MoveOntario 2020 : General Comments

In the interest of breaking up the long thread on MoveOntario, I am setting up various subsections where comments can be left on related topics.  Comments left in the original thread, or in an inappropriate thread in the new scheme, will be moved to their proper place.  Yes, this makes for more work on my part, but you can help by leaving your comment in the correct stream.

This thread will be used for comments that don’t fit anywhere else or talk about the announcement in general.

37 thoughts on “MoveOntario 2020 : General Comments

  1. I think this is a general comment as it regard to modifying two existing streetcar routes. The Transit City plan is a fantastic plan that has a few gaps in service that I think needs addressing.

    Transit City has proposed a Scarborough Malvern Streetcar Line that would start at Kennedy Station travel east on Eglinton, then east on Kingston to Morningside where it would travel north past Sheppard. The current streetcars, 503 Kingston and the limited service 502 Downtowner both travel along Kingston Rd. as far east as Victoria Park (Bingham Loop).

    This leaves a gap with the existing streetcar service and the future streetcar service on Kingston Rd. from Victoria Park to Eglinton East of having no streetcar service. I thought that maybe The number 503 Kingston be extended past Vicoria Park up Kingson Rd on a possible ROW now as far as Eglinton Ave. This would mean the Cliffside Village area of Kingston Rd would have good transit service in their neighborhood.

    The other streetcar the #502 Downtowner doesn’t have to end or start at Bingham Loop either. I was at another TTC meeting when they unveiled a separate plan of where they were going to totally remake the Victoria Park Subway Station. This is different funds then the Transit City funds but couldn’t the new Vic Park Station be serviced by the #502 streetcar. I feel it enhances the service of a station to have the option of a streetcar there as well. I think it will increase ridership by having another option for getting to or getting out of downtown.

    Steve: There is a separate study already underway (before Transit City was announced) of LRT or BRT service in the Kingston Road corridor. Whether this route will make it into the final package, and where it will go (Victoria Park Station or to the existing line at Bingham Loop) is still undecided.

    There are a number of loose ends in the funding announcement that need sorting out. This is a political announcement, not one derived from years of detailed study. I prefer the announcement of the general level of funding rather than endless haggling over specifics of routes that won’t be built for a decade or more. This establishes the principle of solid support for transit expansion without being mired in turf wars about specific lines.


  2. This doesn’t pertain directly to the announcement… but is a thought for a further something.

    Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge is a booming area, with so much growth, particularly in the tech industries. I wonder if it would be feasible to have some sort of a GTA to KW inter-regional service. It could be a GO route (I guess it would have to be), and it would not necessarily have to run often. But I could see a reasonable demand to travel between the regions. It would create an alternative for students at UW and WLU to live at home in the 416/905 and commute to KW for school, and it would create an opportunity for people working in KW to live in the 905 or 416 and commute to work. Of course, it could also work in reverse.

    Has such a scheme been considered at all?

    I guess there is a lot of catching up to do on missed opportunities in the last many years where it is really needed, which is in the GTA… but would not now be a good time for ‘proactive’ planning in some other areas of southern ontario, to prevent the sprawl and ugly highways that are so prevalent here in the GTA? A wise man once said… ‘If you build it, they will come’.

    Steve: The main problem in going to KW lies west of Guelph where the route is single track and not even owned by CN any more. I agree that GO needs to look at expanding the reach of its services, but they probably have their plate full for now with planned and announced expansion.


  3. Here’s a couple of general comments.

    1/ Ontario’s a big province, but this announcement concentrates a lot of money into one rather small corner. Other locales may see this as a big Toronto cash grab and vote against the McGuinty candidates. Ottawa, London and Windsor seem to be shut out.

    Steve: It’s about time we had a major funding announcement for the GTA. Ottawa’s LRT funding is still secure assuming they can ever get their act together. London, Windsor and many other smaller centres fall into the realm of local services which this announcement completely ignored. That’s a major problem for the GTA as well.

    2/ Funding, I thought we didn’t have enough coin in the treasury to eliminate the OHIP surcharge. But we’ve got gold for transit. This isn’t going to play-out well in the right wing press (Toronto Sun). The feds have their hands full dealing with other provinces, especially in the Atlantic. Giving money to fat cat TO never goes over well in the hinterland.

    Steve: Even at its peak, the funding requirement is well below the cost of the health care system of the revenue from the Health tax.

    3/ Electrification, here I thought we had a generating capacity issue. We’re going to get rid of incandescent lights to power GO trains? Like HOV lanes this is not a green initiative. This is more like making a longer tailpipe. We’ll be buying high priced coal generated US power. Or are we going to generate electricity using natural gas building new generating stations throughout the GTA at great cost and expense?

    Steve: The GO Transit engines today use diesel fuel to generate electricity which powers the motors on the engines. One way or another, we consume fossil fuel. If we electrify GO, we gain better acceleration performance allowing us to operate faster and more frequent service. This attracts more people out of their cars. The energy to move people has to come from somewhere, and it’s better that we provide it in the most effective way per rider.

    4/ The extension of GO services further and further from the city encourages urban sprawl. There are still commutes that will require driving.Then there will be commuters who refuse to give up their cars (especially smokers). A few service delays and these commuters will be back in their cars demanding new highways be built.

    Steve: The sprawl is there today and shows no sign of vanishing. The problem is how we can accommodate the travel demands this sprawl creates. One important issue will be the provision of good local bus services so that GO doesn’t have to build gigantic parking lots at every station. The alternative — ignore the problem and it will go away — is simply not viable.

