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The New Red Rocket

Posted by Andrew Nguyen / August 18, 2008

The New Red RocketUnlike New York and London that have woven intricate subway systems through the heart of their cities, Toronto's transit system is still relatively young and has a lot of growing to do. Having a strong and speedy transit system is an important part of creating a better Toronto, which is less reliant on the car and more focused around public transportation.

Currently, more than 200 of our subways are over 30 years old: tattered, worn and in need of replacing. But with the extension of the Yonge-Spadina line to Vaughan and the introduction of the city's new Red Rocket, at a cost of a $499-million, the TTC is taking great strides in providing public transit to an average of 1.5 million daily commuters.

As a part of Dalton McGuinty's proposed MoveOntario2020 plan, 39 new subway trains are quickly taking shape at Bombardier's assembly plant in Thunder Bay.

Featured at this year's CNE, the metallic beasts have a sleek and modern exterior with new and subtle features that riders can look forward to in late-2009, exclusively on the Yonge-University Line.

The New Red Rocket

The interior design borrows from Hong Kong's subway system. The subway cars are connected together by an open corridor which allows commuters to walk freely from one end of the train to the other. This addition makes traveling between cars safer because it means that passengers don't have to exit the train.

Splashed with New York ingenuity, the new trains have active route maps which are conveniently equipped with LEDs that tell you the present location of the train and the direction it's traveling. (Until now, finding out what station was next always felt like a game of Clue, as drivers would announce the next station through a static-laden speaker system. Surprisingly, they have now included extremely-helpful electronic displays similar to those seen on TTC streetcars in addition to arrows identifying which pair of doors will open.)

The New Red Rocket

On each subway car, blue flashing lights on the exterior of the train point out the twelve designated wheelchair accessible areas in each subway car. These seats fold up, providing room for baby strollers, bulky bicycles and large luggage. However, my only problem with the new trains is that they kept the rock-hard seats and the distressed red fabric - all too familiar and not at all comfortable.

Lastly, there is an emphasis on safety with four closed circuit cameras, six intercoms per car, and evacuation ramps at both ends of the train. Other interesting features are the new red anti-microbial covers, on handrails, that claim to provide better sanitation.

The new subway makes me feel supercalifragilistic. But do you believe that the TTC is taking steps in the right direction? Is the new Red Rocket well thought out and is it going to make a significant improvements?

Photos by sillygwailo and R. Flores



RBeezy / August 18, 2008 at 09:50 am
Call me when they can do something about smelly commuter armpits.
A|Layton / August 18, 2008 at 09:53 am
pretty new trains are all well and good...but what does it add if the service and coverage of the transit NETWORK still is crappy and non-existant respectively.

Oh, and as for knowing which station is next being like a game of clue...use your eyes and ears. The station name is only about 400 pt font on the walls of the stations and the announcements are now made via a quite easy to here recording as per the court order issued earlier this year after the TTC was sued for not complying with accessibility laws.
J / August 18, 2008 at 09:55 am
You mean the new Rockets don't come with automatic deodorant spraying technology?
guy lafleur / August 18, 2008 at 09:58 am
wow, these look great

the first picture reminds me - why are so many of the current subway cars missing the route map over the doors? are people taking them as souvenirs?
Jer / August 18, 2008 at 10:18 am
I am not sure people care as much about pretty subway cars as increased route coverage (lets get a subway along Eglinton to the Airport and push Sheppard to Downsview Park), increased hours (last call before Last Call, c'mon), and keeping multi-ride/passes prices low and convenient. I know its about time and money - but let's keep the public informed about plans and timelines.
Chris / August 18, 2008 at 10:26 am
I wouldn't care what they looked like if my metropass didn't cost $110 a month. Montrealers pay $65 for the exact same service.
Loozrboy / August 18, 2008 at 10:35 am
What's up with that LED sign? Leave it to the TTC to put in 3 lines worth of verbiage where one word and an arrow would suffice.
Daryl / August 18, 2008 at 10:37 am
Are people really getting lost in our transit system? The reason cities like London and New York have all these fancy features is because of their complex infrastructure.

Our subway goes in a straight line... not terribly difficult.
Travis / August 18, 2008 at 10:41 am
I was just in Chicago.. Talk about a confusing as hell subway system.
W. K. Lis / August 18, 2008 at 10:47 am
About the "smelly armpits", the current fleet of subway cars ALREADY have a deodorant added to the air circulation system for just that. Not strong, but enough.
nippleholic / August 18, 2008 at 10:51 am
If you think we have rock hard seats, try sitting on the hard plastic seats of the NYC ass still hurts just thinking about it...
Malcolm Bastien / August 18, 2008 at 10:57 am
Do people need the train to tell them what side of the subway doors are going to open? Really?

I'm interested in some hard numbers on where the most effective route improvements should go. Of course getting commuters out of cars and into the trains are good, but you can't have a large subway system with so few lines. only a few lines serving such a large geographical area need more redundancy to make up for a single train failure paralyzing an entire section of the line. (though I'm no transport expert by far).
Adam / August 18, 2008 at 11:03 am
I love the open corridor cars - experienced this in Munich and it gives a much more airy, less claustrophobic feeling to the train.

