Reader Comments: A Mixed Bag For the End of April

The responses to the RT issue have kept me busy, and now it’s time to deal with the backlog of mail again. 

Nicholas Day writes:

I cannot believe that they do not have transit priority fully enabled.  All this talk of installing new technology in other places and often Spadina is the poster child for such talk!  I take this route many times and one often has to wait for the left turning vehicles.  40+ people on the streetcar have to wait for 5 or so vehicles with no more than two people in them each.

Andy writes:

It looks like the TTC is about to screw up the service on King Street.  What I mean is make it more inferior, as in quality, condition, or effect.  I remember Bloor Danforth before the subway opened.  They used to run multiple unit streetcars along those roads and the service had the same problems.  In fact people used to jam into the lead car leaving the trailer with plenty of space.  Toronto needs more subways and less streetcars.

Steve:  I remember the problems on Bloor with half-empty rear cars, but I don’t agree that subways are the answer.  We’re never going to see subways on all those lines that have streetcars today let alone bus routes that might be candidates for LRT conversion in the future.

N. Clawson writes:

The coupler issue aside, do you think the motive/traction systems on the CLRVs could handle MU operation reliably?  (Given the very low reliability of these units running individually.)

Steve:  The electronics of the rebuilt cars is to be completely replaced with modern equipment, and therefore I expect that MU operation would not be a problem (leaving aside the question of whether we would ever use it).

Pudding writes:

Why rebuilt CLRVs?  I’m angry because it is waste of money.  I heard that Siemens is a chosen builder for our streetcars and I’m also angry at that.  If Bombardier don’t get the streetcars, I hope they get the subway trains instead. 

Steve:  The only justification for rebuilding CLRVs is the length of time we have dithered on new streetcars something for which I hold our supposedly pro-transit Council responsible.  We have reached the point where even if we order cars today, we will not get enough of them to replace all of the CLRVs before they will need a major overhaul.  You can read more about this in my post on the subject.

Also, Siemens has not got the nod for a car order.  The National Post got it wrong as I wrote elsewhere. 

Bob Brent writes:

I infer there’s no such thing as an “extended-arm” or “tow-bar” coupling to effectively couple two streetcars but allow them the “flexibility” to navigate turns & bends as if separate?  If there were such a beast would it take care of the extra length issue of two CLRVs in tight tunnels?  From personal experience it seems a following CLRV can snuggle up pretty close behind the back of the preceding car in the curved portion of the Spadina tunnel before it straightens out into the unloading/loading platform.  I have no idea if this is a practical or safe suggestion… the bliss of too little knowledge!!

Steve:  Cars using couplers are actually closer together than they would be with tow-bars.  I have a drawing of Union Loop that clearly shows it has only room for three CLRV-length cars, snuggled as you put it.  I don’t have a drawing (or can’t find it) for Spadina Station, but am fairly certain that it was designed with the ALRV as the basic unit of measure.  Hence room for one offloading and one loading at the same time.  Four CLRVs is quite another matter.

I bet that natural ridership growth… will make a shambles of the TTC’s CLRV/LRT Fleet needs (as they are the Kings of lowball annual ridership forecasts), even before the route additions are factored in.  The 10 surplus CLRV/ALRV cars will be rebuilt if this happens, unless tons of money rain from Ottawa to procure substantially more new low-floor LRTs to “buy” or secure some political party’s Toronto riding seats and protect a majority nationally.

I can’t wait to see the next Chief General Manager’s report to find out just how strong is TTC ride growth in 2006.

Steve:  The TTC has been in a downward spiral for so long that they have forgotten what it is like to plan for growth and budget accordingly.  David Gunn actually did a big disservice to Toronto by juggling vehicle purchase schedules and, thereby, mask the need for fleet replenishment.  We came into the present era with a base budget well below what was needed to sustain the system all done, of course, in the name of belt-tightening. 

