Toronto is finally going to start getting new streetcars in substantial numbers, the result of a new promise by Bombardier Inc. to ramp up its troubled production schedule.
The Toronto Transit Commission now expects to have 25 to 30 new streetcars operating by the end of the year, enough to cover almost three entire routes.
"We need them on the road," TTC chair Josh Colle said. "Our riders need them yesterday."
The rollout of new streetcars ground almost to a halt after the first of the vehicles entered service last summer to much fanfare. A third streetcar turned up months later, and the fourth arrived only recently. It is not yet in service.
Production has lagged far behind the numbers promised by Bombardier, which has been plagued by problems. Frustration at the TTC has been mounting. And commuters using old streetcars that can break down in the cold were left wondering when their new and more reliable ride would arrive.
TTC head Andy Byford said that the problems were twofold: production was too slow and the transit agency was unable to accept the quality of some of the work done by Bombardier. He cited the fourth streetcar, in particular, as not being built well enough to meet the TTC's standards.
"We weren't talking about cosmetic things, we were concerned about qualitative issues that … had we just ignored them, we would definitely [have] had reliability problems," he said.
The CEO said that penalties built into the contract are being enforced as a result of the streetcar delays. He would not reveal the specifics of penalties, saying the contract is confidential. He added that there will be talks later this week on mechanisms to enforce the new timetable.
"I cannot keep accepting revised [delivery] programs," Mr. Byford said. "This one has to stick."
According to the TTC, the new agreement with Bombardier will mean the Thunder Bay plant will produce two streetcars a month, starting in March. By the fall this should double to four a month.
Mr. Byford said he had become personally involved in the new timetable and had received the assurance of his counterpart at Bombardier that this production schedule would be achieved. Among the changes that give him confidence are that Bombardier has brought in more staff, revamped its production floor and added a greater emphasis on quality assurance.
"They have re-engineered, if you like, the way that they're manufacturing these streetcars," he said. "I'm pleased to hear that."
If the production schedule is met, by the end of the year there will be enough new streetcars to cover service on Spadina and Queens Quay, as well almost enough to handle Bathurst. This new delivery schedule means no new streetcars will enter service this year on Dundas, as originally planned.
Streetcar passengers on workhorse routes such as Queen and King – which together carry about 100,000 people each weekday, according to 2012 data – are slated to start seeing new vehicles in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Officials at the TTC have made no secret of their unhappiness over the delays hampering delivery of the $1.2-billion order for 204 streetcars. They insist that the 2019 deadline to receive the entire fleet remains firm.
Mr. Colle ruled out legal action against Bombardier, suggesting there was no benefit in getting involved in "a spat" with the company providing transit vehicles to the city.