Eglinton LRT Open House Presentation

[I decided to start a new thread now that the presentation materials are available online as there were already 50 comments on the post announcing the open house sessions.]

The Eglinton line is a long and complex project, no matter what technology will be used, and tonight’s meeting at Leaside Arena had a good turnout right from the start.  I didn’t hang around, but do know that there’s a lot of interest along the central part of the line in many design and service issues.  Some of these cannot really be addressed until we see a detailed design at the next round of meetings, but the general shape of the line is evident.

This commentary highlights items in the presentation that I found interesting. Continue reading

Metronauts Launches a New Site

The folks at Metronauts who brought us Transit Camp and the Metrolinx un-conferences have now launched their new website.

From the posts so far, they will be covering a broad range of transit issues from transit users’ and advocates’ points of view and I wish them well.  My own site will remain for the more nuts and bolts stuff, although I suspect there will be a lot of cross-fertilization between our sites.

Coming Soon (August 18, 2008)

I have a few things “in the hopper” that will appear over the next week or so:

  • Comments on the forthcoming Metrolinx Draft Regional Transportation Plan:  What should be in it?  What would constitute a “good” plan?  Given the short two-month span for consultation (assuming Metrolinx is even listening), it’s important that the debate get underway as soon as possible.  This post will set the framework for my comments on whatever Metrolinx actually publishes.
  • An analysis of the Don Mills 25 bus route.  I have just started on this and probably won’t publish anything until next week.
  • More Stratford reviews.
  • The TTC meeting on August 27th promises to be an interesting agenda including an update on the streetcar RFP and a discussion of bus technologies.

I’m still debating whether to post more detailed data on Finch East 39, and may hold off until I have a few more bus routes to compare with each other.

Eglinton LRT Public Meetings Announced (Update 4)

The City of Toronto has announced the open houses for the first round of consultation for the Eglinton line. 

Update 1:  A fifth meeting has been added to the list below.

Update 2:  The Star contains an article about preliminary response to the information to be presented at public meetings.  Concerns focus on the space between stops on the underground LRT as compared with the current surface bus operations.  The real question is what, if any, residual bus service will be operated over this portion of the route.

Update 3:  The FAQ for this project is now available online.

Update 4:  The presentation materials for this round of public meetings is now available online.

The Open Houses are planned as follows:

Thursday, August 14
6:30pm to 9:00pm
Forest Hill Memorial Arena, 340 Chaplin Cres.

Tuesday, August 19
6:30pm to 9:00pm
Leaside Arena, 1073 Millwood Rd.

Monday, August 25
6:30pm to 9:00pm
Humber Valley United Church, 76 Anglesey Blvd.

Wednesday, August 27
6:30pm to 9:00pm
Don Montgomery Community Recreation Centre
(Formerly the Mid Scarborough Community Centre)
2467 Eglinton Ave  East

(Added) Richview Baptist Church
1548 Kipling Ave (just north of Eglinton)

The project website is now online.

Note:  If you want to contribute to the thread about technology choices for the line, please do that in the post where that discussion is already underway.

Jane LRT Public Meetings

The meeting dates and locations for the proposed Jane LRT are:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008
6:30pm to 9:00pm
Jane Finch Mall
1911 Finch Avenue West (SE corner of Finch Ave and Jane St)

Thursday, August 28, 2008
6:30pm to 9:00pm
Syme Woolner Community School – Gymnasium
69 Pritchard Ave (north of Jane and St. Clair intersection, east of Jane)

The project website does not yet contain the display panels for these meetings.


Green is Nice, Working is Better

The New York Times has an article today about a scheme in NYC to operate escalators at variable speeds.  This is intended to save energy by slowing down escalators when nobody is on them.

Despite claims by the MTA, several of the “converted” escalators either were not working at all, or were not behaving as advertised.

The nub of the issue comes right at the end of the article:

Rick O’Conor, who runs the Roosevelt Islander blog, questioned the need for the new technology. “It’s not of primary importance to have motion-activated escalators,” he said. “It’s of primary importance to have escalators that work.”

He said that all 10 escalators at the Roosevelt Island station had been out of order recently, and that his elderly mother had had to walk up the stairs. “A group of teenagers were nice enough to ask if she wanted them to carry her,” Mr. O’Conor said, adding that his mother pressed on.

Of the 10 escalators at Roosevelt Island on Monday, two had yet to be fitted with the sensors and two were shut down.

Another resident, Valentina Montecinos, 28, said, “Sure, it’s a good idea to save energy, but these escalators are never working anyway.”

