Problems With Trolley Shoes on Flexity Cars

The streetcar system on Tuesday evening suffered a major outage when all Flexity cars were ordered to “stop and stay” on their routes following an overhead failure at King and Spadina. At the time, a problem with power surges was also reported.

Through comments and emails I received, I learned that there had been a developing problem with the carbon inserts on trolley “shoes” on the new Flexity streetcars, and I pursued this issue with the TTC. Following an investigation, their response arrived this morning.

Premature wear of carbons on pole configuration is normal during periods of high humidity and high precipitation.  The carbons absorb the moisture, become softer, and wear out faster.  Under dry conditions, the carbons are expected to last 4-5 days.  Under wet conditions, they are expected to last 1-2 days.  A review of maintenance records for the past 3-4 days indicate the latest carbons that were installed on the LFLRV fleet lasted less than 8 hours.  We believe this significant reduction in carbon life is due to a combination of factors that include:

  1. A potential quality problem with the material composition of the carbons.
  2. The use of pole configuration with the LFLRV design.  The LFLRV design requires a higher current draw through the power collection system.  Normally this higher current draw is handled through a pantograph system.  The pantograph system has a larger carbon strip which helps to dissipate heat and distribute wear.  On a trolley pole, the higher current draw through a smaller carbon generates more heat and wears quicker.

Due to the reduced carbon life, usage of these parts in the past 48-72 hours has more than doubled. Subsequently some vehicles burned through their carbons and started to run on the bare harp that resulted in numerous pole dewirements and the downed overhead on St Clair.

To conserve and maximize carbon life the following plans are being implemented:

  1. Immediately drop the 12 mm threshold for replacement to a nightly check of 7mm min. material remaining at the front, leading edge of the carbon.
  2. Strict control of carbon shoe counting and sign-out.
  3. Keep all replaced carbons for evaluation/recordkeeping.
  4. Sort through old, discarded stocks of carbons and retain those with more than 9mm depth remaining at the leading edge. Use these on a dedicated fleet of panto only cars for Harbourfront. We only need to use these carbons to get us to Exhibition and back each day. Save all new carbons for pole only routes.
  5. Expedite the testing and start-up of panto use on Spadina.
  6. Reserve “Seattle” carbons as a last resort. These carbons are thinner and our previous experience found they had a shorter service life. At best they should be used on the shortest mileage/time based runs. There is added risk of them wearing out mid-day, requiring more frequent road inspections.

In addition the above, staff will be expediting test runs of LFLRV on the pantograph system along the Spadina route.  Overhead crews are also expediting the conversion of the St Clair route.

[Email from Brad Ross, Executive Director Corporate and Customer Communications, February 22, 2018]

There have been several problems with overhead down in recent weeks, and events of the past few days are clearly connected with the long run of rainy weather.

The move to accelerate the conversion of Spadina and St. Clair to pantograph operation is welcome news, but this begs the question of the status of the King and Cherry routes which use a large and growing part of the Flexity fleet. Conversion to full pantograph capability of the overhead along them is still some time off, and the schedule for this work lies in 2019, notably at the King/Queen/Roncesvalles where replacement of the track is also planned. A further problem is that service on King routinely short turns and diverts via streets that are not planned for conversion until 2020.

This project has slipped by about a year from plans in earlier capital budgets with more work now in 2020 than in previous versions.

2017 Version

[Source: TTC 2017 Capital Budget Blue Books Page 57]

2018 Version

[Source: TTC 2018 Capital Budget Blue Books Page 61]

Updated: In response to a comment asking for an illustration of this problem, it turns out that I have an old trolley shoe with a broken carbon in my collection. This is from a Peter Witt car.

This shows what one does not want to see. The contact wire should run along the carbon surface, but instead here will drag against the metal. Also the shoe will ride higher on the overhead potentially contacting pieces of the suspension system.

TTC 2018 Capital Budget: (1) Fleet Plans

The TTC’s detailed version of the Capital Budget is known as the “Blue Books” because they are issued in two large blue binders. They are not available online. Over coming weeks, I will post highlights from this material beginning with the fleet plans.

These plans were drawn up in late 2017 as the budget was finalized, and there have actually been changes since that are not reflected here. I will note these where appropriate.

For starters, a review of how all of these capital projects are paid for.

