Some Things You Just Have To Say

I received a comment from Roger Bal in the thread about Trams to the Airport, and this really deserves a post all of its own.

Roger comments:

Steve, I believe you are too one sided and political and you failed to see the proposal of LRT I mentioned via the rail corridor. It seems to me it’s either your way or the highway with every proposal and idea that is put forward by anyone.

gettorontomoving is just an idea like other ideas brought forward time and time again through out the years. Why does someone’s political affiliation have to do with an idea. Anytime a new road is mentioned or brought forward your underwear becomes fouled. Remember that we all share the roads and that’s the way it should be. Cars and our population is going up and nothing you say will change that. The ideas of roads being added to vacant land beside railway tracks shouldn’t be political. Those ideas are valid and they benefit everyone and it eliminates a lot of unused lands in our city. I don’t view the world as everything being political.

I dissed the gettorontomoving scheme not for its LRT to the airport, but for its expressway extensions as shown on their map, specifically:

  • The Weston Corridor expressway as a southerly extension of Highway 400 to the Gardiner
  • The Spadina expressway extension to St. Clair
  • The DVP branch through East York and Scarborough via the hydro corridor

These roads are overwhelmingly designed to funnel traffic into the core, but it’s unclear where it will go when it gets there. They will do little or nothing to relieve congestion on the outer 416 and 905 road networks. I might have greater faith that someone was genuinely interested in road problems if they concentrated their efforts in those regions.

Anyone who has been reading this site will know that my preferred method of serving the Weston rail corridor is with an LRT line. It was impossible to argue for this to be included in Transit City because until Blue 22 is formally laid to rest, nothing else is ever considered.

gettorontomoving also drags out that old chestnut, a “balanced transportation system”. Nobody has ever explained what is supposed to constitute “balance” beyond expunging the word “no” from our vocabulary and building whatever anyone wants. You can build your subway as long as I can build my expressway.

The hard decisions always come when we say that more roads are not the answer. Back in the 60s, we could pretend that expressways were a valid response to transportation problems. Today, that’s a joke.

As for my being too one sided and political, I have a basic response: this is my blog. If you want to run a blog ranting on about the wonders of expressway construction and the huge wastes of money on transit, be my guest. You won’t find that here, except in some of the comments.

Transit issues, both at the political level and the detailed technical level, have not received good airing for decades, and if we depended on the professionals, we would just be learning that someone had invented the wheel, but it only works in Europe.

LRT has been around for a long time, and could have made inroads in Toronto but for the combined efforts of the subway lobby and a provincial agency more interested in dubious high technology experiments than worthwhile transit.

Back in 1972, when Streetcars for Toronto fought to save the streetcar system, and then turned to advocacy for LRT, our pictures of various systems were considered quaint and certainly not in the same league as a new world-beating technology. Never mind that in 1966 the TTC produced a plan for suburban streetcars running through what was then largely farmland including a line to the airport!

Other cities built LRT networks, we built a toy train and a handful of small subway lines. Now, finally, Toronto has a renaissance, a sudden discovery that there has been a transit alternative all this time right under our noses. I can excuse politicians for blatant stupidity, up to a point, but the “professionals” who chose to downplay this option have a lot to answer for.

LRT is not “the answer” to everything, but despite a so-called alternative analysis process, it has never had the profile it now enjoys thanks to Transit City. Even that won’t really be established until we build something successful.

Meanwhile, Bus Rapid Transit, something that was not even on the table decades ago when every right-thinking city built only subways, has emerged as a way to deflect attention from LRT and to focus on road-oriented transit schemes.

I take a hard line with my positions because I have seen decades of positions lost by erosion, inch by inch, like water dripping on a rock face. Just let us build one more subway. Streetcars are nice but not here, not yet. More service would be good, but next year.

I have watched as dubious schemes and their politically connected sponsors took precedence over good transit because, as we all know, the transit system exists not for its riders, but for the lucrative projects it can finance.

Many who have commented here contributed to the evolution of my positions. When you’re forced to stand up every day in an electronic equivalent of Question Period, you work through the details and nuances in your arguments and you present your opinions with gusto.

[Some Honourable Members: “Hear! Hear!”]

I detest expressway proposals because they speak to a city model that is long extinct. I dislike subway proposals because they concentrate scarce resources, both capital and operating, on lines of dubious value and lock us into the most expensive of all transit modes.

In a way, I am a small-c conservative, someone who does not want to build and spend recklessly. That may manifest itself in ways much removed from the more traditional small-or-large-c crowd, but it’s a valid position. I want money spent in ways that will improve transit at moderate cost (not the same as “cheap”) because I want transit to have a greater role for Toronto, its growing population and the city it can become.

We all differ in exactly how that might be achieved, and I have every right to get on my soap box (it is my soap box after all), just as gettorontomoving has the right to plump for their scheme. I would never make a good politician, because when I don’t agree with something, I say so.

The foul smell on the air is not my underwear, but transportation “plans” that would set the city back decades.

74 thoughts on “Some Things You Just Have To Say

  1. Steve: For clarity in this comment, I have indented all of the quotations from others.

    “Steve: My outlook is not all that different from what Stephen writes here, but I must comment on the observation about the Newmarket bus. The difference he speaks of is one of service quality and quantity. Take a network that runs infrequently and imposes severe penalties on trips that don’t happen to follow the route structure. Replace it with more frequent service that actually takes you where you want to go — Nirvanna! — even if it only runs every 10 to 15 minutes. That level of service won’t make a dent in road traffic, and will have difficulty getting political support for dedicated infrastructure.”

    Truth be told, this is considered a start. When the VIVA blue line was created, frequencies started at every 12 minutes at rush hour (6 south of Bernard) and 15 minutes at other times. Now the frequencies are every 10 minutes at rush hour (5 minutes south of Bernard), 10 minutes on middays and evenings, 12 minutes Saturday daytimes, and 15 minutes at all other times. The point is that since VIVA’s inception, there have been increases in ridership on this service, most notably in the Blue route. If frequencies do continue to increase, and ridership continues to rise, then VIVA is indeed making that “dent” in road traffic. Thus, you have a case for “dedicated infrastructure”, that is, a BRT ROW. That is what I am looking forward to, and hope will be accomplished in the next few years. York (and by extension, the TTC) needs this ROW to go ahead to make a meaningful dent in York’s (and by extension, Toronto’s) traffic issues.

    I will concede that a ROW may be necessary south of Bernard, but not north of it where frequencies (and stops) are less.

    “Fast? Not in portions where BRT mingles with mixed traffic. That is what is hampering VIVA at this present moment. And of course this happens in Ottawa too.”

    Which is why I’m looking forward to the BRT ROW on Yonge, between Finch Station and Bernard.

    “Modular? Why can’t LRT be like that too? I’m sure one can add stops or move stops elsewhere.”

    What I mean by Modular is the ability of BRT to put stops ANYWHERE on a line, or even outside of it. Stops on a BRT do not have to be in the BRT proper, whereas LRT stops have to be on a line itself. Case in point: take the proposed Finch West LRT and say it was a BRT line. This route would make connections to three separate malls on the line. The Joy of BRT is that a special loop could be built on mall proper with a bare minimum of expense, just modify an entrance to the mall to handle bus traffic, build a loop, and voila, you have an instant transit connection to the mall. This would not be possible with an LRT. (Note, I know that the TTC would probably not allow itself to use such a route, but I’m taking a cue from what happened in Ottawa, namely the moving of the Kanata Town Centre Transitway terminal to the Kanata Centrum centre. Yes, there is no actual ROW in that area meaning that the moving of these stops was not hindered by existing BRT infrastructure.)

    Steve interjects: The TTC’s concern with this type of arrangement is that the time taken to serve off-route centres detracts from travel time on the main, line-haul portion of the route. If a centre is so important as an origin/destination, then gerrymandering of routes can be considered, but this runs into problems if an express “BRT” spends more of its time twirling through interchanges than travelling along its route.

    “Steve: There are very few places, certainly in the Transit City plan, where BRT could be an effective alternative to the LRT schemes. BRT advocates focus on quick fixes like the Don Mills Corridor, but run into serious problems the moment the buses have to operate on local streets. The connection at Castle Frank is a particular example of the “we are engineers, we can solve any problem” attitude. Swan Boats and trebuchets would be simpler. “

    Right now I can think of several lines that could benefit as BRT: Finch West, Sheppard East, and Scarborough-Malvern. Eglinton would have to be LRT if only because of that “central section” and the fact that an LRT connection to Pearson would make the city really attractive.

    As for Jane and Don Mills, it depends on how you plan on routing the route through the sections just north of the Subway where ROW room is scarce. If these routes have to exist in mixed traffic, then they could possibly exist as BRT, but if there are to effectively divert transit traffic from those areas, then we could go for LRT (depending on what these “plans” are, of course).

    “Cheaper to build and operate? I invite you to visit There is a page dedicated to myths of BRT verses facts of LRT. You can see where the benefits of LRT outweigh BRT. Especially on issues of safety, I’ve heard accidents involving BRT buses sideswiping each other on narrow transitways.”

