Past and Future Streetcar Service Capacity

Now that the first Low Floor Light Rail Vehicle (LFLRV) is rolling through Toronto streets on test runs, the question of service quality and capacity for streetcar routes is once again an issue.

The most recent TTC document setting out their intended use of the new fleet appeared in the 2013 Capital Budget Blue Books.  These are not available online, but I presented the TTC’s fleet plan in an article last fall.  From the numbers of vehicles to be assigned to each route, one can work back to the service frequency and capacity numbers.  In general, peak period headways get a bit wider, but the capacity goes up, in some cases dramatically.

The TTC faces two challenges: one on the budget, and one in operations.

Toronto Council has been extremely stingy with operating subsidies and “flat lined” the TTC over the past two budget cycles.  Hard liners will want the TTC to simply replace service on an equivalent capacity basis and maximize the savings in operator costs.  This would be a disaster for service quality even if the TTC actually ran cars on the headways they advertise.

On the operational side, any increase in headways brings even wider gaps when the service is upset by weather, random delays and short turns.  It is already a matter of record that the largest drop in riding over the past two decades came on the lines where 50-foot long CLRVs (the standard Toronto cars) were replaced by 75-foot long ALRVs (the articulated version) on an equivalent capacity basis.  Falling riding led to reduced service and the familiar downward spiral.  This must not happen when the new fleet rolls out across the system.

Since at least the mid-1990s, the TTC has told us that they cannot improve streetcar service because they have no spare cars.  In part, they are the victims of their own fleet planning.  The TTC originally rebuilt some of its old PCC cars (the fleet preceding the current one) in order to have enough to expand operations on the Harbourfront and Spadina lines.  However, by the mid-1990s, service cuts on many routes thanks to the economic downturn in that decade and the subsidy cuts by the Harris government, reduced the fleet requirements to the point where the PCCs could be retired and the Spadina line opened without buying any new cars.  When riding started to grow again, the TTC had no spare vehicles to improve service, and to make matters worse, the fleet was entering a period of lower reliability thanks, in part, to poor design.

Toronto waited a long time for new cars to be ordered, and this process was delayed both by the decision to go with all low-floor cars, and by political meddling at City Hall.  New residential construction along the streetcar lines pushes up demand, but the TTC cannot respond with better service until they have more cars.

Recent discussions about the new cars have included comments about how we cannot possibly have more streetcars on the road.  What many people forget is that the streetcar services were once much better than today.  In this article, I will look back at service levels once operated in Toronto, and at the service that we might see if the TTC actually operates the new fleet in the manner their Fleet Plan claims.

For the purpose of comparison, I have chosen services as they existed on several dates:

  • April 1954:  The Yonge subway has just opened between Union and Eglinton and much of the north-south flow into the core has been redirected from surface routes onto that line.
  • April 1964:  The University subway has opened, but Bloor-Danforth is still two years in the future.
  • January 1968:  The Bloor-Danforth subway has opened between Keele and Woodbine, but extensions beyond are still under construction.
  • October 1971:  The Spadina subway has not yet opened.
  • October 1980:  The subway is at the extent it will remain for many years, but 1980 brings the first drop in TTC riding for decades thanks to the Gulf War induced recession and spike in oil prices.
  • April 1990:  The early 90s recession is just about to arrive.
  • February 1996:  The combined effect of the recession and Harris service cuts hits the TTC which will lose 20% of its former peak ridership.
  • September 2006:  The TTC has started to climb out of its ridership slump, but has not yet surpassed its previous record level.
  • March 2013:  TTC now has record ridership and service is improving, although not much on the streetcar system thanks to fleet constraints.
  • Post LFLRV implementation:  Working from the planned fleet allocation, it is possible to calculate future capacity levels on each route, although some assumptions are needed about details of service design.

Service Into the Core Area

Four streetcar routes continue to serve the core area (506 Carlton, 505 Dundas, 501 Queen, 504 King plus supplementary routes 502, 503, 508 and trippers on some lines).  In the following chart, capacity numbers are based on the services in place at each time period.

Core_Area_Streetcar_Capacity

The values shown are for the peak hour inbound in the AM peak, and are based on the design capacities of the vehicles for service planning, not on their crush capacities.  The ratio between these is higher for streetcars than for buses because of the relatively larger amount of standee space.

As a simple example, a service of 20 cars per hour (three minute headway) of PCCs or CLRVs (design capacity 75) provides a line capacity of 1,500 although with crush loads this could in theory go up about 30% at a penalty to passenger comfort and speed of service.  (More cars would be needed to maintain the headway because they would spend longer at stops thanks to crowding.)

Queen and King have always been the two busiest corridors, but Dundas and Carlton were once provided with much better service as well.

College/Carlton

The figures shown for the west and east sides of this route are identical except for 1954 when an extra short-turn service was provided on the eastern leg.  The route is otherwise unchanged over the entire period.

Dundas

This corridor has seen various service designs over the years.  Until the B-D subway opened, the west side was served by Dundas cars while the east side was served by the Harbord route (which terminated at what is now Pape Station).  After the B-D subway was in operation, the Dundas route served both sides of the city, but for a time some of the peak service short turned (at City Hall, later at Church) and served only the west half of the route.