Financing and Funding the Capital Budget

The TTC’s budget process at times looks like a game of Three Card Monte where one is certain that one card is the Queen of Diamonds, but never quite sure where she is. This shows up in various ways:

  • There is a “base program” consisting of projects that have Council approval for inclusion in the ten-year plan. The estimated cost of this program is $9.240 billion, but there is funding shortfall of $2.702 billion.
  • There is an “unfunded list” of projects making up the shortfall. These will migrate to funded status as and when money becomes available.
  • The City requires that the TTC make provision for “capacity to spend” reductions in its projects based on the premise that all of the money in the budgets will not actually be used. This offsets $427 million of the shortfall, although one can argue that this is a polite fiction meant to convey the idea that the funding hole is not quite as deep as it seems. The premise is that not all projects will be spent to their full budgets, and an across-the-board provision will soak up the underspending. In practice, some of this “shortfall” is a question of timing – project slippage that shifts spending to other years – not a question of budgeting too high.
  • Some projects have their own, dedicated funding streams and appear separately from the base program. At present, these are the subway extensions to Vaughan and to Scarborough.
  • Some projects in the base program have funding directed specifically to them. The provincial 1/3 share of the new streetcars is an example. This is separate from provincial money that flows to Toronto from the gas tax.
  • Some projects have timelines associated with the structure of funding programs. Ottawa’s Public Transit Infrastructure Fund (PTIF) Phase 1 requires that projects be completed by March 31, 2019 so that the subsidy is expensed, federally, by the end of the 2018-19 fiscal year. PTIF phase 2 has not yet been announced either as to amount or to the timeframe in which spending will occur. These constraints prevent many projects from receiving PTIF money because they do not fit within the prescribed window for spending.
  • Metrolinx projects do not appear on the TTC’s books, but in some cases they can trigger payments from the TTC and/or the City of Toronto. Examples are Presto and SmartTrack.
  • Some transit proposals are not even in the base program, but wait in readiness as “nice to haves”.

“Funding” is the process of paying for projects, while “Financing” is the mechanism by which that money is raised. A “funded” project is associated with revenue from “financing” sources that the City can depend on such as property taxes and committed monies from other governments. Where there is a shortfall, someone has to step up with new money, however they might raise it, or something must be removed (or at least reduced in scope) from the list of funded projects.

City of Toronto contributions to capital come primarily from current taxes (“capital from current” and development charges) and from borrowing. The amount of borrowing available to the TTC each year is dictated by the City’s self-imposed 15% cap on the ratio of debt service costs to property tax revenue. A few major projects in the near future, notably the Gardiner Expressway rebuild, are crowding the debt ceiling, and there are years when little new debt will be issued on the TTC’s behalf. In turn, this affects spending plans at the TTC, and projects are shifted into future years with more borrowing room to get around this.

Other constraints can arise from a program like PTIF which, because it has a sunset date, requires that spending that might otherwise occur some years in the future must actually happen sooner than planned. This, in turn, requires matching funds from the City in years where they might otherwise have been spent on other projects.

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Toronto’s Transit Capacity Crisis

In recent days, Mayor Tory has announced, twice, a ten point program to address crowding on the TTC. The effectiveness of this program is limited by years of bad political decisions, and the hole Toronto has dug itself into is not one from which it will quickly escape.

This article is a compendium of information about the three major portions of the “conventional” (non-Wheel-Trans) system: subway, bus and streetcar. Some of this material has appeared in other articles, but the intent here is to pull current information for the entire system together.

Amendment February 15, 2018 at 5:30 pm: This article has been modified in respect to SmartTrack costs to reflect the fact that over half of the cost shown as “SmartTrack” in the City Manager’s budget presentation is actually due to the Eglinton West LRT extension which replaced the proposed ST service to the commercial district south of the airport. A report on SmartTrack station costs will come to City Council in April 2018. Eglinton LRT costs will take a bit longer because Council has asked staff to look at other options for this route, notably undergrounding some or all of it.

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TTC Board Meeting February 15, 2018

The TTC Board will meet on February 15, 2018. Among the items on the agenda are:

Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE)

The SSE itself is not on the agenda, but it has been the subject of much recent debate over when the projected cost and schedule for the extension will be released.

In the November 2017 CEO’s Report, the project scorecard included a schedule showing that 30% design would be complete in the second quarter of 2018, and an RFP [Request for Proposals] would be issued in the third quarter. Even when this report came out, former CEO Andy Byford was hedging his bets about a spring 2018 date saying that more work would be needed to verify and finalize the figures. A key note in this scorecard states:

EFC [Estimated Final Cost] was approved in 2013 based on 0% design. With the alignment/bus terminal now confirmed by City Council, the project budget and schedule will be confirmed as design is developed to the 30% stage, factoring in delivery strategy and risk. The performance scorecard will continue to report relative to the project’s original scope, budget and schedule, as approved by Council in 2013, until the project is rebaselined at the 30% stage in late 2018.

In other words, neither the schedule nor the projected cost reflected the evolving and expanding design of this project.

