We Get Letters

I have received a number of comments recently that have turned rather more abusive about past efforts by myself and others.  Also, I’ve had comments that attempt to trivialize the advocacy of LRT as railfan nostalgia. 

Please note that anyone who posts such comments will simply fall off the earth as far as my publishing any future feedback they might have, and they should spend their time elsewhere.

The most recent missives come from Libb Sotenez, and I’m placing them here in their own thread so that people can all see what I am talking about.  Unlike my usual policy of tidying up comments for presentation, I am leaving them here in all their unedited glory.

Mimmo Is right Steve, everytime I read your website it is so pro LRT and so anti other modes. Where were you Guy’s for saving our PCC fleet?? those were the best streetcars ever made.  I didn’t see anything to save our PCC fleet?  How about saving our gloucester subway trains?  At least one set of 8 cars should of been kept for Sunday operations and for charter service? Where were you guy’s then?  As for diesel buses, the GM fishbowls were also the best and most reliable buses ever produced, where were you then?  if you and other groups were pro transit, we wouldn’t have buses that have hard and slim seats and terrible reliability.  I’ve never seen you lobby bus makers or engineers into building a nice, fast and reliable diesel/bio diesel/hybrid bus.  Why didn’t you lobby GM not to get out of the diesel bus making buisiness, there two stroke diesel motors are the best, even today’s standards.      Toronto needs 300 more buses to meet demands and they should start buying foreign. Those VIVA buses are fast, quiet and comfortable.  VIVA has revolutionized bus riding.  Why don’t you lobby the TTC to do the same, to get more and better buses now to meet demands.  Let’s start small and maybe we as Torontonians would not consider bus riding an incovinience.  Our  Bus fleet and all it’s routes carries more passengers than all LRT routes.  Let’s give those people a chance to get better transit now, not 11 years from now with LRT.  We need immediate solutions now.  Better, faster and more  buses would solve that problem NOW. Start Lobbying for that Steve, then I’ll believe,  otherwise this is just another rail fan site.

I will take the comments in the order they appear:

Why am I so Pro LRT and Anti other modes?

I am Pro-LRT because this mode has been ignored for decades in Toronto when it could have been used to build an extensive suburban rapid transit network.  We have had vast amounts of misinformation about LRT from the TTC, from the Ontario Government and its handmaiden the Ontario Transportation Development Corporation (later the UTDC).

We live in a strongly road-oriented region where nothing less than subways has been seen as the answer to all our problems even though we cannot possible afford to build, let along to operate them.

Yes, I am Pro-LRT.  I want it to get a fair chance rather than being dismissed out of hand, or relegated to a distant secondary status in studies that are biased in favour of a subway option before they are even written (see the Spadina York U study for a classic example).

I am not anti-bus and recognize that large sections of our network will be operated by buses forever.  However, buses will not replace streetcars on heavy routes because they simply do not have the capacity to handle the demands that will arise over the next decade.

Where was I on saving the PCC Fleet?

Aside from the fact that the PCC fleet was long gone years before this blog started, anyone who actually was paying attention will know that I and several others argued strongly for retention of the PCC fleet.  The rebuilding that saved part of that fleet was a direct result of our efforts.  (I even have a video of me on the CBC doing an editorial talking about why we need to save the PCCs and the G subway cars.)

The reason we lost the PCCs was that with the service cuts of the 1990s, the TTC did not need as big a fleet to operate all of its service, including Spadina, and the PCCs were retired.

If you want PCCs in Toronto, you should have been around back in the late 60s and early 70s when an updated PCC was under development by the TTC, Hawker Siddeley and the Czech firm Tatra, one of the largest manufacturers of PCCs in the world.  That work stopped dead in its tracks thanks to the Ontario Government’s embrace of Mag-Lev technology, a boondoggle that went nowhere, but killed off any hope of LRT on what we now know as the SRT.

