtake a streetcar. Provided everyone obeys the rules of the road, we believe streetcars and private autos can peacefully co-exist. There will be some adjustment required on everyone’s part, of course, but we, of course, would encourage everyone to leave the car at home and take public transit!

Raven: If the drivers have their own cabs, what happens if a passenger has a question?

There are intercoms for assistance in an emergency, as well as a yellow strip, much like you see on the subway. There is also a “speaking vent” in the cab door if you need to ask the operator a question. For route information, we do encourage people to take advantage of next vehicle arrival information online, the TTC trip planner on our website, by calling 416-393-INFO, or tweeting @TTChelps.

Andrew Traviss: How much space is there between the seats facing each other?

The distance is 600mm. This configuration is [in] place due to the design of a low-floor vehicle. In order to make the cars low-floor (accessible), wheel wells had to be constructed on the cars. To maximize seating, rear- and forward-facing seats were the best solution. While new to Toronto, seating arrangements like this are not uncommon in public transit operations around the world, including GO trains.

Eugene Flaksman: How will open payment be verified?

That’s a level of detail that we’ll be able to better communicate once PRESTO has completed their tests. We will, of course, need to be able to do that – and will.

Joshua Humewood: How will fare payments and transfers work after the new streetcars are rolled out but before rest of system gets Presto?

Transfers from buses or a subway station will be your proof-of-payment, as they are today. Tickets purchased from machines on board the streetcars and at our busier stops on the street will act as your proof-of-payment and transfer to other modes—bus or subway. They will be checked and verified by fare enforcement personnel.

Dylan Smith: Which route(s) will be first to carry passengers on the new vehicles?

That is still to be determined, but it will likely be the 510 Spadina line.

Bryson Gilbert: Will these fancy-shmancy sliding streetcar doors make it harder to tell (as a motorist) whether the doors are open?

The doors have red LED lights and there is an illuminated sign at the back of the streetcar that all flash to indicate the doors are open and that motorists must stop, per the Highway Traffic Act. Like all new technology, there will be education required for motorists and customers alike.


  • W. K. Lis

    Question missing: will passengers wanting to board the new streetcars have to press a button to open the doors (like elevator call buttons)?

    • Geoff Gilmour-Taylor

      I saw those on the mock-up. That’s something that concerns me from an accessibility standpoint: how are blind and vision impaired people expected to find this button (assuming it’s still there)?

      • Dinah Might


    • Anonymous

      From what I read, that will be optional depending on the time of day or stop. Busy stops, all doors opened centrally. At night, or quieter stops, push a button.

  • Esra

    Maybe it’s the angle of the shot, but those facing seats look ridiculously close. I hope this isn’t a repeat of the tightly pack seats on the buses where even I, in all my 5’6 shortness, hit my knees on the back of the next seat and need to sit at an angle.

    • laurie

      They are close! Just slightly over 2 feet apart. That’s not much.

    • Anonymous

      Imagine what I, at 6’3″, have to put up with if I want to sit on virtually any TTC vehicle. Yes I will take up two seats, thank you, because one leg has to go in the aisle and the other in front of the empty seat.

      • Anonymous

        You can ride in the bike rack.

        • Anonymous

          Never again!

      • Anonymous

        How would you have put up with it if you had traveled to other countries with the same type of streetcar?

        • Anonymous

          Generally I don’t sit on transit even if there are seats available. I sit enough at work.

    • Anonymous

      Standard for the design. They could have put outward angled seats, but that would have meant the lost of about 12 seats, with an ackward standing area.

      • Esra

        Okay, but if the seats are so close and crammed most people can’t sit in them anyway, then that ‘awkward’ standing area starts looking pretty good.

