Ontario Line Downtown Construction: II – Osgoode Station

This continues the series reviewing the construction plans for downtown stations on the Ontario Line and their effect on roads and nearby properties.

Like Queen/Yonge station described in the previous article, Osgoode connects with the Line 1 subway in a new two-level station. However, the construction approach will be completely different.

The expanded Osgoode Station will be dug from two excavations at opposite corners of the station rather than from access pits in the middle of Queen Street. The primary entrance to the expanded station will be at the northeast corner of University and Queen, a space now occupied by part of the park in front of Osgoode Hall.

A second entrance to the station will be built at Queen and Simcoe and will use the existing bank facade for its exterior.

The diagram below shows a much larger portion of this park to be occupied for construction than was previously thought to be threatened. Compare the orange hatched area below with the next drawing from the June 2021 round of consultations.

This drawing shows “Station Building 1” occupying about half of the frontage on University between Queen Street and the gate to the walkway across the front of Osgoode Hall. In the diagram above, the entire width of this area is taken for construction as well as part of the area north of the walkway along the street, and the lawn in front of the Hall.

Given the effect any work within the Hall’s grounds will have on the park, this is not a trivial change. Quite bluntly, I believe Metrolinx showed the smaller scope in the drawing above because proposing to take so much of the park, even temporarily, would have produced an uproar. They stick handled their way around any discussion of Osgoode Station during the consultation sessions. This has the smell of deliberate misrepresentation.

If anyone is considering a design based on a proposed reallocation of lane space on University and expansion of the east side pedestrian realm, they have been very quiet about it. Conveniently for Metrolinx, this is not a residential neighbourhood with the usual population of critics quick to leap on their proposals.

All of the trees at Osgoode Hall in the photo below lie on lands shown as the construction zone for this project. Civic vandalism in the name of “progress” does not begin to describe this proposal.

University Avenue Looking North at Queen, June 2021 / Google Street View

Early Works

The main construction work begins in July 2023 with station excavation running to March 2026. The station exterior would not be complete until Fall 2027, and the lane closures would not be undone until sometime in 2029. (See the city’s report for details.)

However, some works must take place in advance of the main project:

  • Utility relocation from March 2022 to May 2023.
  • Other “setup, preparatory and enabling works” from July 2022 onward. It is not clear just what these entail or which areas of the site would be affected.

At various times in 2022 there will be short-term closures of parts of Simcoe Street and University Avenue (see the list of Early Works closures for details).

Street Restrictions

For much of the project, various lanes and parts of sidewalks will be close or restricted:

  • Queen Street road lanes will not be affected.
  • On the east side of University to north from Queen (see photo above), the street is now four lanes wide with the curb lane used for a bike path. In this area, the sidewalk will be taken over for construction and pedestrians will be shifted into what is now the northbound curb lane.
  • NOTE: The report is unclear about whether there will actually be a cycling lane or not, or when. “The existing northbound curbside bicycle lane on University Avenue fronting the Osgoode Hall will be closed for construction staging purposes. However, the northbound travel lanes on University Avenue will be realigned and a protected 2.0 metres wide northbound bicycle lane around the work zone will be provided.” [p 28]
  • On Simcoe Street, the west sidewalk and part of the street will be closed between Queen and the laneway running midblock west from Simcoe. The intent is to use the west side of Simcoe as a staging and storage area.
  • The east sidewalk on Simcoe will be narrowed to leave enough room for one traffic lane and a cycling lane, although that lane is not shown clearly on the drawing above.
  • Pedestrian access will be maintained in front of the bank/second entrance building along Queen west of Simcoe.

Here is what Simcoe Street looks like today. The bank on the left will become the second station entrance.

Simcoe Street Looking North to Queen Street June 2021 / Google Street View

Transit Changes

The only explicit changes proposed for this area are the relocation of the westbound streetcar stop east to a point clear of construction, and closing the existing station entrance north of Queen on the east side of University.

The report proposes a westbound York/University stop on Queen, but this would be closely after streetcars have stopped northbound on York at Queen. With the northeast station entrance closed, passengers transfer passengers are more likely to use the southeast entrance (through the Opera House) and a stop on the north side of Queen does not make sense. Better that transfers walk between the Opera House entrance and the proposed stop at York & Queen along the south side of the street.