Queen

The Queen car originally ran from Neville to Humber with a separate service provided on Lake Shore by the Long Branch car.  The two routes were amalgamated in 1995.  Supplementary AM peak services on Queen include:

  • Long Branch service via Queen to Church Street in peak periods (discontinued after route amalgamation)
  • Service from Kingston Road to McCaul Loop (now called 502 Downtowner)
  • Eastbound trippers from Roncesvalles carhouse (effective April 2013)

Capacities shown are based on the vehicle type(s) in operation on each date.

King

The King car has operated from Broadview & Danforth to Bloor & Dundas for nearly a century.  Supplementary AM peak services in King include:

  • The Kingston Road Tripper (now 503 Kingston Road) operated from Bingham Loop to Roncesvalles & Queen via King Street, but was cut back first to Dufferin and then to its current terminus at York.
  • After the amalgamation of the Queen and Long Branch routes, a Lake Shore tripper was introduced from Long Branch to downtown via King.
  • A service of King trippers operates eastbound from Dundas West Station starting at about 7:00 am providing extra service on the more heavily-loaded west end of the route.

What is immediately obvious in this chart is the much higher level of service and capacity provided by the major streecar corridors before the B-D subway opened.  Some of the change in demand is a direct result of that subway which absorbed trips to the core formerly handled by these surface routes as an alternative to the very busy Bloor streetcars.

The King car is a special case because it is a route that has held its post-B-D ridership the best.  This is helped by new residential demand both to the east (the St. Lawrence neighbourhood, and more recently the Distillery), and to the west (Liberty Village and the Bathurst/Niagara condos.  As more development appears, and as this shifts north to other corridors, they too will come under pressure for increased service.

Streetcar Services Outside of the Core

In addition to the four corridors entering the core area, there are services in a number of locations whose evolution is worth looking at.

Outside_Core_Streetcar_Capacity

Bathurst

Until the Bloor-Danforth subway opened, the Bathurst car provided a very frequent service from Vaughan Loop (St. Clair & Bathurst) with two-thirds of the cars operating into the core area via Adelaide eastbound (returning west on King).  When the B-D subway opened, the route was shortened to loop at Bathurst Station, and all cars operated to Exhibition Loop.

The Spadina subway absorbed more demand from feeders to the Bathurst route, and the wider headways from ALRV operation contributed to further decline as wait times became a substantial part of trip times for riders on this short route.

Queen & Kingston Road

Services from the Beach once operated much more frequently than today, especially on Kingston Road which was fed by bus services from southern Scarborough.  This demand almost totally shifted to the B-D subway and especially to its extension beyond Woodbine Station.

The drop in demand on both the Queen and Kingston Road corridors is also related to changing demographics and travel patterns from this area, although there is something of a vicious circle thanks to service quality.  Beachers enjoy a premium fare express bus to downtown although on a 15-minute headway, this does not contribute much to the corridor’s capacity.

Roncesvalles & Broadview

These north-south outer parts of the King route once drew much demand from feeders at the terminals, but now moreso from residents along the routes.  Although it is not shown here, the TTC initially cut more than half of the route’s service when the B-D subway opened thinking that nobody would ride the streetcar any more.  Most of the service had to be restored a few months later when the TTC discovered what “local demand” really meant.

Lake Shore

Originally service on Lake Shore west of Humber Loop was provided by the Long Branch car with peak period service through to downtown via Queen.  Since 1995, this area is served by 501 Queen with half of its service running through to Long Branch and a small supplementary peak direction 508 Lake Shore service (3 cars inbound AM, 4 outbound PM, expanding to 6 PM in April 2013) via King Street.

St. Clair

The St. Clair streetcar provided very heavy service feeding into the Bathurst car and the Yonge subway until the B-D subway opened in 1966.  Riding fell off as some trips shifted to north-south routes such as Dufferin, but picked up again when the Spadina subway provided a direct route to downtown from the St. Clair line.

Until 1974, the Rogers Road car supplemented the St. Clair service between Oakwood and Yonge.

On the chart, no value is shown for 2006 because the route was under construction.

Spadina

Until 1997, service on Spadina was provided by the Spadina bus and the scheduled capacity was actually higher than that of the streetcar service that replaced it.  However, the buses routinely were caught in traffic and provided much worse service than the scheduled values would indicate.

Plans for the Low-Floor Streetcar Fleet

On both of the charts above, the last, pink column for each route shows my estimate of the capacity to be provided by the new fleet assuming that the TTC sticks with its published fleet plans.  These will take many years to roll out, but service improvements should not have to wait for all of the new cars to arrive.

In 2014, the Spadina/Harbourfront route will be the first to get new equipment, and this will free up cars to improve service elsewhere, assuming that Council provides the TTC with adequate funding.

Three routes (Carlton, Dundas and St. Clair) are particularly hard hit with wider headways because the planned capacity increase is less than 30%.  With 100% larger cars, the frequency of service will be much worse.  Whether this change is actually implemented by the TTC remains to be seen, especially with growing demand from development along these routes.  My estimated service levels are on the second page of the Fleet Plan linked from the article above.

Another problem with the Fleet Plan is that the TTC wants to get rid of the less-reliable ALRVs before it implements LFLRV operation on the Queen and King routes.  This would imply a shift back to CLRVs and a temporary improvement in headways, only to be followed by much less frequent service with LFLRVs.  This does not make sense.

