A New Look For Roncesvalles

John Bowker of the Roncesvalles Village BIA (Business Improvement Area) passed on a link to information about the TTC’s new design for Roncesvalles Avenue.

At this point, it is unclear whether this will actually be built in 2008 or 2009 (my own guess is 2009), but this gives an idea of what the TTC would like to do with streetcar stops in locations where the incursions into the road are possible.  At all stops from Dundas down to just north of the carhouse at Queen, sidewalks at stops will be widened out to the tracks to provide a step on-and-off configuration.

Various schemes are used to deal with intersections where there are turns either by using farside stops or moving nearside ones back to leave enough room for a right turn bay.

The PDF with the design is very long and narrow — it really belongs on a roll of paper — but the one drawing covers the entire length of the projecvt.

The community appears to be strongly in favour of this scheme, and within a few years we may see a very new transit and pedestrian friendly street.

Trams to the Airport

Today, spacing’s Montreal site includes a report that a tram-train has been proposed as a link to Trudeau International Airport.

Meanwhile in Toronto, the “official” scheme for airport access is still the free-standing “Blue 22” proposal that is mired in Environmental Assessment problems, not to mention its dubious attractiveness to private sector proponents.

The Transit City scheme holds hopes for an LRT access to Toronto Airport, and this could include a connection directly into Terminal One.  This has major implications for airport access from various origins:

  • The Eglinton West LRT connection to the Spadina and Yonge subways, and beyond
  • An Eglinton service extending into Mississauga
  • A connection with the Jane LRT which could also be routed down the Weston corridor to Union Station
  • A connection with the Finch West LRT

This would make Toronto’s airport both a major hub for transit services and provide huge improvements in access to the site from many parts of the GTA, a far superior arrangement to the downtown-oriented Blue 22 scheme.

We are starting to see the benefits of a technology, LRT, that is comparatively easy to implement and doesn’t cost the earth just to go a few kilometres.  How we think about planning transit and how prospective customers view transit services can be transformed over the next decade.

Analysis of Route 29 Dufferin — Part III: Link Times

In the previous post of this series, I looked at headways along the Dufferin route for December 2006.  Now, I will turn to the Link Times, the length of time taken to get from one point on the route to another.

If these times are well behaved, this indicates that the requirement for a bus to cover this particular section is predictable even though it may vary over the course of a day or by day of the week.  Random interruptions occur rarely and the schedule can reliably make assumptions about travel times.

If Link Times are spread out over a wide range of values, particularly for trips at similar times of the day, then something in this area is making travel unpredictable, likely some form of congestion. 

When we are considering the reliability of a service and how it might be improved, areas and times with widely varying link times are a good place to start looking.   Conversely, if link times for a route are generally well-behaved, then variations in headways have some other cause than random interference from traffic. Continue reading

Now It’s Time For Ridership Growth Strategy Two (Updated)

[The original version of this post, up to the point where the update starts, appeared as a guest column on the Op Ed page of the Toronto Sun on January 5, 2008.] 

[Updated January 4, 2008 – see end of post for the changes.] 

Here we are in 2008. We’ve survived threatened cutbacks to service and even have hopes of improvements starting in mid-February with more to come through the year. Mayor Miller’s 100 new buses and Mt. Dennis bus garage will operate, eventually. Plans are afoot for a new streetcar fleet and a huge expansion of rail services via Transit City.

Often, people ask why I’m not satisfied with our plans, and the answer is simple: as an advocate, it’s my job to never be satisfied, to always say “you can do better and we want more”. In that spirit, this thread is intended to ask: what should happen after RGS? What should we aim for next?

In a separate thread’s comments, there’s an important issue about Transit City: we need to establish minimum service levels for major surface routes that are much more like subway standards. Today, we run trains every five minutes everywhere even though there are times that half that service would be adequate for the demand. Why? Because part of the allure of a subway is that you don’t have to wait a long time for it to show up. Moreover, a good chunk of the operating cost relates to the stations and infrastructure, and the trains are a comparatively cheap addition once the line exists.

People on Transit City routes, and even on major surface routes that are not part of Transit City need the same sort of guaranteed service quality.

The TTC hopes to implement two RGS changes later this year. First, service will run on all routes whenever the subway is open. If a route exists, it runs 7 days/week, 19 hours/day. Second, no headway will be worse than 20 minutes anywhere. Both of these will fill out the network and get us back to the idea that transit isn’t just something we run when hordes of people want to use it.

However, a next step might be to designate “A-list” routes, major routes where the maximum headway is no worse than 10 minutes.

With new buses finally coming into play in 2008, we will see reduced crowding during the peak period because the TTC will actually meet their own loading standards. Great stuff, but what happens if we set the loading standard so that there is more room for growth on major routes? What happens if we actually try to encourage people to use the system by making it frequent and if not uncrowded, at least less than jam-packed?

By late 2008, it’s possible the TTC and their political masters will be feeling rather pleased with themselves. Press releases will be issued. Similing faces will appear in front of buses and streetcars everywhere. The job will be done.

No, that’s only for starters.  We need the next round of plans on the table before the year is out.

RGS was first proposed when David Miller was still a Councillor, and it’s taken ages to implement with no end of bureaucratic and political interference, not to mention a fiscal crisis or two. While Miller is still Mayor, it would be nice to see a second round of RGS hit the streets so that Toronto can take on the challenge of making transit a better alternative to driving.

We won’t do it overnight, but we will never do it if we stop after one long-overdue effort.

Update: Today I learned that the TTC is working on a scheme for better bus service.  According to Chair Adam Giambrone:

The TTC is developing a Transit City Bus plan that will likely include max 10 minute service to match subway hours at a grid of streets and new separated bus ROW’s.

Some streetcar lines have service worse than every 10 minutes at times.  This should not just be a plan for the bus system.

Examples include Harbourfront (off season), Queen (west of Humber Loop), and evening service on King, Dundas and Carlton on some days. Some of these will probably qualify as part of the “grid of streets”.

Good news if and when we see this plan on the street, but the service has to actually show up.

Analysis of Route 29 Dufferin — Part II: Headways

In the previous post, I began my analysis of the 29 Dufferin route with a look at service on Christmas Day 2006.  Before turning to other specific days and their events, let’s look at the month overall as seen by the reliability of headways and link times at and between various points on the route.  This post presents the headway data, and in the next installment, you will see the link times.

The picture revealed by these data is not a happy one, although it will not surprise any regular user of the route.  Headways are a mess, especially in the evening.  The oft-cited “flexibility” of buses does not appear to yield service any more reliable than on the King car, and in some cases, the service is worse.  The fundamental problem is that very frequent services are left more or less to their own devices, and less frequent periods on such routes suffer from the effects of laissez-faire management.

Of particular note is the service on Sunday evenings, a period when classic TTC excuses about “traffic congestion” simply are not credible.  Headways are scattered over a range up to 20 minutes even though the schedule says 10. 

Continue reading