TTC Plans For a Zero-Emission Bus Fleet

Updated June 13, 2018: Discussion and motions from the TTC Board Meeting added.

At its meeting on June 12, 2018, the TTC board will consider a staff report which sets out in some detail the first stages of Toronto’s migration from diesel and diesel/hybrid buses to a zero-emission fleet.

The TTC’s abrupt shift from diesel to zero-emission followed a July 2017 motion adopting the TransformTO climate change plan which included a reduction target of 80% by 2050. After continued defense of “clean diesel” technology on the basis of cost and reliability, ongoing problems with Hybrid buses, and a view that new technologies were not yet mature enough for system-wide use, the TTC has reversed course and embraced a move to buying only zero-emission vehicles by the mid-2020s. As older vehicles reach end of life, the diesel and hybrid fleets would gradually disappear.

In September 2017 at an unusual Board meeting a vendor, BYD, was given the opportunity to make an extended product pitch as a “deputation”. This led to a more general interest in zero-emission vehicles from two other vendors (New Flyer and Proterra), as well as natural gas alternatives thanks to lobbying by Enbridge Gas.

In November, the Board approved a 30-bus trial with ten vehicles from each of the three vendors, as well as a less definitive study of the role of gaseous fuels.

A major problem through the entire process is that much of this is new technology, and there are many competing claims for its suitability that are not yet substantiated by real world experience. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times details problems with their battery buses and the gap between promises and actual performance.

Toronto is just beginning to learn the cost of moving to a greener fleet and the escalation not only in vehicle costs but in related infrastructure. $50 million has been allocated for those first 30 buses, and a further $88 million is on the table for another 30 plus associated infrastructure. The report is deliberately vague about specific prices for vehicles because negotiations with vendors are still underway.

Without extra investment by other governments, the technology change simply would not happen. In a November 2017 report, TTC staff noted that battery buses were “significantly less expensive” than other options based on the availability of PTIF funding.

Indeed, the current plan is structured to burn through as much of the Federal government’s Public Transit Infrastructure Fund Phase I money as possible. When PTIF was announced, all projects to be part of the first phase were required to be finished by March 2019. This is partly a political date given the election next year, and partly an accounting requirement so that spending occurs within a few fiscal years (government fiscal years start on April 1). The PTIF deadline was extended from 2019 to 2020 when it became obvious that actually spending the new money would not be possible for many cities.

Toronto found itself without projects either in the City or Transit budgets that could soak up the available money in only a few years, and initially the focus was on a massive replacement of the bus fleet to retire the worst of the older buses and, at the same time, shift from an 18-year to a 12-year replacement cycle.

In this context – a subsidy windfall plus an unusually large, multi-year bus order – the opportunity for a fast change in technology presented itself both to the politicians and to the would-be vendors. Whether this will work out remains to be seen, but the TTC is moving cautiously with a trial program that will determine whether the new technologies are credible replacements for what we have today. Meanwhile, the TTC will shift back to Hybrids from Clean Diesel on the premise that Hybrid technology has improved since the less-than-reliable generation of buses they are about to retire.

Recommended Action

The staff report recommends that:

  1. The quantity of electric buses will be increased from 30 to 60 with all vehicles to be delivered by March 31, 2020, and the TTC will work with Toronto Hydro on the design and installation of charging and energy storage systems; the project cost is increased from $50 to $120 million.
  2. The TTC will work with Toronto Hydro to modify one bus garage to accommodate up to 300 buses through the supply of a substation and backup generator at an estimated cost of $18 million.
  3. Staff will provide a project update in first quarter 2019 to the new TTC Board following the Council election in the fall of 2018.
  4. Staff will conduct a feasibility study of all garages and report in the fourth quarter of 2019 on “preliminary estimates for the total costs, benefits, and potential funding opportunities associated with the green bus plan”.

Separately from these reports, staff will present a plan in July 2018 feeding into the 2019 budget process with updated capital plans and tradeoffs necessary to free up money for the new bus infrastructure.

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Will Toronto Get More New Streetcars?

Updated June 13, 2018 at 10:00 am: The discussion and actions at the Board Meeting are reported at the end of this article.

Correction June 18, 2018 at 3:45 pm:

The section reporting the debate at the TTC Board meeting originally stated that Acting CEO Rick Leary was waiting to see if Bombardier could ship 20 cars/month by fall 2018 in order to hit the target for contract completion by the end of 2019. This should have read “20 cars/quarter”.

Original Article

Streetcar riders in Toronto are a long-suffering bunch. The size of the fleet has not changed since the mid-1990s despite the addition of a new streetcar line on Spadina in 1997 and the Harbourfront extension to Exhibition Loop in 2000. As the fleet wore out, its reliability dropped, and the now 40-year old CLRVs (single section) and 30-year old ALRVs (two section “articulateds”) are showing their age.

The TTC needed new cars some time ago, and the process of ordering the low floor Flexity fleet goes back to 2006. The first attempt, one that might have brought Toronto new cars about the same size as the ALRVs with a mixture of low and high level floors, was called off when the 100% low floor Flexitys (a design originally for Berlin) became available. That delay, combined with foot-dragging by incoming Mayor Rob Ford, and manufacturing incompetence by Bombardier, has left the TTC with a fleet far below its needs, and new cars straggling onto the property at a glacial rate.

