TTC Management Proposes Widespread Service Improvements, Two Hour Fare and More (Updated)

Updated August 19, 2014 at 10:50 pm: The TTC board unanimously adopted the proposals in this report with amendments.  Some of these were intended to ensure clear understanding that approval was only in principle and subject to the review process in the 2015 budget.

In what proved quite a surprise to me, Chair Maria Augimeri moved a request for a set of reports related to service and fleet plans. The text of this came directly from a deputation on the CEO’s report which, at that point in the meeting, I had not actually presented because the Board took the agenda items out of sequence.

Here are my deputation texts, one on the “Opportunities” report itself, and one on the CEO’s report. The motion I proposed and which the Board adopted is in the second item below.

Although there were questions about details and about the manner in such a far-reaching set of proposals appeared on the Supplementary Agenda of the last Board Meeting before the election, there was broad support for the content.

Of the Mayoral candidates, even Mayor Ford has spoken favourably about many of the proposals with the exception of the widespread rollout of PoP (self service) fare collection and the move to time-based transfers/fare receipts.

Only John Tory has been strongly opposed choosing to take a hard-line tax-fighter stance that is hard to swallow in light of his own multi-billion dollar transit plans. Tory also does not understand that a staff report at the TTC only makes proposals for what should or might be done — it is up to Council to decide on priorities and funding mechanisms. Tory continues to disappoint as a candidate who has more bluster than substance, a trait he shares with the current Mayor.

Updated August 15, 2014 at 8:00 pm: Detailed comments about the proposal have been added.

The Supplementary Agenda for the TTC Board Meeting of August 19, 2014, contains a report that is breathtaking in its scope:

Opportunities to Increase Transit Service in Toronto

The report recommends a program to include the following initiatives:

a) implement all door boarding and proof-of-payment on all streetcar routes;
b) reduce wait times and crowding on bus and streetcar routes;
c) establish a city-wide network of Ten-Minute-or-Better bus and streetcar services;
d) expand the Express Route Network with new and improved express bus routes;
e) implement more transit priority measures;
f) add resources to improve service reliability and route performance;
g) operate all routes all day, every day across the city;
h) change the one-trip-per-fare to a two-hour-travel-privilege-per-fare;
i) expand the overnight bus and streetcar network.

[The agenda will also include presentations on the new streetcar implementation, and on "Customer Journey Times", a new way to measure the usefulness of transit service to riders. These presentations are not yet online.]

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Posted in A Grand Plan, Fares & Fare Collection, Finance, Service Cost and Quality, Transit | 130 Comments

Reconstruction of Dundas & Spadina (Updated August 8, 2014)

August 8, 2014

Regular streetcar service on McCaul Street is rare both because of how this trackage fits into the network and because the narrow street invites autos and trucks to park foul of the tracks. Below, a few shots of McCaul Street while the 505 Dundas route is still there.

Regular service through Dundas & Spadina resumes on Tuesday, August 12.

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Posted in Dundas Car, King Car, Spadina Car, Transit | 40 Comments

The Crisis in TTC Service Capacity (Update 3)

Updated August 8, 2014 at 6:40 am: According to an article in today’s Toronto Star, TTC CEO Andy Byford is advocating a move to Proof-of-Payment (POP) fare collection on all streetcar routes effective January 1, 2015. He will also seek funding for service improvements including a return to the 2012 crowding standards, although this will only be applicable for off-peak service thanks to the shortage of vehicles.

Updated August 7, 2014 at 4:20 pm: The City’s Planning & Growth Management Committee has voted to defer the McNicoll Garage issue until 2015. More political point scoring by the Ford/Stintz faction in their waning hours.

Updated August 7, 2014 at 7:50 am: Information has been added about the bus and streetcar fleet sizes in 1990 before the recession that led to widespread service cuts. Service in 1990 was better on the streetcar network than it is today, and the bus fleet is barely back to 1990 levels in terms of scheduled capacity across the system.

Comments about system capacity that were originally in the post about service changes for August 31, 2014 will be moved to this thread.

Transit is “The Better Way”, or so we have been told by the politicians responsible for managing our transportation system. Road building simply won’t work — there is no room for more cars in many locations even if we could build more expressways — and transit is the answer.

Sounds great! Transit advocates like me should be cheering. With the election of those champions of infrastructure spending, Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, to Queen’s Park and the imminent demise of the Escalade-loving Brothers Ford at City Hall, transit’s future should be assured.