The last photo makes me sad though. Why is anyone still using those terrible individually lit LED signs which are difficult to read and force the operators to have to abbreviate text like "Door Open Left".

I can't imagine actual LCD screens would be that much more expensive to install to allow for a more attractive, flexible design. For example, showing the available services at the next station such as streetcar connections, elevators, and so on.
Jerrold / August 18, 2008 at 11:06 am
<i>"Do people need the train to tell them what side of the subway doors are going to open? Really?"</i>

Blind people appreciate it, I'm sure.
handfed / August 18, 2008 at 11:16 am
Look at this: nothing but complaints! Will you Canadians ever stop whining and bitching?
David Toronto / August 18, 2008 at 11:24 am

I quite agree with you. Maybe someone can come up with an
all symbols way of replacing the text. The only text allowable would be the name of the station.

Any graphic arts students out there with ideas?
Mark Dowling / August 18, 2008 at 11:28 am
I would opt for a different system than an arrow to indicate which side is opening - I'd illuminate the door area with a bright light so that idiots who board and then stand like lumps in the doorway while people try and board after them are annoyed by it.
rek / August 18, 2008 at 11:31 am
If those LED signs were replaced with LCDs, they would have ads on them 80% of the time, be sure of that.
A|Layton / August 18, 2008 at 11:32 am
RE: Jerrold

How would a written sign help blind people in any way? They can't see it to read what being displayed!
somechick / August 18, 2008 at 11:48 am
I like the subway in paris with the flip down seats. Alos that red fabric they use is awful...attracts dirts and goop and other nasty things. It's not a luxury train, whats wrong withthe old plastic seats?? Easy to clean.
rocketeer / August 18, 2008 at 12:08 pm
The open corridor designs are excellent. It's almost hypnotic standing at the end of the car and watching all the support bars slowing shift in and out of alignment as the train makes turns.
steve / August 18, 2008 at 12:16 pm
this is ridiculous. new fancy trains will improve our subway network. save the money for expansions (may be to the airport?) or even longer operation hours.
Jerrold / August 18, 2008 at 12:22 pm
<i>"How would a written sign help blind people in any way? They can't see it to read what being displayed!"</i>

That would take care of the hearing impaired riders.

I was under the assumption that the train door opening side would be revealed both visually and aurally.
Andrew N. / August 18, 2008 at 12:55 pm
In response to A|Layton, not all stations have the new enlarged boards. The smaller paper signs were more useful, but are too sparsely spread out on the stations. Likewise, it makes it easier traveling around the city when you know you are headed in the right direction.

In response to Jer, the Yonge-University line will be extended all the to Vaughan. Stopping at Wilson, Downsview, Sheppard West, Finch West, York University, Steeles West, Highway 407 Transitway and the Vaughan Corporate Center. Likewise, there are talks of a new automatic system being put into place which will increase the frequency of trains during rush hour.

In response to Daryl, yes people to get lost occasionally. It happens to the best of us especially when we're late.

In clarification of Adam, at the ends of each of the signs are an X as well as an arrow which lights us indicating which side the doors will be opening; however, I am unsure whether this feature is revealed aurally as well as visually. They do have LCD Screens, but they aren't a major feature as their only function is to instruct people how to use the intercom. I do agree that what you're suggesting would be helpful.
J / August 18, 2008 at 02:17 pm
So we're getting new trains with (somewhat) advanced technology to replace the old cars riding along B-D...and everyone complains? Putting money down to replace the aging fleet seems fair enough to me.

Details on Bombardier's website:
Matt Cave / August 18, 2008 at 02:32 pm
Having recently moved to Toronto, I'm a relative newcomer to the TTC. Personally, having lived in the UK for the previous 3 decades, I think the Toronto public transport system is superb. It's clean, affordable, as reliable as any public transport system I've used, and the armpit issue is far less of an issue than London, Paris or New York. New features and improved accessibility are all good things, but I agree the main focus needs to be extending the coverage so more people can make use of it.
Andrew N. / August 18, 2008 at 02:53 pm
Here's a mock-up of what the Toronto system should be like in 2050. In order to see the original version, remember to view the largest size on Flickr. If we had a system like the one he created, I'd be over the moon.
John / August 18, 2008 at 03:26 pm
It's a shame the driver's cab takes the entire front of the new train. Sitting at the front of the subway is a huge pleasure of childhood in Toronto.
W. K. Lis / August 18, 2008 at 04:19 pm
According to the technical drawing from Bombardier at there is room to sit at the front.
uSkyscraper / August 18, 2008 at 05:36 pm
There are two fundamental flaws here:

1) USE A LINE MAP. No one, not one transit agency, not a single bureaucrat anywhere, tries to squish a whole system map over the door. Put a freaking line map over the door - much easier to read, LED or not. This is what New York and London actually do. The entire network map can go over a seat somewhere, where there is more space to show connections, etc. (Yes, you have to lean over someone to read it sometimes, but this is how the world works. Get your head out of the sand, Toronto, and do what works elsewhere.)

