Today’s Commission meeting included one of the more embarrassing presentations I have seen at the TTC in some time. It wasn’t meant that way, but that’s how it came off. The topic was the Subway Service Improvement Plan.
The first problem was that this is really two reports in one. The first major topic is delays, their causes and what the TTC is doing or can do to reduce them. This material was presented in a less than thrilling manner, and most Commissioners were visibly not paying attention.
The second topic was the subway car fleet plan. This has always been something of a black art influenced as much by whatever size order Bombardier needs to have for Thunder Bay this week rather than solid planning. However, when the TTC’s own numbers don’t add up and there are blatant mistakes in the analysis, that’s when it gets embarrassing.
The report is not available online, and you will have to take my word for the material as I don’t feel like scanning the whole thing in. A warning for the faint of heart. This post contains a lot of numbers and a discussion of service levels and fleet requirements. If this isn’t your cup of tea, skip the rest of this item.
Current plans for the subway fleet will eventually see all of the T1 cars isolated on the Bloor-Danforth and Sheppard lines, while the new Toronto Rockets will provide service on Yonge-University-Spadina. Each fleet can be analyzed separately.
The TTC expects to receive three sets of Toronto Rocket cars:
- 234 (39 trainsets) to replace the H4 and H5 equipment
- 126 (21 trainsets) to replace the H6 cars
- 48 (8 trainsets) for the Spadina extension
Among the claims made for the TR cars are:
- 10 times improvement in reliability that will allow a reduction in the spare ratio from 19% (the current fleet average) to 10%
- 13% greater capacity due to the unit train design with gangways between all cars.
Current operations on the YUS require 48 trains of which 4 are used to fill gaps. The basic service characteristics are:
- The headway is 141 seconds south of St. Clair West in the am peak. This corresponds to 25.53 trains/hour.
- The capacity of a train for service design purposes is 1000 (although crush loads of 1200 are possible). Therefore, the design capacity of current service is 25,530/hour. (Crush capacity would be about 30,000, but this could not be sustained for an extended period due to longer station dwell times with very crowded trains.)
- To field 48 trains, the TTC must have a total of 57 trains (9 spares are 19% of the scheduled service). This could be reduced slightly if the gap trains are taken from the spare pool, but it is unclear whether this is the TTC’s practice.
If the entire service is replaced with TRs, this would have the following effects:
- The capacity of the service would go up by 13% to 28,850/hour.
- The spare requirement would drop to 5 trainsets.
So far, so good, except that the TTC counts the capacity improvement as a credit against the number of cars they require. If you reduce the fleet to compensate for added capacity of trainsets, then you are not changing the capacity of the route. If you are going to provide more capacity, then it follows as the night the day that you have to run the same number of trains. The only saving comes in the spare allowance.
Therefore, at this point, the requirement for trains on YUS is 53 (48 plus 5 spares).
Next comes Automatic Train Control. Here the TTC’s calculation really comes off of the rails. ATC is claimed to save 10% on travel times. In effect, the trains will get from Finch to Downsview 10% faster than they do today thanks, it is claimed, to their ability to run closer together. For my money, this is hogwash, especially outside of the peak period when trains are never close enough together for ATC to make a difference in running times. What is actually happening, I believe, is that trains will probably have better performance characteristics and will be able to cover the line faster.
This is an issue going back decades to debates over “high rate” operation on the subway. From my own experience riding the YUS on high-rate trains, as well as experience on BD when it was scheduled to operate that way, a 10% saving in trip time would be easily achieved, although most of the saving will come north of Bloor Street due to wider station spacings and hills. “High rate” was abandoned due to problems with motor instability on the H1 cars at top speed, concerns with the need for better track maintenance and power consumption. There was also a desire to justify a large car order, and a scheme that would actually save on the fleet size was anathema to both the TTC and Queen’s Park.
In any event, the running time from Finch to Downsview will drop by 10%, and this will add 10% to the capacity of the line provided that the same number of trains operates at a reduced headway, something that ATC makes possible. However, once again, the TTC takes the reduced travel time as a credit against the fleet size. This is nonsense.
