Building the Connection to Leslie Barns (Updated June 22, 2014)

Utility work to replace nearly century-old infrastructure beneath Queen & Leslie is now complete, and construction of the new intersection can begin.

An update [pdf, 4mb] from the Community Office shows some of the recent work and details the staging of what is to come for the balance of 2014. Information is included about the Queen/Broadview reconstruction planned for late June through July.

Information about Leslie Barns in general can be found at the TTC’s Leslie Barns project page.

June 22, 2014

Streetcar service has resumed on Queen between Broadview and Coxwell with the completion of the intersection at Leslie. This will continue until Monday, June 30 when reconstruction of the intersection at Broadview will require that streetcars divert via Gerrard for about three weeks.


Looking west on Queen across Leslie.


Utility work continues on Leslie south from Queen and the remainder of the track connection will not be installed until fall 2014. This view looks north across the intersection.

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Posted in New Streetcars, Queen Car, Transit | 45 Comments

How Unreliable Is My Service? (Updated)

Updated June 19, 2014: Results for the first quarter of 2014 took a while to show up on the TTC’s website, but they have now been posted and the linked summary below has been updated to include them.


The reported reliability stats continue to be dismal. Although it is tempting to say “ah, yes, but Toronto had an appallingly bad winter”, there is a basic problem here: the statistics reported by the TTC didn’t change very much and many routes actually improved relative to the end of 2013.

I will not rehash my critiques of this method of reporting service quality (see the original article below) beyond noting the the TTC’s targets show that irregular service will be the norm — 1 in 3 trips can exceed the target, but service remains acceptable. This means that in a typical day, a rider can expect to encounter at least one “off target” service in their travels.

Finally, a long-standing issue has been the inability to maintain reliable service on the Queen car due to its length and the mixture of Humber and Long Branch services. Although April 2014 is not included in these statistics, the CEO’s report for June 2014 notes an improvement in that month’s streetcar average:

The increase in performance was attributable to the turnback of the 501 Queen route at Humber Loop for the Gardiner bridge work. This shortened the route and promoted a more reliable eastbound service. [Page 10]

The original article from October 24, 2013, follows below.

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Posted in Service Analysis, Service Cost and Quality, Transit | 47 Comments

TTC Service Changes for June 22, 2014 (Update 2)

Service changes to be implemented on June 22 include a large number of seasonal cutbacks in service on a par with what was done in 2013. There is an unusually large amount of construction underway around the city and this is reflected both in adjusted schedules and in a much higher than budgeted number of hours for construction-related service. This activity is one of the constraints on service growth for 2014.

Updated June 18, 2014: With the reopening of Cherry Street south of Mill Street, the 172 Cherry bus will resume its normal routing through the Distillery District (via Parliament, Mill and Cherry) on Saturday, June 21.

29 Dufferin will be formally scheduled as an articulated bus route on weekdays. Although there will be fewer vehicles than at present, the reduction is smaller than the relative size of the vehicles giving an increase in route capacity. This may be offset by service reliability as happened already on 7 Bathurst.

The Queen and King streetcar routes will divert around track construction at Broadview & Queen from June 30 to July 25.

501 Queen cars which are now diverting both ways via Broadview, Gerrard and Coxwell will alter their route to divert via Parliament, Gerrard and Coxwell.

504 King cars now diverting both ways around the Don Bridge constuction via Parliament and Queen will alter their route to divert via Parliament and Dundas.

501/502 bus replacement service on Queen will divert both ways via Pape, Dundas and River. As with the diversion service already in operation for the Queen & Leslie track work, these buses will loop downtown via Church, Richmond and Victoria. There will be no 503 Kingston Road Tripper service to York & Wellington.

2014.06.22_Service_Changes (Updated June 13, 2014)

Posted in Dufferin Bus, Queen Car, Service Cost and Quality, Transit | 12 Comments

An Interactive Display of Boston Subway Performance Data

For those who can’t get enough of charts showing the behaviour of TTC routes, I highly recommend a visit to Visualizing MBTA Data, a project of Mike Barry and Brian Card at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

In their article, they show data for the movement of trains, for headways and for trip times between points, not to mention station usage counts. All of this can be explored interactively to view specific sections of the network.

(For more details about their project, please see this handout from a recent presentation.)

As they note, the idea of plotting train movements goes back to the 19th century. I certainly didn’t invent it. The biggest challenge has been to take masses of data from the TTC and convert them to a format that is digestible and illustrates various factors of transit operations.

An encouraging note: the TTC is now doing some of this type of analysis itself, and this will inform work on improved scheduling and better monitoring of service quality.

Posted in Beyond 416, Service Analysis, Transit | 7 Comments

Analysis of 7 Bathurst Bus: What Is The Effect of Articulated Buses? (Part II)

In the first part of this series, I reviewed the headways operated on 7 Bathurst Bus during the months of March and April 2014, with December 2006 for historical comparison.

This article looks at running times for the route, the time needed for buses to travel from one place to another, and the differences between each of the three months’ worth of data.

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Posted in Bathurst Bus, Service Analysis, Transit | 10 Comments

TTC Board Meeting of May 28, 2014

I have been remiss in completing my coverage of the TTC Board meeting on May 28 as other issues and activities have drawn my attention.

The big issue was the $47-million so-called surplus in the 2013 operating results which I addressed in an earlier article. Let’s just say it was one of the less well-informed debates I have seen in my years watching the TTC.

Another issue of note was the matter of eliminating stops on the streetcar system, an issue also covered elsewhere on this site.

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Posted in Accessibility, Finance, Subways, Transit | 36 Comments

John Lorinc and the Sad Story of Scarborough Transit

For those who may not follow their site, Spacing Toronto has an excellent series by John Lorinc about the machinations at City Hall and Queen’s Park behind the many changes in transit plans for Scarborough.

