TTC To Order Artic Buses from Nova Bus

NOW magazine’s Ben Spurr reports that the TTC will award a contract to Nova Bus for 153 articulated buses.  The award is already shown on the TTC’s website with a date of August 2, and this will be confirmed by the Commission at its meeting on September 27.

Plans to buy artics have been in the works for a while at TTC, but this is a particularly large order, roughly the equivalent of two years’ of past bus purchases.  NOW lists many routes where these might run (the topic has been discussed in past reports to the Commission), and there are no surprises.

The critical point in any rollout will be the degree to which service capacity is actually increased.  For decades, riders on Bathurst and Queen streetcars have put up with wider headways (which are compounded by delays and short-turns) from the use of articulated streetcars.  The TTC bases service levels on the alleged demand and capacity of the route.  Demand that gives up and walks, cycles or drives isn’t counted.  Vehicles that never show up because of short turns, or which appear in a parade and run little-used, are of no benefit to riders but count toward the scheduled capacity.  TTC service standards were changed thanks to the Ford administration’s penny-pinching to stuff more people on routes that provide frequent service, and there is no sign this decision will be reversed.

With luck, by the time the new buses arrive, a more enlightened transit funding policy will be in place at Council, but until then, riders on major routes shouldn’t count on any improvement.

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50 Responses to TTC To Order Artic Buses from Nova Bus

  1. Mimmo Briganti says:

    But the new streetcars will be even worse than the artics in this regard, and nobody’s complaining about that.

    Steve: This is a major issue. Originally, the TTC said that they would operate better service with the new cars than just an “equivalent to current” level, but then reneged on this during budget discussions two years ago. The Karen and Glen show really needs to stop focusing on new construction and start addressing service quality.

  2. Ben Smith says:

    Would you know if the decision to buy articulated buses was made solely based on cutting operational costs, or if ridership reached a point that the TTC couldn’t avoid putting off buying them any more?

    Personally, I think it is absurd that a system as large as the TTC has spent the last two decades buying 40′ buses while much smaller systems have a sizable fleet of 60′ buses. As for frequency, with some routes seeing a combined frequency of about 2 minutes, having to wait 5 minutes instead is hardly a deal breaker. And while it won’t cure bunching and short turns, having fewer buses running on a route will reduce the likelihood of them running into each other.

    Steve: Part of the problem has been that the TTC has been more or less wedded to buying buses from Ontario Bus Industries in Mississauga for the past two decades for reasons I will never understand. It’s been odd to see Metrolinx doing bulk purchases of vehicles from an out-of-Ontario manufacturer while the TTC stayed with OBI (most recently known as Daimler). Now that Daimler has closed the OBI plant, the TTC is finally looking elsewhere. They have been talking about artics for a few years, but were stuck with a long-running contract to Daimler until recently.

  3. Jonathon says:

    Beware the temptation of these buses though. Ottawa has made very good use of articulated buses, and more recently double decker buses to conserve road space, but whereas they make a lot of sense for frequent one-way commuter express services (where physical resources are extremely scarce,) they are also used for all-day service on certain busy (every 10-15 minutes most days) routes, so as to keep costs down.

  4. Raymond Kennedy says:

    I ride Miway articulated buses on occasion and do not like the way they bounce up an down. Is this common to all makes of artics?

    What they should be looking at is the new triple artics in China. They are in 3 sections, carry 300. Claim they can turn corners like any bus.

  5. OgtheDim says:

    “…The TTC bases service levels on the alleged demand and capacity of the route. Demand that gives up and walks, cycles or drives isn’t counted…”

    Is this a question of funding or approach to how service is done? If service was based on headway between pickup, as against fitting the current “gotta get the bus to x point at y time”, wouldn’t a lot of capacity be “found”?

    Steve: Yes, there is capacity, and more subtly, quality to be found simply in managing more regular headways. The TTC has concocted indices of “on time performance” that are barely worth the paper they’re printed on because (a) of how “on time” is defined and (b) the dominance of system-wide measures by a large amount of service on relatively frequent peak period routes. If four buses are running in a pack on a frequent route, only one of them is considered to be “off schedule” because the headways between the others are within three minutes of what they’re shooting for. What this does not measure is the fact that passengers had to wait 10 minutes or more for that pack of vehicles to show up.

    In response to funding cuts, the TTC changed its service standards so that a bus is considered to be “full” with a heavier load, especially on frequent routes where the acceptable off-peak load for buses is almost as high as the peak load. Those are averages, and uneven headways cause vehicles to be overloaded, run later, get short turned, etc.

    The answer to your question is “both”. The TTC could manage its service better (and stop blaming every problem on “traffic congestion”), but funding is also a problem because there’s just not enough service on the streets on many routes. It’s a deadlock because the bean counters say “fix the service” while cutting the resources the TTC has. Oddly enough, if we gave the TTC more money, many would complain that there was little to show for it partly because it takes time to “turn on the tap” again, and partly because “TTC culture” gets in the way of better line management. I know that there is some work underway to try to fix this, but it’s an uphill battle not helped by a shortage of streetcars, buses and operators.

