The Transit Commissioners have forwarded a letter from another of Toronto’s long-time transit advocates, Philip Webb, to their staff for study. The nub of Webb’s proposal is that the TTC should stop trying to conduct maintenance a few hours at a time in the middle of the night and simply close down sections of the subway for a day or two on weekends when necessary.
Although he was addressing the now-and-forever asbestos removal program on the North Yonge Subway (work that factored in the February 2006 accident with carbon monoxide poisoning), Webb argued that changes in work scheduling would allow the TTC to run all-night subway service.
The Commission’s motion asked that staff report back in six months on:
- A trial all-night operation of one route
- Serious consideration of Philip Webb’s proposal including operational, financial and maintenance issues
- A review of how other transit systems provide all-night service and maintain their systems
The Toronto Sun ran an article about this, and there has already been considerable negative commentary from TTC management on the issue. So much for a six-month-long serious review.
One point raised was that only when the Yonge-University line has new signalling (ten years from now, if then) will the TTC be able to run single track, bidirectional service in the middle of the night so that maintenance can occur on the other track. This assumes that the model for diverting around maintenance is single-track operation.
What we really need is a review of the type and duration of night-time works that now occur so that we can see how they could be rescheduled. One project that has amused me over the years I have been commuting to Scarborough is the periodic reballasting and realignment of track on the open cut between Victoria Park and Warden Stations. This work proceeds at a snail’s pace because so little is done in each installment. What could be achieved with, say, an all-Sunday shutdown? How much would be saved by more efficient work schedules?
One important issue will be the relative convenience of surface operations especially where stations are widely spaced. People travelling in the middle of the night will not relish a long walk to 24-hour stations as a replacement for a nearby bus stop. This assumes, of course, that we are running reasonably frequent bus service.
This issue will likely surface again in March 2007 when the staff report back.