The Evolution of Service on 512 St. Clair (2) (Updated)

This article is a follow-up to an early April review of the gains and losses brought by the St. Clair right-of-way and subsequent “transit priority” measures. When it was published, the TTC had just changed schedules on this route to shorten trip times in response to repairs on several traffic signal locations where that “priority” function was not working. Did these repairs actually have an effect? How well did the line operate with less running time?

Updated May 23, 2015 at 12:40 pm:

Data for weekend operations has been added to the end of this article.

Conclusions

  • There was a definite increase in travel times in fall 2014 as compared with summer 2010 when the right-of-way operations west of St. Clair West Station began. The location and severity of the problem varied along the route with notable effects between Bathurst and Oakwood where there are many traffic signals.
  • The amount of running time added in the October 2014 schedules was slightly more than the actual increase in average running time over the route from 2010 to 2014.
  • Travel times were reduced after the repair of transit priority functions at several signals along the route, notably in sections with many traffic signals. This did not completely reverse the longer running times of 2014.
  • Short-turns as a proportion of all service declined with the new schedules in place.
  • The increased supervision produced more reliable headways.
  • The improvements of October 2014 have been slightly reduced with the new April 2015 schedules that clawed back much of the additional running time.

For reference, here is a table from the first article showing changes in schedules for the route since 2007.

512_ServiceHistory

Generally speaking, the April 2015 changes reduced one-way running time by 6 minutes during most periods with a few, minor adjustments to terminal “recovery time”. Those “recovery” values are as much a rounding factor to make the headway  come out to an even value as they are a calculated amount of time needed to deal with random delays.

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The Evolution of Service on 29 Dufferin: Weekdays 2011 to 2015

29 Dufferin is one of the TTC’s target routes for improved performance, and it also happens to be a route that I have been following with TTC vehicle tracking data from selected months going back to November 2011. This article reviews the line’s operation on weekdays.

This article is somewhat technical, but has been written for a general audience to the degree the subject allows.

Scheduled Service History

An important factor in reviewing service on the street is the schedule itself: the headways (time between vehicles) and the running times provided for each trip. Headways may look good on paper, but if service arrives unreliably, or if some of it never reaches the destination thanks to short turns, then the advertised service is a polite fiction. Running times also have an effect, especially if they are shorter than the typical time required to drive from one end of a route to the other. When an operator cannot make the scheduled trip, the bus runs late and is quite likely to short turn simply to get it back on time. In theory, this “restores” normal service, but if vehicles are chronically late, the process never ends. The “treatment” never cures the “patient”.

The months included in this article are:

  • November 2011
  • March 2012
  • May 2013
  • September 2013 (Dufferin Bridge at CNE closes)
  • March 2014 (Diversion from College to Queen southbound for water main construction)
  • November 2014 (Introduction of articulated buses)
  • April 2015 (Major schedule revisions to reflect actual operating conditions)

29_ServiceHistory

This spreadsheet shows the scheduled headways and trip times for all of the periods covered by this article. In a few cases, there are two schedules shown for the same month because a change was implemented part way through.

The Dufferin Bus operates primarily between Dufferin Loop (at the Western Gate of the CNE ground) to Wilson Station. During peak periods there is a short turn at Tycos Drive where half of the service returns south. During certain periods (with seasonal variations), half of the service runs through the CNE grounds to the Princes’ Gate (eastern entrance).

In September 2013, the bridge on Dufferin at the rail corridor north of the CNE closed on very short notice for repairs. Service that was scheduled to operate to the Princes’ Gates turned back at Dufferin Loop. This resulted in half of the buses having more running time for their trips between Dufferin Loop and Wilson Station. Concurrently, a diversion for water main construction was operated southbound between College and Queen. These two offset each other, at least for the buses that were scheduled to run through to the Princes’ Gate. Extra running time (up to 10 minutes)  was not added to the schedules until the end of March 2014 in anticipation of the re-opening of the Dufferin Street bridge.

In November 2014, the route officially switched to articulated bus operation Weekdays and Saturdays, although these vehicles had been present for some time before.

In April 2014, there was a major restructuring of the schedules: considerably more running time was provided to reflect actual conditions, and the split operation at the south end of the route was discontinued on weekends.

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A Work Train on the Prince Edward Viaduct

This is something of a “fan” shot, but the light has been getting better and better for the past few hours, and I could not resist sharing the view from my apartment.

This train is sitting on the westbound tracks on the Viaduct as part of a combined effort for the City of Toronto to clean up after bridge repairs, and for some of the TTC’s own maintenance work.

