My Ride on the King Car

A few days ago, my travels took me to Parkdale for a presentation near Jameson Avenue in the early afternoon.  The obvious route for someone like me living near Broadview Station was the King car.  That journey gave several examples of how service can be delayed that have nothing to do with traffic congestion, and illustrate the changes that will be possible when the TTC moves to low-floor cars and all-door loading.

Just south of Danforth, we picked up a load of students from Moncrest School on their way to Thomson Hall.  They filled up the back half of the car.  Just loading them all took a while, and I wondered to myself how the TTC will handle fare collection for this type of group when they move to self-service.  Now we were slightly late.

By the time we were westbound on King, the car was filling up.  A man had boarded with a shopping buggy, and he took a single seat just ahead of the rear vestibule on the left side of the car.  This started a plug in the aisle that worsened when a group of five boarded.  There were not enough seats for all of them, and they wound up partly seated and partly standing right across the aisle from the shopping buggy.  Needless to say they were not going to “move to the rear”.

At Sherbourne, we passed up the first group of would-be customers even though there was still room in the rear vestibule.  This continued at Jarvis, Church and Victoria.

At Yonge, the crowd turned over, but the car was now quite late and we still didn’t manage to fully use the capacity.  By University we were again leaving people at the stops.  The students piled off the car at Simcoe, and by Spadina the car had cleared out reasonably.  All the same, we left an unhappy customer running for the car at Bathurst because getting back on time was more important than waiting, and the next car was only a block behind us.

While this may have been a particularly bad example of how service can be screwed up by loading delays, it’s not uncommon.  The combined effect of many factors interferes with the travel time of TTC vehicles, and this has nothing to do with whether they are in a private right-of-way.

Loading delays caused by inadequate service can cause a downward spiral where line capacity drops even as ridership grows because cars spend longer at stops and onboard crowding slows or blocks movement of passengers.  We hear far too much about traffic congestion as the root of all evil.  Yes, it exists, but it’s not the only problem.

37 thoughts on “My Ride on the King Car

  1. Will the TTC not alllow on board fare payment when all door loading is allowed? Sydney Australia is expanding the number of bus routes where on board payment is not accepted; it seems like it speeds up the route dramatically. As long as there is an extensive number of shops on King that sell TTC tickets and passes I think it could work.

    Steve: The TTC is talking about some sort of onboard fare validators, but I think that to make these work, they are going to have to revamp their fare structure and media. One big fight will be to eliminate cash fares. TTC is hooked on these because they get a premium fare from occasional riders who don’t have passes or tokens, not to mention the poor who may prefer not to invest in a multi-ride pass or buy tokens in bulk.


  2. I live and work in Cabbagetown (Sherbourne & Carlton), and during peak periods I’ve seen both Dundas and Carlton cars pass waiting passengers. At the last TTC public comments meeting at Metro Hall, I asked about using all-door boarding on streetcars to increase capacity immediately. Apparently lost revenue from fare evasion would be too great; doesn’t missed passengers and running slower service represent a loss in revenue and increase in costs though? Haven’t we reached the point where there simply is no sensible argument against letting people get on the back doors?


  3. It would be interesting to get a rundown of

    – time spent at signal
    – time spent loading
    – time spent travelling
    – time spent on layovers
    – number of people left behind

    for different lines during different times of day. I doubt the gps information would be able to to do this (specifically differentiating between signal/loading/layover). But it would be interesting to see if there is a correlation between time spent loading and people being left behind.

    Does the GPS information come with any other data? For example, if it had a dataset for “front/rear door open/closed” you could get some of the above info.

    All door loading and self serve ticketing should remove most of these issues. Obviously it brings with it a host of other issues though.

    Steve: The GPS info does not come with door status or other information. Moreover, the sampling interval is coarse enough (at best every 20 seconds) that a lot of fine detail in intersection behaviour is lost. Layovers are long enough, and occur at well-defined locations, that they are easy to pick out as I have done in some of my route analyses based on TTC data. “Time spent travelling” needs to be interpreted in context because a car could be moving, but much more slowly than “normal” due to congestion.


  4. You didn’t mention the people who moved to the front to exit. A pet-peeve of mine, which delays the people trying to board.

