Tram-spotters of Toronto are being offered a rare treat as the city's first new streetcar in a generation hits the downtown for testing.
The first public appearance of the much larger and more advanced streetcar was a hush-hush test run on a short stretch of Bathurst before dawn Thursday. The vehicle – which was given the number 4400 -- was to go out again overnight for a longer excursion, taking it down Bathurst to the loop at Exhibition and back.
TTC spokesman Brad Ross said by phone Thursday that they deliberately kept the first test secret, allowing them to focus on their work without a looming media presence. So, at about 4:30, while most of the city slept, the quadrupally articulated behemoth rolled out.
A few hours later Mr. Ross was tweeting a "hat's off" to staff with the TTC and Bombardier, who built the vehicle, "for making this maiden trip a success."
He described the vehicle making a short journey from their Hillcrest facility, at Bathurst and Davenport, down to Bathurst station and then returning. This allowed them to test a number of factors, including the dip under the railway tracks and several curves.
For anyone who was awake, the new vehicle would have turned heads as it rolled along Bathurst.
The vehicle – which bears greater resemblance to a short train than the more traditional streetcars it will replace – looks like a piece of European transit equipment transplanted onto the streets of Toronto. It has a low floor for accessibility, air-conditioning, multiple doors to speed boarding and exiting and has a capacity of 251, dozens more than either of the models currently running. It is 30.2 metres long, nearly one-third bigger than the longest streetcar now on the roads of Toronto.
Although the new vehicle was unveiled in November, photographs provided Thursday by the TTC offered the first glimpse of it on the move in public.
The TTC says that on-street testing includes power, braking, coupling/towing, clearance, cameras and doors. Over time the new streetcar will be seen across the city as staff put it through the many situations the vehicle will have to manage.
Service with the new vehicles is expected to start in the first quarter of next year. They will start carrying passengers on the Spadina line, which had its platforms extended last year, and roll out gradually across the system.