Normally, I don’t post full sized pictures, but this is an exception. Happy Victoria Day, almost, to everyone.

The Gardiner East Conundrum: Saving Time Is Not The Only Issue

Toronto’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee (PWIC) will consider an updated report on the Gardiner East reconstruction options at a special meeting on May 13, 2015 where this will be the only item on the agenda. (Note that additional detailed reports are linked at the bottom the main report.)

There has been much discussion of the alternative designs for the expressway section between Jarvis Street and the Don River and, broadly speaking, there are two factions in the debate.

  • For one, the primary issues are to maintain speed and capacity of the road system, and to avoid gridlock.
  • For the other, the primary issue is the redevelopment of the waterfront, and the release of lands from the shadow of the expressway structure.

Both camps seek to encourage economic growth in Toronto, but by different means and with different underlying assumptions.

A further issue, largely absent from the Gardiner debate, is the role and comparative benefits of various transit projects ranging from GO/RER/SmartTrack at the regional level, down to subway options including the Scarborough Subway Extension and the Downtown Relief Line, and local transit including the Waterfront East LRT line and a proposed Broadview Extension south across Lake Shore to Commissioners Street including a Broadview streetcar.

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TTC Board Meeting Wrap-up April 28, 2015

The TTC Board met on April 28, 2015, with what looked on the surface like a light agenda. Maybe a 3:00 pm finish after a short two-hour meeting, but in fact the whole thing dragged on to 6:00. Although parts were tedious, there was comic relief (a classic put-down of Denzil Minnan-Wong on funding of Seniors’ Fares), and some actual discussion of policy. Among the items on the agenda covered in this wrap-up are:

  • A request to Metrolinx re audit controls on Presto
  • A discussion of Mobility Hubs notably at Danforth Station
  • A presentation about TTC’s Procurement Process
  • Council decisions regarding the TTC’s 2015 Budget
  • A presentation about the quarterly Customer Satisfaction Survey
  • A presentation about TTC service to the Pan Am Games
  • The April 2015 CEO’s Report
  • Lease of additional office space for TTC capital program staff

Separate articles posted earlier on this site deal with:

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Metropass Turns 35: Time To Talk About Fare Options

May 1, 1980, saw the introduction of Toronto’s Metropass and the beginning of a shift away from pay-as-you-ride travel on the TTC.

May1980Pass

The pass did not come without some political battles, and the stock TTC line was that this just wouldn’t work in Toronto. What they really worried about, of course, was lost revenue, a topic that comes up every chance TTC management gets to cry in their beer about the good old days when people actually paid full fares to ride.

The fare multiple in 1980 was 52 – the price of the pass at $26 was the equivalent of 52 tokens at, wait for it, fifty cents each. Over the years it was wrestled down to 46, but has been drifting up again in an attempt to make those pesky pass holders pay more. The ratio stands at 50.5 today for a regular pass with no discounts.

In fact, passholders now represent over half of all TTC rides. In 2014, out of a total 534.8-million rides, 290.7m were paid for with transit passes. It is long past time that we should think of pass users as if they are some small privileged group, but rather that they take the majority of trips on the TTC. It is their fares which are the “standard”, not the higher priced token users nor the real cash cows, those who pay the full cash fare. The chart below shows the evolution of fare media usage over the past three decades.

1985-2014 Analysis of ridership

At its April 29, 2015 board meeting the TTC approved a request that staff report on various fare options including:

  • fare by time of day
  • 2 hour transfer
  • Seniors fares by time of day, including $1.00 seniors fare during off-peak hours
  • Fare by distance
  • Concession policy overall as informed by Fare Equity Strategy
  • Monthly pass versus daily / weekly / monthly capping
  • Free regular transit fares for Wheel-Trans qualified passengers in addition to the visually impaired

This report is expected to arrive on the October 2015 board agenda.

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Should Seniors Get Even Cheaper Transit Fares? (Updated)

Updated April 30, 2015 at 12:40 pm:

The text of motions passed regarding this item have been added at the end of the update below.

Updated April 30, 2015 at 9:30 am:

The debate on the motion asking for a report on a pilot project for a $1 off peak seniors’ fare went on at great length at the April 29 TTC board meeting and provided some political theatre along the way.

