Friday, April 24, 2009

PDP #31: Streetcar for Tomorrow

In a matter of hours, the Toronto Transit Commission is going to announce whether Toronto will be a Siemens city or a Bombardier burg. At stake is the TTC's new streetcar order, valued at over a billion dollars. The winner will supply vehicles not only to glide on the new Transit City lines once they're actually built, but replace the current fleet before it has many more chances to get long in the tooth. History is going to turn on a fresh track.

Even with the announcement, it will be some time before the TTC can scrape together funding to actually buy the streetcars, longer before they start appearing on the rails, and still longer before they take over. Nevertheless, I can't help but feel that this is the beginning of an end of an era. Whichever streetcar wins - the Bombardier Flexity Outlook or the Siemens Combino Plus - will do so at least partially on the basis of its successes in other systems around the world. The twin workhorses of the TTC for the last thirty years, the CLRV and the double-length ALRV, are unique to this city. No other transit agency uses them; you can't find them in any colors other than the red, white, and black. When they go, so too will a symbol of Toronto pass from the streets into history.

Despite whatever their faults may be, despite the lack of fleetwide air conditioning and weathering that transforms "TO OPEN DOOR STAND ON STEP" into "O OE OOR AND O TEP," I will miss them once they're gone. Also, I will be one of those standing in line on the handful of occasions they bring out the couple they retain for heritage runs, one bright day in a year to come.

UPDATE (11:25 AM): It's Bombardier.

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