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TTC Previews Our New Streetcars

Media and politicians explore the first full-size test vehicle from Toronto's new streetcar fleet.


If you’ve been following Toronto’s transit saga then you know at least one thing: progress in the decision-making department is notoriously slow. But there is a glimmer of good news: the new TTC streetcars are well on their way to becoming part of our transit reality.

We got a first sense of how the streetcars would feel almost a year ago when we toured a partial model—which already made it clear the new form would be a sleek re-envisioning of the classic-era vehicles. We then glimpsed the real thing when a test vehicle was spotted gliding over CPR Lambton Yard in September. And today, the TTC officially invited the press to step inside for a better look.

Considerable excitement hung in the air at the TTC Harvey Shop. Besides being surrounded by four generations of streetcars, including the now full-length main attraction, TTC
officials had brought its transit celebs along for the show: Chair Karen Stintz (Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence), provincial Minister of Transportation Bob Chiarelli (Ottawa West-Nepean), and Bruce McCuaig, president and CEO of Metrolinx.

Notable by his absence: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Notable by his presence: Peter Van Loan, leader of the government in the House of Commons (York-Simcoe), who was very glad to show up at the photo op even though the federal government contributed no new money to the streetcar project. (On the books they are contributing $108 million via the portion of the gas tax they give to the municipality. That is money we would have gotten anyway, however, so it represents no actual commitment to the project.) Stintz, still smiling, made a pointed joke about how she hoped the next time Van Loan came to an event it would be with a nice big cheque—perhaps for the downtown relief line?

Though we’ve already been introduced to many of the streetcars’ new features, some are worth highlighting again. The most noticeable is just how much bigger the new vehicles are: about twice as long as the ones we’re used to. There are fewer seats and more standing room, and a facing-seat configuration means we might all be chatting more on our morning commutes.

Key is the new Presto fare payment system, which will include open payment options—by credit and debit cards, and by mobile devices, as well as the Presto fare cards. Crucially, this will allow for all-door loading and hopefully cut down on the amount of time vehicles need to spend at each stop. Also crucial: the new low-floor design, which will make it much easier for people using wheelchairs and other mobility aids to board and exit. (With such accommodation now possible, one can only wonder what the future holds for Wheel-Trans. When we questioned Karen Stintz about this, however, she insisted that both services will coexist, though Wheel-Trans service is expected to be scaled back over time as the main service becomes more accessible.)

A couple of other features: currently the vehicle interiors don’t have ad panels, and the original plan was to have the new streetcars be ad-free. We’d be surprised if they ended up that way, given concerns about funding and lost advertising revenue, but it’s not yet clear how ads might be integrated into the new design. Riders who hate summer stickiness will be glad to ride on streetcars with air conditioning; those of use who like open windows are out of luck.

Some planning work still needs to be done before we’ll know exactly how service will change along the streetcar routes. A few stops will have to go, Stintz explained, since the new streetcars are twice as long as the old ones—long enough that with the current stop locations, the front of the new streetcar will be at one stop and the rear will be quite close to another. The TTC will also be making curb cuts at stops where they don’t currently have them, to improve accessibility.

When the streetcars roll out, after a few months of testing, it will be one whole route at a time. There’s not yet a final decision on which route will be first, but in September, TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said it would “very likely” be the Spadina 510.

The words “next generation” were tossed around quite a bit at this conference and, though other aspects of our transit system are still in need of a solid overhaul, it is clear that Toronto can still make progress when it wants to—and let’s face it; we do that in style.




CORRECTION: 12:40 PM Wheel-Trans will be scaled back as the main TTC service becomes more accessible, but it will not be phased out as we originally wrote, and we have corrected a mis-identification in one image caption.

Comments

  • http://twitter.com/KenGreig Ken Greig

    “Do not pass open doors”. It looks like the doors slide sideways when opening. How can a motorist tell when the doors are open? Looking forward to the new lower streetcars.

    • Anonymous

      Looks like there’s a red warning light on the back of the streetcar when the doors are open

    • bmk

      Do you not see the red LEDs?

      • MJ

        And how do you see the back of the car if you’re next to it?

        • Anonymous

          There appear to be lights over the doors as well.

        • OgtheDim

          And why are you next to it if it is stopping?

          • Anonymous

            Because it’s 80 feet long and there’s a lane next to it?

          • OgtheDim

            So when it stops, you do to. What’s the problem?

          • J

            Stop and wait every time it stops, and hold up traffic, even when it’s the driver getting out for a starbucks?

