Gas Shortages and the TTC

I received the following comment from Karem Allen who runs the transit_nightmares page on Durham Transit at:

Here is something that never can be studied and is never accounted for:

GAS extreme situations.

My friend and fellow coalition member just called me with the following story.

  • More people were on the GO train then normal- line ups to buy tickets were long as these were brand new riders with no passes or long term tickets. They chose to use transit because perhaps they had not gas or wanted to conserve it. 
  • Upon arrival at Union station they were greeted with broken TTC token machines and out of service lights.

Question– were they down on purpose to force them to pay the cash fare?

Neither systems seem to be prepared to greet the number of people that actually are getting out of the cars.

We will be bringing this incident at the transit forum tonight. People were really mad that they could not buy tokens once they arrived at Union Station.

This is the time to woo the discretionary transit user not drive them away with broken stuff.

Solution could be – more ticket people on hand to cover the increased customer load at both GO and TTC.

Steve:  One thing I have learned in years of looking at large organizations like the TTC is that you should never look for a conspiracy when indifference, bad planning or bad luck can explain a problem.  The real question here is how long the token machines have been down and why.  Can any regular user of Union Station let us know?

I agree that GO and the TTC really need to make an extra effort at times like this, but both organizations have a mindset that they have no spare staff or budget to do anything.  This is dangerous because it can become a strongly entrenched excuse for never even trying.  If the TTC ever reached a point where it had enough funding, enough operators, enough vehicles and no traffic congestion, I am sure they would invent some new reason to explain why the service on Queen Street was still so undependable.

How “Service Standards” Can Kill Transit Improvements [Updated]

Please see the end of this post for additional text. 

Over the past few years, careful readers of the annual TTC Service Plans will notice that more and more requests for new service are denied because they don’t meet the financial criteria.  Today at the TTC we had yet another example, and it’s worth examining to see, in miniature, the problems brought on by blind, formulaic decision-making. Continue reading

Planning for Little Growth

A notorious aspect of TTC budgeting is that ridership projections are stated relative to last year’s budget, not relative to last year’s actual riding.

With a system bursting at the seams, everyone is waiting for the new service coming in the fall when the Ridership Growth Strategy finally starts to kick in.  But, wait a minute, the TTC’s plans are not all they seem to be. Continue reading

Why Scarborough Will Never Have a Rapid Transit Network

This post has been updated by correcting a bad link to the TTC’s site, and by enabling comments. 

The TTC has finally delivered up a report in reply to my deputation last August on the question of why the RT should not be converted to LRT in the context of (a) a larger Scarborough LRT network and (b) the request from the Scarborough Caucus to extend the line into Malvern.  No big surprise.  The TTC really doesn’t want to convert the line.

The report can be found at:

The argument in brief is that there is no customer benefit of a conversion, that it would require a prolonged closure of the line and that the Malvern extension cost would be equal no matter what technology was chosen. Continue reading

Spare Change for Etobicoke?

Two pieces of news caught my eye today, and somehow they seem to fit in the same post.

First up is a report in next week’s TTC agenda about the extension of the Bloor Subway.  At the January 31 meeting, there was a request that staff update information on the planned line in light of a proposed development near the East Mall.  The reply to this can be found on the TTC’s website here:

In this report, we learn that an Environmental Assessment was already approved for this back in 1994, although it is somewhat out of date.   Blowing the dust off of the EA would set us back about $3-million.

The intriguing information is that the estimated cost of the extension in 2007 dollars is roughly $1-billion for 3.7 km to Queensway and The West Mall, and a further $500-million for 1.5 km to get to a Dixie Station in Mississauga.  This translates to $270-million/km to get to West Mall, and a staggering $333-million/km to get to Dixie.  Underground alignments are assumed in both cases, and the report is silent on whether this cost is just for construction or also includes additional subway cars to operate the extended line.

In other news, the Canadian Mint has announced that it will produce a new 100 kilogram gold coin at a face value of $1-million, but with an actual gold content (and price to buy one) over twice that.  There is an article on the Globe & Mail’s website about it here:

although this may not last forever as the Globe tends to archive things fairly quickly.