    5/ There’s little in this announcement that deals with existing TTC infrastructure. We could very well still have a crowded platform at Yonge-Bloor station, poor service on King and Queen streetcars for a considerable amount of time.

    I am especially miffed that I didn’t get my private loop at King and Bathurst and express service along Adelaide, so don’t feel bad Steve!

    Steve: Yes, the issue of other TTC services is front and centre as one of the outstanding concerns. However, now that Toronto doesn’t have to ante up 1/3 of the cost of things like the Spadina Subway extension, we have some headroom for other locally funded improvements.


  4. This plan is as important and visionary as the plan that gave us a subway so many decades ago.

    We have to make sure the ball isn’t dropped.


  5. Many commenters –i ncluding Dan, above — have called for GO to expand service to Guelph, K-W, Niagara etc. These are all services that properly should be provided by VIA Rail. There has been some recent advocacy in communities along the “north main line” through Guelph, Kitchener and Stratford to have expanded VIA service, possibly using refurbished RDC vehicles. VIA does already serve at least some regular commuter traffic from Guelph, as well as commuters along the lakeshore from as far away as Kingston.

    Federal governments in general, and the current one in particular, have shown no particular interest in VIA as an alternative to highway travel or short-hop aviation, but that does not mean that it is the province’s responsibility to fill in all these service gaps.


  6. Michael Vanier said :

    “Ontario’s a big province, but this announcement concentrates a lot of money into one rather small corner. Other locales may see this as a big Toronto cash grab and vote against the McGuinty candidates. Ottawa, London and Windsor seem to be shut out.”

    That was precisely my point of a couple of days ago. To restate it slightly differently, and more to the point : WHEN will the Province acknowledge that there are public transit issues in Sarnia, Thunder Bay, Kenora, Bellville, Brockville, etc? How unrealistic is it, say, to actually run a transit service connecting for example Brockville with Prescott?

    This is not as ridiculous as it sounds : Europe has been connecting smaller communities with public transit for decades. Closer to the GTA, how about a more concerted effort for public transit as a viable alternative in say Milton, Orangeville, and Georgetown. Not just GO Transit, ACTUAL public Transit BEYOND the basic Monday to Friday one (maybe two) bus service these communities have?

    Steve: The absence of funding for all sorts of local services in cities that will never have rapid transit (or at best a small BRT installation) is a glaring problem in the announcement. It affects the 416/905 too because without local services to feed the new network, the lines will starve for riders.


  7. The new services like Bolton and Brock Road are infill services and therefore much more sprawl-averse than say an extension into Niagara.

    As for electricity – with electric GO, LRT, subway and hopefully electric VIA in our future the question of supply is crucial.

    The densifying suburbs like Mississauga and, ahem, Vaughan will suck up the power from Nanticoke and Pickering and Bruce that used to pass unmolested into the 416. We need generators in the 416 – wind turbines atop condo towers, solar panels on the sides of the concrete slab edifices and the tops of big box flat roof stores and on the south side of rail alignments, biogas from our green bins.

    But even with all of those we may still need more baseload and peakload supply and politicians who claim we don’t, including a certain MPP in eastern Toronto, should have their bona fides on mass electric transit questioned.


  8. Just wanted to throw in my $0.02 towards Michael Vanner’s comments about the “long tailpipe” problem.

    One thing to keep in mind is that even if we have to buy “dirty coal” power, we’ll still be emitting less than using diesel locomotives. Power plants are generally far more efficient than vehicles at converting fossil fuels to power, and are also more intensely regulated. In addition, it is far easier to control emissions at a stationary power plant than it is on a moving locomotive. And all this is assuming that there is no additional “green” power brought online to meet increased demand.

    Even if more of the power we use through electrification is “dirty” it’s still cleaner than running diesel locomotives.


  9. Steve:

    Your replies to my comments 1, 4, and 5 certainly tie together the one piece that becomes apparent. Many of the existing services be they in the city or suburbs, save for GO Lakeshore are not really being significantly enhanced.

    Also in the 905 comments area your reply regarding “elbowing Via” out of the longer haul routes like Niagara Falls is what I was alluding to in comment 1. There is a significant population base in this province (country) even in Toronto who will not view this announcement kindly. A big Toronto cash grab is what it looks like to the rest of the province.

    My concern is that it will wither and die on the vine as the costs become exposed or as Mr. McGuinty gets cold feet!


  10. Dan: I live in Cambridge, and have done so since 1989, and they were talking about extending the GO train service to Cambridge back then. Every three or four years it appears in the news, but nothing’s happened.

    Lately, the comment has been that GO is considering linking Cambridge to the Milton station by bus. This makes sense, because Milton and the Galt district of Cambridge are both on the same CP main line. However, track improvements and expansion will be necessary before trains can return to the old CP station. Since extra tracks on the Milton line are in the proposal, it’s quite possible that Cambridge will be Phase 2.

    Kitchener will take a bit longer for two reasons: one, as Steve said, the track from Guelph to London is now owned by Goderich-Exeter, a Railtex-owned regional; two, service will have to be re-extended to Guelph before Kitchener benefits. There’s also the problem of the Kitchener train station. There’s hardly any parking, and only one peripheral bus line serves it. The station itself will have to be made more easily accessible, whether by car, bus, or rapid transit, before it’s suitable for further train service. Waterloo can’t realistically be served because it’s only on a one-track branch line and not the main line.