Alas this is the fate of so many good ideas that bedevil transit systems and other public agencies.  In the name of some higher goal, be it the environment or fiscal responsibility, something is rolled out through an organization that is already doing a tenuous job of running their system.  The new, improved function doesn’t work and may even work less reliably than what it replaced, and “going green” takes a black eye.

Toronto has a bad habit of ignoring or downplaying the importance of a lot of things like reliable escalators and elevators.  Without these, many people can use the subway and RT only with difficulty or not at all.  We hear a lot about “safety” and the number of checks that must be made before a machine can be restarted.  The point is that if you’re going to have this technology, then it has to run reliably and staff must be available to keep it online.

Meanwhile, if anyone has some brilliant brainwaves about transit, make sure that they can actually work successfully rather than creating one more way for riders to be annoyed with poor service. 

No Pearl in the Oyster?

Today, Transport for London announced that they would be terminating their support contract for the Oyster fare card at the 10-year opt-out anniversary:

Transport for London to terminate £100m a year Oyster contract.

The Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) are convinced that any new contract will deliver enhanced services for less money, driving significant savings.

The Mayor is keen to improve the Oyster card to make it even more attractive for Londoners and TfL will work to make sure this happens both quickly and in a way that represents the best value.

Shashi Verma, TfL’s Director of Fares and Ticketing said: ‘Transport for London is committed to delivering value for money across all of its services.

‘As part of this we are looking at more cost effective ways to manage and develop the Oyster card system that we expect will save millions over the next few years.

‘The savings will be reinvested to deliver further improvements in London’s transport system.’

Full news release

BBC coverage

TfL took pains to emphasize that they think the Oyster card is a great thing, but that the cost of providing the service can be reduced from the £100-million annual cost to a consortium of private contractors.  Issues have already surfaced about ownership of the “Oyster” brand and other components of the system.

Meanwhile, Torontonians continue to hear about the wonders of Presto as the salvation of regional travel.  I must emphasize that I don’t object to technology per se, but in London’s case there was an overwhelming need to replace an antiquated and complex fare structure and fare collection system.  Toronto does not face the same level of complexity.

An odd thing seems to grip advocates for technologies in various guises:  all of that private sector, value for money, keep an eye on the taxpayer’s dollar stuff flies out the window the moment someone wants to sell a system.  Metrolinx and Queen’s Park seem to be big on “alternate financing”, a scheme by which we keep the cost of infrastructure off of the public books by having a private company own and operate it under a long-term service agreement. 

Will they turn the same eagle eye on Presto, or will we simply be dragged into the new system without understanding its true cost?  The last time I heard, the cost to implement just for the TTC was approaching $250-million, plus annual costs to operate the system of at least $10-million greater than the current elderly but simple token and pass scheme.

Will there be a option to get out of the Presto contract at, say, a 10-year anniversary as there is in London?  Will the contract be written to ensure that the infrastructure, the trademark and any valuable side-agreements such as the use of a fare card as an electronic wallet stay in the public realm?  Will we just give away the store like Highway 407 to the salesman with the best song-and-dance who offers a quick solution, don’t fret about the details?

Stratford Reviewed (4): All’s Well That Ends Well

This week took me back to Stratford for a performance of All’s Well at the Festival Theatre.

The play turns on the premise that a country lass, Helena, orphan daughter a medical doctor of great renown, manages to save the King of France’s life using the most revered of her father’s potions.  For this, she is rewarded with her choice as husband of any man in the King’s power to command.  Of course, she picks the one real idiot, Bertram, a young lord who thinks she is far beneath him and not worthy of his attention.  Although the marriage is enforced by the King, Bertram is off to the wars in Italy, never to return until Helena can win the ring from his finger and carry his child, difficult feats at the best of times over long distances.  But it’s Shakespeare, and there’s always a way involving disguise, seduction and the wooing of the fool with his own ego.

There is much to like in this production directed by Marti Maraden who was briefly part of the troika of Stratford artistic directors who succeeded Richard Monette.  Much to like, but not to love.

Daniela Vlaskalic struck me as a rather one-dimensional Helena, and she doesn’t get to do much more than pine and plot.  Even the plotting depends as much on luck as skill, and one can’t help wondering how Helena managed to be in exactly the right place at the right time.  As the clever daughter of a doctor, one would expect her to show great skill and intelligence (I can’t help thinking by comparison with Kate in Shrew), but that’s not how Vlaskalic plays Helena.

