Jumping The Queue [Updated]

The new 29 Dufferin service described below was approved without debate at the TTC meeting on January 31.  Like some who have commented on this post, I look forward to the creative writing in the six-month review of the trial service.  It’s good to know that influential members of Council can get service to a location with zero demand while people are freezing in the cold from inadequate service.  Maybe the Councillor will champion significant additional funding for TTC operations in this year’s budget.  We shall see.

Here’s the original post: 

Last September, at the urging of Deputy Mayor Pantalone, the TTC approved the extension of the 29 Dufferin bus through the CNE to serve the new BMO Field soccer stadium.  This will not just be a special event service, but an all-day operation.  Every second bus will run south from Dufferin Loop, across the top of the CNE grounds via Saskatchewan Road and Manitoba Drive (past the existing streetcar loop) to a loop just north of Princes’ Gate. 

It should be noted that the Dufferin bus will not pass much closer to the new stadium than the existing streetcar service, and Ontario Place will still be a healthy hike from any transit service.

This wouldn’t be news to anyone except for one thing:  the estimated annual cost will be $350K, but this will be offset by reallocating service from the existing Dufferin route or from other parts of the system.  One or two additional buses will be required at all times of the day, and as we well know, there’s nothing to spare elsewhere in the system.

Try telling this to the residents of northeastern Scarborough who, after a deputation at the TTC last year, were told that the earliest they could get more service, or in some cases any service, would be September 2007 when Mayor Miller’s 100 new buses will start rolling into town.

I suppose that if we built the soccer stadium in Scarborough, we would already be extending the RT to serve it day and night whether anyone was actually there or not.

I have no problem with serving special events at the CNE grounds, regardless of where they are located or what market they serve.  When we start taking service away from the existing system during peak periods for a new full-time service, a line has been crossed.

The list of routes where service is inadequate but where improvement is thwarted by a combination of fleet size, available operators, and the pig-headedness of the City Budget process, is very, very long.  When one Councillor gets service reallocated to serve his pet project, that’s an abuse of the transit system.

This proposal should be scrapped.

Five Ways To Improve the TTC

Over at spacing wire, Craig Cal has a piece about TTC makeovers.  It includes Liz Clayton’s photo of Lower Bay Station that shows it more or less in original form allowing for the various tests of wayfinding schemes on the floor.

Recently, I was asked for my own “five ideas” on how to improve the TTC, and to ensure that they don’t vanish into the mist completely, here they are.  Intriguingly, both our lists start with the same thing:  Service.  We diverge after that, but it’s understandable considering my strong orientation to the political, and Craig’s focus on design.  Neither better than the other, just different.

Most of this you have read before, including in some recent posts, but I thought it could be worthwhile putting it in one concise place.

1.  Service. 

Remember that the only way to gain a political constituency for anything, especially for funding, is that people like the product you are providing.  I get emails and feedbacks on my site that are real horror stories about botched operations, huge gaps and inadequate service, and these are not just rants from people who will never be happy.
Too often the TTC runs service for its own convenience, not for the passengers.  This leads to my next point.
2.  Stop pretending that we can make do with a bit more. 

We have been doing this for years, and have dug a very deep hole from which escape would be difficult even in an environment where people are trying to move to transit despite its failures.  Even this year, the vaunted Ridership Growth will come very late in the year, and much of the effect will come in 2008.  Moreover, the 100 new buses that were supposed to provide better service will partly be eaten up by the large backlog of requirements just to bring existing services up to par, never mind improving them.
When there isn’t enough service on the street, buses are crowded, loading delays are a big problem, passengers are cranky, and operators are less than thrilled.  Line management, even if it were spectacularly good, is on a treadmill of always trying to catch up with problems caused by crowding delays.
“A bit more” is a stand-pat recipe that will see the system in worse shape four years from now than it is today.
3.  Stop pretending that the only way to fix service is with reserved lanes. 

This is not going to happen on most streets in Toronto, and the TTC has to make the service work with the road space we have available.  This is a classic TTC dodge of claiming that whatever the problem, there’s nothing they can do.  This has the perverse effect that they now argue that they really should not put more vehicles on the street because they will just get stuck in traffic and won’t carry any more riders.
If we take this to its logical conclusion, we should just stop thinking about more service.
4.  Stop waiting for Ottawa. 

Aside from the fact that Ottawa is not really a player on the transit scene, we have to recognize that any funding policy they create must work for all of the major cities in the country.  Only a few of them have transit systems on our scale, and this means that mega$$$ will go to a handful of areas all of which are notoriously unfriendly to Ottawa.
Queen’s Park and Toronto have to get back to funding transit on their own hook.
5.  Start concentrating on the transit network, not a handful of megaprojects. 

People who criticize transit love to say that the private sector could do it better.  Well, the private sector wouldn’t build lines like Sheppard and Spadina/York/Vaughan unless the public sector guaranteed them a whacking great subsidy.  For example, the additional riding generated by new developments along the Sheppard line don’t come close to producing enough fare revenue to offset the cost of running the line, and of course contribute zero to the huge debt incurred to build it.
We have a dichotomy with an Official Plan that spreads growth out over the Avenues, but the majority of the funding and the TTC’s real priorities seem to be stuck on two $2.5-billion subway extensions — Spadina and Sheppard East.
I know that I beat the drum for LRT a lot, but the fundamental problem is that gigantic subway projects crowd everything else off of the table for funding.  They produce requests for gigantic special subsidies to Ottawa ($650M for the Spadina line) that will not show up as better service for anyone for a decade.  I have heard that there are even problems at Queen’s Park where the Sorbara Subway is crowding out funding requests from other government initiatives.

When we talk about networks, everyone is content to talk about smart cards and cross-border 905/416 travel.  The big problem is that there is no serious initiative to improve service either in the 905 or between the 905 and 416 except for, maybe, some GO rail changes further down the road.  These do nothing for travel within the outer Toronto suburbs as well as the part of the 905 that is dense enough to support some transit.