2) SHOW THE STREETCARS. We're spending billions on new streetcars downtown and LRT lines all over Transit City but they apparently don't count as part of the rail transit network? That ought to make it fun when trying to go crosstown on Finch LRT then the Yonge subway then the Sheppard subway then the Sheppard LRT. It's all one network. Show me a single city in the world that does not put all rail vehicles on one map. This is a local psychology that visitors to Toronto do not understand.

This is not (red) rocket science. Put all rail lines on the map to create a new simplified network map, and display this (without LED) on an ad poster over a seat. Show an LED line map over the door like the Bombardier cars that New York has (complete with changeable stops, screens, diversion alerts, etc.) Don't blow this, TTC!
Robert / August 18, 2008 at 06:03 pm
I don't care what people say. NY's subway's system is horrid compared to Toronto.
chenyip / August 18, 2008 at 06:52 pm
New York's subway system isn't horrid. In terms of coverage, its pretty damn spot on. Cleanliness, surly transit workers with thick Brooklyn accents, and Union Sq. Station feeling like its convectional oven in summer? Sure. But that's also a pitfall of having a subway system thats 100+ years old.

And its really not that hard to navigate. Once you understand what the major transfer points are, what lines go to and fro, it can be pretty simple to navigate. Besides, they got cool station names like Hoyt-Skimmerhorn.
jack / August 18, 2008 at 07:43 pm
maybe the TTC can learn something from the male olympics gymnasts as to how to deal with smelly armpits....since they all have nice trimmed or clean shavened armpits..for those who have armpits fetish, the TTC is like heaven!
Peter G / August 18, 2008 at 09:08 pm
I spoke with a TTC inspector today, on the (still incomplete because of resident objections!) St Clair West streetcar line. I asked her if anyone from the TTC has gone overseas to see how other cities organise mass transit. The answer? "Not much." I lived in Eastern Europe in the early 90s, and the systems there/then were MUCH better than ours, in relatively less developed societies. There doesn't seem to be public will here in Toronto to see an efficient mass transit system. The TTC could learn a thing or two from cities like Osaka (smaller than Toronto, with seven subway lines and four or so regional GO style lines which come into the city and connect with the subways). The TTC doesn't seem interested in a transit solution. And so, we're all subjected to surly service, smelly commutes, dirty trains and stations, and transit strikes because the TTC workers are 'stressed'.
Zach / August 18, 2008 at 09:48 pm
The Seoul subway is crazy but comfortable and efficient. The TTC seems to be getting better (but more expensive).
rek / August 19, 2008 at 12:14 am
Seoul is decades ahead of Toronto where subways are concerned.
ayl / August 19, 2008 at 01:45 am
I'm currently in Taiwan right now and have taken their subway (MRT) many times. The technlogy they use is amazing, the stations are clean and the stops are announced in 3 languages.

A friend from Toronto is also here and we discussed their rule of no eating or drinking in the station as well as on the train. I don't think Toronto could implement this. There are just too many commuters who need their morning coffee.
Andrew N / August 19, 2008 at 01:59 am
In response to ayl, I think the bigger problem is with waste generated from excessive amounts of newspapers and not enough available waste and recycling bins. From what I've seen so far, food waste on trains is at a minimum.

In response to uSkyscraper, I do agree that the map needs to be reworked. While our transit does what it needs to do and is fairy efficient, I can't help but think how complicated the map would look. Likewise, streetcar routes should be incorporated in the present map and not treated as a separate aspect of our transit system.
Jeff / August 19, 2008 at 11:57 am
Regarding the display sign in the picture, if the train is currently at Dupont and the next stop is St. Clair West, shouldn't the doors be opening on the RIGHT?
Dipp / August 19, 2008 at 04:56 pm
I think NYC's subway system is amazing. As stated, it's easy to use, well positioned and with the north-south bus lines, getting to anywhere in NYC at any time is a non-issue. So what if it's dirty and hot in places? I'll take effective transit over clean any day.

Toronto will never be world-class without a world-class public transit system.
GadgetMan / August 19, 2008 at 05:56 pm
Finally, Toronto will have a subway system that is with the modern times like the rest of Asia! About time! Now, we just need to have those magnetic RF cards to swipe like Presto and we're actually going to be with the likes of Beijing, Hong Kong and Seoul!
Omar / August 20, 2008 at 09:00 am
I've been in Toronto for two years now and I still miss the Mexico City subway. It's much much cheaper and larger (having ten lines and more than 200 stations) and even quite a bit cleaner. The cleanliness is anomalous, I'll grant: generally speaking Toronto is cleaner than Mexico City, but for some reason the subway here is dirty and for some weirder reason it's continuously cleaned in Mexico City.

And Mexico City while having a much larger population is actually smaller than Toronto in area, so the subway seems really paltry here. The only downside to the Mexico City is, of course, how ridiculously crowded it gets... I still miss it though.
magda / August 22, 2008 at 11:33 am
Actually, armpits smell worse if there is just stubble.
Armpits / August 23, 2008 at 03:43 pm
The milquetoast princesses bitching and moaning about armpit smell seriously need to spend the entire month of July on the Paris Metro. You wimps have no idea how good you have it.
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