At The TTC: February 27, 2008

There were several items on the TTC’s agenda today that I wish to write about, but won’t be able to turn to them until Thursday or Friday. Here is a brief “coming soon” list.

The Kennedy Derailment

A detailed presentation showed the cause of the derailment, and I will post this here with explanatory notes when I get an electronic copy.

Transit City Update

A thorough review of the Transit City plans was presented including a review of each line and of other related projects such as new vehicles, carhouses, fare collection, signalling, and urban design.

My overall impression is that at long last we are seeing transit projects as a unified plan with all of the interlocking design elements acknowledged and included. Many of the questions that have been raised here by me and many commenters are touched on in this review, and readers should be pleasantly surprised that the TTC and the City have a comprehensive plan for all of the studies including public participation.

Service Improvements

A follow-up report to the February 17 service improvements tells us to expect further changes in the March 30 and May 11 schedules to complete the “catch up” with the backlog of overcrowding.

In September and October, service will be added to cope with anticipated rising demand through the year as well as the gradual change from high-floor to low-floor buses which have a lower capacity.

Late in the fall, the peak period loading standards will be reduced by 10%. This means that the target average load for a bus will be 10% lower than it is now with concurrent service improvements on routes that are close to the line today. Also, hours of service will be changed so that “substantially” all TTC services will operate from 6 AM (9 AM on Sundays) to 1 AM on a maximum headway of 30 minutes. A possible move to a maximum 20 minute headway will be reviewed in 2009.

Status of St. Clair West Station Loop

Joe Mihevc will be visiting St. Clair West Station tomorrow (Feb 28) and will be posting a video regarding the projcet’s status. I will place the link here when it is available.

Buy Canadian

John Cartwright, President of the Toronto & York Region Labour Council, presented a report throwing serious questions on the Booz-Allen “buy Canadian” report that recommended a low threshhold for the TTC LRV contract.

I will post a summary of this critique here when I have time.

Interminable Waits at Kennedy (Update 3)

Updated Feb 27, 6:15 pm:

At today’s TTC meeting, we learned that they expect to have repairs at Kennedy completed by Friday. I will post more information about the derailment and the nature of the damage when I receive an electronic copy of the report on this incident.

Correction Feb 26, 11:00 pm:

This evening, I received the following email from Adam Giambrone, Chair of the TTC. It was addressed jointly to me and to Ed Drass whose column I cite later in this post.


I told Ed Drass yesterday that I understood the slow order was to be off by now BUT that I was going to check with Warren Bartram of TTC during a tour of the tunnels with CTV earlier this morning (2am-5am) to confirm. I actually watched the crews doing the repairs and I called him earlier today to confirm that the slow order was still in place and will be for another week or so.

The problem is that many of the bolts (I don’t know their technical name) that bolt the rail to ground were ripped up (some 150) and there is only so much that can be repaired in the 150 minutes they have most days to do the work.

Anyway, I usually qualify a statement of fact if I am not sure and I did so in this situation.

Adam Giambrone

I expect to get more details at the TTC meeting tomorrow and will post that info here.

This post has been revised in light of Adam Giambrone’s email.

Updated Feb 26:

This morning at 8:40 am, the backlog of trains from Kennedy stretched to Victoria Park Station, and the trip from there to the terminal took 21 minutes.

According to Ed Drass’ column in today’s Metro, Adam Giambrone was advised that the slow order on Kennedy crossover was lifted last week. This proved to be incorrect based on his email quoted above.

Original post:

Ever since the Kennedy Station derailment two weeks ago, service at the eastern terminal of the Danforth Subway has been glacial, especially at the end of the peak periods. As an example, I spent more than 15 minutes this morning getting from Victoria Park to Kennedy Station, and this has happened almost every day for the past two weeks. Looking on the bright side, the TTC has figured out how to operate a reasonable headway on the SRT even when it was in “manual” mode and we no longer creep from Kennedy to STC. The combination of these two delays made the term “rapid transit” quite a joke.

The problem at Kennedy arises from the slow order which has been on the crossover. Trains move over it at low speed while TTC staff watch carefully as the trains pick their way through the special work. Riding on trains, I can’t tell whether the roughness of the crossing is due to the very slow speed or the condition of the track. With luck, we will learn more at Wednesday’s Commission meeting when there will be a presentation on the derailment.

Meanwhile, capacity on the BD subway is badly constrained. In two previous posts, I talked about the physical limitations that subway line and terminal layouts place on the frequency of service.

How Often Can Subway Trains Run?

How Frequently Can We Run Subway Trains?

The minimum headway at a terminal controls the level of service on the rest of the line unless additional trains are inserted at short-turn points. Indeed, that is how the TTC plans to fit more trains onto the Yonge line in eight years or so with turnbacks at Finch (following a northerly extension beyond Steeles) and somewhere in Downsview (following the York U extension).

Just to review, here is the sequence of events at a terminal:

  • Signal turns green
  • Train guard initiates door closing and this completes
  • Train moves off from platform and eventually clears the crossover
  • Signal system determines that the crossover is clear and realigns the switches
  • Signal system displays clear for the incoming train
  • Incoming train starts up and crosses into the station
  • Signal system determines that the crossover is clear and realigns the switches

The two longest steps in this sequence are the train movements. Today, I timed trains at Kennedy, and it takes 80 seconds for a train to move from a stationary position either on a platform (departing) or from the last approach signal (arriving) through the crossover to a point where the junction is clear for another movement.

This means that 160 seconds (2 minutes, 40 seconds) are consumed simply for train movements. Add to this about 10 seconds for signal and switch system activity, and we are up to 170 seconds before any delays introduced by the readiness of crews to depart.

However, the scheduled headway on the BD line is 144 seconds (2 minutes, 24 seconds) in the morning peak. Quite clearly, it is impossible to operate this headway given the constraints at Kennedy, and a queue of trains builds up. This affects service on the entire line unless trains are inserted along the way to bring the headway back down to the scheduled level.

The TTC should seriously consider short-turning some trains. This could be done at Warden, provided that these trains crossed over to the westbound platform so that they did not block the eastbound flow. Yes, this would require careful management at Warden, but it would reduce the backlog at Kennedy and allow a reliably frequent service to operate on the rest of the line.

I say this with some trepidation because this scheme could also foul up the line just as badly as the current arrangement if it were not managed to ensure fast in, fast out turnarounds of the short-turning trains.

A further option, applicable only to the am peak, would be to send trains that would run out of service to Greenwood into the yard eastbound.

I write this not just as someone who is personally inconvenienced, but out of concern that a long-standing operational problem affecting service capacity has not been addressed.

After Wednesday’s update at the TTC, I will add to this item as appropriate.