    Steve: Actually many people had to get out at the front due to the plug formed by passengers ahead of the rear doors.


  5. The obvious route from Broadview/Danforth is take the subway, then the Lansdowne bus to Queen, then walk to King. Probably much faster than the streetcar at all times of day.

    Steve: Well, I was actually headed for Lake Shore and Jameson, so walking down from Queen wasn’t part of my plan, and my experience with the 47 leaves a lot to be desired (erratic service is common). And in any event I had lots of time, and the view’s a lot nicer from the streetcar.


  6. I doubt proof-of-payment and all-door loading will be the permanent operating mode of the new TTC streetcars downtown and the Transit City lines in the burbs once they see the fare evasion rate and how much money they’re losing.

    If they were really keen on the idea, they’d have done it long ago with the existing streetcar network to speed things up. I’m sure the TTC will regret the new streetcar design that isolates the driver from the passengers. It will be almost impossible to retrofit the vehicles later on.


  7. I think there will be some growing pains, but the fact remains that TTC ridership will go up with the new streetcars, and simultaneously allow an improved quality of service. There’s no question that there will notable average operating speed increases from all-door loading, which hopefully helps with reliability, and that will make the system more attractive. The TTC will have to learn how to be aggressive with fare inspectors, but they’ve got 3 years to prepare for that. If they’re prepared, I don’t think fare evasion will be that high except for the first year or so.


  8. Oh I imagine this has be hashed about already, but TTC collects about 0.8 Billion from fares or $75 per Ontarian, who all happen to benefit from the TTC or at least the ones that breath oxygen. Seems to me it would be a lot more efficient to collect that $75 at tax time rather than multitask drivers or jam up streetcar doors while quaint pieces of metal or plastic are inspected. Yes, perhaps a bit too socialist or green, I know, but if we were truly green we wood have the drivers dispensing loonies when the populace used public transit rather than shake them down.


  9. I just wanted to add to my comment that POP on the new streetcars will provide an easy way for cheats to enter the subway system free of charge if they board one stop prior to entering the subway.

    Say I want to get into the subway at Bathurst Stn. … if I hop on a northbound streetcar at Bloor St. and don’t pay, I’m in the subway’s fare-paid area in less than a minute — and what are the chances of a fare inspection for a single stop? The same would apply at Dundas West, Broadview, Main, Spadina, Union, St. Clair, St. Clair W. etc., It won’t take long before people figure this out. Will all our transfer-free connections to the subway vanish with these new cars?

    Steve: I doubt it, if only because the retrofits required to provide fare inspection at subway stations would be, shall we say, challenging. Aside from the sheer number of locations, they could produce pinch points in the flow of passengers.


  10. M. Briganti asked, “what are the chances of a fare inspection for a single stop?”

    I would say pretty good. If you were managing a crew of POP inspectors, why would you have them use all their time roaming around on the system when you could have them check people as they got off a streetcar at a subway station? With one arriving every few minutes, this will be far more efficient at catching evaders. Viva fare inspectors will use the inspect-you-as-you-exit technique often and this does not greatly slow down the flow of passengers.

    Besides, someone who evades the fare to go a couple of stops is not the real loss to the system, it is someone who needs to go further. Pay-upon-entry on buses prevents someone needing a bus from an intersection from evading fare all the way, but this sort of inspection will be needed at subway stations. The key will be to do a major blitz of inspections from day one for the first couple of months, and then they can back off and do it less often, but very random.


  11. Isn’t Mimmo forgetting how people will get these stops just before the stations? I don’t think these people will be getting a lift. Furthermore, fare inspectors wouldn’t be restricted from roaming subway station fare paid zones. If a fare system overhaul is on the horizon to allow POP, the way you enter the subway could be changing, too. I’m not making predictions one way or the other, just throwing possibilities on the table.


  12. There’s another problem with POP though – how do you inspect passengers who enter from the subway and then board a streetcar? They have to carry proof of payment to allow for fare inspections. Either (1) the TTC adopts the Presto card or (2) the TTC requires that all passengers using cash/token/ticket obtain a transfer when entering the subway system.

    Steve: Yes, the TTC needs to move to POP across the system. Having said that, the more people are using some form of pass, be it the existing Metropass or the new Presto card, the fewer people will have fare transactions requiring some form of receipt/transfer.