  6. George Bell says:

    I would like the TTC to start publishing…”the longest possible wait” per line, per day…this should be pretty easy with their current gps setup…they should then have a goal that the longest you should ever have to wait on this line that has 5 minute headways is 10 minutes (during rush-hour say)…and do a pass/fail for each line, and then a percentage of the system that was within the goal…this would give a good idea of what the worst performance a customer could see on a line each day…and then lines where the problem is re-occurring could be focused on.

    Steve: Yes, they focus too much on the plus/minus three minute metric which rewards bunching on frequent routes and does not report on the variability of wider headways.

  7. A funny thing that I noticed is that Mississauga Transit (MiWay) has replaced (or otherwise reduced the number of) Artic buses on some routes with 40′ buses, but now offers more express services.

    There are now 4 bus routes on Dundas but whereas the 1 & 1C used to be exclusively artics, now I see a mix of artics & 40s. The 101 express routes are mostly artics, while the 201 is always (from my experience) a 40′ bus.

    Hurontario is now all 40′ buses but in addition to the 19 (A, B, and I think the C is still around) they have added the 103 MiExpress from Port Credit and the 502 BT-ZUM from Square One to Brampton.

    To Raymond: The MiWay artic buses are all New Flyer buses with the engine in the back of the bus rather than the middle. The old New Flyer high-floor buses used to have the engine in the middle, but that way is no longer.

    I don’t know if the newest NOVA 60s will give the same bouncy feeling. Anyone who has ridden those buses in NYC or Montreal can tell you what to expect.

    To Steve: You mentioned that Toronto had more or less be wedded to OBI … but there have been occasional dalliances with New Flyer & Nova. Funny that when TTC bought New Flyer low floor buses, Mississauga Transit was buying OBI-Orion VI and Orion VII buses. TTC then bought Orion VII and newer model Orions, while Mississauga Transit bought mostly New Flyers.

    I used to wonder how long the pas des deux would continue, but now that Orion is out of the picture, how long it will be before Nova & New Flyer start to duke it out (not to mention, will any other bus manufacturers be interested in the Canadian markets).

    Cheers, Moaz

  8. Richard says:

    This is great news. It’s about time the TTC reintroduced articulated buses. It should help to reduce overcrowding

    Some people will be notably upset with the reduction in headways on routes that will receive the new vehicles though. If the reductions are significant enough to match current ridership then the news buses may not do much if anything to reduce overcrowding and is merely a cost saving measure.

  9. Raymond Kennedy wrote,

    “What they should be looking at is the new triple artics in China. They are in 3 sections, carry 300. Claim they can turn corners like any bus.”

    The trouble with the longer artics (and even the 60′ ones as well!) is that many (most?) of the bus bays/right turn lanes in Toronto are too short, leaving the back of the bus in traffic and the rear-most doors in an inconvenient location, especially when snow banks are present.

    That former ‘problem’ is not necessarily a bad thing from a transit operational point of view, as it creates an easier way for the bus to get back into traffic, but it adds fuel to the fires of the anti-transit crowd.

    A significantly larger number of locations in the 905 have longer lanes for buses to pull into, making artics a more natural fit.

  10. Steve, how similar or not are the Nova Bus models the TTC will be ordering from the 15 that YRT purchased for VIVA two years ago?

    Steve: I don’t know the specs on what the TTC is getting. All that is on their website is a contract award with no details.

  11. I can agree with waits for the Queen car – mind you when I used the Bathurst car Friday to attend a concert at Bathurst and College, I can tell you that the service on Bathurst was very good – I waited and saw about 6 Bathurst cars pass through the intersection before the first College car showed up!

    For my trip home on Friday, I arrived on the bus platform at Kipling just as a 123 bus left. The next bus was supposed to depart in 15 minutes, but ended up being 22 and this was after 10 p.m. when traffic was light. So I do have to wonder how the TTC will operate the articulated buses (and in my experience the TTC buses are late most of the times when I want to catch one.) If they use a 1:1 ratio then it will work, but other ratio will only reduce service levels.

  12. Raymond Kennedy says:

    On the subject of on time performance. I am convinced on-the-street management is what is needed. Inspectors; remember them? Somebody to actually see what is going on.

    Steve: There are on street inspectors (aka Route Supervisors), but they are only just now beginning to get handheld units that show them vehicle position and schedule info. It’s ludicrous that I have been able to see more on my Blackberry than the people who are supposed to manage the line. Also, having multiple supervisors standing at the same point is a ridiculous waste of resources. My all time record is four of them, all managing the King car outside of the Tim Horton’s at John Street.

    There are people sitting at computers (I assume) in Transit Control supposedly watching what goes on. However, it seems not to be effective even though I understand there are some 300 people in Planning (for less than 100 routes). There needs to be timing points along routes (MiWay has these) and don’t dare leave 1 minute early. +/- 3 minutes just does not do it.

