My Little Jaunt to Forest Hill

This evening, I attended a concert at Grace Church in Forest Hill.  Because I was coming from Mt. Pleasant and Eglinton, the logical way to get there was to go to St. Clair Station, take the 512 bus, and then walk north on Russell Hill.  My experience shows that the TTC still doesn’t get it. 

I arrived at the Pleasant Boulevard loop in time to see the 7:25 South Leaside trip sitting on the platform.  No St. Clair bus.  After a 10 minute wait, one arrived, but it parked down at the far end of the loop for a crew change.  About 5 minutes later, a second bus arrived and parked behind the first one.  It was now 7:40 and I was in danger of missing my concert.

I walked out to St. Clair and Yonge (if I got really lucky, the first bus might make it to the stop by the time I got there), and found that a third bus was coming east on St. Clair.  This means that 3 of the 4 buses on the route (on a 7 minute headway no less) were at one end of the line.

I took a cab.

The TTC is fond of telling us how it will build ridership for new rapid transit lines by running really good surface routes in anticipation.  The 190 Rocket from Don Mills Station to STC is a good example, and ridership is building up on this route (although to nowhere near subway levels). 

The service on St. Clair is a disgrace that bears absolutely no relationship with the schedule.  This is not the first time I have found packs of buses and seen long layovers at St. Clair Station.  Please don’t tell me about traffic congestion.  There was none.  If anything, the TTC is driving riders away from St. Clair, a line that is to be the shining example of what we can do with LRT.

Memo to both the TTC and the ATU:  Better service means more riders.  “Better” includes properly managed, well-spaced, predictable service.  More riders means more justfication for expanding the system, and more work for union members.

Also, someone might like to take down the timetable for the Christie bus as well as the handwritten sign telling people that both the Christie and Vaughan buses will take them along St Clair.  They don’t run to St. Clair Station any more.

22 thoughts on “My Little Jaunt to Forest Hill

  1. Steve

    It is my belief that if more of the mid and senior management people that make the decisions in the TTC rode the system, we would have a far better transit system.  Instead of the TTC providing parking spaces for these people at work, provide a better transit operation to the City of Toronto.

    If some of the transit decision makers were to stand at Queen and Young at 5pm on a weekday and not see a streetcar in sight, either way, what would that tell them?  If they see three buses out of four at one end of the line, what would that indicate?

    If they had to stand on St. Clair and try and find where the temporary bus stop has been moved to, because of the ongoing construction, would that get some action?  They might find it on a traffic delineator, on a temporary pole set back 3’ back on some ones lawn, or maybe not even marked.

    If they could actually see and be dependent on the results of their management of the transit service, then we might actually see changes to our transit system that would provide a service to its citizens, much like it did when it was created in 1921!


  2. Steve: I fully agree with you on this.

    My lack of reliable service on the 501 Queen westbound from Coxwell has led me to avoiding the service at nearly all costs.

    If I’m trying to plan a way across the city on surface routes, I don’t want to be left with the crap shoot of figuring out if “Frequent Service” on one route is the same as “Frequent Service” on another. I’ve told visiting friends that FS on the timetables doesn’t stand for frequent service – rather “effing slow”.

    Ideally I’d like the TTC to stop covering their backsides with “FS” on the timetable. If it means 10 minutes or less, some route manager should be far more accountable. If the MTA can put the actual times of their buses travelling down 5th Avenue (and others) in Manhattan, does the TTC not have enough confidence (or wherewithal) to do likewise on their routes?

    In many ways I’m happy that Adam Giambrone became the TTC commissioner – as he takes the TTC to City Hall & to Davisville. Somewhere before the election someone mentioned that one day a month councillors should be required to take use the TTC for their daily activities. Maybe then we’d finally get some movement on things.