  11. Michael Vanner’s comments “Ontario’s a big province, but this announcement concentrates a lot of money into one rather small corner. Other locales may see this as a big Toronto cash grab and vote against the McGuinty candidates. Ottawa, London and Windsor seem to be shut out.”

    I have to laugh when I read things like this. The GTA has a population of 5 million, fully 42% of the population of Ontario and 16% of the population of Canada. I know everyone out there “hates” Toronto but has it occurred to them that we pay taxes (LOTS of it) too! Frankly we deserve some payback. I just don’t understand why Torontonians/GTAers feel they have to apologize for being the economic engine of the country, and coincidentally the largest political jurisdiction, save for Ontario itself and Quebec.


  12. I hear there’s a new plan for mothball Ontario’s remaining coal powered electric generating plants. It’s not Ontario’s plants that concern me though, it’s the ones in the rust belt, run by private operators that if I recall correctly gave us a rather sudden jolt in August of 2003. The smoke belching locomotives GO currently uses didn’t go anywhere, imagine how useful the electrics will be?

    Please don’t get me wrong I’m not opposed to electric traction, far from it. But the proposal sounds too much like something I’ve heard before.

    After reading some other comments and the proposal, giving them all a little thought. The proposal all seems long on carrots and short on stick. There’s little built in incentives to change behaviours. Think like raising the taxes on smokes, eh? Helps fund health care and gets a few folks to quit.

    The rather evasive answers on tolls. Is the government going to reinstate the parking lot surcharge to reduce the sea of cars found in the great suburban wastelands?

    The lack of detail on how it’s actually going to be funded (we barely balanced the books or didn’t at all depending on who’s version you believe).

    The fact that the legislature has been prorouged, no one can ask detailed questions about the proposal, nor have the proposals been read into Hansard. My suggestion save copies of the proposal offline and check them against what happens when/if Mr. McGuinty forms a government.


  13. Michael Vanner and David Cavlovic

    The 2006 census says that this “small corner of Ontario” that comprises Toronto, Peel, Vaughan, Durham, Simcoe, Halton and Hamilton census divisions total 6.5 million people out of a total of 12.1 million Ontarians. Those 6m people fit in 13,000 sq km (and one third of that is Simcoe). The other 5.6 million Ontarians fit in 890,000 sq km. Some bits are denser than others, obviously.

    That 427,000 people live in Niagara CD might be justification of a sort for transit but it’s not necessarily good news from a sustainability aspect given that that area is some of the best agricultural land and the Escarpment a notably sensitive area. More VIA rail would be fine but that’s one for the feds.

    I didn’t hear anyone from Toronto complaining when the Province and the Feds were lined up to shovel several hundred million at Ottawa for the half-baked LRT before they choked at the last minute (maybe that’s why we weren’t bothered complaining).

    As for places like Sarnia and Belleville – are we to spread transit dollars a little bit at a time, like the transit security scandal where pinprick municipalities are spending thousands of dollars on security assessments just to get matching funds from Ottawa? Most of the people, and the pollution, is in SW Ontario. So is most of the money. Let us get on with it and stow the politics of envy.


  14. Your comments regarding the Tories, PPPs and fiascos seem somewhat skewed. It seems that there is a fairly successful transit operation in York Region that is being operated under contract – which none has said was awarded on the basis of political alignment. The project appears to have been implemented on time – and has not suffered from a backlash from the community.

    On the other hand, we have the TTC St. Clair project – which is much closer to a fiasco in terms of the way the project is being run. We also have the award of the subway car contract without bidding to an outfit with documented ties to the former and current TTC chairs.


  15. Mark Dowling: It’s not really a question of envy. First of all, the GTA should get as much funding as possible: period! I was a Torontonian for 40 of my 44 years and seriously lament it’s current transit situation. As an Ottawan, I was not happy with the LRT proposal that fortunately died a just death. I am also hopefull about the new LRT proposals, but am also worried that it’s as pie-in-the-sky as the McGuinty proposal.

    Your points about population are valid and on the mark. However, it is still an important, albeit secondary, issue to examine transit potentials in areas less populated, (and less polluted so let’s keep it that way). Suggesting something like rural public transit a decade ago would have been considered eccentric at best (even though it did exist at one time : radial railways, or ‘interurbans’). But, our air quality, heck, our whole planet, is at risk of permanent, even fatal, damage. We must entertain all thoughts of eleminating emissions, and long car trips in rural areas are a problem no matter how many or few there are.


  16. Mark your observations about population are correct, except that our electoral system is skewed and badly. The GTA has less than 40% representation in the legislature, which means the other 60% can decide how we are governed. As you noted the pollution problem is in Southwestern Ontario. I think that this thread has more to do with FairVote Ontario than transit see

    London and Windsor record as many or more bad air days as Toronto (mostly due to bad air from the US rustbelt), yet get nothing for transit improvements (and they also have somwhere around 5-7 seats in the legislature for a total population of about 700k). Much of that bad air comes from old dirty coal fired electric generating stations, the same ones we may end up buying power from… such a deal!

    The “outer” GTA (Barrie, Bowmanville/Oshawa, Oakville/Burlington and west) are far more oriented towards building highways and locating their commercial interests next to them then they are in mass transit, which Steve already noted in another post.