Jennifer Pagliaro in the Star wrote about the result of a Freedom of Information Request that revealed a briefing to Mayor Tory in September 2017. That briefing included a statement that the cost estimate for a Stage 3, 30% design, would be available in September 2018.

Because Council will not meet until 2019, numbers that might have been available before the election would not be released until after the new Council takes office. After the story appeared, City staff replied:

The cost information referenced in page 9 of the October TTC briefing deck refers to the planned timing for initial cost inputs from TTC engineering staff. These are not the full cost estimates necessary for consideration by Council. Further work will be required to appropriately account for financing, procurement model, market assessment and other critical factors. The final cost estimate, subject to the variability ranges noted below, will include these inputs.

This additional work will be undertaken by various TTC staff as well as city officials from corporate finance, financial planning, city planning and other divisions. [Tweet from Jennifer Pagliaro, February 7, 2018]

I wrote to the TTC’s Brad Ross about this conflicting information, and particularly about the question of how an RFP could be issued in 3Q18 when Council would not be approving that the project pass beyond “stage gate 3” until 2019. He replied:

No RFP will be issued until after Council approval. You will note in the Key Issues and Risks section of the scorecard from November reads, “The performance scorecard will continue to report relative to the project’s original scope, budget and schedule, as approved by Council in 2013, until the project is rebaselined at the 30% stage in late 2018.”

To be consistent with the report to Council in March 2017, only the revenue service date was revised in the scorecard (from Q4 2023 to Q2 2026). The TTC recognizes and acknowledges that this has led to confusion. The TTC will be taking steps to ensure greater clarity in its next CEO Report in March 2018. [Email of February 9, 2018]

The February CEO’s report states:

Work continues to progress design towards Stage Gate 3, expected in fall of 2018. At this time, the project will provide initial cost inputs from the TTC team (includes detailed costs for the Scarborough Centre station, tunnel, Kennedy station, systems, property and utilities). Further work is underway by the new Chief Project Manager with key stakeholders within TTC and the City to define the activities, approval process and timelines to arrive at the final Class 3 Cost Estimate, Level 3 Project Schedule, and associated Risk Analysis.

As requested by City Council, a report will be presented at the first opportunity to the Executive Committee, TTC Board and City Council, which is expected to be Q1 of 2019. [pp 15-16]

The debate, as it now stands, is about releasing whatever material will be available in September 2018 so that it can inform the election debates. Additional costs as cited by the city would sit on top of the September numbers, but at least voters and politicians would know whether the SSE’s cost has gone up just for the basic construction, let alone factors related to financing and procurement that would be added later.

Meanwhile, SSE promoter Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker speaking on CBC’s Metro Morning said:

I don’t think it matters what the costs are.

This has been taken to read that money is no object, and that well may be the political reality in Scarborough – there is no way the many politicians who have so deeply committed to the subway project can back out. De Baeremaeker continued:

Whether the costs go up or the costs go down, people who have tried to sabotage the subway and stop the subway, will continue to try to sabotage it, they’ll continue to try to stop it, and they will never vote for it. So I would challenge the Councillors who say “I want to see the cost”. My response is and if it’s a reasonable cost, will you support the subway? Well, no. [At 3:26 in the linked clip]

What De Baeremaeker does not address is whether he has an upper limit beyond which even his enthusiasm might be dimmed. Also, on the question of a “reasonable cost”, what has been lost here is the fact that the subway “deal” was sold on the basis that the $3.5 billion included the Eglinton LRT extension to UTSC Campus. What had been a $2 billion-plus subway when it was approved as a compromise by Council, quickly grew to $3 billion-plus, and the LRT extension is left to find alternate funding. One could reasonably ask whether the LRT was ever really part of the deal, or was simply there as a sweetener that pulled in wavering supporters who now see just how gullible they were.

A related issue that has not yet surfaced is the question of whether building the SSE for a 2026 opening will require concurrent changes in timing and/or scope for the planned renewal of the Bloor-Danforth subway including a new signalling system and fleet. A report on the renewal is expected in April 2018, although this date has changed a few times over past months. The TTC/City capital budget and ten year plan do not reflect this project, at least with respect to timing, and probably with respect to total cost.

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King Street Update: January 2018 Data (Updated)

Updated February 5, 2018 at 2:30 pm: Charts showing comparative travel times between Jarvis and Bathurst for the period from March 2016 to January 2018 have been added to give a longer context to the effects of the King Street Pilot. Scroll down to the end of the article for the charts and commentary.

This article updates previous posts about the effect of the King Street Transit Pilot on TTC vehicle movements.

Please refer to previous articles for commentary on the transition from the pre-pilot to pilot results and for the period up to the end of 2017.

