Mimico By The Lake

At its upcoming meeting, Etobicoke and York Community Council will consider an information report on the revitalization of Mimico.  A great deal of the report concerns a public meeting held in June 2007 where, judging from the notes, there was much discussion and many ideas.  Clearly people in Mimico want their neighbourhood to improve its look, its economy and its attractiveness without simply yielding to piecemeal, uncontrolled development.

Mimico is one of the old towns on the Lake Shore highway west of Toronto.  The study area lies between Park Lawn Road (just west of Humber Loop) and Royal York Road.  This area has a mix of residential uses with high-rise condos west from Park Lawn and an established low-rise neighbourhood of houses and small apartment buildings east from Royal York.  There is a small commercial area around Mimico Road.

Although the report deals with a variety of issues affecting Mimico’s future, transit does pop up here are there with some interesting comments including:

  • Don’t just concentrate on transit to get people downtown, but also to allow travel along the Lake Shore itself.
  • Consider special fare structures to encourage local travel.
  • Consider separate local and express services to downtown.
  • Abandon the Park Lawn Loop proposal and concentrate on making Humber Loop more attractive and pedestrian friendly.
  • Extend the right-of-way to Long Branch.
  • Increase parking at GO and TTC subway stations.

Local service was once an important function of the 507 Long Branch car when it operated as a separate route.  Since its integration with 501 Queen, service west of Humber Loop is unreliable with very wide gaps in service caused by short turns.  Some cars that do get west of Humber short-turn at Kipling (18th Street) and miss serving the outer end of the route to Brown’s Line (40th Street).  Service that does reach Long Branch does not run on a reliable schedule.

The proposal for a local “shopping fare” echoes the existing arrangement on St. Clair West where a time-based pass using transfer is in effect to encourage system use during the right-of-way construction project.  Whether we get time-based fares on the TTC as part of a smart-card project (e.g. one “fare” provides up to two hours of riding regardless of direction or stopovers) remains to be seen, but this would extend the concept system wide.

A separate express route to downtown will arrive as and when the Waterfront West LRT is actually built.  This project is now in the EA stage looking at the section between the CNE and Sunnyside where there is some debate about the appropriate alignment and the number of stations to serve south Parkdale.

Extending the right-of-way to Long Branch Loop won’t make much difference in transit operations given the current lack of serious congestion.  No choke points showed up in my review of TTC’s vehicle monitoring data from December 2006 for this segment of the route. 

The important thing will be to provide good, reliable service on Lake Shore, something that can be done by giving southern Etobicoke back its own route.  The eastern terminus is a matter for discussion, but the service should definitely be independent of the 501 Queen car.

Park Lawn Loop is one of those TTC mysteries.  It is a remnant of the original WWLRT proposal and has the distinct odour of a scheme to allow abandonment of the streetcar line west of Etobicoke Creek.  However, the WWLRT is now part of Transit City and it goes all the way to Long Branch.  Is Park Lawn an appropriate place to relocate the Humber Loop terminal?

Finally, I cannot help but worry about calls for more parking.  What this shows is that people don’t have any faith in the surface transit system to get them where they want to go, and they are now focussed on rapid transit lines, particularly the Bloor subway, for east-west travel.  Some of this will be demographic change, but some will be the long-term effect of decline in east-west streetcar service.

As Mimico and the communities west to Long Branch redevelop, good transit will be essential.

Analysis of Route 29 Dufferin — Part I: Introduction

Early in 2007 when I started looking at the TTC’s vehicle monitoring (CIS) data, I thought to be finished with it long ago, to have blazed through many routes and written wonderful commentaries on all of them.  Things didn’t quite work out as I had planned, and I got bogged down with competing issues and other calls on my time.  Also, the programs that digest, massage, and otherwise render presentable the TTC’s data needed some housecleaning both to make them more robust and to reduce a lot of the manual work that went into the early analyses on 504 King.

Things are much simpler now, although the challenges of interpreting the data remain with each route offering its own peculiarities.  Now I turn to the Dufferin Bus, a frequent route for which the TTC receives many complaints about service.  How will it compare to routes we have seen already?

The route is 13.56km from Dufferin Loop to Wilson Station, although half of the scheduled peak service runs only to Tycos Drive about 3/4 of the way to the north end of the line.  This is in the same range as the Carlton and King cars, although they spend much more time in “downtown” conditions.  It is shorter than the 16.65km Queen-Humber route, and of course much shorter than the 24.43km Queen-Long Branch route.

The scheduled service is generally more frequent than on the streetcar lines, although with smaller vehicles so that headways are better for any level of demand scaled to capacity.