    As to why Toronto doesn’t complain about what happened with Ottawa, Toronto’s media is partly to blame. They don’t even know there’s a world beyond Toronto’s borders (I posted some observations about how municipal politics outside Toronto are ignored some months ago).


  17. J. Albert wrote:

    “It seems that there is a fairly successful transit operation in York Region that is being operated under contract – which none has said was awarded on the basis of political alignment.”

    YRT is definitely a role model for innovative transit operations and service after more than *doubling* ridership from 7M to 17.5M in just 5 years, including “franchised” private sector YRT & ViVA buses. Kudos to York Region, YRT GM Don Gordon & his team!

    Even discounting for the transfer of the GO Yonge bus routes, YRT has been entrepreneurial in doubling ridership since 2001, during which 5 years TTC riders grew by +25M or just a paltry 6% (in fairness: TTC riders are +40M or +10% since Mayor Miller took office in late 2003 and reversed a two-year TTC ride slump during Mayor Lastman’s last two years).

    To suggest however that YRT/ViVA/PPP operations are a model of efficiency or without political influence is simply wrong. YRT’s ViVA service wouldn’t exist today without generous “political funding” of both long term capital and annual operations.

    By any comparison the TTC is one of the world’s most efficient (low-cost) public transit operations, as measured first by the Revenue/Cost or R/C ratio—almost double the efficiency of YRT (below).

    YRT daily operations are heavily subsidized by York Region with a ≈39% R/C ratio in 2006 (vs. more efficient ≈75% for TTC). For those not familiar with this R/C “efficiency” ratio, it means YRT with PPP subsidized each ride by 61%, as opposed to just 25% at the TTC without PPP. YRT’s subsidy is 36pct higher than the TTC’s subsidy/ride!

    Not only is the TTC R/C ratio higher and more efficient but they accomplish it with a much lower “average fare” (41¢ lower: TTC ≈$1.72 vs. YRT ≈$2.13 in 2006).

    Lower TTC fares make transit more accessible increasing transit use: witness Toronto’s transit modal split at 21.5% (2001) is ≈5X higher than in the 905 at 3.9% in 2001 (I’m sorry I don’t have more specific York Region or updated 2006 transit modal split numbers to illustrate this point).

    As to scale, to put their relative sizes in perspective: in 2007 TTC is expected to grow ≈17M rides, almost all YRT’s 17.5M TOTAL rides in 2006!

    So let’s not elevate YRT’s use of PPP on 3-4% of GTA transit rides to a magic silver bullet that is necessarily scalable, transferable or affordable to 90–95% of the GTA’s transit ridership beyond YRT (order of magnitude additional TTC subsidy cost of running TTC at 39% R/C ratio is ≈$400M/year!)

    It costs more to run YRT/ViVA buses—by a wide margin—using PPPs than it does to run the totally publicly operated TTC system. So let’s not knock the TTC for it’s core strength—low-cost operations—that squeeze productivity from every vehicle, on the false idol of PPP “efficiency.”

    I do think, however, that PPP are an issue for the GTTA to look at in more detail, but not as a first priority, to see if they can leverage scarce public capital into more GTA transit ridership.

    Steve: From time to time, my travels take me through Don Mills Station where I get to see the ViVA service coming and going. The most people I have ever seen on a bus in either direction is three. Maybe I don’t see them at the right time, but if this were a TTC route, it would have been cut long ago for lack of ridership. Only the huge subsidy level keeps this kind of operation on the road.

    Meanwhile, the right wing of Toronto Council gripes about increasing service to accommodate demand that is flooding our buses and streetcars today. Why is it OK to hold York Region and ViVA up as a shining example, but when Toronto wants better service it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars?


  18. Steve,

    Living on Steeles the last 8 years after 19 years living in York Region I occasionally take YRT & ViVA around Thornhill & Woodbridge… and in almost two years have been on only one full ViVA bus (mea culpa most of my trips are off-peak or on weekends out of YorkU).

    ViVA’s a great service, gorgeous buses, comfy, roomy plush seats, like Business Class transit. YRT should think about running Free Transit Sundays, Saturdays, evenings… promotions like that to get people, families, teens normally car dependent to try ViVA… so they can experience it first hand and hopefully shift some of the car trips to transit.

    A 39% R/C ratio does mean a lot of empty buses so there’s no incremental cost of such trial promotions off-peak and a 905 transit modal split of only 3.9% (I think its higher in York Region but don’t have the #) with congestion the Number 1 political issue in York Region… it should be a no brainer!

    The LED scrolling and voice stop-announcements are also great as is each shelter Time for Next Bus scrolling LED. Off-peak headways are usually a max of 15 minutes… and peak as low as 4-6 minutes.


  19. To compare the TTC and YRT in overall operations is not the point. York is a completely suburban region – with a far higher percentage of car ownership that here in the city. This means that transit will have a lower revenue / cost ratio in York. The TTC has higher operating costs per service hour on surface routes than suburban system in any comparison I’ve seen. (Oh – and VIVA actually has clean buses and a modern fare system.)

    All suburban systems have a higher subsidy on that measure than the TTC as an urban system. I guess they should just not bother investing in transit then?

    As far as empty vehicles, the Queen streetcar is almost always empty when it reaches about half-way through the Beach. Hey – maybe I’m just looking at it at the wrong time.

    All transit projects are highly political.

