Archive for the ‘Light Rail Vehicles’ Category

Transit City LRVs To Be Built By Bombardier

Monday, April 12th, 2010

It was announced today by Metrolinx that the option in the TTC’s order for Light Rail Vehicles with Bombardier would  be exercised for the procurement of the Transit City fleet.

Here is the press release:

Metrolinx will be entering into formal negotiations with Bombardier Inc. to exercise the option from the replacement streetcar contract to purchase Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs).

The negotiations with Bombardier to procure LRVs are part of Metrolinx’s phased plan which is being developed for the four Light Rail Transit (LRT) projects as requested by the Province.

In June, 2009, following an open competitive procurement process, Bombardier was awarded the original contract to produce vehicles for TTC’s legacy streetcar replacement. This contract contains an option clause that provides Metrolinx with the ability to purchase additional LRVs from Bombardier for the four LRT projects.

Over the past six months, Metrolinx, with the assistance of the TTC and the international transit car expert LTK Engineering Services, evaluated its procurement alternatives. Metrolinx, with the unanimous support of its Board of Directors, concluded that entering the negotiation to exercise the option would obtain the best value for Ontario.

If the negotiations are successful, Metrolinx will announce the details of the procurement when an agreement is reached.

This announcement conveniently mentions that it is for four LRT projects under its new phased plan. This suggests that none of the four lines (Sheppard East, SRT conversion, Etobicoke-Finch West, and Eglinton-Crosstown) have been cancelled, just merely had their implementation schedules stretched out.

Transit City to use Standard Gauge Track

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

The Toronto Star reported yesterday that the TTC has agreed to build Transit City lines to standard gauge (4′-8.5″), instead of the TTC gauge (4′-10.875″) that is used on the subway and legacy streetcar lines.


Federal Funds for Streetcar Contract

Friday, June 19th, 2009

The big issue with the streetcar funding that is being announced today is that the federal government is not there to chip in one third of the total. Toronto applied for this money under the federal Infrastructure Stimulus Fund, and the feds are saying that this project does not qualify (see this Globe and Mail article for more details).

Should the federal government contribute? Yes. Should it be under the stimulus fund? No.

The federal government has a vested interest in a contract like this going to a Canadian company over a foreign company. Furthermore, the economic benefits of this contract will reach into Manitoba and Quebec, giving it a scope that is beyond the province.

That said, the city applied through the stimulus fund for this money. There were clear rules about the type of projects it was intended for, particularly for the creation of jobs in the area of the applicant. While there will be some jobs in the GTA that come directly and indirectly from this project, the overwhelming majority are not in the GTA. That is enough to disqualify the application.

There is another argument about timeline that I don’t buy. The streetcar order will continue to 2018, which is well beyond the two-year timeline of the stimulus program. I don’t accept this argument because these cars will have some special engineering work that is needed to meet the specifications of Toronto’s legacy network. It does not take much creative accounting to show that one-third of the entire cost will go into this, and this will be completed well within the two-year deadline. So, I believe this argument is bogus, but the first argument is more than enough to disqualify Toronto’s application.

There are three reasons, all relating to fairness, as to why the feds cannot bend the rules for Toronto.

The first is that 2,700 municipalities followed the rules in their application. A number of these municipalities have projects they would like to have funded but knew they did not qualify, so their applications had to exclude such projects.

The second is that anyone that has ever had to deal with Toronto City Hall over some issue, from applying for an on-street parking permit to applying for a park usage permit, knows that Toronto practically wrote the book on how to make applicants jump through hoops. If there is one little thing wrong with your application, Toronto will reject it. Why should Toronto be exempt from following others’ rules?

The third is that the federal government has offered a suggestion and a bending of one rule to them. It has been suggested that Toronto take a look at projects they were planning on spending money on in three or four years and move them up and use them to apply for stimulus funding. Then the city can use the money that they would have spent in three or four years’ time on the streetcar purchase. The federal government will allow Toronto to make this change to their application even though the May 1 deadline has passed. That seems to me to be a good way to get federal funding for the streetcar purchase.