The TTC is expected to produce a rollout plan for LFLRV service later this year and it will be more public than burying it in the budget papers.  This is also important for operating budget planning in coming years.

Looking Back to Former Streetcar Routes

The level of service operated on some routes, notably Bloor-Danforth, usually stuns anyone who didn’t see it first hand.  Comparisons with today’s operations show just how much traffic that formerly fed into the streetcar routes now is handled by the trunk east-west subway line.

Discontinued_Streetcar_Route_Capacity

Bloor-Danforth Streetcar

Until the subway opened, service was provided on Bloor-Danforth by two-car trains of PCCs running less than 90 seconds apart.  The route extended from Luttrell Loop (east of Main) in the east to Jane Loop in the west.  Service to the east was heavier than the west, and a short-turn operation looped at Bedford (now St. George Station).

The design capacity (based on 75/car) was over 6,000 passengers per hour, and actual loads were above what is now considered a reasonable service design level.

After the Keele-Woodbine segment of the B-D line opened in 1966, shuttle services ran on the outer ends of the streetcar line connecting with the remaining bus feeder services.  The level of demand for these two links can be seen in the service level for 1968 with a capacity of 3,000 per hour, greater than any streetcar line now operating.

This shows clearly the role of feeder bus services as much of the demand on the two shuttles did not originate from local traffic in the mainly low-rise residential areas they served.

Harbord

The Harbord car took a meandering route from the west end of the city to downtown.  In 1954, it began at Townsley Loop (St. Clair & Old Weston Road) and ran south and east along Davenport, down Dovercourt to Bloor, east to Ossington, south to Wellesley, and east (finally on its namesake street) to Spadina, then south to Dundas.

After the CNR grade separation west of Lansdowne, the route was cut back to St. Clarens Loop (now a parkette east of Lansdowne on Davenport), and with the B-D subway opening, the route was carved up into many pieces as it no longer had a role as a downtown link from suburban bus feeders.

It is hard to believe that Harbord Street at Spadina now operates with the infrequent Wellesley bus (5 trips per hour) compared to a capacity of over 2,000 riders/hour in 1954.  This is definitely a case where the subway completely absorbed the surface route’s demand.

Bay

After the Yonge Subway opened, service on Bay was provided by the Dupont car (supplemented further south at times by the Dundas car).  Streetcars were replaced by buses after the University Subway opened, and service capacity today is less than 1/3 of the level when streetcars operated.

Demand on this route has changed considerably with traffic to the business district coming more via the subway and GO Transit, and the Bay bus having its greatest demand at the north end of the line for government offices.

Quite recently, this route has seen new demand from condos along the northern part of Bay and also to the new developments in the eastern waterfront, notably George Brown College.

Church

Until the Yonge Subway opened, north-south routes close to Yonge provided supplementary capacity for travel into the core.  The Church car lasted only until mid-1954, and the bus replacement service gradually dwindled until it disappeared totally in 1996.

Parliament

Streetcar service on Parliament was replaced with buses when the B-D Subway opened in 1966.  The level of service is now much lower.

What Could the Streetcars Do?

Looking at the former service levels on streetcar line, one is tempted to say that this is a vast amount of untapped capacity.  That is a true statement, but equally important are the questions of where riders will come from and whether service will be operated at a reliable enough level to attract them.

Already we can see the effect of new development on the King corridor east and west of downtown, and the Queen corridor is about to see similar growth of development and demand.  This effect will spread north to Dundas and to College/Carlton presuming that the economic incentives to continue residential intensification downtown remain.  St. Clair is also starting to build up with new high-rises near the Spadina Subway, but mid-rise developments are planned further west.

A two-minute service of the new LFLRVs (30 cars per hour) would provide a design capacity of 4,500, well above any existing route’s service today, but within the capability of on-street operation.  The challenge will lie in elbowing other traffic out of the way, and in handling pedestrian movements at major stops.  Whether any route will actually reach this level of demand remains to be seen.

The TTC and the City must plan for the population and travel demand that will exist in the coming years, not simply perpetuate service levels that have been constrained by fleet size for well over a decade.

About Steve

Steve thanks you for reading this article, even if you don't agree with it.
This entry was posted in Bathurst Car, Dundas Car, King Car, Kingston Road, New Streetcars, Queen Car, Service Cost and Quality, Spadina Car, St. Clair Car, Transit, Vehicles. Bookmark the permalink.
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34 Responses to Past and Future Streetcar Service Capacity

  1. W. K. Lis says:

    Streetcar routes should operate not on a scheduled time basis, but headway based. The subway is headway based, at five minutes in the non-hour hour. The Sheppard subway is at a five minute headway at all hours.

    Streetcars should be have a five minute headway in the non-rush hour during the day. Maybe no wider than a ten minute headway in the late evening.

    Maybe headways should be incorporated into the Customer Charter, for streetcars.

    One other requirement is to get true transit-priority traffic signals over the left-turn lanes for single-occupant cars. Especially with far-side transit stops.

    Steve: Actually, subway headways are generally less than 5 minutes, and if the line is running late, headway regulation can be unreliable. The system is still timetable based.

  2. Robert Wightman says:

    I cannot see how they can operate Spadina with only 12 cars. While it is true that it represents the equivalent capacity running every 4 minutes north of King and every 12 south of it is ridiculous. It needs a 3 minute headway to King and a 6 minute headway south of there. The wider headway would better allow cars to pass through the light while providing giving an increased capacity every where. The condos that feed the lower part of the line need better service.

