Toronto — City Meets Streetcar Funding Gap
Rail Transit Online, July 2009
The city council in a day-long special meeting on June 26 voted 36-6 to pick up the C$417-million federal share of a C$1.2-billion contract with Bombardier Transportation for 204 new streetcars. Toronto will now contribute C$834 million, with the remainder coming from the province of Ontario.
The additional money was made available by deferring certain Toronto Transit Commission projects between 2012 and 2018. "While those capital projects are important, acquiring new streetcars for Toronto is a priority," said a statement released by the city. "These changes to the TTC's capital budget will not impact service or fares." The city had to make a decision by June 27, a deadline set when the deal was announced at the end of April.
The purchase, the largest in history
for this type of rail vehicle, was consummated before either the federal or provincial governments had promised any funding. Ontario came through with its third on June 19 but federal Transport Minister John Baird said there would be no money from Ottawa because the streetcar purchase did not qualify for the government's stimulus program.
Mayor David Miller sounded euphoric after the June 26 vote, claiming, "We have just secured the transit future for this city for a generation." But critics called the strategy a dangerous game of brinkmanship with Ottawa that ultimately failed. "You went into a high-stakes game and put the city at risk," declared Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong. Added Councillor
Karen Stintz, "The mayor stood up and described it as a victory for the city. I don't think we are looking at a victory. I think we are looking at a mess that we now have to have clean up."
Immediately after the vote,
TTC Chief General Manager
Gary Webster gave Bombardier a contract award letter. The five-section, 100-percent low-floor cars, a version of the Flexity Outlook, will be 98.4 ft. (30 meters) long with all axles powered. They will be manufactured at Bombardier's plant in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The project schedule calls for a prototype to be delivered in 2011 followed by production cars late in the same year or in early 2012. All 204 will be in Toronto by 2018.