During the past 20 years, population and employment downtown has grown far faster than in other parts of Toronto, and the residential density, once on a downward trend as family neighbourhoods gentrified, is growing. This is not confined to the new south-of-King areas, and is pushing north into the territory of other streetcar lines. The rate of growth is also changing. When the TTC ordered 204 Flexitys, these were expected to handle rising demand through 2027. This date has been revised much earlier to 2020

A major issue for the TTC, and for transit advocates in Toronto, has been the problem of “latent demand”. If the fleet stays the same size or declines, service and capacity follows the same path. The original plan for Flexity roll out onto the streetcar lines focused as much on reducing the number of operators required to carry demand little changed from then-current levels. Now, the TTC acknowledges that growth on streetcar lines went unmet for years.

The 1990s were a critical period because Toronto was coming out of a recession during which the TTC had lost 20% of its ridership, but the streetcar fleet, sized to mid-1990s demand, was unable to expand service as the system recovered. Many of the complaints about “bad streetcar service” come directly from the failure to add capacity as the economy rebounded, and then as the population along streetcar lines began to grow.

Much of the residential growth Downtown between 2012 and 2016 took place south of Queen Street. Almost 50% of all Downtown growth occurred in the King-Spadina and Waterfront West neighbourhoods. The Bay Corridor, King-Parliament and Waterfront Central saw moderate increases accounting for 36% of new residents. As a result of the increase in development in Toronto’s Downtown area, TTC streetcar ridership increased by 20% between 2008 and 2018 which is much higher than what was anticipated back in 2008. Transit mode share across the City has also increased from 23% (2006) to 27% (2016), putting additional pressure on the system.

Recent revision of the projected employment and population growth for Downtown Toronto has introduced higher forecasts which now extend to 2041. The revised estimate of number of new residents in the Downtown is 500% greater than originally projected. The revised estimate of new jobs in the Downtown is 200% greater than originally projected.

The size of the TTC’s streetcar fleet has been unchanged for almost 30 years, during a period of continuously-increasing ridership growth. This has resulted in streetcar capacity, during peak periods, being completely exhausted more than 10 years ago, with no ability to accommodate additional ridership during peak periods. Experience with deployment of the new LFLRVs on the first few streetcar routes has shown that there is an existing unmet, latent demand for peak-travel on the TTC’s streetcar routes. King Street is an excellent example of this. Over the first few months of operation the route experienced an increase of all-day weekday ridership of 16%. There are other factors that have contributed to the ridership increase (such as priority treatments and increased reliability); however, latent demand is one factor driving the ridership increase.

On King Street, the TTC has seen the combined effect of running more capacity (larger vehicles) and more reliable service (the King Street pilot). This number is still constrained by the capacity of service on the street.

On Queen Street, the shuffling of vehicles between routes and the retirement of most of the ALRVs has led, finally, to a schedule that reflects the equipment actually available to operate the route and a net increase in capacity provided, as opposed to scheduled.

Higher-density development is beginning on the Dundas, Carlton and St. Clair routes, and it is spreading away from the central part of the city where the subway is the primary mode.

Future new routes in the eastern waterfront as well as a new link to southern Etobicoke will require even more streetcars.

The TTC projects that by 2033, the peak service requirement will be 287 cars, (345 including spares), equivalent to about 570 (690) CLRVs. At their height, there were only 196 CLRVs and 52 of the larger ALRVs. This is a huge increase in the streetcar system’s capacity, almost to the level of the 745-strong PCC fleet which dominated the system through the 1950s and 60s.

At its meeting on June 12, 2018, the TTC Board will consider a report from staff that summarizes the result of a vendor survey to gauge interest in producing streetcars and proposes the following actions:

Over the coming months, staff will undertake the following:

  1. Request funding approval through 2019 budget process;
  2. Update contract documents based on stakeholder input, contract changes, and lessons learned;
  3. Engage consultant to validate RFI responses (e.g. technical and commercial performance, on-time delivery performance, etc.);
  4. Develop scope and budget for additional maintenance capacity at Hillcrest; and
  5. Report back to the TTC Board in Q1 2019 with recommendations.

The wild card in all of this will be the outcome of the provincial election on June 7, and the degree to which the incoming Premier will support or attempt to sabotage any expansion of streetcar service. Funding arrangements, especially under the federal PTIF scheme, depend on all three levels of government contributing. This effectively gives any one level the ability to veto a project unless there is a change in the rules.

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So You Want To Own A Subway (2018 Edition)

Among the many promises made by the Progressive Conservative Party in the run-up to the June 7 election is a scheme to upload the Toronto subway system to the province with the intention of relieving Toronto of this ongoing cost. This was also part of their 2014 campaign, and it is born no doubt from the Ford brothers’ assumption that (a) this could be done cheaply and (b) Toronto would save money overall. The pot is sweetened this time around with the guarantee that Toronto would keep the fare revenue and operate the system. The overall tradeoffs in operating and capital costs are not entirely nailed down.

Oliver Moore in the Globe has written about this proposal wondering whether it is actually workable. The quotes below are taken from his article.

The Tories are framing the upload largely as an accounting exercise, making it easier to find funding and thus facilitating transit construction. The province would pay an estimated $160-million annually for major capital maintenance on the subway network, taking an obligation off city books.

Under the proposal, the Toronto Transit Commission would keep operating the subway, with its board setting fares and the city retaining revenues. Expansion planning would be controlled by the province, although Toronto and Ottawa would be asked to help fund construction.