    Steve: The TTC claims that its service quality target is +/- 3 minutes of the headway, not of the schedule, but I see no evidence that this is how lines are actually managed.

    Practice of multiple buses going through an intersection on one light needs to be eliminated. This needs to be a disciplinary offense. If there is a bus bay, one bus should wait for a change of the light so people do not have to wait a long time for the next bus.

  13. NCarlson says:

    I’d agree that the double artic (80 ft) busses really do need some sort of trial, but at this point getting artics at all is pretty significant progress. I’d be especially interested in seeing how they could perform on Jane with how difficult light rail in that corridor is looking to be.

    As an aside, am I right in thinking that 153 makes the artics the entire bus order for this year? Certainly nice to see that they are ordering a reasonably sized fleet this time.

    Steve: 153 artics is the equivalent of over 200 regular buses, and so this is really a two-year order. Now if only they would treat it as a one-year order to make up for the one they cancelled to trim the budget and gut the fleet for the Ford/Stintz service cuts.

  14. Jelo G. Cantos says:

    Steve, I assume Lawrence East will be the perfect target. The route runs 26.95 KM with 41 40′ buses in the AM Rush. I assume the route would be a perfect runs with artics. The Finch East branches (excluding the “G”) would be a perfect route once again along with Steeles East (minus the “A” branch) and Finch Rocket.

    For Scarborough, I should know the “Toronto Zoo” and “Sheppard Express” will use the the 60′ buses to overlap the Sheppard East “A” while the “Sheppard Local”, “Beechgrove”, and “Highland Creek” branches will continue to use 40′ buses. IMO, It’s best for New Eglinton to upgrade the facilities. On the subject of it, Keele, Eglinton West, Malton, and Bloor-Danforth runs from Mt. Dennis will use artics since the garage has 60′ hoists.

  15. Vic says:

    After reading that Nova Bus won the contract for the articulated bus order, one question immediately came to my mind: Does the TTC have any bus garages equipped to handle the new fleet? I know that current set of vehicle hoists (for the 40 feet bus models) will not be adequate, along with a few other things in the garages that will have to be modified. Hopefully the TTC will not play the silly game of ordering 60 foot buses without having a plan (if not already in place) to have garages adequately store the buses.

  16. Jay says:

    Birchmount and Eglinton are the only garages that cannot accept 60ft buses. All other garages TTC has can handle 60ft buses. TTC also goes through regular up keep of their hoists. TTC is no doubt prepared and ready to accept these new Nova buses.

    I wonder who TTC will go with for the 40ft bus order?

    The 153 buses alone will replace all the HF buses and more, plus the 40ft buses? Is TTC planning on replacing the 7400s or the hybrids? That’s a lot of buses in the next two years alone, unless they plan on increasing services, which I doubt.

  17. Josh says:

    “Does the TTC have any bus garages equipped to handle the new fleet? I know that current set of vehicle hoists (for the 40 feet bus models) will not be adequate, along with a few other things in the garages that will have to be modified.”

    Vic, Many of the garages are designed and have 60-foot service lifts available. The only garages that don’t, as far as I know, are Queensway, Eglinton (Comstock), and Birchmount. Everything else has handled articulated buses in the past, or is capable of doing it now (Mt. Dennis was built and designed for both 40- and 60-foot bus storage). All that is likely needed for the ones which have 60-foot hoists, is to have them serviced and recertified for use.

  18. Jay says:

    The 153 buses alone will replace all the HF buses and more, plus the 40ft buses? Is TTC planning on replacing the 7400s or the hybrids? That’s a lot of buses in the next two years alone, unless they plan on increasing services, which I doubt.

    7400 are only 10 yrs old – too early to be replacing them. 7000-7135/9400 series are the next buses slated for retirement followed by Novas and D40 LFs.

  19. W. K. Lis says:

    If the articulated buses coming by 2014, I hope that the routes will also be the first with PRESTO as well. Otherwise, people will continue to board through the front doors to pay their fares, delaying the buses. PRESTO is to be implemented fully by 2015, so the first couple of years will be troublesome.

    The negative will continue to be the people who will habitually use ONLY the front doors for boarding and egressing, no matter what.

    Steve: The NOW article talks about how the TTC plans to move to proof of payment on the lines with artics so that they can load via all doors.

  20. Frank Hood says:

    I’ve seen the price tag to purchase these artic buses. What I haven’t seen is the price tag to retro fit bus garages to handle them. Or does the TTC still have hoist in place that can lift an artic bus?

  21. Chris says:

    This is a great development for the TTC, although it will require some work to lengthen the bus stops on routes that will use these buses and which have never seen articulated buses before. Basically, the 50% capacity increase over standard buses would mean that a 2 minute peak frequency could become every 3 minutes, etc., with the resulting savings (likely immense with a peak tripper being eliminated) being able to be redeployed on other services. One hopes that short-turns won’t be a problem, as the running time with articulated buses tends to be a bit longer – hopefully the schedules can be adjusted on a route before the long buses are put in. Speaking of short-turns – here’s an article about a grand jury in San Francisco being convened to address the problem there.