Jeff Lillico as Bertram is saddled with an unsympathetic role from the outset.  He thinks he’s hot stuff even to the point of defying the King’s wishes (a chorus of “off with his head” would have ended the play rather too soon), and despite his behaviour, the King lets Bertram go off to war rather than settling down with his new wife.  When we see Bertram in his military guise, he’s a good if somewhat misguided leader with a friend, Parolles, whose swagger disguises a complete lack of military skill or daring.  Helena does manage to get both ring and child, and in the end Bertram is properly contrite.  He may be a lord, but it’s his generals who know what they are doing.  Fortunately, peace breaks out.

The real strength of this production lies elsewhere. 

Martha Henry is the Countess of Rossillion with the majesty that Henry can muster, but here muted both as Helena’s surrogate mother and as a friend of the King.  I can imagine Martha Henry eating poor Bertram alive for his impudence, but that’s not her role.

Brian Dennehy, in his first Shakespearean role (!), is the King of France.  He’s rather avuncular, and as we first see him, weary of those who cannot relieve his medical problems.  Once cured, there’s strength, but used sparingly.  I liked Dennehy’s reading of the part, although by the end of the performance he had slipped into a somewhat more natural delivery than suited his role.

Stephen Ouimette is Lord Lafew, the King’s right hand man.  He echoes Dennehy’s genteel manner, but tells us much of his private thoughts about other characters with looks rather than words.

Finally, Juan Chioran as Parolles the braggart is a delight.  He is completely full of himself, but easily undone after a mock capture by his own company.  Ever helpful to the “enemy” he quickly gives a complete and unflattering assessment of his compatriots.  This is a wonderful role for any actor, but it should not overshadow the rest of the play as it does here.

In all, this All’s Well took a while to get off the ground, and had delightful spots.  A production worth seeing if you’re in Stratford for something else, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it.

Finch West LRT Proposal

The information panels from the Finch West open houses are now online at the project’s website.

A few items of interest from the preliminary plans are:

  • Station designs for both Finch and Finch West stations
  • Design problems for the Highway 400 crossing
  • Options for the western terminal

At both subway stations the LRT will serve, one of the options will be an underground LRT station.  At Yonge Street, a few of the proposals seem a bit far-fetched especially a lengthy “around the block” arrangement that would encircle Finch Station with LRT trackage.

Something that needs to be remembered in whatever design the TTC chooses is the possibility the line will eventually be extended east on Finch.  An east-west alignment for the terminal as well as the capacity for a large volume of transfer movements with the subway are important, and my gut feeling is that the underground scheme will be chosen.

At Finch West Station, there are two main options:  surface or underground.  The surface option has two variants.  Either this would emulate the classic streetcar/subway interface such as we see downtown with passengers walking to sidewalk subway entrances, or there would be a centre platform with connections directly to the mezzanine level of the subway.  The latter is my preference.

The western terminus is not settled yet, but the Woodbine Live centre is certainly an extension option.  Totally absent from the panels is any discussion of an airport connection.  The possible alignment shows up on an overview of all transit studies, but as part of a Hydro corridor scheme. 

Finally, I must congratulate the TTC in finding a photo of an attractive substation, a lovely brick structure that would actually complement any neighbourhood rather than the dull bunkers we have seen in previous open houses.  Who knows?  Transit City may launch a whole new generation of “hummer houses”, a disappearing feature of the Toronto landscape.

Analysis of Route 39 Finch East: Part II — Monthly Views

In this post, I will review the behaviour of the Finch East route over the month of December 2006.  As I mentioned in Part I, the schedules have changed a bit since then, most notably in the extension of a frequent service to Neilson Road in the PM peak period.

First let’s look at where all the buses went outbound, and how well-spaced the service was.  This chart shows the destination of all buses eastbound from Victoria Park.  The horizontal spacing measures the headway at that location, and the vertical axis measures how far the bus actually went.  The ongoing problem with service reliability to Neilson Road is quite evident on all weekdays except for those when special schedules operated.

Destinations eastbound from Victoria Park

In this chart, any short turns at Seneca College have already been filtered out as they are west of the reference location.

On every weekday, the clustering of vehicles is evident and this even show up at times during periods of the supposedly 12 minute headway to Neilson Road. There is a variation in what I can only call the “texture” of the service from day to day, but the overall pattern is clear. When service is very frequent, close management is not generally needed as long as the overall scheme is maintained. However, as is evident, there are gaps and when these are on the less-frequently served part of the route, they can be quite large. Continue reading