One Year

On January 31, 2006, Steve Munro’s Web Site went on the air.  The first post was a collection of my Toronto Film Festival reviews partly as a test posting and partly for many friends who are always after me about what I’ve written over the years.

Looking back at all of the posts, I’ve covered a lot of transit issues.  Funding.  Service.  Wasteful subway projects.  LRT everywhere.  Even Swan Boats!

Through all of this, I’ve seen a growing audience of readers both by comments and email, and the number of links to this site from others is gratifying.  When I started writing, I expected a fairly small community of transit fans and advocates would be interested in the technical stuff, but that community grew to include a wide variety of readers, some from very far away.

Many thanks to all of you who read and contribute to debates here.  Yes, there are times I just copy a comment into my archives and don’t post it.  There’s only so many times one can cover the same ground and, after all, it is my site.

Thanks to my friend Trevor whose system hosts this site.  Those of you who know that I’m an old IBM mainframer from the dark ages of computing, and that professionally I work in an environent overrun with Windows machines, will be amused to know this site lives on a Mac.  Trevor’s a Mac bigot, what can I say, and WordPress (the software that runs the site) works very well here.

Special thanks to my dear friend Sarah who puts up with that distracted look when she knows her conversation is time-sharing my brain with a post that’s writing itself behind my eyes.  She was co-author of the Swan Boats epic and co-conspirator in its creation.

Finally thanks to everyone else who runs a site dedicated to urban affairs of one kind or another, and to the journalists from whom I’ve had many encouraging words.  Keeping people well-informed about how their city works is important, and all of us contribute to that in many ways.  Feeling that I’m part of that community, both amateur and professional, is very rewarding.

The next years will be vital for transit in our city and region.  Either we stop pretending that we can be transit oriented without serious investment in operations, vehicles and facilities, a real network of services, not a few baubles to get politicians re-elected, or we will slide into the car-oriented city that “Stop Spadina” and its era were supposed to prevent.

GTTA On the Web?

One of my correspondents, Tom B., wrote:

Does Mr. MacIssac have an email address?  You should email your posting to him!

The Great and Powerful Greater Toronto Transit Authority does not seem to have a web presence yet.  Type in GTTA to Google, and you will get the Guernsey Table Tennis Association.  It shows just how important this agency is when the Government of Ontario can’t be bothered to ensure it has a web presence from day 1.  Other than a few press releases, the agency might as well not exist.  Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

Meanwhile, the domain is owned by someone in Quebec (although the registration mistakenly has “ON” for a Quebec postal code), and the technical contact is an outfit called “ID Theft Protection” in the Cayman Islands.

The amateurs at Queen’s Park might want to think about protecting domain names before they create agencies.

I trust that someone at the GTTA owns a computer and is already monitoring this website.

Last Chance for the GTTA?

On Friday, January 26, the Canadian Urban Institute presented a panel discussion entitled The GTA’s New Transportation Authority:  Last Chance to Get It Right?  Events like this tend to have a lot of talking heads rambling on to a room full of their professional cohorts, but I attended on the off chance the collection of speakers and the political dynamics would provoke some interest.  The session certainly provoked a standing room only crowd, unusual, I heard, for CUI events. Continue reading

A Bigger Loop at Union Station?

In all the discussion of new transit lines serving the waterfront, we are also getting into the question of capacity at Union Station Loop.

Since many people will not have seen this design before, and a good quality drawing was just handed out by the TTC at a recent waterfront meeting, I’m posting it here.


The design shows a scheme for a new loop at Union at an interim stage in its development.  Here’s how the design works:

There is space underneath the teamways and outside of the existing tunnel structure to fit two more tracks plus platform space in the north-south direction.  In this design, you will see that the existing (now centre) tracks are disconnected at the south end and all streetcars take the outer loop past the new platform.  Inbound cars unload on the east side of the loop and outbound cars load on the west side.  There is room for four CLRVs on each platform.

Note that the existing platform space at the north end is expanded, and connects directly onto the new northbound Yonge Subway platform to be built as part of the Union Station expansion now underway.

Sometime in the future, if demand warrants it, the loop could be changed so that the east platform was reserved for cars bound to the eastern waterfront while the west platform was used for western waterfront services.  The inner tracks would be reconnected and used as bypass tracks so that the two sets of services could run through the loop somewhat independently of each other.

A further option, although tricky, would be the entry of a “Bremner LRT” (the proposed inner end of the Western Waterfront line) that would punch into the tunnel just south of the loop.  Dodging the pillars would be tricky, but apparently it is possible.

Walk Left, Stand Right

One of my regular correspondents, David Crawford, passed on this post on the torontoist blog about the disappearing escalator signs.

Click here.

David comments:

For a group of people who can’t find time to put up clear and current signage (lots of examples on your site) I find it amazing they can find time and man-power to remove signs that seem, to me anyway, as being very useful.  They have them in London where the escalators are very orderly,  they do not have them in Montreal, where it’s chaotic –  draw your own conclusions!)

From my point of view, the most walking that happens on escalators is at times when they are not running at all.  This has not been as bad of late as the months I documented earlier in 2006, but it still happens far too often.

As for claims that an escalator cannot be restarted without an extensive technical check, here’s a counter example.  A few days ago, at Broadview Station, the oft-stopped escalator was restarted by someone who just arrived on the scene, inserted a key to start it, and then wandered off again.  So much for a complex inspection, just another of those wonderful TTC excuses for not providing good service.