At its heart, there are interlocking issues in any debate about fares:

  • Should seniors as a class of riders receive discounted fares, and how generous should this discount be?
  • Are other groups of riders equally or more deserving of discounts?
  • Should a “pool”of subsidy related to discounts be allocated to various groups based on needs, or should the scope of such subsidies be increased?
  • How will eligibility for any subsidy be administered?
  • How should any fare subsidies be funded, and what is their priority relative to other transit needs such as improved service and maintenance?
  • Should the standard fare structure be revised to provide benefits to all riders rather than targeted groups?

The proposal for a $1 off peak seniors’ fare came from Commissioner Vince Crisanti, a member of the Ford faction in the previous administration who was not noted for his generosity on the subject of social programs. Moreover, when he did sit on the TTC board (before the coup d’état that ousted many of the Ford crew), his knowledge of transit matters could not be described as encyclopaedic. To be fair, at this point the proposal was only a report request – tell me whether it would be feasible to have a pilot program to test the lower fare – and one might expect the whole thing to disappear if the result proved impractical, especially from a financial standpoint.

The problem, of course, is that everyone wants cheaper fares for one or more deserving groups, or even for all riders as Mayoral candidate Tory advocated, without getting into the questions of whether this is the best use of transit dollars or how a net new subsidy would fit into the allegedly tight city budget situation.

Public deputations on the issue, of which there were few despite the large crowd of seniors in the audience who arrived as a group, concentrated on support for the lower fare. In one case, the presentation by TTCRiders ran into a basic problem that their primary desire is to help low-income riders, but they have been pulled into the $1 fare issue as a jumping off point for their larger cause.

Questions from board members were generally civil, although there was a common thread of “how should we pay for this”. One deputant tartly replied that if the city can afford to eat the sunk costs of cancelled LRT projects and build the Scarborough Subway Extension, then availability of revenue is not the issue.

Toronto Councillors love to pretend that any discussion of new services or expenditures must be a zero-sum game with higher costs in one area balanced by reductions in others. This ignores the considerable taxing powers of the City that go unused thanks to pandering to motorists (the vehicle registration tax) and to the no-new-taxes philosophy that hobbles modern political debate.

The best moment came in a testy exchange between an old Chinese lady, speaking through an interpreter, who was harangued by Commissioner Denzil Minnan-Wong with a series of questions ending up with, to paraphrase, how can we pay for fuel if we let people ride for free? After a short pause, the reply came back: “that’s a stupid question”.

For far too long DMW and others have grandstanded at the expense of citizens who just want to exercise their right to speak on public issues, and chairs of meetings (including the TTC’s Chair Josh Colle) have failed to rein in such abuse. That one response burst DMW’s balloon, and will long be remembered.

Colle himself noted that he had come to the TTC a few years ago with a similar incentive – helping seniors with lower fares – but has since learned that as a group, seniors are rather well off. The real issue is to identify those who are in need regardless of their age.

Commissioner Alan Heisey proposed a motion asking for a report on a variety of fare options to come forward in October 2015 as input to the 2016 budget process. This would allow TTC staff to explore a range of new or revised fares, and in particular whether technical capabilities or limitations of the Presto fare card would affect the implementation.

The decision on future subsidy levels will be up to Toronto Council, but the TTC board should already have taken a position on the matter rather than simply inheriting a campaign promise as they did with the free rides for children in the 2015 budget.

Voting on the items took a bit of diplomacy as nobody wanted to actually vote against Vince Crisanti’s proposal. In the end, it was amended to request a “briefing note” by June, and then Heisey’s much broader motion was passed. A briefing note does not come back to the TTC agenda and simply updates members on information from staff. A report becomes the subject of future debate.

The motions as they were passed are:

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How (Un)Reliable Is My Service

This article updates my ongoing compendium of TTC route performance statistics to include the first quarter of 2015.

Route_Performance_Summary_15Q1

The numbers reported by the TTC represent performance relative to the planned headways (time between vehicles), not to scheduled arrival times on routes:

The percent means that proportion of vehicles that were within +/- 3 minutes of the scheduled headway. More specifically that when each vehicle passes a ‘timing point’ it is compared to the vehicle in front of it that last crossed that same point. [From TTC Route Performance report]

In my version of the table, the TTC data are arranged in route number order with values for each quarter. Where there are blanks in the table, there was no data in the corresponding TTC quarterly report.

Also shown are the maximum, minimum, average and standard deviation values for each route’s statistics. This gives a sense of how much these values have moved around. A high standard deviation flags data that have widely varying values.