        • Anonymous

          *shrugs* it is used in other places. These cars (and the seating arrangements) are not unique by any means…

        • Kevo

          I’ve dealt with it fine on the GO Train when I’ve taken it during rush hour, even when there are large (wide and/or tall) people there. If the rich suburbanites can deal with it, I’m sure city people will be able to deal with it ;)

  • Anonymous

    How about: Why is it taking until 2014 for these to roll out if they already have some in their possession? It shouldn’t take over a year to test.

    • W Johnston

      The first few vehicles can be viewed as working prototypes. Once they are in operation, there will no doubt be some minor modifications made based on operational experience. Once the TTC signs off on the design specs after acceptance testing, only then will Bombardier go into full production of the vehicles. After an initial trickle of a few units, full production involves many units being delivered each month.

      In any case, the start of 2014 is only 14 months away.

  • Karen

    new streetcars or not, the system is the most inefficient mode of transportation ever. i would rather take my bike and i beat the streetcar downtown every time. they slow down me, traffic and the roads are constantly being ripped up to repair the tracks. is this a make work project? can you imagine the money our city waists on streetcars? and the pollution caused by of all the cars stopping behind them at every stop. there has to be a “better way”! can’t our city and the TTC come up with something like electric buses that can move from lane to lane!

    • Anonymous

      If you ride the streetcar, angry car drivers can’t kill you on your bike.

    • Paul Lloyd Johnson

      I think if you look around the world, the tendency is to reintroduce street cars, not remove them. If you don’t like the traffic, get on the street car instead.

    • Dinah Might

      Buses don’t carry nearly as many people. You’d need so many buses to maintain service that they would clog traffic WAAAAAAY more than the streetcars.

    • ferd

      I don’t think its the streetcars themselves but its the way TO uses its streetcars (in mixed traffic). Its true that other cities are adopting them, but I doubt any would be crazy enough to operate them the way TO does in mixed traffic and with stops so close together, and operating in the left lane.

    • Guest

      You must be one of the 90% of cyclists that ignore the entirety of the HTA.

      • Anonymous

        You must be one of the 90% of drivers who thinks signaling a turn is optional.

    • Anonymous

      Buses are not the answer, as they also get stuck in traffic. Less cars and more dedicated lanes for transit is. Though I do agree a bike is the default faster way in this city.

    • junctionist

      Don’t be a streetcar hater as a cyclist. You might need a streetcar in a snowstorm. People choosing progressive modes of transportation shouldn’t be disparaging other progressive forms.

      Streetcars take more people out of cars than buses. They provide more capacity than buses, so fewer buses are needed. That means less traffic and pollution. They can potentially emit no pollution if running on electricity generated through renewable sources. Streetcar tracks are only replaced every 20-30 years.

      However, you’re right that it’s easy to beat a streetcar on a bike. But then, neither cars nor streetcars get around very quickly on old Toronto streets because of the traffic caused by all the cars. Bikes are nimble and quick.

  • Anonymous

    The answer about passing longer streetcars makes no sense. If the car is longer then it is harder to pass on the right for cars or cyclists. Period. I think this is going to be a way bigger issue than the TTC lets on. I see people gunning it and that is dangerous.

    • Anonymous

      Funny how people think we are unique here…

    • Anonymous

      I hope the new streetcars will have external cameras, and we’ll soon get the dangerous drivers off the road.

    • Dinah Might

      Passing any one given streetcar will be harder, but the idea is that you won’t have to deal with as many streetcars, and when you do, they will load/unload faster so you won’t have to wait as long.

    • crackity

      Agreed. These beasts should not be operating in mixed traffic. They need their own right-of-ways (ie. Spadina, St. Clair). The TTC guy was not able to answer this question because there is no good answer – they will make the streets more dangerous for all modes of transit using them.

      • Anonymous

        Well, then obviously we need more right of ways in our corridors. I vote starting with Queen Street.

        • Neville Ross

          Except for the fact that we can’t have any of those on Queen Street, because it’s not wide enough; St. Clair and Spadina are.