As I have done on previous routes, I will look first at the data for Christmas Day 2006 as this shows the route in its simplest state without any effects from traffic congestion, weather or heavy passenger loads. Continue reading

There And Back Again: Neville to Long Branch and Return

Intrepid travellers, egged on by rosy tales in National Geographic, may find themselves attempting a round trip on the 501.  All manner of dangers lie in wait for the unwary — just to get started, you have to actually find a Queen car at Neville Loop!

As a public service, I have reviewed the Queen car data to see what might await our adventurers.  [Yes, you thought I was finished with the 501, didn’t you.  Fooled you!] Continue reading

TTC’s Revisionist History — Where Have The Queen Car Riders Gone

Today’s Star contains a pair of articles by Tess Kalinowski and Christopher Hume on the joys of the Queen car.  Recently, National Geographic listed the 501 as one of the world’s ten top streetcar rides in Journeys of a Lifetime.  Some riders may feel that’s an apt description of their typical journey.

A few nuggets from the TTC in the article show that this organization still refuses to understand and accept its own role in the destruction of riding on this line.  Marilyn Bolton, speaking for the TTC, is quoted:

Much of the 501’s ridership decline coincided with the expansion of the Bloor-Danforth subway and the Scarborough RT in the 1980s, according to the TTC.

“Riders moved up (north) to take advantage of the new subway lines and moved away from the Queen streetcar,” said Bolton.

A look at the statistics [discussed here on December 11] shows that ridership on the Queen Street corridor fell during a period long after the Bloor Subway opened in 1966 (extended to Islington and Warden in 1968, then to Kipling and Kennedy in 1980).

That old chestnut about congestion shows up again:

The sheer length of the route is also a problem. When a car blocks a streetcar by making an illegal left turn or someone parks on the tracks or some other delay occurs on the line, the reverberations travel a long way.

As my analyses of operations on streetcar routes have shown quite clearly, major blockages of service are rare and the disarray in operations can be traced substantially to poor line management and dubious on-time performance even when there is no external source of delays.  Without question, the length of the route magnifies any event, but minor delays are a fact of life for transit operations.

The article also includes a claim that it takes up to five hours to make a trip on Queen.  That’s for a round trip, not a one-way, and even then, this is a rare situation belonging to major storms and regional traffic snarls.

If riders migrated north to the BD subway, they were driven away by poor, unreliable service on Queen.  After the Fix the 501 Forum, the TTC claims it will change its operations and address reliability issues.  Inventing new excuses for driving away riding at a rate unmatched elsewhere on the system is no way to tackle the problem.

Font Size Selection

Over in the right hand of the screen, you will now see an option with a small a and a big A that you can use to adjust your font size for visiting this site.

Yes, I know, it only changes the font in the main column, not in the sidebar.

This should make life easier for folks using IE where, depending on their setup, they may get teeny-weeny characters until they adjust the font size manually.

Coming Soon …

Coming soon:

  • Analysis of the 29 Dufferin route:  I have now completed the background work of building the charts for this route and will begin posting comments over the weekend.  No surprises here to anyone who rides the route.  It may be run with ever so “flexible” buses, but the headways are unreliable just as on King Street. 
  • Analysis of the 7 Bathurst bus routes.
  • Analysis of the 510 Spadina and 511 Bathurst streetcar routes and the eternal question “How long does it take to get from the subway to Nassau Street”.
  • A review of vehicle allocations (CLRV vs ALRV) and the frequency of change-offs (cars replaced while in service due to assorted problems) on King and Queen.
  • An update on the Transit City plans.

“The Three Cities” and Transit City

The Centre for Urban & Community Studies at the University of Toronto recently published a bulletin entitled The Three Cities within Toronto:  Income polarization among Toronto’s neighbourhoods, 1970–2000.  This is an important look at the evolution of Toronto’s economy and social structure, with a widening gap between the well-off and the poor.

The authors reviewed the evolution of individual incomes by census tract across the 416 to see which areas showed rises and falls relative to the average level for the “Census Metropolitan Area”.  (The CMA includes part of the 905, but is part of the overall employment area for people living in the 416, the City of Toronto proper.)

What emerges is a pattern they describe as “The Three Cities”. Continue reading

A Visit to the City Archives

Now and then, I spend my time browsing through the photograph collections at the City Archives, and this activity can be rather addictive.  The main page includes a link to a search page where you can start your travels.  Note that the indexing is spotty, and if you find items in a series that you really like, it is often worthwhile drilling down into the linked pages for the specific collections and looking for a “browse” link that will bring up the entire content.  I can’t put links to such pages here as they are built on the fly.

After looking at photos of my old neighbourhood in North Toronto, I stumbled on paintings of the Yonge Subway by the artist, Sigmund Serafin, whose paintings of Bloor and University subway stations are posted at Transit Toronto.  I have recently learned more about Serafin’s history, and that post will be updated in the new year.

