TTC Streetcars and Buses Swap Routes in February 2018

The TTC has confirmed the following changes in the allocation of streetcars and buses to various routes effective with the February 18, 2018 schedules:

  • Streetcars will return to 511 Bathurst.
  • The 502 Downtowner bus will continue to operate, but only during peak periods (Bingham Loop to Queen & University).
  • The 503 Kingston Road car, normally a peak only tripper, will operate Monday to Friday peaks and midday (similar to the existing 502). The 503 car will run between Bingham Loop and Charlotte Loop (King & Spadina) to supplement service on King Street.
  • The 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton routes will be converted to bus operation.

The buses for 505/506 will come from a variety of sources:

  • Existing buses operating on 503 Kingston Road,
  • Tripper buses originally scheduled for 504 King but swapped to 505 Dundas since December, and
  • Buses that have been freed up from construction service and the route reorganization following opening of the Vaughan subway extension.

Both Dundas and Carlton will be affected by planned construction projects this year that would require partial replacement with buses even if there were no streetcar shortage.

  • Main Station construction and Hydro work
  • Broadview Avenue track replacement from south of Dundas to Wolfrey (north end of Riverdale Park) including intersections at Dundas and Gerrard. This will also affect the east end of 504 King.

Roncesvalles Carhouse will close for the remainder of 2018 for maintenance work, and operations will be centralized at Russell and Leslie.

In other news:

  • 501 Queen service to Humber Loop is planned to return with the schedule changes planned for May 13, 2018.
  • The King-Queen-Roncesvalles intersection replacement, the associated road reconfiguration and the extension of the right-of-way east from Parkside Drive to Roncesvalles remains in the 2019 schedule.

Even if buses were not filling in for streetcars, the TTC has no plans for bus service increases.

The bus replacement service is not preventing us from making bus improvements. In 2018, we do not have any budget for new improvements. Any improvements we make will be through reallocation.

More information is expected at the TTC Board Meeting on January 18, 2018. Also, the detailed memo of service changes for February should be out soon, and I will publish the usual condensed version when it is available.

Thanks to Stuart Green at the TTC for the information.

The Bogus Business Case for Fare Integration

In my reporting of the September 2017 Metrolinx Board Meeting, I reviewed a presentation on Regional Fare Integration. At the time of writing, only the summary presentation to the Board was available, but the full Draft Business Case appeared some time later. This is the sort of timing problem that Metrolinx has vowed to correct.

A basic problem with such a delay is that one must take at face value the claims made by staff to the Board without recourse to the original document. This will mask the shortcomings of the study itself, not to mention any selective reinterpretation of its findings to support a staff position.

In the case of the Regional Fare Integration study, this is of particular concern because Metrolinx planners clearly prefer that the entire GTHA transit structure move to Fare By Distance. However, they keep running into problems that are a mix of organizational, technical and financial issues, not to mention the basic politics involved in setting fares and subsidies. If FBD is presented as the best possible outcome, this could help overcome some objections by “proving” that this is the ideal to which all systems should move.

At the outset, I should be clear about my own position here. The word “Bogus” is in the article’s title not just because it makes a nice literary device, but because I believe that the Fare Integration Study is an example where Metrolinx attempts to justify a predetermined position with a formal study, and even then only selectively reports on information from that study to buttress their preferred policy. The study itself is “professional” in the sense that it examines a range of options by an established methodology, but this does not automatically mean that it is thorough nor that it fully presents the implications of what is proposed.

The supposed economic benefit of a new fare scheme depends largely on replacement of home-to-station auto trips with some form of local transit (conventional, ride share, etc) whose cost is not included in the analysis. This fundamentally misrepresents the “benefit” of a revised fare structure that depends on absorption of new costs by entities outside of the study’s consideration (riders, local municipalities).