If only it were that simple.

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Posted in A Grand Plan, Bus Technology, New Streetcars, New Subway Cars, Service Cost and Quality, Subways, Transit, Vehicles | 105 Comments

TTC Board Meeting: July 23, 2014 (Updated)

The TTC board met on July 23 with some items of modest interest on the agenda. This is the second last meeting of the current board before the October municipal election sweeps away at least some of the current crew. Nothing of real substance will happen until the new Council takes office, and a new Mayor attempts to forge an agenda for transit that is more than a simplistic, pandering slogan.

Included in the agenda are:

  • The monthly CEO’s report;
  • A purchase amendment regarding the new TR trainsets to retrofit additional handholds and to provide speakers outside of cars so that riders can hear door closing announcements;
  • The Transit Project Assessment (TPA) for McNicoll Garage (a proposal already contested by the neighbourhood where it will be built);
  • The proposed sale of the Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) used for the Spadina Subway Extension;
  • A proposal from Commissioner Heisey that the City of Toronto seek a change in TTC and Metrolinx governance so that one member would be cross-appointed between each board; and
  • A request from newly minted Commissioner Pasternak for a report on his pet project, the Sheppard Subway extension west to Downsview.

Update: An additional item came in via correspondence: a request for an express bus route from Liberty Village to downtown.

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Posted in Fantasy, Finance, Sheppard Subway, Spadina Subway, Subways, Transit | 96 Comments

An Interview With a New Minister / GO Isn’t a DRL Replacement

Two recent articles on other sites:

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca: It’s Time for Building, Not Planning

Torontoist’s Editor-in-Chief, Hamutal Dotan, and I sat down for an interview with Steven Del Duca, Ontario’s new Minister of Transportation, and found his one-note message wanting.

Toronto transit experts: ‘Surface subways’ only part of the solution

Why GO improvements don’t eliminate the need for a new subway into the core area.

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July 19, 1974: The End of the Line on Rogers Road

July 19, 1974 was the last day for streetcar service on Rogers Road, and in honour of the anniversary, this post is a gallery of before and after pictures.

For an historical overview of the line, please see Sean Marshall’s article on

The Rogers Road car, the last remnant of the York Township Railways, was not saved with the rest of the streetcar system in 1972 because York (then a separate municipality) did not want to spend the extra money required to repave their street with streetcar tracks in it. Although service on Rogers once ran every 3 minutes at peak, by 1974 this had fallen to every 5 minutes as demand was siphoned off by north-south service on 29 Dufferin and 41 Keele feeding south to the Bloor subway.

During off-peak hours, the line was a 15-minute long shuttle from Oakwood Loop at St. Clair to Bicknell Loop just east of Weston Road, but during the peak, cars ran east via St. Clair to the Yonge Subway. The combined service of Rogers, Earlscourt and St. Clair cars between Oakwood and Yonge was considerably more frequent in 1974 than it is today.

After a period as a branch of 63 Ossington, the line was eventually converted to diesel operation and now operates as a separate route, 161 Rogers Rd.

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Posted in Looking Back, Transit | 26 Comments

How Unreliable Is My Service? (Updated July 18, 2014)

July 18, 2014: Results for second quarter of 2014 have now been posted on the TTC’s website, and they are consolidated into a new table below.


Second Quarter 2014 Update:

There is little change in the route performance statistics for the second quarter despite our having emerged from a bitter winter. The change from Q1 to Q2 is less than 10% for most routes with some improving and others falling behind. Those that are beyond the 10% mark can, in some cases, be explained by route-specific issues such as construction, but not all of them.

Two new routes appear for the first time, 172 Cherry and 195 Jane Rocket. It is mildly amusing that the Cherry bus, which must fight its way through construction downtown, manages a 69% reliability score while the Jane express service manages only 58%.

In this quarter, the 58 Malton and 52 Lawrence routes were combined. Their former scores in the mid-50% range have astoundingly improved to 81% on the consolidated route. I will follow this up with the TTC to see what magic they have wrought here.

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Posted in Service Analysis, Service Cost and Quality, Transit | 57 Comments

The Mythology of “New” Federal Gas Tax Subsidies

Recently, Canada’s new Finance Minister rolled into town and visited TTC’s Hillcrest Yard for a celebration of the “new” gas tax revenue Toronto will see from Ottawa. Even Rob Ford was there, although he studiously avoided being photographed with the much-hated new streetcars his buddies, the feds, are helping to pay for.