  13. The fines should be able to more than compensate for fare evasion.

    Also, it would be very foolish to not make subways POP once streetcars are POP. Considering that the new subway trains are designed to be walkable end-to-end, fare inspection on them should be very doable.

    POP works on Viva. There’s no reason for it to not work on the TTC.


  14. @ POP works on Viva. There’s no reason for it to not work on the TTC.

    Yes – sheer volume of passengers on the TTC. Viva sees about 1% of the ridership (I’m guessing) of the TTC.


  15. We’ve been running a proof of payment system out here from Day One, since 1981, and fare compliance usually hovers in the 98-to-99-percent range for a couple of reasons. The monthly pass discount on cash fares works out to about 17 percent, which is a pretty good incentive for riders to pay up front and not have to fumble with small change or cardstock tickets at a fare collection machine. Also, you’re likely to see Constable Plod and Constable Barbrady inspecting your proof of fare payment on the platform or on the train itself just often enough that you’ll make sure you’ve paid up to avoid a $150 ticket and the chance at a free ride at the back of a Black Maria.

    That said, you could charitably describe the fare collection technology out here as “quaint”. There is some fiddling preliminary research into smart cards and what have you at this stage, but nothing serious or concrete is expected for several years.


  16. Seems to me that at least some of the overcrowding / capacity issues could be solved by changing the seat layout to promote passenger “flow” through a car (be it a bus, streetcar or subway car). “Conversation nooks” just end up being a liability duing rush hour.


  17. I was recently in St. Louis, and their LRT is a “honour fare”/POP system. Except I noticed it was the toughest system I’ve ever been on. All the fare inspectors were employees of a private security firm, but carrying fine notepads, and everywhere. I walked into a station and a security guard asked to see my fare (I had a day pass). On the vehicle, again two guards whowed up and roved the train. Waiting for a train at a suburban stop, I cad the gaul to snap a picture of a departing LRT train, and behind me a guard approached warning that photography anywhere on Metro property was a $120 fine (I said sorry, and that was that, thankfully).

    I guess when you hire lower-wage security guards, you can have really heavy enforcement.

    The strangest was the LRT in Sheffield, where there’s no pre-payment, all the doors open at the stops, and an on-board conductor somehow finds you and sells you a ticket. This was really interesting when I rode out to half-way when the schools were getting out and the two conductors finding everyone and selling tickets or seeing the customer had a pass, while not bugging passengers who already paid up. Crazy!


  18. There are plenty of POP-based rail systems out there. GO Transit is the closest example, but LA’s Metro Rail subway and London’s DLR both rely on POP and lack turnstiles at stations. Indeed, once you start going down the path of universal POP, it’d be worth considering if those turnstiles are more hassle than they’re worth.

    Steve: Yes, especially considering how long some of them are out of service for repairs.


  19. What are the chances that a new POP system will be in place by the time the first cars arrive? Is there any budget currently on a system wide basis? How long will it take to implement?

    Once those cars start arriving something will need to be in place, or will they mix and match systems on one line? Without the driver being accesable how will transfers be handed out? This has the potential to be a huge problem, with new cars sitting idle in the yard while the system is retrofitted. In any case one of the hidden costs of these new vehicles seams to be a complete redo of the fare system.

    Alternately I guess we could just make the new cars free, save a bunch of money on enforcement and a collection system and just use taxes and tolls and the current subway/bus system. It would definitely encourage usage on the new lines.


  20. @Leo, Bloor-Danforth trains won’t be like Yonge-Uni-Spadina trains, you won’t be able to walk through those… not until 2030 when they’re due to retire the T-1s.


  21. Some of the comments here truly amaze me. If we’re going to have fare inspectors at Bathurst Stn. checking all passengers as they disembark the 511, what’s the point? We may as well drop them off outside the subway station’s fare-paid area! Karl, my point was I can get into Bathurst Stn. via the pedestrian entrace just north of Bloor, but there’s one last stop at the corner of Bloor as well (just before the streetcar enters the subway).

    You’re all forgetting that POP is not in the TTC’s culture, and they’re cash-strapped for operations. Even a fare evasion rate of 5% (not to mention the cost of hiring all those inspectors and the potential of free subway access at all the points I mentioned) would seriously impact their bottom line.