  3. Aside from the problem in terms of real numbers, there’s also a psychological aspect to all of this.  Not as bad as St. Clair I imagine, but when I’m waiting at College and Spadina for the 510 to get anywhere south of King, I always see 3 or 4 bunched up King cars go by, even more Spadina cars going in the opposite direction, but nothing that I can use for a good 15 minutes or more.  It sucks seeing passenger after passenger get on, but you’re stuck standing there wondering if your non-short turned car is ever going to come.

    It gets to a point where I feel like screaming because it’s apparent that it’s not just a lack of cars, but severely bad line management.

    Steve:  One consistent thread in comments and observations about short turns going back three decades is that the people managing the lines worry more about keeping cars (and operators) on time than on providing good service.  One might argue that they are doing the best with what they’ve got, but this leads to the obvious question of why the TTC always thinks that just one more service cut won’t hurt a bit.


  4. There have been suggestions that the TTC ought to have Station Managers (something I had always assumed they did have) to keep stations ‘in order’ (ensure escalators work, notices are up-to-date etc.).  But, there already are, I think, route supervisors.

    Your adventures on St Clair (not, unfortunately, a surprise) seem to show that either these people are ineffective or maybe spread too thin or possibly only work during rush hours.

    Steve:  Actually, most route supervision is done via computer monitors tied to a radio tracking system on the buses.  This assumes that anyone is paying attention and actively trying to manage the route. 

    The TTC is always “crying poor” and the figures clearly show they do need more money but there also seems to be a major problem with the managerial structure as construction projects take for ever (think Broadview), stations are a mess and schedules are ignored.  The TTC undoubtedly has many dedicated staff, at all levels, but lack of funds cannot be the excuse for everything.

    Chairman Adam maybe needs to look into the organizational structure and shake things up a bit.


  5. I hear you completely Steve,

    There are many times when I attempt to get from my house @ College & Spadina to Yonge St. and I see 4 or 5 westbound cars pass me and end up walking to Yonge because of a lack of eastbound streetcars.


  6. I had the same experience recently at Eglinton station at midnight on a Saturday night – nowhere near a peak travel time.  My partner and I arrived at 12.05 and had just missed the 61 which was supposed to leave at 12.06.  Luckily the 32 and 32C also get me home.  The 32C was scheduled at 12.08, 12.20 and 12.32.  The 32 was scheduled at 12.20 and 12.44. Given that it was wet out and a 15 minute walk home, we opted to wait the few minutes to the next bus.  Two buses pulled into the station around 12.10.  They unloaded their passengers, put ‘out of service’ up and then pulled around the corner to wait, away from the passenger area.  At 12.35, like Steve on at St. Clair station, we gave up waiting and decided to walk.  Ten minutes later, when we reached Avenue Rd., we still hadn’t seen a bus.

    We live ten minutes from a subway station and while I’m a dedicated transit user, my partner usually finds it easier to drive where he needs to go. He was only on the TTC that night because I pushed for it. Given the lack of service, it will be awhile before I can convince him to take the TTC again.

    I just don’t understand how the TTC can be proud/happy with providing this level of service. Or how they get away with it.


  7. Time to get a car folks!! Like the rest of us who gave up on the TTC in our late teens and early 20s, join the club!  This is why when it comes to the TTC, I only take subways.

    Steve:  One of my reasons for posting these horror stories is to emphasize to the TTC that they have to make surface operations work if their system is going to be attractive to people who don’t live at subway stations.


  8. Steve and fellow riders

    In light of all of the above comments about bad service, I have to say that I actually experienced a good TTC trip this past Sunday on Eglinton.  But the point that I wanted to make was that I am so accustomed to bad service that I gave myself more than an hour to get where I needed to go.

    Imagine my shock when I arrived with 30 minutes to spare! I had no idea what to do with myself!


  9. How late do Avenue Road buses run on Saturdays? If I’m going into that area from Eglinton, I try to intercept that bus, it’s a bit of a walk, but much more convenient then St. Clair.

