“TTC Culture” : 1 Queen Car : 0 (Updated June 25)

Updated June 25:

Jonathan Goldsbie has an article about the Queen car forum on the Eye Weekly site.

Updated June 18:

First, apologies to Gary Welsh of City Transportation Services whose name I misspelled in the original post.  I’m used to the many permutations possible with “Stephen Munro” and don’t like to screw up other people’s names myself.

Today I deputed on the subject of the Queen report and forum, and the thrust of my remarks was:

  • I agree that some of the proposals for traffic-related improvements on Queen will be good for the route.  This and other operational changes have been under discussion for some time and were part of the reason I started my analyses of CIS data in 2007.
  • There are many items on the “to do” list including detailed evaluation of alternate route structures, monitoring and management of the existing service, and bringing reports on traffic changes to Community Council for discussion and approval.  They’re worthwhile and we mustn’t lose the momentum.
  • The monthly update on cancelled service and short turns is missing, and we have no idea of how effective any new practices might be since late April.
  • At the Queen Car Forum, the same May report was presented without updates, but the big problem was the issue of “TTC Culture” as an explanation for the slowness of change.  I made the point that this is hard to believe given enthusiastic celebration of TTC employees’ skills and dedication at the 40-year service presentations that opened the meeting, and the extensive review and recommendations for immediate change in the report on the Lytton Boulevard subway fatality.  Both of these show a culture that celebrates skill and dedication.  I made it clear that my remarks were aimed at corporate culture, not at any individual who happened to be the bearer of the message.
  • My own view is that problems on Queen are disproportionate to those on other routes and this is a function of the length and challenges posed by the 501, not just any “cultural” issues.
  • When the report with a recommended strategy for dealing with the 501 comes forward in October, I hope that it will have more substance and a positive outlook about what can be done.
  • Commissioner Bussin (who attended the Forum) replied that she felt the “culture” reference was only to short-term problems with introduction of change and asked how I took the impression I did.  I replied that the sense was not just mine, but that of others I had talked to and responses to the original post here.
  • TTC staff argued that they only intended the “cultural” reference as a short-term problem to be overcome, that years of line management style can’t be changed overnight.  They haven’t given up on the system.  Also, the problem with a lack of updated info appears to be a staff resource issue (for which read they’re too busy with other things), but the information will be incorporated in the monthly Chief General Manager’s Report.

I have managed to cheese off a number of folks at the TTC and City Hall, but feel it’s not my job to be a cheerleader.  I report what I hear and what I see.  Possibly my comments influence how others see the same events, but such is the problem of any media (the “it’s in the Sun so it must be true” syndrome).

Some of you have already written with your own reflections on Tuesday’s meeting, and if there are others reading this, I would be interested in your take on what was said.  This blog exists not just for my opinions, but as a forum for many others to let those interested in transit matters see a variety of positions whether I agree with them or not.

The original post follows below. Continue reading

150 Years of Toronto Union Stations: 1858-2008

An Illustrated Lecture and Presentation by Derek Boles
Monday, June 23, 2008, 7 p.m.
Toronto Reference Library
1 block north of Yonge & Bloor

Toronto Union Station is one of the city’s most beloved heritage buildings and architectural treasures.  Toronto’s first Union Station opened on June 21, 1858.  This was replaced in 1873 by what was considered the most opulent railway station in Canada.  That building was considerably expanded in the 1890s and replaced by the present Union Station in 1927.  The City of Toronto purchased the station from the railways in 2000 and has embarked on a $400 million restoration and revitalization of this National Historic Site.  Using over 225 images and specially prepared animations, this presentation will provide an illustrated history of these buildings and other downtown railway stations in commemoration of the sesquicentennial of Toronto Union Station.

Derek Boles is one of the founding members of the Toronto Railway Historical Association and has written and lectured extensively on Toronto’s railway heritage.  He coordinates the annual Doors Open event at Union Station and leads popular monthly tours of the station, which have attracted almost 1,500 people since they began in 2006.  Derek has just finished writing a book on the history of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s North Toronto Station.  He serves on the board of Heritage Toronto and is the vice chair of the Union Station Revitalization Public Advisory Group.

This event is co-sponsored by the Toronto Railway Historical Association, Heritage Toronto and the Toronto Public Library. 

More information on the history of the 1858 Union Station

Waterfront LRT — Bremner Boulevard Option

At the June 18 TTC meeting, a report on the Supplementary Agenda recommends that the Commission approve the concept for the portion of the Waterfront West LRT between Union Station and Exhibition Place.  The linked document is the full report including illustrations.

