TTC allocates $58M to alter stops for new streetcars
Chris Kitching and Chris Fox, cp24.com
Published Monday, March 25, 2013 9:44AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, March 25, 2013 8:53PM EDT
The TTC has set aside $58 million to modify streetcar platforms that are too low or too high for the agency’s fleet of new streetcars, CEO Andy Byford says.
Byford said some concrete platforms must be built up or shaved down so that the low-floor streetcars’ retractable ramps can be safely deployed for people with wheelchairs or other mobility aids, or strollers.
The streetcar ramps cannot be deployed if a platform is too high, and the ramp would be too steep if a platform is too low, Byford told reporters Monday.
It is not known how many platforms or curbs must be modified or at what duration or cost, but commuters and business owners along St. Clair Avenue may see further traffic disruptions following a costly right-of-way project.
Byford said platforms along St. Clair and Roncesvalles avenues, and other routes require modifications, and the TTC will do everything it can to minimize disruptions for transit passengers, motorists and businesses.
Byford deflected criticism about the planned repairs along St. Clair, where the city is poised to pour more money into the dedicated streetcar lane.
After commuters and merchants suffered years of disruptions during the delayed project, the controversial right-of-way was completed in 2010 at a cost of more than $100 million, well above the initial $48-million price tag.
Now, the TTC says it may need to alter up to half of the St. Clair platforms at an additional cost.
The previous work along St. Clair was completed before the new streetcars were ordered, the TTC said.
“These platforms were built to accommodate the existing fleet, we now have a new streetcar, we have the specifications and we know what we need to do to those platforms to make them accessible,” said TTC spokesman Brad Ross.
Some changes have already been made along Spadina Avenue, and engineers are conducting a survey to identify the platforms that must be raised or lowered on other routes before the streetcars go into service in 2014.
Addressing an earlier media report, Byford said it is his understanding that the existing platforms are already long enough to accommodate the longer streetcars that can hold more passengers and are lower to the ground.
Byford was put on the defensive as he assured customers and the media that the TTC knew it would have to do some platform modifications for the new streetcars, and that it is not unusual to have to make changes to infrastructure.
“This was not something that we didn’t know about,” Byford said. “This was an inevitable consequence of bringing in state-of-the-art streetcars.”
When the new streetcars were ordered from Bombardier, the TTC did not know and could not have known the eventual design, including the ramp specifications, said Byford, who fielded questions about whether or not the platform modifications could have been avoided.
Byford backed city council’s decision to order Presto card-equipped streetcars that can hold more riders, and he warned that it would be too expensive to change the streetcar order.
Matthew McGuire, president of the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition, said the $58-million earmarked for alterations is the cost of poor planning by the TTC.
"You don't build infrastructure to match public transit vehicle specifications,” McGuire said in a statement. “You order vehicles to spec to accommodate our infrastructure. And you certainly don't order public transit vehicles without giving the supplier your specifications.”
Meanwhile, when the new streetcars go into service, some stops may be eliminated, Byford hinted.
He said there “will be some changes to the stops on the network,” but the TTC will consult with the public and city councillors before any decision is confirmed.
When the modern streetcars are introduced, people won’t see an immediate end of the existing ones.
Byford said the TTC will be “life-extending” the older, shorter streetcars that are currently in service.
He said some of the existing, hard-to-maintain streetcars are so old that parts are no longer sold or manufactured by private companies, so the TTC employs a blacksmith, who manufactures the parts in-house.
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