TTC CEO Andy Byford gushed about all this new money and what a difference it would make to Toronto.

In a reply to a comment in another thread, I looked under the covers of the announcement and found it wanting. The issue is important enough that it merits a post of its own.

The Announcement

Ottawa has concluded a national agreement to which Ontario, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and the City of Toronto are partners. This will extend the gas tax regime a further 10 years to 2024, with annual indexation by 2%.

The program is not just a transit subsidy scheme, but an infrastructure support program for a wide variety of projects.

The total pool of federal gas tax dollars is divided by population, and within Ontario there are three blocks of funding: one goes to the AMO for allocation to all municipalities, one goes to Queen’s Park for projects in areas that are not incorporated towns, etc., and one part goes to the City of Toronto.

At the beginning of 2014, Ontario’s population was 13.6-million, while Toronto’s was 2.8m. On a per capita basis (the allocation scheme for the funding) this will bring Toronto just under $800m over the next five years, less than $10m more per year that we have received in recent years.

We often hear about the deficit in funding TTC’s capital plans which stands at $2.7-billion as of the 2014 capital budget report. Turn to the second last page of that document, and you will see that the TTC already provides for $154m/year in federal subsidies out to 2023. In other words, the deficit is only $2.7b because this “new” subsidy was already counted back in November 2013. The hole is only slightly less daunting if we actually get $160m/year, but the extra won’t go very far.

Yes, it’s nice to have continued funding confirmed by Ottawa, but this is not a new spend for them, merely the continuation of an existing program. The TTC’s budget woes are just as bad this week as they were before July 11.

Posted in Finance, Transit | 14 Comments

Broadview & Queen Reconstruction (Updated July 17, 2014)

On Monday, June 30, the TTC began the reconstruction of track at Broadview & Queen. This project is expected to last one month, although efforts will be made to reopen for Queen streetcar traffic by July 19.

As of July 4, the excavation work for the Queen Street legs of the intersection was complete and preparations for the foundation concrete layer were in progress. Excavation of the Broadview leg began this morning. Track panels and new tangent rail for the approaches are sit ready for installation just beyond the excavation area on all three legs.

July 17, 2014

The TTC has announced that streetcar service will resume through the intersection at about 3:00 pm on Saturday, July 19. 501 Queen and 504 King services will operate on their normal routes from that hour onward.

On Sunday, July 20, a separate set of diversions begins and the King car will only operate southbound on Broadview from Dundas to Queen. Service to Broadview Station will be provided by a shuttle bus.

On Monday, July 21, streetcar service returns to Kingston Road with the 502 Downtowner and 503 Kingston Road Tripper lines resuming operation over their full routes.

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Posted in King Car, Queen Car, Transit | 18 Comments

The National Post Discovers “Streetcarnage” (Updated)

The National Post has two articles about the utter frustration of streetcar riders with what passes for service on the TTC:

Readers erupt with tales of anguish about riding TTC streetcars

Overcrowded streetcars, uninterested drivers part of the rolling horror show on Queen

Updated July 17, 2014 12:30 am: The National Post has published two additional articles. My comments are added at the end of this article.

Fare evasion and aging fleet large part of streetcar problem, TTC says

A TTC streetcar driver’s view on the Queen line chaos

These articles focus on the streetcar as a problem, but this is symptomatic of a much deeper malaise at the TTC: the refusal to acknowledge and publicly report on the crisis in the amount and quality of service actually provided on the street. This affects the entire surface system, not just the streetcars, but because there are so many more people trying to ride the streetcar lines, the effect is more concentrated. On top of everything else, the entire city is suffering through a huge number of concurrent construction projects.

For years, no, it’s now decades, the TTC has a stock response to complaints about streetcar service: we have no spare streetcars, and in any event they get stuck in traffic so we can’t do anything. For off-peak service, that excuse is pure crap because the number of vehicles is not the problem, only the will to staff at a sufficient level to actually operate them. Vehicle reliability has been falling over the years, and the ever-receding arrival date for new vehicles leaves Toronto facing two or more winters with most of the service provided by an aging fleet. It is unclear whether the TTC has stopped properly maintaining the fleet it has on the assumption that the worst of the cars will be retired soon, but the non-delivery of new cars will make a hash of any fleet plan now in place. The TTC has still not published an updated rollout plan for new cars (not to mention improved service) that reflects the reality of vehicle deliveries and availability.