When we start telling the subway junkies to tighten their belts, I will believe we are serious.  Meanwhile, we must stop using the budget crisis as an excuse to avoid spending except on a few pet projects.

 Bob Brent writes more:

I’m trying to think where I saw the pictures, decades-lapsed pics of development around the Yonge line stations.  I thought it was Dick Soberman’s 1997 “The Track Ahead” edited by LH, but didn’t see pics in the online pdf.  I looked everywhere online, without success, and think it may have been in Mike Filey’s 75 Years of TTC book.  They really demonstrate your point that density follows subways and about BD being successful w/o high-d ensity around many stations due to the feeder line effect: subways act as high-speed collectors for surface routes. A point that with each new subway EA/proposal seems to totally vanish from TTC institutional memory/wisdom in order to be political and grab GO/Fed capital dollars, even knowing the line is a skunk (Sheppard).

It’s subway first, then density, not the other way around as CGM Rick Ducharme is arguing recently in the Globe’s Dr. Gridlock … and previously stated very forcefully (black & white without reflection) in a John Barber Globe column.  Best example I’m personally familiar with living in North York is Yonge & Sheppard: once it was an indoor mall and two high-rise Condo residences for decades, then P&G, then Nestlé, then Empress Walk retail and luxury condos around North York Centre station.

It’s painful… but certainly points to your value once again in jogging the TTC’s memory!

David Youngs writes:

I commuted from North Etobicoke to Queen and University for that summer.  I forget if the trip was 20 or 25 minutes, but arriving at Keele by 7:55 guaranteed my being at the desk by 8:20.

When you look at London’s Underground, you have to wonder about anyone who couldn’t make a single grade-separated triangular junction work.

Steve:  I have to assume that “North Etobicoke” is somewhere near High Park if you were using Keele Station.  Not to be picky, but Etobicoke starts at the Humber river west of Jane Station, and the north end of Etobicoke is at Rexdale.  The only way you’ll get from there to downtown in half an hour is by GO train.

Bob Brent writes again:

Interesting … just after … 1997, there was a Toronto Life article about the “new” T-1 cars and their wider seat widths (I think 17″ up from H-series 15″?).  They did a comparison with other NA transit properties … one had 19″ and LA took the prize at 21″… can you say KFC????

I think the bench seat idea is interesting…. I forget which older H-series used to have them when I started at TTC, but it does take care of “variable width” bodies!

Those colour station paintings are remarkable.  [The Serafin paintings which can be seen on Transit Toronto’s site.]  I was reminded of the “real” Red Rocket… to me at least… the red subway cars.. that were still in service when I arrived in TO in 76… complete with no A/C and windows that opened!

Steve:  The TTC is working on improving fitness and keeping down passenger size by making us all walk rather than wait for service to show up.  Meanwhile, we have those sinful bakeries in subway stations …  The bench seats were on everything up to the H4 cars that are still in service.

Dwight Paterson writes:

In theory, if the Spadina/University/Yonge line were a belt line, what would the headway be like?  Would it actually increase capacity?  I know it would decrease issues relating to delays as it would be like splitting the line into almost two independent lines.

Steve:  Probably the headway running “clockwise” (southbound Yonge, northbound University) would be better in the AM than the opposing direction with the reverse in the PM.  However, we would also run a huge amount of needless service around the north end of the loop rather than short-turning trains.  I assume that everyone knows there will be a scheduled short turn at Downsview when the Spadina Line is extended and a headway of 2’20” to York University, let alone the wilds of Vaughan, is not in the cards.

John Galeazza writes:

The thing that gets me is how [the TTC is turned off] of any and all interlined subway possibilities.  If and when the Sheppard west extension is built, I’d like to see Sheppard and the York extension share trackage and stations between Downsview and Sheppard west/Chesswood.  Demand on the University side is not so great that the two lines couldn’t be scheduled this way.  Alas I think the TTC would never consider it.

