The TTC’s new fleet of streetcars will be longer and air-conditioned, with room for 260 people, bikes and two wheelchairs. Low floors will make the streetcars accessible for strollers, grocery carts and the disabled. And the 204 mini-trains will be assembled in Ontario, at the Bombardier plant in Thunder Bay, reports the Toronto Star today.
Now the TTC just needs to find $1.2 billion to help pay for them. But Mayor David Miller is confident that the federal and provincial governments will come through. “If this isn’t infrastructure stimulus, I don’t know what is,” he told the Star.
Bigger streetcars will likely mean fewer streetcars, which may also mean longer waiting times. Any waits will hopefully be mitigated by improved reliability, along with tracking systems allowing riders to know exactly when the next streetcar will arrive. Another big improvement will be the introduction of a computerized proof-of-payment system that will allow riders to board quickly at all four doors. The current, cumbersome boarding procedure has been blamed for much of the streetcar’s often slow progress through Toronto’s streets.
Star columnist Christopher Hume praises the new streetcars, saying they “will make cars, freeways, elevated highways, gridlock, exhaust, smog and, indeed, the very notion of city driving seem as old-fashioned, and as quaint, as top hats and spats.” The Globe and Mail’s John Barber has a somewhat grumpier take, noting the costs of conforming to Toronto’s unusual rail specifications and questioning the smoothness of the lower ride.
The new streetcars will be tested on Toronto’s streets in 2011, and are expected to begin service in 2012.
The TTC claims that they will not double the existing headways, but will balance between capacity, demand and the attractiveness of service. All doors will be used to board and exit, which should speed up. The driver will not be collecting fares, which are to be automated.