Note that the proposal is silent on the operating cost of the subway. There is something of a myth that the subway “breaks even”, but this is not true, especially for the more-recently opened segments. It is a matter of record that the Sheppard Line loses money, and the TTC estimated that the operating impact, net of new fares, of the Vaughan extension would be $30 million per year.

If the province builds a new subway line, would Toronto, through the TTC, still be on the hook for paying its operating cost?

Any concept of “breaking even” requires that fares be allocated between surface and subway routes and this is an impossible task. One can propose many schemes, but they all have built-in biases because a “trip” and a “fare” are such different things. The situation is even more complex as an increasing number of riders pay through some form of pass all the way from the yearly Metropass (formerly called the “monthly discount program”) down to the two-hour transfer.

How Much Does The Subway Cost?

The estimated value of an upload to Queen’s Park of $160 million/year is woefully inadequate because the TTC’s capital budget for ongoing maintenance is much, much larger. There is much more to owning a subway than collecting billions in construction subsidies. Despite the frequent claim that “subways last 100 years”, they require a lot of ongoing maintenance and replacement of subsystems. With the exception of the physical tunnel and station structures, a large proportion of the older subway lines has been completely replaced or undergone major overhaul at least once since they opened. Line 1 YUS is on its third generation of trains, for example.

I wrote about this four years ago, and this article is an update of my earlier review.

A big problem arises for anyone taking a superficial look at the TTC’s books because so many projects are not funded, or are not even part of the approved “base budget”. They are “below the line” or, even worse, they are merely “proposals” of future works that might find their way into the official list. Looking only at current, approved funded projects ignores a large and growing list of projects that, for political convenience, are out of sight, the iceberg below the water line.

Slogging through the TTC’s Capital Budget is no fun, but somebody has to do it. You, dear readers, get the digested version of hundreds of pages of reports. Thank you in advance.

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TTC Contemplates Earlier Subway Closing

At the TTC’s Audit & Risk Management Committee meeting of May 29, 2018, staff presented a report entitled Internal Audit Quarterly Update: Q1 2018. That is not the sort of title that would prompt avid late-night reading, but one item within the report sparked a brief conversation between the committee and staff.

There are several issues related to the management of overnight work in the subway which requires a variety of resources including staff, work cars, power cuts and central supervision to keep all of the crews from tripping over each other. One part of the ongoing audit work is to review the systems (many automated, but some manual) used to schedule and track the work plans, but another issue raised was the relatively short maintenance window within which work can be done. Responding to a question, staff advised that they are reviewing the operating hours of the subway to determine whether changing these hours could improve the productivity of overnight maintenance work.

Here are extracts from the report:

Audit Observation #3: Track Level Maintenance Window

TTC’s revenue subway service hours limit the nightly maintenance window, which impacts the efficiency and effectiveness of track level work and exposes subway infrastructure to accelerated deterioration.

Limited Track Level Maintenance Window

Per an international CoMET/Nova benchmark study of “Metro Key Performance Indicators (2016 data)”, TTC ranked fourth amongst 34 participants in terms of subway service density or network utilization – a standardized method that measures operated passenger capacity compared to network size. This KPI reflects the ‘intensity of utilization of the metro network’, which is a function of train frequency, train length and car capacity. The study asserts high train frequency may reflect a good use of fixed infrastructure, but the intense impact on asset utilization should be warranted by ridership demand, i.e., recognizing the need to balance competing objectives of making subway service more available for customers versus the costs associated with accelerated deterioration of subway infrastructure and assets due to an increase in daily use. The study comments that TTC offers relatively high levels of capacity primarily due to larger trains and higher frequencies across its entire, relatively small network.

TTC track level work starts once the system is fully cleared of revenue trains. TTC’s subway system is closed to the public at 1:30am and opens at 6:00am on week days and Saturdays, and at 8:00am on Sundays. However, trains continue to run through the system until approximately 2:30am and re-enter the system at around 5:30am, leaving an average total available daily maintenance window of 180 minutes (300 minutes on Sundays as service preparation starts around 7:30am).

Night shift work typically runs from 10:30pm to 7am, including a 30-minute unpaid meal break. Per discussion with Subway Infrastructure management, track level set-up activities typically start at 2:45am and Transit Control requests crews to complete work and start clearing the track at 5:00am. Work activities expected to be performed out-side of this track level access time period include employee roll-call, safety-talks/briefings, work car preparation, and tools maintenance, etc.

[…]

In a Nova comparison study, “Track Possession Timings ” (2014), it was noted that given TTC’s subway service hours, and taking into account estimated time required for set-up and safety check activities, as well as post work preparation for service, TTC workers’ total available time to work productively at track level was between 30 and 225 mins less than the other ten participants. Further, the average maintenance window of these other participants was almost 2hrs longer than that of TTC.

If the maintenance window was to be increased by 2 additional hours, 5 nights a week, Audit estimates the opportunity for improved productivity by SI’s Track Maintenance and Structure Maintenance Sections alone to be valued at approximately $3.38 million. Such a change would also reduce overtime and potentially the need for weekend closures by these two groups. Based on payroll data, Track Maintenance and Structure Maintenance incurred overtime costs of $4.58M and $1.26M respectively in 2017. Structure Maintenance Management estimates that if the maintenance window was to be extended by 2 hours, 5 nights a week, the annual overtime for this Section could be reduced by 75%, which in 2017, would be equal to approximately $945K. It is reasonable to assume productivity improvements and material overtime savings could be realized by other groups that complete maintenance and capital project work at track level if the maintenance window is extended.

