Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Toronto LRT starts journey to standard gauge

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The Toronto Transit Commission and Metrolinx, the Ontario provincial transportation authority, have reached agreement on one aspect of Toronto’s light rail transit future: LRT growth under the “Transit City” plan will take place on standard-gauge track.

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TTC’s current streetcar system runs on track measuring four feet, 10 7/8 inches, wider than the standard gauge of four feet, 8 ½ inches. Metrolinx seeks to establish standard gauge in part to capture cost efficiencies both for LRT orders affecting Toronto itself, and for possible future LRT purchases which could involve other Ontario cities considering the mode, including Mississauga, Hamilton, Waterloo, and Ottawa, the nation’s capital.

Still to be addressed is any conversion of existing TTC LRT/streetcar lines to standard gauge. But Metrolinx Vice President John Howe says such conversion also would aid the the province with future streetcar purchase orders.

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"What we want to do is remove as much vehicle customization as possible, because we think we can achieve better value for the taxpayer by taking an international off-the-shelf standard design, basically the same proven LRT vehicles that are used elsewhere in Canada, the U.S., and Europe," Howe said.

Also unresolved is the future modal status of TTC’s Scarborough Line, which uses linear induction motor-powered equipment similarto that of Vancouver’s Skytrain. The line itself operates over standard gauge, making its conversion to conventional light rail transit operation more likely (but not yet certain) following the commitment to standard gauge on other portions of Toronto’s urban rail network.