  22. Ian Folkard says:

    Hi Steve

    How does the passenger capacity of one of these buses compare with a CLRV or an ALRV? My paranoid side is showing through here as I am sure that a Fordite will suggest that they be used to replace the streetcars.

    Thanks!

    Steve: They will get up to roughly the level of a CLRV. However comparisons are tricky because the real target is the new fleet which will be larger cars and will use all-door loading. The real success of making the artics work will be to get full use out of their capacity.

  23. Danny Handelman says:

    Public transit could be free if appropriate border tolls were imposed, at which stage ridership would be so high to justify all arterial roads having surface rail (where the capital (vehicle life expectancy), operating (driver and fuel costs), and maintenance (related to vehicle life expectancy) would be a lot lower. However, articulated and double-decker public transit vehicles are primarily designed for peak periods, and will be underutilised during non-peak periods. The difference between baseline usage and peak-period usage would be reduced if more people resided within walking distance of their common destinations by making it more profitable for builders to build upward rather than outward through elimination of height and minimum setback restrictions, requiring integration of residential, commercial, institutional, recreational and agricultural uses of land (the first four are done in government-constructed residential buildings in Singapore), imposing maximum automobile parking of 0 for infill, decreasing development charges to 0 for infill and increased for low-density land use and basing property taxes on the value of land alone rather than both land and building.

  24. Jay says:

    Queensway has 60ft hoist, I’ve been there. The only garage that cannot accept the 60ft buses are Eglinton and Birchmount. I wonder why TTC wasn’t thinking about 60ft buses when they built new Eglinton? Someone obviously wasn’t thinking. The radius of a 60ft bus is apparently sharper, so I don’t see how these buses will have difficulty fitting or moving into most stations. TTC has had 60ft buses since 1982-2003, without much problems, except the quality of the bus. The only problem they might have is being able to fit into bus stops without its back-end or trailer blocking a street or something.

    Steve: There are probably locations where the “no parking” area at the bus stop will have to be extended to give the longer vehicles room to pull in properly to the curb.

  25. Mimmo Briganti says:

    “Steve: The TTC claims that its service quality target is +/- 3 minutes of the headway, not of the schedule, but I see no evidence that this is how lines are actually managed.”

    While the streetcar and bus system are, and always have been, a free-for-all, in the olden days CTDIS (and then IPHC) were supposed to be able to automatically manage subway lines to a headway, and evenly space trains out on the fly based on real-time operating conditions. This was supposed to be an improvement over the old electro-mechanical auto TDs, but it never happened. They just replicated the old auto TD system with a microprocessor (the first one was a Data General by the way). I don’t know what they have in place now, but it appears to be schedule-based, not headway-based.

    The TTC’s original auto TDs managed to a schedule too, whereas their cousins on the London underground at that time actually managed to a headway instead. The headway (not the scheduled departure time) was punched into a tape/film (in binary format), which in turn fed a countdown timer. When the timer hit zero, the machine stepped, and the train departure signal cleared. This eliminated bunching on the subways, even if a pack of trains all arrived late. Our TDs could only hold trains that were early, and that’s all.

    My point in all of this is if the TTC isn’t going to manage the subway lines to a headway manually, don’t expect them to do it on the surface.

    Steve: Yes, given that the subway is late more often than not, it’s annoying how little the “headway control” system actually does anything useful except, now and then, hold up a T1 train that is catching up to a TR in front of it. My favourite lack of management happens quite regularly on my “home” routes where short turn cars come out onto Broadview directly in front of or behind a car from Broadview Station, and there is no attempt to space the service so that the gap between the through cars is properly filled. This sort of thing happens everywhere.

  26. MWM says:

    The TTC put out two tenders at the same time in February of this year. The first tender was for the supply of 40ft buses for 2013 and 2016. The second tender was for the supply of 60ft articulated buses for 2013, 2014 and 2016.

    As far as the amount of buses being ordered with each contract, I personally have not seen any official amount in writing from the TTC except for in the Opportunities For Improved Bus Service on Finch Avenue – Follow-Up Report #2 which mentions their plan to purchase 153 60ft articulated buses for 2014 and 2015.

    Based on the TTC’s usually routine of retiring buses when they reach around 17-19 years old, between 2013 and 2016 the TTC will have to replace 237 buses (all remaining high floor buses) followed by another 51 in 2017 (the New Flyers LFs, one of which is already retired due to an engine fire). If they were to replace them at a ratio of 1:1 then the 153 artics will replace 229 40ft buses. The 40ft contract will likely cover the rest of the replacement plus any expansion buses which I think they will likely purchase, mainly to cover the SRT replacement bus service when the SRT shuts down for conversion.

    The delivery dates have likely changed too. I read in a TTC report from the early/mid 2000s that it takes 18 months between contract being awarded and the first bus arriving on property. If that is still the case then it doesn’t look like we will receive any new buses, 40ft or 60ft, until February 2014 at the earliest.