The preferred route from Union Station (which itself must be expanded to accommodate increased streetcar traffic from the eastern and western waterfront lines) runs:

  • south in the existing tunnel to the end of the railway viaduct,
  • west through a new tunnel under the Air Canada Centre Galleria, under an office building now under construction at York and Bremner, and under Bremner itself to emerge in a portal near Simcoe Street,
  • via Bremner to Bathurst where the street name changes to Fort York Boulevard,
  • via Fort York Blvd. to its crossing under the Gardiner Expressway,
  • via the land under the Gardiner and a former railway underpass under Strachan Avenue to merge with the existing Exhibition Loop trackage.

An alternative route via Fort York Blvd. all the way to Fleet and the existing Bathurst/Harbourfront route tracks is the less-desired alternative.

The report discusses the capacity problems at Bathurst/Fleet/Lake Shore where the long cycle times limit the number of transit movements per hour.  This has been a long-standing problem at a supposedly transit-priority location.

Changing the route as described above is expected to shave considerable travel time off of the run from southern Etobicoke into Union Station.  At this point, the WWLRT route west of Dufferin is still under study (as part of a south Parkdale overall review), but the TTC is looking at routing some service from 501 Queen and 504 King into Union via Dufferin Street and the new WWLRT.

The TTC will send this proposal to Metrolinx for inclusion in its grab-bag of regional transit schemes.

Sheppard LRT EA Final Open Houses (Update 2)

Update 2 (June 18):  The EA report on the Sheppard LRT came before the TTC and it was extremely warmly received by all present.  A few updates worth noting:

  • Property owners at Settlers’ Road (roughly at the ramps to the Atria development) asked that a stop be added at their location because the spacing from Consumers to Victoria Park is longer than the target average for the line.  They have been working with TTC staff to come up with a suitable configuration.
  • The Don Mills Station connection option includes examination of running both services on the same platform with the subway using the north track, and the LRT using the south track.  This has operational issues, but the TTC is looking at this as an alternative to extending the platform far enough east so that there would be competely separate loading zones.
  • There is a strong push for the Consumers Road subway extension option as a way to improve service to this business park and spur development of much vacant (read parking) land there.  Also, it is hoped that this would reverse the area’s drop in employment of about 25% over past years.
  • The projected cost has risen from the original $555-million in the Transit City announcement to $865-million largely due to the cost of the subway connection at Don Mills (originally this was costed as a surface station) and an increased estimate for vehicles. 

The original post follows. Continue reading

Caribana Cash Grab (Updated)

Update:  At the TTC meeting on June 18, the Caribana pass was approved at a cost of $18, the price of two Day passes.  Sanity prevails.

At this week’s TTC meeting, a report recommends that a special two-day Caribana pass be issued for August 2 and 3.  Great stuff!  Give the tourists a souvenir.  Simplify ticketing.

But wait.  The price will be $20, or $2 more than the cost of two Day Passes “to offset the cost of production”.   Are we really supposed to believe that it will cost $100,000 to produce the 50,000 passes the TTC expects to sell?

I have no objection to event-based transit passes for conventions and other gatherings, and the idea is certainly not new in Toronto.  Tourists are found money for the TTC, and the last thing we need is to put them in a situation where they pay more for their “special” pass.  

Collecting fares is part of the business of running the TTC.  Selling special passes simplifies TTC operations because visitors only need to buy one pass.  These can be sold through hotels, not just a handful of downtown subway stations.  Pass holders enter vehicles quickly rather than pulling together odd amounts of cash.  Service runs more smoothly, and all door loading is possible at major stops.  That quality of service is worth something, if only fewer delays and short turns.

Doesn’t this count for anything at the TTC?  Maybe the lesson they need is that of basic market forces — have a pile of unsold, overpriced passes on August 4.

The two-day pass should be sold at a discount relative to individual Day Passes.  Show our visitors that we welcome them on the TTC.

Queen Streetcar Forum (Updated)

When: Monday, June 16, 2008 from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

Where: Council Chambers, City Hall [Note Updated Location]

The TTC will send staff to discuss the recent status report on the Queen car, but I do not expect that we will hear anything definitive about issues like splitting the route. Various options are on the table, but the report comparing them won’t be available until October, and implementation won’t likely come until early 2009.

James Bow and I will have comments of our own, depending on just what the TTC says, and Commissioners Adam Giambrone and Sandra Bussin will likely attend.