          • tc1355

            The problem is the safety of a person getting of the street car is reduced. The warning sign should be closed to the door as well. If the person inside get off fast assuming no cars will pass, the car passing by might not be able to stop. Of course its the car’s fault and he will be punished. But its an accident that can be minimized. Put a sign near the door, what is the problem?, unless there is one already. :)

    • Anonymous

      The pictograph will light up as well, on the rear right corner of the new vehicle.

    • Steve Munro

      Although they were not turned on during the media event, there is an LED strip on the back edge of every door. It will be lit up to signal that there is an open door.

  • Anonymous

    One note about services like Wheel Trans: they’re also used by the fragile elderly, who can’t negotiate the streets, curbs, ice and snow safely. While the easy-loading streetcars will make it much easier for young able-bodied people in wheelchairs to use the TTC, a frail 95 year old with a walker will still need a subsidized and specialized service.

    • http://www.facebook.com/paullloydjohnson Paul Lloyd Johnson

      That’s what the built in extendable ramps are for?

      • Anonymous

        Wheel-Trans is used by people in wheelchairs, but not *only* by people in wheelchairs. My mother has MS and is in a motorized wheelchair, but my father has congestive heart failure and uses a walker. However he can only walk about 20 paces before sitting down. Both use a service like Wheel Trans — as do lots of fragile elderly people who can walk, but not well enough to navigate city streets and subway stations. There will still be a need for Wheel Trans — even when all buses and streetcars are accessible. The accessible system will make things much easier for lots of people in the city (including parents with strollers and people with shopping carts) but it won’t completely replace Wheel-Trans.

        All it takes is a wrongful death lawsuit from the family of one fragile granny who fell on the bus to make Wheel-Trans worth the money for the city.

        • http://www.facebook.com/paullloydjohnson Paul Lloyd Johnson

          I agree that some people will still need Wheel-Trans but for a majority of people and not just young disable people, these street cars will do just fine.

          • Anonymous

            But streetcars do not go everywhere…and too many subway stations are still inaccessible. Yes this will help, but until whole system is accessible WheelTrans will still be needed. And even then, some will always need the door to door service it provides.

    • Anonymous

      Yet the blind don’t get WheelTrans service, and they have even less ability to know when it’s safe to walk out to a streetcar. Double standards?

      • Anonymous

        I don’t think the problem is that the 95 year old with a walker can’t know when it’s safe to walk out to a streetcar: I think the problem is that they can’t get there in time.

        • Anonymous

          Ah, so they get WheelTrans to speed things up for regular TTC riders – fair enough. But why can’t blind people get to use WheelTrans on safety grounds?

          • Anonymous

            I’m not arguing that it’s to speed up service for the able-bodied: just that not all people with mobility issues will be able to use the streetcars even if they are easy-loading. Wheel-Trans or some similar door-to-door service will still be necessary, and I hope they don’t cut it completely.

      • Anonymous

        The blind seem to manage in every other facet of public life just fine, including crossing intersections that don’t have those beep-boop/cheep-cheep sounds, why would they suddenly be in danger at streetcar stops?

        • jane

          what if a person recently became blind ? If blind person wants to use wheeltrans, i think they should be allowed. Choice should be given. If you and I can travel with our eyes closed for few days in TTC then you could argue they will do fine.

      • Anonymous

        Doesn’t seem to be a problem with the current streetcars, and those have steps. It’s because of blind riders that the TTC finally has automated stop announcements.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neville-Ross/100002343524258 Neville Ross

      Actually, since most of the buses and subways are equipped to handle handicapped passengers, and the stations are being improved to handle same, when the streetcars are fully replaced with these new ones, I don’t think that many people will be using Wheel-Trans that much, since the transit system will become nearly converted for others to use to the fullest of its ability.

      • Anonymous

        if you take a look at the 18 replies to my first comment, you’ll see that we’ve discussed that. there will still be a need for door to door service.

  • theZube

    I believe Spacing highlighted this year that the King streetcar was the busiest route. Why not start there I wonder?

    • Anonymous

      I’m not privy to the TTC’s internal deliberations, but often new
      technology is implemented first on quieter routes specifically so that
      any glitches can be worked out, before it is unrolled in the most
      demanding, high-volume locations.

    • Anonymous

      I would presume that stops along the Spadina route are already spaced out and that they were designed to be accessible for wheelchairs and other mobility devices.