I fought very hard against the Mag-Lev scheme and its successor the RT, and continue to fight against the proposed upgrading and extension of that line (as opposed to converting it to LRT).  However, the politics of the situation are such that Bombardier (and others) would be deeply embarrassed by the TTC’s abandonment of the RT technology, and so it will live on as an orphan line.

One final point about PCCs is that they are high-floor cars, and we would need to re-design a low-floor replacement for them.  PCCs as we know them are no longer an acceptable vehicle for our streetcar fleet.

… and the Gloucester cars?

See my comment above about the editorial on the CBC.

First off, my advocacy is not for retention of a fleet to keep the railfans happy.  Sunday operations?  Why should the TTC have to keep one historic train, complete with all of the overhead of training operating and maintenance staff, a train that cannot keep up with the H-series trains and would inevitably run late, and which is not air-conditioned?  There is a big difference between running historic equipment now and then for special events (such as the PCCs on Harbourfront today) and running an entire train as part of regular service.  This certainly has nothing to do with advocacy for improvement of the transit system.

… and GMC Fishbowls?

Oh dear, your rant is taking on a very strong rail/bus fan edge.  Aside from the fact that the GM’s are high floor buses, nobody makes them any more.  Why didn’t I lobby GM to stay in the bus business?  Who do you think I am?  GM stopped making fishbowls because the market for that type of vehicle dried up in the USA.  Indeed the US government pushed a whole new generation of buses with pseudo-accessibility (lifts) and supposedly more comfortable interiors.  Since you couldn’t buy a bus with US Federal dollars that didn’t meet the Federal specs, nobody bought fishbowls.  Manufacture of these continued for a time in Canada, but even that stopped in time.  Nobody in North America is going to get rich building buses because the market is too small.

The TTC, like many other North American transit operators, went through hell with a generation of crap from bus manufacturers, and dug the hole even deeper when they got embroiled with Ikarus and the CNG bus scheme.  I fought that one too, and fought to save the trolleybus system.  Again, my primary opponents were the Ontario Government and TTC management, abetted by the Natural Gas industry and others with a financial interest in the deal.

Buy foreign you say?  Well, any foreign manufacturer is welcome to bid on North American orders, and, after all, Flyer from Winnipeg is foreign-owned anyway (as is “Ontario Bus Industries”).  Of course, thanks to Ontario politics, “foreign” means any bus that’s not made in the 416 or 905 area code.

The VIVA buses cost the earth to purchase and are designed for relatively low, commuter-comfort load factors.  The only reason York Region has them is that they got a special subsidy to set up VIVA, and when that money runs out, we will see where that system goes.  The issue with special purchases like that is not the initial buy, but whether the region (or the GTTA by then) will be able to justify spending that much money on vehicles for a small system when the rest of the GTTA must ride around in packed transit buses.

… our bus fleet carries more passengers than our LRT routes, ergo buses are better

Sorry to burst that bubble, but the total weekday ridership on the streetcar lines is 259,600 while on the bus network it is 1,173,060.  The streetcar fleet handles 22% of the ridership of the bus fleet.  However, the number of streetcars in service (peak) is only 15% of the number of buses.  Therefore, the streetcars, vehicle for vehicle, are handling more people than the buses.  (Source:  TTC 2005 statistics.)  Moreover, they will be able to handle a proportionately greater increase as riding builds up on major routes.

… buy better buses now otherwise you’ll think this is just a rail fan site.

All I can say is that anyone who wants to preserve a fleet of PCCs and G-trains is a bigger railfan than I am.  If you don’t want to read my site, fine, go somewhere else.  There are lots more out there.

Meanwhile, I will continue to post pro-LRT information because that’s what this site is about.