Don Mills LRT Open House (Updated)

The first of the Don Mills LRT Environmental Assessment open houses came to my neighbourhood at Rosedale Heights School, and I dropped by to see where the project is headed.  The crowd was modest compared to the well-attended music and arts fair the school was holding just down the hall.

The Don Mills study is an odd duck having evolved out of the Don Valley Corridor study that, in turn, was triggered by a hare-brained scheme to widen the Don Valley Parkway for BRT.  Some of the alignment options are leftovers from the earlier study.

Update:  The presentation materials are now available on the project website. Continue reading

Streetcar Track Switching (Updated)

Early on June 11, two streetcars collided at Bay and Dundas due to an open switch incident.  Coverage of this can be found at the Globe & Mail and at the Sun.

Reports suggest that the operator of an eastbound car failed to check the setting of the east-to-north switch, drove into the intersection and turned into the path of a westbound car.  Reading the Globe article, I can’t help thinking that a discussion of the situation and the history of streetcar switching is badly needed.

TTC officials say it is the driver’s responsibility to check that every switch on the tracks is aligned properly before proceeding, a rule established in 2002 to avoid accidents like yesterday’s.

From other background, it appears that the Dundas route was diverting on Tuesday evening around events at Dundas Square, and the east-to-north switch would have been left open for that diversion.

Continue reading

A Few Questions For Metrolinx

Last Friday, I spent the day at a Metrolinx public consultation session, a meeting of “Stakeholders” who have more than a passing interest in transportation issues.  This was the fourth of six gatherings around the GTAH.

Metrolinx has got to recognize a basic fact:  Activists and community representatives are not consultants, they don’t represent companies for whom attendance at this type of function is part of their job.  Metronauts had the sense to be a Saturday event, and, frankly, it was a lot more productive.  If Metrolinx had to actually pay even half of the crowd who attended last Friday at reasonable consulting rates, they would have blown a bundle. 

The moderator started off by thanking us all for taking time out of our busy schedules to provide “value added feedback”.  Argghhh!  Yes, we added value, and in many cases this represented a day taken off work (vacation, in my case).  At least the food was good. Continue reading

Where’s My Transit Shelter? (Updated)

Updated June 9, 2008:  I have now received corrected counts of transit stops served by the TTC and have modified information in this post accordingly.

We’ve heard a lot recently about the amenities needed to attract riders to transit.  These include convenience and services at stops such as next bus information and shelter from whatever the weather might bring.

The City of Toronto is about to roll out their new street furniture program, and this includes new transit shelters.  Yes, those shelters, the ones we’ve all been waiting for all over the city.

We will continue to wait.

The contract for new shelters requires the advertising company to provide 5,000 new shelters, but they have until 2027 to finish the job.  We will get 300 this year, then 400 a year from 2009 to 2018, and then 25 a year from 2019 to 2027.  That doesn’t quite add up to 5,000, but who’s really counting anyhow?

Of the “new” shelters, most will go to replace existing shelters in 2008 and 2009, with only a paltry 30 and 40, respectively, in new locations.  Thereafter, the percentage may rise, but nothing has been confirmed.

[Updated information]  The TTC serves 8,540 bus stops and 715 streetcar stops within the City of Toronto for a total of 9,255.  Of these, about 4,000 have shelters today.  3,000 of those need to be replaced, and so by 2027, we will have:

  • 3,000 replacement shelters
  • 1,000 existing shelters
  • 2,000 net new shelters

This means that one third (just over 3,000 out of 9,000) stops on the system will still not have transit shelters.

The next problem is location.  You can reasonably bet that top priority will be driven by advertising considerations.  After all, we already know that the One Stop monitors in the subway reach over 80% of all riders (according to the company’s own rate card), so why bother going to the expense of putting monitors in lightly-used stations.  (There is huge irony in the presence of old, working Metron units at Davisville which, obviously, is not considered worthy of new monitors.)

Stops that have good visibility for advertising also, likely, have good transit service because they are on busy streets.  The next bus displays at such locations are of little use unless there is a major disruption because service is so frequent.  On routes with wide headways, there are fewer eyeballs, and probably no transit shelter until sometime after 2027.  Why tell someone when the next bus is coming, let alone advise of an unexpected delay or diversion, when there are not enough customers walking, riding or driving by to read the ads?

This is the folly at the heart of the TTC and City schemes for transit information facilities.  Rather than building them where they are needed, they will be built where an advertiser thinks they can make a buck and everyone else can stand out in the rain gazing with despair toward the horizon.

[Thanks to Ed Drass for the source information on plans for the new shelters, and through him to Mike DeToma at the TTC for the corrected info.]