  27. nfitz says:

    Steve: The TTC claims that its service quality target is +/- 3 minutes of the headway, not of the schedule, but I see no evidence that this is how lines are actually managed.

    I agree. I grab the 506 to Woodbine every afternoon. The best indication of whether the car will be short-turned at Coxwell (or Broadview, sigh), is if when I check TransSee the car is 8 minutes or more behind schedule, not whether or not there’s another 506 in front or behind. They seem to continue to do short-turns, not only to fill service gaps, but also to put cars “back on schedule”.

    Meanwhile my weekly complaints to TTC about big 506 gaps I encounter yields the regular canned response that Transit Control will watch the line more carefully in the future. If they actually did watch it more carefully each time they tell me it will be watched more carefully, they’d have about 30 people now doing nothing but fulltime monitoring the line … :)

  28. Raymond Kennedy says:

    Hey Steve, How about a new topic? Skymark Hub. Over at Transit Toronto there is a recent article “Introducing” Skymark Hub. Kind of late as MiWay has been promoting it for several months referring to as the pre-BRT terminal. They have been gradually rerouting several routes and realigning schedules until almost all routes travel via Skymark. Transit Toronto finishes saying the TTC serves Skymark Hub. Well, not on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays. On those days TTC 32 ends at Renforth Loop a long walk from the Skymark Hub. Why isn’t the TTC on board with this?

    Also, since the 32B Eg West was cut back to Explorer & Skymark the buses run clockwise instead of counter-clockwise as before. MiWay Express buses stop only at the Skymark Hub main point which is the two pairs of extra large shelters about mid-way on Skymark a long walk from the end point of TTC 32 or 32A.

    TTC doesn’t even tell its Operators about the Skymark Hub. TTC drivers don’t wait for the MiWay bus most times pulling away just as one arrives. Recently I overheard a TTC Operator tell a passenger that the nice thing about Mississauga Transit is that “ALL routes stop right at Renforth Loop”. Not so. Never was.

    Steve: And of course, this hub was supposed to connect with the Eglinton LRT which might make it out there in a decade or so.

  29. Wogster says:

    The real issue isn’t headways, it’s the fact that vehicles don’t come when they are supposed to. Transit control should have enough technology in place to be able to know how far vehicles are apart, and when vehicles get too close, tell the vehicles that are too close, to hold position, to reestablish the proper spacing. A driver who is told to hold, would then make the following announcement “Notice to passengers, this vehicle will be holding at this position, for 2 minutes, for scheduling purposes, if you would like to disembark, while waiting, please see the driver for a transfer.”

    On a route with a headway of 5 minutes, I don’t care if the bus is supposed to come at 22:45 or not, but if I am there at 22:45 then it should be reasonable that a bus appears before 22:50. Currently it’s entirely possible to have to wait 23:05 for a bus, with 3 more right behind it.

  30. T17 says:

    The contract awarded was for 27 buses at the cost of $903,435 each with an option for 126 more.

  31. Raymond Kennedy said: Hey Steve, How about a new topic? Skymark Hub.

    Here we have Mississauga & Metrolinx paying for a BRT that will run buses to Renforth & Eglinton, but no talk about plans on how to get those buses down to the subway … correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that there has been no talk about a BRT link from Renforth to Kipling, or even a simpler project like HOV or bus-bypass lanes (like on the 403) on the 427, as well as HOV lanes on Dundas St. from Kipling to the West Mall.

    And by ‘the subway’ I’m referring to Islington station via Dundas St. as MiWay is still using Islington Station as its Toronto gateway, adding travel time to bus routes and increasing the cost of transit services for MiWay passengers & Mississauga residents. Not to mention the Toronto residents who have to wait for their less frequent TTC buses while MiWay buses pass by regularly & frequently, all bound for the same subway destinations.

    So may I ask, what happened to the inter-regional transit terminal planned for Kipling station?

    There is also that bigger question of ‘what is Metrolinx doing when it comes to inter-regional service improvements?’ After all, this is supposed to be part of their mandate, is it not?

    Another new topic, I guess

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: For some reason, Metrolinx put the Kipling project on hold. It’s nice to know that provincial plans get screwed up for bus projects too, not just for LRT. Meanwhile up on Eglinton, of course the Mississauga busway was supposed to connect with the LRT line, but it won’t show up there for a decade or so.

  32. Grzegorz Radziwonowski says:

    Look, I won’t say this works all the time, but when I notice a major gap (over 10 minutes on frequent routes, thanks to NextTTC), and especially if there’s bunching on both sides of the gap, I send a tweet to @TTChelps. Usually seems to correct most of my issues, like an operator not following their routing. Granted, it didn’t really help get them on board with headway based route management.

  33. Mike Vainchtein said,

    “7400 are only 10 yrs old – too early to be replacing them. 7000-7135/9400 series are the next buses slated for retirement followed by Novas and D40 LFs.”