    I think you’re talking about the costs to build LRT vs BRT. Really, it is a question of ridership vs cost. When the BRT was being considered, OCTranspo did a cost-benefit analysis on LRT and found that ridership was not sufficient to warrant the cost of the LRT line. Obviously, this is not the case today, which is why the line should have been upgraded to LRT, which it wasn’t. I will remind [readers] that another poster stated that the dependance on the use of the car is lower in Ottawa, a city with a BRT, than in Edmonton or Calgary, two cities with dedicated LRT networks.

    “Yes, there is a likelihood of breakdowns on LRT. But a well planned LRT line will have turnback and storage facilities along the length of the route to minimize delays. And even if this does not fix the issue, you can always call forth your vaunted BUSES, right??”

    Again, I will reiterate that LRT is not immune to delays, but LRT delays are more serious than BRT ones.

    Steve again: Delays on subways are really serious, but that doesn’t stop us from building them. Transit of all flavours will encounter delays and to suggest we wouldn’t build fixed rail of any flavour on that account is not a valid argument. I won’t say anything about the frequent breakdowns on the SRT which occur whenever a snowflake gets in the way of a train.

    “[quotation trimmed for length] … Have you ever taken a ride on Viva? I have, and it was a hellish encounter at that. [read the rest of this in the original comment].”

    Which is why I am waiting for the ROW on Yonge to be built. Which would have effectively sidestepped your “little situation”. You’re putting the cart before the horse, just wait when VIVA phase 2 is built.

    “I’ve been to Finch and taken a bus. If there were express buses available, it sure wasn’t made clear. There’s nothing on the TTC schedules on the web idicating that there is an express bus. “

    Blame the new scheduling system. The biggest problem with what the TTC has right now is that it smushes the timetables for 39A, 39B, and 39C/E as FS. Previously they would have had a separate schedule for all express bus routes and I am at a loss as to why they do not do that now.

    Steve: It’s something of an aside here, but the TTC seems to be captive to some very bad inhouse software. For the information of readers, the am peak service effective February 18 on the 39 will be:

    39/39F to Seneca College every 5’15”
    39A to McCowan every 5’15”
    39C to McCowan Express every 5’15”
    39E to Neilson Express every 5’15”

    In other words, half of the service will run local and half express, and all of it will run in mixed traffic.


  2. Since Vancouver is now embracing commonality (makes one wonder how Canada Line is going) perhaps we can sell them any saleable bits of SRT yard equipment and trackage, embracing commonality by building LRT in Scarborough…


  3. “One other thing, it just galls me that Viva has its own page on the Wikipedia describing it as a rapid transit service. It is not even RAPID TRANSIT. It is simply an express bus service with glorified bus stops? Why can people never get it right?”

    Well, the words “Rapid Transit” is a draw anyways. You have to admit though, despite the absense of a ROW it is quite fast, compared to most line-haul express routes that the TTC has.

    “Steve again: Delays on subways are really serious, but that doesn’t stop us from building them. Transit of all flavours will encounter delays and to suggest we wouldn’t build fixed rail of any flavour on that account is not a valid argument. I won’t say anything about the frequent breakdowns on the SRT which occur whenever a snowflake gets in the way of a train.”

    Obviously, as I am writing this, poor Steve is probably grumbling about the fact that the Subway was delayed between Kennedy and Warden stations due to a derailment. I’m not saying that we should not consider any form of rail technology for this reason. The subway is designed to handle large masses of people, and I will also concede that LRT also has a capacity advantage compared to BRT. The point is that BRT has several advantages that LRT can never overcome, and thus should not be cast away as a viable mass transit option.

    Steve: Steve had a very nice ride on the shuttle bus from Warden to Kennedy. Travelling against the peak, there was lots of space on the bus and our primary delay was from an errant motorist who had driven into the bus loop at Warden.

    However, I did also have the joy of riding an RT shuttle recently when switches froze up at McCowan. In that case I lucked out by interpreting the barely audible public announcement on the platform at STC and knowing where the shuttles normally load in the bus loop. No supervisory staff were in evidence. The operator, clearly used to this sort of thing, took a good load from STC to Kennedy via Midland and Lawrence East Stations.


  4. Stephen Cheung writes:
    “The Joy of BRT is that a special loop could be built on mall proper with a bare minimum of expense, just modify an entrance to the mall to handle bus traffic, build a loop, and voila, you have an instant transit connection to the mall.”

    This is one of my peeves with OC Transpo. Their bus routes have inexplicable attractions to every mall within a kilometre or two. For example, the 18, which is a non-transitway route, first visits Westboro station. Then, with the destination of Brittania in sight — an easy two-minute drive along Richmond Road — it turns off to go to Carlingwood Mall, then Lincoln Fields transitway station, then Lincoln Fields Mall, and then finally to Brittania Beach.

    Fortunately for me, I got off at Woodroffe and didn’t have to take the two-malls-and-a-station-in-the-space-of-two-kilometres tour.

    The Shorncliffe 123 is one of the TTC routes that makes a a there-and-back loop, in its case to Sherway Gardens mall. It does this both Long-Branch-bound and Kipling-bound, which adds a good ten minutes to the round trip time.


  5. This whole BRT brouhaha irks me for several reasons:

    1) Like Steve said, Viva is nothing more than a glorified express bus. Sure, it allows for speedloading at its stops, but again, it runs in mixed traffic throughout its entire route. Oh yes there are the HOV lanes on the portion of Yonge between Steeles and Finch, but we all know how drivers respect HOV lanes.

    2) The Harper Government, as well as some provincial Tories have solely pointed to the success of Viva and calling it a Transportation success story. It should NOT be. A glorified express bus is not in any definition Rapid Transit. This is undercutting our desires for a fully integrated LRT network in Toronto.

    3) Ads calling Viva the “Rapid Transit of the Future”. Oxymoron anyone?

    4) As someone mentioned earlier, BRT is just an excuse to twist transportation plans so that they still favour the car.

    Yes, I am biased against Viva. I was biased from the moment this project was conceived. York Region kept mentioning a state-of-the-art transit system when Viva was conceived, if it was LRT, I would agree. But it is simply a bus with a few bells and whistles attached to it. Yes, I am biased to those who support an idea akin to Viva. I’ve lived in this city all my life and am not going to see the dreams of a wide network of LRT being replaced by puttering snooty buses. And yes, to an extension, I am biased towards BRT in general. A bus is not a good idea to convince people to leave their cars and take transit.

    Besides the LRT network, I am looking towards a single transit entity, encompassing York, Peel, Durham, and TTC entities. I think this is crucial to the goal of a seamless and integrated Pan-GTA network. Viva does not help that goal one bit, especially since it is privately run.

    Steve: I would also like to know whether the very expensive vehicles used for VIVA would have been purchased if this were not a showcase implementation with funding to match.


  6. I’m going to toss in my observations and ideas with apologies to anyone that’s already put them out for discussion.

    First, The Toronto Party, what’s that? Isn’t it something we have in the summer with bands?

    Next, King, Queen, Bay and Yonge should never be one-way streets. Ever been to Hamilton (or Ottawa to a lesser degree)? It’s a mess driving in those cities and transit is almost non-existent (HSR and OC Transpo, please). The people that live on those streets (yes people actually live down here) would be outraged (me included).

    Let’s do to the Allen what was done with the eastern Gardiner Expwy. knock it down, or more precisely fill it in so it’s at grade again thus turning it into a street that intersects other streets. We could leave the subway where it is below grade. While we’re at it, knock down the rest of the raised section of the Gardiner. It costs a fortune to maintain a raised expressway, get rid of it!

    Kill Blue-22 once and for all time. It’s a classic pork barrel idea if I’ve ever heard of one. We have to stop wasting time and money on this boondoggle.

    Lastly, get the province, York Region, GO Transit, TTC and VIVA to come clean and produce full disclosure on their true costs of development and operation of the various “initiatives” to improve the GTA’s transportation needs.

    a) Just how many other pockets were picked to fund VIVA? Why does VIVA take longer to travel from Newmarket to Finch than the GO service it replace did to travel to York Mills?

    b) How much is the GO extension to Barrie (and future expansions elsewhere) costing the taxpayer when the bus service down the 400 was lightly used? I mean how many people can stand a GO train seat for nearly two hours? How much of these same expansions of GO service are encouraging urban sprawl? So much for the “Green Belt”.

    c) How much does it really cost to run the Sheppard Subway and how much for the bus service it replaced? Who’s really going to pay the freight on extending Spadina to nowhere? Why are we dithering on Transit City?

    d) How much did it cost to build those HOV lanes (404 and 410) that just increase the number of cars on the road, not solving the pollution or congestion problems one iota? Why wasn’t that money used for transit?

    I could go on and on, but Steve it is your blog after all.

    Steve: Yes, it is.


