How Many People Will Fit on a Bus?

Many discussions here lately have included comments about building networks of “bus rapid transit (BRT) as the truly low-cost solution to our transit woes.

Meanwhile, the TTC regularly trots out a chart showing the relative capacities of various modes.  This appears most recently in the Environmental Assessment materials for the eastern waterfront projects.  One of the many appearances can be found in the presentation materials for the West Donlands public meeting held last week.  (Warning:  this file is over 11 mb if you are on a slow link.)

The TTC claims that buses can handle demands of 6,000 per hour or more.  Let’s do the math. Continue reading

Unravelling the Discussions

I was astounded at the number and length of responses not just to the Transit City announcement, but to my suggestion that the City walk away from supporting the Spadina Subway extension.

Discussions in those and several spinoff areas have become mixed together, and in the interest of clarity, I am planning to start new, separate threads.  For example, the Waterfront West line belongs in a thread of its own as do some other items.

When these are set up, I will close off comments on the original posts.

Thanks to all who have written.

Spadina Subway? What Spadina Subway?

For three years, we have pretended that the Spadina Subway extension was a worthwhile project.  We hoped that  lobbyists from York University and their pals at Queen’s Park would look kindly on poor little Toronto.  Maybe they would give us more powers in a City of Toronto Act.  Maybe they would actually start paying for social services that are really a provincial responsibility.  Maybe they would give us better, ongoing funding for transit.

Three years of tugging our forelocks and saying “please, sir, we want some more” were a total waste of time.  All of the transit spending and social services budget relief go to the 905 and Toronto gets nothing.

Toronto has new taxing powers, and it should use them.  Build the city with the “revenue tools” we have and stop being so dependent on other governments.

We have been duped into an unworkable formula of 1/3 shares by the federal, provincial and municipal governments.  This makes every project, every funding request, hostage to federal and provincial whims most of which avoid spending on Toronto.  Yes, it’s outrageous that we get less transit funding than cities in any other major country, but we should stop holding our breath for this to change.

Now Toronto needs to make its spending priorities fit a Toronto agenda, not one for Queen’s Park.

The Spadina Subway extension exists for two reasons:

  • The combined force of York University’s lobbying and the Finance Minister’s desire to see a subway into his riding.
  • The long-standing resistance of the TTC to examine and promote any alternatives to subway extensions.

Any realistic examination of “value for money” would have killed this line, and especially the extension into Vaughan, long ago.  Any proper examination of alternatives would have examined an extensive network of LRT, busways and commuter rail to serve this sector.  That debate hides in back corridors because nobody in power wants to challenge the inevitability of a subway to York University and beyond, nobody wants to support a fair analysis of alternatives.

Toronto should withdraw support for the Spadina Subway immediately.

Ontario Budget: More of the Same

The Ontario budget, announced earlier today, contains nothing new to support transit systems around Toronto.  Basically, Queen’s Park is piggy backing on the projects already underway, the same grab-bag of schemes funded by the federal announcement last week.

There is a potload of money under the general heading of “infrastructure”, but no indication of how much, if any, is available for proposals such as Transit City or ongoing funding of transit operations.

Queen’s Park listened to the call to upload some social spending, but only for the 905.  Currently, the 905 municipalities pay part of the cost of social programs in the 416.  This cost will be taken over by the province.  However, none of the costs now borne by the City of Toronto will be assumed, and Toronto is left in just as much of a budgetary mess as they were before this budget.

Clearly, Ontario’s Liberals are going after the same block of 905 voters as the Ottawa Tories on the assumption that we Torontonians will vote Liberal/NDP even if Queen’s Park bleeds the city dry.

Improving Service on the King Car

This week’s TTC agenda includes a report called Improvements to the 504 King Streetcar Service.  You can read the details on the TTC’s site, but here are the high points and my comments on them.

Installation of a temporary reserved right-of-way on a four-to-five block section of King Street as a demonstration project in July and August 2008.

This proposal is modelled on the successful scheme down on Queen’s Quay, although I doubt we will be so lucky as to see bike lanes and geraniums up on King.  It is unclear which section of King would have the trial, although there is a suggestion in the report that it go west of John to pick up the restaurant district.  If so, a 4-to-5 block stretch won’t make it to Yonge Street.

While this will be interesting to see, it will benefit offpeak operations as much as the peak if most of the reserved lane is in the theatre/club district.  However, it’s much harder to justify a reserved lane for the offpeak headway on King  given other interests who will want all four traffic lanes.  The TTC is using peak period demands and headways to argue for reserved lanes, but there are problems in the offpeak as well.

A much more reasonable proposal would have been to ban parking (see below).

Rescind the existing “transit lane” on King from Dufferin to John, and from Jarvis to Parliament, because it isn’t enforced anyhow.  Expand the peak no-parking period from 7:00 to 10:00 am and from 3:00 to 7:00 pm.  Designate King from Dufferin to Parliament as a “transit priority zone” where fines for traffic and parking violations would be doubled.  Expand the use of red-light cameras to include King Street intersections.

I think that the hours of “no parking” need to be expanded.  If we count up the number of spaces on King in the theatre district versus the number of seats in various theatres, it is clear that parking on King itself does not contribute much to the overall capacity for people coming to these venues.  The same argument holds for the restaurant strip west of John.  If we are going to talk about taking space for transit, the easiest source of that space is the parking strip.

