Old cars getting rebuilt while new cars still in plans

What do most riders want in a streetcar?


Enough room to fit on board — for starters — and a comfortable seat if possible. Air conditioning might be nice on those hot days, but sufficient heat in winter is a must. With the TTC’s existing streetcars, these simple requests are proving a bit much to ask.


The eldest of Toronto’s current trams hit the road 30 years ago and the TTC is going to rebuild about 130 of them, extending their life by six years. As this overhaul proceeds, riders will notice a few changes, including easier boarding at the front entrance where some poles will be removed.


In the back, four seats are to be taken out. The TTC says customers have reacted positively to the few cars that already have this “more-open design.”

It’s a tradeoff similar to the planned changes on new buses — riders lose precious seats but we’ll be able to move about the back section more easily.

The rebuild won’t include new A/C units, alas, but should address unreliable heating in streetcars — a recurring problem not only for riders but the operators sitting up front. It seems only about 70 per cent of streetcars have fully working heat, although TTC superintendent Stanley Koper says, “There are no cars in revenue service without some heating.”

We may have to bundle up for a while I guess, since the overhaul program will take time and we’re still at least six years away from getting brand new light rail vehicles (LRVs).

The transit commission is to deliberate today over specific requirements for Toronto’s upcoming streetcars — behind closed doors. It’s a major decision with a great deal of variables to consider, both technical and political. Although funding has not actually been secured, this purchase is huge.

Tram manufacturers around the world are waiting to hear how much of the new LRVs must be built or assembled in Canada. After last year’s controversy over a single-source subway deal, observers will be looking closely to see if the final design requirements essentially exclude most potential bidders.

TTC engineers are asking that the new cars be entirely low-floor inside, a move some critics suggest may drive up the cost of each vehicle. Such a design would seem to rule out the streetcar models that went on display this summer at the CNE.

How the commission decides could also have a big effect on future light rail systems in Ontario.

Not only does Toronto need cars for existing TTC routes and the proposed Transit City network, but similar vehicles could make sense for new lines in the GTA and beyond.