  7. The evaluation of VIVA performance should not be related so much to the choice of technology for Toronto RT network.

    VIVA was a good solution for the task at hand. It is not a true BRT, so what? It is comfortable (I take it from time to time), it improved the region’s modal split substantially, and Phase 1 was relatively inexpensive (just 150 million if I am not mistaken).

    Toronto network requires much more capacity. Buses on many TTC’s regular routes run more frequently than all VIVA + YRT buses on any part of VIVA network. ROW operation is likely to attract even more riders, and this is a good reason to opt for higher capacity solution, aka LRT.


  8. Steve – can you be specific about the ‘very expensive’ VIVA buses?

    I noticed the other days that the cost of the VIVA buses (on Wikipidea and also in the York Region website) is stated at:

    40 ft : $494 K / bus
    60 ft : $742 K / bus

    which didn’t seem that different than other buses. So I checked:

    Articulated bus purchase:

    Montreal’s has purchased 202 articulated buses for $172 million

    = $851 K / bus

    Regular (no hybrid) bus:

    TTC’s recent bus order (I subtracted out published numbers for the 150 hybrids)

    Purchase of 180 regular buses for $98 million ($208 million – $110 million for the hybrids.)

    = $544 k / bus

    So the VIVA bus purchase costs seem to be LESS than what are I assume are those two of the biggest bus purchasers in the continent.

    Steve: The TTC figures are a few years more recent (the VIVA order would have been placed in 2004 or even late 2003 for 2005 delivery, while TTC is now ordering buses for delivery in 2009 and 2010). Also, I had remembered the VIVA fleet being more expensive than the numbers cited, and it would be worth checking whether both numbers include sales taxes. It sounds trivial, but even with the partial rebate municipalities get, it makes a difference.

    It seems that the LRT proposed in Transit City will be borderline ‘rapid’. (The ‘R’ in LRT = ‘Rail’ not ‘rapid’.) I found a definition somewhere the other days that defined the ‘Rapid Transit’ enevelope based on a combination of service speed and distance between stops. (Sometimes it’s hard to find one’s way back to a link! – I should have printed the document.)

    With my understanding of the definition – and the expected TC service setup – the stops on TC routes would be too close together and the speed maye be too low (in part as a result) to qualify as rapid transit.


  9. RE: Viva Buses

    60 ft articulated bus: $742K x 25 = $18.55M (I think 4 of the buses were purchased after inception)

    40 ft bus $494K x 60 = $29.64M

    Total cost of buses: $48.19M

    Someone tell me why Viva cost $180M to start up? What happened to the other $130M? Did it cost $2M for each stop? That’s one hell of a bus stop, isn’t it?

    I would imagine for $180M, you could get a decent LRT line in York region. I wonder what those “burghers” were smoking when they signed off on their express bus (Note: from this point on, I will refer to Viva as only an express bus).


  10. ” … why Viva cost $180M to start up? What happened to the other $130M?”

    1) Garage facilities
    2) Operators’ salaries
    3) Stations
    4) Road construction: they lengthened right-turn lanes at some intersections, to allow Viva buses to jump the queue and reach the station faster.

    “… for $180M, you could get a decent LRT line in York region”

    An LRT proposal was on the table, but was quoted at around 2 billion. (Which looks reasonable judging by the distances: Yonge to Newmarket plus Hwy 7 E-W, and by projected costs of TC lines.)

    If it is not easy for Toronto to secure full TC funding despite proven demand, that would be much harder for York, a region with very limited transit ridership at the time.

    Steve: Operators’ salaries are not properly chargeable as a capital cost. One question this raises is the degree to which operations were artificially subsidized as part of the “project” budget while ridership grew.


  11. Ok honestly, I don’t understand why transit supporters bash transit….does that make any sense??

    I’m sure it didnt cost 2 Million a bus stop but how about the new Richmond Hill Terminal? Maybe the startup costs of putting up a *state of the art GPS system* so that us (as you refer 905 people as) “burghers” can stand at an “express bus” stop and know exactly how many minutes the next bus will come!

    I don’t know how much you LOVE the TTC but being able to stand at a stop and know exactly how long it will take is something that is not available anywhere within the City of Toronto (other then the few VIVA stops that are located within the city)

    VIVA has definately helped transit in York Region very very much. People up here will not willingly stand at a random bus stop and wait there clueless and then get jammed into a bus and stand for the next hour or so.

    There are many riders that use VIVA that wouldn’t ever touch the normal YRT that operates here, and that includes myself most of the time (unless i have no other way home).

    Is it a BRT? No it is not but it is the easiest candidate to become one since all that is necessary now is a simple ROW. Compare that to Toronto which never gets anything done but complain and argue about everything! Remember that even the fare structure helps to make it as fast as it can possibly be since passengers can enter through all doors which means there is no stopover time with people slowly pouring in each dime and nickel in order to pay the fare!

    It is called Phase 1 for a reason you know. For a transit proponent to bash transit makes no sense at all. Or maybe you’re jealous that your unable to get the same reliability and comfort that viva offers which is basically impossible to find on the TTC.

    Am i bashing the TTC? No, its the lifeline of toronto. However, if you sit here and bash other regions for trying to increase the modal split then i will happily show you how great the 416 has it….

    905 is here to stay, and it looks more and more like it will become the dominant employment area in the GTA with the city increasingly becoming the bedroom community to the 905.

    Why not look at the positives of VIVA instead of bashing it and continue to advocate transit to other areas of the city! Every line (except the green one) is a success and i do not say that by reading the garbage that the newspapers say but rather by riding each and every line.

    VIVA already has a complete EA for its conversion into LRT, i got a chance to read it at the local library last year, so it definately isn’t some excuse for the “road folly”.

    So much for transit proponents….geez!

    Steve: I cannot speak for others who have commented in this thread, but the only thing I am jealous of is the amount of money lavished on building VIVA relative to the level of service and ridership at a time when the TTC couldn’t provide adequate service due to funding cutbacks.

    I fully agree that operational conveniences like all door loading and automatic fare collection make the service attractive, but the current estimate to implement this system-wide on the TTC is well over $200-million, and there is serious back-peddling among the technology advocates at Queen’s Park about this whole project. VIVA was in the position of starting from scratch, and of running a small system with comparatively straightforward requirements.

    The TTC has dragged its feet on self-service fare collection for years, and they are paranoid about the possibility of revenue loss when we move to a Smart Card system where cheating could be more extensive depending on both the fare structure, the enforcement mechanism and the severity of penalties for cheating.

    The GPS info is worthwhile, and of course TTC vehicles now have this. Next, it will be tied into their central monitoring system and through that to a “next bus system”. When this will appear on the street remains to be seen.

    Having said that, reliable service is as important as a sign telling you when the next bus will show up. You can’t see the sign until you get to the stop, and if you are trying to make a transfer connection, you want either frequent service (so that the schedule doesn’t matter) or a bus that shows up predictably.

    As VIVA moves to later stages with bus (and then LRT) rights-of-way, it will truly be able to call itself “BRT”. This whole discussion turned on the question of “what is BRT” and the use of that term — in the context of what VIVA is today — as an example of what we could do in Toronto. My argument is not with the transit boosters, but with those who feel that an express bus now and then is going to make any dent in demand for road capacity.


  12. Fine, call VIVA an express bus with bells and whistles. So why do the feds lavish praise on VIVA? Because it is a successful approach to tackling the issue of traffic congestion in York Region. Despite its $180 million price tag, the dividends have paid off heavily, and it still cheaper than some of the more extravagant RT solutions, LRT being one of them. I’m pretty sure there is a reason for the “high” cost, public transportation infrastructure is not as cheap as it used to be. For this reason, I’m sure the Feds are looking into this and wondering if Toronto is taking notes. Not that I say Toronto should follow the same approach, but at least consider it as an option.

    But you cannot deny that this fact alone is a reason for increasing ridership north of Steeles. You cannot deny that without VIVA, there would be no convenient means of transportation in York Region. Factor in all your “bells and whistles” and it’s no wonder why VIVA is called the “unbus”.

    Steve: From a VIVA press release dated January 28, 2008:

    More than 18.6 million riders used yrt/viva services in 2007, with an average of nearly 73,000 trips made each day between Monday and Friday. nearly 400 vehicles will make up the yrt/viva fleet in 2008, including five diesel-electric hybrid vehicles. Pending final budget approval, all 90 viva vehicles will be powered with a bio-diesel fuel blend in 2008.

    I have to question whether a system that only carries 73,000 trips a day with a fleet that size is rally making a huge impact for the investment. Conversely, how much more would we have to spend to get that riding count to higher levels? This shows the challenge of providing transit in areas such as VIVA’s service territory.

    Since some trips may be include a transfer, the unlinked trips will be somewhere around 100K. If this were the TTC, the multiplier would be 2X, and the unlinked trips would be about 146K. The actual number probably lies somewhere in between.

    Let’s assume that YRT fielded about 300 buses a day. That means the average bus handled about 240 trips per day per bus, or an unlinked value of roughly 350 to 500 per bus per weekday.

