Help Avoid Short Turns (Updated)

Today I received a note in another thread from Drew who said:

I was riding the 512 home last night, and noticed a sign that read:


There. Short-turns are our fault.

Of course, exiting through the rear doors is written all over every surface vehicle —  it does make boarding/alighting much faster … it could be done without the inference that we cause short-turns.

Now we KNOW on St. Clair, it can’t be traffic causing short-turns (or where, aside from St. Clair West Stn these turns take place), so it must be us.

I too saw this notice on a 504 King car.

Update:   Joe Clark has supplied a photo of the sign.

I was sorely tempted to start a guerilla campaign of my own with signs saying “Manage headways, not schedules”, but I would probably be arrested for defacing TTC property.  I won’t say anything about loading delays caused by three cars leaving the end of the line in a pack with the first one having to wait forever to board passengers at each stop.

Yes, passengers do need to move back, but that’s not the whole story.

49 thoughts on “Help Avoid Short Turns (Updated)

  1. The signs say “help avoid” and “help reduce”, not “exit at rear or else we short turn”. In other words, they imply partial causality rather than “the whole story”, which given the dwell time issue seems correct to me. Yes, there are other causes.

    TTC riders seem very light skinned sometimes. How long until someone complains “please move back” signs cover up the inability to purchase sufficient rolling stock?

    (Omitting rant regarding all-door boarding…)


  2. I noticed this today on TTC website:

    “Tourists, families and individuals filming or photographing within the public areas of the transit system for non-commercial purposes, are not expected to contact the TTC to obtain permission or a permit so long as such filming/photographing does not interfere with the safe and orderly operation of the transit system and/or our customers.”

    As the recent photos of dozing employes certainly affected the orderly operation of a mayoral launch I wonder if the TTC might now try to ban photographers. :->

    Steve: What’s the URL for that?


  3. Ah, the TTC has finally caught onto me, what with my being a pesky customer interfering in their operations. For the record, I am also responsible for reports of smoke at track level, ice on the SRT power rail, and overcrowding on the Yonge line.


  4. The TTC will never manage any service dynamically to a headway, not as long as human operators are involved, because the drivers have to be in their correct spots at the end of their shifts. Sure, the short turns screw the people at the ends of the lines, but they improve service for the ones in the middle of the route in the opposite direction.

    It all boils down to service that conveniences the passenger vs. service that conveniences the driver. Remember the integrated subway of ’66 that I babble about so much? It was the same thing. Rather than let the trains through the junctions in any order and dynamically change the driver’s route for his next run at the terminal (so as to maintain that alternating pattern), they opted to delay passengers instead at the junction so that the driver would end up at his scheduled drop off point at the end of his shift. When that rigid scheduling resulted in unplanned overtime, all hell broke loose, and a ton of drivers requested to move back to surface operations rather than clock in an hour of overtime (which was the norm on most days). It’s no different than the short turns when you think about it. The drivers rule, not the passengers … and it’s always been that way. No short turns = unplanned overtime.


  5. Is this an official-looking sign? As I mentioned to you before, I had one driver, with an overloaded bus (after picking up a load from a disabled bus on the line), but kept insisting on pressing that “For customer convenience, please move back” button, as he tries to pack more people in, not realizing there were plenty of half-empty buses behind (which, of course, passed us).

    And I also find that in many cases, getting off at the front is faster, especially on the low-floor Orion buses. There should be a rule of thumb: if there’s people waiting to board, use the back, otherwise, use the doors closest to you.

    Steve: The sign was printed on standard letter size paper with a laser printer (hence the red ink). The caps were 32-point (1/2 inch) by the look of them, but I was not in a position to photograph it, just transcribe the text as best I could. It was taped to the partition behind the driver.


  6. That is uncommonly low, even for the TTC. How about “Stop short turns, and transit inertia: vote for the right party.”


  7. Even though the sign’s wording could be more diplomatic, isn’t slow loading/unloading a cause of vehicle bunching and hence of short-turning? If so, isn’t the intent (if not the wording) of the sign good?

    On the other hand, if the new trams will have all-door loading with a proof-of-payment requirement, why not implement that earlier on the CLRV and ALRV fleet to speed up loading?

    Steve: Slow loading can also be caused by vehicle bunching that is not properly managed. It’s a chicken and egg thing in some respects, but it echoes the TTC’s usual response to problems that it’s someone else’s fault.