[pp 8-9 of Attachment 3, at pp 27-28 of the document]

Note that the “other ten participants” are not listed nor are the relative service levels of their transit systems mentioned to indicate whether they are valid comparators for Toronto.

A proposed action plan appears a few pages later in the report:

Audit Observation #3 – Management Action Plan Considerations:

To maximize and optimize the track level maintenance window, Management should:

  • Evaluate actual ridership and revenue associated with TTC’s late-night subway service (after midnight runs) to ensure current intensity of service and impact on subway infrastructure (and vehicle) asset maintenance costs are warranted.
  • Conduct in-depth analysis of TTC’s current subway infrastructure asset management approach, resource planning and crewing methods, work car dispatching techniques and work methods to identify opportunities for maximizing productivity and transparency of resource utilization at track level.

This was striking on at least two counts.

First, there is no recognition in the report that closing earlier is anything more than a question of sending trains back to the yard earlier, and no mention of providing replacement service. It is no secret that night buses on Yonge and Bloor-Danforth are very heavily loaded after 2 am and, if anything, more service is needed then. A similar problem occurs during the early part of the day before the subway opens. The auditors also seem to be unaware that there is no night service to replace the University-Spadina subway, and this is difficult (as users of Spadina shuttles know) because the subway does not follow an arterial road like Yonge or Bloor.

If two hours were added to the shutdown period, the amount of bus service required to replace the subway would be substantial, and it is likely that ridership would be lost thanks to the relative inconvenience. Moreover, there would be knock-on effects for users of connecting bus services who would face much longer journeys to their connection points on a surface bus, and who might also face a decline in service thanks to the unattractiveness of the night bus replacement for the subway.

This change could actually trigger a system-wide retrenchment of service hours.

Second, there was absolutely no intimation that anyone at the meeting was aware of just how severe the impacts of this proposal would be on riders, nor was there any attempt to defend their interests. Indeed, the focus is on making the maintenance teams more efficient and saving millions without considering the offsetting costs and potential lost revenue.

Some of the basic assumptions in the text quoted above are wrong, notably a claimed closing time for the subway of 1:30 am. In fact, the closing time varies across the system. There is a scheduled meet of the last northbound, eastbound and westbound trains at Bloor-Yonge at about 1:54 am that has been in place since the BD line opened in 1966. Stations close as these last trains make their way outbound to terminals. One might hope the auditors would check with TTC planners or even simply look at their own website.

The last train eastbound on Line 4 Sheppard does not leave Yonge-Sheppard station until 2:14 am.

It is quite clear to anyone who actually rides the subway late at night that it does not close at 1:30 am across the network. This is only the start of a process that continues until about 2:30 am, and some trains have to return to their overnight storage locations even later. The maintenance window varies depending where one is on the network.

The comment in the report about “accelerated deterioration of subway infrastructure and assets” is a function of the very frequent service the TTC provides across the entire subway system at all hours with trains every 5 minutes or better until almost the end of service. How much extra wear and tear this represents since the subway opened in 1954 might be of interest, but this service level is a matter of TTC Service Standards. One could argue that full service is not required, based on demand, beyond a core portion of the system late at night. However, I dare any politician to stand up and tell suburban Toronto that they will lose their frequent service just because the trains are not full.

Another issue here is that actually running the trains is only part of total subway costs, and unless one can also drop staffing levels associated with stations, security, line supervision and on-call maintainers, the saving of running, say, only half of the service beyond a turnback point such as Eglinton is small. The same consideration applies to running less frequent service generally – the trains are only part of the overall operating cost.

It is important to note that this “accelerated deterioration” is a function of frequent service over long hours, not some side-effect of inefficient maintenance procedures as one might erroneously read the audit report.

I hope that if there is a detailed study, it will take into account the benefits of good late night and early morning service on the subway, not to mention the requirements for substantially improved night bus service. Indeed the existing night service needs improving, but languishes thanks to a combination of indifference and budget restraints.

It is only a few years since the TTC began Sunday service at 8:00 am rather than 9:00 am in January 2016.

In a Nov. 4, 2015, letter to the Board, Mayor John Tory and Chair Josh Colle wrote:

“As a vibrant and growing city, Toronto does not conform to a traditional Monday to Friday schedule … Our businesses are open, our cultural centres are operating and the engines of our economy remain in motion. The people of Toronto should be able to move around this city with ease — seven days a week — and the TTC plays an instrumental role in providing this mobility.”

Early Sunday openings are the latest service improvement to be introduced in recent months, following this year’s expansion of overnight service and all-day, every-day service across the city, implementation of ten-minute-or-better service and reduced off-peak crowding on bus and streetcar routes.

Someone should send a copy of this letter to the auditors who appear to be incapable of making a full evaluation of the effects of their recommendations or even appreciating the seriousness of what they propose. “Efficiency” in one department does not mean better service for the organization and the City as a whole.

TTC Route Service Quality Tracking

The TTC has posted a new report on its Customer Service page which displays the route-by-route on time departure scores for the past three years. Reports of this nature were promised in the “Customer Charter” but have been missing since the first quarter of 2015.

There is no explanation of what these scores actually mean, although this can be gleaned from the comparable system wide-scores in the CEO’s Report.

This KPI measures adherence to scheduled (59 seconds early to five minutes late) departure times from end terminals. [p. 38]

The overall values for the bus and streetcar systems (from the CEO’s Report) are shown below.

The bus system does somewhat better than the streetcars, but on time departures still sit in the 80 percent range, and trends for the past three years follow a similar pattern.