    On the TTC, the unlinked trips per peak bus is about 940 for the system as a whole. TTC routes that fall below 500 unlinked trips per day include: Avenue Road, Calvington, Davenport, Huntingwood, Leslie, Mt. Pleasant, Silver Hills and Willowdale-Senlac. The high-roller is Coxwell (over 2000), but this is a side-effect of the route’s short length and position in the network as a connector between Queen, Gerrard and Danforth.

    The am peak TTC bus fleet of over 1,200 buses carries about 1.2-million unlinked trips per day, somewhere around 10 times the value for YRT/VIVA, but with roughly 4 times the peak fleet.

    I am not trying to slag off VIVA, merely to point out that scaling it up to even the TTC’s level of market share (let alone going past this) will require a huge increase in fleet utilization and ridership. VIVA’s real success story will be rising to that challenge, and they have only just started.

    Postscript: The calculation above is an approximation. Please do not send notes correcting my arithmetic to ten decimal places because the source data are probably only valid to about three figures. This is the sort of “back of the envelope” calculation used to establish an order-of-magnitude estimate. You can fiddle around the margins, but unless there is some major change in the relative value of the factors, the conclusion will remain the same.


  13. re: bus prices and inflation

    From what I can see, the $500+ k/standard bus has been pretty static over the last while. Minutes from Meeting No. 1802 Tuesday, September 25, 2001 indicate a cost of $546 k / bus (“A $278M PROCUREMENT OF 509 BUSES FOR THE YEARS 2003, 2004 AND 2005 TO A $119M PROCUREMENT OF 220 BUSES FOR THE YEARS 2003 AND 2004”).

    The tax issue (PST) is complex. GST is generally a pass through tax and doesn’t impact aquisition costs. The PST would apply/not apply independent of who the supplier was.

    re: Startup/project costs

    For startup costs, operators salaries/wages would be (probably must be) capitalized during training and before operations began.

    Steve: I have heard that some of the ongoing operating costs were also paid for from that initial nest egg, but don’t know the dollar figure. That’s why I raised this issue.


  14. 2 Steve: The fact that YRT/Viva carries far less riders per average trip than TTC is undisputable, but that is due to the YRT part. Many infrequent YRT buses that serve minor streets only carry 3-5 riders apiece (classical catch-22). In contrast, the two major Viva routes (Yonge and YorkU-Markham) enjoy decent ridership, even outside peak hours.

    2 Stephen Cheung: Even if VIVA is a success story (and I believe it is), how relevant is that to Toronto plans?

    To begin with, any meaningful improvement in Toronto would require at least a “true BRT”, aka bus ROW (simple express buses are already there). Applied to the TC routes, that would involve widening of many streets to make room for bus lanes, and hence would be nowhere near the Viva Ph1 180 million price tag. We are talking about several billions for a functional network, whether LRT or BRT.

    Then, you mentioned good reasons yourself to prefer LRT on Eglinton / Jane / Don Mills routes (tunnel portions), and Waterfront route (existing tracks). On Finch W, a case can be made for LRT as well: the present, non-express Finch W bus route is one of the busiest on the system, and the ridership will grow higher when it gets ROW, plus when the connection is made to the Downsview-YorkU link, and higher still if Finch E route is added to form a Crosstown line.

    That leaves Sheppard E and Morningside-Malvern routes only, both having lower ridership projections than other TC lines. If those two are implemented as BRT, the overall saving would not be that large. But, we miss a chance to benefit from the economy of scale, and local chancellors will likely complain that Scarborough got the short end of the stick once again.

    Finally, given that the infrastructure is built to serve for many decades, the implications of constantly growing oil prices should be taken into account. Although electricity prices will not be immune, they are likely to grow slower since electricity can be generated from a number of sources. It is wise to design the system for lesser dependency on hydrocarbons, and that’s another point for LRT.


  15. The full potential of VIVA is not even exposed yet because two vital links are missing…

    1) Cornell and the whole east markham neighbourhood. It is completely transit oriented if you look at the styles incorporated into the area. However, VIVA was stuck at McCowan till Jan 27th and now it goes to Markham Hospital. Still short of its intended terminus, when it reaches that terminal i’m positive there will be substantial increases in the east end of York Region.

    2) Viva Orange ends randomly at Martin Grove. Living in west york region i am a witness of how crowded and busy 77-Highway 7 is while VIVA gets emptier and emptier as it continues westbound. Why? Most people switch onto the #77 somewhere along Highway 7 before VIVA ends.

    Brampton generally has a higher transit ridership then York Region. (I lived there from 2001-2006). When the “express bus” is ready in Brampton and properly interlined with VIVA Orange then there will be a HUGE, and i mean HUGE population heading towards Downsview Subway station (currently 77 goes to Finch) that chooses to go the cheaper route rather then the more expensive GO route or for some other reason.

    When these two extensions are completed and the system finally completes what was planned, then lets see the numbers and debate this.

    2005-2008 – barely 3 years and it has definitely changed the view of transit in York Region….

    Steve said: My argument is not with the transit boosters, but with those who feel that an express bus now and then is going to make any dent in demand for road capacity.

    VIVA Phase 1 was not about making a dent in road capacity really but rather making a firm reliable backbone in York Region so that all the small feeders can actually feed it to a decent base route. It also did divert a lot of York University students that would have probably drove if it wasn’t for VIVA.

    The exception might be on Yonge Street (south of 7) where the short ride and the very very frequent service (5 mins or less in rush hours) makes riding viva easier then even getting into a car.

    One more issue (that i won’t get into now) is the fare boundary which makes many (often like myself) just get a ride or somehow make it to Steeles to avoid the two-fare penalty!

    Steve: I agree that VIVA is building the basis for a more aggressive and attractive operation and that the “missing links” don’t help their overall performance. What annoys me, as I have said before, is people who point to VIVA as it is today as if that is the ideal to which the TTC should aspire.

    On a regional level, the real question is the lead time needed to reach decent political support for a more substantial and truly regional transit system with good capacity and off-peak demand. Will we build before it is unquestionably necessary and show what can be done, thereby garnering support for more, or wait until everything is so knotted in congestion that all anyone wants is more roads.


  16. Joseph C said, “There are many riders that use VIVA that wouldn’t ever touch the normal YRT that operates here.”

    I can safely say that I have heard this from several sources. In fact, it is no uncommon to hear people referring to “taking the VIVA” as if it is a system unto itself like one might say they “take the GO Train”.

    Clearly, VIVA has brought in new riders that would otherwise snub their noses and stay in their SUVs. Phase 1 is only just a glorified bus service, but those blue buses have much better pick-up when pulling out of a stop than “ordinary” buses and the divers are not shy about using their legal right of way in traffic. Combine this with the typically LONG right turn lanes in York region (how many right turn lanes in Toronto are barely longer than a 40-foot bus? other than on streets that once had 70-foot artics on them!), they are not bad at jumping some of the congestion when necessary.

    Even so, it baffled me why there was not a proper connection between the Richmond Hill Centre terminal and the Langstaff GO station from day one. A bridge is just now opening (with elevators later in the spring), but the terminal should have been built a little closer to the opposite side of the track from the station platform with that connection in place originally.

    There are THREE bus routes that serve a connection between Langstaff and RH Centre that provide a decent frequency when trains are arriving and leaving. BUT, they are “ordinary” buses. The ilk that takes GO is very likely to take VIVA as well, but from the relatively emptyness of the 1, 83, and 87 buses between the two stations, there is no way on God’s green earth that they are going to “lower” themselves to take an “ordinary” bus for a 3-5 minute ride between stations.


  17. Calvin said: Phase 1 is only just a glorified bus service, but those blue buses have much better pick-up when pulling out of a stop than “ordinary” buses and the divers are not shy about using their legal right of way in traffic. Combine this with the typically LONG right turn lanes in York region (how many right turn lanes in Toronto are barely longer than a 40-foot bus? other than on streets that once had 70-foot artics on them!), they are not bad at jumping some of the congestion when necessary.

    Very very true. The classic example for me would be the extremely long right turn lane at Weston Road and Highway 7. That really jumpes the queue that lines up in that area! Yes drivers are very aggressive and its great really for the bus rider! This is something the City of Toronto does not have anywhere in the road system (except maybe the newer areas in Scarborough?).

    Steve: One issue that often comes up in discussions about turn lanes is their impact on nearby businesses. Depending on the way a street is laid out you can have various effects including:

    property taking requirements because the street’s original right-of-way is not wide enough
    loss of street parking

    Also, the TTC took the attitude many years ago that bus bays were not a good thing to have because of the difficulty buses have getting back into traffic. The situation with right-of-way did not apply when most of the decisions based on this policy were made.

    Its also a “class” issue I guess. When you travel a normal slow crowded dirty bus there’s a very very high proportion of York Region that simply will not use such a thing. Most in the 905 are well off, I mean after all they have to pay the high costs of maintaining 2 cars (most not all).

    VIVA however, best described by my own daily commuting mother is…

    Spacious, clean, fast, less stops, and of course RELIABLE

    I just can’t wait to see what happens when there is bus lanes….then there will definately be a dent in the road congestion guarenteed!