    Steve:  The Avenue Road bus runs until a bit after 10 pm on Saturdays, but evening service is every 40 minutes, one of those hopeless cases where it gives the TTC a line on the map and little more.  Sunday service is half-hourly, with 40 minute service in the early evenings.

    As someone who frequents that church regularly in a musical capacity on Sunday mornings, I thank God I come from Bloor West Village and don’t have to deal with the buses.

    (Hint, anyone coming from St. Clair West station is better to go out the Heath St. entrance and walk it.)

    Oh, and Gilbert, you ask how they get away with it, the answer is simple.  Toronto probably has the highest rate of reelecting incumbents in the country over all levels of government.  Until this city as a collective whole develops a backbone and doesn’t take crap from any politician, this is what we’ll have to get used to.  Voters never make mistakes, and our elected officials prove it every day.


  10. I too had a gruelling jaunt to Forest Hill, at the end of November.  I live at Yonge and St. Clair and needed to get to Spadina north of Lonsdale for an appointment on a weekday afternoon.  I didn’t wait long for the St. Clair bus but entered another dimension once inside St. Clair West station.

    I arrived five minutes before the Forest Hill bus was scheduled to arrive.  After waiting 15 minutes, I asked the collector if he knew if the bus had left early.  He couldn’t tell me.  I asked if he knew if the next one would be on time.  He couldn’t tell me. I  waited until the next scheduled bus (they run every 20 minutes) which also never arrived.  It just never came.  And the previous bus seemed to have vanished into thin air.  Did it come and go early?  Aliens?

    There was absolutely NO information available.  Should I take a different bus?  Should I walk, take a cab?  A little bit of information might help me make that decision and keep my appointment.

    When I explained to the collector how long I and others had been waiting, he told me that was “nothing,” that people waited more than an hour for the same bus the day before.

    I missed my appointment.

    Steve:  So nice that the TTC has well-informed, helpful staff.  Some try, but many don’t and the culture encourages the “that’s nothing” attitude you described.


  11. My horror story comes from the 99 Arrow Road.  I was out in the Sheppard/Arrow area on a Sunday, and noticed that the 99 was running, so I waited at the stop for it, when I knew it had made its 20 minute cycle around, as I wanted to connect to the Finch bus, and I liked the novelty of taking that peculiar route.

    The bus driver that day saw me, I walked closer to the curb, but the driver sped up and left me there.  I called the regular info line and asked if this bus is supposed to pick up passengers (it’s purpose, I guess, being a driver shuttle to Arrow garage).  Indeed, this is a public route, and I was told to call customer service on the next weekday.

    The fact that the driver saw me and purposely avoided me I think is one example of some TTC employees not giving any consideration to their customers.  Seeing buses laid up (this happens to me as well on a regular basis) when crowds of people are waiting for buses that have not shown up is just one more example.


  12. Is it just me, or do TTC drivers bunch up their buses on purpose? Once during rush hour I was taking the 35 Jane bus northbound to my home, and as usual there were 2-3 buses leaving at the same time. However, everytime my bus stopped at a traffic light there would be another Jane bus right beside it, and the drivers talked to each other through their windows until the light turned green. It makes me wonder if those two drivers wanted to socialize with each other rather than keep a good headway.

    Do TTC drivers really need route supervisors to tell them that 3-4 buses of the same route, shouldn’t be leaving at same time from a station? Isn’t that just common sense, or is there a reason they do so?

    Sean M, I know what you mean. I was in a similar situation as you. A couple of years ago, I was waiting for a 79 Scarlett Rd. bus on Runnymede. The driver stopped and picked me up. However, for some odd reason, she confiscated my student metropass and student card and stopped the bus for almost half a minute. When she finally realized it was real, she unhappily gave the cards back to me. A week later I wait at the same bus stop and it was the same TTC driver. This time, she saw me and did the same thing that driver did to you. She decided to speed up and pass right by me. Gee, I don’t know what I did wrong, but she didn’t like me!