For the streetcars, barely half of the service is “on time”. The real problem for both modes is the definition of what is measured, where this is taken, and over what period.

When there is a six-minute window in which a vehicle is considered to be on time, but when the scheduled gap between cars anywhere below about 9 minutes, then pairs of vehicles can operate across a route and still count as “on time”. For example, if departures are scheduled at 12:00 and 12:09, but the actual times are 12:05 and 12:08 (one five minute late, the other 1 minute early), it does not take long for this to coalesce into a pair of vehicles. For a 6 minute headway, the pair can leave a terminal together and be “on time”. That the TTC cannot achieve better stats even with such a generous metric for streetcar lines which tend to have frequent service is a bad starting point.

The next problem is that this measure is taken on an all-day basis and only at terminals. There is no breakdown of whether service is more or less “on time” during peak periods, midday, evening or weekends, not to mention that service once vehicles leave a terminal can be nothing like the terminal departures. This was shown in my recent analyses of service on 505 Dundas and 505 Carlton bus operations, and there are similar problems throughout the system. Most riders do not actually board at the terminals, and so the gapping and bunching they experience is worse than that reflected in the official stats.

Finally, “on time” is a meaningless metric for riders on frequent routes where the schedule per se is of little interest, only that a bus or streetcar appear “soon” and that there is room available when it does. The word “they” should never apply to transit vehicle arrivals, but this is all too common as every route analysis I have performed (many published here) show where bunching is common even on wider scheduled headways.

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Why I’m Supporting the NDP and Andrea Horwath

The Ontario election on June 7, 2018, is vital for the future of Ontario and of its principal city, Toronto. We have a choice between a party well past it’s sell-by date, a collection of buffoons and crooks unfit to hold public office, and a party and leader growing into prominence just when Ontario needs them.

I am in the enviable position of being able to vote for the candidate and party I believe in without having to hold my nose and make a strategic vote. Many people are not that lucky, and a vote for their favourite can sometimes be a matter of showing the flag, and sometimes can actively help the “wrong” candidate to a win. Such are the joys of multi-party elections.

In my own riding, Toronto-Danforth, the choice is easy. Peter Tabuns has been the sitting NDP member since 2006, and served on the pre-amalgamation Toronto Council from 1990 to 1997. I have known Peter for a long time, and even when I despaired of the NDP as a party, I continued to trust and support him. He will easily get my vote again, and with that vote, my support for the NDP which has not wavered for many decades.

For all that the Liberals have done some good things, they have fouled up a great deal, especially on the transit file. Their embrace of dubious schemes like the Scarborough Subway, SmartTrack and now High Speed Rail to London and beyond, shows a “policy” driven by vote-getting, not by well-considered principles.

In the energy sector, the sale of Hydro One is only part of a larger set of decisions including high-cost “alternative” sources, the continued propping up of nuclear technology, and a failure to restructure the transmission system to permit expanded power imports from Québec. Ontario is paying a lot for its power, and this affects many decisions including transit schemes which once could count on cheap power as a selling point.

There is an even greater irony that, if a Metrolinx electrification background study is to be believed, the so-called “cheap” base generation power that could recharge energy storage systems does not have the capacity to meet future demand.

I first met Kathleen Wynne through mutual friends before she turned to politics. Her time as a school trustee rarely crossed my path in my work career at TDSB, but when she became the Minister of Transportation under McGuinty, there were occasional contacts, and she seemed to be making good work of her position. We chatted occasionally, but I was in no way an “insider”.

A few years after Wynne became Premier, she appointed Glen Murray to her old Ministry, and the style changed to claims over substance. Murray’s successor, Steven Del Duca, raised self-promotion to the point where Metrolinx existed as much to create endless photos ops as to do any real planning. Making the government, and especially the Minister, look good was their job even if they had to cook the books on a “business case analysis”.

Wynne’s star has faded, even with a strong performance in the recent leaders’ debate, but being in command of the issues is not the same as executing the programs needed to make a better province.

Many Liberal promises of 2018 should have been undertaken over a year ago, even at the risk of missing the balanced budget target, so that voters could see real change, real improvement. Near the end of its mandate, the Liberal government has rediscovered the need for programs that actually produce benefits people can see, but this comes far too late from a party whose promises cannot be trusted.

As for the Tories, the “Progressive” Conservatives, they and their leader don’t understand the meaning of the word. That once-moderate party has been hijacked by right-wing scum, racists, homophobes and criminals who advocate simplistic “solutions” to every problem without really saying what they will do or how they would pay the bills.

Doug Ford, when he is forced to make public statements, bumbles his way through standard lines, the same trick his late brother Rob pulled throughout his mayoral campaign. Don’t answer the question, just push those talking points.

I have seen Ford in action at City Council, and was in the chamber on that infamous day when he harangued the public gallery claiming we were there as paid agitators. That’s rich coming from someone whose own campaign used paid actors as “supporters” at a TV debate.

On the transit file, the Fords are notorious for their love of subways, subways, subways whether the city can afford to build and operate them or not. They played on the concept that every part of the city “deserves” a subway to the point that advocating anything else is now painted as a plot by privileged, white downtown elites. The same game is played by Doug at a provincial level blaming Toronto for everyone’s woes as long as he is safely outside of the city.

He is a bully and a liar, and does not deserve to be in public office, let along be Premier of Canada’s most important province. A Ford-PC government would set Ontario back years through rampant tax giveaways, spending cuts, and a vindictive, socially-conservative mindset that treats critics as enemies.