    The problem is, many, like my own mother, would not take the infrequent YRT local feeder to reach highway 7 but rather park at the local Fortinos parking lot (which for some reason does not have any signs of “towing” anywhere) and ive seen soo many many viva riders park there.

    Since the suburbs is so far apart I think this will continue to happen more and more. Is creating mini parking lots along viva stops a good idea to increase transit use? Since there are many stops it wouldn’t be as congested as one big GO station….

    Steve: I am intrigued that one person remarked about low average bus utilization in YRT/VIVA by saying that there was only a handful of people on the YRT buses, but that VIVA was well used, and Joseph, above, says that he can get on VIVA no problem, but that Yorkists wouldn’t take the crowded YRT service.

    This also begs the question of how much York can afford to pay to run the kind of service that will attract their populus to transit.

    In another post, someone complained about my use of the term “burghers”. I meant it in the sense of rather well off people who wouldn’t deign to be seen on ordinary public transit. Alas, Joseph’s description and those of others who have written in this thread reinforce that impression. If we folk down in Toronto demanded this kind of service, we would be pilloried for leading the city to financial ruin. It’s the double standard that’s so troubling.


  18. “If this is the way LRT boosters are seeing the world – then I have to discount what they are saying. (I have already seen the lightrailnow website – this is a lobby group for a particular technology – so it’s not useful without a great deal of due diligence checking other sources.)”

    I already have questions regarding their motives and their true pro-transit intentions. Pure pro-transit advocates should be looking at the big picture and considering all ideas before casting judgement on an already successful transportation option. The Lightrailnow site, while it does provide its arguments, seems to jump on anything or anyone that is BRT.

    If Eric Chow can post a lobby site to LRT, I guess I can do the same for BRT: Again just because I do so does not mean I want Transit City to be a BRT, I only want it to be an option. Now please excuse me while I enter my bomb shelter.

    “Even if VIVA is a success story (and I believe it is), how relevant is that to Toronto plans?”

    Today’s political climate is dictated by who offers the better tax cuts rather than who offers the better services. That being said, the electorate is well aware that a project with the magnitude of Transit City is sure to cost quite a pretty penny, money that the Feds (who never support Toronto anyway) and the Provs (who are gung ho on the Sorbara Line) are not willing to commit. Now that we have the initial plans down, we should not dawdle while the three levels of government fight over who has to pay for what. I’m betting that the Feds will refuse to pay for Transit City, seeing their contempt for their city and deference to the wishes of the West. The Provs won’t do much better as it well knows that subway extensions to the middle of nowhere are better photo ops than a streetcar. Makes you wonder, why all funding photo ops are made in front of a bus and never a streetcar or subway train?

    So if we can’t get our funding for Transit City, do we twiddle our thumbs while the congestion in the city chokes us to death? Pure political leadership requires us to make lemonade from lemons. So what is the next best thing than a LRT network? You guessed it, a BRT network. But mind you, there has been some hostility to this idea from various people on this website. As I said earlier, the idea of a BRT network here should be considered as a fallback if we cannot get our LRT network. Besides, I think the feds would jump all over the opportunity to fund BRT rather than LRT, after all the Feds are indeed the biggest boosters of BRT. Another photo op in front of a bus indeed.

    Steve: Now I hope the war of the BRT/LRT websites is even. The point I and some others here have made several times is that each technology is appropriate for specific situations, and yes there are cases where there is an overlap. At that point, the question is what fits better in the medium to long term given projected changes in demand, or strategic decisions about future network expansion.

    I am quite sure we could all come up with half a dozen LRT systems that should never have been built, but were thanks to pork barreling, and we could find similar problems on the BRT side, although with lower capital cost, it’s a smaller barrel to start with. It’s odd that some LRT proponents suffer assumptions about technology envy by potential riders, just as we are told people who ride a VIVA bus wouldn’t go near YRT. Partly it’s image, partly it’s service quality, and even image is strongly coloured by what people may have seen elsewhere.


  19. Hi Steve and all on the Viva topic.

    This has to be remembered that it is only phase one and things that can be done in wide open spaces like along still partly uninhabited sections of Yonge Street have almost no comparisons in the city of TO. Maybe roads like Finch East when one is way way out in Scarboro, but the percentage of road mileages like this are comparitively low in 416. When 79 second headways are already in place, would Viva like services do anything but increase costs without any increase in ridership? Yes the express rider would get a Cadillac ride rather than the ’63 Rambler, but will it bring more patrons? TTC has to look hard at the dollars it doesn’t have to be able to allocate them the wisest way possible and only a wholesale right-of-way upgrade (could this mean as in Transit City?) is going to give the bottom line any greater bang for the buck here.

    But what of phase two and three in York? Well, when you don’t have the ridership levels necessary for a two and/or a three from-the-get-go, you either have to pray for it and wait, or go out whole hog and generate it as York Region has done with Viva. I congratulate them on gambling that the ridership reports and forecasts are indeed panning out, but it wasn’t for sure and there is still room for growth before a two and three committal is justifiable. If I remember the report properly, it is upwards of ten years before the next phase may indeed justify itself. When you’re in your first year of Med School (phase 1), you’re not yet a doctor by spring break (phase two).

    But south of Steeles, it already is justifiable. The ridership counts are already there. In Toronto we should be getting the spades into the ground ASAP! Viva discussions are all well and good for it’s nice to know what the neighbours are up to! But, as for York Region, we ‘Burghers’ to the south of you wish you every success in achieving those necessary numbers we already have had for years!



  20. Your question about what York region can afford to improve transit is odd. The typical suburban bus service has been minimal service that meanders infrequently through subdivisions to serve students and seniors who don’t have cars. This doesn’t cut it for most working people with any type of commute.

    It’s not a question of deigning or not – it’s a question of service levels and service design and how they meet people’s needs. You seem to have strongly encouraged Toronto’s ridership growth efforts. Why denigrate York’s? I’m not sure how this builds your credibility as a transit proponent. I’m sure I’ve read where you’ve said that good transit cost $$$ – and we should be ready to pay pay pay.

    To quote from the Ridership Growth Strategy:

    “Most personal travel behaviours only change slowly over time, often triggered by a major event such as when people change their home or work location for example, so investing in increasing transit ridership requires long-term commitments”

    York has implemented an enhanced bus system that better meets the needs of typical working people – this is VIVA. There are a number of features of VIVA that we in Toronto would like. However, most people view it as pointless to ask. If it doesn’t run on rails and use equipment made at a plant in Northern Ontario, it’s not likely to get the TTC engineers interest.

    Steve: What is fascinating against your comment which, by the way misrepresents my position, is that you are basically saying that YRT is designed to serve a market that, by definition, won’t pull its weight. Moreover, the issues of route structure and service levels, as compared to VIVA, are what make YRT unattractive.

    For years, I have been complaining that if transit does not have attractive service and routes that take people where they want to go, it will fail. Pay all you want, and you will just have an underutilized system that has no political capital.

    If in fact YRT was set up to carry only seniors and students, that’s not going to make any contribution worth talking about to reducing the vast amount of car dependency. I repeat an earlier comment: If the system ridership per bus is low due to underutilized YRT services, then VIVA riders can’t be foresaking YRT routes because of overcrowding. If on the other hand, the YRT buses are crowded, then this reduces the total passenger count on VIVA. What we really need is route by route and time of day riding breakdowns.


  21. *takes stock of all the Viva Comments*
    “Well, the words “Rapid Transit” is a draw anyways.”
    “It is comfortable (I take it from time to time), it improved the region’s modal split substantially,”
    “Why not look at the positives of VIVA instead of bashing it and continue to advocate transit to other areas of the city!”
    “Spacious, clean, fast, less stops, and of course RELIABLE”
    “Makes you wonder, why all funding photo ops are made in front of a bus and never a streetcar or subway train?”

    *groans, retches, and vomits*

    Excuse me, I had to hurl after seeing all that….. (Maybe we should add a Surgeon’s General Warning: “The BRT messages above contains silly and useless facts and should not have been read by anyone. If this response was taken internally, induce vomiting and consult a physician immediately. BRT is not for everyone, and on every other day, has been found to cause night blindness, day blindness, hairy palms, internal and external bleeding, children born with the head of a daschund, and dry mouth.” Okay, I am kidding, alright?)

    Certainly we are being deceived by a transit system that has no place in a city like Toronto. These express buses cannot possibly handle all the capacity that a LRT normally would. Call it pork-barrelling or white elephant or what you want. The fact is that the two lines of Viva have less ridership than the 36 Finch West Bus. That’s a line being considered for the Transit City, and it has peak intervals of less than three minutes, and midday intervals of less than 10 at most times. It already requires 35 buses to make its run. So do we want 35 buses running on a BRT? How many more do we need for Eglinton? Sheppard? Malvern? Jane? Don Mills? Do you see what a financial drain 35 buses would be for the TTC? Try imagining 35 buses clogging up a BRT ROW (too many buses -> more likely that a traffic jam along the ROW will occur. Just look at how many streetcars are on Spadina). Now compare this to ALRV-like vehicles. Their god-like capacity means that you could fit half the vehicles required on a LRT and still be able to get a seat. And it saves money in the long run.