The eastbound stop on Queen at University will remain.

Metrolinx has not published diagrams of Osgoode station below street level showing how the existing and new spaces and circulation patterns will work.

In the next article, I will review King/Bathurst and Queen/Spadina stations.

Ontario Line Downtown Construction: I – Queen Station

This is the first of a series of articles reviewing the plans for construction of the downtown Ontario Line stations between King/Bathurst and Corktown Station. The base document is a report at the Toronto Executive Committee’s meeting of December 7, 2021.

This is a long report detailing the effect of multi-year construction at six sites. Beginning with early works in 2022 and continuing to 2029, each of the sites will be at some stage in construction, although the exact timetable varies from station to station.

The project will involve many curb lane closures and associated effects on sidewalks, bike lanes and transit stops. As previously reported, there will be a complete road closure of Queen from Bay to Victoria for the construction of a deep and complex link there to the existing Line 1 Queen Station. Osgoode Station is a less complex project because there are fewer nearby buildings constraining the site, although it has its own challenges.

King/Bathurst and Queen/Spadina are similar to each other in that they will use shafts on two of the four corners of their intersections as the launch points for mining out the station caverns under the street.

Moss Park and Corktown Stations are both cut-and-cover locations, but Corktown has the added complexity of also being a site for the tunnel boring machine launch and for removal of spoil from the tunnel excavation.

Each site has other issues:

  • Volume of spoil from the excavations and the routes trucks will use to move material from six concurrent construction sites.
  • The constraints on emergency vehicles while road access is limited.
  • Local business and residential access.
  • Cycling lane effects.

In all of this, we must assume that traffic, transit, pedestrian and cycling demand will be at least at pre-covid levels, although there are likely to be shifts as some traffic “evaporates” in frustration.

This first article will deal with the most complex project: Queen Station. Next will come Osgoode, to be followed by the two western stations at Bathurst and Spadina, and then the eastern stations at Moss Park and Corktown. I will wrap up with a discussion of issues common to all sites.

Continue reading

Metrolinx Don Valley Layover “Consultation” Update (Corrected)

Correction: Metrolinx has advised community members that the pop-up at Frankland School is one of a series of such events and is not intended as a formal consultation session given with almost no notice.

In their continued goal of always being right (one might say “Resistance Is Futile”), Metrolinx has published another article about why we just must have the Don Valley Layover track on the former Don Branch from roughly Rosedale Valley Road to the “Half Mile Bridge”.

There is little new in this article which re-iterates much previous material, but at greater length in an attempt to appear oh-so-reasonable.

Of particular interest is the sense that after resisting community input, Metrolinx appears to be softening their position. “Appears” is the operative word here.

While working on that, Metrolinx is making sure to protect the Don Valley, as the area sees this work to come later this month (December).

• Arborists (tree experts) will evaluate trees in the vicinity of the proposed layover
• Biologists will assess the habitat features in the adjacent area 
• Heritage experts will assess any impacts on heritage features in the area including the Prince Edward Viaduct
• Engineers will assess the current infrastructure.

Metrolinx initiated a procurement process for the technical advisor that will advance the design for the layover facility. In addition to architects and engineers, this team will include landscape architects and restoration experts.

Metrolinx expects to have the consultant on board early in 2022 to begin the initial design and work with the community.

What is not clear is whether there will actually be any change to the proposed design, or if this is a typical “consultation” where the community gets to choose the colour of the wallpaper.

There will be a pop-up consultation at Frankland School tonight (Dec 2) starting at 4:30 pm. What, you say you don’t know about this? That’s no surprise as Metrolinx does not mention it on their own engagement site, and few people who live in the area have heard of it. However, in due course it will serve the purpose of reassuring Metrolinx Board members and politicians that there has been “consultation”.

See correction text at the beginning of this article.