The set of possible fare structures Metrolinx has studied has not changed over the past two years, and notably the potential benefits of a two-hour universal fare are not considered at all. On previous occasions Metrolinx has treated this as a “local policy” rather than a potential regional option, not to mention the larger benefits of such fares for riders whose travel involves “trip chaining” of multiple short hops.

One must read well into the report to learn that the best case ridership improvement from any of the fare schemes is 2.15% over the long term to 2031, and this assumes investment in fare subsidies. Roughly the same investment would achieve two thirds of the same ridership gain simply by providing a 416/905 co-fare without tearing apart the entire regional tariff. In either case, this is a trivial change in ridership over such a long period suggesting that other factors beyond fare structure are more important in encouragement or limitation of new ridership. Moreover, it is self-evident that such a small change in ridership cannot make a large economic contribution to the regional economy.

Specifics of the Board Presentation

The Board Presentation gives a very high level overview of the draft study.

On page 2:

The consultant’s findings in the Draft Preliminary Business Case include:

  • All fare structure concepts examined perform better than the current state, offering significant economic value to the region
  • Making use of fare by distance on additional types of transit service better achieves the transformational strategic vision than just adding modifications to the existing structure, but implementation requires more change for customers and transit agencies
  • More limited modifications to the status quo have good potential over the short term

“Significant” is the key word here, and this is not supported by the study itself. Ridership gains due to any of the new fare structures, with or without added subsidies, are small, a few percent over the period to 2031. The primary economic benefit is, as the draft study itself explains, the imputed value of converting park-and-ride trips to home based transit trips thanks to the lower “integrated” fare for such services, encouraged possibly by charging for what is now free parking.

A large portion of automobile travel reduction benefits come from shift from park and ride trips to using transit for the whole trip – highlighting the importance of exploring paid parking to also encourage a shift from automobile for transit access. (p. xiv)

However, local transit (be it a conventional bus, a demand-responsive ride sharing service, or even a fleet of autonomous vehicles) does not now exist at the scale and quality needed, and this represents a substantial capital and operating cost that is not included to offset the notional savings from car trips.

Fare by distance does perform “better” than the alternatives, but none of them does much to affect ridership. Moreover, the fare structure, to the limited extent that the study gives us any information on this, remains strongly biased in favour of cheaper travel for longer trips. An unasked (and hence unanswered) question is whether true fare by distance and the sheer scale of the GTHA network can exist while attracting long-haul riders and replacing their auto trips with transit.

On page 3, the presentation includes recommendations for a step-by-step strategy:

  • Discounts on double fares (GO-TTC)
  • Discounts on double fares (905-TTC)
  • Adjustments to GO’s fare structure
  • Fare Policy Harmonization

This is only a modest set of goals compared to a wholesale restructuring of the regional tariff, and it includes much of what is proposed by “Concept 1” in the study – elimination of the remaining inter-operator fare boundaries, restructuring GO fares (especially those for short trips) to better reflect the distance travelled, and harmonization of policies such as concession fare structures and transfer rules.

Further consultation is to follow, although as we now know, the first of the four steps has already been approved by TTC and Metrolinx.

On page 6:

Without more co-ordinated inclusive decision making, agencies’ fare systems are continuing to evolve independently of one another leading to greater inconsistency and divergence.

This statement is not entirely true.

  • The GO-TTC co-fare is an indication of movement toward fare unification, although the level of discount offered on TTC fares is considerably smaller than the discount for 905-GO trips. That distinction is one made by the provincial government as a budget issue, and it cannot be pinned on foot-dragging at the local level.
  • Assuming that Toronto implements a two-hour transfer policy later in 2018 (and the constraint on its start date is a function of Presto, not TTC policy), there will be a common time-based approach to fares across the GTHA. All that remains is the will to fund cross-border acceptance of fares (actually Presto tap-ons) regardless of where a trip begins.