    • http://twitter.com/larrylarry Laurence Lui

      The platform work underway on Spadina is being done to accommodate the new streetcars — the route is hardly a quiet route either, with streetcars running every 2 minutes at peak times. The new cars will allow for better spacing, better service reliability, and a good route to test things like off-board fare collection, all-door boarding, but it a somewhat controlled environment.

    • http://twitter.com/larrylarry Laurence Lui

      The platform work underway on Spadina is being done to accommodate the new streetcars — the route is hardly a quiet route either, with streetcars running every 2 minutes at peak times. The new cars will allow for better spacing, better service reliability, and a good route to test things like off-board fare collection, all-door boarding, but it a somewhat controlled environment.

    • Steve Munro

      Spadina is likely to be the first route because it is busy, but also short. It would take too long to wait for enough cars to be delivered to convert King.

  • http://davidvg.com/ David van Geest

    While I’m all for transit expansion and streetcar upgrades, I question the decision to make the new streetcars so long. Seems like it’s a decision driven by the desire for lower operating costs (longer streetcars = fewer streetcars = fewer drivers to pay). Reduced frequency of service and increased conflict between streetcars and car traffic is a hefty price to pay for this….

    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?

    • http://twitter.com/larrylarry Laurence Lui

      Longer streetcars = more capacity, which yes, does reduce the number of streetcars; however, in some instances, streetcars come *too* frequently, making it easy for cars to bunch up and difficult to use things like signal priority.

      I agree that motorists may become more agitated by the longer streetcars – perhaps we should be pushing for more dedicated runningways for streetcars in our downtown core.

      • http://davidvg.com/ David van Geest

        True enough. If the new design helps with bunching and makes the streetcars more regular, I’m OK with a slight decrease in frequency of service.

        I would love to see certain routes or portions thereof closed to motor traffic… I don’t really see it happening though. Unless they have a concrete plan to deal with increased motorist/streetcar conflict, longer streetcars seems like a poor decision.

        But, maybe they’ve thought about this and it will be fine. I just want to know that somebody thought about it!

    • http://twitter.com/larrylarry Laurence Lui

      Longer streetcars = more capacity, which yes, does reduce the number of streetcars; however, in some instances, streetcars come *too* frequently, making it easy for cars to bunch up and difficult to use things like signal priority.

      I agree that motorists may become more agitated by the longer streetcars – perhaps we should be pushing for more dedicated runningways for streetcars in our downtown core.

    • Guest

      This thing carriers 160 people! That’s 115 cars! How much road space do 115 cars eat up? Fuck the cars!

      • http://davidvg.com/ David van Geest

        Well sure, but people who drive downtown vote too. This thing won’t succeed if motorists are up in arms about it and give Rob Ford another mandate to ditch the streetcars….

        • Anonymous

          I think at this point any move to ditch streetcars is a non-starter, considering how much money we’ve sunk into it (the new vehicles will already be in service by the time the next election comes). If anything, it will give more weight to arguments to build more rights-of-way for streetcars.

          • http://davidvg.com/ David van Geest

            Perhaps. I just hope it doesn’t add fuel to the motorists vs. transit riders fire. More support for building rights-of-way is the best-case scenario, but I’m afraid of the worst-case scenario (whatever that is… you’re probably right that ditching streetcars is not a possible worse-case scenario).

          • Nico

            The longer street cars are made to take more people, AND it will be faster for people to come on and off. Cars slow street cars down, but also the amount of time it takes to load people on and off, with the extra doors and presto machines, streetcars will move faster

        • vampchick21

          Not all of the people who drive downtown vote in Toronto elections. A good chunk of them are driving in from their homes in the 905. So no, their ‘voice’ won’t count for much vote-wise. And frankly, motorists have to wise up and realize that they are not the only ones using the roads, and roads were never meant solely for cars (see – history of roads in human civilization). Maybe a few of them should, I don’t know, carpool or take transit?

        • Anonymous

          The people that drive downtown should drive less, not more. Also, they need to not think that they are the lords and ladies of the city and that their cars are the only vehicles that are important. Let them visit New York and other similar cities for a while, and find out about how the rest of the world deals with no cars being allowed in the main downtown areas.

  • ttc rider

    This trend of TTC vehicles (be they subways or streetcars) with more standing room and less sitting room is just plain bad.
    A newer, bigger streetcar will stay backed up behind 5 others just like the older ones do..