    The points about VIVA I was making specifically was that it was implemented on schedule. There has been no indication that the operating contract was awarded on the basis of anything other than a fair and open contracting process (rather that ‘favours to friends’.)

    On St. Clair – we don’t even know that there is a schedule.


    The cost/service hour is made up of several components. One is the operator’s wages which are a function of local labour relations arrangements. In a large urban system, typically there are no part-time operators because the system has a large amount of off-peak service and the need for part time staff is low. This is not the case on suburban peak-oriented systems.

    Next there is the cost of the vehicle (servicing, maintenance). More vehicles are needed to handle congested urban routes. They get dirtier and spend more time on the road each day. A direct comparison of vehicle costs on suburban systems with city systems is very difficult unless you adjust for these factors.

    Finally, the cost of infrastructure, which mainly affects rail systems, has no counterpart on suburban bus networks.

    With respect to St. Clair, the original schedule was thrown into chaos by the court challenge, and subsequently the TTC has encountered no end of problems co-ordinating with other agencies, notably Hydro. ViVA didn’t have anywhere near the infrastructure needs of the St. Clair line, let alone the legal issues.


  20. Scott Watkins is correct when he states that powering vehicles with “dirty” coal generated power is environmentally better than using a diesel engine.

    In addition to the points he made, there is also the use of operational efficiency. Internal combustion engines have a very narrow peak efficiency part of their operational curve. This means that your best efficiency is only achieved when the engine’s speed and load are at a certain value, with little variance from that setting. How often do you see a vehicle operating with a constant load and speed?

    This is the concept behind hybrid vehicles: power is generated by an internal combustion engine running at its optimum efficiency. If the load/speed demands of the vehicle is below this output, the excess is used to charge batteries and if the load/speed demands are above then the power of the batteries are used.

    Take that concept and add the other benefits of a stationary power plant (better regulation, easier to control emmissions, etc) and you get a cleaner way to power vehicles. It is also easier to move to other energy sources (e.g.: Calgary Transit’s “Ride the Wind” campaign that promoted the fact that CT entered into a partnership with a wind generating firm to implement a dozen wind generation units to produce at least the same amount of power for the grid that the C-Train was drawing from it).


  21. There are certainly differences – no disagreement – but the costs are not higher as Mr. Brent had indicated.

    In the case of Viva, there are extra costs for operating the GPS system and bus status systems and electronic fare systems. The articulated buses have lower fuel efficiency on account of being larger.

    Steve: The point both Bob Brent and I are trying to make is that decisions have been taken that cause ViVA and other systems to operate at a lower rate of farebox return than the TTC. We would like to have all sorts of things in Toronto including and especially better service, but are always told that we can’t afford it. If ViVA had to carry the sorts of demand that the TTC does, York Region would be screaming about the cost based on such a low return from the farebox.

    The ViVA operation, be it public or private sector, looks really good because it gets such a large subsidy, not because it is privately run.


  22. I posted my views on a different blog but they’re relevant here also.

    It’s stupid to extend the Yonge line north of Finch. Trains are already full when they leave Finch station, now they will be full when they get to Finch station and Torontonians wont be able to get on their subway at rush hour! More lines to downtown should be built to increase capacity not to fill up faster what is already full.

    Steve: I have written elsewhere about the need to offload long-haul commuters from the subway onto the north-south GO services. Implementation of all-day train will make trains an option for people who are not certain that they will make the return trip on one of the handful of peak period trains.

    Also, there are plans to expand the capacity of the Yonge subway by various means, but I agree that offloading demand is the first priority.


  23. Just for your information Steve, YRT is planning to cut back VIVA Green (from Don Mills Stn) to rush-hours only, because of lack of ridership. They are also making similar adjustments in the west end.

    It isn’t fair to compare Toronto to York Region. York was built almost solely for the car (which is why we have many highways, and many streets are not conviently planned for bus service). Housing density is extremely low compared to Toronto, which means less riders/square foot. Transit in York is just too difficult to run with such a bad starting block. That’s why YRT is being so agressive in attracting people out of their cars. The TTC has been granted with an area with higher-density housing to service, and a better arterial road network to provide that service on. The TTC is doing (somewhat) fine now, and YRT is too. Please don’t knock YRT, they are trying very hard, and suceeding at that as well.

    As of commenting on MoveOntario 2020: It looks like a really good plan. GO improvements will draw a lot of people out of their cars by making it more accessible to more people, and I can only hope that GO will provide more off-peak serivce to help. The other rapid transit projects will take more people out of their cars and onto transit, and give transit a higher priority over the automobile, which is where it needs to be.

    Steve: I’m not knocking York Region. What I’m saying over and over is that the level of spending per passenger done in York for ViVA is way above what would be politically tolerated in Toronto. On a comparable basis, the City of Toronto would pay about $700-million per year in operating subsidy to the TTC.

    I have a big problem when ViVA is held up as a shining light of how we can provide transit when this cannot be scaled up to the levels needed to handle large volumes of riders. It certainly is not a model for how to provide transit within the 416.

    As long as people recognize what ViVA’s limitations are in terms of capacity and financial implications of the service model, I have no problem. YRT is doing great stuff, but they need to do much much more to make a dent in the auto-based travel.

    That’s one major oversight with MoveOntario. Lots of regional services, but no mention of improving local services without which transit cannot be competitive with cars.


  24. Okay, there’s a GO thread, a 905 thread, a TTC thread. But where’s the 416 thread? Hmmm. Guess I’ll just have to post here.