Without question, there should be a catalog of inconsistencies across the region, and agreement on how these might be addressed, but that will involve some hard political decisions. Would Toronto eliminate free children’s fares? Would low-cost rides to seniors and/or the poor now offered in parts of the 905 be extended across the system? Will GO Transit insist on playing by separate rules from every other operator as a “premium” service? These questions are independent of whether fares are flat, by distance, or by some other scheme as they reflect discount structures, not basic fare calculations.

Pages 6 and 7 rehash what has come before on pp. 2-3, but the emphasis on fare by distance remains:

Fare by distance should be a consideration in defining the long-term fare structure for the GTHA. [p. 7]

“A consideration” is less strong language than saying that FBD should be the target framework. If this is to be, then Metrolinx owes everyone with whom they will “consult” a much more thorough explanation of just how the tariff would work and how it would affect travel costs. The draft report is quite threadbare in that respect with only one “reference” tariff used as the basis for a few fare comparisons, along with a caveat that this should not be considered as definitive. That is hardly a thorough public airing of the effects of a new fare structure.

No convincing rationale has been advanced for moving to a full fare by distance system, including for all local travel, and it persists mainly because Metrolinx planners are like a dog unwilling to give up a favourite, long-chewed bone. At least the draft study recognizes that there are significant costs, complexities and disruptions involved with FBD, begging the question of why it should be the preferred end state.

On page 8:

Amend [GO Transit fares] to address short/medium trips and create a more logical fare by distance structure based on actual distance travelled instead of current system to encourage more ridership.

This is an odd statement on two counts:

  • Lowering fares for short trips will encourage demand on a part of the GO system that overlaps the local TTC system, and will require capacity on GO that might not be available, especially in the short term before full RER service builds out.
  • True FBD will increase long trip fares on GO and discourage the very long haul riders whose auto-based trips GO extensions were intended to capture. The reference tariff implied by sample fares in the draft report is most decidedly not FBD with short haul fares at a rate about four times that of long hauls.

In other words, the goal as presented to the Board does not match the actual sample fare structure used in the draft study.

On page 14:

GO/UP uses tap on/off, other agencies are tap on only. Emerging technological solutions may allow tap on-only customer experience while maintaining compatibility with fare-by-distance or –zone structures.

The technology in question, as described in the study, would require all Presto users to carry a GPS enabled device that could detect their exit from vehicles automatically without the need to physically tap off. This requires a naïve belief that all riders will carry smart mobile devices to eliminate the congestion caused by a physical tap on/off for all trip segments, and is is a middle-class, commuter-centric view of the transit market.

On page 15:

Completely missing from the discussion is any consideration of loyalty programs such as monthly passes or other “bulk buy” ways of paying fares. Already on the TTC, over half of all rides (as opposed to riders) are paid for in bulk, primarily through Metropasses. GO Transit itself has a monthly capping system which limits the number of fares charged per month, and software to implement the equivalent of a TTC Day Pass through fare capping is already in place on Presto. (It has not been turned on because of the possible hit to TTC revenues if riders were to start receiving capped fares without having to buy a pass up front.)

Several issues are listed here that reflect the complexity of a system where the lines between local and regional service have already started to blur, and where simplistic segmentation of classes of service simply do not work. The argument implicit in this is that only a zonal or distance based fare will eliminate many of the problems, but there is no discussion of the benefits obtained simply by a cross-boundary co-fare plus time-based transfer rules to benefit multiple short-hop trips. This demonstrates the blinkered vision at Metrolinx and a predisposition to distance-based “solutions”.

For those who will not read to the end of the detailed review, my concluding thoughts:

There are major gaps in the analysis and presentation of the Draft Report. By the end of the study, it is abundantly clear that the target scheme is FBD and future work will aim in that direction. Metrolinx’ FBD goal has not changed, and this begs the question of how any sort of “consultation” can or will affect the outcome.

The remainder of this article examines the 189-page Draft Report and highlights issues in the analysis.

