[Updated March 17, 2008: I have received various comments with schemes for alternate ways to operate the 501/502/507 in various combinations. None of these will be posted here as this debate could go on forever. The next round in the discussion will come with the TTC’s own proposals expected in May.]
On March 6, Ed Drass wrote about the Queen car’s problems and the various options that might improve service, some day. The article is not yet up on the Metro News website, but the link here will take you to an index of Ed’s columns.
Recently, I received a long note from an operator about the problems of the new way the line is being managed. These are grouped in blocks by general subject with my own comments interspersed.
The 501 route has been a problem for awhile now. But the focus is on it right now, after the meeting at Metro Hall. Restrictions were placed on short turns, since then the line has gotten worse. The eastend has seen some improvement in less short turns, but the westend is paying for it. Here are example of Queen and streetcars in general.
Route supervisors on Queen were told to stop short turning cars for relief and coffee breaks, plus reduce or stop short turns in general caused by delays.
So now you have a hold on the Queen line, a line of cars travel east together. The first goes through to Neville, the second car short turns at Kingston Road and all other cars go to Neville. The first car is still in a gap going westbound because not enough cars are turned.
Recently I was doing a 502 run. I came off of Kingston Road westbound, couldn’t see the streetcar ahead. Picked up heavy all the way to McCaul Street, turn into McCaul leaving a bunch of patrons at the stop there. When I came back out of McCaul I checked the switches to see if I was following a Queen and on the westbound side to see if a Queen had gone past yet. The westbound switch was still open and patrons I dropped off were still waiting.
At Victoria I finally met a westbound streetcar only problem it was the next 502, twenty minutes behind me. I continued along seeing all the patrons I left at stops waiting for a Queen car. At Parliament I met the next westbound car, it was a King car going to Bathurst Street. Finally at Sumach I met the first Queen car being followed by about ten cars. This would have been about a 40 minute gap in the middle of the day on a weekday. I appears there was a hold up in the Beach and nothing was turned back as you’re not to short turn going into the Beach.
I was having dinner one Saturday night at the Tulip at Queen and Coxwell. I saw 4 eastbound cars arrive at once. The first, third and forth cars were all signed for Neville only the second car short turned. A little while later the second car went westbound and about thirty minutes later the other 3 car came westbound all together still and late. Just like when they went eastbound the last 2 were empty.
It’s now common to see gaps of 30 to 60 minutes out on Lakeshore, because of no east end turning. It used to be practice that when traffic was slow in the Beach you short turn the Long Branch cars at Kingston Road to service out on the Lakeshore going. Not any more.
For a while the TTC was paying to have a chief supervisor sit at Kingston Road and Queen to watch for short turns. If he saw one [he would] call Roncy to find out why a Queen car was short turned. [The Queen line is managed from the CIS control room at Roncesvalles Division.]
This sort of behaviour is precisely the reaction I expected to see from the TTC rather than sitting down and trying to manage the line properly. We have a Commissioner, Sandra Bussin, from the Beach who organized her own public meeting (separate from the one at Metro Hall), and we have two senior TTC managers who live on the Beach. I know that one of them, at least, has little to do with the actual line management, but the perception is that everything gets fixed for the east end.
Meanwhile, the service to Long Branch falls into a black hole. Some might argue that if Mark Grimes hadn’t stormed off of the Commission in a huff, those folks would have better representation, but good service should not depend on whether your Councillor sits on the TTC and cares about your service. There were plenty of people from the west end of the line at Metro Hall, but the squeakiest wheels are in the east end.
You have an operator now running late who gets a break and then takes over another car. Supervisor can’t turn him/her for the break so the operator is late getting there. The streetcar they take over arrives first and now there is no one to take over it. So another delay and possible loss of a car for a time.
This plan to run Queen on head ways won’t work on the street in traffic. Just fix the schedule and they will get better results.
The TTC and Local 113 need to rethink how crew breaks and changes are handled especially on very long lines like Queen. When “recovery time” is included in a car’s trip, it is intended for use if needed, and operators are not supposed to assume that they get a 20 minute break no matter what. There are three problems here.
First, the actual amount of recovery time on Queen, especially at Humber and at Long Branch, has far more to do with making the two services blend eastbound than it does with actual operating conditions at various times of the day. However, operators get used to having a long break at the west end of the trip.
Second, a far better location for any break would be at Roncesvalles where there are coffee shops and the division office. If there is any move to drop-back crewing (as on the subway), it would make far more sense to do this at the division.
Third, cars that are sitting for layovers draw are not in service. We hear all the time how there is a shortage of streetcars, but at any given time, many of them are sitting at layovers, not carrying customers. The scheduling of cars and crews needs to be changed so that, at least in peak periods, the fleet is used to its utmost for service.
We need to separate the concept of a schedule for the operators, who need breaks from the stress of driving and for calls of nature, from the schedule for the streetcars.
If my memory is correct 23 years ago when I started there were 4 traffic lights counting Woodbine in the Beach. There are now 7 traffic lights — this affects the schedule of the line.
Most transit priority traffic lights no longer work. When they first installed them, it was hard to get a red light on Queen, now it’s easier to get a red than it is to get a green light.
All along the Queen the route there are new traffic light or reconfigured lights, like at Lansdowne.
It’s next to impossible to eastbound from Bay to make it to Yonge without stopping a Eaton Centre crossing. You stop there and then pull up 100 ft to Yonge to stop again and catch another red light.
There should be no left turns from Eastbound Queen into City Hall parking garage, there is an entrance on the southside. But streetcars get held there all time.
The transit priority signals are good examples of how the TTC falls down on maintenance. Yes, they had an initial effect, even if those that work have the annoying habit of letting a car get away from a stop rather than holding it long enough for nearby passengers to catch it.
I too see priority signals not working in many locations for long periods. I don’t know if operators report these problems, and their reports just disappear, or if they have given up, or if there is some problem between the TTC and the roads department who would actually fix the problems.
As for the area between University and Yonge on Queen, the TTC and Council seem unwilling to confront congestion there caused by turning autos, and the usual melee of tour buses and food trucks, and the lack of transit priority at the “cattle crossing”.
I don’t know if you have heard of this master plan for St. Clair while track on Bathurst are replaced.
TTC is going to park 10 streetcars up on St. Clair, 3 on the street at Vaughan Road, 4 in St. Clair West Station and 3 at St. Clair Station. The 3 at Vaughan are spares in case of break downs. The TTC is going to have 24/7 security for those 3 cars and I believe someone during down time will watch other 7 cars.
A shuttle bus will be used to transport operators and fareboxes from Roncy to cars each day and back. If a car breaks down and can’t repaired on the street, the TTC will float it back to Roncy for repair and float out replacement. Why not shut St. Clair down until completed and use streetcars and operators on Queen, King and Carlton.
This really is an example of political impacts on transit operations. The St. Clair project has been such a mess that getting streetcars back on the line is a high priority. Why the TTC and the City couldn’t have scheduled work on Bathurst, at least between Hillcrest and St. Clair, to occur while the line was shut down is beyond me. This would have allowed a re-opened streetcar line to use Hillcrest for temporary storage. Instead, they scheduled work on the connection track to occur after the whole St. Clair project was originally to be completed.
This whole mess shows that the TTC’s response to service problems is still quite fragmented and much more attuned to political than operational needs.