toronto new streetcar

First of the new fleet of streetcars arrives in Toronto

The number of streetcars in Toronto increased by exactly one Saturday afternoon when the TTC took delivery of the first production model in its fleet of new low-floor vehicles. Streetcar 4403, the first of the new high-capacity vehicles that will carry passengers this August on Spadina Ave., was shipped on a flatcar from the Bombardier production facility in Thunder Bay over the weekend.

The 1,300 km journey from assembly line to the Hillcrest maintenance facility took the vehicle, which was hauled by two Canadian Pacific locomotives, through Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, and Parry Sound. In Toronto, the TTC built a special spur track and unloading ramp off the CP main line in order to accept the delivery.

The $1.2 billion fleet of 204 low-floor streetcars will be brought to Toronto in instalments over the next six years. Though the vehicles are more spacious than the current fleet, the overall length is only 7 metres--about 25%--more than a Queen streetcar. Inside there is more seating, more standing room, and (at last) all-door boarding thanks to proof-of-payment vending machines. Presto, when it finally rolls out, will also be available.

The ARLVs--the articulated streetcars that operate primarily on Queen--will be the first to ushered into retirement, meaning that the 501 streetcar will be serviced by the TTC's smaller CLRVs in the near future, most likely in 2015. The last of the current streetcar fleet will be retired in 2020.

While the new Leslie Barns facility on Lake Shore Blvd. is still under construction, the new streetcars will be stored on Roncesvalles. Though the TTC is confident it will have the first vehicle in service by August 31, it remains to be seen just how many will be available on opening day. Spokesman Brad Ross says there will be a mix of old and new streetcars on Spadina until the end of 2014 at the earliest.

The TTC has been conducting an increasing number of street tests and noticeably ramping up its PR campaign in recent weeks. The official Twitter account of the new streetcar gave away spots on a special pre-launch ride in exchange for correct answers to trivia questions over the last two weeks.

Critically, the forays of the test vehicle, which will eventually be returned and converted for public use, helped identify at least one fault.

Engineers found that the retractable access ramps that fold out below each of the doors didn't work quite as expected. Streetcar stops with concrete islands on Spadina, St. Clair, Bathurst, Queen, and College had to be made a precise uniform height so that the ramp, which is capable of meeting a raised platform or the street, was able to accurately deploy.

"There's a new generation [of ramp] that won't be on the first set of production vehicles but will be on subsequent generations, and then those first few production cars we receive with the older ramp will be switched out," says Ross. "It has been a challenge."

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: TTC

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