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The Next Big Move (II): Where Is The Plan?

Two months ago, I wrote about the Regional Transportation Plan that Metrolinx had put out for public comment, and that period for online feedback has now closed. In the interim, I had hoped to see more details in the new plan, more analysis that could inform debate and feedback, but very little has appeared on the website where one might expect to see a wealth of background. Instead, there are three studies:

The last of these drew my attention first both because of its size and because this would be the place one would expect to learn how the draft network came to be, and what the benefits are expected from its components. Alas, that information is not just missing, it is not even hinted at as if it might exist in some deeper background study. Metrolinx provides a very general overview of the anticipated effect of their network, but little sense of the relative value of its components.

The purpose of the regional network study is quite clear:

This will serve as one of several technical background reports that will provide a foundation for the RTP Update.

The purpose of this Phase 1 report is to describe the preliminary recommendations for a 2041 strategic transit network for the RTP Update. This includes the identification, analysis and evaluation of potential transit projects and the development of a regional transit network to effectively meet existing and future transit needs across the region. Together, these activities comprise Phase 1 of the Regional Transit Network Planning Study.

Phase 2 of the study will support the RTP implementation plan, and will include the preparation of refined alternatives, specific recommendations, potential roles for various service providers, and a preliminary phasing strategy for the proposed strategic transit network. [p. 1]

In other words, don’t look for specifics here because they’re still working on the details.

Only one paragraph later comes a vital comment under the heading of “Regionally Significant Transit”:

While the provision of effective transit is dependent upon a fully integrated system with local transit supporting regional routes, this study focuses on transit projects
that are considered regionally significant. The resulting regional network is intended to link seamlessly with municipal transit services that are planned and operated
by GTHA municipalities. [p. 2]

Local municipally-provided services are an integral part of any network, but they are assumed to “be there” and are not the focus of this study. However, the funding and expansion of local transit is essential to the “last mile” problem where most regional network users access it via park-and-ride lots, a mode that is not sustainable for an expanded system. This is particularly important for trips that are not anchored at one end by a major destination node, or very good local transit. There is no point in making a trip through a “regional” station if there is no “local” service to complete the journey.

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TTC Service Changes Effective January 7, 2018

There are few changes planned for the January 2018 schedules.

2018.01.07_Service_Changes

14 Glencairn is the latest of many routes to get additional running time compensating for the Crosstown LRT construction. Oddly, the end date shown for this change is December 2022 where all other Crosstown-related end dates are in 2021.

Supplementary service on 32 Eglinton West is being reorganized. There are currently several Service Relief buses operating from Mt. Dennis during most operating periods. These will be replaced by peak-only buses from various garages.

75 Sherbourne trips at the start and end of service are being changed to begin/end at Sherbourne Station rather than at South Drive in Rosedale.

The official route and stopping arrangements for various lines serving Finch West and Pioneer Village Stations have been clarified for periods when these stations are closed.

The TTC has already confirmed through the media that due to the late delivery of Flexitys from Bombardier, there will be bus substitutions on 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton starting with the February 18, 2018 schedules. This is also related to service reorganization to boost capacity on King Street. I will report the details when they are available.

(Bus trippers originally planned for 504 King are now actually operating on 505 Dundas replacing CLRVs that have been redirected to King Street for extra capacity.)

It should be noted that due to track construction on Broadview planned in 2018, there will be effects on the Carlton, Dundas and King routes that will probably last two schedule periods.

Metrolinx Board Meeting and Town Hall: December 2017

Metrolinx held a Board meeting on December 7, followed on December 12 by a Town Hall.

Public questions to the Town Hall were submitted in advance and in real time during the Town Hall online, and in person by attendees. Metrolinx plans to put answers to all questions, including those that could not be handled during the Town Hall itself online in coming weeks. That record is now available at MetrolinxEngage.