Of the 179 routes reported, 87 have higher ratings in 15Q1 than their averages for the nine quarters reported to date. To put it another way, about half of the routes did better than average for the first part of 2015, while about half did worse. If the extremely bad winter were a factor overall, one would expect a less balanced situation. On the streetcar lines, only three of eleven routes bettered their averages in 15Q1 (King, Lake Shore and St. Clair), but many of the differences are small with five of eleven falling within one standard deviation.

Headway reliability numbers are consistently bad on the 14x Downtown Express routes, and this implies that these infrequent services have a problem with running on time. What is not known is the measurements times and locations used to produce the stats for these routes and whether the service is at least on time where it collects passengers.

Similarly, headway measures for the 3xx Blue Night services are unimpressive, and what matters much more for these routes is on time performance and reliability of connections between routes, such as they exist.

The TTC claims that it will be introducing new “Journey Time Metrics” later in 2015, but there are as yet no details of what exactly these will measure. In parallel, there are moves to change the service reliability standards so that they look at routes end-to-end, not simply at their central points. (This was described in a presentation at the TTC board meeting in March 2015 (see p7 of TTC Modernization).

The TTC has yet to settle on a reporting mechanism that takes into account the difference in rider needs depending on the nature of a service. When a route is supposed to provide “frequent service”, the important point is that it be reliable. A 5 minute headway is not “frequent” if this actually means three buses every 15 minutes. When service is less frequent, then waiting times for off-schedule vehicles are a huge annoyance and on time performance is key. Short turns, of course, play havoc with both of these measures for riders who need a route beyond its common turnback points. Plans to measure the proportion of service that actually arrives at termini will highlight these problems.

Underlying all of this is the absence of a clear goal, a definition of what constitutes “good” transit service. Too often the goal has been to constrain cost increases and make the best of whatever resources the TTC has at hand.

Finch West LRT Soon, Sheppard East Not So (Updated)

Updated April 28, 2015 at 8:20 am:

The decision to push construction of the Sheppard LRT out to the 2020s was taken quite recently as shown by two separate reports.

In today’s Globe & Mail, Oliver Moore reports:

According to Mr. Del Duca, the delay on Sheppard was because of the difficulty of trying to do too many big projects at once. “The plan right now is to have the procurement begin for the Sheppard East LRT after we complete the Finch West LRT,” he said.

There was no firm timeline available for the Sheppard line. If it starts on its new schedule and takes about as long as Finch to build, it should be ready some time after 2025.

This timeline is sharply at odds with the information given to a reporter in the provincial budget lock-up on Thursday. The government’s position then – given on background and not for attribution, under the rules of the lock-up – was that the Sheppard line would open about a year after Finch. Mr. Del Duca’s spokesman did not return a message Monday seeking clarification of what had changed.

On April 27, over an hour after the LRT announcement, one of my readers, seeking clarification from Metrolinx received the following email:

From: Metrolinx Customer Relations <customerrelations@metrolinx.com>
Date: April 27, 2015 at 10:43:26 AM EDT

Dear [x]

Thank you for contacting us about the status of the Sheppard East LRT.

The Sheppard East LRT is fully funded and approved. The Sheppard East LRT underpass construction at Agincourt GO Station has been completed.

Preliminary design and engineering work will be happening over the next few years. Construction is expected to begin in 2017 and be completed by 2021.

I appreciate you taking the time to contact us.

Sincerely,

[x] Customer Service Representative
GO Transit, A Division of Metrolinx

One wonders just what triggered a change so last-minute that it was not communicated to Metrolinx’ own “communications” team. The Minister claims that the delay is because there is only so much construction work that can be undertaken concurrently, but this seems to have more to do with avoiding a politically difficult decision.

A much more honest position would be to say simply that “we’re waiting for the results of various studies now underway on transit for Scarborough”, but leadership, or even a bit of common sense on anything transit-related in that part of town seems to escape the Liberals at Queen’s Park.

Original article from April 27 at 12:11 pm:

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The TTC Board Contemplates Policy

A rather unusual meeting of the Toronto Transit Commission’s board took place on April 15, 2015 with an agenda devoted entirely to policy discussions and some navel gazing on just what the board is supposed to be doing. There were four presentations, of which two are available online:

  • Matt Fullbrook from the UofT’s Rotman School of Management spoke on Board Governance
  • Beverly Romeo-Beehler, the City of Toronto’s Auditor General, spoke on Key Aspects of Board Governance with strong emphasis on risk management
  • Robert Wong of Toronto Hydro spoke on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • Andy Byford, TTC CEO, spoke about his Five-Year Plan

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