My correspondent goes on:

I think we should rebuild our CLRV fleet for operation in future of a “high speed line through Scarborough”. This would also change our great citizens’s minds about our CLRV fleet being slow and unreliable. $5 000 000 or greater for new streetcars is outrageos, one subway car costs less that $1 000 000, what’s the gig here?? we should also be cost consciuos and rebuild, with a rising ramp for wheel chairs and the disabled, it can be done, according to a friend (who shall remain nameless) working at the TTC. The so called rebuilds if they went through, would have been 100% better than they are now. They are stubbornly dead set on buying new streetcars. Champaigne taste on a ginger ale budget, as I would say. As for the high speed line, it would be the now called Scarborough 86. It would operate on private right of way, all the way, with cement placed at intersections only. There would be trees/hedges planted beside the lines on both sides,with centre poles. It would have pedestrian (paved) crossings in designated areas, so people are not cut off from the other side of the streets. it would run along Eglinton, from Kennedy station, to Kingston road, then east to Morning side, north to and beyond Finch, to Steeles/Staines road intersection with a beautiful loop/parkete and kiss & ride. The stops would be spaced out say six to ten blocks, double blade cross overs and a signaling system would be used to keep the vehicles on time/spaced out evenly, etc. The line would operate free running with X crossings at intersetions everywhere for this line so it could be a true and free running line. This line should be build immediately as the Kingston road Environmental assesment is underway now. id would help Scarborough alot, By the way, I don’t live In scarborough.

I am not going to delve into this in detail except to point out that the new subway cars are going to cost over $3-million each, and that’s for a 75-foot long car.  The $5-million LRV figure is high, but it’s for a car that is at least 20-25% longer, and likely for a smaller order.

A lift can be incorporated into a CLRV, but it would make for very slow loading.  The advantage of low-floor all-door loading is that you save on stop service time.  A good example of this was today’s operation on Harbourfront where every vehicle shuttling passengers from Union Station to Queen’s Quay had to deal with one or more baby carriages.  (I saw four on one car!)

I hate to point out that your Scarborough line duplicates, more or less, a line that is part of the Transit City network (the “Scarborough Malvern” line.  I had a hand in Transit City both in laying the political base that made LRT respectable again in Toronto and in fine tuning the network design.

As a general note to this writer and others who have attacked me for “not being involved” in whatever fight they think I should have engaged, I started all of this back in 1972 and have been fighting for improved transit in many, many ways for decades including the dark eras of Harris and Leach.  You don’t win every battle, but we wouldn’t have Transit City, we woudn’t have the Ridership Growth Strategy and we wouldn’t have many other things (including, vitally, politicians and planners who know that there is an alternative to subways and buses) without the advocacy of me and several of my associates.

If you have read this far, you probably know that I am rather annoyed at this sort of comment, and I can assure you that it’s the last you will see of it.  I try to be fair and present comments from many points of view, but I will not publish rants or attacks on me personally.

If that’s censorship (as another writer has suggested), so be it.  It’s my website.  Nobody forces you to read it.

46 thoughts on “We Get Letters

  1. Steve writes about VIVA, “…the artificial boost it got by taking over the Yonge Street corridor from GO. ”

    What I find annoying about this comment is there is only a facade of truth to it. They Yonge Street corridor had been operated by GO for a number of years, but not as a route that used GO fares, but as a route that took YRT fares (and the “South York Region” integrated fare used by Markham, Richmond Hill, and Vaughan before YRT was created), and issued and accepted YRT transfers.

    The Yonge and Bayview routes were moved to YRT about two years before the introduction of VIVA, and YRT purchased buses from GO as part of that move. Interestingly, YRT gave the Yonge route the number “99”, which was the route number used by the TTC way back when they operated this route.

    It was acknowledged at the time of the switch that these routes were cash cows for GO, even though they used the YRT fares. It was a welcome change as GO operators would routinely ignore the presence of riders at crossing at intersections trying to connect to the GO-operated route from another YRT route (at least on Bayview, in my experience).

    Steve: Thank you for this clarification. However, my comment still stands with respect to ridership. When people talk about the success of Viva, they need to acknowledge that the Yonge corridor was already busy. Viva didn’t create that ridership.