Weather

Toronto’s weather has been much harsher this winter than in previous years, and this affected some aspects of service quality through late December and early January, notably headway reliability. Low temperatures were not kind to the older streetcar fleet, and snow affected traffic conditions over the full route, not just in the pilot area. [Source, Environment Canada historical data for “Toronto City”]

WeatherStats_201709201801 [PDF]

Travel Times

Data for January 2018 show that the travel times through the pilot area between Jarvis and Bathurst Streets continue to be both below the pre-pilot values, and generally without the day-to-day “spikiness” in the range of typical travel times.

The sample below shows the travel times for westbound vehicles crossing Jarvis Street between 5:00 and 6:00 pm from September 2017 through January 2018. Horizontal lines give the daily values, while vertical lines bound periods where conditions changed.

  • The orange line is the 85th percentile below which most times fell, but it must be remembered that 15% of trips lie above this.
  • The blue line is the 50th percentile where half of the trips are above and half below.These two lines are close together because the data values are clustered over a short range in most cases, and so one gets from the 50th to the 85th percentile with a small increase in travel times.
  • The vertical red lines show the bounds of TIFF. For September 7-8, the travel times are tracked over the planned diversion via Queen Street and so they are much longer than trips via King.
  • The vertical yellow lines bound the period when Queen was closed at McCaul.
  • The green vertical line shows the beginning of the King Street Pilot. (Although it is green, this band may show up as black depending on your display.)
  • Where there is a gap or the value drops to zero (no examples on this chart), there were no vehicles making the trip on the day and hour in question due to a long delay or diversion.

The two sets of charts linked here contain data for five representative hours of operation starting at 8:00 am, 1:00 pm, 5:00 pm, 8:00 pm and 10:00 pm. These are in the same format as previous charts except for the addition of one month’s data.

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Crowding on the TTC

With recent events of major subway delays and discussions at the TTC Board about a “Ridership Growth Strategy”, the whole question of “what can we do” is swirling through the Toronto media and online. This article is an attempt to pull together threads from several reports and discussions.

This is a very long read and I salute those who stay the course to the end.

In brief, there is a capacity crisis on every part of the TTC system that is the product of years of pretending the problem is not as bad as it looks, and that a few magic bullets can solve everything. This is compounded by underinvestment in the bus network, by Bombardier’s sluggish delivery of new streetcars, and by subway planning that leaves major components either unfunded or missing from the long range capital plans.

There is no easy fix to any of this, but that is no reason to throw up our hands in hopeless resignation to further decline of our transit network. Recovery has to start somewhere even though the benefits will take time to appear. Politicians are afraid of spending money and driving up taxes. Staff act as enablers by concocting budgets that fit within available funding. The numbers “come out right” only because we ignore the full scope of our needs and how badly we have deferred addressing them.

This article does not propose specific remedies, but sets out the history of what has been done (or not done) over past years. Reading through all of it, I cannot help thinking that “Ridership Growth” is a laughable goal considering how hard Toronto has tried to stifle transit’s capacity and attractiveness. But at least the TTC Board is talking about trying to build more demand on its system. To do that, they must first acknowledge the accumulated shortfall between transit we think we would like and transit that is actually on the street.

For convenience, the documents referenced are all linked here:

  • TTC Ridership Growth Strategy (2003) Report
  • TTC Ridership Growth Strategy (2018) Report & Presentation
  • TTC Corporate Plan (2018-2022) Report and Presentation
  • TTC Crowding Standards (January 18, 2018) Presentation
  • TTC Subway Crowding (January 18, 2018) Report
  • TTC CEO’s Report (January 2018)
  • Toronto Budget Committee (January 23, 2018) 2018 Capital and Operating Budget Reports & Minutes
  • TTC Presentation to Budget Committee
  • TTC Briefing Note on Overcrowding
  • Yonge Subway Extension – Final Report on Transit Project Assessment Process and Future Actions (December 17, 2008) Report
  • Yonge Subway Extension – Recommended Concept/Project Issues (December 17, 2008) Presentation
  • Yonge Subway Extension Post Transit Project Assessment Process Technical Amendment (May 1, 2012) Report & Presentation
  • Yonge Subway Extension Conceptual Design (March 2012) Report [Large PDF]
  • VivaNext Yonge Subway Extension Page
  • Metrolinx Yonge Network Relief Study (June 25, 2015) Presentation
  • Amended 2012-2016 Capital Program and 10 Year Forecast – Shortfall Reduction Plans (September 16, 2011) Report

2003 Ridership Growth Strategy

Although the 2003 RGS was recently dismissed by current TTC Chair Josh Colle as if it were yesterday’s answer to transit problems, the context in which it was written is as fresh today as it was 15 years ago.