    • Anonymous

      An occupied seat takes the space of 2-3 standing people. It’s either that or more vehicles (and drivers) more frequently (and a hefty fare increase to cover it).

  • Anonymous

    I don’t like the facing seats. Who wants to look at other people?

    • Anonymous

      The face-to-face seats are located over the wheel-wells. Being low-floor, the wheels have to protrude inside, hence the placing of the face-to-face seats over the wheels. On the old streetcars, one had to step up several steps to the level floor which was over the wheels.

      • Anonymous

        This will also make it impossible for perverts to do whatever it is they like to do to ladies on streetcars.

    • i’ll stand

      I thought the facing seats were an old-fashioned design that was being phased out (in other cities) because it was understood that it is awful to sit knocking knees with your neighbor and tiresome to keep apologizing as you trip and crawl over passengers to get in or out of a window seat.
      Otherwise, I’m sure it’ll be a nice new ride.

    • http://twitter.com/NhTammi Tammi Nh

      They have face-to-face seats on the O-Train in Ottawa. It’s quite pleasant, actually; though a lot of folks put their feet up on the seats across from them, which is a bother.

  • Anonymous

    I like the bogie skirts, should reduce some of the noise from the wheels. Too bad the old streetcars didn’t have bogie skirts.

    Wonder how long before the “new streetcar” smell goes away? Hope to be able to “smell” the new streetcars soon on the road.

  • Anonymous

    Nice to see Mike Del Grande dressed for the occasion (last pic).

    • Anonymous

      Suits are gravy.

    • Anonymous

      MDG: service with a scowl.

  • Anonymous

    From image #7: “The new driver’s seat … will be completely separate from the customers. So will the driver, who will be in an enclosed area.”

    So the driver’s seat will be separate from the customers, and so will the driver? Am I missing something, or does this not make sense?

    • Anonymous

      The driver will be in a compartment in the ceiling, interacting with the seat and controls with a broom handle and twine fed through a series of pulleys.

      • J

        Which interestingly is only a lateral move in terms of required skill for streetcar drivers.

  • OgtheDim

    Where’s the Mayor…….oh forgot……a football game instead of his court case.

    • Michelle

      oh, it’s so easy to “follow” the crowd and bash OUR Mayor (and others in general), but does it make you feel better about YOURSELF?

      • Guest

        Yes. Yes it does.

        • Ben

          Yes. Yes you are a loser.

  • Raven

    How many SUV-style baby strollers and/or bundle buggies can get on these streetcars until the aisles get all clogged up?

    Also if the drivers have their own cabs, what happens if a passenger has a question?

    • Anonymous

      With all door loading this won’t be much of a problem.

  • Roland Butta

    New layout of the cars aside…damn, does Karen Stintz have a rockin’ body or what…

  • Anonymous

    Nice to see some basically off-the-shelf technology being used instead of something custom (looking at you Scarborough RT/CLRV/ALRV). The size is nice too. I do worry about the frequency of service on Dundas, though. Especially at night.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neville-Ross/100002343524258 Neville Ross

      There’s nothing wrong with designing equipment/vehicles/tools to suit the situations of people, organizations, cities, provinces/sates, or nations; the problem is when said objects don’t work, as in the case of the Scarborough RT-then it’s bad. But most of the time, it is good policy to not assume that ‘one size fits all’ when designing something for others to use.

      • Anonymous

        Who says I am assuming? Proven, standard technology is generally more likely to work, and be maintainable well into the future, than something unique and custom. The RT cars (and CRLV/ALRV) are examples at one end of the spectrum, the hexagon GO cars examples at the other.

  • Anonymous

    The people of the city have spoken loud and clear. They want subways folks. They want subways, subways, subways. They couldn’t have been clearer. They want subways. They couldn’t say it. People hate the St. Clair. They hate these streetcars. You can call them what they want. People want subways folks. They want subways, subways.
    They don’t want these damned streetcars blocking up our city. That’s what they don’t want. Support the people of this city that want subways. Subways they want.

    • Anonymous

      Northern wuz Robbed.

    • J

      Truth in parody.

  • jen

    Do the people that designed this car even take the streetcar? Imagine a typical rush hour. Sitting face to face. The seats are right in the middle of everything. People with seats will feel like assholes for sitting when everyone else is standing. As a TTC streetcar commuter, I take it at least 2x a day and am not a fan of this layout. Hope I am proven wrong

    • Anonymous

      The seats are at the edges – it’s standing room that’s right in the middle. People don’t feel guilt at being seated on the new subway trains or the buses – why would they on the new streetcars?

