I received a long comment in reply to an earlier post about service in the Beach from a TTC operator, and this deserves its own thread.
Updated November 11: Driver Bob left a short note attached to the wrong thread in which he dismisses the discussion here. I have added it to the end of this post just before the comments.
A second comment, apologizing for the first, has also been added.
Here is the comment:
Would any of you like to hear from an actual streetcar operator on this? I doubt it, since most of you have already communicated with TTC staff, have been told what the problems are and have decided that we are either liars, incompetents or both. I try to offer these same explanations each and every day, mostly with the same result. People refuse to accept a reasonable explanation and prefer to reiterate complaints with added vehemence.
Yes, short turns suck. Does anyone think *we* enjoy it? Hey, here’s a lark! I’ll turn this thing at Kingston Rd. and get insulting speculation about my consumption of Country Style coffee and donuts. I may even get assaulted. Wheee! Similarly, do you actually think the line supervisor is just making excuses? He’s just fabricating that whole gridlocked downtown Toronto traffic thing, right?
I’m amused by the comment above saying there’s “maybe” a grand total of one car accident a week on Bathurst. Hilarious. Since you won’t believe any of us lazy good-for-nothings at the TTC, perhaps you should contact Metro Police. There are dozens/scores of accidents in this city every single day. Even a fender bender can cause a ten minute delay while the drivers get out, have a good shout at one another, compare and exchange information, and stand around waiting because they don’t know they’re supposed to go to a reporting center instead of waiting for the CSI team to come and take chrome samples from their bumper.
This doesn’t include the stupid cyclist who blew the red light and got clipped by a courier van and had to be loaded him into an ambulance (complaining all the while how motorists in this city just don’t respect cyclists). It doesn’t include the delivery van that parked too far from the curb and blocked the rail. It doesn’t include the fire trucks that did the same thing. It doesn’t include construction, taxis, wandering homeless or any of the other little obstacles one encounters each and every day on the roads of a busy, increasingly congested city. I find it amazing that all you people can live in this city every day and actually deny the reality of traffic gridlock. Yet here you are, doing so. If you can’t see it from where you’re standing, it’s just not there.
These, like short turns themselves, are the realities of urban light rail. Crying out for buses isn’t the solution you think it would be. They don’t carry the load. You’d need at least three buses for each ALRV you take off the line, just to meet current demand. Now consider how much more fuel just one of those buses consumes than a streetcar. Consider how much greater its emissions levels are. It’s an irrational, counter-progressive reaction.
The official Commission desire is for more right-of-way lanes for the streetcars. The less time the streetcar spends in the same traffic as automobiles, the better the line runs. Period. Yes, Spadina sometimes has problems, but nowhere near the amount. It’s just logic. But it inconveniences automobile drivers. So it doesn’t happen. The city is still designed for the car and you can’t blame the TTC for that.
Now, myself? I would suggest breaking the 501 line into three. One from Neville to McCaul. Another from McCaul to Humber. A third from Humber to the Branch. It would cut down (but not eliminate) short turns. However, I doubt it would stop the complaints. I’ve seen Ms. Knight’s anecdote about taking three cars to get where she was going on Queen. There would be plenty of that.
Which brings me to the petition. May I say it smacked of that sense of elitist privilege and entitlement which pervades just about everything that comes out of the Beaches. It sounds as if the Beaches were the only place where short turns occur. Fortunately, others have commented in this thread to remind us that other areas exist, so I’ll only say that reading Ms. Knight’s essay, one would think the TTC had singled out the downtrodden Beachers for the most vile and prejudiced treatment imaginable.
A little context: the recent track reconstruction project in the Beaches included shuttle bus service throughout and was finished ahead of schedule thanks to the money and political pull of the residents. Did anyone know (or care) the people of Regent Park on Dundas have been without streetcar service since February due to track reconstruction? No shuttle buses. Nothing. Walk to Parliament or walk to Broadview. This means the elderly, children, handicapped and all the other people wept for in postings on this issue. The only difference is, they’re poor. No petitions for them. No computer chat halls either. In contrast, the poor Beachers seem to be doing very well indeed.