On the bus fleet, things are not much better. Thanks to the combined efforts of Queen’s Park, Rob Ford, Karen Stintz and their cohorts, the bus fleet plan is in chaos. The first problem lies at Queen’s Park with the arbitrary changes to implementation dates for the LRT lines that would have replaced busy bus routes and reduced total requirements. Next up are the Ford/Stintz transit gong show with cutbacks to service standards and expansion plans for the fleet and garage space. Current TTC plans indicate there will be no relief for crowded bus passengers until — wait for it — 2019. Heads should roll for such outrageous “planning”, but instead we get platitudes about making more out of limited resources. That line may have played well to the neo-cons (or simply tight-ass tax cutters) now in office, but it was an irresponsible commitment to suggest that efficiencies could make up for inadequate funding especially with riding growth at 2-3% every year.

If there is an “efficiency problem”, it lies with line management and customer service. The problem of maintaining reliable headways (spaces between vehicles) stems from a foul brew of bad scheduling (inadequate time for some vehicles to complete their trips), operators who drive only vaguely on time and often close to the vehicle in front (a minority, but enough to cause problems), a laissez-faire attitude to traffic problems and transit priority by the city’s political elite, and an overriding emphasis on keeping operators close to their schedules to avoid punitive overtime costs.

Customer service falls apart with operators who, frustrated with an intolerable environment, either choose to “see no evil” when passengers misbehave, or to take out their anger on passengers who are just as ticked off with the TTC as the staff are. The TTC’s own performance measures aim for only two-thirds of surface service to be within three minutes of schedule, a target that is routinely broken on many, many routes. For years, the TTC has patted itself on the back for “hitting its target” when that target guarantees riders will encounter problems with their trips on a daily basis. (On the subway, the target is so ludicrously constructed that half of the peak service could be missing, but they would still hit 100%.)

And, as the Post notes, there is the ongoing “left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing” problem of keeping passengers accurately informed about service changes. Multiple notices, confusing notices, contradictory notices, are far too common.

Budget planning has to be mentioned too. On one hand, the service budget (planned number of vehicle/operator hours per year) allowed for modest growth overall. However, the amount of construction and resulting delay/diversion effects has chewed up so much unplanned-for time that service improvements are on hold until, probably, mid-October. When City Council says “you’re only getting X dollars of subsidy, make do”, the real effect on what people experience is neither explained nor understood.

Meanwhile, we have a former TTC Chair, Karen Stintz, more interested in blowing a so-called “surplus” from 2013 on a fare freeze in 2015 rather than addressing the real problem, the amount of service actually on the street. Fortunately, City Council spiked that ridiculous scheme, but the problem of TTC funding remains for the 2015 Council to sort out. Do we have tax revenue to support TTC operations? No, but we can levy a special tax to pay for the Scarborough subway. Such are Toronto’s priorities.

Do we have discussions about strategic planning and options for future budgets at the TTC? No. As we learned recently from a motion by one member, strategy is something the TTC Board doesn’t bother itself with. An attempt by now-Chair Maria Augimeri to bring forward a discussion on service options was spiked by the board’s Stintz faction lest it provide support for Olivia Chow’s campaign to improve bus service. When you freeze in the cold this winter, remember the faded blooms of the Stintz campaign.

Some folks, notably our Mayor, will delight in people slagging the streetcar system when the real problem lies with transit generally, not just the mode serving the densest part of the surface network. Toronto has big problems, but we prefer to talk about wasted spending as an excuse to make cuts to vital services, all in the name of “the taxpayer”. We prefer to use transit as a political soapbox, a way to show we care about people with fare freezes and future subway lines while we refuse to pay enough to operate the system we have today.

Carnage? Yes, but there is far more to this battle than atrocious service on the Queen car.

Update July 17, 2014:

In an astounding admission, the TTC has all but confirmed that although there are supposed to be fare inspectors working the Queen line which runs on a proof-of-payment (POP) basis. in fact these employees are responsible for security system wide and are rarely on Queen.

This is confirmed by comments from an anonymous operator working the route who hasn’t seen a fare inspection in ten years.

From my own experience, I vaguely remember a check well over a decade ago.

How many times has the TTC blamed its frequent riders who use passes for the drop in average fares when they don’t even bother to police their own POP route?

Posted in Elections, Finance, New Streetcars, Service Cost and Quality, Transit | 66 Comments