Metrolinx claims that the Don Branch is the only suitable location, but they have never addressed key questions:

  • Metrolinx claims that the “Rosedale Siding”, a second track on the GO Richmond Hill corridor west of the Don River, cannot be used for storage as it is required as a passing track. (Indeed with the recent diversion of VIA trains over this route, GO and VIA trains passed each other using this siding.) However, they fail to acknowledge that the right-of-way held three tracks, not two, in the past, and that a third track could be restored. (See photos in this article.)
  • Metrolinx claims that support buildings are required at this location even though a similar storage facility on the Lakeshore East corridor at Midland has no buildings and trains are simply parked there.
  • Metrolinx has not addressed a proposal to place the support buildings and parking, to the extent that they are actually required, at the north end of the layover track beside the Bayview/DVP connection road rather than at the Viaduct.
  • Metrolinx plans to use the Richmond Hill corridor as a turnback area for trains at Union Station. However, they are electrifying double track all the way to Pottery Road, far further than is needed as a turnback facility. This implies that the line will be used for something else, possibly storage of trains, but Metrolinx is silent on this.

Metrolinx talks about reduction in the footprint of the layover facility, but this typically refers to revisions made a few years ago when the proposed location was changed and some of the buildings were redesigned. They have not addressed why the buildings are needed if only between-rush hour storage is planned, as opposed to the ovenight operations that were contemplated in the original scheme.

By conflating changes made in the past with current community criticism, Metrolinx implies that they are altering their scheme today. That is misleading, as parliamentarians would say.

The whole matter of Metrolinx’ relationship with trees is fraught on many of their projects. Of particular concern is that they bring in an arborist to review the situation well after they pass the point of no return in design lockdown.

The site review they now plan is rather odd considering that the Environmental Assessment and Site Selection processes are complete. If they are truly contemplating reopening the question, this would run contrary to their approach on many projects where “consultation” proceeds while Metrolinx assumes that nothing will change and plans accordingly.

In a separate article, Metrolinx claims that the area to be occupied has already been disturbed by construction.

Placing these buildings immediately north of the viaduct will take advantage of construction that has already been done in the area. This is an area where green space was previously disturbed during the rehabilitation of the viaduct and there is already an access road in place to support an adjacent hydro facility.

That statement might have been valid for the originally proposed location south of the Viaduct which was used some years back as a staging area for work on the bridge. However, the area north of the Viaduct is treed as anyone can see looking down from the subway on the viaduct, and as I can simply by looking out my apartment window. Even the staging area south of the bridge has grown back in, and the idea that it is expendable because it was “disturbed” is no longer valid, but it suits Metrolinx to misrepresent actual conditions.

(For the record, I live in the building at the upper right of this image.)

Google Earth June 2021

At the heart of this debate is a fundamental distrust of Metrolinx’ intentions based on their dealings with many communities in many projects. “Trust” is not a word one would use.

I have no illusions that this work will be stopped, but wish that Metrolinx would stop trying to prove “the community” wrong and address real concerns about their proposals. This is a small part of a much larger project, but it shows just how things can go wrong with “public participation”.

How Much Bus Service Could The TTC Run?

At a time when TTC ridership is sitting at just under 50 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, this may not seem the time to ask a question like this article’s title. However, the service effects of an operator shortage are felt across the system and may not disappear soon.

The TTC puts recent service cuts down to vaccine hesitancy among a small group of staff. Leaving aside the internal union politics and the constant skirmishes between ATU and TTC management, there is more going on here.

At its meeting on November 29, the TTC Board received a third quarter financial update, and there was considerable praise for how management has “contained” costs shifting the year-end outlook to one where the TTC will not actually use all of subsidy monies available. In fact, $36 million will go into the City’s transit reserve where original budget projections forecast a draw, not a deposit. That’s money not being spent on transit, and moreover, it sets the bar lower for a starting point in 2022.

A big contribution to that saving is that the TTC is not scheduling as much service as it budgeted, and even then is not staffing at a level where all scheduled service actually gets onto the street. Cancelled runs and missing buses are common, and this problem continues even on the reduced schedules of November 21.

This situation is a complete reversal from past years when anyone who said “give us more service” received a stock two-part reply: we have no buses, and even if we bought more, there is no garage space.

The problem today is not buses – it is operators to drive them.

In this article, I turn the question around and ask how much service the TTC could provide if only they hired enough staff.

In Brief

The TTC has always owned substantially more buses than it requires to operate service. This is perfectly normal for any transit system, but the gap between what the TTC owns and what it operates widened over the past decade.

The proportion of the fleet that is “spare” (a word embracing many factors) has grown for two related reasons. Buses are more complex than they were a few decades back, and that affects maintenance work. Historically, the TTC aimed for a 18-year bus life cycle, but they are working toward a 12-year cycle to advance retirement of lower-reliability old buses and avoid the cost of major overhauls to keep them running. They have not yet reached that goal, and currently planned bus purchases do not fully achieve this.

One might argue that it says something about the robust nature of older buses compared to what we see today. To some extent, a shorter lifespan target can be a self-fulfilling prophecy when maintenance plans assume that a 12 year old bus will be discarded, and buses in what was once a middle age of 8-10 years are now seen as elderly.

There was a time when a ratio of buses in service to those held aside as spares was between 7:1 and 6:1, or a spare factor close to 15 per cent. By about a decade ago, this ratio fell to 5:1 or a 20 percent spare allowance. Since then, as a deliberate policy, the TTC has allowed it to fall to 4:1. There is no sign yet of a return to a better ratio. Two factors – a younger bus fleet and the benefits of electrification (partial or complete) – are yet to be reflected in the provision for spares. This affects not just capital costs – more buses are needed to provide a given level of service – but also the need for garage space.

In the pandemic era, the number of spares has risen considerably and the ratio is in striking distance of 2:1 thanks to recent service cuts.

If the ongoing cost of operating the TTC falls because of cutbacks, then the challenge to restore funding faces the double hurdles of cost inflation and a return to historic service levels both for operations and maintenance.

Turning back the clock can be difficult if a generous spare ratio becomes a “new normal” and buses can simply be sidelined rather than repaired. Even worse, if capital to buy new buses is plentiful, but operating funds to maintain the fleet are not, garages can fill up with vehicles that are tempting spare parts stores. This happened decades ago in Boston from which TTC CEO Rick Leary hails (but not on his watch).

Unpopular though this could be in some political circles, the TTC should ask the question: what service could we operate with the existing fleet if only we had enough money to hire drivers for all of the buses? Don’t tell Toronto what we “can’t afford”, tell us what would be possible and how much this would cost. This is a perennial problem with the TTC: a failure to advocate for the best we could have.

Continue reading

TTC Ridership, Finances and Service as of November 2021

The agenda for the Toronto Transit Commission board meeting on November 29, 2021, is rather thin considering that the board has not met for some time, and there are major policy issues worth discussing about the system’s future.

Two major reports are:

Ridership

TTC ridership continues to run below budget projections, although it has been growing. Recently it has been tracking near budgetary projections, but shortfalls during stay-at-home periods earlier in 2021 have kept the year-to-date total below expectations. Although we are now almost at the end of November, only data to the end of September are reported here.

Another view of ridership is based on “boardings” where each transfer (except between subway lines) counts as a new boarding. In transit parlance, these are “unlinked trips” as opposed to the “linked trips” that have traditionally been associated with individual fares paid. Even that gets tricky with passes including the two-hour transfer.

Relative to pre-pandemic demand, the bus network is at 55%, streetcars are at 42% and the subway is at 38%. Updated data showing recent experience would obviously be useful here to see whether riding has plateaued, or if it continues to grow, especially in light of recent service cuts.

Demand on Wheel-Trans is down substantially compared both to pre-pandemic times and to budget projections.

Bus occupancy has grown steadily over the year. An important point about the chart below is that it is measured trip-by-trip rather than being averaged over all trips on the system. What we do not know, however, is how many of these trips have high loads because the affected bus is running in a gap, and how many are because the service overall has less capacity than required for demand. Also, of course, we do not see the distribution of crowded trips by route or time-of-day.

An important issue here is that as overall demand recovers, the TTC plans to set its crowding targets progressively higher until they reach historical pre-pandemic levels. If service, and hence crowding, are irregular, then some buses will operate well beyond comfortable or attractive levels even as (and if) riders get more used to being in crowds.

Overcrowding was a constant complaint in pre-pandemic times, and Toronto should not aim simply to return to an overstuffed system. However, more service costs money and that is in short supply, even for politicians who are truly pro-transit at budget time.

Continue reading

TTC Contemplates the Future of Streetcars: 1952, 1971, 1972

From time to time, I am asked about the TTC streetcar replacement policy and some of the history. To flesh out some of this, I have scanned three reports of interest.

1952: Buying Used Streetcars

In 1952, the TTC was still acquiring second-hand PCCs from other cities, but planned eventually to replace all of their streetcar lines by 1980 when subways downtown would make the streetcar lines obsolete.

This is a scan of a photocopy of a carbon copy of a typewritten report. [26MB PDF]

This report shows the TTC’s thoughts on the future of its streetcar system from just before the Yonge subway opened, and how it would be an important part of the network until about 1980.

The importance of the Bloor-Danforth corridor can be seen in the following text:

The Service Change Committee estimates that after the subway is in operation the Bloor service will require 138 cars for through service over the whole route, plus 36 cars for short-turn service between Yonge and Coxwell, or a total of 174 cars.

No present-day route comes close to requiring this much equipment to handle passenger demand.

A longer extract is worth highlighting:

At the present time … there are available good, used, P.C.C. cars of recent manufacture which are suitable for operation in Toronto. This situation will obviously only continue for a limited time. It is believed that the Commission should seize the opportunity to protect its future by the purchase of some of these cars.

It might be asked why Toronto should consider buying additional street cars when so many of the transit properties on this continent are giving them up and turning to trolley coaches, buses or rapid transit operation. It is, therefore, necessary and useful to examine the practice as to vehicular service, past and present, of other transit properties to determine what course should be followed in this city.

It is more or less true that there has been a gradual abandonment of street cars in a substantial number of large American cities and some smaller Canadian cities.

There is obvious justification for the abandonment of street cars in smaller communities but the policy of abandonment of the use of this form of transportation in the larger communities is decidedly open to question. In fact it is hardly to much to say that the results which have occurred in a good many of these larger cities leaves open to serious question the wisdom of the decisions made.

It may be not wholly accurate to attribute the transit situation in most large American cities to the abandonment of the street cars. Nevertheless the position in which these utilities have now found themselves is a far from happy one. Fares have steadily and substantially increased, the quality of the service given, on the whole, has not been maintained, and the fare increases have not brought a satisfactory financial result. Short-haul riding, which is the lifeblood of practically all transit properties, has dropped to a minimum and the Companies are left with the unprofitable long-hauls. Deterioration of service has also lessened the public demand for public passenger transportation. The result is that the gross revenues of the properties considered, if they have increased to any substantial degree, have not increased in anything like the ratio of fare increases, and in most cases have barely served to keep pace with the rising cost of labour and material. It is difficult to see any future for most large American properties unless public financial aid comes to their support.

These facts being as they are, Toronto should consider carefully whether policies which have brought these unfortunate results are policies which should be copied in this city. Unquestionably a large part of the responsibility for the plight in which these companies find themselves is due to the fact that the labour cost on small vehicles is too high to make the service self-sustaining at practically any conceivable fare.

Why then did these properties adopt this policy? It is not unfair to suggest that this policy was adopted in large part by public pressure upon management exerted by the very articulate group of citizens who own and use motor cars and who claim street cars interfere with the movement of free-wheel vehicles and who assert that the modern generation has no use for vehicles operating on fixed tracks but insists on “riding on rubber”. If there is any truth in the above suggestion it is an extraordinary abdication of responsibility by those in charge of transit interests. They have tailored their service in accordance with the demands of their bitter competitors rather than in accordance with the needs of their patrons.

The report goes on to talk about both the deterioration of physical plant and equipment in many cities, but not in Toronto, as well as the very high demands found on our street car routes.

Even if the Queen subway were to open “in the next decade”, the initial operation of this line would be with streetcars and the TTC would continue to need a fleet. This statement was made at a time when the Queen route, rather than Bloor, was seen as the next rapid transit corridor after Yonge Street.

The report recommends purchase of 75 used cars from Cleveland, 25 of which had been built for Louisville but barely operated there before that system was abandoned. The TTC already had second-hand cars from Cincinnati, and would go on to buy cars from Birmingham and Kansas City.

1971 and 1972: The Beginning of the End?

In 1971 and 1972, the TTC was still discussing their plan for a Queen Street subway, although it was looking rather uncertain as a project. As we all know, it did not open in 1980.

