Today’s Star has an article about the ongoing woes of construction activity on St. Clair. I will leave you to read the text yourself, but there are a few important points that deserve comment.
The intention of the right-of-way is not to save time, it is to make the service reliable.
Well, yes, but saving time wouldn’t hurt either. Indeed, if the service is reliable, then people would not have interminable waits for a car that eventually shows up as a pack. This will probably save more time than anything else.
This is an important issue when we talk about suburban LRT networks. If they can’t make trips significantly faster (either through reliable, frequent service or speedier travel), then we’re not really building LRT (with the emphasis on the “R” for “rapid”).
Five minutes will be saved on a round trip from Yonge to Keele and back.
Er, didn’t this used to be a one-way saving? Did the writer get it wrong, or has the TTC backed down even further on the benefit of the exclusive lanes? Let’s be generous and say it’s one-way. This represents roughly a 15% improvement in running time. What does this do to the frequency of service (assuming we keep the same number of cars)?
If we go back to 2003 when the line was still running with streetcars and before the schedules were padded to allow for the atrocious condition of the track, a round trip took 64 minutes peak, 62 midday weekdays and 72 on Saturday afternoons. What this tells me is that congestion is worst on the weekend, and there will be substantially greater savings then than in the rush hour.
Calculating the real benefit of improved running times is tricky because the 2003 schedules already included substantial padding (“recovery time”). For midday service, that 62 minute running time turns into 10 cars on a 7 minute headway (70 minutes). On Saturday, their is an extra 10 minutes for recovery time. Will this be clawed back as part of the saving of more reliable service? If so, there is as much to be gained here as there is in avoidance of traffic congestion.
I would appreciate my regular TTC readers enlightening us all on their plans for schedules on the “new” St. Clair.
Elsewhere in the article, drivers are aghast at the loss of crossings at some intersections. (Some of this is the transient effect of construction, but some is permanment.) This is not unlike the situation on Spadina where turns are not permitted in many places.
The problem on St. Clair, however, is that the plans presented on the City’s website and at public meetings were a moving target. We never actually knew what would be built until the construction crews showed up. Indeed, based on one set of plans, I advised someone that, yes, their intersection would remain open only to find later that this was no longer true.
Oddly, there is no sign of the public participation process for Phase II of this project from Vaughan Road westward. Has this been held down to avoid contention in the Mihevc/Sewell electoral battle? Councillor Mihevc talks a good line about how he has saved his neighbourhoods from the worst of the City road planners’ machinations, but I won’t believe it until I see the final plans (assuming we ever see “final” plans).
Moreover, a Councillor who is also a TTC Commissioner needs to realize that his constituency does not stop at ward boundaries. If improvements could have been made in Councillor Walker’s ward (the easternmost part of the line), then Mihevc should have been fighting for them too. Instead, we got the ridiculous road widening at Yonge Street.
Finally, the article states that construction will finish in 2008. Is this more fine TTC/City planning where projects drag on forever, or is it a side effect of delays in the design phase?
I have long been a supporter of the idea of a St. Clair LRT scheme, but even more than on Spadina, it is turning out to be a textbook example of how not to run a project. If this is the best the TTC can muster, any hopes for suburban LRT expansion might as well go in the wastebin.
A friend wrote to me recently asking about comparative running times for the Spadina bus and the streetcar line. Back in February 1996 the round trip from Spadina Station to Wellington was 33 minutes compared with 28 to day for the streetcar which turns one stop further north at King. However, as I have discussed elsewhere, if the streetcar had real transit priority, we could probably save an additional 2 minutes each way for a round trip of 24 minutes. That’s a real saving.
What really stands out is a comparison of the frequency of service. There are far fewer vehicles during the peak, partly because the streetcars are bigger and partly because they don’t take as long to cover the route, but look at the offpeak comparisons.
- AM Peak: Bus 1’30”, streetcar 2’30”
- Midday: Bus 2’38”, streetcar 1’53”
- PM Peak: Bus 1’50”, streetcar 2’00”
- Early evening: Bus 4’00”, streetcar 2’00” (!!)
- Late evening: Bus 8’00”, streetcar 7’00”
- Saturday afternoon: Bus 1’42”, streetcar 2’00”
- Saturday early evening: Bus 8’00”, streetcar 2’50” (!!)
- Saturday late evening: Bus 10’00”, streetcar 7’20”
- Sunday afternoon: Bus 3’20”, streetcar 2’30” (!!)
- Sunday early evening: Bus 4’30”, streetcar 3’00”
- Sunday late evening: Bus 10’00”, streetcar 11’15”
As someone who tried many times to ride the bus service, it was no picnic. It was common to be unable to board a vehicle, and bunched service and short-turns were commonplace. Note the huge improvement in off-peak service (which is only there because there is a demand) with the streetcars. This shows the benefit of providing good service at a much more reliable level. It also shows how on some routes, the off-peak demand is as important as the peak period.
Up on St. Clair, the level of service is far below what it is on Spadina, and even if we return to “the good old days”, it still will be nowhere near as frequent. However, all the spending on the LRT scheme will be for naught without good service. People don’t care about saving a few minutes of travel time if they have to wait 10 minutes for a streetcar to show up.