Steve:  The Sheppard West line will be built after the Spadina extension, the Sheppard extension, the Scarborough subway, and a few other odds and ends.  Service should begin sometime about 2050.

Mimmo Briganti writes about integrated subway service:

The TTC also enforced evenly spaced headways on all the branches.  If a train arrived at the wye early it would be held, courtesy of the ATD (Automatic Train Dispatcher) controlling that particular area in the converging route.  An ATD was basically a filmstrip “contraption” with four schedules punched into it — Weekday, Saturday, Sunday, and Holiday.  It controlled the signals and switches at the wye based on one complete revolution of film across a sensor every 24 hours.  If needed, its settings could be overriden by Transit Control, but the effect was similar to a tightly controlled intersection.  So, you could be facing a red at the Bay Eastbound lower platform when no conflicting train was on the upper level between Bay and Yonge.

Steve:  This operating scheme was a direct result of a schedule design that would collapse if the trains were not kept in order.  Imagine running every bus route out of, say, Finch terminal with a master schedule that demanded every bus leave in order and wait for the laggards to show up.

One other thing to note — passengers at Bay and St. George had special signs at the stairways leading down to the lower platforms that would tell them where the next eastbound or westbound trains would arrive.  These signs were tied into the track circuits and an arrow would light up as a train approached a platform (and stay lit until it left).  If you were heading east at Bay or west at St. George, you waited on the *upper* platform until the sign lit up.  There was no guesswork involved.

Steve:  Yes, and if you were agile and standing right at the stairway, you had a fighting chance of getting to the “other” platform in time to catch the train.

In the AM rush, Spadina operates with a headway twice as wide as other parts of the system, so it is still possible to send every 4th Bloor train from each direction into the wye and down University.  Seeing as how the majority of passengers are heading to Queen, King, Union, and St. Andrew in the morning, this is still a viable option at reducing some of the congestion at St. George and Bloor-Yonge.

Steve:  Strictly speaking, this is not true.  Half of the Spadina trains turn back at St. Clair West.  If we were going to insert BD trains into the University stream, we would have to cut the service between St. Clair West and St. George back to make room.  This means that the headway north of St. George could never be better than about 4’30” assuming that every fourth BD train from each direction is going to swing onto the University line.

A further problem arises with a 9’00” headway of “downtown” trains on BD in that only passengers who happen to catch one will benefit from it.  Someone arriving randomly at a station would not know where they were in the four-train cycle, and would be better off to take the first train that showed up.  The transfer traffic diverted would not be worth the complexity.  

Trevor writes:

I noticed Susan’s comment about trash.  I, too, have noticed similar problems in the past couple of years.  In particular, the black spots on the ground that were so rare up until about two to three years ago.  One of the reasons that brought me to Toronto 25 years ago was the then attitiude of city hall and the TTC that it was easier to keep a clean city clean.  Sadly and evidently, budget cuts have allowed the city and TTC to gradually become dirtier over those 25 years.  Sad, really.

Perhaps, in line with Susan’s suggestion, the city should set levies on the manufacturers of chewing gum and pass a share of them on to the TTC.

Steve:  Some years ago, the TTC tried to amend its standard bylaw (the one that’s posted in all the vehicles with much fine print) to outlaw food on the transit system.  This produced howls of laughter on two counts:

  • If you buy a chocolate bar at a subway kiosk, is it food?
  • A brand new McDonalds had just opened in Dundas West Station with a counter on the paid side of the station.

Luckily, this bit of brilliance was removed from the bylaw but only after a fight.  Like running good service, basic housekeeping is part of the cost of owning a transit system.

That’s all for now.  I have a separate collection of RT comments that will be posted later.

One thought on “Reader Comments: A Mixed Bag For the End of April

  1. Steve: my comment about the Subway from Keele street was just about the Subway. I was commuting from Kipling and Albion, and I left out the two bus rides and the streetcar.

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