My interest in both events was as much to see how the new CEO Phil Verster would handle himself especially during an open Q&A session which has not, to be kind, been part of the corporate culture at Metrolinx.

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A Gallery of Throwback Thursdays for 2017

As a Christmas gift to all my readers here, this post is a gallery of the photos I put up on Twitter (@swanboatsteve) for “throwback Thursday” this year. I know that not everyone follows me on social media, and in any event, I wanted to assemble all of the photos in one convenient place.

There is no particular rhyme or reason to this collection beyond whatever happened to be a topic appropriate for the occasion.

Also, an apology to regular readers for the lack of updates, beyond promoting comments, recently. I have been distracted and many articles and ideas are marooned “in progress”. Over the holidays there should be no new political crises to attend to, and I hope to catch up.

Best wishes for the holidays to everyone!

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Early Days of the CLRVs (Updated)

With the demise today of car 4000, the first of the Canadian Light Rail Vehicles, a look back on the prototypes when they were brand new.

The photos here were taken on June 4 1978 at St. Clair Carhouse. I don’t know which fleet numbers the cars shown here wound up with, but I’m sure there is a reader who knows these details and will supply feedback.

Updated December 25, 2017 John Bromley has provided additional information about the prototype CLRVs:

The car in the photos you posted is 4003 II.  The photo op was June 4 1978, I was there and have a few photos.  Perhaps the July date is the processing date on the slides?

Steve: Thanks for the correct date. I had neglected to write it on the slides at the time.

Below pic shows 4000 II from the rear June 29 1977 at SIG, taken from inside the unfinished carbody of 4003 II.  Even then 4000 II had the all-white top on front rather than the black just visible in 4001 II behind it.  Do I need to mention the pantograph?

Sorry for the delay in sending, we’ve been in Europe for three weeks.

TTC Board Meeting: Monday, December 11, 2017

The TTC Board will hold its final meeting of 2017 on December 11 at the usual time and place, 1:00 pm in City Hall Committee Room 2. The agenda contains a few items of particular interest.

Updated December 13, 2017 at noon: The section on the Ridership Growth Strategy has been updated with comments about the staff presentation.

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Analysis of Routes 501 Queen and 6 Bay: November 2017 (Part 2: Preliminary King Street Pilot Review)

This is the second article reviewing the effects of the pilot King Street transit priority scheme. Part 1 looked at the behaviour of the 504 King streetcar route, and Part 2 concerns the operation of 501 Queen and 6 Bay during the same period.

Among the effects anticipated from the pilot was an increase in traffic on parallel streets with the effect reaching as far north as Queen Street. Queen suffers badly during the shutdown of King for TIFF in September, and by extension some problems were expected to show up with the pilot’s changes changes on King.

Another effect that was expected was congestion on the north-south streets crossing King. Only one transit route in mixed traffic, 6 Bay, operates on such a street.

The City of Toronto is monitoring traffic behaviour on many streets in the study area and will publish their own preliminary findings in mid-December.

The charts presented here are in the same two formats as those in Part 1:

  • One pair of charts shows the travel times between Bathurst and Jarvis on Queen, and between Dundas and Front on Bay, both ways. Each day’s data are plotted individually to show the difference between individual trips, the evolution of travel times over the day, and the degree of dispersion in travel time values (i.e. the predictability, or not, of travel time for any journey).
  • One pair of charts shows average times, by hour, for each day to illustrate daily fluctuations and any before/after changes concurrent with the King Street Pilot.

For both routes, there is almost no change in the average travel times after the pilot began. Values on Queen bounce around a lot, but they do so both before and after the pilot began.

There is a quite striking weekly pattern with much higher than usual averages during the PM peak eastbound on Queen and southbound on Bay with low values usually on Mondays, and much higher values later in the week. This shows the importance of studying route behaviour over several days, while remaining aware that external events can create patterns in the data, or can create one-time disruptions for special events such as parades or sporting events.

501 Queen:

6 Bay: