There was a verbal presentation on the Queen route at the May 21 meeting. The slides from the presentation together with some descriptive text will go online on the TTC’s site (I’m not sure where yet) with luck by the end of this week. Here are the highlights.
In January 2008, the Commission directed staff to prepare:
- a monthly report on unplanned service cancellations
- performance measures for service
- proposals for site-specific traffic improvements
- a study on splitting the route
- a strategy to measure customer satisfaction
(See minutes of the January meeting, item 10, for the complete set of motions.)
To avoid confusion about which voice is speaking here, I will save all of my comments to the end. Statements made from this point to the beginning of my comments are the TTC’s, paraphrased for this article.
1. Focus on the customer’s view of service.
- no short turning to put operators on time
- short turn only for service regularity, to fill gaps
- although this was effective in December, the status is “still educating supervisors, operators”
2. Service Assistance Crews
- additional standby operators and cars are spotted on the route to fill gaps and to relieve operators with the intention of more reliable service
- this change was staged into use in December and January with two crews for the morning, and two crews for the midday and afternoon, one in each end of the city
- ensure that there are enough operators to run all of the scheduled service
- this is achieved both by training more operators on streetcars, and by the temporary closing of the 512 St. Clair line
4. Vehicle Assignments
- consistently have available and use ALRVs for runs on Queen to ensure service stability and more-even loading
- clear rules and monitoring are now in place to ensure that this actually happens
5. More Route Supervisors
- on-street supervision is preferable to impersonal instructions by radio or onboard text display
- one supervisor was reassigned to Queen in January, and six new supervisors were assigned in April working weekdays covering the period from 0600 to 2000
- two are at the Neville and Long Branch terminals, and four are on the route at various locations
What Are The Results?
A graph of schedule compliance tracks the percentage of runs that are within two minutes of the scheduled headway. This has crept up slowly from the 20-25 percent range to 30-35 percent. Meanwhile the percentage of headways that are off by 10 minutes or more has dropped from roughly 10 to 5 percent. Similarly, the percentage of bunched streetcars (defined as headways of 1 minute or less) has fallen from about 10 to 6 percent.
The absolute number of short turns fell from about 2,500 in October and November to about 1,900 in December and 1,300 in January. February and March saw a rise back to the 2,000 range due to bad weather, and by April the count was down to about 1,600. The TTC now has a daily report of short turns and the reason for them. On a sample day, April 18, there were 81 short turns all attributed to Traffic Congestion or Blockage of the line.
For January-April 2008, over 99% of the scheduled service (measured in vehicle hours) has operated. However, TTC staff are not comfortable with this metric because it lumps the entire day’s and route’s operation together.
Monitoring the Route
The TTC now produces daily graphs summarizing the headways at various points on the line so that they can review what worked or didn’t work in line management on an ongoing basis.
The old signpost-based Communications and Information System (CIS) (which I have described in some of the early articles about route performance) will be updated this year, probably by the fall, by conversion to use the Global Position System (GPS) data now available on all vehicles through the automated stop announcement system. The management displays for CIS control will be changed to a map-based format with considerably more data about each car, and the TTC is considering what would be involved in making such displays available to supervisors in the field.
The TTC is reviewing the entire route for locations where traffic controls will improve transit operations for presentation to the City. This work is not yet complete, but recommendations to date include:
- Bathurst to Roncesvalles: No parking in the counter-peak direction during peak periods
- University to Victoria: No stopping any time
- University to Spadina: Eliminate 16 parking spaces on the north side of Queen.
- Bathurst to Parliament: Prohibit left turns from 0700 to 2200 (currently the ban is from Spadina to Jarvis between 0730 and 1830)
- Spadina to Victoria: Prohibit peak-period right turns at signalized intersections
- City Hall Garage: Prohibit the east-to-north left turn into the garage
- New signal priority at Jarvis, York, Glendale, Colborne Lodge, Windermere and Ellis
- Improved priority at Broaview, Bathurst, Dufferin and Lansdowne
Splitting the Route
Various scenarios are under evaluation for restructuring the Queen route. Considerations in the study include:
- the impact of transfers and the loss of through service for some rides
- changes in service frequency
- operational feasibility with track, switches and overhead
- locations for terminals, layover space and washrooms
- operating cost implications of overlapped operation
- vehicle availability
- implementation timing (Church and Parliament, possible locations for turnbacks, will be rebuilt in 2008)
The schemes under consideration include:
- the existing service (Neville to Humber + Neville to Long Branch)
- all cars to run from Neville to Long Branch
- return to the pre-amalgamation setup with a Neville to Humber service and a separate Long Branch route from Humber to Long Branch
- a Neville to Humber service overlaid by a Long Branch to Church service
- a Neville to Humber service overlaid by a Long Branch to Dundas West via Roncesvalles service
- a Neville to Bathurst service overlaid by a Long Branch to Church service
- a Neville to Bathurs service, plus a Church to Humber service, plus a Long Branch to Church via King service
- a Neville to Bathurst service overlaid by a Long Branch to Woodbine Loop service
The evaluation of these options may be complete in July 2008, but it is uncertain whether it will be presented at that time.
There will be an onboard interview of riders in June 2008 asking if they have perceived an improvement in service quality, and a second survey will be done if and when a route split occurs.
The next report to the Commission is expected in October 2008.
All of the preceding was Steve-as-reporter. Now you get Steve-as-transit-advocate.
It is clear that the dust has not entirely settled on the internal view by TTC management of the course (or courses) they will take. Culture change takes time in large organizations, and everyone has to feel that the changes proposed will actually make a difference.
It is essential that City Council address the traffic management issues. The local Councillors (interestingly Chair Giambrone plus Gord Perks in Parkdale and Adam Vaughan in downtown west) will have to decide whether transit really does come first. The changes proposed here are not as invasive or as permanent as the proposed King Street transit mall, and they deserve implementation. The Works Committee, chaired by Commissioner De Baeremaeker, must decide to give the TTC top dog status in the ongoing wrangling with the traffic engineers. Only by showing that Council is willing to work at improving the situation out on the street, to the degree that they can, will operating staff believe that the load isn’t all on their shoulders.
I was particularly struck by the fact that four of the six locations where transit priority signals are proposed are on The Queensway. Here we have the oldest surviving piece of private right-of-way in the city, and the streetcars don’t run the traffic lights. In fact, the travel time from Humber to Roncevalles is now longer than it was before the recent “improvements” which hold cars at locations where they formerly sailed through intersections. Transit “priority” is a very flexible concept.
The whole issue of short turning and headway management needs to be better understood in the field. We still see platoons of cars and wide gaps. I find it impossible to believe that those 81 short turns on April 18 were all due to traffic delay or route blockage. Nothing was reported against construction, disabled cars or equipment problems, passenger disputes, overcrowding or accidents. What a charmed day that was that every single short turn was triggered by our old friend “congestion”.
The operational improvements seem to be slow in coming. We have only reached the one third mark in runs operating within two minutes of the scheduled headway. This corresponds with the analyses I did for December and January, and suggests that there really hasn’t been much overall improvement in headway regularity. Benefits seen by riders may be as much a question of seasonal fluctuation as of any explicit change in management style.
I am particularly amused by the idea that there is a supervisor sitting at Long Branch. This has to be the softest job on earth considering the scheduled headway is only 11 minutes, and short turns (which do occur) make for wide gaps. At least the operators will have someone to chat with during their layovers.
Also, the complement of six new supervisors looks impressive, but we must remember that they cover a 14-hour window. That means three per shift, a much more reasonable number than six (over and above the existing crew).
I look forward to the new, improved CIS, and can’t wait to get my hands on some GPS-based data that will eliminate the tedious process of mapping current route monitoring logs into useable format.
My position on splitting the route has been published before, but for the record it is:
Weekdays until about 1900:
- A Queen service from Humber to Neville with extras as required to operate on the central part of the route
- A consolidated and improved (off peak service no worse than 10 minutes) Kingston Road route with all cars going either to McCaul Loop or to York via King (the jury is still out on the choice here)
- A Lake Shore service from Long Branch to Church via King
Evenings and weekends:
- A Queen Service from Humber to Neville with extras as noted above
- A Lake Shore service from Long Branch to Dundas West via Roncesvalles
After the meeting, Adam Giambrone was scrummed by the media, and among his comments was the observation that the Queen corridor and the Sheppard Subway carry roughly the same number of passengers, but there are far, far more people tending to the subway than to the streetcar line. The TTC needs to recognize the importance of its surface routes. To be fair to the Sheppard line, it does have a lot of infrastructure that the Queen car doesn’t need (that little tunnel for starters), and some of the staffing differences are a direct result of the overhead costs of running a subway line. But you’ve heard that speech from me before.
A public meeting will be arranged for an evening at City Hall likely early in June. This will allow the public to comment on the various proposals in a less formal and constrained atmosphere than a Commission meeting, and without having to take time off work. It will allow much better give-and-take on the issues and allow any management or politicians who attend to get a clear understanding of how people feel.
When I have more informaion about this meeting and other future events, I will post an announcement here.