  8. YES! YES! YES! Make a big noise about the practice of one VERY crowded car crawling along the street followed by two or three mostly empty. In this instance, the FIRST car should leave the loop empty because all the stops down the line will be crowded. The remaining cars should be spaced intelligently to smooth things out.


  9. The “non-commercial photography doesn’t need a permit” text appears on two pages. It was added a couple of months after the revision to the filming policy (the one that had forgotten about non-commercial photography). My only complaint is that it’s in an awkward place: the text assuring you your non-business activity is OK is only found in the business section of the site!

    As for the new signs… sure, exiting by the front doors does slow down service. But hasn’t the TTC ever heard the one about people in glass houses?


  10. The sign would be correct, except there are no REAR doors, except the old Orion 9000 that were completely low floor.

    The PCC’s had the correct signage when it asked to PLEASE LEAVE BY CENTRE DOORS.

    No wonder people leave by the front doors, they cannot find the rear doors.


  11. Re the paragraph

    Tourists, families and individuals filming or photographing within the public areas of the transit system for non-commercial purposes, are not expected to contact the TTC to obtain permission or a permit so long as such filming/photographing does not interfere with the safe and orderly operation of the transit system and/or our customers.

    A quick google found it in two urls on the TTC website; however, both of them are in the Business with the TTC portion of the site — not somewhere the average tourist will look.

    The pages are: “Filming on TTC Property” and “Productions”.

    After I was (rudely) told by a subway driver not to takes photos because it was illegal, and almost called a liar when I said I wasn’t, I followed the recommendation on an obscure website and added a hardcopy of the first page to my camera equipment. The recommendation is still there.

    Steve: The search function on the TTC’s site does not locate the pages in question with either the words “photo” or “tourist”.


  12. We could have Proof of Payment on all streetcars right now if TTC committed to hiring sufficient Fare Inspection – it doesn’t have to wait for the Flexities. A word of caution though – Dublin’s PoP system on their LRT network is subject to significant abuse to the point where the operator now uses plain clothes inspectors to get up close to the evader as they are usually on the lookout for uniformed personnel.

    As for the running in packs – during one of the daily subway snafus we’ve been having in the AM rush since new year, at one point a train was dispatched from Davisville and did not enter service at all until Bloor to ensure the crowd was cleared. If there are 3+ cars at a terminus then the first car should be sent express several stops up the line, the second dispatched to the first stop up-line and the third staying to handle the customers at the terminus.

    For me the answer to short turns is to forbid them (save for stuff like when First Canadian don’t secure their construction equipment or otherwise have bits fall off) and deal with their causes – including any incidences of TTC writing timetable cheques their operators and vehicle can’t cash under the best of circumstances.


  13. As a daily rider, I like that sign frankly. I can’t tell you how many times I see someone walk from the very back of the bus, past the rear doors, and all the way up to the front, pushing people aside all the way. Then they get off the bus, pushing all the people waiting to get in out of their way too. Every single day there’s someone on my bus I want to slap for ignoring the many signs that already exist asking passengers, very politely, to move towards the back of the bus, and to use the rear doors to exit. If on-bus signage and repeated reminders aren’t enough to get people to do something as simple as exiting a bus through the exit doors, then what’s the big deal about a sign that explains to riders the rationale behind the requests?

    Most people who push to the front are ingrates of course (can you tell I’m fed up with my many, MANY fellow riders who do this?) but surely at least a couple will see this sign and say to themselves “OOhhh! THAT’s why they want us to exit at the rear. So they can move passengers in and out of the buses more efficiently. Well, that makes sense. I feel kinda silly for ignoring all those signs and polite requests all my life”.

    Frankly, for this daily rider, people who don’t like that sign should be glad I didn’t write it. I would have used some words that shouldn’t be used in polite company. It may not be the most important issue ever, but I can’t for the life of me imagine how that sign deserves the “Go f- yourselves” that Joe Clark tags it with. Frankly, that’s not only not my reaction to the sign, it IS my reaction to all the people who can’t be bothered doing something as simple as exiting a bus through the door that they’re asked to use.