For their part, the NDP is not perfect – no party is – but they are on a better footing this time out.

The transit platform includes a 50% share of net costs of municipal transit operations, a return to a scheme initiated under that paragon of the PCs, Bill Davis. Unlike the previous NDP election platform, the 2018 version actually includes money to fund this promise, money that was conspicuously absent in the 2014 platform.

As to capital funding, there is some confusion as to whether the NDP would actively direct or oppose specific transit projects, or leave these decisions to local councils. That is a tricky problem for any party wishing to stay out of the morass of local transit politics, but some decisions, especially on priorities, will be needed. Simply handing money to each city and hoping for the best is no guarantee. Moreover, regional transportation requirements do not necessarily align with where people live and vote. That applies as much to the question of financing and building capacity into Toronto as an economic centre as it does to the need for much better transit in and between cities outside of the central GTA.

In many other sectors, the NDP starts from the premise that more services are needed – better housing, education, health care, energy – and they do not start by assuming that a private sector arrangement, complete with the off-book accounting favoured by the Liberals, is the answer to every problem.

As to labour relations, the NDP’s Achilles Heel, I find myself landing between the parties. No union, no company nor public agency should be able to hold a city or the province hostage as part of its negotiations. The problem, then, is to determine when an impasse really exists and should be legislated away, if only by arbitration.

Four years ago, Andrea Horwath did not impress me as a leader. She seemed insecure, evasive, and did not inspire my support. I voted for my local candidate, not for her. The Liberals under Kathleen Wynne looked like they would accomplish at least part of a decent program, while the NDP was more about slogans.

Things have changed. Horwath is more confident and has evolved into a leader who talks to all of Ontario, not just to her home town Hamilton. She has the advantage of two opponents whose records are of wasted opportunity in one case, and of simple-minded boosterism and appeals to the lowest of motives among voters in the other.

As I write this, the battle of the pollsters shows the NDP on the rise, but more is needed to overtake the PCs, even for a minority government with Liberal support. On June 7, I hope that Ontario will prove that it cares about decency and integrity in politics, and puts Andrea Horwath in the Premier’s Office.

Shuffling Bus Routes in The Junction

The TTC has a proposal for reorganizing its bus service in The Junction and is seeking feedback for a report to the TTC Board this summer.

The maps below are clipped from the TTC’s site and their resolution is limited by what is available there.

Two major changes involve creating through services on St. Clair and on Dundas:

  • On St. Clair, the 127 Davenport bus would be extended west from Old Weston Road to an on-street loop via Scarlett Road, Foxwell and Jane Streets. This would replace the 71A branch of Runnymede that now terminates at Gunn’s Loop as well as the 79B branch of Scarlett Road. All 71 Runnymede buses would run north up Runnymede, and all 79 Scarlett Road buses would follow the current 79A route via Foxwell and Pritchard.
  • On Dundas, the 40 Junction bus would be extended west to Kipling Station replacing the 30 Lambton bus which would terminate at Runnymede Loop. A short turn 40B service would loop via Jane, St. Clair and Runnymede as another part of the replacement for the 79B Scarlett Road service.

The 80B Queensway service that terminates at Humber Loop late evenings and Sundays would be eliminated and buses would operate to Keele Station via Parkside Drive at all times. This through service to the subway was in place during the reconstruction of the loop, but the 80B reappeared on April 1 using an on-street connection to the Queen car at Windermere/Ellis.

The TTC site is silent on a few issues that could bear on how this reorganization will be received by riders:

  • There is no before/after service plan showing bus frequencies on the existing and planned routes.
  • When the railway underpass at St. Clair and Keele closes for reconstruction and widening, this will shift the western terminus of 512 St. Clair to Earlscourt Loop (at Lansdowne), and the proposed 127 Davenport service through to Scarlett Road will not be possible.

There is also no mention of the proposed 512 St. Clair extension to Jane Street which dates back to the Transit City days, but is for all practical purposes a dead issue. That extension was premised on the idea that streetcar service on St. Clair would operate from a carhouse to be shared by the Finch and Jane LRT routes. The Jane LRT is nowhere to be seen, and in any event would be a standard gauge line making its use by TTC gauge St. Clair cars impossible.

Assuming that the Davenport bus is rerouted along St. Clair, this would remove service from Townsley Loop which has been in service since 1924. It would also eliminate the planned connection by the Davenport bus to the SmartTrack St. Clair/Keele station, although this transfer connection would remain possible at the Keele/Weston/St. Clair intersection.

505 Dundas Streetcars vs Buses: Part II – Headway Reliability and Capacity

In Part I of this series, I reviewed travel times for the 505 Dundas service operating with streetcars and buses. As I have reported for other routes, the buses are slightly faster only when they operate on uncongested sections of a route where the more aggressive driving style of bus operators gives them a slight advantage. On the portions of the routes in the older city, generally west of Parliament Street, there is little difference between the two modes.

This article reviews service reliability and capacity on Dundas.

As with the analysis of 506 Carlton, the headway data are presented in three formats to illustrate different aspects of route behaviour.

As a general observation, the reliability of service on Dundas has not been good for several years and this worsened during the period of construction diversions in 2017. The TTC does not report on service quality, and when they do, it is on an averaged basis that hides a great deal of the variation that, to riders, translates to “where is my streetcar” and disbelief in the “official story”.