The 1971 report sets out a plan to discontinue all but the core routes of King, Queen (including Kingston Road) and Bathurst, with even these up for grabs should a Queen subway open in 1980, rather far-fetched idea for late 1971 and an era when all rapid transit planning focused on the suburbs.

This is a scan of an nth-generation photocopy and it is faint in places because that’s what my copy looks like. [6 MB PDF]

The 1972 report set in motion the political debate about the future of streetcars, and led to the formation of the Streetcars for Toronto Committee. Had its recommendations been adopted, the removal of streetcars from St. Clair would begun the gradual dismantling of the system.

It is amusing to see the sort of creative accounting by the TTC that we in the activist community associate with more recent proposals. There is an amazing co-incidence that the number of spare trolley coaches exactly matches the needs of the streetcar retirement plan for St. Clair even though this would have actually meant a cut in line capacity. Moreover, the planned Spadina subway would lead to an increase in demand as St. Clair would be a feeder route.

There is also the wonderful dodge that if the TTC abandoned the streetcars and claimed it was for the Yonge subway extension, they hoped to get Metro Council to pay for some of the conversion cost out of the subway budget.

In this report (as well as in the 1971 report above) we learn that the Dundas car just had to go because its continued operation would interfere with the planned parking garage for the then-proposed Eaton Centre.

Note: My copy of this report was in good enough shape to scan with OCR and convert to text rather than as page images. The format is slightly changed from the original, but all of the text is “as written”.

The Streetcars Survived, But the Network Did Not Grow

In November 1972, the TTC Board, at the urging of Toronto Council, voted to retain the streetcar system except for the Mt. Pleasant and Rogers Road lines. The former would be removed for a bridge project at the Belt Line, and the latter was in the Borough of York who wanted rid of their one remaining streetcar route.

The TTC had a plan for suburban LRT lines in the 1960s, but this was not to be. While Edmonton, Calgary and San Diego built new LRT, Toronto’s transit future was mired in technology pipe-dreams from Queen’s Park that bore little fruit and blunted the chance for a suburban network while the city was still growing. It is ironic that growth in the streetcar network, if it comes at all, will be downtown thanks to a renaissance of the waterfront when it could have happened decades ago while much of suburbia was still farmland.

TTC November 2021 Service Changes Update

This article follows on from TTC Announces Widespread Service Cuts Effective November 21, 2021. When that article was written, the TTC had published an overview of the service changes, but many specifics were omitted.

Since the article appeared, more details have been released both through the TTC’s standard memo describing service changes, and by the detailed schedules available on NextBus. Another source, the GTFS version of schedules used by many apps, has not yet been updated on the City’s Open Data website as of 7:30am on November 22. The TTC’s Scheduled Service Summary usually appears on their Planning page a few weeks after a schedule change, and it is not yet available.

Using the available information, I have updated the spreadsheet of changes (below). Because there is so much detail showing existing and planned service, as well as data for periods where there is no change, the cells with new headways (the time between vehicles) or new vehicle assignments are shown in bold italics.

Types of Schedule Changes

The TTC has described these changes as an effect of their staff shortage accentuated by Covid vaccine mandate.

As a result of operator workforce shortages, Line 2 Bloor-Danforth, one streetcar route, and 57 bus routes will experience temporary service reductions and/or period of service suspensions.

There is definitely a reduction in total scheduled level of service as shown in the table below.

Source: TTC Board Period Service Memo for November 21, 2021

For most of 2021, the regular service has operated at 3-4 percent below the planned level, although this is partly offset by a requirement for more construction-related service than planned. In November, the regular service will be about 11 percent below the planned level with a small offset in construction service. The reduction in the holiday schedules (“December” in the chart) is lower because there would normally be less service then.

In past months, the TTC was already short-staffed and cancelled some crews rather than filling them using overtime.

A change that reduces operator needs but does not affect service levels is that One Person Train Operation (“OPTO”) which will be introduced on Line 1 Yonge between Vaughan Centre and St. George Stations. This has been used as a trial since August 2021 on Sundays, and this will expand to 7 days/week.

Bus – The bus service hours include 190 open crews that will be assigned on overtime.