    “So much for transit proponents….geez!”

    I am a transit proponent in the very sense that I want the best possible option for Toronto. That means LRT. You may tout your nice express bus, but in its present state, can it be guaranteed that your beloved ROW will be built? What if McGuinty decided to pull the plug on that proposal? Oops, your BRT plans just went up a creek. So like Steve said earlier, we get stuck with an antiquidated system will no hope of a reasonable upgrade. I have to say this, but I will laugh out loud if Viva never gets its vaunted bus lanes. Now you’re stuck with a poseur of a rapid-transit solution.

    “The problem is, many, like my own mother, would not take the infrequent YRT local feeder to reach highway 7 but rather park at the local Fortinos parking lot (which for some reason does not have any signs of “towing” anywhere) and ive seen soo many many viva riders park there.”

    Consider this: I made a second trip on the Viva Express bus, this time going westbound on Highway 7. For some reason, we passed two Highway 7 local buses just after evening rush. I later realized that YRT was deliberately holding up these buses to allow the Viva to pass through. It is supposed to give the impression that Viva is fast, when in reality it is no better than a regular bus.

    This is a classic case of the YRT trying to pull the wool over our eyes to convince us that “yes, this is rapid transit” when it is clearly not.


  22. Steve wrote, “If on the other hand, the YRT buses are crowded…”

    Just where did someone say that ‘regular’ YRT buses are crowded? Scanning back over the previous comments, the only mention of a crowded YRT bus was that of the 77 – Highway 7 route, which is a little different as it is operated by both YRT and Brampton transit and travels beyond the reach of YRT’s Orange route. It was mentioned that Orange tends to lose riders as it approaches Martin Grove partly due to them leaving to board a 77 (if it were me, I would use the strategy of leaving the bus I’m on a short while after I knew I was just ahead of the bus I wanted to continue my journey on when there was such an overlap).

    There are routes on YRT that I would call “busy”, though that may only be at rush hours. I would also say that they are that way because they provide what the public wants: frequent service (so as to not wait at a bus stop for who-knows-how-long) that gets one to where one wants to go. I know that the routes on Bayview are what one would call ‘busy’ to the point of standing room only during rush hours.

    I moved to Richmond Hill in the summer of 2000, and YRT was just about to be officially born at that time. At that time it was coming from the separate transit operators who had a bunch of sidesteet-meandering routes that were nothing to shout about. With a couple of years they had a five-year plan in place to slowly move routes to main arteries. I went from a 45-minute trip home on a meandering hourly bus to a 20-minute trip on a half-hour frequency bus. A half-hour frequency during rush hour is still pathetic, but the ridership on this route has been steadily increasing and just last month they extended the 30-minute headways past 9 am until 11 am and maybe we will see better frequencies during all times in the not too distant future.

    Some of this increase may be an offshoot of VIVA’s popularity, some may be due to slight improvements in frequency of service. It still is a hard-sell for the multi-SUV in the driveway crowd that seems to permeate this area. (For the record, our home with 2 G and one G1 drivers gets by with just one minivan and YRT, thankyouverymuch).

    The one other aspect that I strongly suspect is a key to the increase of ridership that VIVA has brought to the region is its brand name marketing. I’m the first one to joke about people who fall into the trap of labels and marketing ploys, but like it or not, YRT did one hell of a job on marketing the VIVA brand. To actually get any members of the “hell will freeze over before I ride a bus” crowd to start taking rubber-tired transit is an amazing feat. One columnists in the local paper originally scoffed at the marketing when it first came out sometime before the buses got rolling, but changed his tune after visiting another city (that escapes me now). He saw what marketing such an idea could do.

    VIVA phase two *should* be already underway if it weren’t for the wonderful announcement (read: election promise goodie) of extending the subway to Highway 7. That section should have been under construction by this time, with other sections well into planning, if it were not for that goodie popping up. My position, as I have said here and on my LRT page (, is that the subway should be extended as far as Steeles and VIVA Phase 3 (LRT) should be implemented at this time north of there. I am working on the detailed numbers, but it is looking like for the price of the subway from Steeles to Highway 7, we could build LRT over that distance under ground, then continue on the surface to Major MacKenzie (hmmm, right out front of the new MPP’s office!) and still have almost 40% of the funds available for a 10 km stretch across Highway 7.

    Maybe a pipe dream, but it doesn’t hurt to make some noise about it. 😉

    In the meantime, I have to get back to work as my employer has sent me to our office in Bangalore for this week and next. If you want to be made to feel happy about the transit service we have in the GTA, this is one place to come – though, their buses run with a frequency of service that we could only dream of. It’s just that they are crowded, run on streets that use speed bumps the way we use traffic lights, and sometimes don’t come to a full stop when people get off (the doors always stay open!). Even if they do stop at the side of the road, motorcycles still squeeze between the bus and the curb without stopping (Made me think of of Roncesvales’ proposed streetcar stops!).


  23. Well – you seem to cast VIVA in a negative light (could it be because it has a contract operator?)

    YRT/VIVA may have lower vehcile utilitization than the TTC for surface vehicles – but this is largely irrelevant.

    – TTC riders will use the subway for long haul part of their trips
    – Most streetcar trips are quite short (I’d guess 2km – 4 km)
    – TTC keeps buses and streetcars running much longer per day than most transit services (which helps utilization but probably has adverse effects on maintenance costs and life expectancy)

    in contrast, VIVA/YRT riders take their full trip on the bus – and many trips are quite long (e.g. from Newmarket)

    All transit systems have times when vehicles are full and other when they are empty. (Sorry to say Steve, most 95% streetcars running through my area are between zero and 10% full.)

    The point about VIVA is in terms of building ridership among choice riders is that it is:

    – recognizeable as a distinct service
    – it has limited stops that help rapidity
    – York is committed to minimum service levels (this does mean running mostly empty buses at 1:30 pm) in order to provide the flexibility for working people.

    You complain when people use the TTC’s ‘profit’ analysis by route – why is so important for understanding the York service?

    Steve: I wasn’t analysing the TTC operation by profit, but by vehicle utilization. The purpose in this was to address the issue of crowding and perceived quality of service on VIVA (and YRT). It’s no secret that many TTC routes are crowded, and if we’re going to compare systems, how many buses (and streetcars) would we have to run to get crowding down to a level that attracts VIVA riders?

    Trip lengths vary, and yes, the subway is part of many riders’ journey, but there’s also a lot of riding within the suburbs. That’s one of the reasons for service expansion there — if you don’t use the subway, you’re dealing with second-class service.

    FInally, streetcars in the beach are empty for two reasons. One is service quality as has been discussed here at length, and the other is that it’s the end of the line. The subway is nowhere near crowded when it gets to its terminals, but don’t try telling that to someone at Bloor/Yonge.


  24. Calvin Said: So do we want 35 buses running on a BRT? How many more do we need for Eglinton? Sheppard? Malvern? Jane? Don Mills? Do you see what a financial drain 35 buses would be for the TTC? Try imagining 35 buses clogging up a BRT ROW (too many buses -> more likely that a traffic jam along the ROW will occur.

    Who suggested using BRT on Finch Avenue? Or any other Transit City line in that matter. Certainly not me! The only one that i would consider is the malven line along morningside up to Finch because that area is just as suburban and wide open as the 905 and a BRT ROW would do just fine.

    Finch – LRT Definately….passing that street daily i always see 2 buses following each other, its real bad!
    Jane – LRT Definately, same situation as Finch and it might have to go underground south of Eglinton due to space constraints
    Sheppard – LRT Definately, a lot of customers will be coming of the sheppard subway
    Don Mills – LRT for the reason that the portion south of DVP would have to go underground.
    Malvern – BRT since it isn’t exactly the busiest corridor in the TTC and it will never be underground anywhere along the route. Face it! 401 & Morningside is a bunch of big box stores like in Vaughan! (I lived in scarborough from 1992-2001)…

    So where did anyone suggest a BRT along the super ultra busy Finch line? I’m sure nobody did….

    The problem is the “toronto-centric view” that some of you have in thinking that its all about TORONTO! Its quite clear in Eric Chow’s comments since he talks about VIVA and says nothing about York Region in any of his comments.

    However, i thank the rest of you posters for atleast seeing the advantages of this system within this region and like some have posted: York took a risky move and implemented a whole system stretching north-south-east-west without much delay.

    YRT/VIVA is NOT the TTC

    This blog is not about the TTC only! Its about GTA Transit and some of you are unable to grasp that transit does cross the steeles border and it matters here too.

    Also as Calvin said, the 77 is just about the only route that is always packed (even saturday) because it is a half brampton half yrt route so it is really a special case by itself. Most grid routes are quite good like 20 Jane/Concord or 165D,F Weston Road and has anyone ever seen the ridership on the 85 Rutherford!!!. I was focusing more on the meandering YRT feeders that are in best words….crap!