Southern Etobicoke and The Queensway

Mark Dowling sent in the following note in response to the item on Park Lawn Loop:

Where do you stand on a Queensway ROW west of Humber Loop?  I know ridership on 80 is dismal but so is the service.  The street is wide and to my mind screams for LRVs or Citadis 302s bombing along between Roncesvalles and Sherway at 2x bus stop lengths with all the toys – next-car displays, signal priority and the like – giving a real “subway-like” service as opposed to the joke our Mayor cracked in relation to St Clair.

The residential developments at Sherway and along the Queensway would, I believe, generate a decent ridership if decent service was offered. Who knows, it might even pull in some park and ride traffic from the Gardiner?

Steve:  First off, The Queensway as far as Kipling is an “Avenue” in the Official Plan, and it is also shown as a Transit Priority corridor all the way to Brown’s Line (as is Lake Shore).  You would never know this from the sort of service offered in that part of the world or the total absence of planning for improvements as part of the TTC’s LRT studies.

Southern Etobicoke has a huge amount of redevelopable land — old industrial property, strip malls, parking lots — and there are also big possibilities up at the Six Points.  However, if we keep pumping out the message that this part of the world won’t be developed soon, if ever, from our own Planning Department, transit will continue to ignore this part of the world as well.

To answer your question, yes, an LRT service along The Queensway would be a great addition to the network, assuming redevelopment to support it.

What effect this would have on the Gardiner is another matter.  I think that the car traffic comes from further afield in the 905, and the benefit of new transit services will be to allow growth in population without overwhelming the road system.  However, we must have the will to “invest” in the future of this part of the city just as we hope to do in the eastern waterfront.

Western Waterfront and Park Lawn Loop

This post is extremely long and most of it will be in the “more” section.  I received a copy of a letter addressed to Mike Olivier from David Nagler, the public consultation co-ordinator for the Western Waterfront LRT project.  The discussion is all about “why Park Lawn and not somewhere else” with a few other bits thrown in for spice.  My own comments are sprinkled through the post.

I have edited this slightly to eliminate duplicate information. Continue reading

Meanwhile on the Queen Car

The following comments came in response to my post about travels on St. Clair.  It’s big enough and has enough material to warrant its own thread, so here it is:

This week has been an interesting one.  My morning commute is from Brown’s Line/Lakeshore to Queen/Spadina.  One seat ride on 501 is nice when the cars are running on schedule….

I’m getting a depressing kind of entertainment checking the time ahead/behind when boarding (and leaving if the car isn’t too crowded).

This week, it seems that 501 operators are not trying very hard to keep to schedule.

Tuesday: I go out to catch the regular 8:40 AM eastbound from Long Branch.  It’s signed as run 08/18, and there was one operator who was on this for a couple of board periods who was very good about leaving the loop consistently and arriving at Queen and Spadina no later than 9:35.  On Tuesday, it was a different operator, who arrived at the loop after the scheduled departure time.  She then took her backpack and vanished in the TTC building at the north-west corner of the loop.  Two other 501 ALRVs showed up while she was in there.  Three ALRVs stacked around the loop is a pretty unusual sight!  When she finally came out and pulled up to the loop, CIS was reporting -16 (which was about right); at Queen and Spadina it was still around -15.

Wednesday: after 9AM, waiting for a eastbound 501 streetcar at the 39/40th Streets stop.  And waiting.  A streetcar finally goes past westbound, and does not reappear eastbound for at least ten minutes.  This means it laid over for at least five minutes.  This is run 17; CIS is saying -20 as I board and of course it stops at every stop because people have been waiting for close to half an hour for a streetcar.  At Palmerston and Queen he turns on the four-way flashers and goes off to Starbucks for a coffee.  I think it was -19 at Queen and Spadina.

Today: same operator on the same run 17 goes past westbound; this time it returns eastbound in about five minutes.  CIS is saying -9 when I board.  There’s another ALRV on his tail westbound (run 02); and it stays on his tail eastbound.  We don’t move very quickly across Queen Street (slow bicyclists are keeping up or passing us).  The car is too crowded for me to check the CIS when I leave but I figure we were probably an additional few minutes behind, for a -14 or -15.  Run 02, which was right behind him westbound at Brown’s Line, is right behind him eastbound at Spadina.  As I leave the streetcar, run 17’s rollsigns are being changed to 501 KINGSTON RD & QUEEN.

Now I have been on other 501 runs where the operator is on schedule, or catching up to schedule.  I know it can be done. I ’ve been on other runs where we’re behind, and there’s no effort on the part of the operator to pick things up.  Combine the two, and you get huge gaps and multiple TTC vehicles showing up at the same time.

Steve:  Just think!  The TTC wants to put an LRT service out to the western waterfront.  This shows the sort of marvellous job they are doing of running attractive service now to build ridership.

Once again, I have to ask two questions of both the TTC and the ATU:  Why is it that situations where service runs at the whim of the operator are becoming more and more common, and what is the TTC going to do about it?  Do they even know or care?

There are a lot of wonderful operators out there, and it only takes a minority of bad apples to create havoc for riders and for other operators stuck in the mess.  This has nothing to do with the TTC’s favourite complaint, operation in mixed traffic, and everything to do with an abdication of the need to properly manage the service.