There is a growing expectation that transit in general, and the TTC in particular, must take on an increased role in providing travel for people in Toronto if the City is to grow and thrive economically and in an environmentally-sustainable way. Each level of government has recently announced plans and policy initiatives, that highlight the need for greater use of transit in urban areas – the City with its Official Plan, the Province of Ontario with its “Smart Growth Council” and “Gridlock Subcommittee”, and the Government of Canada with its approval of the Kyoto Accord. Achieving these policy objectives will require a fundamental shift in transit’s role in Toronto and the relative importance of automobile travel.

Unfortunately, these initiatives follow on the heels of a consistent lack of government support for the TTC in the past decade. Provincial funding was reduced a number of times in the mid-1990’s and is only now being partly restored. The TTC’s ridership and market share has fallen significantly during this period, to a large extent because of lack of government support. While there is no simple “magic answer” that will reverse this trend, government support for the TTC must be real and pronounced if the current widespread public and government expectations for improved transit are to be met.

The TTC’s mandate is to operate and maintain transit services that provide safe, fast, reliable, convenient, and comfortable travel in a cost-effective way. The TTC’s highest priorities are to our current passengers, and to maintain the existing system in a state-of- good-repair. The TTC needs a substantial, ongoing, funding commitment to meet these basic priorities and fulfill its role of providing transportation services to a large proportion of Toronto’s population. Once these needs are met, the TTC could attract more people out of their automobiles and onto transit with a stable source of increased funding and a commitment on the part of the City to implement policies that support efficient transit operations and transit-oriented development in Toronto. [Executive Summary, p. E-1]

Two points here cannot be made too strongly:

  • There is no magic answer, and
  • Looking after the system and riders we have today is essential to attracting new riders.

Investing in improved transit service makes sense for many reasons, but it must be done in a way that provides significant, measurable, and real returns on investment. If taxpayers’ funds are to be used to improve transit services, there needs to be a strong business case to prove that the money is well spent, and that any funding provided will generate significant additional ridership. There is no simple, low-cost solution to achieving increased transit ridership, or to reduce congestion and pollution. Attracting new riders to transit will require substantial increases in government policy commitments and subsidy, on a consistent basis, over a number of years. One-time funding arrangements and individual mega-projects will not result in significant changes in overall travel patterns over the long term or over a wide area. A consistent, long-term, staged program of providing priorities for, and investing in, expanded existing transit services, using proven technologies and operating strategies, provides the best opportunity to achieve sustained increases in transit ridership.

The underlying issue will continue to be the extent to which the City and senior levels of government will be willing to take the steps necessary to invest in transit to achieve their broader objectives. [p. 3]

There is a section titled “Why people choose to use transit” that is too long for me to quote in full here [see pp. 5-6], but a few excerpts are worth including:

The key factors governing mode choice are speed, reliability, comfort, convenience, and cost. Different segments of the market put differing values on these factors, and an understanding of market segments is critical to determining the potential for attracting transit riders. In addition, some modes of travel are simply not available or practical for some trips – few people will make very long walking trips for example – and people do not necessarily have an automobile available for any given trip. The availability and attractiveness of various modes is also very dependent on the location of both the origin and the destination of the trip being made.

The situations where transit can compete effectively with automobile travel are those where there is good pedestrian access to transit at both ends of the trip, and where transit can provide comparable speed to automobile travel when all factors are considered. Under these conditions, transit travel becomes attractive to many potential users. These conditions exist for travel to and from downtown Toronto in peak periods, where the roads are congested and rail lines (GO and subway) provide a comparable travel speed to automobile travel. There is also excellent pedestrian access from the downtown rail stations to destinations in the downtown. Transit achieves a 60%-to-70% mode split to transit in these favourable circumstances.

There is an obvious problem with this observation, and it applied even in 2003: much GTHA travel is not oriented to downtown and its concentrated destinations, and riders will not fall into transit’s lap simply because this is the obvious way to travel. Indeed, in many cases transit will be the last, not the first, choice. This begs the question of whether there are some trips for which making transit even grudgingly acceptable simply is not economic, but at the same time whether there are trips that are poorly served by a downtown focus on travel. This question is not new to transit debates.

If we abandon trips that are harder (or more expensive) to serve, or provide only minimal service to “show the flag” with a route map whose many lines hide less-than-ideal service, do we risk alienating potential riders especially in an era of population and density growth? Market conditions could evolve to give transit a greater role provided that it is there to establish credibility and a base of demand. This is not just an issue for the far suburbs in the 905, but for areas in both the outer 416 and in more central, redeveloping industrial neighbourhoods.

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Twelve

Today, January 31, 2018, marks the twelfth anniversary of this site.