  25. “It is supposed to give the impression that Viva is fast, when in reality it is no better than a regular bus.”

    Okay, if you want to play the “apples and oranges” game.

    If you’ve been to the Tuen Mun and Yuen Long areas of Hong Kong, you would have travelled on the KCR LRT (now taken over by the MTR). The trams are not that much faster (I think the top speed is 60 kph), the stops are spaced too closely in several areas, and LRT traffic can be held up in the busy stretch at Yuen Long due to errant pedestrians running across the street. Besides the high capacity of the LRT vehicles, I don’t see any real advantage that LRT has over BRT. Again, not to discredit the whole Transit City plan, Toronto definitely needs LRT for it to get off the ground, but again, BRT needs to be considered as an alternate. BRT is not perfect, but at least it can have the job done.

    BTW: if the city caves into Fed pressure and decides to go BRT, I hope the city can convince the feds to pick up on any “operating shortfalls” like the city did to the Provs when the S(ardine)RT was constructed.


  26. 2 Stephen Cheung: This is not a matter of “hostility to BRT” (on my part at least). I agree that busways can be considered as a fallback for those TC routes that do not get funding for LRT.

    However, a concern is that busways will still cost top bucks, probably 50% or 60% of what the LRT would cost, due to the need to widen streets for bus-only lanes; but soon after they start operation, we find out that the busways can barely handle demand. On that point, I agree with the essence of Eric Chow’s comments, style apart.

    Another concern is that financial viability of the bus-based system might be jeopardized if the oil prices keep raising. Whether you believe in peak oil or not, it is wise to build a system less dependent on oil prices.

    So, I wish those who will be making actual funding decisions, realize that “cheapest” is not necessarily “best investment value”. It is worth paying for LRT in Toronto now, to avoid cost overruns and logistic problems in future.

    Especially, when loads of money can be saved by replacing some of the planned subway extentions with LRT links (an example is in Calvin’s recent comment).

    2 Eric Chow: I agree that VIVA is not a good model for Toronto network. However, I do not get it when you write “… we are being deceived by a transit system that has no place in a city like Toronto”. The goal of Viva is to actually carry passengers in York region, not to “deceive Toronto”.

    Do you seriously think that they designed VIVA just to derail Toronto’s LRT plans, at the time when such plans were not even formalized? That kind of conspiracy theory does not hold water.


  27. Joseph C: That was me. In previous discussions regarding the possibility of a “hybrid” system, that is, some LRT and some BRT, I decided that it may be possible to do so in Toronto.

    The criteria for deciding what should be BRT and what should be LRT depends on the situation regarding the particular corridors. Waterfront West and Eglinton-Crosstown should no doubt be LRT, Waterfront West because the infrastructure is already there, and Eglinton Crosstown, due to the central section.

    Don Mills is another matter. It all depends on how they decide to handle Pape Ave. If they are not going to put that portion underground, it could go as BRT as buses can get around stopped cars as well as left turning ones more quickly than LRVs can. Jane is the exact same situation, considering Jane St south of Dundas.

    As for Finch West, Sheppard East, and Scarborough-Malvern, to consider cutting costs, those routes could benefit as BRT. Eric Chow’s “analysis” (more like “shooting from the hip”) is wrong: you wouldn’t need 35 buses running on a Finch West BRT, you’d need less because buses would run on a BRT ROW, be quicker, and make fewer stops. So a more reliable service means that you can run on less buses. Getting back to the issue of bus costs, I hear that a LRT can be as much as twice the cost of an articulated bus.

    There ARE pitfalls in a BRT scheme, just like there are pitfalls in an LRT scheme. Yes, a BRT scheme is vulnerable to the rising price of oil, and yes, if a BRT line is too popular, the line may end up saturated and unreliable. For LRT, there is a risk of making the line a “white elephant”, cost overruns on construction, and the cost and support for parts become higher as the vehicles age. Any scheme will have advantages and disadvantages, and I do not doubt that BRT has its problems. Again, the whole point is that if the Feds do not support Transit City in its present form, maybe they will support it in a form that is more of their liking, and like it or not, it may end up to be BRT.

    I know that it is worth paying for LRT now to avoid cost overruns and logistic problems in the future, but the person who really need to be convinced about this is Stephen Harper. And we all know how he regards with contempt the great City of Toronto.


  28. re: loading standards

    “It’s no secret that many TTC routes are crowded, and if we’re going to compare systems, how many buses (and streetcars) would we have to run to get crowding down to a level that attracts VIVA riders?”

    From what I read, the service standard/loading standard for the TTC newer low-floors are:

    55 peak
    38 nonpeak less frequent
    48 peak more frequent

    VIVA 40 ft low floor is:

    49 without any variation

    If the TTC is short of buses, perhaps its because so much of the capital budget has gone into non-vehicle expenses.

    Since I can’t find any statement on how fast TC streetcars will run, I did a little bit of research while sitting at my desk at lunch. These are the stop spacings and speeds for prominent ‘LRT’ systems:

    City – Average stop spacing – Average speed

    Strasbourg – 670 M – 22 km/hr
    Houston – 750 M – 22.5 km/hr (based on schedule)
    Calgary – 1170 M – 32 km / hour
    San Diego – 1600 M – 33.7 km / hour (based on schedule for Blue line)
    Portland – TriMet – 1100 M – 31 km/hr (based on schedule)
    Spadina “LRT” – 320 M – 16 km/hour

    which without plotting makes it a reasonble guess that TC streetcar lines with 500 M spacing will have a speed of about 20 km / hour. The average TTC bus speed is somewhere around 19.5 km/hour (from what I’ve remember reading.)

    Steve: Stop spacing is often dictated by the service design, the development around the route and the existing street pattern. Spadina is the most extreme example, and it’s LRT only with “R” standing for “rail”, not “rapid”. There was a huge fight about stop locations when that line was designed, and four were added to the original plan: Sussex (right at the portal south of Bloor), Willcocks (just north of Spadina Circle), Baldwin (north of Dundas) and Sullivan (between Dundas and Queen). Three of these are quite busy in their own right. I doubt that eliminating these stops would make much difference to travel times on the route overall as the loads (and associated dwell times at stops) would just move to adjacent stops and the other delays already present on the line wouldn’r be affected.

    Any line that has major arterial crossing more often than once/km is inevitably going to be held up at those locations. When you look at lines in other cities, it’s also important to look at how and where they operate.

    I will be posting information about the Spadina route’s operation in the next few days, and one thing that is visible is the more reliable running times thanks to the right-of-way. However, there is enough variation created both by dwell times at stops and by traffic lights that the service still gets fouled up. Short turns make service to Union Station look more like the Queen car in the Beach rather than a so-called LRT line. I will discuss this at more length in posts on the subject.

    And, yes, the average speed of the bus system overall is just under 20km/h. This includes all trips on all routes. If we’re going to make comparisons with LRT lines, we need to look at specific examples and times of day.


  29. 2 Joseph C: You formulated it very well, I’d agree 99%. (The 1% is about BRT vs LRT on the Morningside-Malvern route. Indeed, a BRT would probably have enough capacity to handle the demand. However, LRT can offer systemic advantages: through-routing to Eglinton or Sheppard E lines, moving spare cars from one line to another, better use of repair facilities … Anyway, choice of technology for that link is debatable.)

    2 Stephen Cheung: Your comments are interesting and thoughtful; however, I still disagree on a number of points.

    The Finch W bus example: you are only partly right. Yes, a ROW operation needs fever buses – but it does not allow longer headways. The math goes like this:

    Let’s assume that the average trip duration in mixed traffic is 50 min one-way, the buses run every 2 min, and each carries 80 people. Our passenger flow is 2400 people per hour one-way (1 hour / 2 min = 30 buses per hour, 30 x 80 = 2400), and the total number of buses in service is 50 (50 min x 2 ways / 2 min headway). If the ROW cuts the trip time to 35 min one way, we can do with just 35 buses (35 min x 2 ways / 2 min headway). However, we still need that same 2 min headway (30 buses per hour) to carry same 2400 passengers per hour.

    Steve: To simplify this a little, a route’s capacity is the product of the number of vehicles (or trains) per hour and their capacity. Even if vehicles move at walking speed, the headway doesn’t change. You just need a lot more vehicles.

    Moreover, same headways apply to just carrying existing customers. Assuming that a “rapid” operation will attract substantially more customers, the risk of the busway being unable to handle the demand is quite real.

    Does Stephen Harper regard the City of Toronto with contempt? He might or might not, but we should assume he is a statesman until proven otherwise. The city should not downgrade a worthy project before hand, just because the feds do not want to fund it. The proposals, with proper EA paperwork, should be submitted with the right choice of technology (which I believe is LRT in this case). If the feds respond that they consider LRT an overshoot on some routes and want BRT instead, then it’s time for the City to negotiate.


