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LRV Launch Day
(The Official Debut of the Toronto LRVs, August 31, 2014)

Text by James Bow

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When the Toronto Transit Commission announced the coming rollout of its new generation of streetcars, Torontonians could hardly wait. For months, the long testing period of the new streetcars built up interest as people saw the sleek new vehicles striking out across the city. There were media previews, fan videos on YouTube, and an increasing buzz of excitement. When the TTC committed to launching the new cars in revenue service on the 510 SPADINA route, they knew that it would be a spectacular event, and they worked extremely hard to meet expectations.

But the best laid schemes of mice and men, the saying goes, often go awry. Complications beyond the TTC’s control, including production delays, and a strike at the Bombardier plant, scrubbed the TTC’s initial plans for a massive rollout of service, re-opening the 510 SPADINA route entirely with new vehicles. However, through many hours of hard work, the TTC and Bombardier did manage to get “production” cars 4400 and 4403 onto the TTC property, and ready for the launch of service. (Cars 4401 and 4402 were also on TTC property, but these are experimental “prototype” models, used for testing, and were thus not yet suitable for passenger use)

The TTC invited the public and the media to a launch event for 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 31, 2014 at the streetcar loading bay of Spadina subway station. Everyone was welcome, the TTC said, and news of the event travelled quickly through the media and on the Internet. As you can see from the pictures below, the crowds turned out in force.

LRV Launch Day Image Archive

Personal Reflection

Earlier in the weekend, I attended a charter organized by the Toronto Transportation Society. The bus we chartered was an Orion V, a workhorse vehicle and one of the TTC’s first wheelchair accessible standard buses, now in its last days. A TTS member turned to me and said that he remembered when those buses were new, and how old does one have to be to look at such a bus and remember the buzz when it was launched for the first time. Today, I reflected how old one has to be to remember the last time a new class of streetcars were launched. On the day of the LRV launch, I remembered the days when the TTC first launched its CLRVs and its ALRVs to the system. I was in high school, and I trekked out to Long Branch after class just so I could ride one of the first ALRVs in service. That was twenty-six years ago. There were people in attendance at the LRV launch who could remember the first PCCs.

But there were also a great number of children, from toddlers to pre-teens on up, who were out with families and chattering excitedly at the new ride, how long it was, how many doors it had, the big windows and bright interior, and how fast and quietly it moved. This is a day that these children will remember well into the future. When the time comes for the current fleet of LRVs to retire, and a new model to hit the streets, many of them will show up at the launch, saying ‘hey, remember when.”

Toronto is a streetcar city. These vehicles carry on the line that was established over a hundred and fifty years beforehand and which has been incorporated into our culture ever since. Despite the streetcars’ critics, most Torontonians could never imagine Toronto without its streetcars, and the new LRVs will make sure this sentiment lasts for the next generation, at least.

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