Service is ragged leaving the terminals, and it becomes more bunched and “gappy” as  it moves across the line. Buses run in pairs commonly, even from terminals, in direct contradiction of the TTC’s goal that service be evenly spaced at least at the ends of the line.

There are a lot of charts in this post, and I have included them all so that readers can select items of interest.

As for the capacity charts, they show how Dundas has received no improvement in route capacity for years and, if anything, capacity has fallen.

Continue reading

TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, June 24, 2018

The June 24 schedule change brings a major upheaval to the streetcar routes and the usual round of summer service cutbacks.

2018.06.24_Service_Changes

Construction Projects Ending

Queensway & Lakeshore

Streetcar service will, after a long absence, be restored west of Humber Loop. The new service design is similar to the pre-shutdown arrangement where a separate service, the old “507 Long Branch” in everything but name, will operate between Humber and Long Branch Loops. Late in the evening and overnight, streetcar service will run through from Neville to Long Branch.

                         Weekdays   Saturdays   Sundays
First EB through trip    11:02 pm   10:42 pm    10:32 pm
First WB through trip    10:09 pm   10:00 pm     9:52 pm

During the AM peak, five trips will operate through to downtown via Queen arriving at Yonge Street starting at 8:05 am and every 15 minutes after to 9:05.

Midday service at 9 minutes will be slightly better than the 10-minute network would require because the dead-head time to and from Russell Carhouse for one car is not worth the effort.

Recovery time for the “Long Branch” service will be scheduled at Humber Loop to maximize the overlap with the main service on 501 Queen for transfers between cars.

Gerrard & Parliament

With the completion of construction at Gerrard and Parliament, the 65 Parliament and 506 Carlton routes return to normal through this location. However, the 506 Carlton will divert a bit further east (see below).

New Construction

Broadview Avenue from Dundas to Gerrard

The track on Broadview from Dundas to Gerrard, including both intersections, will be rebuilt over the summer months. This affects many routes.

For the duration of the project, the 504 King, 514 Cherry and 503 Kingston Road routes will operate as a single “504” route with three services:

  • 504A streetcars will operate from Dundas West Station to Distillery Loop. This will be scheduled entirely with low-floor cars to preserve accessibility on Cherry Street. Note that the ramps will not be deployed on Roncesvalles because the “bump out” stops are incompatible with the ramps. This problem will be fixed in 2019 while streetcar service is removed from Roncesvalles for the intersection reconstruction at Queen Street.
  • 504B/C streetcars will operate from Dufferin Loop to Bingham Loop (weekdays daytime) and to Woodbine Loop (evenings and weekends). This service will use CLRVs.
  • 504D buses will operate from Broadview Station to King & Parliament.

Overnight service will operate with a 304 streetcar service from Dundas West Station to Woodbine Loop, and a bus service from King & University to Broadview Station. The streetcar service will be scheduled to use low-floor cars.

With the shuffling of buses between routes, the 502 Downtowner peak period service will revert to streetcar operation for the summer using CLRVs.

While construction is underway south of Gerrard to Dundas, diversion routes will be:

  • 504D King bus: From Broadview Station south to Gerrard, west to River, south to King, west to Parliament looping via Parliament, Front and Berkeley.
  • 505 Dundas bus: From Broadview Station south to Gerrard, west to River, south to Dundas.
  • 506 Carlton bus: No diversion.

While construction is underway at Gerrard and Broadview (starting in late July), diversion routes will be:

  • 504D King bus: From Broadview Station south to Jack Layton Way, then west and south via St. Matthews Road to Gerrard, and west via the River Street diversion as above.
  • 505 Dundas bus: Same diversion as 504D King to bypass the intersection at Gerrard.
  • 506 Carlton bus: Via River, Dundas and Logan both ways.

These diversions will add a lot of turning buses to the intersections at River & Gerrard, and River & Dundas. One can only hope that the City Transportation Department will adjust the traffic signals to suit this arrangement.

Main Station

Construction continues at Main Station, but new work by Hydro has further affected routes in this area, and diversion routes around work on Main will be implemented as needed through the summer.

The 87 Cosburn and 64 Main routes will be interlined. On weekends, 64 Main buses will divert northbound via Kingston Road and Woodbine to Danforth on weekends due to City road construction.

Keele Yard

Due to maintenance work at Greenwood Carhouse, movements to and from the yard will be reduced during the daytime weekdays. Four peak trains that normally return to Greenwood between the rush hours will instead use Keele Yard.

Lawrence West Station

Paving work at Lawrence West Station will prevent buses from using it as a terminus. The 52G Lawrence to Martin Grove service will be extended east to Yonge Street, along with the 59 Maple Leaf route. 109 Ranee buses will serve the station from the street.

Summer Route Changes

The 29 Dufferin bus will not operate into Exhibition Place during the summer because of many events that block roadways. All service will terminate at Dufferin Loop.

The 30 Lambton bus will be extended into High Park on weekends.

The 121 Fort York–Esplanade bus will be extended to Ontario Place.

Evening service will be improved on 509 Harbourfront and all recovery time will be scheduled at Exhibition Loop to avoid delays at Union Station.

New/Improved Services

The 83 Jones bus service will be improved off-peak to provide more frequent access to Leslie Barns as the infrequent evening and weekend operation interferes with operator access and crew changes.

There is a particular irony to better service on this route. In 1972, a group of local residents forced the TTC to hold its Board meetings in public as required under the Municipal Act with the intent of making a deputation asking for a bus on Jones Avenue. This was the beginning of open meetings at the TTC, a residents’ group lobbying for a route the TTC did not want to run.