If the same trains operate 10% faster:
- The number of trains/hour goes up from 25.53 to 28.09, and the headway falls from 141 seconds to 128 seconds.
- The design capacity goes up from 28,850 to 31,735 per hour, an increase of about 24% over today’s operation.
The TTC plans to extend the short turn operation from St. Clair West to Glencairn in 2010/2011 with a requirement for 3 more trains. This takes us to a fleet of:
- 47 trains for service, 4 gap trains, and 5 spares for a total of 56 trains.
The TTC also allows for 5 additional trains for extra capacity. I have not factored them in here as I get the added capacity through reduced headways and larger trains. If that really is the intent, then my numbers to this point are low by 5 to 6 trainsets.
Some claims about future operations speak of a 50% increase in capacity. To achieve the additional 26% increase relative to current service (over and above the 24% we get from greater train capacity and shorter running times) will require 26% more trains.
- The number of trains/hour would rise from 28.09 to 33.89, and the headway would fall from 128 to 106 seconds. This is getting into territory where minor disruptions will cause serious backlogs of service.
- 47 trains are required for scheduled service with the Glencairn extension
- 26% raises this number to 59
- 1 additional spare train is required
- This gives us 59 for service, 4 gap trains (unchanged) and 6 spares for a total of 69 trainsets.
Only 60 trainsets are on order.
The TTC has included the Spadina trainsets in their analysis as part of the available fleet even though they have not increased the service requirement to compensate for the extension of the line. This is simply a mistake, but an expensive one if the same trains are counted for two purposes.
An alternative way to provide more capacity is the proposed 7th car in the TR trains. This would be a 50-foot long car (existing cars are 75) that would bring a trainset exactly to the length of existing station platforms. The added capacity is only about 10% (50 feet added to a 450 foot long train), and so there would still be a need for more trains to bring the total capacity of the line up to 50% relative to today’s operation.
However, I believe that the 7-car trains have some merit because their added capacity would allow for slightly wider headways at a given capacity. In the example above, this would reduce the fleet requirement to about 62 trainsets and require a minimum headway of about 117 seconds. This is tight, but doable.
The BD line now operates with 42 trains on a 2’24” am peak headway. A big question here is how many spares we really need.
The TTC has used a factor of 19%, but this is for a mixed fleet of H and T1 cars. I find it hard to believe that the T1 cars, which were supposed to be such an improvement over the H-series, require this high a spare factor. Moreover, the TTC has projects underway to improve their reliability. By the time the BD line is running exclusively with T1’s, there should be a reduction in maintenance requirements for this line. It may not be as dramatic as the drop from 19 to 10% on YUS, but there certainly should be some improvement.
If we assume a spare factor of 15% on BD, this means that we need about 6 spare trains for a total fleet of 48 trains. The actual fleet of T1 cars is 372 or 62 trains. From this, deduct 24 cars to provide for the Sheppard line leaving a balance of 348 cars or 58 trains. This would allow for considerable improvement in BD service except for the basic problem that the signal system cannot handle many more trains on that line.
Some T1’s could be retrofitted with ATC for use on YUS, although they would have lower capacity than the TRs especially if these were configured as 7-car units, and we would need to be sure that they could actually achieve the claimed 10% reduction in travel times. This could also bring the net fleet requirement for YUS down possibly even removing the need for the Spadina extension trains.
The TTC’s subway fleet planning often does not make sense and does not present a complete picture of the evolving requirements for subway cars. The fact that the YUS and BD lines will now have separate fleets further complicates planning.
A related issue is the question of the transfer capacity at Bloor-Yonge where an almost unchanged BD service (and station) must somehow absorb passengers arriving on YUS at a much greater rate than today during the PM peak. Putting much more capacity on YUS may be attractive in theory, but unwise in practice.
All of this probably sounds rather arcane until we remember that a subway trainset costs close to $20-million and presumptions that we can increase the capacity of existing lines substantially may be misguided. Alternatives for the YUS corridor including both short-haul and long-haul relief services (the downtown relief lines discussed here as well as significant improvements to GO rail) must be included in our plans.