St. Clair Update – Almost, But Not Quite

I wandered up to St. Clair West Station today to check out the current signage situation.  On the bus/streetcar platform level, I found a forest of signs pointing me to the eastbound bus stop inside of the station.  Hurrah!  Hurrah!  An indoor connection.  I was amazed at how few people got on with me, but all was soon revealed.

The bus took a circuitous route to get itself eastbound on St. Clair:  Leave by the west ramp (the east one is still closed for construction), south on Bathurst, northwest on Vaughan, east on St. Clair (bypassing the hordes waiting at the eastbound stop at least some of whom probably wanted to go to Yonge Street), and thence to the south entrance to the station.  That’s where the big crowd of eastbound passengers was waiting.

Didn’t they see all the signs?

Well, no, they didn’t.  People getting off a train come up to the mezzanine where there are NO signs telling them that the bus is back inside the station, and they trudge out to the south entrance as they have for months.

Maybe when they finally get the east ramp open, someone will think to put up signs telling people NOT to go out the south exit because the next bus along will be the night bus.

Meanwhile, the beginnings of overhead construction are underway.  How they will get the work done by February 18th in this weather I do not know.  But the real kicker is that the overhead hangers are incompatible with pantograph power collection.  At least on Spadina we got modern overhead, but on our new, premier example of LRT, we get overhead that would be at home in the 1920s.

Maybe we could save the expense and just run horsecars.


Photo courtesy of Harold McMann.

The Myth of Fuel Cell Buses (2)

Recently, I wrote about the proposal by one neighbourhood group at the waterfront to use hydrogen fuel-cell buses in place of LRT.  Many thanks to all who contributed feedback to that piece.

This item contains a lot of technical bumpf and calculations.  If anyone finds an error in this, please let me know and I will be happy to correct it, even if that worsens my own argument.  I would like some real information to be “out there” on the issue rather than a lot of hype. Continue reading

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.

The Myth of Fuel Cell Buses

There are times that the hot air surrounding transit technology forces my hand, and I have to take a stand on what really should be a marginal, non-starter of an issue.

In reviewing possible transit services in the eastern waterfront, one group, the Central Waterfront Neighbourhood Association (CWNA), is advocating not just that we use buses in place of LRT, but that we use hydrogen-fuelled buses.  Their presentation material includes a PowerPoint from Ballard Power Systems who have been trying for years to make a go of this technology. 

According to a Ballard press release dated October 23, 2006, there are only 36 buses operating worldwide that have, collectively, operated over 1.5-million km of service.  Let’s put that in context.  In 2005, the TTC bus fleet averaged just under 70,000 km/vehicle, or 2.5-million km for 36 buses.  That is over 60% more than the total mileage operated by all of the Ballard buses running worldwide.

Meanwhile, worldwide interest is focussed on hybrid diesel-electric buses on which a diesel generator powers an electric motor through a power storage system.  Hundreds of these vehicles are running in many cities, and the TTC already has 90 of its first 150-bus order in service.

There is no question that small-scale trials of hydrogen buses have been undertaken in many places, but it is unclear how this technology will stack up against diesel hybrids, especially considering that far more work is underway to produce hybrid buses that do not require the special fuelling facilities of hydrogen. Continue reading

Always A Car In Sight (2)

Not long ago, I wrote about the changing level of service on the streetcar system over the past 50 years in Always A Car In Sight.  Just to recap, my intentions were threefold:

  • Show how much service was actually operated and how many people a network of streetcar lines could carry.  If this could be done in mixed traffic, then it certainly could be achieved with some form of reserved right-of-way.
  • Document the changing service levels especially since 1980 first as the TTC saw the heavy streetcar routes as an easy place to save money, and later where service levels threaten the attractiveness of transit service.
  • Demonstrate why the Bloor-Danforth subway is so different from current and recent subway schemes by virtue of the very heavy, established ridership in the corridor the Bloor line serves.

This produced a number of comments as you can see in the post, but a few other points have come up here and in other threads. Continue reading

Greetings for 2007

Here we are on New Year’s Day, although as I write this the effects of a wonderful dinner and bubbly wine (not the genuine article, but bubbly all the same) are limiting my ability to write long complex posts.

I just wanted to wish all of my readers the best for 2007 with the hope that those of you who are in a position to improve transit in Toronto and the GTA will actually do so.  Let’s not wind up a year from now staring at the same problems and wondering how the TTC and the City are ever going to solve them.

Transit can be better if only we will give it the political and financial priority it deserves.