    Then XXX noted in a comment,

    “Based on the TTC’s usually routine of retiring buses when they reach around 17-19 years old,”

    Does the TTC still use the 18-year basis for replacing buses, or are they considering the Ministry of Transit’s bus replacement subsidy program that recommends a 12-year replacement frequency. From YRT’s website:

    In 2007, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation amended their bus replacement subsidy program to encourage the retirement of buses after 12 years. YRT staff analyzed a number of factors to determine the benefit, if any, of decreasing the bus retirement age from 18 to 12 years.

    There is a cost savings of approximately $39,000 per vehicle over the latter life of the bus.

    Steve: The TTC is looking at changing their standard, but a big issue here is subsidy policy. Since buses are largely paid for with city money, it doesn’t matter what MTO thinks is a reasonable age for replacement. It’s a question of cost efficiency over the lifespan of the vehicle. Other cities get a bigger proportion of their capital budget from Queen’s Park, but for Toronto it’s a drop (and an evaporating one at that) in the bucket.

  34. Mimmo Briganti says:

    Wogster says:

    “The real issue isn’t headways, it’s the fact that vehicles don’t come when they are supposed to. Transit control should have enough technology in place to be able to know how far vehicles are apart, and when vehicles get too close, tell the vehicles that are too close, to hold position, to reestablish the proper spacing.”

    Sorry, but it’s not that simple, because the TTC operates the minimum level of service they can get away with. Under that constraint, when a service irregularity occurs, you have buses that are overloaded, and others that are underloaded, so it’s not as simple as spacing out dots on a screen unless you also take into account how the passenger loads are distributed on the buses themselves, and at the stops down the line.

    I’ll give you a simpler example of a failed scheme similar to yours. You may have noticed that on the subway there are fixed tunnel sign markers that tell drivers where the brake, coast, series, parallel, etc. Once upon a time, these fixed signs were supposed to be replaced with electronic signs that would change, based on actual service conditions obtained from the headway control system. The idea, which I thought was brilliant, was to change certain “coast” signs, where it was safe, to “series” or “parallel”, so that late trains could close gaps faster than they would otherwise, or slow down (but not stop and hold) other trains to space them out better. Never happened, but the new signal system should take care of this.

    The name of the game has always been to get back on schedule, so the operators can go home on time. Passenger convenience comes second.

  35. Grzegorz Radziwonowski says:

    I’m wondering: is it feasible, let alone possible, to keep the Vs/D40LFs as surplus for all the Big Move work, including SRT shuttles? Keeping them in storage, and recommissioning them as required (as was done with a few New Looks)? The more beat up ones used for parts, the rest maintained until more of the LRT system comes online, and the VIIs/LFS can replace them.

    As far as I remember, the next bus garage is still “not required”. With the new buses coming, and seemingly many of them for fleet expansion, how long, assuming the commissioners are on board, would approval and construction take?

    Also, is it likely that the TTC would take part in buying 40′ buses with Metrolinx, or is the TTC’s size big enough that the savings would be the same?

    Steve: It’s hard to say if the TTC will go in with Metrolinx as they are already getting an economy of scale in their purchases. Also, Queen’s Park does not contribute much to the TTC capital budget, and so it’s not as if they have a big stick to force them into a joint bit. As for the larger question of fleet planning, I am looking forward to the TTC’s 2013-2022 Capital Budget including its fleet plans for all modes. At the very least, they should present alternative scenarios for growth, loading standards, and staging of major new lines. Up until now, they have only been showing the most conservative schemes to keep Ford’s budget people happy. Council should demand much more.

  36. George Bell says:

    I like Grzegorz Radziwonowski’s idea … crowd source the management of the buses … each bus driver should get a twitter address (@ttcBusNumber1234) … anyone can look at nextbus and decide if they think the bus should short-turn or not … if they want it to or not they tweet it – “Hey @ttcBusNumber1234 don’t short-turn, I’m waiting at the next stop and have been here for an hour” … the automated stop announcer reads the tweets as they come in … and the bus driver can make an informed decision, based on the feedback from people on the road ahead, or on the bus itself (or watching from the beach in the Bahama’s …) … maybe have the tweets also show up on the signs on the front of the bus … so people can see that @AnnoyedTTCCustomer4927 is telling the bus to short turn so they can get to work on time.

  37. Wogster says:

    I think the issue on bus replacement, is that is as a vehicle gets older, it spends more time in the shop, and as it gets older, parts that need replacing get more expensive. Of course the more time a bus spends in the shop, it’s not on the road earning revenue. Which means you need more replacement buses along with more mechanics and service space.

    There may be other factors as well, such as better fuel economy with newer and lighter weight buses that have micro-chip controlled engines. You can probably get a decent price on the used market, for a bus that is only 12 years old, when an 18 year old one is basically scrap.