    A couple posters have noted an absence of anything much for downtown and it seems so. Apparently this is going to be mainly about bringing the 905ers into Union Station. It would be a tragedy if these new GO services don’t make at least a couple stops between Bloor and Union or along the Lakeshore and above Bloor too – Eglinton, etc. Which is why it should be more LRT style. Yes, we already have subway and streetcars downtown but it all has to work together – “interconnectivity” to risk a buzz word.

    Queen, King, Dundas, College, the new Portlands – all would be suitable stops. Not only to serve those areas but also to offload some passengers rather than funnelling half the 905 through Union at rush hours. Maybe there could be expresses and locals.


  25. There is a curious omission in the provincial government’s list of benefits to their MoveOntario 2000 program. The benefits cited include a detailed quantification of CO2 reduction and road trips reduced. What they don’t say is the number of lives that would be saved and serious injuries avoided.

    I note that in 2005 there were 2,923 road deaths and 17,529 serious injuries in Canada. The death rate was 6.3 deaths per billion vehicle-kilometers in Ontario.


    Using the provincial government’s figure of 300 million road trips eliminated, and assuming an average distance of 20 km per trip, this works out to 38 lives saved per year. A significant benefit that merits inclusion in the decision-making process.

    From the same source, I note that Ontario’s road injury rate is 571.5 injuries per billion vehicle-kilometers. This works out to 3429 injuries avoided per year by MoveOntario. Once again, a very significant benefit that merits inclusion in the decision-making process.

    I wonder why the provincial government is careful to catalogue the tons of CO2 reduction and the congestion reduction and completely ignores the benefits in terms of reductions in death and injury?

    Steve: It’s a “green” announcement, not a road safety announcement. Obvious blinkers. One problem with either viewpoint is that improved transit will only forestall the need for more road capacity but won’t actually reduce road use. We all know that traffic expands to fill any available space. By extension the road stats for collisions and pollution won’t go down, they just won’t go up as much as otherwise.


  26. Steve, I don’t understand why it’s a problem that the YRTs costs/passenger mile are higher. Given the population densities of York (and the other suburban municipalities) they have to drive more miles to get a given number of passengers. I’m sure that the TTC experiences the same phenomenon in the outlying areas, while the subway ought to be cash positive.

    Densification is happening slowly up there, but until the densities match it is grossly unfair to except any other transit service to match the fiscal performance of the TTC. Now if their costs/bus-route-mile are higher, that’s a different problem.

    Given how car-centric everything is up there, it’s a wonder that they’ve even got to the level they have. And, yes there are plenty of standees heading north out of Finch in the evening. The viva service to Markham can also be standing room only out of Richmond Hill terminal both to and from Markham. It really is a much better transit terminal than VCC, despite being in the middle of big box retail. It would be one of the few stops to have local buses, BRT (hopefully LRT) transit, subway, GO train and GO bus service. Plus a cinema and a home depot, what more you anyone ask for?

    Steve: There are two basic points. First, if the amount of travel by transit in York Region is to rise significantly, so will the cost, possibly to a level the Region is not prepared to support. Yes, they will reach a point where the subsidy per passenger will fall as economies of scale kick in, but provision of a basic level of “standard” service (say no worse than every 20 minutes) will go through a long buildup period. ViVA is touted as an example of “how things should be done”. Comparing it to other services (local 905 services or the TTC) is difficult given the very different level of subsidy provided to ViVA. Anything can be made to look wonderful given enough money, but that doesn’t prove that it’s the way we should try to build a huge transit network for the region.

    The Yonge Corridor service used to be a GO Transit route, and transferring it to ViVA took riders (and a well-used route) away from GO. The line is a success because the riders were already there.

    I’m glad ViVA is doing as well as it is, but it needs to be viewed in context.


  27. >>>Joe,

    The need for the subway… north of Finch isn’t just to carry more 905 and 416 residents southbound to downtown Toronto (through the crowded northern portions and Bloor-Yonge choke point) but also to enable seamless transit trips northbound into York Region by 416 residents as well.

    The GTTA reported recently that morning rush hour vehicular traffic northbound across Steeles now equals the southbound traffic. It should be no surprise as 905 population and employment now equals or surpasses that of the City of Toronto.

    A 416 resident living in a Yonge-Sheppard condo will be able to hop on a subway north to Hwy 7, transfer to a ViVA bus east and be at their Beaver Creek office—likely faster than they can drive the same distance in their car!

    Subways, when planned properly, act as high-speed collectors and distributors to and from busy surface routes (as Steve has often noted, the reason for Bloor-Danforth’s success despite low-density development along much of the line). Many of the poorly performing stations/sections of the Spadina, Sheppard (and likely YorkU/VCC) subway lines are due to the lack of high volume connecting surface feeder routes along bisecting streets.

    Thousands of TTC/YRT/GO/Brampton buses shuttle along Yonge to/from Finch, creating their own bus congestion that will overwhelm the planned dedicated busway! I’ve watched this stretch of Yonge slowly strangle itself in congestion over the last 26 years as York Region exploded in population, while arterial roads and GTA transit didn’t keep pace.

    North of Finch, TTC/YRT/ViVA/GO can’t plan east~west bus service efficiently around a central Yonge subway spine as the TTC does south of Finch. A subway will enable shorter 5-10 minute local bus feeder routes to feed/draw from the Yonge subway rather than the longer 20-30 minute trips up/down Yonge to Finch on buses. The cumed bus hours and kilometres saved will be staggering!