  2. Yes, Viva didn’t create that ridership. This is evidenced by reduced headways on the 99 Yonge route, the removal of Newmarket “B” service and the truncating of the 1 Highway 7 East route at Richmond Hill Centre. But it has to be acknowledged that since VIVA’s introduction, ridership has actually increased.

    Headways along this route are consistently being lowered as more and more riders are now discovering this convenient mode of transportation. Especially on Yonge Street where the headways are now less than 4 minutes south of Highway 7, and 12 minutes during midday and early evenings (where it was formerly 15).

    And also need I remind you that the Purple line has seen increased ridership and has been credited with creating a seamless connection between the east and west portions of Lower York Region. Finally we have the Orange Line which has seen significant increases in ridership heading to Downsview Station, making it a convenient option for those living in Vaughan.

    Do not discount VIVA simply because it used someone else’s success. It’s own successes are already evident 2 years since its opening. Only the VIVA green line is a disappointment, and I expect that line to be closed soon.


  3. First to Calvin, York Region does not stop before Oak Ridges, the GO Newmarket B service was taken over by YRT and replaced by VIVA. Newmarket/Aurora residents now has a longer commute down Yonge Street thanks to VIVA/YRT service. The 400 Service to Newmarket and the GO train replacement bus service is still run by GO. It’s an hour from Union to Newmarket on the bus, or 1 hour 15 minutes from Finch on VIVA (plus subway from downtown to Finch). Please don’t try to tell a (in my case former) Newmarket resident that VIVA is a stunning success!

    Secondly to Stephen, I wouldn’t characterize Mississauga as Conservative given that fact that there are 4 Liberals and 1 Independent in the Ontario Legislature; 4 Liberals and 1 Conservative in the House of Commons representing Mississauga ridings. The 2 Brampton ridings (and the 3rd one shared with Mississauga) are also Liberal in both Queens Park and Ottawa.


  4. I stand corrected. I was referring to the pre-McGuinty era when the Conservatives basically dominated the 905 belt. But despite the Liberal gains here, most observers including myself expect things to swing back to the Tories. As for the Federal election, I and many other people see a trend rising in Mississauga (and York Region) in which there is more support for Conservatives than the Federal Liberals.

    Going back to my earlier postings, the question of who gets BRT and who gets LRT may simply be another case of “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” and “Screwing Toronto is the part of policy”. Again, I would not be surprised if Toronto gets the short end of the stick by being offered BRT while Peel gets its LRT. Consider this: Transit City has plans for at least 7 LRT lines while there is only 2 on the books for Missisauga and Peel. Considering the penny-pinching politics regarding LRTs and its associated costs, who’s more likely going to get their Christmas present?


  5. Michael Vanner, one other thing: GO still operates southbound “B” service during morning peak periods and northbound “B” service during afternoon peaks. So Newmarket and Aurora residents still have an option during peak periods.

    As for off peak hours, if I recall correctly “B” service was run every half hour on midday and early evening periods and every hour at other times. Compare that to 12 and 15 minutes service respectively for the same time periods on VIVA. Sure it may take longer for a trip on the Blue line, but this compensates having to wait 30-60 minutes for a GO bus and also cheaper as well.

    So yes, I’m telling a former Newmarket resident that VIVA IS a stunning success. Its ease of use, price, and frequency say it is.


  6. I have a very stupid question I’d like to ask. Now not being a bus watcher I’ve never paid enough attention to whether busses other than the TTC’s have them but are those blue lights on each side of the destination sign supposed to serve the same purpose as the green lights on the streetcars? I know that before CLRVs and ALRVs the single green roof light was to warn intending riders that a car was coming but since the present cars have two green roof lights I’ve often if the change from one light to two might possibly be a result of the designers thinking of some other purpose whatever that may have been.

    Steve: Yes, they are marker lights so that you can see a bus coming from afar. The buses with blue lights are accessible, and that’s why the gradual change in the fleet.


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