When Will Dalton Discover Hot Air?

One of the more bizarre election stories appeared in the Globe and Mail today — Dalton McGuinty is advancing the idea of hydrogen-fuelled GO Trains.

Regular readers here will know that my opinion of hydrogen as a transit fuel is thinly-veiled contempt on the best of days, and I am astounded to see McGuinty wandering down this technological dead end.

Fuel cells and hydrogen power have their uses, but they run into difficulties even at the scale of a city bus, let alone a railway car.  If this were used for GO equipment, it would be at best for self-propelled cars running on minor lines that did not warrant full, locomotive-hauled trains.  This is a niche market, not a mainstream replacement for existing equipment. Continue reading

Keeping the Sheppard Subway Running

In another thread, Mimmo Briganti commented on the TTC’s revelation that we wouldn’t save anything by closing the Sheppard line.

So it turns out that closing the Sheppard subway would only save $300,000?  Total idiots!!  Why do they go out spreading such stupid PR when they don’t even have their numbers straight?  That $10M figure they quoted was supposed to be NET (after the replacement buses were added).

If this new figure is accurate, doesn’t it destroy your argument against the Spadina extension?  If the capital cost of the extension is paid for by the senior levels of gov’t, and the operating cost ratio (subway vs. # of buses) is similar to Sheppard, isn’t it peanuts to run the extension on a cost per passenger basis?

I don’t get it — these numbers just don’t add up!

I agree that the numbers just don’t add up, but there isn’t enough detail in the report and I have been too busy with other matters to try to work through an “alternative” estimate.  Alas, we still don’t have an estimated cost to operate the Sheppard line itself, only a claimed delta.

Going from a claimed $10-million annual saving to zero shows a huge error in estimating techniques and undermines the credibility of all of the TTC’s service and cost based proposals.  This has happened regularly at the TTC, but never on such a spectacular scale.

Note that the $300K figure is for closing the Sheppard and Spadina (north of St. Clair West) lines only on weekends.  There is no cost estimate for a full closure.  Of course, you can’t really close the Spadina line operationally because it provides access to Wilson Yard.  Sheppard at least could be mothballed, but you don’t get savings from that unless you close it 7×24.

The average weekday ridership on the Sheppard Subway, at 43,000 trips, is matched only by the Dufferin bus, and that route (a) is longer, (b) has good bi-directional demand, and (c) has good all-day demand.  The Sheppard riders are much more concentrated in space and time and would require a very frequent peak bus service.

As for the Spadina line, we must be absolutely certain that the capital costs will not block other deserving projects from being funded.  Otherwise we could sink every penny of provincial or federal grants into one line but still not have capital available to expand the rest of the system.

The TTC also published a cheerleading report yesterday about why the Spadina extension project must go ahead.  I will turn to that report in a separate post.

Pssst! You’re Not Supposed To Be Reading This!

Earlier today, I learned that TTC’s internal security folks, who have nothing better to do with their time than protect employees from the evils of the Internet, blocked my website for access from the TTC’s network.  This lasted about a week.

It is reassuring to know that in these troubled times, TTC staff are not wasting their days reading commentaries that, in some cases, have far more information than they are likely to get internally from their own organization.

The issue of staff “wasting time” on the Internet comes up in every organization, but some are rather heavy handed in how they deal with this.  If the problem is that staff are not doing their work, then manage that problem.  There are many more ways for people to not work than to surf the net.

Now on the subject of budget cuts, I think we have a candidate who surely won’t be missed.

TTC Budget Decisions: The Sky Has Not Fallen (1)

Today the TTC took a big step back from the brink of disaster with a package addressing the current budget crisis.  At last, instead of predictions of widespread service cuts, we actually hear of service improvements with more to come as and when funding is obtained.  This is a much more responsible presentation than we have heard from anyone at City Hall in the past months.

After a long presentation followed by a Q&A between the Commissioners and Chief General Manager Gary Webster, we heard from a series of deputations including me.  The message was consistent throughout — keeping service is a top priority.

You can read the staff report on the TTC’s website although some of the illustrations are missing.  Some of them appear as links from this and future posts. Continue reading

Does the Transit Commission Believe in Transit?

Much air time and print space have been devoted to Wednesday’s TTC meeting (September 12).  Which routes will be on the chopping block?  What will happen to fares?  Does anyone except the riding public actually care, or are the politicians and press too busy scoring political points off of each other?

The Transit Commission has a difficult decision, but hardest one will be this:  resist calls for cuts now.

Shirking responsibility?  Nonsense.  The Transit Commissioners should be advocates for transit, not hatchet men for those who prefer to starve a vital service.  The Commission’s job is to avert the destruction of the system. Continue reading

Scarborough Consults on Transit Funding

Tonight, Councillor Michael Thompson, who is also a TTC Commissioner, will host a public meeting in the Rotunda of the Scarborough Civic Centre (south of the SRT station, across the plaza).

TTC CGM Gary Webster and the Chair Adam Giambrone will join Councillor Thompson to talk about how the City’s cost containment measures will affect the TTC and transit services in Scarborough.

I will not be attending tonight, but will be at the full TTC meeting on Wednesday. Later today, I will publish my position on the TTC cuts overall and the action that the Commission should take pending resolution of budget problems.

The surveys conducted by the TTC and the Torontoist website both show that retention and improvement of service is paramount for TTC riders. Recently, the Toronto Board of Trade released their own five-point election platform, and they strongly support transit improvement.

Let your Councillors, especially those who prefer to blame every cut on Queen’s Park or the unions, know that we need better service, we need more service, and we will not tolerate more excuses for Toronto’s failure to properly fund its transit system.

TIFF 2007 Day 1

The Toronto International Film Festival kicked off last night.  For the next 10 days, I will be in festival mode spending most of my time in theatres.  Transit won’t disappear completely from this site, but my focus will shift as it does each year.

I will be posting reviews of the films I see, although keeping up on a day to day basis may be a challenge.

Reviewed here:

Fados by Carlos Saura 

Continue reading

Seasonal Service Reductions?

Several people at the TTC must be asleep at the switch these days.  Imagine my surprise to see at Broadview Station a brand new poster advertising “seasonal service reductions” for the summer starting September 4.  Obviously, someone has changed the banner date on an earlier poster but not bothered to fix the text.

These posters were printed.  These posters were installed.

Does anyone at the TTC read them?  This may explain, indeed, why so much out of date bilge is left on the walls of our stations.

It is bad enough that the TTC does not take the simple step of printing “remove after xxx” on their posters, but when they put up signs that are just plain wrong, one senses that a remedial reading course is in order.

At times when we have people calling for quick fixes by simply cutting wages and firing staff, gaffes like this give the TTC’s critics the sort of ammunition they need.

How Do We Wait?

I have received a request for assistance with research on how transit systems make passengers wait.


I’m a researcher at the Institute of Railway Studies at the University of York in England, and I’m looking at the way transport systems force people to wait.  A lot of your comments about Toronto are interesting, but not specific enough for me to use.  If anyone wants to find their views about waiting in line, fat fares, smart cards etc incorporated in research please contact me.  My research e mail address is Davidsd@skynet.be

If you want information about England (or Belgium) in return I’m happy to trade.

David Stewart-David