  14. It was huge, so I’ll just say that as a daily rider, I say “HOORAY FOR THIS SIGN!!!”. People forcing their way from the very back of the bus, past the rear doors, and out the front, pushing people aside all the way happens EVERY DAY on my route. Polite signs on buses are a joke for the effect they have on this behaviour (none). If the TTC needs to stop simply politely asking people to do something as simple as exiting a bus through the exit doors, and start trying to explain to people the rationale behind the request, more power to them. People will still push their way past the rear doors and exit at the front, pushing aside all the people waiting to board, but I don’t have a problem with people at the TTC at least TRYING to convince people to STOP DOING THAT.

    (end rant)


  15. Maybe the TTC should bring in financial incentives or dis-incentives (penalties) to encourage passengers to leave TTC buses/streetcars by the centre/rear doors. More specifically, what would happen if TTC started charging passengers who leave by front doors ANOTHER fare,… when they leave,… just like on buses that goes outside city limits. There’s already a ticket/cash collecting box right there by the front door anyways. Of course, there are metropass users,… so TTC would charge a cash only fare of $3.00 for leaving by the front door. This should strongly encourage passengers to use the centre/rear doors when exiting TTC buses/streetcars.

    How does other public transit systems encourage passengers to leave by the centre/rear doors? Does any other transit system have such a exit by front door pay additional cash fare policy?

    Steve: Most modern transit systems use some form of proof of payment and all-door loading. Therefore, this issue simply does not arise.

    There are many passengers for whom leaving by rear doors is not an option including some of the more frail or partly disabled passengers for whom the wider front door is an advantage, and those with baby carriages, shopping carts, etc.


  16. What’s a short-turn anyway?

    Steve: A car is scheduled to go to “Neville Park”, but somewhere enroute, the operator is instructed to turn back at, say, Woodbine Loop. Passengers bound for points east of Kingston Road either wait longer for their car to show up, or if the change occurs after they boarded, are summarily turfed off at the turnback point. Passengers between Woodbine Loop and Neville get worse service than the TTC advertises, and given the irregularity of headways generally, can wait a very long time (3x the scheduled headway through a combination of bunching and short turning) for something to show up.


  17. If you don’t short-turn some cars when service is late then you increase the waiting time for customers trying to ride in the opposite direction. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the usual rant ‘…..waited 35 minutes for a streetcar, then seven in a row showed up’. With streetcars specifically, it is a necessary evil to short-turn vehicles.

    That said, I can remember a number of times when self-serving operators would intentionally sabotage a line to finish his/her shift on time. Other instances would be the results of personal vendettas of operators against supervisory staff due to imagined or actual injustices. Getting short-turned was the ultimate pay-back. Who suffered while these games were being played? The TTC riders. I was embarrassed on more than one occasion when a fellow operator would relate to me, with relish, how they single-handedly had brought a whole line to its knees. Their conclusion – another good day’s work done. My thoughts – maybe, just maybe, another reason for customers to like us a little less.


  18. Steve has good ideas on how to stop bunching. I have a suggestion for what to do when a bunch has developed.

    The lead streetcar/bus should go into express mode. The driver should tell the passengers it will not stop to let people out until X street, a major street a good kilometer away. Those wanting an intermediate stop should to get off now and get on the trailing car. That way it’s only the people that are almost at their destination that are inconvenienced, (and the fit ones can simply walk the last leg if the traffic is too slow), while the long-haul passengers can continue their ride on the same car. Yes, it will PO the passengers waiting at stops that the “express” vehicle passes, but the next vehicle will be there within seconds, and it will be much easier to board!


  19. So much for putting customer service first, Mr. Giambrone…

    Steve: I suspect that until this was publicised on the net, Giambrone didn’t even know about it.


  20. I waited half an hour for a bus today on Birchmount at Finch Ave. The 7:13, 7:23 and 7:35 buses all did not show up. I ended up tweeting that there was no service for the 17 Birchmount north of Finch and that three buses were MIA. Why could they not short turn a bus at Sheppard or something when they know that buses are THAT LATE!. One bus not being on time I can see BUT THREE!? This is bad even for the TTC.


  21. Richard said:

    On the other hand, if the new trams will have all-door loading with a proof-of-payment requirement, why not implement that earlier on the CLRV and ALRV fleet to speed up loading?