Reading through this, and in particular the double-dealing at Queen’s Park, not to mention self-serving moves by some city councillors, it is impossible to have any faith in plans or grand statements about the future of our transit system. Even worse, any thought of transparency is a fiction, and transit planning is a secret, political exercise utterly devoid of credibility.

This is not news to those of us who watch the process close up, but seeing the gory details on Scarborough brings a stench of opportunistic grandstanding to every other transit scheme on the table. Does anyone actually care about transit riders, or are we just buying votes with billion dollar promises?

Posted in A Grand Plan, Elections, Scarborough RT/LRT/Subway, Transit | 78 Comments

Plans by Murray and Tory: Steve Visits Goldhawk

On June 2, 2014, I appeared on Dale Goldhawk’s radio show talking about both the Murray High Speed Rail plan and the Tory “SmartTrack” scheme. A podcast of the show is available on Goldhawk’s site (running time about 34 minutes).

Even with half an hour, we couldn’t talk about everything including those pesky details that make superficially attractive projects run aground.


[Photo by Zoomer Radio]

Posted in A Grand Plan, Beyond 416, Commuter Rail Electrification, Downtown Relief Line, Elections, GO Transit, Hamilton, Intercity Rail, Kitchener-Waterloo | 55 Comments

Just What Is The Liberal Platform on High Speed Rail?

When the Ontario Budget for 2014 was introduced, it included $29-billion for a variety of infrastructure projects including much transit in the GTHA. The list of projects did not include any mention of High Speed Rail service to London, although it did have a convenient trap door for scope expansion in the phrase:

Outside of the GTHA, priority projects could include …

That “could” can embrace many possibilities beyond the items in the budget paper.

This budget was not passed, but it has been substantially incorporated into the Liberal election platform. Oddly enough, if one visits their infrastructure page, there is still no mention of High Speed Rail. Only when we delve deeper by looking at the detailed plan linked from that page, do we see:

Investing in High-Speed Rail: We will invest in high-speed rail service between southwestern Ontario and Toronto, through London and Kitchener-Waterloo. We will move forward by finalizing the business cases and proceeding with environmental assessments on the line from Toronto to London and between London and Windsor. We will invite the private sector and Ontario-based pension plans to invest in this project.

Burying such an important project a few levels down in an election website is hardly the way to show off a signature plank, and with this as the only mention, there is certainly the feel that it was patched on at the last moment. Never mind that the line has already grown an extension to Windsor.

From the background material released to date, we know that even the most optimistic projections for this line will not be profitable. Where the interest will lie for investment without some form of subsidy is a mystery.

A basic fact bears repeating here: High Speed Rail was not part of the proposed budget, but was tacked on to the platform after the fact. Even now the only commitment is for further study including an environmental assessment.

When the budget was tabled, the HSR was not part of the $29-billion infrastructure fund. Was this a case of a project that didn’t pass muster for budget purposes, but could survive the lesser review needed for a campaign promise? Would the HSR scheme survive in a Ministry of Transportation without Glen Murray?

We are still waiting for the background consulting work done for Murray, but this will remain buried in his Ministry, unavailable for review, until after the election.

There is a case for better rail passenger service in Ontario outside of the GTHA, but this can come much more quickly and almost certainly at lower cost with a focus on less ambitious technology. Ontario may not like VIA’s lacklustre service levels, but building a parellel network and competing services is hardly the way to improve the situation.

Queen’s Park owes all of Ontario such a review, not just a bauble for one corridor.

Posted in Beyond 416, Intercity Rail | 25 Comments

TTC Route Relettering

The TTC plans to reletter many of its routes to adopt a somewhat standardized practice for the number/letter combinations:

  • Routes that have no branches will not use a letter.  For example, 64 Main will stay as 64 Main in both directions.
  • Routes that have branches will use letters for all services operating away from a common point.  For example, most buses outbound from Kennedy Station will use a letter because their routes have multiple destinations.
  • The “A” branch is typically, but not necessarily, the primary branch.
  • The “E” designation is reserved for express operations on routes that also have local service.
  • The “S” designation is used for any short turn for which a sign is provided.  It is by far the most commonly used letter.

What is frustrating about this change, like so many other pieces of TTC public information, is that the implementation and customer information campaigns are not co-ordinated. New signs have started to pop up even though they are not supposed to take effect until June 22, 2014.

In some cases, the reassignment of the “A” designation as the primary route will not be done in one step because “A” is already in use for another branch.  In these cases, there will be an interim configuration without an “A” branch, to be followed sometime in 2015 with a second set of changes.

In the table linked below, the current and final designations are shown.  Where there is no interim value, the “final” arrangement takes effect immediately on June 22.  Where an interim value is shown, this will be the setup on June 22, with the final shuffle to follow next year.

The rationale, such as it is, for this change is set out in the memo announcing the June service changes:

Changes will be made to the branch designations on 62 bus routes, to make branch and destination information more clear and consistent for customers. With these changes, routes that have only one branch will have a branch number with no alphabetic suffix. Routes that have more than one branch will have alphabetic suffixes for all branches. This will reduce confusion for customers in relation to unlettered and lettered branches.

As much as is practicable, consecutive letters will be used for branches. Branch letters that change will not be immediately reused, to avoid confusion and duplication. In a small number of cases the branch changes will be made in two stages, with branch letters changed now on some branches, and then reused later in 2015.

In addition to these changes, several minor or limited-service branches that do not now have formal branch designations will get new branch designations.

Branch designation changes for streetcar routes will be introduced as the new cars enter service.


Posted in Transit | 55 Comments