A more constructive and less elitist-looking approach might have been to make your petition about the entire system; the entire city of Toronto, which is in deep, deep doo-doo, Ms. Knight; Mr. Munro. You do know that, don’t you? They are talking about shutting down an entire SUBWAY LINE and you are talking about creating a new bus line specifically running between your downtown destination and your Beaches front door. Instead of a petition with thousands of names from across the city, you gave them one with a few hundred Beachers grumbling about their local issue. Can anyone take that seriously?
We just had a municipal AND provincial election. Where were all you transit activists? You could have taken this issue city-wide; not just to that glad-handing baby-kisser Giambrone, but to your *other* city councillors; to David Miller; to your MPP; to the Premier. You could even be taking it to Stephen Harper, who has promised millions for transit and not delivered one thin dime because they’re “studying” how it should be spent. Make them understand that your vote is contingent upon good transit, not tax cuts. If you do, you might be taken more seriously.
I sympathize to some extent with these comments, but must make some of my own.
First off, as anyone who reads this blog knows, I have written reams about the problems we have in financing the TTC and city services in general. Moreover, I have been fighting for better transit funding for decades, and especially recently. Politicians love to talk about how they will improve transit, but it’s always something that will happen “next year”. Council’s gutless deferral and then dilution of the new taxes, and the vain hope that the Feds will actually spend money in Toronto combine to push hoped-for service changes off until fall 2008.
As a transit activist, I speak to lots of politicians, but speaking to Tories is a total waste of time. They don’t give a damn, and wouldn’t even if we voted for them. (Look at how little we got from the Liberals too!) I happen to vote NDP, but that’s because I live in Jack Layton’s riding. Elsewhere, my vote might go to a Liberal if it would help a Tory to a richly-deserved defeat. I prefer to be ignored by a party that occasionally has a social conscience rather than by one who treats me and my city like dirt.
Some have left comments here with a less then generous attitude toward organized labour, and I have defended the operating staff frequently in these pages. Nonetheless, some operators do take advantage of the system and run off-schedule with no justifiable reason. Yes, there are delays, accidents, fires, what-have-you, but they don’t happen on every block every hour of every day.
There’s a big problem with line management, and this is compounded by the fact that there isn’t enough service. Moreover, on Queen, the ALRV-based schedules artificially increase the length of any gap. Twenty years ago, you could short turn a car at Woodbine Loop, and the service frequency to Neville was still well under 10 minutes. Now half hour gaps are common.
Comparing the shuttle services in the Beach and in Regent Park during track construction is not fair. The Beach is landlocked and has few alternative services. Either you walk up to Kingston Road (assuming you really like the hill), or you hike to the Main or Woodbine buses, hope one shows up, and go out of your way to get to a downtown-bound service. On Dundas, there is service on Queen to the south and Gerrard to the north. A shuttle bus did operate in this neighbourhood, and the most people I ever saw on it was three. It was faster to walk in from services surrounding Regent Park than to wait for the shuttle.
As for a direct bus line to the Beach, I have no use for that at all and have written on several occasions that the Beach Express is a monument to the failure of good service provision on the streetcar line and a waste of resources. The TTC claims that the line breaks even due to the extra fares, but ignores the fact that people should get good service without having to pay an extra fare for the privilege.
Fixing the Queen car, and transit service in general, is not a simple thing to do, and there are many competing interests. Providing reliable, frequent service will go a long way to improving relations between riders and operators who bear the brunt of complaints as front-line staff. Part of this is a funding issue, part is a management issue and part is a labour issue. All of these are intertwined and anyone who critiques only one aspect will miss the deeper picture.
Updated November 11:
Here is Driver Bob’s additional comment and my reply.
So much for debate.
Rant on, complaint junkies.
“Debate” presumes that there are different points of view. If all you want to do is rant that nobody has the one-and-only correct view of the world as seen from the driver’s seat, that’s a big problem.
There are serious issues with how the line is scheduled (something Operators and Route Supervisors complain about a lot), problems with the level of service (too little to give the needed flexibility in operations), problems with how it is managed (CIS control never seems to understand the real world on the street), and problems with how some operators make up their own schedules thereby screwing both the public and fellow workers.
Nobody is going to wave a magic wand and fix all of this overnight, but the more we understand how the line really works, and the service passengers actually experience every day, the better chance we have of doing something worthwhile.
Mr. Munro: I refreshed that other thread and didn’t see my post there, so I assumed it had been ignored. I’m afraid I submitted a surly comment about stifling debate before I dug around and saw you had favoured me with my own thread. I apologize profusely.