    This seems to have become unofficial policy, but only at select stops and very inconsistently. Getting on the College Streetcar at Yonge last night a TTC employee in an orange/yellow vest effectively turned it into a POP route by directing everyone with transfers and passes to get on at the back door. It did help a little, actually. Of course, he was too effective in that a lineup formed at the back door and I got on at the front door long before everyone in front of me got on at the back, but that would be remedied by not having an overenthusiastic crowd control person telling everyone to go to the back. I tweeted about this and got a reply or two saying others had experienced similar directions.

    Also, I love love LOVE Laurie’s idea. This actually happened to me on the subway yesterday morning, for unrelated reasons (presumably?). I got on Southbound at Wellesley right after a jam somewhere on the line had cleared, during peak hours, and the subway was as full as I’ve ever seen it (admittedly, I shoved a few people inwards to get on myself – signs or announcements encouraging people to move towards the middle are needed far more greatly than exit at rear door signs on streetcars).

    As I was boarding, they announced that the train would not be stopping at the next station (it would have been helpful if they’d clearly said College Station, which they never did, but again not the point here) due to orders by Metro Police… A handful of people exited the train (enough that there was some breathing room on the train), and we went straight through to Dundas (even though there were not only no police at College but riders waiting to board the subway). Besides easing crowding, we kept moving quickly through to Union (making the remaining stops) and I’m certain the train behind us would have kept pace again. I’d have been quite happy to have missed a couple of Southbound ‘through’ trains if it would have meant that the one I got on was less crowded and still moved along quickly, and that the next time I’m on a platform further along the line towards a problem that’s cleared, that the next subway will arrive sooner.


  22. What’s the Woodbine Loop?

    Steve: Woodbine Loop is located at Queen and Kingston Road. It is named after Woodbine Racetrack, later Greenwood, now a housing development. Woodbine Avenue is actually a few blocks further east, and the racetrack is out by the airport.


  23. Laurie, that is a really good idea.

    Not only would it offload some passengers, but it would encourage more people to wait for a train instead of crowding on the first one that comes along.

    If only Transit Control and the Passenger Info system could say something like “The next train is coming in 3 minutes and it is really empty. Why not wait? You can get a seat if you wait.”

    Maybe when we have ‘station masters’ and a better passenger info system (next train arriving in xx minutes) we could try something like this.


    Moaz Yusuf Ahmad


  24. The problem with the express idea for buses is the definition of “full” is in the eye of the beholder. I don’t know how many times I’ve stood out in the cold waiting for a bus, only to have the next one let off 3 people at the back, but not let anybody on because its full at the front. The operator obviously felt it was full, but if I feel I can squeeze on without impairing the operator’s view, and the front door opens, I’ll hop on.

    Actual number restrictions would be nice.
    This vehicle can only take X amount of people.


  25. I know there’s a loop at that location, Steve, but have never heard it referred to thus.

    Steve: That’s its name, and has been since it was built a very long time ago.


  26. Hi OgtheDim,

    My suggestion just applies to bunched-up vehicles. If your vehicle is full, and the next one is going to be another 10 minutes, then squeeze on in! But if the next vehicle is just a minute or two later (and often they are bumper to bumper) then waiting for the less full vehicle is the best choice. I almost always wait if the first streetcar is too crowded and a second one is just a block away, and find that I never arrive more than 30 seconds later than the packed “lead” car.


  27. Despite vehicles having standing room, and often available seats in the back, it is still crushed loaded at the front. When I ask passengers to please move to the back several times with no result, there is nothing I can do about it. I’ve even had one passenger come up to me, fuming, that he’s paid his $3, he can stand where he wants. So now when I pull up to the stop and the bus is full, I’m the a**hole.

    Exiting at the centre doors/rear doors and moving all the way back goes a long way in getting the service going. Passengers need to start taking responsibility for themselves. The next time you have a bus/car pass you full at the front and empty at the back, instead of thinking that a**hole operator, think those dumb cow eyed passengers latched onto those first few stanchions for dear life.

    Of course this is not the cause of all TTC problems, both management and operators need to collectively work together in order to improve the system. Buses/cars wouldn’t be bunched up nearly as often if everybody including management did their jobs to the best of their abilities. The majority of operators do, but some deliberately don’t and that’s a problem that needs to be fixed. Passengers can help improve the system too, by being a little more orderly, a little more considerate for other passengers, and a little less self-absorbed…

    Good on the TTC for putting these signs up. We should take a cue from Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Brussels systems and prohibit passengers from exiting through the front. “Ingang, Uitgang”.