          • Anonymous

            Its wide enough if we get rid of on street parking (aka Toronto’s sacred cow) and build some parking garages.

          • Anonymous

            Then Queen Street will dry up completely.

    • Kevo

      Why not go back to the original configuration – where roads were for streetcars, pedestrians, and the odd freight or person vehicle… seemed to work alright and it’ll be cheaper than making a right-of-way for the streetcar or moving tracks :)

  • David

    I’m curious about the new cars will deal with sharp turns. I’m thinking particularly of the corners at Carlton & Parliament and Parliament & Gerrard.

    • Dwight J. Seufert

      All of those articulated sections & the short bumper-to-bogies distance on the front & back make it virtually a snake – it should slink it’s way through just fine.

  • Anonymous

    Can’t wait to have these on the 510 Spadina route! Instead of having 5 short street cars lined up back to front at one stop and none anywhere else on the route, we’ll have 4 long street cars lined up back to front and none anywhere else on the route. Big win for TTC users?

  • Anonymous

    I’m going to miss opening the window to get a cool breeze.

    • Anonymous

      I’m not going to miss trying to cool myself from the window – thank-you A/C!


        Until it stops working.

        • Anonymous

          I’d rather have the A/C cooling me half the time than open windows cooling me none of the time.

        • junctionist

          Unless you get that one streetcar that does have AC: CLRV #4041.

  • GDGF

    Betcha the cost of a monthly metropass in 2014 that the “speaking vents” will all end up mysteriously blocked by paperwork, tissues, or other material within a month of the streetcars coming into operation.

  • Anonymous

    “David van Geest: I definitely don’t drive downtown, but I can plainly see that it’s hard enough to pass a streetcar as it is. Don’t longer streetcars just exacerbate the problem?”

    Can we just stop with this idea that the problem with traffic is streetcars? By nature, the problem with traffic is too many cars. The solution for too many cars is less cars. Very simple concept.

    • Anonymous

      THIS, 100%!

      Also, I disagree with the TTC bigwigs-there should be MORE streetcars, not less, since Canada has very nasty winters, and people don`t like to be waiting long for a streetcar.


    20% fewer streetcars means 20% longer waits… in the freezing cold and rain. Alas, I do not see the magical device on this new vehicle that prevents drivers clumping up three in a row.

    • Ashleigh

      Agreed. Any solution that reduces transit regularity has too many obvious fail points.

      Generally, a robust system is one of many little solutions, not one mega-solution. This works for Spanish football teams, Japanese auto manufacturing robots and network systems.

      It seems this larger street car is addressing a problem it will definitely create. Downtown building lobbies batter prepare for teeming millions huddling for warmth while they wait 47 minutes for the next mega streetcar.

  • Vladimir Estragon Sanchez

    How are these longer streetcars going to fit in Union and Spadina stations?

    • Anonymous

      One at a time.

  • cvotos

    Can I bring my bike on these new streetcars during off-peak hours?

  • Don Adams

    “I can’t wait to pass these new machines”- Rob Ford

  • Justin Gobel

    Also i think we need to change the law from “Do not pass open doors” do not Pass rear of car if any door is open.

  • Anonymous

    We need more not fewer streetcars. I realize that its cheaper to run fewer larger ones but with the increasing ridership why should every streetcar be at crush capacity for the majority of the time? More streetcars can greatly increase capacity on a line and attract more riders if it isn’t always at crush capacity. True standing on a streetcar isn’t nearly so bad as standing on a bus where you cannot risk letting go of whatever you’re holding on to while the bus is in motion while on a streetcar for the majority of the time you do not even need to hold on to anything, except on certain routes with sharp turns or sudden stops. Regardless I see these as an improvement, though I prefer the look of the existing fleet better, at least I wish they had kept the central head light, it makes spotting a coming streetcar from a distance much easier. Well I’m assuming these won;t break down so often and that they’re still capable of pushing a broken down streetcar if need be.