Subway – In the November 2021 board period, on Line 1, one-person train operation will be implemented on weekdays and Saturday in addition to Sundays which was implemented in the August board period. The reduction in service hours represents a reduction in operator requirements. There is no change to service levels on Line 1. This service change was budgeted to be implemented in the December 2021 board period.

Source: TTC Board Period Service Memo for November 21, 2021

Another change is that the “Run As Directed” crews which required about 100 operators per day have been cancelled.

Some schedule changes do not involve a reduction in the number of vehicles (and hence operators) assigned to routes, but are due to schedule revisions that would normally be described as “reliability” updates.

In those cases, scheduled travel times are adjusted, usually increased, to reflect on street conditions. When this occurs with no change in vehicle assignments, headways get longer. For example, if a route were served by 10 buses on a round trip of 50 minutes, the headway would be every 5 minutes (12 per hour). If the round trip is changed to 60 minutes with no additional vehicles, the buses would come every 6 minutes (10 per hour), but with no change in staffing.

In some cases, the previously scheduled travel times were too long causing vehicles to bunch at terminals, and new schedules trim back the running time usually with a reduction in vehicles, but not necessarily a reduction in service level.

Changes to running times would not be backed out when the TTC restores service levels.

A related issue is that traffic congestion is building on major routes and this will require longer scheduled travel times and more vehicles over the coming year, in addition to whatever service is needed to cope with return of demand to pre-pandemic levels. This is an added pressure on the need for operators, but not (yet) vehicles as the TTC has a surplus of equipment in all modes going into 2022.

The total number of buses in service will drop with the November schedules as shown below. Note that the “Max In-Service Capacity” reflects garage capacity and the fleet is actually over 2,000 vehicles. The TTC is only using about two-thirds of its fleet and has a wide range for service growth without buying any new buses. The real problem for some time has been a shortage of operators.

Source: TTC Board Period Service Memo for November 21, 2021

For the streetcar fleet, peak requirements remain at 140 vehicles out of 204. By sometime in 2022, the major repair project for the Flexitys will complete, and the TTC will be able to operate more of its streetcar network with streetcars. Delivery of an additional 60 cars on order from Alstom will not begin until 2023.

The remainder of this article gives a route-by-route overview of the service changes, and the fine details are in the spreadsheet linked below:

Continue reading

TTC Announces Widespread Service Cuts Effective November 21, 2021

With no fanfare at all, the list of planned service changes for November 21, 2021 has appeared on the TTC’s website.

As a result of operator workforce shortages, Line 2 Bloor-Danforth, one streetcar route, and 57 bus routes will experience temporary service reductions and/or period of service suspensions. Provisions have been made to protect service on the busiest corridors in the system during the busiest periods. November schedules will continue into December, with some minor adjustments.

TTC Service Change Notice for November 21, 2021

As I have recently documented in a series about service reliability on short routes, the TTC has already been missing buses regularly on its service, and there would be problems even without the ongoing issue of service reliability and an abdication of headway management.

I do not yet have the detailed memo explaining service changes thanks to the TTC’s email system outage, and can only report at this time on the information in the TTC’s post. When I do get the memo, I will produce the usual detailed spreadsheet showing all of the changes.

Changes Unrelated to Service Cuts

A few changes are due to factors other than the need to cut back on service.

  • In September, the 60 Steeles West bus was cut back to Pioneer Village Station and the 960 Steeles West Express took over the western portion of the route during most periods. The service level west of Pioneer Village has proven too low, and the 60 Steeles will provide a 15 minute service west to Kipling on top of the 960 during weekday daytimes.
  • The 953 Steeles Express will now stop at Leslie Street both ways.

Construction Changes

  • 75 Sherbourne will divert via Jarvis street between King and Dundas Streets due to water main construction until late December.
  • 501 Queen, 504 King, 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton (together with related night services) are affected by various projects. Details are in a separate article.

Service Cuts

Service on many routes has been trimmed, and some express operations have been dropped. The details, to the extent that they have been published, are shown in the spreadsheet linked below.

In many cases, I have simply put “Reduced” against a time period until I know the specifics of the changes. This spreadsheet will act as a template to accumulate information as it becomes available.