    Steve: The largest benefit of all-door loading, especially with low floor cars, will be that baby carriages and shopping carts will not completely block access through the vehicle.


  28. Is “short turn” a term that is widely understood? I’m sure it took me several years of daily streetcar riding when I first moved here before I was explained that one.

    Lingo aside, the sign seems like a good idea to me. It’s true, if fewer people got off at the front, the streetcars probably would bunch at least a little bit less.


  29. Laurie commented:

    I almost always wait if the first streetcar is too crowded and a second one is just a block away, and find that I never arrive more than 30 seconds later than the packed “lead” car.

    I tend to do that myself, and have always wondered why most people feel they have to squeeze onto the first car, but I think I may have discovered one reason – at least for streetcars.

    When two streetcars arrive at the same time it means they are ‘bunched’. Therefore there is a very good chance one of the cars will be short-turned, and TTC policy (confirmed by one of the drivers I was talking to) is NEVER to short turn the lead vehicle. Because of this, I have often been left standing halfway to my destination waiting for another car because the one I was on was short-turned. And many times when that happens, the car I am on pulls in to the ‘short-turn’ stop just as the previous car pulls away, and I have to wait ten minutes or more, only to be standing in a crowded car for the rest of my journey and arriving later than planned. I could accept this if the lead car were delayed just long enough for the passengers to transfer, but not when the lead car is 10 seconds ahead and the next one is 10 minutes behind.

    I agree that the TTC needs to make short turns an absolute last resort. I have no problem with ‘scheduled’ short turns (cars that are scheduled from the start to a shorter than normal trip, and with it properly signed), but suddenly deciding to dump passengers in the middle of nowhere needs to be justified each and every time.


  30. DavidH said “and TTC policy … is NEVER to short turn the lead vehicle.” I have often wondered about this as I too have been forced to leave a short-turned streetcar just as the lead car takes off. If an unscheduled short-turn is necessary I really wonder why the front car is not the one to do it – if necessary the drivers could switch.


  31. re: exits
    I will admit I prefer exiting by the front doors particularly when it’s icy or muddy at the rear (Not all bus stops are paved or clear). However, I do exit at the back if the bus is too crowded at the front or if I see a large group or baby stroller waiting to board. When you take crowded buses on a daily basis you have to find your own balance between convenience, comfort and common sense.

    The reason I dislike the rear exits (particularly on the Orion VIIs) are because they are ALWAYS blocked by passengers who are reading, talking on phones or listening to music. You never know if they are going to move out of your way or get off by the time the bus stops. And those double doors really don’t fit 2 people side by side, so you end up getting shoulder bumped by someone rushing to get in front of you at the last second.

    The front exit of the Orion VII bus is also a problem because people use the wheel well area as a baggage check. People purposely stand there so they can put their grocery bags, backpacks etc down while they lean againt the pole. They will stand there even if their stop is still 10 minutes away. Very frustrating.


  32. Sometimes a short turn is necessary. In a perfect world, short turns would never occur. Unfortunately, we are not in a perfect world, and thus will not be totally free of short turns. However, if three or more buses or streetcars bunch up, then one (at least) should be short turned. This is easier with a bus as it can turn around on any street and head back. Not so with a streetcar, but it still can occur. The TTC could use a “three strikes and your out” policy for bunching – i.e. three car bunch up and a short turn will occur.


  33. David H makes a very true comment about the danger of waiting for the second vehicle when two come together – particularly if heading away from downtown. The second vehicle can suddenly be short-turned, leaving you waiting a long time for the next one. Passengers know this, and most will push onto the crowded lead vehicle to be sure they aren’t short-turned. But if the TTC used “express” service instead of short-turning as their technique to fix bunching, riders would gradually adjust their behaviour to the new reality, and more would board the trailing vehicle.

    Steve: I remember talking to the TTC years ago about express streetcar operation in the context of serving events at Exhibition Place. Run ALRVs express from Bathurst Station to the Ex, and use buses for the local traffic. Their response was that people would step off the curb trying to board the express vehicle. I hate to say this, but this is an organization where safety is important, but is also used as a synonym for “we don’t want to do it”. Somehow, streetcars that are not in service ply the streets regularly, and people don’t wander out into traffic for them. It’s all a question of getting people used to how the system operates.


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