A new route, 176 Mimico GO, will operate between the Lakeshore/Park Lawn area and Mimico GO Station during peak periods on a 30 minute headway to improve access to the GO service.

 

Those Vanishing Streetcar Stops

Readers who follow me on Twitter will know that the question of which streetcar stops are being removed has been a simmering issue for some time. The question has become less “what is the list” than “why is it impossible to get the list”.

A related matter is the degree of consultation, or not, that preceded implementation of the changes.

Several changes for The Beach (Queen Street East and Kingston Road) were announced in an email newsletter from Councillor McMahon, and the format of the list, complete with stop numbers, made it clear that this was a TTC document.

TTC will proceed with the following streetcar stop relocations on May 13 to support the deployment of new streetcars:

On Kingston Road:

  • Move the westbound stops #2786 (Malvern Avenue) and #2799 (Walter Street) to a new stop at the midblock pedestrian signal at Glen Manor Dr
  • Remove the farside westbound stop #2801 at Woodbine Avenue to a new stop nearside of the same intersection

On Queen Street:

  • Move the stops at Kent Road, and Woodward Avenue, to new stops at the pedestrian crossover at Woodfield Road
  • Move the eastbound stop #3055 at Laing Street to a nearside location at Alton Avenue
  • Move the eastbound stop #6807 at Kippendavie Avenue east to the signalized intersection at Elmer Avenue
  • Move the eastbound stop #6815 at Scarboro Beach Boulevard and the eastbound stop #6812 to the signalized intersection at Glen Manor Drive
  • Move the stops at the unsignalized intersections of Lee Avenue and Waverley Road to the signalized intersection at Bellefair Avenue
  • Move the westbound stop #6818 at Sprucehill Road closer to the pedestrian crossover at Beech Avenue

Courtesy of the fact that the TTC’s own website contains out of date information about stop locations while the list in NextBus is current, it did not take long to track down the remaining changes, but the bizarre part of this is that repeated attempts to simply get a list from the TTC ran aground.

Today, I took an inspection tour of the affected locations to verify what has happened, and here is my list:

On King Street:

  • Stops both ways at Trinity Street removed
  • Eastbound stop at Fraser replaced by a new stop at the signal at Joe Shuster Way where there is already a westbound stop.

On Queen Street (in addition to the above):

  • Stops both ways at Connaught removed. (How will operators ever change cars without a transit stop?)
  • Westbound stop at Simcoe replaced by a new stop at the signal at St. Patrick. Now if only the TTC would put an eastbound stop there to replace the one they dropped in the last round at McCaul, and thereby break up the long gap from John to University.
  • Eastbound stop at Gladstone farside replaced by nearside stop. [Thanks to a reader for spotting this.]
  • Westbound stop at Beaconsfield shifted east a short distance to align with the new traffic signal at Abell St.
  • Eastbound stop at Wilson Park shifted west one block to Triller where there is a crosswalk and an existing westbound stop.

On The Queensway:

  • As a result of the restoration of streetcar service to Humber Loop, the stop at Parkside is back in service. This is reflected on NextBus but not on the TTC’s own site.

On Dundas Street:

  • Westbound stop at Crawford shifted one block to Shaw Street where there is a traffic signal and an existing eastbound stop.

On College Street:

  • Stops both ways at Clinton removed. (Thanks to readers who pointed this out in the comments.) [Updated May 18, 2018]

Now that wasn’t hard at all, was it?

(There may be more that I have missed, and if anybody spots one, leave a comment and I will update the article.)

What is not clear is the degree to which local councillors or residents were consulted about this change. This gets us into a rather murky bit of TTC management bafflegab. When the original proposal was before the TTC board in May 2014, there were motions amending the staff recommendation including:

Chair Augimeri moved that the Board:

1. authorize staff to proceed with the recommended changes to the stops in the staff report where consensus has been reached; and

2. refer the remaining stops identified in the staff report back to staff for further consultation with local Councillors and for report back to the next meeting.

The motion by Chair Augimeri carried. [Minutes of May 28, 2014 Board Meeting, Item 14]

It is quite clear that the Board intended that the proposals in the report had to be accepted by those affected. (For the record, there never was a follow up report provided by staff.)

The current round of changes includes several stops that were not part of the original list. When I pressed TTC management on what appeared to be a lack of notice of the change, not even bringing the scheme to the Board for approval, I was told that the 2014 motion was by an old Board and the staff were no longer bound by it.

Say what? Management can simply make up whatever policy they want when the Board is replaced in a new term of Council?

This is not a question of a nerdish railfan wanting to track the locations of stops, but of a much larger issue that will affect many parts of the City when the TTC turns it attention to bus routes. Some of the stop spacings on bus routes are embarrassingly short, and if the same principles are followed as for streetcars, a lot of buses won’t stop as often, or as conveniently as they do today.

Many of the changes are quite reasonable and take into account the fact that there are now both crosswalks and traffic signals at locations where they did not exist when the transit stops were first installed. This type of change has less to do with new streetcars than simply reflecting the updated street design.

Another justification for elimination of stops in the 2014 round was that this would speed service. In fact, the effects were minimal because many stops that were dropped were not at traffic signals, and they did not represent much delay to streetcar service. This time around, most changes are relocations.

Memo to Councillors with bus routes: Pay attention to what the TTC is up to in your ward.