Sitting down to write my annual celebration, I have mixed feeling this year. Two elections are staring at Toronto and its transit systems, with only middling prospects for improvement in the years ahead.

Depending on the outcome, the damage that was started by Rob Ford’s crew and continued by John Tory, not to mention the meddling from Queen’s Park, might continue us on a downward path, or our transit fortunes could turn around.

Downward path? With so much happening on transit?

What I see is a love of spending big dollars on capital projects, and the price per photo op is well into the millions. Tell people you are building what they want and deserve. Buy those votes.

Actually providing better transit is quite another matter. Toronto’s obsession with lower property taxes hogties transit growth both for physical infrastructure, basics like buses and garages to house them, and service on the street. Queen’s Park doles out new subsidies rarely, and promptly claws back part of their generosity with requirements that municipalities help to underwrite Metrolinx projects. Ottawa occasionally finds spare change in its pockets for infrastructure “stimulus”, but imposes timelines on projects that leave needed work unfunded simply because it does not fit their political calendar.

Through all of this, there are glimmering spots in a cloudy sky.

The Relief (Don Mills) subway line is now recognized as a necessity, and not just as a little shuttle between Danforth and downtown, but as a true parallel route to the Yonge line. Whether the money for this will ever appear is a mystery, but at least detailed engineering work is underway to figure out where and how the line might be built. Commitment to actual construction will be a few years closer than forever sitting in “we need a study” mode.

Parts of Transit City might actually be completed in my lifetime. With them (and other LRT lines to open in Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo, Mississauga and Hamilton) lies my great hope that Ontario will finally be past its vain idea that a “missing link” in transit technology needs to be invented. Ontario forced Toronto to buy what we now know as the SRT rather than simply getting off the shelf LRT technology common around the world then, as now. A network Toronto could have begun in the 1970s (with a TTC plan from the 60s) might start to take shape half a century later.

Even Metrolinx shows signs of thinking beyond the classic downtown commuter market, although their electrified “RER” (Regional Express Rail) network is many years and at least one more election cycle in the future. However, the supposedly “regional” agency still leaves the finely-grained local service to local municipalities, and focuses on parking lots as the solution to the “last mile” problem facing transit in the dispersed suburbs.

We hear a lot about how the GTHA is one network, but that’s code for “let’s take over the TTC”, not for a truly region-wide push to make transit competitive beyond central Toronto. Local service is a big issue in Toronto especially with the concentration of new residents and jobs in the “old” city, but also in the outer 416 and beyond where many, many riders rely on the bus network for most or all of their journeys.

You, gentle readers, are a big reason this blog exists. Without an audience, even a critical one, there is no point to spending my time like an actor on a stage in an empty theatre. We are close to 2,100 posts over those 12 years, but also in striking distance of 50,000 published comments!

If only we could get the politicians to address transit needs that don’t involve a subway station in their ward or a GO station in their riding.

Fools and cretins with paper-thin dedication to transit remain, but theirs is not the only voice. The quality of transit debates I hear in many quarters – media, academics, a growing generation of young [well, some of you] urbanists, professionals and [gasp!] even politicians – rises year by year. That theatre has a buzz in the house, and many new players on the stage.

Toronto and the GTHA can rise to have “the best transit system” not because someone gives us an award, but because transit is truly valued, even loved, as an integral part of the city region by the people who live here.

For my part, I will keep writing – sometimes on policy, sometimes on arcane technical matters, and very occasionally on Swan Boats.

Happy reading!

TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, February 18, 2018

Changes are coming to TTC routes in February with the most significant being on the streetcar network. I provided an overview of the streetcar changes in a previous article, but the details of headways and running times are in the spreadsheet linked below.

On the bus network, there are several tweaks to running times and headways.

Extra running time for Metrolinx construction projects will be provided on 36 Finch West, 63 Ossington and 71 Runnymede.

Evening service on the 12 Kingston Road bus will be modified so that trips after 10:30 pm on weekdays and 5:30 pm on weekends run via the 12B routing along Kingston Road instead of dodging north to serve Variety Village.

Service on 121 Fort York-Esplanade will lose one bus during weekdays all day except the AM peak, and weekend evenings. This route has chronically erratic service that affects demand, but that is not addressed in the change.

Minor service cuts and/or running time adjustments will widen headways on:

  • 17 Birchmount (AM peak)
  • 37 Islington (Midday weekdays)
  • 40 Junction (Saturday morning)
  • 79 Scarlett Road (PM peak)
  • 111 East Mall (AM peak and midday)

Minor improvements and/or running time adjustments will shorten headways on:

  • 40 Junction (Sunday afternoon)
  • 42 Cummer (Weekdays)
  • 102 Markham Road (AM peak)

On 1 Yonge-University, all crew change will now occur at Wilson Station rather than being split between Wilson and Eglinton Stations due to pending construction at the latter.