    Steve: There are two offsets for the factors you mention. First there is the capital cost which is borne almost entirely by the City. Buying a new bus at the 12-year mark increases capital spending which is paid for with 100-cent dollars (plus interest) while maintenance expenses are paid for (from the City’s point of view) with 25-cent dollars (the rest comes from the farebox and miscellaneous revenue). Also, a bus tends to go through a life cycle cost pattern that depends both on the speed of technological and structural obsolescence, as well as the quality of maintenance. One of the larger costs the TTC faces is the engine overhauls, and they are studying whether these are still cost-effective. An organization of the TTC’s size can carry maintenance shops that can undertake work on buses that smaller systems would find prohibitive, and so the cost analysis will not be the same. Indeed, one might argue that a large shops such as the TTC’s could take on work for other systems, but something tell me Queen’s Park wouldn’t be too happy with that sort of arrangement.

    It will be interesting to see how the political attitude to early bus replacement shifts, if at all, now that we are no longer propping up an “Ontario” company to build buses.

  38. David Cavlovic says:

    Ya know, we in Ottawa are very happy with Flyer-built artics. Just sayin’…

    Although, I do believe the double-deckers will be very problematic. The TTC could NEVER operate them.

    Steve: I am astounded that given concerns about safety and accessibility that double-deckers get into the system at all. It shows that “standards” can be bent as need be when someone thinks they will save money.

  39. Mikey says:

    “Steve: I am astounded that given concerns about safety and accessibility that double-deckers get into the system at all. It shows that “standards” can be bent as need be when someone thinks they will save money.”

    Just because the upper floor of a double-decker bus is inaccessible to mobility-impaired people does not make double-decker buses inaccessible overall. Mobility-impaired people can still use the bottom floor.

    Besides, the new streetcars aren’t exactly accessible throughout either, even though they’re 100% low floor. Wheelchairs and scooters probably cannot access the 1st, 3rd, and 5th modules because of the narrow aisle width.

    Steve: My remark about “safety” was aimed at the TTC who tend to invoke that term for things they don’t want to do, with mobility a close second. The whole business of having stairs within the vehicle was one of the reasons the streetcar order evolved from a high/low design to an all low-floor one, and I can hear the TTC now going on about how unsafe it would be having people move between levels of a double decker. An important consideration is that there is a lot more “churn” of passengers and the stops are much closer together on the TTC than on GO, and so there would be reason for concern that navigating the stairs would not be safe for urban operations. As for mobility, there is a question of the combined effect of the mobility devices (and carriages, etc) being confined to “downstairs” and forcing everyone else to migrate to the upper level. I don’t think it’s a black and white argument although obviously systems all over the world are running with this type of vehicle.

    My real target here is that the TTC tends to bend arguments pro on con some change in operating practices depending on what they want to accomplish.

  40. Benny Cheung says:

    There are many double decker buses in use in London and Hong Kong every day running local routes. There is nothing inherently unsafe about them. One needs to remember to move downstairs a few stops ahead of time and do not stand there while the vehicle is in motion.

    Steve: I didn’t say they were unsafe, just to be clear. However, the TTC has a long history of invoking safety as a watchword. Don’t be surprised for this to be raised if the idea of double deckers is mooted for Toronto.

    We also need to stop thinking inside the box. There is nothing stopping the TTC from purchasing double decker bus and running new super express routes. For example, a route that connects Finch Station to Pearson International with a stop at Yorkdale. As long as the bus can be timed to connect to other bus/metro routes, it should be a winner. The rocket routes are already a good start in making transit faster and more competitive.

    Steve: This also would minimize the need for frequent internal circulation associated with on-and-off routes like Finch West.

    Before the TTC deploys articulated buses, it should do some trimming on the number of bus stops. A heavier vehicle like an articulated bus is the most efficient at cruising. Constantly stopping and starting will have a much higher fuel burn rate per passenger mile travelled. So on the Finch East route, the 199 should get these buses while the 39 route should still be used with 40ft buses.

    Steve: You might get an argument from those readers here who feel that the 199 is a complete waste of buses no matter what the technology.

  41. Steve said:

    I can hear the TTC now going on about how unsafe it would be having people move between levels of a double decker. An important consideration is that there is a lot more “churn” of passengers and the stops are much closer together on the TTC than on GO, and so there would be reason for concern that navigating the stairs would not be safe for urban operations.

    Sometimes the “TTC Attitude” really makes you wonder. Never mind that London & Hong Kong & Singapore and a few other cities manage to make double decker buses (and in Hong Kong’s case, double-decker trams) work on their very urban, high “churn”, closely-stopping bus routes.

    On the topic of the TTC shops maintaining buses for other transit agencies … why not? If the TTC has the experience, the expertise and the space, why not offer a service to other agencies in the GTA? Or perhaps there is someone at Metrolinx who thinks that they should be getting deals on buying buses (as in the past with OBI) rather than maintaining them? Or someone else who thinks Metrolinx should set up a central bus maintenance facility? (Rhetorical Qs, I guess).

    By the way, I have noticed a number of TTC, VIVA & MiWay buses parked on a lot on the north side of Evans Avenue, just west of the TTC Garage at Kipling. Anyone have info on why the buses are there?