New Streetcar Contract Expected to Receive Funding Friday

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Update: I have reworded the text, as the legacy streetcar order will still have a minimum of 25% Canadian Content, but the first order of Transit City vehicles will be 50%. You can read the economic impact report released by Bombardier here. 

It is being reported today (see the Toronto Star, the Toronto Sun, and the Globe and Mail) that an announcement will be made tomorrow (June 19) in Thunder Bay by Mayor David Miller and Premier Dalton McGuinty about funding the streetcar contract for the legacy network. It is not known at this time if the federal government will be part of this announcement, but many expect them to contribute one third of the $1.2 billion cost.

The contract for these streetcars has a 25% Canadian content requirement. In a report issued Tuesday by Bombardieron the economic impacts of the contract and the option to purchase Transit City vehicles, the Canadian content of the Transit City cars is a minimum of 50%.

Even though Transit City lines will be built to more flexible standards that would allow purchasing stock vehicles from anyone, having both the legacy streetcars and the Transit City vehicles built by the same manufacturer will save on future operating costs. Operator training will be less costly as both units will have similar, if not identical controls. Maintenance costs will be lower also because of reduced training costs but also due to shared repair facilities and spare parts storage.

The two types of vehicles will be different. Legacy streetcars have to be built to specifications that will enable their operation on the current streetcar network with tight (11 metre radius) curves, some steep grades, and the use of single-blade track switches. This involves engineering and development based on a stock model. One of the most notable changes to accommodate the specifications will be a slightly shorter car with a length of about 28 metres, compared to the 30 metre length of the cars that will be ordered for Transit City.

The other, more noticeable, differences are that the legacy streetcars will be single-ended with an operator’s position at one end only and entry/exit doors on the right side of the car only. Transit City cars will be double-ended with an operator’s position at each end and doors on both sides of the car. The legacy cars will have trolley pole power pickup as most of the legacy network is not usable with pantographs. As wiring is upgraded in the legacy network, it will become “pantograph friendly”, but there is no immediate need so this will take some time. Transit City vehicles will use pantographs from the start. For more details on poles and pantographs, and to see why the legacy network is not compatible with pans, see this page.

Smitherman Discovers the Pain of Pulling One’s Head Out of One’s Ass

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Is Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman a liar or did he really have no idea until this past week that the TTC has been looking for a replacement for its aging streetcar fleet for the past few years? Given all the consultations, the public displays earlier last year from some of the vendors, the big hullabaloo over no viable bids on the tender last fall, there are only a few viable explanations as to why one would be totally oblivious to the need for replacement vehicles for the legacy network and the need for funding it. I can only think of a few: one was in a coma, one was shut-in at home with no access to the news media, one had one’s head up one’s ass, or one really knew but just lies about it. I believe it is safe to say that the first two do not apply with Smitherman, so which of the other two is the explanation?

In this article in today’s Globe and Mail, John Barber talks about this “game” being played with public transit. I should note that Barber ties this to the vehicles for Transit City, wrongly making it sound like the funding announced April 1 for some TC lines is just for the tracks. The cost estimates for Transit City include the purchase of vehicles, as do the waterfront development plans. While the contract for replacement streetcar vehicles has the ability for it to be extended for both more legacy vehicles (for the waterfront) and for TC vehicles, the funding for the base order is currently not in place.

The need for replacement vehicles predates the initial announcement for Transit City, even though the Sheppard East LRT line may be in service before the first of the new legacy vehicles start carrying passengers. Since the need for legacy vehicles has been an issue for so long, it should come as no surprise to Smitherman and, by extension, Dalton McGuinty and the feds, that this funding is needed.

The TC vehicles will be needed sooner, but they will be “off the shelf” LRVs, not vehicles that must be specially engineered to work on Toronto’s legacy network. Since the funding for TC vehicles is part of the overall costs, they could be purchased from just about any vendor. It wouldn’t surprise me if the whole legacy streetcar replacement drags on beyond the June 27 deadline and a quick tender for TC vehicles goes out and ends up being awarded to another vendor.