I will leave the joy of finding intriguing bits and pieces to you, but there are a number of items I thought worthwhile to whet your appetite. Continue reading

Is Cherry Street a Model for LRT in Toronto?

Ian Swain wrote the following note recently, and I thought this topic deserved a thread of its own.

Dear Steve:

Something in the Star’s article on Cherry Street last week made me curious. Here’s the relevant quotation (emphasis added):

But the Cherry St. configuration isn’t likely to replace the traditional centre-road streetcar pattern. For one thing, it requires building truck access in behind the buildings on the transit side of the street, something that couldn’t be retrofitted into most existing neighbourhoods.
There’s also the challenge of right turn signals. The transitway envisioned for this section of Cherry would be only 800 to 900 metres long, or about three stops. To build it any longer would slow down streetcars because they would have to constantly pause to make way for turning motorists, Dawson said. 

Do you think the superintendent of TTC route planning is correct that a streetcar right-of-way on one side of the street is inevitably slowed by right-turning cars? Or is it just reluctance on the part of the city to slow right-turning cars a bit with better transit priority?


First, let’s put Cherry Street in context.  The eastern waterfront is a blank slate for new development and street design allowing us to think about the way building access is provided.  On Cherry itself, the situation is special when compared to proposed new Transit City lines.  The existing street grid contains short blocks and the desire is for for a strong pedestrian presence.  Placing the streetcar right-of-way on the east side of Cherry makes the space an extension of the car-free eastern sidewalk. 

The short blocks would be a problem, as they are everywhere, regardless of where the right-of-way is located.  Views of the proposed layout are in the TTC report starting at page 15. Continue reading

Our New Streetcar: The TTC Wants To Hear From You! Really! (Update 3)

Updated Dec. 19 at midnight:

At the Dec. 18th TTC meeting, the reports linked below were discussed along with a technical report and appendix from Booz Allen.  Note that these links point to the National Post’s site where they are linked from this article.  As and when the TTC puts them on its own website, I will alter this link to point to the TTC’s copies.

Thanks to Mark Dowling for alerting me to the documents on the Post’s site.

From a friend who attended the meeting, I learned that organized labour made a strong showing arguing for Canadian content and, of course, for the contract to go to Bombardier in Thunder Bay.  Some members of the Commission echoed this position.  I can’t help thinking that they are overplaying their hands on this one.

First off, Bombardier is the only potential bidder with a Canadian rail car manufacturing facility, and this gives them a leg up on costs against any other contender.  Second, the TTC’s decision to opt for a 100% low-floor specification narrows the field of potential suppliers.  At this point, I would be extremely surprised to see more than two bids for this contract, and given the obvious inside track Bombardier has, why Siemens would waste their money bidding against them is a difficult question. 

This gives us the impression of an open proposal call, but there is clear evidence of a desired outcome, and we’re back at the Toronto Rocket subway car order mess all over again.  Light Rail has enough problems in Toronto, not to mention an uphill battle to secure funding from Queen’s Park and Ottawa, without the odour of a predetermined contract.  The last thing we need is for Ottawa to say “you didn’t run the bid properly” as an excuse to back away.

Booz Allen is a major consulting firm for Light Rail projects, among others, and has participated in many studies and designs for new and expanded systems.  The material in their report is drawn from  experience on other systems, and they are vendor-independent.

The information here is no surprise to anyone familiar with the component costs of rapid transit vehicles.  A very large proportion of the new LRVs will be sourced offshore because that’s where components are manufactured.  Half of the cost per car comes from components that are not manufactured in Canada, and this order of LRVs isn’t remotely close to the quantity that would justify anyone setting up a local plant.

Because any 100% low floor car will be based on a European design, the engineering and fabrication work will be done overseas since the expertise and facilities already exist. 

Best case, Booz Allen estimates that 25% of the value of the car order can be provided in Canada, and of this, a goodly chunk is not going to be the work of the folks at Thunder Bay.

If the TTC were to insist on a higher Canadian content, this would effectively lock out every bidder except Bombardier, and even then Toronto would pay a premium to have overseas manufacturing capability duplicated in Canada.  Indeed, if the Can-Con level is set too high, nobody will bid.

Whoever gets this order will be building light rail equipment for the Toronto area for decades.  As I have said before, I have no brief for any would-be supplier, but want only that Toronto gets an excellent car at a good price. 

This contract, plus the Transit City add-ons, will give us Toronto’s streetcar/LRV fleet well into this century.  This is our last chance, after all the years wasted on alternatives, to get LRT right, for it to be a credible form of transit in the GTA.  The last thing we need is a lemon, or “the Edsel of streetcars” as a former TTC Chief General Manager described the CLRVs.

The Request for Proposals will be issued in early 2008.  The next moves are up to the potential bidders and transit’s “funding partners” to prove how serious they are about the future of rail transit in Toronto. Continue reading