  22. What amazes me is the notion that everybody must be inspected. That’s not the case and POP is based on a recognition of the fact that you aren’t going to inspect every last rider. You don’t have to. If you can inspect even 2% of riders on any given day (which is a reasonable number), and properly rotate your “crackdown” points as the month rolls on, you can probably inspect a huge portion of your regular ridership over the course of a month. People that have been inspected once or twice are shown that the possibility exists that they’ll be inspected at any time. This instills a sense of risk in people thinking of boarding without a ticket. POP is a successful exercise in psychology. It’s fare evasion ratio is about the same as the closed-fare-zone (or whatever it’s called) model.

    While it is more challenging to inspect fares on the TTC than on GO, it doesn’t make POP non-viable.


  23. If the subway does go POP, there’s all those double-stage new elevators that will now be a hassle. You’ll need to switch between them on a now-useless mezzanine for no reason.

    Steve: In some cases the double-stage arrangement is a function of the physical configuration of the station, and would exist with or without POP.


  24. Great post. However, if you really want to see screwed-up service caused by loading times, try riding an articulated crosstown bus in New York. There are dozens of people at each stop, and these behemoths have only TWO sets of doors total. Two! Picture a crammed bus with 100+ people wrestling with each other just to get off, never mind get on. And with the slow trickle of riders out the front doors precious minutes go by before boarding even starts. (Which usually is endless since subways below often arrive before the last crowd has boarded). Truly a mess. They should be using four-door buses but are so obsessed with fare evasion that the city can’t seem to think of more doors as an asset rather than a risk.


  25. The fare inspectors don’t need to be at Bathurst St all the time. They just need to be somewhere in the vicinity $fare times out of $fine.


  26. Are there obstacles in turning all the collectors on the system into inspectors? It would keep the same number or more people employed while getting rid of a useless position and removing the turnstile impediment to pedestrian flow.

    Steve: Some collectors could take on hte job of fare inspector, but many in that position are there because they are older workers, or because they have a medical condition that prevents them from operating vehicles. Such people are not necessarily ideal as fare inspectors.

    A related issue will be whether these inspectors are also expected to perform general security duties in which case the job description is much more complex and demanding than that of a collector.


  27. “While it is more challenging to inspect fares on the TTC than on GO, it doesn’t make POP non-viable.”

    I’m not saying that it’s non-viable — what I’m saying is the bean counters at the TTC will be very wary of a system that could reduce fare revenue by 5-9%. Once the new system goes into operation and they calculate how much they’re losing, they’ll abandon POP as quick as they abandoned Lower Bay.

    Making the TTC subway system POP would be a complete disaster. Can you imagine inspectors doing checks on the subway? It would be incredibly easy to evade the inspector — especially with the new end-to-end trains.

    Steve: It would probably be better to do checks on platforms and in station mezzanines than on the trains.


  28. As this has veered off to POP discussions….

    The most interesting thing is when a subway booth person takes off for a bit. I’ve seen them put up signs (handmade of course) “Back in a minute, please deposit fare”.

    And you know….people do. They also wave their transfer at the empty booth.

    I must confess that once I waited a bit for an attendant in order to puchase a fare, and when no one appeared for a while I let myself in. (I’m not sure why I didn’t use the automated fare machine….was there one? dunno).

    Even under the current system there are obviously people getting on the back doors on Queen without fares, whether it’s POP time of day or not. (Never seen an inspector in three years of riding the Queen car, anyway.) And there are people sneaking into the subway. But mostly, people are honest, and I’m not sure why that should change, especially if the TTC comes up with a brilliant “you’re the best and most honest, Toronto” campaign.

    (Uh oh, presupposing a brilliant TTC advertising campaign….danger! danger! danger!)


  29. I remember in the day of the dollar bill…and fares that were close to that they would often find half a dollar bill when emptying the farebox. If you waited long enough you’d eventually find the other half. To fit in some of those round fareboxes some smaller systems had (that were really just designed for coins and small tickets) you had to fold up the bill and jam it down that chute. Two rides for the price of one was the result of this. The driver often couldn’t tell when the bill was all wadded up. So fare evasion is not necessarily a new thing.

