TTC track talk

I have a hope some of you have seen either this or this. However, that would be asking too much, I feel. Nonetheless.

I will break it down for you. But I do encourage you to read them.

As many of your Torontonians know, the TTC is rolling out the Transit City plan, a plan to introduce ‘true’ LRT (light rail transit) to the suburbs. There are lines planned for the following streets:

Sheppard Ave. E.,

-Eglinton Ave. (Eglinton Crosstown),

-Finch Ave. W. (Etobicoke-Finch West),

Don Mills Rd.,

Jane St.,

Lake Shore Boul. W. (Waterfront West),

and the following areas:

Scarborough Malvern, and

Scarborough RT conversion (from ICTS to LRT).

I will not go into all these in detail, as it would not serve the point I am going to try to make. Which is this:

I am not sure I agree with the plan to build Transit City using standard railway gauge. As it stands now, and is mentioned in the articles I have referenced, the TTC uses a unique gauge, one that measures 1495mm in width, a full 60mm wider than the aforementioned 1435mm standard gauge.

Whereas I can see how using standard gauge would make it easier to buy vehicles for the Transit City network, my reticence here is based on the existence of a large amount of TTC gauge on the so-called Legacy network (the current trackage downtown and on St. Clair Ave. W.). I am no economist (or anyone who understands industrial and governmental purchasing) but the way I see it is that the costs could be reduced on purchases of new vehicles if they all (regardless of use and other specifications) use the same gauge. I am sure that all the vehicles would use the same bogies whether they were built for the Transit City network or the Legacy network. I may be incorrect on this, and I welcome being corrected.

But ignoring that, we have another concern. There are several municipalities in Southern Ontario that are contemplating building LRT networks. This is where coordination is required, as each municipality could (and should for economic reasons) join together and make a massive vehicle purchase. In this case, an identical gauge across the region would be necessary. As there is no additional cost involved in building a network with one gauge or another (when first being established), it would be easy for these other municipalities to build their networks to conform to the TTC’s gauge.

Yes, it would also be simpler if the TTC adopted standard gauge, along with the other municipalities. But considering the TTC will be buying more vehicles than the other municipalities combined (at least in the early stages), being able to use the TTC’s buying power would benefit the other municipalities, and provide the impetus to use the same gauge, even if it is not ‘standard.’

Now, the argument can be made that there is no sense in using a non-standard gauge. But what must be remembered is when the TTC had the world’s largest fleet of PCC streetcars, many of them were bought second-hand from U.S. cities that used standard gauge. To make them run on Toronto’s streets, all that was necessary was to adjust the bogies to meet TTC gauge.

But the thrust of what I am saying is it makes no sense for there to be two gauges on Toronto streets. For simplicity, there should only be one: TTC gauge. You’ve seen the chaos that results when streets are torn up to replace worn tracks. The only way to avoid chaos not seen since the building of the Yonge line in 1949-1954 (which is what would be required to ‘standardize’ the Legacy network) is to implement TTC gauge for Transit City. Seeing as the vehicle requirements for Transit City will be considerable, there would be negligible cost savings in using standard gauge vis à vis TTC gauge when making the vehicle purchase.

I hope this makes sense. If not, let me know and I will try to straighten it out.