    Cheers, Moaz

  42. Jonathon says:

    In Ottawa, double decker buses are to be used on “express” routes, where passenger turnover is a non-issue. The primary role of the bus would be to fill up driving around a suburban neighbourhood, then run express to downtown where passengers would disembark. This kind of operation is commonplace in Ottawa, but much harder to find in a city like Toronto.

    The reason these buses were bought in the first place is to mitigate the extreme congestion of buses on Albert and Slater streets in downtown Ottawa, to the point that the efficiency of saving curb space by replacing artics with double deckers during rush hours will actually allow those roads to function (barely) for a few more years until the LRT opens. Toronto rarely experiences bus congestion to quite the same degree.

  43. Grzegorz Radziwonowski says:

    Moaz, the place you mention is a bus maintenance shop. There are a few heavy vehicle shops that the TTC sends buses to.

    Wouldn’t the only thing stopping the TTC from using double deckers is bridge height? While there are a few low bridges in the suburbs, the CP line through most of Mid-Town has low clearances (I believe Jane Street might be the exception). You’d either have to rebuild bridges, or keep them north of Eglinton. Not to mention out of stations with lower ceilings, like York Mills.

  44. L. Wall says:

    Double deckers on the TTC? Oh my god, they do it in London and HK?

    There’s enough bellyaching about the “bottleneck” around the rear of the low floor buses and the wheels of the new yet-to-be-delivered streetcars.

    I find it strange to see that criticism suddenly gone when the subject turns to the charming double deckers that we see on postcards because the above scenario would be far worse than on any low floor vehicle.

    Realistically, how many TTC routes would actually benefit from them? Once you decide that it’s not worth spending hundreds of millions to rebuild bridges, I think you can count the bus routes on one hand.

  45. Raymond Kennedy says:

    Doubledecker buses? Where did that come from? You cannot even get people to walk past the rear doors on the new buses with the higher rear level, instead they block the rear door!

  46. Ernie says:

    Back on topic, I think that the articulated buses could be the start to actually realizing the Transit City Bus plan. This plan has always been on the back burner due to other priorities, but I think that with the articulated buses, we can put this plan into action and make it succeed. I think we need the Transit City Bus plan to succeed to springboard into LRT (Which I think was the original plan).

    P.S. If we wanted double deckers, I think that Volvo (owners of Nova Bus) would be happy to build a few Volvo B9TL in North America, if the conditions prove right.

    Steve: The fundamental point about the Transit City Bus Plan, or any other proposal for improving service, is that the Commission and the left-centre coalition on Council must actively take the lead in ensuring it is properly funded. As things stand, we have lost two years thanks to the Ford-dominated TTC and two budgets where Karen Stintz was trying to be “one of the boys”.

  47. David Arthur says:

    Raymond: The advantage of double-deckers is that the upper deck is considered nicer (there’s a view, and more room), so anyone going more than a few stops is usually glad to go upstairs. By comparison, ‘moving to the back of the bus’ is already a standard cliché for giving up your rights as an individual.

    Not that double-deckers are particularly a priority for Toronto (though Alexander Dennis have already built a Canada-ready model that’s used by Victoria, Ottawa, and indeed GO).

  48. Stan says:

    By the way, I have noticed a number of TTC, VIVA & MiWay buses parked on a lot on the north side of Evans Avenue, just west of the TTC Garage at Kipling. Anyone have info on why the buses are there?
    Cheers, Moaz

    That is Wajax. Used to be Harper Detroit Diesel. They service the engines.

  49. Thanks, Grzegorz & Stan for the info

    Regarding the Transit City Bus Plan, I just wish we could go back to a Transit City plan that just looked at Rapid Transit and didn’t have separate plans for different modes.

    If the bus service frequency improvements & infrastructure improvements that were constituted as the “Transit City Bus Plan” were not under said plan, who knows, perhaps some of those projects would have been done on an ‘as needed’ basis and would not have been put on the back burner (buses coming second to LRT) or declared ‘dead’ with Transit City (however premature that declaration was).

    It frustrates me to see that year by year, small projects that would really improve public transit for the users in the short term are pushed back and big ‘long-term’ and so-called ‘visionary’ projects are trumpeted by the media & politicians alike.

    To wit: Mississauga is building a BRT to Eglinton & Renforth but there is no complementary improvements in Toronto … not even bus lanes for the 427. This despite the Ontario Government having created an agency (Metrolinx) that is supposed to be responsible for GTA public transit improvements at the regional level and actually has a role in the Mississauga BRT project!

    Cheers, Moaz

  50. Wogster says:

    Steve, in regards to replacing buses more often, you’re right the TTC can do a lot of the maintenance in house, including complete rebuilds. Rebuilding a 12 year old bus to run another 6 years is reasonable, as long as the cost to rebuild it, is less then half the cost to replace it. The other issue is as a bus ages it costs more each year to maintain, given a constant duty cycle. There are sensible ways around this though, for example you run new buses in regular service, and once they pass a certain age, they get shifted to rush hour only service, and once they are considered old, they move to replacement service only, since they see less service, the maintenance cost evens out more.

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