Staff to report back on the feasibility and cost of constructing taxi lay-bys on King from Bay to York.

Again, we can use streets to store traffic, or to move it.  If the taxis in the financial district are considered essential, then make room for them so that there are two working lanes each way.  Otherwise, start towing.

Elsewhere in the report, staff note that they have added cars to provide extra capacity above what the Service Standards would otherwise dictate.  Well yes, but that was at least four years ago and riding is still climbing.  This extra service, taking the line down to a 2-minute headway, only operates in the AM peak and is timed to hit the inbound peak through Parkdale and the Bathurst/Niagara neighbourhoods.  The PM peak service remains every 4 minutes.

Congestion on King is not a serious problem in the AM peak.  Indeed, although there is congestion through the core in the midday and afternoon, there is also congestion in Parkdale (any problem on the Gardiner or special event at the CNE), in the Theatre/Club district (evenings from roughly Wednesday through Saturday), and on Roncesvalles Avenue (some weekends).  None of the TTC’s proposals addresses this.

The report claims that a previous scheme for dedicated reserved lanes and closing of King to much traffic was opposed by business owners and some Councillors.  This is understandable considering that a permanent installation is an all-day affair and the level of off-peak service on King is not all that frequent.  As I said above, it also gets tied up in areas other than the core.

There is a fascinating table showing riding on the King car from Dufferin to Parliament, and the PM peak from 5:00 to 6:00 (3040 riders)  is nearly as high as the AM from 8:00 to 9:00 (3450) even though there is less service.  Note that on a 2-minute headway, there are only 30 cars per hour, and obviously we are getting good turnover of passengers and bidirectional traffic to get that many riders per car, especially in the PM.

The transit market share on King is at or above 60% from Strachan to Yonge hitting a peak around 70% at Spadina.  I wonder how much higher it would be if we could fit more people on the service?

Transit City: All Those Comments

As regular readers here will know, I have had a running correspondence with several people about the fine details of engineering various parts of the Transit City proposal.  Enough already.  The issue is that this is a proposal for a network to get people talking about what transit can do on a large scale.

Yes, there are details to be worked out for various sections, but it’s not my job to run a one-man mini-EA for each route.  People get paid a lot of money to do that and I’m sure Transit City will keep them in small change for years.

I have a few comments still in the hopper about alternate routes and technologies, and these will be answered in due course.  However, I will henceforth delete without mercy [you have to imagine mad cackling laughter here] comments asking me about details of engineering various stations and bridges, among other things.  I think that’s been done to death, other readers are probably getting bored, and I have better things to do with my time.

To all of you who have commented, many thanks even if I don’t agree with you.  At least there is a conversation going on here.

Let’s not turn Transit City into an exercise in Toronto negativism where people spend their time finding all the things that might be wrong with a proposal and concentrate instead on how we can build a better transit system.

Budget Proposes Changes to Transit Tax Credits

The following text is taken from the budget announcement.  You will have to scroll down to find this heading because the page is not indexed.

Public Transit Tax Credit

Budget 2006 proposed a non-refundable public transit tax credit for the cost of monthly public transit passes starting July 1, 2006. Budget 2007 proposes to strengthen this measure on two fronts.

Electronic Payment Cards

Since the introduction of this credit, several transit authorities have developed proposals for the introduction of cost-per-trip electronic payment cards. The requirements for the existing credit do not accommodate these proposed cards.

Budget 2007 proposes to extend the eligibility for the public transit tax credit to accommodate these electronic payment cards. Under this proposal, the cost of an electronic payment card will be eligible for the credit if:

  • the cost relates to the use of public transit for at least 32 one-way trips during an uninterrupted period not exceeding 31 days, and
  • that transit usage, and cost of those trips, are recorded and receipted to the purchaser by the relevant transit authority, in sufficient detail as to allow the Canada Revenue Agency to verify eligibility for the credit.

A one-way trip will consist of an uninterrupted trip between the place of origin of the trip and the destination.

This measure will apply to electronic payment cards issued after 2006.

Weekly Passes

There may be instances where low-income individuals are unable to afford the financial outlay associated with purchasing a monthly pass. Even though they are regular transit riders, they may purchase a series of weekly passes.

Budget 2007 proposes to extend eligibility for the public transit tax credit to accommodate weekly passes where an individual purchases at least four consecutive weekly passes. For the purposes of this measure, weekly passes will include passes that provide a passholder the right to unlimited public transit use within a period of between 5 and 7 days.

Individuals making claims will be required to retain their receipts or passes for verification purposes.

This measure will apply to weekly passes valid for use after 2006.

I am not quite sure how the first measure will actually be implemented because the most likely way a Smart Card will work will be to operate as a limited-time pass.  In effect, you get to ride for some period of time within some bounded area.  This is necessary because the computing and monitoring required to figure out when one “trip” ends and another “begins” is quite daunting in a free-transfer system like the TTC.  Such a capability would significantly increase costs and raise concerns about trip monitoring as an invasion of privacy.

Making Weekly Passes part of this scheme is a welcome and overdue addition.  Now, can we look forward to multiple-trip fare media such as GO’s 10-trip tickets?