    But given the ethics of the world today I think you are going to need a LARGE inspection force to ensure that most people do pay and are respecting the POP system. And I think those who inspect are going to have to almost be at the level of Special Constable. We already see TTC operator’s treated with disdain and sometimes violence for essentially trying to do the same thing – enforce full payment of fares. It’s hard to give someone a ticket when they can say “F-off” and just walk away. And it’s also unreasonable to think that every person caught is going to require a Special Constable to come by and “show the colours” just to get respect from that patron while they get issued the fine or whatever the penalty will be.

    Maybe it works in other places – but maybe those other places have laid a lot more on the line in terms of resources to support enforcement. I can’t see the TTC being able to swell the ranks at a level to do POP “right”. Maybe in other cities it’s a situation like a Wal-Mart where they expect a certain loss due to theft from customers or even from within. Are there any numbers from other cities where POP has been in place long-term that reflect just what degree of loss/evasion they have on their systems?


  30. Assuming fare evasion did rise by a large margin, which I’m not convinced would happen if they do it right, there’d be a ridership gain that could more than offset the increase in fare evasion (i.e., the new ridership minus fare evaders is still greater than old ridership), and the subsidy increase that is attached to ridership would also see some extra cash flow to TTC.


  31. I recently moved to King West and was pleased to see the TTC supplementing 504 rush hour service with ALRVs. A welcome change since I last resided along the King route. Inbound during the morning rush, almost all passengers on this route are using passes. I was surprised to see the ALRVs operated with single door loading. When loading 20+ passengers at stops and waiting for them to squeeze along aisle, dwell times are markedly increased. As a result bunching quickly occurs, with an ALRV followed by two CLRVs. And the lead car continues to make all stops. Is this insanity or is the TTC deliberately sabotaging the service?

    Steve: Never assume an intelligent attempt to do something when sheer incompetence and “we’ve always run the line that way” will explain what is going on. King should have been running on POP for years, but … well, it’s the TTC and they would rather lose revenue on half empty cars than on “fare evasion”.


  32. Let us look at POP and fare inspection from a statistical point of view. You do not have to check 100% of the riders 100% of the time. You only need to check on average 5% of the riders 95% of the time. If the odds are that you will get checked once every two weeks and that the fine is more than twenty times the cost of a fare then there is no incentive to cheat. It is statistically cheaper to pay the fare. Nor does it pay to have the fares inspected on eastbound Queen cars at Munro Park once every two weeks, NO. The number of riders who get on past there is relatively low, but they should be checked every 6 to 8 weeks to keep them honest.

    Steve: For the benefit of those unfamiliar with the geography, Munro Park is almost at the east end of the line. As far as I know, I am not related to the family after whom it is named.

    Most of the ticket checking on GO occurs near Union Station were 95% of the passengers ride but I have been checked by an inspector who got on at Bramalea on a westbound GO train. You have to know that it will happen occasionally to keep you honest. There are statistical packages that will give you the best checking packages. I will bet that GO uses one. Each line is different depending on its dynamics. I have ridden in St. Louis and was checked once by an armed guard at a station and once by a roving inspector in 4 rides. I believe that this is over kill but I don’t live there.

    The checking has to be totally random so that passengers cannot predict when they will be checked. It is also helpful to have a weekly or monthly pass or a fare card that gives you enough of a discount to make it worth you while to use it. Fare machines also need to be convenient to allow the casual passenger the chance to buy a ticket. I like the idea someone had on this blog of having the parking machines converted to issue TTC tickets as they are everywhere.

    The thing with POP and fare inspectors is not to catch every cheat but to maximize the amount of money collected. If you have no inspectors then you have too many cheats. As you increase the number of inspectors you decrease the number of cheats and increase the revenue. Once the cost of the extra inspectors is greater than the extra revenue collected then you stop increasing the number of inspectors. The idea is not to catch every cheat but to maximize REVENUE. Perhaps you leave the buses as they are were you have to put a ticket into the fare box or show a transfer, pass or what ever. Enough people use a bus as part of their trip to make it effective.

