Some Things Take A Little Time

Oh dear, oh dear!  That poor old overworked, underappreciated TTC!

The Spadina car opened in July 1997, and one thing immediately obvious to anyone who bothered to look was that “transit priority signalling” was simply not working the way that phrase might imply to mere mortals who ride the service.  Indeed, a newspaper article by Stephen Wickens has taken on legendary status with the claim (valid under some circumstances) that a trip down Bathurst to Western Hospital in mixed traffic makes better time than the Spadina car and its right-of-way.  I’m not going to revisit that debate here .

In June 2005, I spoke to the issue of non-priority for Spadina cars at a Commission meeting.  At that time, then Vice-Chair Olivia Chow moved that staff take the necessary action to implement priority signalling by September 2005 where it is not already active and report back by September 2006 on the impact; and that the recommendations in my submission be forwarded to TTC and City staff with a joint report to fall meetings, presumably in 2005.

The due date for this report has always been a few months away, and I have had the honour of holding the longest outstanding report request at the TTC for some time.  I was expecting the report in April, but that month came and went.  Now, according to this week’s agenda, the report will be at the Commission meeting of December 16, 2009.

That is at least still “fall”, by a few days, albeit not the one Olivia Chow had in mind.

Fare By Distance: How Much Would We Pay?

In the thread about new streetcars, part of the discussion turned on the question of fare collection.  I’ve been thinking about this for a while and planned to write about this topic, but when I actually started, realized that there’s more here than will fit in one article.

One major topic in all discussions is the question of flat fares versus fare-by-distance, and this inevitably gets pulled into questions about “equality” in the way that we price transit so that riders are not penalized by things like zone boundaries and operator service territories.  However, any fare system brings its own benefits and problems.  We may solve problems for one group of riders, and create a new set of problems for others.

This article considers fare-by-distance by analogy to the existing TTC system.  It is intended as a “back of the envelope” calculation to give readers a general sense of the numbers and is not intended to be a prescription for any particular implementation.  What is important is that anyone talking about fare structures cannot simply wish away problems of any system by saying “everything will be fixed with Presto!” or similar, simplistic bilge. Continue reading

Sheppard East LRT Funding Announced (Updated)

Updated May 19:

The question of turnback points and storage tracks on the Sheppard East LRT has come up in the comment thread on this post, and I have now received some details from the TTC.

There will be a crossover at “regular intervals” along the line for turnbacks.  As for storage tracks, there are two potential locations that were shown in the preliminary designs at public meetings.  Neither of these is confirmed yet, and their inclusion will be subject to detailed design and costing.

  • Don Mills Station (third track)
  • Malvern Garage (spur)

No three-track section on Sheppard itself is planned.

Details of the Don Mills Station configuration will be included in a report on the TTC agenda for May 28. Continue reading

SRT Extension Open House

The City of Toronto and the TTC will hold an open house for the proposed extension of the SRT:

  • Tuesday, June 2, 2009
  • 6:30 to 9:00 pm
  • Sts. Peter & Paul Banquet Hall, 231 Milner Avenue

This open house is described as part of the preliminary planning for an EA for this project.  One important outstanding issue is the question of vehicle technology, and this is far from settled.  For example, the current proposal included in the meeting notice (not yet available on the City’s website) shows a new yard east of Bellamy and Progress.  This yard would not be required if the line is built as LRT because it would share the proposed carhouse for the Sheppard East line.

Also, the station connection at Sheppard will be affected if both routes are LRT because a track connection for carhouse moves will be needed.

Whether these issues are addressed in the presentation materials on June 2 remains to be seen.

Another GO Transit Grade Separation Project (Updated)

Updated May 14:  The display panels from the April 22 open house are available on GO Transit’s website.

Original post from April 15:

Construction is already underway for the grade separation project at the West Toronto diamond, and the residents are mightly upset about the noise from pile driving.  This project will continue disrupting the neighbourhood until late this year.

GO Transit has announced a public meeting on April 22, 2009 that will kick off another project in the same area, this time to remove the diamond where the Newmarket Subdivision (Barrie GO line) crosses the CPR North Toronto Subdivision.

(Thanks to Vic Gedris for passing along a copy of the notice.)

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.

The Agenda on TVO: Sharing the Road (Updated)

Updated:  To watch this program, please go to the TVO website.  The tab “Fred Hansen” contains the interview with Portland’s Transportation Manager, while the tab “Sharing The Road” contains the discussion between Steve Paikin and the five guests.

Tonight (May 7), TVO’s The Agenda presents a discussion of the use of road space.  Is there a war on cars?  Are cyclists and pedestrians asking for more than they deserve?  What should streets be for?

The program begins with an interview with Fred Hansen, Portland’s Transportation Manager, on what Toronto should be doing, and continues with a panel discussion between:

  • Yvonne Bambrick of the Toronto Cyclists’ Union
  • David Booth who writes for the weekly Driving section of the National Post
  • Jeff Casello, an assistant professor in the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo
  • Dylan Reid of Spacing magazine and co-chair of the Toronto Pedestrian Committee
  • A certain bearded transit activist you all know and many love

The program airs at 8 pm with a repeat broadcast at 11 pm.  When an online version is available, I will post a link here.

James Bow, your host on the Transit Toronto website, has blogged some of his own comments for TVO.