    Why does the 508 line go under 501 for car assignment but 504 for passenger count?

    Steve: I agree. The TTC just doesn’t understand the level of demand south of King and this is an ongoing point of friction.

    The 508 is part of the outer end of the Queen line, but when it comes into downtown it runs along King. It contributes peak capacity on Lake Shore and on King, but not on Queen.

  3. Mikey says:

    Regarding wider headways on Dundas and Carlton, isn’t there nothing they can do about it, except order more cars or cannibalise other routes?

    Is it even mathematically possible to maintain/improve off-peak headways on all routes using the same 204 cars (taking the spare factor, etc. into account)?

    Steve: This will be an issue when the TTC eventually presents its final version of the plan. For the short term, just keep some CLRVs in operation to supplement service as trippers. Longer term, more cars. However, any additional orders will have to wait for a friendlier mayor.

  4. Nick L says:

    I’d say that if city council cared about the streetcar network, they should take about the last third of the LFLRV order and spend some more to change it to two, 3 section “shorty” LFLRVs for each 5 section one that would have been built. That way, there would be some flexibility with keeping a decent level of service quality.

    Steve: Not as easily done as just yanking out a few sections.

  5. Krupo says:

    Great article. Two tangential observations:

    1. I suspect that 6 Bay is experiencing a renaissance thanks for B-D-bound commuters facing a choice between crush loads on the Yonge line and a much easier ride to Bay during the PM rush.

    Steve: I have ridden the line in the PM peak, and it doesn’t seem very busy at the south end when I board northbound at City Hall. The service is a bit of a mess right now thanks to construction at Union Station.

    2. I *wish wish wish* I had the luxury of smartphone tech back in the day when I’d be standing there at Dundas West, wondering whether I should just walk 20 minutes, or wait for the 504 to show up, since there were too many occasions where the Short Turn fairies really messed with riders. With that thought on the table, I do wonder how much the gradual spread of personal smartphones and other GPS-tracking features – more “next vehicle in X minutes” electronic signboards! – will affect ridership levels.

    i.e. will riders consider transit a more reliable option if they can better judge the waiting period, possibly leading to higher ridership?

  6. Tom West says:

    I know the first LFLRVs will be service in 2014, but what’s the latest the TTC could ask for an extension of the original order? I’m hoping it’s sufficiently far in the future that we’ll see the new vehicles release suppressed demand. (There must surely be people who would ride the King streetcar if it wasn’t jammed to the rafters…).

    Steve: The TTC did not assign all of its remaining order quantity to Metrolinx, and still has some room for add-ons. I don’t know what the cutoff date would be, but the option is definitely there. What is needed is the will to exercise it.

  7. Andrew says:

    If the Downtown Relief Line is built demand on the King and Queen cars would decline significantly. This would allow streetcars to be reallocated to other parts of the system (particularly the Queen’s Quay East line) without having to purchase any more streetcars.

    Steve: We are at least a decade away from seeing a DRL operating, probably more. Toronto will have to deal with growth in demand on the streetcar lines long before a DRL is available to siphon off demand. Also, it is by no means clear that the DRL will intercept much demand from the streetcar network depending on where the stations are and the comparative travel time available just by staying on the streetcar.

  8. Nick L says:

    Steve said:

    Not as easily done as just yanking out a few sections.

    No question about that. Managing the overhead would be a headache by itself since there would be no room for a pantograph and a trolley pole on the roof without significant redesign work. But ultimately, the question needs to be asked whether Toronto would be better served with only one LFLRV design, or two with both using a common supply of parts.

  9. MS says:

    I think Steve sort of gets it, but I want to say it very clearly: TTC demand is HIGHLY flexible. If the service was provided, people would use it. If the service is not provided, people will factor it out of their plans. I can walk, I have a bike, I have TTC tokens, I have a car, I have taxi services on speed dial. I will choose the best option.

    For example, I have waited over an hour for the Wellesley bus that Munro mentions. I will never take that bus again. Ever. It isn’t reliable enough.

    The reduction in service frequency that is planned with the new streetcars is going to be highly destructive to ridership. It only takes a few bad experiences to make people choose otherwise. Once you are late to an appointment because you spent 30 minutes waiting for a streetcar – which is what is planned to occur – you will simply downgrade TTC in your list of choices, and opt for something else if at all possible.

    On the other hand if you can step out of your door and there’s always a TTC vehicle there to pick you up, you will quickly learn to rely on it and rank it highly in your personal list of transport options.

    If the TTC chose to double the number of cars running, ridership would rise to meet the cars. There are MANY areas of the city where population has increased substantially and the residents would like to use TTC service. If they keep cutting service… those people are headed for their cars. The reason people take the subway is because it is frequent! And they know it will be frequent!

    Steve: I have been making the point for years that unreliable service is the worst enemy of ridership on the TTC. They understand the problem in theory, but seem unwilling to do anything about it claiming that the problems are mainly outside of their control.

  10. Mikey says:

    So the TTC was planning to purchase more streetcars in the 1990′s (before the service cuts)? What kind of streetcars were they considering purchasing? More CLRV’s from the late 70′s?

    Steve: Yes, originally more CLRVs, but then the idea of using PCCs came up. There is a good article about this at Transittoronto’s site.

