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.