I recently saw one of the Toronto Transit Commission’s new streetcars during my commute, and I have to say, I was not disappointed. I purposely missed the vehicle I meant to catch in order to get my first look at Toronto’s new ride.
I’ve been cursing the older streetcars that have plied Toronto’s streets ever since I first drove around the city, as they kept getting in the way. But when I moved downtown, my views of them changed, which I find is one of the great ironies of streetcar haters. These individuals never actually live in the communities served by streetcars, but when they ride them, they soon fall in love with them. The new model will give Torontonians many new reasons to love streetcars.
It is widely known that Toronto has the largest streetcar network in Canada. Click here to see a map of the TTC’s current streetcar network. Contrary to the opinions of Mayor Ford, this network is something Toronto can be proud of. Toronto avoided the mistake of ripping up its lines and pushing riders into cars. Many American cities that eliminated streetcars are now reintroducing them. This proved to be successful in Portland, Oregon, a city our Mayor should consider visiting sometime. Maybe he can visit Calgary and see their LRT network while he is at it.
Needless to say, our city would do well to keep the network operating smoothly as part of a comprehensive strategy that includes subways. Sadly, our Mayor might see greater purpose in them if he actually rode one or spoke to those who use them regularly. He would find those taxpayers prefer the short walk to the nearest streetcar stop and a slightly longer but still comfortable ride to work rather than a veritable commute to just to the nearest subway station.
Looking at the matter from the perspective of landlords, owners of converted houses with multiple self-contained units and apartment buildings along current streetcar routes will be impacted instantly. This is because their current and future tenants will see a greater value in living on existing streetcar lines. Their commutes will be faster, more reliable, more comfortable, and certainly more attractive.
Some have noted that the new streetcars will decrease the number of vehicles on the rails, which will have a negative impact on service levels. However, I am inclined to disagree. Here is why.
- The new fleet will consist of 205 large-sized vehicles, which can hold 251 passengers. The present fleet of streetcars consists of 195 small-sized 132-person vehicles and 52 medium-sized 205-person vehicles. The TTC stated it will continue to operate many of the smaller vehicles into the future. Expect them to service the typically less-crowded lines.
- They will spend more time on the road than in the shop compared to their older, rust-laden cousins who require frequent and onerous maintenance.
- They will be less prone to breakdowns, keeping up with the flow of traffic and not stopping all streetcar traffic behind them so say nothing of the cars also impeded when this happens.
- They have additional doors to permit faster passenger movement and use the Presto electronic fare payment system for quicker payment. Gone will be the days of the driver asking in vain for passengers to move to the back.
- They are low-floored, permitting quicker passenger movement, especially among mobility-challenged riders. In particular, those with strollers will have an easier time boarding.
- They will have less of an impact on car traffic because there will be fewer streetcars on the road, combined with the fact the vehicles will be able to cross the town much faster.
- In cases where the commute is delayed– and it does happen – riders will be in better-quality vehicles with far better heating and cooling systems than the previous vehicles. Speaking of cooling, the new vehicles actually have proper air conditioning.
There comes a point in the development of a city that a majority of its population takes more pride in the public vehicle they ride over the private vehicle they drive. I can’t say how close Toronto is to that goal, but I believe it is heading in the right direction. Between the ongoing upgrades to Union Station, our much cleaner subway stations and transit vehicles, newer buses and Toronto Rocket subway cars, and now a new streetcar fleet, Toronto commuters can hold their heads a little higher. That bodes well for the tenants who use the system and the landlords that rent to them.