TTC bus

Why TTC buses don’t have snow tires

Tire expert explains why they are unnecessary

In the aftermath of Feb. 2’s massive snowstorm, some critics have been wondering publicly why the TTC does not put winter tires on its 1,800 city buses. Are the currently used all-season tires safe enough in the harsh conditions which Torontonians face in the winter?

The TTC fleet numbers more than 1,800 buses. Each bus is fitted with one of three kinds of tires. TTC had a contract with Bridgestone-Firestone Canada Inc. from Oct. 1, 2007 to Sept. 30, 2014 to supply the three types of tires. The contract was worth $37 million.

TTC Fleet Fact Box

• The TTC fleet numbers more than 1,800 buses.

• Each bus is fitted with one of three kinds of tires.

• TTC had a seven year contract with Bridgestone-Firestone Canada Inc. ending Sept. 30 to supply the three types of tires.

• The contract was worth $37 million.

Source: TTC documents

That contract expired last fall, and the city called for new tires. The bids closed in November. A decision was scheduled to be announced Thursday.

Bridgestone-Firestone is one of three bidders on the new tire contract for the TTC, along with Attersley Tire and Goodyear Canada.

Bridgestone-Firestone Canada declined to make anyone available to speak on the record about its tires, or its work for the TTC.

But will they be snow tires? Unlikely, say some experts: TTC buses do not have winter tires because they just don’t require them.

And, even if they wanted to buy the tires, Canada does not have or produce snow tires for TTC buses.

According to Ralph Warner of The Tire and Rubber Association of Canada, municipal transit buses do not need winter snow tires.

They are not going at rates of high speed,  and operate under a different scenario from passenger cars.

“They are not needed,” Warner said in a telephone interview. “They have a different configuration.”

His association represents tire and rubber manufacturers n Canada.

Since TTC buses are quite large, their tires have larger treads, which creates higher traction. This means that while the tires are spinning they can effectively get the snow out of them and this is why snow tires are not required.

According to Warner, years ago they used to have bus snow tires but as the times changed they found an easier way to deal with precipitation.

Some countries do have a mandatory law that snow tires be used on every vehicle, including buses: Austria, Luxembourg, and quite a few other European countries.

In New York City, the largest public transit system in North America, the governor has announced the  Metropolitan Transit Authority is retrofitting its fleet with all season tires and, in some cases, snow chains.