    The regional buses traversing Yonge often have spare capacity running to/from Finch, but they are unable to pick up waiting transit passengers in the TTC’s home fare territory—a huge waste of tens of millions of scarce public transit operating dollars. GTTA fare and service integration will eliminate this wasteful redundancy.

    The northern subway extension is also desperately needed to boost transit in York Region where despite YRT’s innovative ViVA BRT and exemplary doubling of rides over 5 years, it’s still a drop in the bucket with the transit modal split in single digits, a fraction of Toronto’s.

    Congestion is the #1 political issue in York Region. Hopefully the subway will create a quantum leap in transit use and modal split in the order of magnitude needed to reduce road congestion in both York Region and North York.


  28. Andrew, not sure where in York you live, but Newmarket’s streets certainly aren’t intended for the car traffic they have everyday. Yonge Street is gridlocked especially ‘rush hour’ and on weekends, Davis Drive has frequent back-ups, same for Leslie and even Woodbine. Green Lane and the 404 extension helped, but there’s no where near the road capacity for peak traffic.

    In the old town proper YRT service is almost non existent. It’s much the same thru old Aurora, Thornhill and Richmod Hill.
    Further to that “modern” subdivision design in actually anti-transit as crescents and cul-de-sacs are next to impossible to navigate with a 40′ or larger vehicle.

    Steve kudos for pointing out VIVA’s shining success on Yonge Street was long a viable business for GO and before that Grey Coach (TTC).


  29. Steve: The main problem in going to KW lies west of Guelph where the route is single track …

    That’s the case east of Guelph, too. The single track begins just west of the Georgetown GO station, where the Halton and Guelph Subdivisions diverge.

    While the single track would eventually become a bottleneck when service frequency reached a certain point, there’s plenty of room for expansion of service before a second track becomes necessary. Signals and powered switches at the existing sidings would increase practical capacity quite a lot.

    Steve: … and not even owned by CN any more.

    In fact it is still owned by CN, but it’s leased to Goderich-Exeter Railway until 2018.

    I don’t see why that should be a problem. I’m not aware that GEXR is any more hostile to passenger service than CN. The whole reason that CN leased the line out is that there’s not much freight traffic on it, so there’s capacity available for passenger trains, and hosting them would be a source of revenue for GEXR.


  30. In response to comment #27:

    I lived at Yonge and Sheppard and work in the Beaver Creek Business Park. I commute by bus every day, and it is a rather frustrating commute.

    My commute has to be timed to the minute. I know that I must leave my house by 6:55 am to make it to Sheppard-Yonge station by 7:05 on the clock on the transfer machine at the Poyntz entrance to make it on the 7:18 blue Viva bus to make it on the 7:40 85 bus at Yonge and 16th to be at work for 8 am. Being a minute or two late can add an extra 10 minutes to my commute. (Don’t ask how I know…)

    Why is this? In the morning, the YRT 85 bus (Rutherford-16th) runs buses every 5 minutes for 15 minutes, then a 20 minute break, then every 5 minutes for 15 minutes again, from Yonge and 16th. (One of these buses goes along 16th to Markham-Stoffville Hospital, so only 2 buses actually go through the business park out of the 3 in this 15 minute interval).

    Unfortunately, the Viva bus stop at 16th-Carrville is at the far side of the intersection, so there have been many occasions where I have had to run across 16th on a nearly-yellow or yellow light to catch the bus without waiting 10 or 20 minutes for the next one.

    I am committed to taking transit for both personal and environmental reasons. However, there are days where I wonder why I even bother. Between the several short sprints (literally!) to catch buses and/or subway trains to make connections, the inconsistency in YRT’s schedule, and the time involved (compared to driving), there are days that I arrive at work tired! And I’m only 24 years old….

    Riding Viva is, for the most part, a great experience, but YRT’s regular service leaves a lot to be desired. Hundreds of people drive their lone-occupant cars to work everyday in the Beaver Creek area… I wonder how regularly scheduled, comfortable, express service (from RHCT or Finch Stn) would change this?

    Thanks for such a great and informative website, Steve.


  31. Michael, I work in Markham (7 & Woodbine) and the traffic here is pretty bad, not Newmarket bad, but pretty bad at rush hour. I’m not blindly in love with the YRT system, especially not when I have to wait 20 minutes for a bus in the early evening. Surely, there are things to be learned from it.

    If anyone wants an example of how much time you can save with a POP system and all door loading, you’ll find it in the VIVA system. The private bus operations are also show a counterpoint to the standard mode of operation. Hopefully their experiments will pay off and they’ll attract enough riders to bring down the subsidy per rider before council gets sick of paying for the service.

    The problem of attracting riders is a bit of an egg/chicken conundrum. Do you massively invest in service and run near-empty buses on a frequent schedule to attract riders or do you try to get riders and the add capacity/frequency. My guess is that you need a little of both and that it’s a fine balance.

    And for the downtown TTC system, why can’t the TTC simply roll some of the revenue back into route improvements. If you’ve got 48,000 riders a day, surely you can invest in that line. What the region as a whole needs is a carrot to get people back onto transit in whatever form it takes and reduce the litany of problems associated with single-occupant vehicles. This seems to be the carrot, when do we get the stick.