  11. George Bell says:

    Somebody needs to do some research for the TTC on latent demand … what routes could you double service on and ridership would double as well (given a few years for people to change their habits).

  12. Steven says:

    In the future, what are the chances that King Street can be converted to transit only in the core? I know that there was a study completed back before Transit City came out but that quickly disappeared. This would improve reliability on King and improve capacity. Assuming Rob Ford isn’t an issue. Ford doesn’t understand that there is no more road space but growth will continue. Hopefully the city figures out that transit malls can improve transit and pedestrian usage.

    Steve: The problem with the King transit mall proposal was that it ran aground on the issue of 7×24 operation. The entertainment district (now increasingly, the “condo” district) has a lot of traffic, but not the most frequent transit service outside of the peak period, especially in the evening. A related issue is that there are schemes to take some of the capacity of Adelaide and/or Richmond for use by cyclists, but if King were to be partly closed, the combined effect would likely be more severe and could jeopardize both. There is a downtown transportation study now in progress to look at the whole issue of rejigging how streets work in this area.

    Was there ever a plan to improve the Spadina/King intersection? It seems to me that if the Spadina cars don’t get stuck waiting to turn, there would be reliability improvements to both lines.

    Steve: Between the ongoing condo construction (which is nowhere near done yet) and the city’s reluctance to address the operation of signals on Spadina generally, no there has not been any planning on this. At the very least, a westbound streetcar phase like the one eastbound at Broadview could do a world of good. The problem is especially bad now with all Spadina cars turning at Adelaide rather than some of the service running through to Queen’s Quay. I suspect that the current attitude is “wait until things are back to normal and we have new cars on wider headways to see what happens”.

  13. Joe Clark says:

    Previously you said the new LRVs would start out on Dundas (to your bewilderment), not Spadina. It isn’t your decision, but.

    Steve: You expect the TTC to keep a consistent plan? I just publish their plans for you to read. Credibility is up to the consumer. After all they also claim to have a very high “punctuality” performance too.

  14. Karl Junkin says:

    The capacity of the cars is 30% greater, but isn’t that from the size of vehicle only?

    How much of an increase might there be, particularly at peak periods, in running times due to the all-door loading factor? I know this answer is not readily available, I’m just putting the question out there. If the improvement in running times adds up, capacity will be higher than calculated in this article.

    I think this could be significant for the east-west routes through downtown in particular, as it is not uncommon to see cars loading at busier stops for two full signal cycles with a long queue going through the motions of PAYE. The LFLRVs will by-pass this drill as all pass and Presto holders can load at other doors. This in turn should result in less greens missed by cars due to loading time, faster average run times for the routes, and fewer vehicles required for a target capacity on said routes.

    In that light, deliberate or not, it is good that the TTC is not factoring the improved run times in, in that it provides some cushion to absorb some added ridership growth. When that growth appears in their data after service has operated for a couple of months, they can adjust accordingly.

  15. W. K. Lis says:

    Hopefully, people will have the TTC’s 24-hour Telephone Information line at 416-393-INFO (4636) on speed-dial on their smartphones. Don’t know if by the time the LFLRV’s have replaced most of the current streetcar fleet, we will have an app to complain and, most importantly, record the number of complaints coming in.

    We need to be aware that we should complain about service to BOTH the TTC, councillors, and whatever mayor will be in office at the time. In fact, we should be complaining NOW. The more the powers-to-be hear our complaints, maybe we’ll get action. Maybe include MPP’s and MP’s on that list, since funding to get better service would rest with them.

  16. M. Briganti says:

    Let’s put this into perspective for a moment. Your readers need to understand the level of car ownership (per capita) in 2013 vs. 1950-1970. Streetcar service was that high because most people didn’t own a car back then — AND, most women didn’t even drive in those days! A family had one car, if that, and immigrant families from Europe had none. Back in those days a high percentage of the population of the old City of Toronto was post-WW2 European immigration. Toronto simply didn’t enjoy the same level of prosperity that the US had in the 50s/60s and it took us about 20 years to catch up in automobile use. Things started changing in the 70s.

    Steve: I am going to try to track down fine-grained stats on populations in the catchment areas of streetcar lines to provide some context. However, I wanted to push the article out the door to show the overall history. What is particularly striking is the ridership loss from the 70s. The subway openings have obvious effects, but the later losses were in part, I think, due to service cuts during recessions that were never fully restored, and a loss of market share. That’s what happens when you take advantage of lower riding to cut the size of your fleet.

    Yes, the Bloor-Danforth line absorbed a lot of that load and decimated Harbord, but the King service was initially reduced because the TTC felt the subway’s Y system duplicated it (from Broadview Stn. to St. Andrew). West-end 504 riders (whose trips weren’t being served by the interlined subway) complained en masse, and those complaints led to a restoration of the service.

    Steve: A related point is that most of those riders didn’t get on at the subway loops, but along the route and would have to go well out of their way to make use of the wye service, while it lasted.

  17. ncarlson says:

    “I know the first LFLRVs will be service in 2014, but what’s the latest the TTC could ask for an extension of the original order?”

