There was no mistaking the look of awe and delight on the folks on the street who whipped out their phones to take pictures. Transit riders on the Bathurst platform gaped hopefully as the first of the TTC’s sleek, new, supersized streetcars glided into the station.
But only reporters were permitted to enjoy a smooth, short test hop down to Bloor St. from the Hillcrest maintenance yard on Tuesday — the first daylight run for the new cars.
The brief ride suggested Torontonians are in for a quieter, smoother ride when the new fleet goes into service mid-2014. There was no rumble as the new car slid down Bathurst. Pens didn’t even wobble as it braked at the lights.
Thirty metres long, almost twice the length of the CLRVs, the new streetcars feature a smaller “sweep” on turns — meaning the front and back ends don’t swing as far into the intersection on curves and loops, said Stephen Lam, chief vehicle engineer of TTC rail.
But riders will be more interested in the accessibility of the low-floor vehicles to mobility aids, he said. There’s room on board for two bikes, flip-up seats for wheelchairs and strollers, and some knee-to-knee groupings of four seats, like those on GO trains.
All the cars are fully air-conditioned.
Toronto transit blogger Steve Munro was enjoying the “fabulous view” from the bigger windows that extend from the ceilings to the seats. He liked the open layout around the doors that should make it easier for riders to enter and exit.
“The car feels nice, the ride’s nice. I want to see how it behaves with real people on it. People are going to have to get used to the new fare collection system and all-door boarding,” he said.
The new cars will be equipped with Presto fare card readers for the electronic payment system being rolled out in 2015. Until then, the TTC will be implementing an interim proof-of-purchase system so riders can enter through any of the four doors on the vehicle.
“Twenty per cent of trip time is boarding,” said TTC chief customer officer Chris Upfold. “With all-door boarding, if it’s a busier stop it’s going to be much less an issue.”
Even though there will be slightly longer gaps in the new streetcar schedules, the new fleet will also be more reliable, he promised.
“Anybody who drives a 30-year-old car can appreciate their reliability issues,” said Upfold, in reference to the retiring fleet of ALRVs and CLRVs.
Riders can expect to see more of the new streetcars now that they are being tested during the day, said TTC spokesman Brad Ross. The first three test cars have, until now, been put through their paces at night. One is being shipped to Ottawa for cold-weather testing.
They will roll out for service on Bathurst, Spadina and Dundas in mid-2014 and the remaining routes through 2018.
The new cars are about twice the length and offer twice the capacity of the old CLRVs, accommodating crush loads of 250 people. The CLRVs can pack in about 132; the articulated ALRVs, about 205.
Unlike the retiring 30-year-old streetcars, these have a sealed-off cab for the driver, with cameras rather than side mirrors.
The 204 new streetcars cost about $1.2 billion — two-thirds paid by the city and a third by Queen’s Park. Another $800 million will pay for the new Ashbridge’s Bay car house, the rewiring of the lines for a new overhead catenary power supply and platform adjustments.