Text by James Bow; Photos by Aaron Adel
In 1998 and into 1999, the TTC found itself in an enviable position: after several years of cutbacks, ridership was on the increase. But with this development came problems. Buses, which were surplus in the early part of the decade, were now hard pressed to meet the demand. No new buses had been purchased by the TTC since 1991, and the current fleet was aging. The problem was so acute, the TTC considered converting some bus lines to streetcar operations to free up vehicles for the rest of the system.
Instead, the TTC embarked on an ambitious rebuilding program of a number of GM Fishbowls. The buses comprised of a number of its own fleet, plus a few models bought off of Montreal, that would have otherwise been retired and sent to the scrapheap. These vehicles were needed to counteract a shortage of buses on the system resulting from an unexpected surge in ridership, and going for seven years without ordering new buses.
In an unusual move, the rebuild vehicles were renumbered from their 8000 series into the 2000 series. Most vehicles, when rebuilt by the TTC, retain their old numbers. Some have speculated that this special numbering system helped identify and set aside vehicles which had been given a special, extended lease on life. It also marked a numeric separation of buses that had been rebuilt municipal or provincial funding. These rebuilds were remarkable also for the fact that they were paid fore entirely from fare revenue.
Jim Bowman notes there are other reasons behind the change as well. In his words, “The GM rebuilds are in the 2000 series as many of the 8200/8300/8500 units had already been retired, thus gaps would have been left in the series had the fleet numbers not been changed. The TTC’s original plan was that the 8700-8985 series was to be renumbered 2700-2985 to clear out the 8000 series. The new numbering system advances the grouip by 100 for each order, thus the next group of diesels will be 7400s and the next (if any) CNGs will be 9000s. Six more orders will carry the new diesel numbers into the 8000s, so that series must be cleared out.”
The rebuild buses (with the exception of the Montreal models) are generally indistinguishable from the unrebuilt GMs, save for the vehicle number, a fresher paint scheme, and a smoother ride. The rebuild program has slowed down in recent months. After rebuilding a few Montrealers, this project has stopped altogether, and the remaining bodies are resting, inactive, at Hillcrest Shops.