    My point is that the TTC cannot grow and be seen as attractive if service on surface routes are unreliable, and if some of the TTC employees are just plain jerks to customers. For a TTC passenger, one bad experience is enough for someone to give up and use another mode of transportation, such as the car.


  13. While I too have had some horrible experiences waiting for buses that seem to never show up, much less approximately when they’re scheduled to, I hope everyone remembers all the times that taking transit isn’t a horror story.

    Heaven knows that service can improve, and communications from the TTC can only get betterm since right now it’s non-existent, but 95% of the time I know it’s going to take me 40 minutes on the subway (North York to Bloor to Royal York) and 10 minutes on the bus to get home, with a few minutes lee-way to make the connection.

    When it doesn’t work out, it’s very frustrating, but it’s also rare.

    Steve:  The problem I have is with the average rider’s definition of “rare”.  Remember that even if the service is great 90% of the time, if all you do is a daily commute, you will have a fouled-up trip one day a week on average (1 of 10 trips).  That’s the trip you will remember.

    Yes, it’s a high standard to expect the TTC to work well over 95% of the time, but for many riders, especially those whose trips, unlike yours, are primarily on surface routes, even 90% would seem like a miracle.


  14. I was directed to this website by Ed Drass after cc’ing him on an email written to Joe Mihevc.  For those of you that read the article Ed wrote today (Tuesday, January 16) there the following quote by Mr. Mihevc:

    “they’re just so happy to see the streetcars back” (they referring to commuters along the line).

    And to this I say a big HELL NO!

    Here is an excerpt from my letter to Mr.Mihevc:

    “What I cannot fathom though is the thought process behind your ridiculous comment (quoted above).  Do you honestly think that people are HAPPY to get OFF the streetcar, and wait in the cold for a bus that is either packed or takes forever to come.  If you honestly feel that way Mr. Mihevc, you need to give your head a shake.  I, for one, would MUCH rather see an increase in buses running straight through for the DURATION of the construction.

    “So, please, for the sake of all of us who are living through this terrible mess, think about the logistics of what you are stating.  I most certainly AM NOT SO HAPPY that the streetcars have returned.

    Bring back the buses!”

    Maybe it’s just me, but I find it an incredible nuisance to get off the streetcar and onto a bus (that is, if it is there) to continue my trip.  Would others not prefer to just get on a bus and get off at Yonge and be able to continue their commute without the headache of trudging from one spot to another and waiting for who knows how long?

    They want to put in a right of way — Fine, I will not complain.  They want to cause traffic congestion around the entire area — okay, that sucks, but I will not complain.  They want to force me to get off a streetcar and lug myself over to a bus — even then I don’t complain — but how dare Mr. Mihevc say that we are “so” happy to have to do this?

    Because there haven’t been any complaints doesn’t mean we are happy — it just means that we’ve given up the fight.

    I encourage everyone reading this to email Joe and let him know that you are OH NOT SO HAPPY about this change.

    Steve:  The really amusing part is that this interim arrangement of bus and streetcar was supposed to be designed so that the two services actually met each other for easy connections.  Someone forgot to tell the people writing the schedules and the advertising copy that it doesn’t quite work like that.  Here is a direct quote from the TTC’s own Service Changes page:

    “Starting Sunday, January 7, 2007, streetcar service will return to St. Clair Avenue, between St. Clair West Station and Gunns Loop (Keele Street).  Replacement buses will continue to provide service between St. Clair West Station and St. Clair Station (at Yonge Street).  Buses and streetcars will be timed to connect at St Clair West Station.  Service will operate every three to four minutes during the peak periods, and every five to ten minutes at all other times.”

    This entire project is a textbook example of how to piss off an entire neighbourhood about transit, drive away ridership and forever sour other parts of the city on embracing similar undertakings.  Joe Mihevc has got to stop spouting the “everything is beautiful” party line.


  15. It’s sad that I feel like I’ve freed myself from all this — I’ve moved to Yonge and Lakeshore and work in the TD Centre; rarely any need to use the TTC.

