TTC Ridership, Budgets and Those Pesky Metropass Users

This week, the TTC announced that it has record ridership for the past twelve months of 470.8-million.  This continues an upward trend from last year, and indicates that TTC demand may be insulated from the effects of the economic downturn.  Possibly a shift from auto to transit riding is offsetting any reduction in employment or recreational traffic.

The Chief General Manager’s Report for the first quarter of 2009 notes that although ridership continues to grow, revenue is below budget.  Why?  More Metropasses were sold than expected in January-March, and this trend is continuing into the second quarter.  The TTC had budgeted on a higher average fare-per-ride, and the more who travel with passes, the lower this average falls.

Rumours of budget related service cuts started to surface a few weeks ago, and one change effective June 21 is explicitly listed as being due to budget.  (I will report on that in a separate post on June service changes.)  This is an odd state of affairs considering that there is a buffer for service growth on the TTC”s budget, and there has been no report to the Commission of pending service cuts (or of deferred service improvements).

Moreover, in a separate report, the TTC plans to launch an ad campaign seeking organizations to be part of a Metropass Affinity Program where pass holders would receive discounts to products or events.  The intention is, wait for it, to sell more Metropasses by making them even more attractive.

The TTC has a long-standing love-hate relationship with the Metropass going right back to its origins 29 years ago.  Each pass is seen, by some, as a loss of revenue, a loss of individual fares that might otherwise be collected.  Of course, a pass is also an incentive for users to ride the system and get all those “free” extra trips, exactly the sort of mindset an auto driver operates in every day.

Those 260,000 monthly pass holders are now responsible for over half of the adult trips on the TTC.  Budgets and fare policies must recognize that there is a demand for flat rate purchase of transit services, and that this market will grow both through pricing incentives and improved service.  Cutbacks because too many people buy passes are a laughable, but unfortunately predictable response to what should be a transit success story.

Port Lands Carhouse and Maintenance Facility

The TTC has been examining several possible sites for a new carhouse and shops to store and maintain the fleet of new streetcars.  A status report appeared on the May 28 supplementary agenda, but this does not include the presentation materials.

Map of sites considered

Of the fourteen sites considered, only six, all in the Port Lands, were large enough to hold both the maintenance shops and storage space for cars.

Short list of sites

Of these sites, the more northerly ones are most likely to be of greatest interest as they require the shortest connection to the existing system.  Site number 1 immediately north of the Ashbridges Bay water treatment plant brings some local controversy because the space, although not formally parkland, is green space in the community.

Future plans call for retention of Russell and Roncesvalles carhouses.  In the short term, these will be needed for the remaining ALRV and CLRV fleets.  Longer term, they would require major changes or rebuilding to house cars from the new fleet.

Eglinton LRT Update

Planning for the Eglinton LRT continues as described in a report at the May 28 Commission meeting.  Major points in this report include:

  • Surface operation west from Keele and east from Brentcliffe with a tunnel between these two points.  The exact location of the tunnel entrance, particularly at the west end, is still under study.
  • Centre of the road alignment for the surface sections.  This arrangement is substantially cheaper than an alternative trench arrangement (similar to that used on the Yonge Subway north of Rosedale) along the north side of Eglinton in the land reserved for the Richview Expressway.
  • The carhouse will be somewhere near Black Creek.  Although not explicitly named in the report, the Kodak lands in Weston have been rumoured as a site.
  • The airport alignment and stations are the subject of an area study to deal with special considerations including two highway crossings and a future link with other regional services.
  • Future work in this project will also include connections with existing and future TTC subway and LRT services.

The next round of public consultation including updated designs will occur in June.  There will be six open houses between June 15 and 25 from 6:30 to 9:00 pm:

  • June 15: William Lea Room, 1073 Millwood Rd
  • June 17: Eglinton Public School, 223 Eglinton Avenue East
  • June 18: Richview Collegiate, 1738 Islington Avenue
  • June 23: York Memorial Collegiate, 2690 Eglinton Avenue West (at Keele Street)
  • June 24: Beth Sholom Synagogue, 1445 Eglinton Avenue West (at Allen Road)
  • June 25: Don Montgomery Community Recreation Centre (formerly Mid Scarb. CC), 2467 Eglinton Ave East

Sheppard East / Don Mills Station Design

The TTC has confirmed that the Sheppard East LRT will come west into Don Mills Station rather than terminating at Consumers Road, but the design at Don Mills is still under review.

Just to recap from the previous article on this topic, the preferred design at Don Mills would have seen the LRT at the same level as the subway.  The track layout would have given a staggered layout with the LRT pulling into a stub track that was cut into a lengthened subway platform (see illustration in the TTC report).  The actual track and platform layout (not shown) would have had a second platform further back for use when the stub track was occupied.

This was an alternative to both of the layout options in the EA document (see pages 6 and 7 of part 2 of the EA Report).  The first version shows a connection on the south side of the concourse level at Don Mills Station, while the second is at the same level as the subway.

For the concourse connection, it is important to note the relative position of the existing subway station and structures at its western end.  From TTC staff, I have learned that there is a potential conflict between a fan shaft and a  future north-south Don Mills LRT tunnel, but that the TTC believes this tunnel can be fitted in.  Any junction between the Sheppard and Don Mills LRTs at concourse level must deal with this constraint.

For the subway level connection, the original scheme placed the LRT platform well east of the subway station, and created a long walking transfer for passengers.  The revised design with the stub track cut into the subway platform shortens the distance by offsetting the LRT and subway tracks and reducing clearance requirements for buffer zones.

When Queen’s Park announced that the Sheppard East line would be through-routed via Don Mills to Finch, this completely changed the parameters for Don Mills Station.  TTC staff are reviewing design options for this scheme, and it will likely place the LRT station at concourse level.

The discussion by Commissioners also included a desire that any designs for this first wave of LRT lines take into account integration with the second set of Transit City lines.  At Don Mills, there is the obvious problem of how the station will operate once there is a Don Mills LRT providing through north-south service, and how combined Finch/Sheppard and Don Mills services will fit on the surface between Sheppard and Finch.