Mike Olivier sent in a note about San Francisco’s pilot project to improve service quality on the J-Church line, the least reliable of their streetcar services.
“What’s needed for King & Queen is a comprehensive evaluation of the route, much like what San Francisco Muni is doing with the J-Church Pilot Program:”
Today, Monday, March 5, we began a new on-time performance pilot project on the J-Church light rail line. The pilot will be conducted during peak service times over a 120-day period. The J-Church study will conclude on Friday, July 13, 2007. Working together we successfully completed the 1-California pilot, which resulted in an increase in on-time performance from 81% to 88% over the three-month pilot period. I am confident that through our continued collaboration and hard work we can expand this success to the J-Church.
As part of the Transit Effectiveness Project’s (TEP) Early Action Plan, we will apply the findings from the 1-California pilot to a rail line. These projects will help us cultivate our understanding and develop our plans for improving on-time performance system wide.
Our recent on-time performance (OTP) reports reflect that the J has the lowest OTP of the rail lines. I know that working in concert, all divisions will contribute to improving the J-Church.
The pilot will include on-going analysis to compare the pilot performance to the initial data, including collecting weekly data on OTP, vehicle loads, and overall performance of operations and enforcement.
A detailed description of the pilot follows. It includes the project objective, description, and improvement strategies. Thank you for your contributions to the success of the 1-California pilot, and for your daily commitment to keep San Francisco moving.
Objective: Continue to implement the Transit Effectiveness Project’s Early Action Plan by applying the findings from the 1-California to a rail line to strengthen our understanding of how to achieve improved on-time performance system wide
Project description: Multidisciplinary effort to improve the J-Church peak periods service over a 120-day period
Test route: J-Church (average weekday ridership – 18,700; beginning OTP 61.9%)
Pilot begins March 5, 2007 and will conclude July 13, 2007
For the remainder of this text, follow the link above.
The program has been extended by 60 days according to more recent updates on SFMTA’s site. For interesting reading, have a look at the Community Advisory Committee meetings especially April 2007. Comments from the members indicate that many of the problems we have in Toronto can also be found in San Francisco including concerns that poor service management is a culprit in service quality.
What I find most striking about this plan is the clear commitment to make the service work. This involves many aspects of the organization and the city, and a recognition that things actually can be improved. It is not a catalogue of whines about what cannot be done, about how we are too busy, about how department “x” won’t co-operate.
Such an approach is long overdue at the TTC, although I fear we will need the combined pressure of politicians on the Commission and a new Chief General Manager to make it happen.
This exercise should not be used as an excuse to tighten the funding screws in a “see, we told you, then can do better with what they have” fit of self-righteousness. Some improvements may cost money: making sure that there are operators and vehicles available to run all of the scheduled service all of the time means that on some days you will have more than you need, and the bean counters will not be happy.
Keeping service well-spaced will require active intervention and, where necessary, dealing with the minority of operators who abuse the schedules for their own convenience.
Real transit priority will mean taking green time away from cars at some key intersections, and making sure that the priority signals are actually working all of the time.
None of this is particularly difficult provided there is a will to make the system and the service better.
Steve: Reading your excellent blog and the many useful comments clearly shows that the management of the TTC – both the Managers and the politicians – are really not very good at managing the transit network they now have. Are they too involved with planning new services like the subway extension and Transit City or is it simply easier and more fun to work on the “new stuff” and leave the boring old ‘transit operations’ to cope as best they can? Politicians can blame Managers and vice-versa and everyone can blame the Province or the Feds. Route “management” seems to lack the ability (or the facts?) to deal with unforseen bottle-necks and accidents and ideas like splitting the 501 route so well discussed here are not even on their radar. Timetables and routes need to be adjusted to accomodate today’s ridership and the vehicle and driver allocation and spacing must allow a high on time performance – which should be published regularly. Existing technology such as transit priority traffic lights is not utilised everywhere in our “Transit City” and information available to users the ghastly TTC website is both unfriendly and out of date – . (The TTC website is STILL reporting that the 509 is replaced by bus service at 6pm on Tuesday when the streetcars returned on Sunday night/Monday morning.)
I am sure many, or even most, staff and Commissioners want the TTC to do better so perhaps the Commission will do an in-depth survey of one existing route (the 501 or 504 spring to mind) to see what it would cost to run them properly. (Split them? Provide full transit priority? Adjust the mix of vehicles? Add additional curves when doing track reconstruction to allow more flexibility? Adjust the schedules? Adhere to the schedules? Look at where the stops are, do they reflect present user needs? etc etc) I bet they would find they could GREATLY improve service with SMALL changes and small costs. Once they worked out a methodology – being Toronto we would clearly need to invent our own! – they could then look at all existing routes so that the present service works better.
David Crawford said … Existing technology such as transit priority traffic lights is not utilised everywhere in our “Transit City”
The one problem with this is that the vehicle has to be at the intersection and there cannot be any “Left Turning Vehicles” in front of it. One thing that most people do not understand is that the length of many greens, especially on streets crossing Spadina, St. Clair and Queens Quay is not determined by automobile traffic but by the length of time it takes for an elderly pedestrian to cross the street. One thing that might be done is to put a street car only phase before the left turn phase on these streets that sort of happens now on Queens Quay.
Just remember that if you put in too many transit priority signals then you will just screw up the total traffic even worse and that would slow down the transit service by causing grid lock. Balancing the demand amongst all the users on our streets is a delicate process and you could easily make it worse. I am NOT saying “DO NOTHING”; just be prepared to find that they may not have the desired effect. Do the simulations, try some pilot projects and find out where it will work and put it in. But if it makes things worse then don’t do it.
Steve: This is valid as far as it goes, but there are intersections with extremely long green times for motorists that hold up the streetcar service notably at Lake Shore and Spadina, and Lake Shore and Bathurst. The green times there have nothing to do with pedestrians (who often don’t have a useful walk signal most of the time either) and everything to do with auto traffic.
This is one of the cases where I suggested that there be a street car only phases before the “left turns from Spadina phase”. This signal is an anomaly as it has the longest left turn phase, WB Front to SB Spadina, of any light in Toronto. This is caused by the number of cars that wish to go onto the Gardiner. I know that most people don’t want a Front St. extension but maybe there needs to be some sort of ramp from Front and Bathurst to WB Gardiner or some other alternative to using Spadina to get onto the Gardiner. This is one of the intersections in Toronto that is not on the standard downtown cycle time. I don’t know what it is now but it used to be between 80 and 90 seconds in the 70’s. The traffic destined for the Gardiner from Front St. has to find another route to eliminate the problem. If you shorten the turn cycle without doing this then you will create a massive jam on Front and everywhere else near there as the traffic redistributes itself.