      • Anonymous

        Because they’re all guilty of riding on streetcars and clogging up our streets. Get outta my way!

        • http://www.facebook.com/paullloydjohnson Paul Lloyd Johnson

          Get outta your car!

  • nameless poser

    Wow. They look great! Are they underground streetcars that won’t get stuck in traffic like the old streetcars? Cuz if not, who cares. We need Subways. Subways Subways Subways Subways!!!!

    • Anonymous

      Rob was informed they’re not streetcars, they’re tunnel-boring machines, so he signed off on it just before skipping out for the big game.

    • Anonymous

      Got the money, money, money for these new subways? Then put up, put up, put up, or shut up, shut up, shut up.

  • Kevin W. Clark

    Technology is awesome in these new cars and the outside looks pretty slick but I find it funny that they still can’t find better looking seat fabric. Not higher quality just better looking.

    • Anonymous

      Some scatter cushions and a strategically placed fern could help with that.

      • Anonymous

        And really why not chandeliers? They and some ferns and scatter cushions would add a great deal of class to the new streetcars, the gentle swaying the chandeliers would provide for some interesting lighting as well. It would make taking the streetcar in Toronto a much more “magical” experience thats for sure. Perhaps the back end could just be a large bed like cushion for people to lay down on after a long day at work, even some stacked hammocks would be great and likely not take up any more room per person. I know I sure would like to lay down on my trip home after a long day at work.

  • Anonymous

    Narrow, skinny seats with cheap fabric – budget design, high cost. No place for obese, fat ass citizens. Useless in peak times. Well, TTC screwed up again!

  • Lee Zamparo

    All door boarding, open payment systems, *bicycle* storage? Have I awoken in a different city?

  • Anonymous

    I know this is an older post but yet again the TTC is making seating for very short people only like with the seats that face each other in these streetcars. I’m 6’3″, that’s not freakishly tall by any means but already I cannot use about 1/3 of the seats on the new split level buses that have forward facing seats in the back since its physically impossible for me to fit into them because of how close together they are.

    With these facing each other seats it looks like I’d have my knees in my chin to fit into them. I understand the need to do such things but I really wish the TTC would develop a campaign, or label certain seats as being for people of a certain height. If, as happens too often on the buses, shorter people take up all the seats that I could possibly fir into I end up standing despite there being many seats for shorter people available. I have arthritis in my spine, hips, knees, and feet, getting a seat makes a TTC trip a lot less physically painful for me. It really annoys me to see shorter people leaving seats they could easily fit into empty while taking up the fewer seats that people of my height could fit into. On bad days I have to let several buses pass before one comes along where I can get a seat since its just too painful for me to stand on a bumpy bus some days. Of course going to work I have no choice but I live near the end of the bus line so can usually get a seat, unless of course the ones I can fit into are taken up by short people who could easily fit into the many empty seats that are totally unusuable for people of my height.

    I’m sure many shorter people aren’t even aware that taller people cannot fit into so many of the seats on the TTCs more accessible vehicles. This is where some posters or stickers saying something like, “please save these seats for people over 6′ tall” or some such thing would at least make people aware of the problem and hopefully use the seats that only shorter people can fit into instead. I know considering how polite TTC riders are that would work for certain, okay of course not but at least it’d make people aware of the problem of seating for taller people and perhaps some shorter people would make more use of the seats that taller people cannot possibly fit into. Some improvement would be better than no improvement.

    • Anonymous

      For what it’s worth, I’m 6’2″ and when I visited the mock-up that was on display at Hillcrest in November 2011, the facing seats didn’t seem cramped.

      • Anonymous

        I hope you’re right, I guess it will depend largely on the sizes of the 4 people using those seats. I haven’t been on one yet so really can;t say but in the photo the floor looks awfully close to the seat level.

        • Anonymous

          Pretty much all the photos are inaccurate in terms of spatial proportions, as they’ve all been stretched vertically for some reason.

          • Andrew Louis

            Howdy! It’s the photographer here.

            It’s just the result of a shooting with a wide angle lens — no “artificial” stretching.

            In tight settings like this, you can either capture a small area and maintain normal-looking perspective or you can capture a wider area of the scene at the expense of proportions.

          • Anonymous

            Good to know. You didn’t happen to try out the seats, did you?

          • Andrew Louis

            I didn’t, unfortunately. Did look tight though.

  • rrj

    WORST.IDEA.EVER