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TTC to shop for new streetcars

Commissioners are in a hurry to begin replacing 96 of their aging fleet

By JEFF GRAY
Thursday, June 23, 2005 Page A16

The Toronto Transit Commission approved plans yesterday to shop for a new high-tech, light-rail vehicle to gradually replace its aging fleet of streetcars, with commissioners hoping the new ones could roll on the city’s tracks by 2009.

While TTC staff warned that it is “extremely optimistic” to expect a new streetcar would be in Toronto even by 2011, the commission voted to try to speed up the process of buying the new streetcars, which are expected to cost more than $5-million each.

“Frankly, yes, I do have ants in my pants. Once we get the first ones in Toronto, the citizens will say, ‘Wow, why didn’t we do this earlier, and how can we get as many of these on our streets as possible,’ ” TTC commissioner Joe Mihevc said.

The plans approved yesterday will still see the TTC refurbish 100 of its current fleet of 196 Canadian Light Rail Vehicle (CLRV) streetcars, which are now about 30 years old and, the TTC says, reaching the end of their projected usefulness.

The overhaul, at $1.3-million a streetcar, will see new propulsion systems and even air-conditioning installed, allowing the TTC to run them for another 10 to 15 years.

To replace the other 96 cars as they are retired over the coming years, and to carry passengers on new streetcar routes that the TTC has proposed on the waterfront and in the inner suburbs, the commission decided yesterday to buy a new vehicle.

But before Toronto’s next-generation streetcar — expected to be a bigger, articulated low-floor, wheelchair-accessible model — there are hefty price tags and major logistical hurdles to overcome.

While TTC officials have looked at several new light-rail vehicles, the transit agency believes no existing “off-the-shelf” car will work on Toronto’s track system, with its tight turns and steep hills.

TTC deputy general manager Bob Boutilier said this means the commission will be looking to find an existing streetcar that meets 70 to 75 per cent of the TTC’s needs, and then design major modifications, a process that could take five years.

Mr. Boutilier said of the cars that the TTC has looked at, the vehicles running in Portland, Ore., made by the Czech firm Skoda Holding AS, are the closest to meeting the TTC’s requirements.

During public deputations on the streetcar issue, TTC chairman Howard Moscoe, who had stood to speak, fell down while trying to return to his seat.

Mr. Moscoe, 65, who had heart surgery in 2003, appeared shaken but lucid and was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital by ambulance to be examined.




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