  30. From Joseph C: “I agree that VIVA is not a good model for Toronto network. However, I do not get it when you write “… we are being deceived by a transit system that has no place in a city like Toronto”. The goal of Viva is to actually carry passengers in York region, not to “deceive Toronto”. Do you seriously think that they designed VIVA just to derail Toronto’s LRT plans, at the time when such plans were not even formalized? That kind of conspiracy theory does not hold water.”

    Some time ago, talk was there of some sort of Pan GTA entity with a network of subways crisscrossing the regions of York, Peel, Durham, and the GTA with smaller routes of LRT stretching to the suburbs. The idea behind this was to make transit the ideal form of Transportation in the GTA by giving commuters options to travel anywhere they wanted. Also for a single fare, mind you, meaning that someone in Misssissauga to get to Durham for a single TTC fare.

    The problem with the Viva express bus is twofold: 1) that it throws all of those plans of a pan GTA network out the window, given that Viva is now run by a private entity, and 2) apparently the Feds have championed this “joke-of-a-rapid-transit-line” as a breakthrough in public transit and they want to see this in Toronto (taken from Stephen Cheung’s claims).

    The “deception” here is that the Feds likely want Toronto to consider this “option” considering the “success” that York has seen. But we all know what negative impact BRT will have on Toronto (BTW, thanks for the LRT-fact reinforcements, Michael). So if that is not “deceiving”, I don’t know what is. Viva is already derailing the plans for Transit City, despite the latter only recently announced.

    Had Viva been designed as an LRT from the start, I’m pretty sure that the Feds would not be considering a BRT for Toronto (well then again they could, considering that they are right next to the god-awful transitway).


  31. I would say of Eric Chow that perhaps he doth ‘protest too much’ (or is he saying ‘Out out damned bus’?)

    If memory serves, the VIVA BRT system was planned, designed and implemented before Councillor Giambrone even drew the first drawing of the Transit City streetcar plan on the back of a manilla envelope. (I guess we’re talking a GRAND conspiracy here.)

    I’ve rarely been to Ottawa and never been on the transit system there. I’ve only been on the C-train twice. However, with modern computer technology I can compare how the different systems compare in terms of ridership growth (using weekday ridership figures from “APTA” and population figures:)

    Between Q396 and Q32007, transit use in:

    Calgary grew by 47%
    and in
    Ottawa grew by 43%

    However, in terms of population:
    Calgary grew by 32%
    Ottawa grew by approx 14%

    So transit use in Ottawa outpaced population growth by 29%
    whereas in
    Calgary, transit use outpaced population growth by only 15%

    Now was this part of the conspiracy too? (Let’s put in a call to Oliver Stone – there may be a movie script for him here.)

    Now – in terms of stop locations in the proposed TC routes. I would expect similar pressures to retain existing stops as on Spadina and now on St. Clair – which will reduce the effectiveness of the whole undertaking. The TC plan should state the target speeds and mininum/maximum average stop spacings.

    It also seems (per Wikipedia with a reference to a TTC report) that the estimated price tag for TC has grown substantially. I’ve seen many a technology-driven project that has fit pattern of costing more/doing less. TC sure has this feel to me. If the Federal bureaucrats are cautious about funding it, maybe they are just doing their jobs – a big part of which is to undertake due diligence of funding requests.

    Steve: We need to divorce discussions of technology from the miracle of underestimating project costs. All projects, regardless of their technology, are low-balled when first proposed. That’s part of the art of getting buy-in for them in the first place.

    In the case of Transit City, the TTC fell into one of its own regular traps — they forgot to include some important components like carhouses in their original estimates. They do this all the time with other projects, so why change for Transit City? Want a subway? Fine — we’ll quote you one price for the structure, but oops, we don’t own all of the land. Oh dear, you want cars to run on it? And for them we need a yard expansion? All of those are separate budget lines.

    Toronto’s Budget folks pull out their hair at the projects that don’t show up in TTC five-year estimates, but magically appear just when spending is required. This process is improving, but we’re still in a situation where poor long-range planning causes an ongoing financial crisis.

    As for growth of population versus transit usage, it’s very difficult to compare cities. High growth is easy in a city that has nothing to start with and builds a major successful system. Achieving the same growth year-over-year is very difficult, and in a mature urban area cannot be duplicated. Moreover, the question of market share is important too. 47% growth could mean that 100 people rode transit in 1996, and 147 rode in 2007.


  32. 2 Eric Chow – regarding “Pan GTA transportation entity”.

    First of all, if there is a really strong momentum to create such entity, Viva will not be a blocker. GTTA / YRT can wait for their contract to expire and decline a renewal, or terminate the contract and pay some compensation, or let them continue running within the common GTTA system / schedule.

    However, please note that such “Pan GTA entity” might be a mixed blessing. On one hand, it would resolve some annoying problems, such as the double-fare penalty, or the half-empty YRT and Mississauga buses unable to serve stops within Toronto. On the other hand, it would become a bureaucratic entity even bigger than TTC, which likely means even poorer responsiveness. Next time, it would take Steve longer to talk them into trying to actually fix 501 service : )

    The single fare, though convenient, also would have a drawback. System-wide, it would result in a loss of revenue. That has to be compensated either by higher subsidies (and hence the system would be more dependent on the goverments), or by higher fares (which penalizes short-range travelers even more than the current fare structure does).

    I’d rather see some kind of regressive-rate zoning, like one pays $1.75 to travel within a single zone, $2.50 to cross into the next zone, $3 for 3 zones etc. That would be too tedious with the present fare collection system, but should be doable when Smart Card is introduced.

    Steve: I have always felt that the idea of a pan-GTA entity is a convenient excuse for failure to deal with the basic problem — the level of service, and the associated level of funding, for the 905 transit systems simply isn’t up to what is done in the 416. We can talk about fare systems, and spend millions on Smart Cards, but the basic question is this: is the problem one of technology or of political game-playing?

    My own feeling about the fare structure is strong coloured by the situation in the 416. We used to have zone fares, but they’ve been gone since 1972. We used to charge everyone for every trip they took, no matter how long or short, but since 1980 we have had the Metropass.

    We heard a lot about lost revenue in both cases. Definitely, getting rid of the zone fares cost us money in the short term, but it would have been an administrative nightmare to continue once the subway got into “zone 2”, and having a single fare meant that living in the suburbs was not a disincentive to use transit.

    People have more to do with their lives than ride around on the TTC/Metrolinx/Whatever system. Yes, some will choose to take very long commute trips, but how much, really, to we “gain” in charging these riders more relative to the cost of a complex technology? What is the real purpose of the fare system? Up until now, it seems to be driven by technology vendors, lobbyists and transit bureaucrats who want a new toy, not by a bona fide business case.

    The single fare is long-entrenched in the 416, and clearly we are not going to get far moving back to some sort of fare-by-distance or zone scheme. Why attempt to impose this machinery on cross-border travel? Sell people a GTA pass and let them ride wherever they want. If they want to use a premium service such as the GO train (and that’s worth a discussion on its own), then sell an upgrade just like the TTC does for its express buses.

    We should be simplifying the fare structure as much as possible so that complex demands are not placed on the technology. The biggest funding question remains provision of service throughout the GTA. The cost of doing that is likely far, far higher than the marginal gain in revenue available through a complex fare structure.


  33. Again – appreciate the time you put into comments. It may be difficult to compare cities – but the ‘LRT’ is in large part being promoted on what it has done for other cities. It’s fair to do due dligence – we owe in to the citizens of this city. Calgary and Ottawa are comparable in size and climate. Your caveat aside – transit use is higher per capita in Ottawa that Calgary.

    Anyway – it occurred to me while we were having dinner that Calgary has substantial parking lots at C-train stops. I’ve seen you knock parking lots at transit stations. So to compare:

    Calgary: 13,177 spaces
    Ottawa: 5,100 spaces

    So not only is Ottawa more of a ‘transit city’ than LRT-Calgary in terms of rides numbers – more people use it for the full trip. The different works out to about 24,000,000 fewer auto trips a year.

    Steve: In some ways, the design of the C-Train is much more like GO Transit in assuming that riders will get to the trains by car.


  34. VIVA is operated under contract – but this doesn’t stop people transferring betwen the VIVA BRT and the local YRT service. VIVA won’t be the impediment to a more integrated GTA wide system – this will be the folks down at Queen & Bay.

    The current single fare within the 416 has been attractive in part because of convenience. With technolgical changes since then – as well as consumers being quite used to debit/dexit or what have you (and with prevalance of pass usage) – the convenience factor is no longer so strong an advantage.

    Today, I can charge up the ‘Tim Card’ for THes online (I’m just giving an example – this is not meant as an advertisement) which is a lot more convenient that the process for buying TTC tokens. Similar size and frequency of purchase for many customers. (Maybe the TTC should partner with TH!)

    Steve: The impediment is more likely the folks in the regional equivalents of 1900 Yonge Street (TTC headquarters) who spend more time scaremongering about “lost revenue” than on figuring out how to make service more attractive. The moment that scare tactic fails at the political level, one of the major impediments to regional integration of fare revenue disappears.


Comments are closed.