Peter Kuitenbrouwer in the National Post has a series of articles talking about crowding on the TTC.
The February 17 service improvements are a start, but it’s no secret that there’s a long way to go. A few changes are in the wind as described in a TTC report from their February 27 meeting.
We learn that more service will come with the March 30 and May 11 schedule periods to address the backlog of overcrowding, at least on the bus routes.
In the fall, further improvements will change the peak hour loading standard for bus routes. Across the board, the standard will be improved by 10% so that the acceptable average loads, now in the mid-50s depending on vehicle type, will be reduced by 5 or 6. This won’t mean 10% more service on every route because some lines are running below the new standard already and won’t be eligible for more service. (These tend to be short routes where cuts today would have a severe impact raising the average load above the line or making the headway unacceptably wide.)
Also planned for the fall is a return to full hours of service on most routes so that if the subway is open, the routes are operating at least a 30-minute service. 2009 may bring a 20-minute maximum, but that’s a budget issue for next year.
Meanwhile, we see little discussion of streetcar or rapid transit service because both suffer from constraints in fleet size. That may be the situation, though I am skeptical, but what is missing is a projection of what we would need if we made the same changes in loading standards for the rail modes.
From the report, we can see that the peak standards for CLRVs and ALRVs (the one section and two section streetcars) are 74 and 108 respectively. If these numbers were reduced by 10%, to 67 and 97, how much more service would we have on the street, if the cars were available?
The current AM peak service is 186 cars (148 CLRVs and 38 ALRVs). We can reasonably assume that most of the streetcar lines are operating at the target level (probably some are over it), and a 10% change in the loading standard would translate to about 15 CLRVs and 4 ALRVs. A further 15 CLRVs, roughly, will be needed once the St. Clair line goes back to full streetcar operation late in 2008. This means that just to implement the new standard and to operate the full network will require a peak service of 178 CLRVs and 42 ALRVs.
This is not practical given that the fleet is only 196 CLRVs and 52 ALRVs, and a 10% spare ratio for the CLRVs is probably unattainable. Some small-scale tweaks are possible, but nothing substantial. Crowding will be part of our future on the streetcar network.
The TTC is floating the scheme of using buses on some lines (notably Kingston Road and Bathurst) during the AM peak when the demand for cars it at its height. The PM peak requires only 171 cars and most of the difference is on the 504 King route. This leaves room for some increase in streetcar service in the PM. An obvious question: If the fleet is there, why isn’t the TTC using it today?
Between them, the 502, 503 and 511 would account for about 20 cars in the AM peak (once the 511 goes back to Exhibition Loop). Replacing them would require at least 28 AM peak buses, plus spares, although I suspect that mixed bus and streetcar operation would be a real mess on Queen and on King.
We won’t face this until the St. Clair line resumes full operation late this year, but when that happens, the TTC will be challenged to field every available car.
How many cars are actually available? We don’t know, and that’s a critical question that must be asked. How many are dead-stored due to critical problems? How many have been raided for spare parts? How many are “lemons” that go into service rarely because they are unreliable?
Meanwhile, Toronto is about to purchase new streetcars, provided that someone will pay for them. How many do we need? How much additional carhouse capacity is required to handle the co-existence of both the new fleet as it gradually takes over and the old fleet that will stay in operation to maintain service?
Only now are we hearing these questions, and not very loudly, because the long-range capital budgets don’t make provision for large-scale growth.
Overcrowding on the subway is a daily complaint as we have seen both from comments here and from media reports. Ridership is going up, but there is little the TTC can do to address this.
Among the not-quite-quick-fixes are:
- The new Toronto Rocket trains
- The new signal system and closer headways
- A seventh car for each train
The Rockets won’t be here for a few years, and even when they are, the current order is not big enough to completely operate the existing YUS line. That route uses 48 trains today, or 55 including spares. However, the December 2006 order is for only 39 trainsets. Considerably more are needed to convert the entire YUS fleet, let alone to expand it.
Yes, it would be possible with careful scheduling to ensure that the lower-capacity T1 trains didn’t hit the height of the peak period on the YUS, but the TTC has never been very good at careful scheduling of its trainsets to specific runs and times of day.
Next comes the new signal system, although that will not be in operation over the full YUS until well into the next decade. Closer headways will also strain terminal turnback capacity as I have discussed in other posts. In theory, this will be fixed by extending both ends of the subway into York Region and operating short-turns so that no turnback point must accommodate the shortened line headway. Shorter headways also mean more trainsets and more carhouse space. Alas, little of this, beyond the signal system itself, is actually in the budget.
Finally we come to the 7-car trainset scheme with an added 50-foot car in each trainset bringing it to the same length (500 feet) as the standard subway platforms. Again, this is a project for the next decade, not next week.
Meanwhile, what of the Bloor line? There are no plans to increase capacity on that route, and current operations at terminals would make significant change very difficult. If the current headway of 140 seconds were reduced to 130, the TTC would need to manage its terminal operations efficiently and ruthlessly to ensure that trains departed as quickly as possible. A number of other scheduling tricks can squeeze some capacity, but I won’t get into a detailed discussion here. The main issue is that the closer the headway comes to the operational minimum, the more sensitive the whole line will be to disruptions as there will be no “give” to absorb minor delays.
Moreover, as the capacity of the YUS line grows, so will the arrival rate of transfer passengers at St. George and Bloor-Yonge stations. How will the BD line cope with these passengers?
Strangely, this entire issue is absent from our regional transit plans because, for decades, talking about transit capacity into the core has been political suicide. We are all supposed to focus on the 905. Yes, there are capacity problems out there too, but downtown won’t go away.
GO Transit has a role to play, and regular readers here will know my opinion that GO is not addressing the serious problem with regional travel that overloads the local rapid transit network. That said, there is a serious capacity problem on the subway system and it will only grow worse as demand grows.
To the TTC, the City, Metrolinx and Queen’s Park, I say this: Your current plans only scratch the surface of requirements for infrastructure, vehicles and service. Much more is needed, and needed today.
I will return to this theme in a review of the Metrolinx Green Papers to follow over the next weeks.