TTC Announces Streetcar Diversions and Bus Replacements (Updated)

The TTC has posted several notices on its website detailing recent and planned service changes on several streetcar routes.

Updated November 21, 2021: Modified to pick up new and replacement pages on the TTC’s website.

King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles Project

The TTC’s KQQR page has been updated to reflect the new routings implemented over the November 13-14 weekend.

With the south leg of the intersection now closed and Queen Street open for east-west traffic, the 501/301 Queen bus service now operates straight along Queen Street.

The 504/304 King bus service diverts westbound via Dufferin and Queen as it has done for many months, but now runs through to Dundas West Station. The eastbound service from Dundas West heads east on Queen to Triller and south to King.

This map does not show the diversion implemented for the track work at Queen and Shaw Streets that requires the 501/301 services to divert both ways via Strachan, King and Dufferin. That project also requires a diversion of 63 Ossington via Queen, Dufferin and King.

There is also a TTC page under their Construction Notices (as opposed to Service Advisories) for the KQQR project. This page is extremely out of date.

Queen East Overhead Conversion for Pantographs

The 501 Queen Streetcar currently operates as far east as Russell Carhouse (east of Greenwood) during overhead upgrades on the east end of the route. The 503 Kingston Road car continues to operate over its full route to Bingham Loop. A 501N shuttle provides service between Leslie Street and Neville Loop.

On November 21, this arrangement will change, and the 501 Queen cars will be extended to Woodbine Loop at Kingston Road. The 501N shuttle bus will loop via Eastern and Coxwell Avenues. The 503 service will remain as is.

This change will remain until January 2, 2022 when streetcar service to Neville Loop should be restored.

Other 501 Queen Diversions

Two diversions are in progress for the ongoing track replacement project on the central part of the Queen route:

  • 501 buses divert between Bathurst and Spadina via the Richmond/Adelaide pair.
  • 501 buses divert between Dufferin and Strachan via King during track replacement at Shaw & Queen.

501 streetcar service will be restored to Queen Street between Neville Loop and Wolseley Loop (at Bathurst) on January 2, 2022.

The map for the diversions is in this notice. That page is now partly out of date due to the extension of the 501 streetcars to Woodbine Loop on November 21, 2021.

Photo by Raymond Lee

506/306 Carlton / 505 Dundas Changes for Sewer Work on Coxwell Avenue

From November 21 until mid-February 2022, the Carlton streetcars will turn back at Broadview via Broadview, Dundas and Parliament. This loop is currently used by the 505 Dundas car due to water main work on Broadview north of Gerrard.

The 505 Dundas service will be diverted and extended to Woodbine Loop via Broadview and Queen Street while the Carlton car is looping at Broadview.

Queen/Shaw Intersection Replacement Begins (Update 2)

Work began on November 15, 2021 on the replacement of special work at the intersection of Queen and Shaw. Based on past experience with similar projects, this should last about three weeks.

Updated November 19, 2021 at 2:45 pm: Track replacement has begun with the eastern leg of the intersection, and foundation work is in progress for the other two legs.

Updated November 21, 2021 at 1:40 pm: Links to TTC diversion notices added.

The service diversion now embraces changes for multiple works along Queen Street West:

501 Queen Bus: Initially, the diversion was via Dufferin, King and Strachan both ways. However, extension of the tangent track replacement west of Bathurst now requires buses to divert both ways via Dufferin, King, Bathurst, Richmond/Adelaide, and Spadina. (Updated November 19)

63 Ossington Bus: Diverts both ways via Queen, Dufferin and King. The buses loop through Liberty Village on their normal route via Strachan southbound and Atlantic northbound, but then turn west onto King for the northbound diversion.

Elsewhere on Queen, there are diversions and bus replacements. (Updated November 19)

  • Streetcar service runs between Russell Carhouse (east of Greenwood) and King & Spadina (via Parliament) due to track and overhead work on the central section of Queen, and overhead work in The Beach. It will be extended east to Woodbine Loop on November 21.
  • A bus shuttle runs between Neville Loop and Leslie/Commissioners. This will change on November 21 to operate between Neville Loop and Coxwell.

The 503 Kingston Road car continues to operate between King & Spadina and Bingham Loop at Victoria Park.

Photos on November 19, 2021