    Right now I can get on the subway at Warden, take two transfers, ride to Woodbine, take the Woodbine bus down to Queen, meet my friend, give him one of the two transfers I took from the machine at Warden and we can both ride downtown and you cannot prove that he did not pay a fare. We used to do this to go to the Exhibition on the Kingston Road Ex service though then I got on at Davisville and met him at Queen and Yonge. You cannot eliminate all fare evasion but you can make it so that 97.5% of the people pay the proper fare and that is what this is all about. You are not trying for perfection, you are trying to maximize revenue.


  33. As a correction to my post about fare collection, POP and fare inspectors you are not trying to maximize revenue; you are trying to maximize return on investment. If by spending an extra $20 on inspection you collect an extra $50 in revenue then it is worthwhile. If however you spend an extra $50 on fare inspection to collect an extra $20 in revenue then it is not worthwhile. You stop adding inspectors when they stop paying for themselves. No system is perfect. The hard thing to accept is that you are not trying to totally eliminate cheating as that is impossible but rather you are trying to maximize return on investment. In this case it is the return in hiring ticket inspectors.

    You also have to look at the other benefits. With all door loading the stop dwell time decreases and the number of vehicles required to operate the line also decreases. Shorter travel times make the service more desirable and increase ridership. Running longer cars or even trains reduces crew cost as well. Do not worry about the few cheats as they will always be with us. This is a minimum maximum problem in high school math. You want the minimum number of inspectors that maximizes the return on investment, i.e. hiring the inspectors.

    Steve: Let’s use an analogy that all those scofflaw motorists out there can understand. Everyone tries to get away with parking for free, or paying for a shorter time than they will actually use, on the assumption that the Green Hornets won’t get you “this time”. If you get stung only now and then, it is to your advantage to try to beat the system. If the Green Hornets are just around any corner, you haven’t got a chance and you’re more likely to pay up. The city knows perfectly well that they don’t get all the revenue that is due, in theory, to them. The point is to get enough of it and to discourage cheaters without spending a fortune on enforcement.

    Moreover, if we stop being so penny-pinching and lower the cost of all-you-can-ride passes, then a large proportion of riders have no incentive to cheat because they are paying at a flat rate. I am sure that there are still some in the TTC who dream of the day they can kill off the Metropass and make a fortune. That will be the day I go back to cheating on my transfer like a master. Whatever system is used, there is a way to, shall we say, optimize the payback I as a rider get for the investment in my fare. This free market economics stuff works for the buyer as well as for the seller!


  34. Wondering about this, put a gate on the rear doors of buses and streetcars, if you have a pass, you run your pass through a slot like at subway stations which allows you to open the gate and then board, to pay cash you need the front door. Ideally you would adopt to the option of using a Presto type card, that can also function for transfers. People would like it, because they can then use the back door for boarding. Yet you still have the option of paying cash at the front door and getting a transfer. The fare gates can be opened at stations by the operator to allow passengers to board without needing a fare card or transfer.

    Another option is to simply pay for the TTC out of general city revenue and eliminate fares all together, you could probably do it for $300 per person per year. Would mean no transfers, no fare boxes, no collectors, no managing tokens, no printing Metropasses, no managing millions of coins on a daily basis, and no need for fare inspectors. Expect a slight uptick in ridership as well.


  35. As a follow up to a comment I posted in an earlier thread about the new Bombardier vehicles, and their comparison to ALRVs in size: This morning I rode an ALRV to Dundas West on the King line, and we waited on Dundas for the line to clear, as there were 2 ALRVs and a CLRV on the platform already – neatly occupying the full available length from the crossover to the 505 platform at the front, with the rear end reaching the sidewalk. Based on the assumption that the new vehicles will be 1.5 times the length of an ALRV, and with the rough math that an ALRV is a bit less than twice the length of a CLRV, I would say that you might just barely fit 2 of the new vehicles in there if you’re lucky. Barring a separate short turn version of the route – which I’ve advocated before, to feed the Queen/Roncesvalles to Dundas West corridor during rush hour – they’ll only get away with the vehicle size with drastically altered headways.


  36. Just a note about turnstiles… I’ve never understood why so few of the turnstiles take Metropasses! At St. Patrick, for example, you can show your Metropass to the collector in the booth, or you can swipe it in one of the two turnstiles on either side of the booth. But if you want to use the other two turnstiles, you have to have a token. This doesn’t make any sense to me. (The TTC does get it right at automated entrances.)


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