The saga of Toronto's new streetcars keeps moving along (slowly, albeit). When the TTC placed the order in 2009, it specified that Bombardier Inc would deliver 204 Low-Floor Light Rail Vehicles (LFLRVs) by 2019. Based on the original contract, the TTC was supposed to have close to 150 vehicles in its possession by the end of September 2017. With only two days to go in the month, they have just 45. For those interested in the history of this contract, the Toronto Star published a very detailed account of it back in May.

By most accounts, the current delivery schedule is about two years behind that which was initially agreed upon. After delivery targets were missed, Bombardier would frequently send an updated schedule to the TTC, promising to ramp up production in order to stick to the 2019 delivery completion date. That pattern has repeated itself many times over again. Even based on the latest schedule, the TTC will only see 3 of the promised 4 cars this month, the 3rd month in a row Bombardier has missed the targets it has set out. Based on the pattern, expect another revised schedule soon.

The latest streetcar to arrive is 4446, which left Bombardier's Thunder Bay plant on Saturday, and arrived in Toronto yesterday. The two other cars delivered this month, 4444 and 4445, have yet to enter revenue service, though 4445 was spotted doing testing on St Clair West yesterday. Currently, the new LFLRVs are deployed on the 509 Harbourfront, 510 Spadina, 512 St Clair, and 514 Cherry, though they may be occasionally spotted on other routes.

LFLRV #4446 makes its way down from Thunder Bay, image courtesy of Bryan Martyniuk

One element of the contract the TTC has with Bombardier that has garnered increased attention lately is the "option" in the contract by which the TTC can request an additional 60 streetcars at the same price as the original order. This option has been the source of some speculation—whether the TTC would even exercise it—given the constant delays experienced getting the original 204. Based on the contract, this option must either be accepted or declined by the time the TTC accepts delivery of the 60th vehicle. Based on the latest schedule (so take it with a grain of salt) that could happen before the end of the year.

If the TTC were to exercise the option, they may be able to extract some fairly decent concessions from Bombardier, either through good-faith negotiation or litigation. Given that Bombardier has repeatedly missed delivery targets, and the TTC has been forced to make extensive repairs to older streetcars that were destined for retirement in order to keep them in revenue service as a stop-gap measure, a case could be made for such concessions being warranted. One theory is that the financial concessions extracted from Bombardier through this process may be delivered as 'streetcars-in-lieu-of-cash'.

To keep their options open however, the TTC recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) for the delivery of additional streetcars. The purpose of this RFI, according to the description listed, is "to gauge market interest and capabilities of potential suppliers in the supply of up to 100 future Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) Low Floor Light Rail Vehicles (streetcars)". The RFI closes on November 14th.

This type of move is not a GTHA first, however. Back in May, Metrolinx decided to sole-source a $528 million deal with Alstom for 61 LRVs, a deal which in essence acts as insurance against Bombardier delays, which Metrolinx has also been experiencing. Metrolinx intends to use 17 of the vehicles on the Finch West LRT, with the remainder deployed to the Crosstown LRT if Bombardier does not deliver on time, or other GTHA lines like the Hurontario LRT if they do.

The Alstom Citadis that Metrolinx plans to use on the Finch West LRT, image courtesy of Metrolinx

Whether this TTC RFI is a pressure tactic against Bombardier or a legitimate request to go with another supplier for additional vehicles remains to be seen. Given that the TTC has a unique set of specifications for its streetcars (different gauge than standard, tighter turning radius, unique wheelchair ramp requirements, etc), it may be difficult for other suppliers to meet the price that the TTC currently has agreed upon with Bombardier. If the prices for the RFI do come back higher than what the TTC has on the table in its option with Bombardier, the political debate surrounding this purchase could get interesting, with it likely to be centred around the question of 'how much is not experiencing delays worth?'.

UrbanToronto will keep you updated on the streetcar saga, as there is sure to be more in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, you can join the discussion by visiting our forum thread, or by leaving a comment in the space below.