2018.02.18_Service_Changes

Streetcar Service Updated Effective February 18, 2018 (Updated)

Updated February 8, 2018: The TTC has announced details of changes to bus and streetcar services on the west end of the 501 Queen route. This information has been added below in the section on that route.

The February 2018 schedules will bring major changes to the streetcar system. I will include these in a coming article with all of the details for the new schedules, but with the scope of the streetcar changes and the interest in this topic, here is a wrap-up of what is planned for these routes.

King Street Corridor

The current schedule calls for trippers to operate, primarily buses and in the AM peak, over the entire 504 King route. These will be replaced with four ALRVs (articulated streetcars) operating from Sunnyside Loop to Broadview. As actually operated, the AM trippers are already using CLRVs (regular sized streetcars) swapped from the 505 Dundas route. Four more ALRVs will be used as standby “run as directed” cars to supplement service on King as needed.

January Schedule January Actual February Schedule
AM Peak
CLRV 33 33 33
CLRV Tripper 7
ALRV Tripper 4
ALRV Run as Directed 4
Bus Tripper 7
PM Peak
CLRV 33 33 33
CLRV Tripper 2
ALRV Tripper 1 1 4
ALRV Run as Directed 4
Bus Tripper 2

The tripper schedules have been changed so that they better cover the peak periods.

  • Eastbound trips leave Sunnyside Loop at: 7:41 a.m., 7:57 a.m., 8:12 a.m., 8:27 a.m., 9:10 a.m., 9:27 a.m., 9:42 a.m., 9:56 a.m.
  • Westbound trips leave Broadview & Queen at 3:07 p.m., 3:20 p.m., 3:33 p.m., 3:46 p.m., 4:50 p.m., 5:03 p.m., 5:16 p.m., 5:29 p.m.

The 503 Kingston Road Bus which now operates from Bingham Loop to York & Wellington during peak hours only will be replaced by a streetcar with service on weekdays peak and midday. This will replace the 502 Downtowner bus which changes to peak-only operation.

During the peak periods the 12′ headway of buses will be replaced by a 12′ headway of CLRVs on the 503 service, and it will be extended west to loop via Spadina, Adelaide and Charlotte Streets. Midday service will operate every 9′ replacing the existing 10′ service on the 502 Downtowner bus. This removes 6 buses/hour from Queen Street, and adds not quite 7 cars/hour to the section of King east of Spadina.

According to the TTC, track construction is planned on Wellington east of Yonge in May. It is not clear whether, when this is complete, the 503 will revert to its usual York street terminus as this would remove the added service between York and Spadina. Whether the Wellington Street work actually occurs remains to be seen as there were plans to defer this until 2019 to avoid complications with the King Street Pilot. The track recently became operational with the restoration of overhead on the one missing section between Church and Yonge westbound.

Service on 514 Cherry during the midday and early evening will be improved from every 15′ to every 10′ to provide added capacity on the King corridor. On Sundays from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm, service will improve from every 15′ to every 11′. (The 514 Cherry route is notorious for irregular headways at its terminals and so the scheduled headways may not match actual experience. This will be the subject of a separate article.)

In combination, these changes will increase the level of service on King Street with the effect concentrated downtown. In particular, there is little AM peak relief for riders inbound from Parkdale, Liberty Village and Bathurst/Niagara beyond a change in the timing of the trippers, whatever benefits the “run as directed” cars might provide and the gradual replacement of runs now operated with CLRVs by the new Flexitys as they become available.

501 Queen & 502/503 Kingston Road

As noted above, the 502 Downtowner midday bus service from Kingston Road to Queen & University will be replaced by the 503 Kingston Road streetcar operating to Spadina & King. Peak service on the 502 bus is not changed, and peak 503 streetcar service will operate at the same frequency, every 12′, as the former bus service. Midday service on the 503 streetcar will be slightly better at 9′ than the 10′ headway now on the 502 bus.

The 501 Queen schedules were written on the basis that Humber Loop would re-open, but work there will not be completed until later in the spring. The planned service would have seen 501 Queen cars operating from Neville to Humber with the 501L Queen bus running from Long Branch to Windermere. Pending the completion of Humber Loop, the streetcars will turn back at Sunnyside Loop, and the 501L buses will operate east to Roncesvalles. 501L buses will no longer run east and south to Dufferin Loop.

The looping and transfer arrangements for the 501L bus at Roncesvalles, and later at Windermere, have not yet been announced.

When 501 Queen streetcar service to Humber Loop resumes, the last service stop will be at South Kingsway because there will be no connecting services at Humber.