    This is where we get a big benefit from the commonality with the suburban fleet and stretching out of the timeline on those lines. I don’t know when the cutoff for addons to the existing order is, but with reduced need to be manufacturing the lines side by side and commonality it’s not going to be an ICTS or CLRV like situation where the line is completely shut down until at the earliest after 2021 when Eglinton is up and running. Also bear in mind that the suburban product is actually pretty attractive between cost and full low floor, and Bombardier is likely to market it pretty aggressively; other orders are likely, albeit probably assembled in the States for Buy America compliance (although no one else seems likely to even approach our total number of cars).

  18. Tom West says:

    “How much of an increase might there be, particularly at peak periods, in running times due to the all-door loading factor? … If the improvement in running times adds up, capacity will be higher than calculated in this article.”

    Generally, increasing average speed increases demand (well, revenue) by about the same percentage. So if you run 10% quicker, yes you’ll have 10% more capacity — but you’ll need it for the 10% extra demand induced by the extra speed.

  19. nfitz says:

    I wonder if W.K. Lis follows his advice to complain frequently to 416-393-INFO (4636) and have it on speed-dial. Because if it were on speed-dial, one would quickly discover it’s the recorded info line, and the customer service (and complaint line) (which quickly get’s you to a live, often helpful, person) is 416-393-3030!

  20. M. Briganti says:

    The decline in ridership actually started in the late 60s when TTC fares almost doubled. I can’t remember the specifics or the exact dates but when the fare is 10c and then it jumps to 15 or 20c in one shot, that’s a 50-100% increase. The cost of operating BD led to that as I recall. Before BD, the TTC always ran an operating surplus, and the abolishment of zones later on didn’t help either. Then, the population of the old City of Toronto went into decline from the late 60s to the late 80s, and everybody started getting cars when they turned 16. That turned the next generation into spoiled drivers, not streetcar riders.

    Seriously, I think you’re trying to say that service cuts came first and that that started the downward spiral, but I don’t think so. Ridership flatlined/declined first for a variety of reasons — at least that’s the way I remember it.

    Steve: No, if I gave the impression that I was saying the service cuts caused the spiral, that’s not what I meant. However, they reinforced the spiral to the point that transit has an uphill battle to deal with the now-growing population in the “old” city. The context of this article is that the streetcar system is viewed by some planners as an untapped resource for handling the “shoulders” of downtown as their density builds up. This has to be taken in context because some of the old streetcar system’s demand originated well beyond those shoulder areas. However, what is important is that the streetcar system once carried far more people, and even getting back to 1970 service and capacity levels would make a big difference.

    The city needs to get a sense of what is plausible both for development and for future transit growth, and the TTC needs to figure out how to handle this. My purpose, if nothing else, was to show what actually existed not all that long ago, and to show that we do not need a subway under every main street to handle growing demand downtown. For longer haul trips, that’s another story, and there’s also the role of GO Transit, but we can do a lot better with the infrastructure we already have in place.

  21. Sean Marshall says:

    Great article. There are certainly a few cases where the new larger cars shouldn’t affect overall service, particularly Spadina north of King Street, the one route where “a streetcar always in sight” still normally applies. I’m concerned though that service will only become more sporadic between King and Queen’s Quay.

    I can’t help but point out one historical inaccuracy:

    October 1980: The subway is at the extent it will remain for many years, but 1980 brings the first drop in TTC riding for decades thanks to the Gulf War induced recession and spike in oil prices.

    There was indeed a recession in the late 1970s/early 1980s, but the Gulf War was a decade away. There was the Iranian Revolution going on at that time, though.

    Steve: Ooops. Right region, wrong war.

  22. Robert Wightman says:

    M. Briganti says:

    March 17, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    “The decline in ridership actually started in the late 60s when TTC fares almost doubled. I can’t remember the specifics or the exact dates but when the fare is 10c and then it jumps to 15 or 20c in one shot, that’s a 50-100% increase. The cost of operating BD led to that as I recall. Before BD, the TTC always ran an operating surplus, and the abolishment of zones later on didn’t help either. Then, the population of the old City of Toronto went into decline from the late 60s to the late 80s, and everybody started getting cars when they turned 16. That turned the next generation into spoiled drivers, not streetcar riders.

    “Seriously, I think you’re trying to say that service cuts came first and that that started the downward spiral, but I don’t think so. Ridership flatlined/declined first for a variety of reasons — at least that’s the way I remember it.”

    There was a ridership peak in 1954 of 320,249,800. It them declined to 290,888,500 in 1958. It then declined to 267,582,600 in 1961 followed by an increase back to 357,593,000 in 1975 with a 1 year decrease in 1969 0f just over 1 million riders. It then increased until Harris came along in 1990 when it peaked at 459,200,000. It reached a low of 372,430,000 in 1996 when it started climbing back to where it is now.

    The TTC’s last operating profit was in 1970 of $1,902,538. These data are from TTC annual reports. A lot of the declines were caused by fare increases as you say but the really big impact was caused by Harris.

    Zone fares were abolished in 1973 which was accompanied by a reduction in ridership, probably due to the increase in fares for single zone, i.e. former zone 1 users. The TTC monthly pass was introduced in 1980. This was reflected in a ridership jump of almost 26,000,000 riders in 1981. You can find a history of TTC fares at Transit Toronto’s website.

    There was only 1 slight decline in ridership in the late 60s, that of 1.3 million riders in 1969.