    I used to live in the east end and was so frustrated by the inconsistency of TTC service.  Now I just walk and thank god for the city that zones new highrises so I can live close to work and have affordable housing (relatively).

    I was recently in Detroit where an unbelievable freeway system takes you wherever you want to go, whenever you want to go.  I won’t recommend this for Toronto but the “on call” nature of the local freeway on-ramp is a concept the TTC could learn from.


  16. Speaking of bunching buses – and drivers chatting away.

    Tuesday around 5 I was heading Northbound on Coxwell with the 22.  First thing I noticed is my driver has an iPod bud in his left ear.  We get to Lower Gerrard, and after everyone’s finishing boarding the light has turned yellow – and the driver hammers through a yellow/red light.  But does he stop?

    No.  He stops his bus on the other side of the intersection, opens the door, runs across the street and knocks on the window of the other bus going the other way.  The conversation appeared incredibly cordial for a good minute or two – with shoulder pats through the open window.  Then he jaywalked back against the flowing traffic and got back on the route.

    I ended up being slightly late for work, since I missed my subway connection.

    I was in a hurry to try to catch the subway and I didn’t get the bus or trip number.  Drivers, you get breaks – esp at Coxwell – so please use your time to fraternize then … not while I’m taking your route.


  17. For all the TTC’s faults, I will say that it is still better than driving a car.  Even here in Kitchener, where bus service is no more frequent than every 15 minutes during rush-hours, off the main line, I am only keeping hold of a car to maintain flexibility while I take my newborn daughter to her mom’s work and her Early Years preschool program.

    Kitchener is built far more for the automobile than Toronto, with transit trips taking twice as long than an automobile trip, but I look forward to the day when I can let go of my car keys for one key reason:

    between car payments, insurance, gas and maintenance, even with the cost of purchasing a transit pass, leaving the car behind will save me $700 per month.

    And when visiting Toronto, I always deposit my car at one of the fringe parking lots and take the subway or a streetcar downtown.  I haven’t missed an appointment yet (knock wood).


  18. Hi; This may not really fit here but in your comment on my post above you say that route supervision is done centrally but in that case who are the older TTC guys (usually) in hats (almost always!) who stand at downtown corners and seem to give orders for short turns etc.?  (Strangely, they seem more common on streeccar routes and I actually think I have never seen one of them dealing with a bus!)

    Steve:  They are ROute Supervisors, but their problem, as it has been for decades, is that they can only guess at the conditions that will exist when a car they short turn actually gets to its destination, and they have no control over how the service comes back into the centre of the city.  In theory, that sort of management should be possible centrally with CIS.

    From reading your excellent site I am learning a lot about TTC, the most ominous thing seems to be that any plannng is done in the almost total absence of meaningful or up-to-date statistics of ridership.  Maybe sometime you might feel like dealing with planning and scheduling and then how these schedules are maintained/monitored?  Very best wishes


    Steve:  Many thanks.  I will probably turn my attention to that as part of a larger work in progress on line management in general. 


  19. “I will probably turn my attention to that as part of a larger work in progress on line management in general.”

    I look forward to that!  Line management is one of those topics that seems so simple, yet there are so many different issues that people don’t think to consider.  I want to believe that the TTC is doing the best it can under an awful financial situation but, sadly, I can’t help but think that a lot of the problem is managerial incompetance.

    Greatly enjoy the site and keep up the good work.


  20. What I find intriguing about the St. Clair station at Yonge is that inside, on the stair going down from St. Clair, is a sign saying pwople wishing to go to the Macdonald’s restaurant may do so and return into the station without paying again.

    I take this to mean that anyone who carries a burger wrapper into the station may ride for free?

    Steve:  This is left over from days when the original restaurant had doors opening to both the paid and unpaid areas.  I wonder how they will integrate this with a smart card system.  Just wave that burger at the turnstile and it will smell where you’ve been?


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