The 501M bus service via Marine Parade will be dropped because of low use. The 66 Prince Edward bus is available as an alternative, and it will continue on its diversion routing.

The 301 Queen night service is unchanged with two branches continuing to operate from Neville to Sunnyside (streetcars) and from Dufferin Loop to Long Branch (buses). This will be modified with the April schedules (details not yet announced).

Service on 501 Queen streetcar will be scheduled to operate with a mix of CLRVs and ALRVs on a more frequent headway than the current schedules that presume all ALRVs and their capacity. This has been a long-standing problem for Queen street where smaller cars attempt to handle demand on a service designed for larger vehicles. The improvement is about a 10% increase in cars/hour in the peak, and a 20% improvement off-peak.

Updated February 8, 2018

The planned changes to routes on the west end of Queen is different from that originally described in the service change memo. The following information is taken from the TTC Service Advisory page.

Effective February 18:

  • Streetcars will operate between Roncesvalles and Neville as originally planned.
  • 501L buses will operate between Long Branch and Dufferin/Queen looping via Gladstone, Peel and Dufferin instead of running south to Dufferin Loop as they do now.
  • 301L night buses will continue to run between Long Branch and Dufferin Loop.
  • The 501M Marine Parade shuttle will be discontinued as originally planned.

Effective April 1:

  • Streetcars will operate between Humber and Neville. However, Humber Loop will not be ready to reopen as a transfer point with bus routes, and so the connection to the 501L service will be at Windermere (if the information in the service memo still holds).

Effective early June:

  • Streetcars will return to the full route from Long Branch to Neville.

Work now underway at Humber Loop includes:

  • new streetcar tracks including new spur track
  • accessible platforms
  • new/wider pedestrian tunnel walkway
  • new sub-station building and underground conduits for electric cables
  • realignment of all existing overhead wiring in the loop and in the tunnel leading to Lake Shore Boulevard West

According to the TTC notice:

Track installation and some overhead adjustments for the Queen turn-back will completed by April 1, 2018, weather permitting. Remaining work, including passenger platform renewal, track renewal and overhead adjustments for the Lake Shore turn-back, as well as a wider pedestrian tunnel walkway will be completed by early June 2018.

506 Carlton & 505 Dundas

Service on both the 506 Carlton and 505 Dundas routes will be converted to bus operation. In addition to the streetcar shortage, several construction projects will affect these routes in coming months:

  • Track construction on Broadview from south of Dundas to Hogarth (north end of Riverdale Park) beginning in May
  • Track construction at Parliament/Gerrard in May
  • Track construction at Broadview/Dundas and Broadview/Gerrard in the summer
  • Track constuction at Dundas/Lansdowne in September
  • Water main construction on Dundas from Bathurst to Huron in September
  • Main Street Station construction through the summer

506 Carlton buses will run to Keele Station as their western terminus rather than to High Park Loop.

The bus replacements for streetcar service vary in the ratio of buses to streetcars depending on the time of day.

Dundas Streetcar Dundas Bus Carlton Streetcar Carlton Bus
AM Peak 18 27 32 45
M-F Midday 18 27 28 36
PM Peak 19 30 29 42
M-F Early Evening 14 20 18 25
M-F Late Evening 10 12 14 18
Sat Early Morning 10 10 14 15
Sat Morning 16 20 18 22
Sat Afternoon 25 28 25 30
Sat Early Evening 11 14 16 20
Sat Late Evening 10 10 13 16
Sun Early Morning 9 9 11 12
Sun Morning 14 17 12 17
Sun Afternoon 19 20 18 22
Sun Early Evening 10 11 12 13
Sun Late Evening 9 10 11 12
Night Service 3 3

511 Bathurst

The 511 Bathurst route will revert from bus to streetcar operation using CLRVs. All service will operate between Bathurst Station and Exhibition Loop.

Service on weekdays will generally be less frequent with the streetcars than the buses reflecting their larger capacity, although peak service south of King and west to Exhibition will improve with the elimination of the short turn 511C bus service.

Weekend streetcar schedules are the same as those used in November 2015. Saturday daytime service will be at similar headways with the streetcars as with buses reflecting demand at those hours. Sunday afternoon and early evening service will be slightly less frequent with the streetcars.

509 Harbourfront, 510 Spadina and 512 St. Clair

There are no changes to the schedules for these routes.

Roncesvalles Carhouse

This carhouse will close until late 2018 for construction in the yard. Service will be operated from the east end carhouses as below:

  • Leslie: 509 Harbourfront, 510/310 Spadina, 514 Cherry
  • Russell: 501/301 Queen, 503 Kingston Rd., 504 King, 511 Bathurst, 512 St. Clair