    Steve: I think Mimmo’s point is to look at the portion of the city served by the streetcar system, not at ridership overall. Riding in the “newer” parts of the network may have been going up, but in the “old” city, it was falling. Some of this was demographic change, and part was a self-induced spiral especially when service was artificially constrained by having let the fleet shrink.

  23. scottd says:

    I like streetcars but this is the end of them.

    Because of traffic and a lack of advance greens streetcars just take too long to go even a few blocks. It is faster to walk during rush hour on some routes. Going one stop north or south of Dundas on Bathurst can take 10 minutes. And now there will be less of them.

    Unless we create a way for streetcars to have their own space then it’s over.

  24. nfitz says:

    Steve wrote:

    “Ooops. Right region, wrong war.”

    You got it right originally, Steve.

    The war that is now often referred to as the Iran-Iraq war started when Iraq invaded Iran in September 1980. As I’m sure you’ve remembered, it was called the “Persian Gulf War” and the “Gulf War” in the media at the time. Remember for a while, people called the 1990 Iraq invasion of Kuwait the “Second Gulf War”. Though, I’ve never heard the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 called the “Third Gulf War”.

    Here’s a typical article from 1980 and 1988.

    Steve: Thank you! I was beginning to doubt my memory.

  25. Richard L says:

    When you say the design capacity is 3000 passengers per hour, does that mean 3000 passengers would pass a given point per hour? Before the B-D subway opening the capacity of the B-D streetcar was over 6000/hour but after the B-D subway opening, the B-D streetcar shuttle was only 3000/hour noting that the shuttle route length was less than a quarter of the previous longer route.

    Steve: What the numbers mean is that at the scheduled frequency of service, and an average loading of 75 per streetcar, the service could handle 3,000 per hour. Actual loads on individual cars would vary, but from a service design perspective that’s the capacity they were aiming at.

    The shuttle routes are a good example of the importance of suburban feeder buses that was already visible in the 60s. Many route funnelled passengers into the Bloor West shuttle at Jane Loop, and to the Danforth shuttle at Luttrell Loop. The length of the route had nothing to do with the demand much of which came from the bus feeders. It’s also interesting that the proportionate drop before/after the subway opened was higher to the east than the west implying that more of the eastern demand was picked up by the subway east of Yonge than west of it.

  26. Scott Randall says:

    Just out of curiosity, have [you] ever called mayor Rob Ford and asked to talk to him about streetcars? He recently repeated his intention to have them removed. There seems to be strong business case to keep them, maybe even expand the network, though facts are not always used in political decisions.

    Steve: No, and I don’t believe that even if I got through his handlers, this would have any effect. Ford’s inability to understand the financial issues of running a city, never mind the premise that the roads do not exist just so he can drive without congestion, put him far beyond logical debate.

  27. M. Briganti says:

    The remaining Bloor shuttle streetcar services were heavily criticized and despised by riders. The TTC didn’t want to waste money on permanent bus bays at Keele and Woodbine, which of course would have been quickly abandoned, but the thought of building some kind of temporary cheap solution (ie. think portable classrooms) never crossed their mind. So, passengers had to transfer at Keele to a streetcar, and then to a bus at Jane. Meanwhile, they had no problem building and abandoning the Keele speed ramp (which they made a huge deal about in the press). And that ramp never made any sense aside from being a cute test — it was only on platform 1 and half of the trains would use the other platform during the rush hours.

  28. Hamish Buchanan says:

    The Harbord car took a meandering route from the west end of the city to downtown. In 1954, it began at Townsley Loop (St. Clair & Old Weston Road) and ran south and east along Davenport, down Dovercourt to Bloor, east to Ossington, south to Wellesley, and east (finally on its namesake street) to Spadina, then south to Dundas.

    I thought it went down Dovercourt to Hallam, east to Ossington, then down to Harbord. I’m pretty sure it did in the 30s, anyway. Did it shift to Bloor at some time before being abandoned?

    Steve: Yes, in 1947. See the route history on TransitToronto.

  29. Nathanael says:

    Obviously Rob Ford won’t be mayor after the next election. It’s time to talk to the *next* mayor of Toronto about *ordering some more LFLRVs*, to provide more reasonable service frequencies. Especially for the routes with reserved ROW already (Spadina, St. Clair, Harbourfront).

    After lengthening the trains, which they’re doing with the new LFLRVs, adding additional trains along the same ROW is generally the next-most cost-effective way to improve service on any line.

    Of course, someone has to solve the problem of TTC management’s unwillingness to actually implement headway management. You’ve documented this very well, with the frequent “bunched” departures from the starting point. This is such a bizarre piece of behavior that I suspect previous governments have been unable to consider it as a possible cause of trouble, so I don’t know how to get this problem front-and-center on the minds of those who oversee the TTC.


    On another topic, Metrolinx just bought the track to Burlington. This means that CN ownership is no longer an obstacle to Lakeshore electrification, at least from Burlington to Oshawa. Also, the Union Station trainshed height isn’t much of an obstacle if the new tracks 25 and 26 are used. This just leaves the political / funding obstacle….

    Steve: Considering that Glen Murray, the Minister of Transportation, has said that the Weston corridor for the ARL will be electrified by 2017, it appears that the political obstacle may be crumbling. Then it becomes a need for the will to expand beyond the ARL.