For all of you who are saving up to build your very own subway line, this might be just the thing you need.  Imagine if people saw a pile of million-dollar coins.  At $270-million/km, or $270,000/metre, each coin would buy (at face value) not quite four metres of subway, or eight metres if you melted it down.

Who needs new tokens?

A Toronto PCC in San Francisco?

Christopher Dunn sent me a link to a few pages dealing with historic streetcar operations in San Francisco.  Everyone knows about the cable cars, but there is a large fleet of antique cars including many PCCs.  The PCC fleet is painted in colours of many different transit systems, one of which is Toronto.

You can read about the F-Market historic streetcar route here:

Be sure to follow all the links to different parts of this site to see the fleet and the sheer effort that has gone into making this an integral tourist attraction and part of the transit system. 

Not to be missed is the section on the “E-line”, the new line on the Embarcadero (the place where they tore down the inner city expressway).  Anyone thinking about how we might build on the waterfront and what transit can look like needs to visit this page.

Oh yes — the “Toronto” car (really ex-Minneapolis by way of Newark) is here:

Revue Cinema Marquee Collapses

This post is for the benefit of those from afar who have an interest in theatres.  The Revue Cinema, closed since last June, suffered a horrible loss on Sunday when its marquee collapsed under the weight of snow and ice.  The Torontoist site has a full writeup and links to photos new and old.

I’ve always loved the Revue and remember learning all about “foreign” films there decades ago.

On Land, On Sea and In The Air!

David Crawford wrote a while ago …

You may want to put [this] somewhere, or on your pile of “interesting but irrelevant ideas”!

I read the TTC Mandate from the City www site today. Makes one wonder why the Toronto Island Ferry is not part of the TTC – I think it maybe used to be? The island ferry service is doubtless something the TTC does not want to take over but water transportation (ie an expanded ferry service) is something which could help move people if it were properly integrated into the public transit network.


The Commission is responsible for the consolidation, co-ordination and planning of all forms of local passenger transportation within the urban area of Toronto, except for railways incorporated under federal and provincial statutes, and taxis.

The Commission’s functions are to construct, maintain and operate a local passenger transportation system, and to establish new passenger transportation services where required. The Commission may also operate parking lots in connection with the transit system, and may enter into an agreement with municipalities or persons situated within 40 kilometers of Toronto, to operate a local transportation service.

Ah yes, the TTC used to have a marine division called the “Ferry Department”.  It was merged into the new Metropolitan Toronto Parks Department in 1954.

Of course, there would be some challenges if this were still a TTC operation. 

  • If the Sam McBride is half way across to Centre Island, and is short turned, do the passengers have to get off?
  • Would crews exchange vessels in the middle of the harbour to get back on time?
  • Would the TTC operate an express ferry to The Beach in competition with the Queen Car, and would it replace the express bus?

Finally, will Swan Boats ply the waters of the Don, and will the TTC go into competition with Porter Air?

TTC Capital Budget

On January 31, the TTC passed an amended version of its capital budget. There is a good PDF of the report including amendments on the city’s website as part of the Budget Committee agenda at:

Some noteworthy amendments:

  • Funding for various studies and Environmental Assessments in support of the Mayor’s transit plans.  This will allow some preliminary work to be done on the proposed network of LRT/Busway schemes.
  • A North Etobicoke rapid transit assessment for which Commissioner Hall (whose ward includes the study area) has indicated a preference for LRT.
  • A Finch hydro corridor study from Yonge to Dufferin (where it would meet up with the York U busway).
  • A study of extending the Bloor-Danforth subway to the East Mall.
  • Funding for the first stage of developing improved customer information systems.

The report details the funding issues and the shortfalls between what is committed by various governments and programs and what is required.  Almost at the end is a chart showing the combined funding requirements of various programs.  Note that it still includes a future Sheppard Subway project because the TTC has not (yet) formally changed their mind on the technology to be used for this.