    Steve: What is truly astounding about TTC economics is that they don’t invest in lines that have heavy ridership. There is some hope that when the new Ridership Growth Strategy loading standards kick in, this will start to change and we won’t plan on the basis of “still room on the roof”.


  32. Jen,

    Your personal story of actually living the Sheppard/Yonge~Beaver Creek commute brings to life the need for not only the Yonge north subway extension but the need for more YRT local service and the GTTA to integrate transit fares and cross boundary service.

    Steve has been preaching for years of the need to dramatically increase local TTC bus & streetcar service (Ridership Growth Strategy) so riders didn’t have to worry when the next bus, streetcar came along once you stepped off the subway! Clearly there is lot more local service needed in York Region too!


  33. Andrew I know what you mean about 7 & Woodbine, when I lived in Newmarket my destination was Esna Park and before that Woodbine and Steeles. Getting there generally wasn’t usually a problem, getting home certainly was. This was prior to the widening of Woodbine through Highway 7 too, the end result of which really didn’t improve matters any. And for those that are interested, I tried to commute there via transit, sorry driving was really the only option then.

    The TTC does have one POP route, the 501 Queen car between 7 am and 7 pm weekdays. It’s poorly enforced as TTC Special Constables probably couldn’t get on the cars in the first place! (or as Steve so aptly put it “still room on the roof”).

    The following I attribute in part to the TTC’s POP “experiment” on Queen. An “incident” occured just yesterday morning at King and Bathurst, 2 patrons with passes (wavely them wildly at the operator) boarded the already packed 504 inbound to downtown through the backdoors. The operator refused to move the car (doors wide open, traffic backing up) until these patrons boarded through the front doors. They left and an exchange ensued between the male patron and the operator. Sadly there was room at the rear of the car for these people, but the jam at the front prevented anyone else from boarding. I know this has nothing to do with the Move Ontario announcement. But it illustrates what is missing, nothing to address the serious issues that already exist. Had the patron been a little more hostile a much more tragic incident could have ocurred.

    As annoying as a 20 minute wait can be, a 20-30 minute wait watching vehicle after vehicle go by that you can get on is even more annoying!


  34. In response to comment #30

    “Unfortunately, the Viva bus stop at 16th-Carrville is at the far side of the intersection, so there have been many occasions where I have had to run across 16th on a nearly-yellow or yellow light to catch the bus without waiting 10 or 20 minutes for the next one. ”

    This is what the response to a similar type inquiry at the DRT transit advisory committee had to say about transfer points that were not at the intersection like TTC buses. Durham also has stops past the intersection of more then a bus length or more before or after an intersection. An official with DRT said, tell the driver you have a transfer and ask the driver to call the other driver and ask him to wait for you.

    I dare you to try that on Viva/York Transit.

    The position of the bus stops in the 905 really does give the car the priority at intersections, this has to change. You should not have to run and risk your safety to transfer at a major intersection for a bus. I know people do that here(TTC) but at least you are dropped of the bus/Streetcar at the intersection.


  35. I wholeheartedly agree that any expansion of rapid transit (whether that be LRT or subway) MUST have local feeder service that is comfortable, reliable, and sensible to use to support it. A subway up to highway 7 doesn’t improve my commute if I still have a 5 min wait at highway 7 for a bus up Yonge to 16th Ave and an up to 10 or 20 minute wait at 16th Ave to get on the bus that takes me to where I actually need to go. I’d rather see BRT up Yonge to Green Lane in Newmarket (or even Bernard Terminal in Richmond Hill) so that at least a transfer point would be eliminated.

    YRT has the potential to greatly reduce gridlock in York Region, but in order to do that it must start thinking like a transit rider. Asking questions like “Are we providing bus service that is as convenient as driving?” is an essential part of this process. Frankly, YRT’s regular service leaves a lot to be desired, especially in the Beaver Creek area.

    Karen, Viva and YRT bus drivers cannot call each other, as I found out last week. So I can’t ask a Viva driver to call a YRT bus and ask it to wait. Hence, the sprinting across intersections to catch a bus (best case scenario) or walking to Tim Horton’s for a tea to make my 10 to 20 min wait more pleasant (worse case scenario).

    Michael, I agree with you about seeing full vehicles go by as being worse than no buses at all – when my office was located on Don Mills Rd (my work moved from Don Mills up to the Beaver Creek area in April), I experienced that feeling often as well.


  36. Karem Allen said, “tell the driver you have a transfer and ask the driver to call the other driver and ask him to wait for you. I dare you to try that on Viva/York Transit.”

    YRT drivers are very accomodating when it comes to doing this – if they can.

    The trouble is, each operating division (ie: contractor/garage – there are four: one in Markham, one in Vaughan, one in Newmarket, and VIVA) uses separate radio frequencies. So, the driver of a YRT bus being operated by Miller, can call ahead to a connecting bus that is also operated by Miller. If not, forget it.

    Steve: I believe this is what people mean by “regional integration”. We spend aeons complaining about cross-border fares, transfers and service, but can’t even make service within one municipality work.

    Someone will surely come up with a huge program costing hundreds of millions of dollars to put in a co-ordinated vehicle communication system. Where there’s money to be made selling technology, the vendors are lined up at the trough. How well it will work is another matter.

    The desire to co-ordinate service, including making transfers as seamless as possible, demands that transit system proprietors — the municipal governments — actually take some interest in service quality, not just in ribbon-cutting opportunities like today’s Smart Card launch.


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