  30. Steve: Considering that Glen Murray, the Minister of Transportation, has said that the Weston corridor for the ARL will be electrified by 2017, it appears that the political obstacle may be crumbling. Then it becomes a need for the will to expand beyond the ARL.

    If Minister Murray would forget about HSR and focus on advancing a plan (with an accelerated timeline) for the electrification of all the lines that GO owns … and improving GO train/bus (as demand warrants) services to 20 minutes all day … that would be an amazing legacy for any politician to have.

    From what I recall, Metrolinx will do the ARL and Weston subs (to Bramalea) first, then the Lakeshore West and East lines. I know the initial west side was to go out to Port Credit, though I think Clarkson makes sense too. Offhand I cannot remember how far east the initial electrification was to go.

    Steve: This depends on whether the new shops in Durham are designed for electric equipment. If so, then the electrification has to go all the way. I vaguely remember a scheme to look after the ARL equipment in a temporary facility.

    Though ownership is not a challenge the need for CN and CP to run trains is still a major barrier to the expansion of GO rail service … which is one reason why I think Minister Murray, Metrolinx and GO need to focus on expanding both GO bus service and HOV lanes … and do it at the same time.

    Metrolinx published a very nice map showing railway ownership in the GTA that gives a nice idea of what they could do with the political will.

    Cheers, Moaz

  31. Nathanael says:

    “Though ownership is not a challenge the need for CN and CP to run trains is still a major barrier to the expansion of GO rail service … “

    Yeah, but at least they won’t be complaining about “putting wires over OUR lines”. Diesel-hauled freight trains can run under wire with no problem, but the Class Is in the US have been really weird and paranoid about electrification of “their” lines in the past, and I would suspect that CN and CP are no exception.

    Looking at the Lakeshore schedules, which are rather metro-like, it really makes sense to electrify as far as possible in both directions. Given ownership issues, electrification may have to stop at Burlington, with Aldershot and Hamilton being served by less frequent diesel or dual-mode trains. If you *have* to electrify less than that, Clarkson and Pickering would seem to be the operationally correct termini, according to the schedules as currently operated.

    (I suppose it might be possible to get CN to agree to electrification on some of the numerous tracks to Aldershot, though probably easier if Metrolinx simply buys the southernmost two tracks. Anything south of Aldershot is likely to be really hard to get agreement on, and there are quite likely to be lots of difficult clearance issues in Hamilton.)

    “Metrolinx published a very nice map showing railway ownership in the GTA that gives a nice idea of what they could do with the political will.”

    Thanks for the map. I believe there are plans to have passenger-exclusive tracks along the section west of Georgetown where GO currently shares with the CN main line, right? I can’t remember where I read that.

  32. Nick L says:

    Nathanael said: I suppose it might be possible to get CN to agree to electrification on some of the numerous tracks to Aldershot, though probably easier if Metrolinx simply buys the southernmost two tracks. Anything south of Aldershot is likely to be really hard to get agreement on, and there are quite likely to be lots of difficult clearance issues in Hamilton.

    The easiest solution with regards to getting CN to accept electrification is that Metrolinx would sweeten the deal by offering to pay for, partly or completely, a group of electric or dual power freight locomotives so that CN can guarantee service to any remaining industries along electrified lines.

  33. Robert Wightman says:

    Nathanael says:
    March 24, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    “Thanks for the map. I believe there are plans to have passenger-exclusive tracks along the section west of Georgetown where GO currently shares with the CN main line, right? I can’t remember where I read that.”

    The section west of Georgetown that GO runs on is the GEXR line to Stratford and beyond. Metrolynx has plans to double the track in the future. Before that is done the line needs to be upgraded to have a higher speed and have CTC and passing sidings installed. The GEXR is aginst having the track upgraded because it is adequate for its couple of freights that run each day to MacMillan yard. They do not want to get stuck with the cost of maintaining the line to higher than required levels.

    The only place that I can see that will have passenger only tracks are some of the underpasses that Metrolynx is building that will have 2% grades and the connection to the airport. Where necessary they are leaving in a surface level track for freights.

    “On another topic, Metrolinx just bought the track to Burlington. This means that CN ownership is no longer an obstacle to Lakeshore electrification, at least from Burlington to Oshawa. Also, the Union Station trainshed height isn’t much of an obstacle if the new tracks 25 and 26 are used. This just leaves the political / funding obstacle.”

    CN has retained the right to operate freights on their former lines as necessary, this is mainly the Lakeshore lines as they switch industries, including the Ford plant in Oakville. Any changes have to allow the movement of these trains. That being said GO and Metrolynx have been good about removing or replacing most of the low bridges and signal gantries.

    Nick L says:
    March 24, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    “The easiest solution with regards to getting CN to accept electrification is that Metrolinx would sweeten the deal by offering to pay for, partly or completely, a group of electric or dual power freight locomotives so that CN can guarantee service to any remaining industries along electrified lines.”

    There is no problem running diesel locomotives under catenary. You do not want to get into dual powered locomotives such as the ones that NJT and AMT bot; they cost $15.3 million each versus around $5 million for GO’s new locomotives.

  34. Kristian says:

    I had a question related to the GO service. I’ve seen a number of trains on the Lakeshore West and Barrie lines running with two locomotives either as a double-header or with one at each end. The latter requires a wye move to rotate one loco ‘wrong-way-round’ from normal practice. Does anyone know why this is being done?

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