There’s an excellent post, complete with several links, on Jarrett Walker’s Human Transit blog talking about the fundamentally different way that highway engineers and sustainable transit folk think about questions of “speed”. Their views are totally at odds, and the result when a highway thinker takes on a transit problem may leave much to be desired.
Looking at the speed of a trip (or trip segment) may not tell the whole story.
In the context of technology debates here in Toronto, some will take issue with the “or” in this article’s title. After all, a subway can be both fast and frequent as we all know. However, part of the total trip is also the access time to service, and that brings us to debates about stop spacing, development patterns and pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods.
The article also links to a piece about streetcars vs buses on Walker’s site. The extensive comment thread covers many aspects of the debate we have seen here in Toronto. One important distinction that Walker himself makes is that the article deals with streetcars vs buses, not LRT vs BRT. He has a separate article on the distinction between streetcars and LRT.
I was just riding the 512 today and noticed how the platforms aren’t much longer than a CLRV, will the faster, more reliable LRVs be able to fit on the platforms, or will they have to be redone?
Steve: The new islands are long enough for the new cars. Life will be interesting at St. Clair West Station, however, as there won’t be room for a separate eastbound and westbound platform.
One just has to look at the 502 Downtowner mid-day service to see why I consider frequency more important than speed. Just missing a vehicle by a few seconds means a 20 minute wait.
It really is a very informative blog as to how transit planning works. Jarrett really knows how to plan transit well: route design, community engagement, signage, and even bike issues. If only we had him working for the TTC, our transit system would not be in such a sorry state. I especially like his idea of build your own system, which can be useful in showing the realities of providing public transit under a budget.
Well if speed is not that big an issue, then I want the people planning Transit City, and the ones who are promoting it so much, to come and live out in the outskirts of Scarborough and rely on that system to get around, without having a car.
I bet most people would not do it. So I ask Steve, and others on here. When Transit City is built, would you live out in Malvern or Jane and Finch without a car, and rely on transit? Would you be o.k. with the travel time it takes to get places?
Because what I find is, most people who say speed does not matter, etc, are ones that live on a subway line and never actually commute or travel anywhere that requires a bus or streetcar, or LRT ride.
Steve: The comparison is not entirely fair because another aspect of both speed and frequency is reliability. People hate surface routes because the TTC seems unwilling to run reliable service on them for reasons we have discussed here at length. Part of the pitch for Transit City is also reliability and added capacity. Anyone in the TTC who thinks that what passes for service on the 501 will be acceptable on Sheppard East needs serious re-education. Alas, most people have no reason to believe they will get anything better.
I like both. I prefer both.
But when push comes to shove, I would rather have frequency.
Case in point: I have to get to the Sunnyside Pavillion on weekends. I used to take the 504 from DUNDAS WEST and walk from Queen St. Now I might take the 80 Queensway from KEELE. The 504 is considerably more frequent vis à vis the 80. Thus I will have to alter my timing.
@Michael: Most definitely. In pursuit of a career in the field of car design, I have been witness to far worse transit systems than the TTC, and I can most definitely say that having taken the bus around inner-suburban Detroit, Malvern would be a breeze. If I really wanted speed, I might consider hopping on the GO Train, which reaches downtown from Agincourt GO station in just 26 minutes.
I hope this comment does not make my bus start coming late 🙂
But I think reliability with the TTC is a downtown inner city problem.
Because I can’t say I have problems with my bus routes in Scarborough. They are almost always on time to second, even during rush hour periods.
If there is one thing the TTC does well, it is suburban bus routes, and I don’t think Transit City is seen as a system to improve reliability, as our buses already run just fine.
I know when my downtown friends come visit me, they are always amazed at how well the buses in Scarborough keep to their timetables.
Steve: At the ATU’s session in Downsview, there were many complaints about service reliability late at night and early in the morning.
Maybe in Downsview. Also I think sometimes customers just complain without there really being an issue.
I have used the night bus system for ages, and out of all my years using it, so far I only had one incident where the bus went through early. Otherwise they are always like clockwork.
At least that is my experience in Scarborough, and I hope it stays like that 🙂
But really, I think Toronto people just want to complain to get a point across, when there really is not a problem. It is not only myself, but tons of people I know rely on the TTC, and never have problems with schedules. All except the ones who live on the streetcar lines.
Steve: Schedules are not the issue. Bunching and irregular service are the issues not just on streetcar lines but on busy bus routes like Dufferin and Bathurst.
Suburban bus routes are not necessarily reliable. I’ve been taking Kipling South from time to time recently, and the amount of bunching — running in pairs — is quite surprising on such a short route. Yes, there was construction last week that caused running time delays, but this morning there was only light traffic and a pair of buses running north anyway.
Yes, service on Kipling South is pretty frequent even if the buses come in packs, but there’s no earthly reason they couldn’t be run at proper spacing if the TTC put a priority on that.
I think the first issue isn’t speed or frequency, but consistency, if you look at the timetable and it says a bus comes every 5 minutes, and you end up waiting 19 minutes, when 4 buses come in a herd, this is much worse then if the schedule says the bus comes in 29 minutes, and it shows up at exactly that time.
Perhaps the author is right, if we take a street like Finch West, add Islands for stops, and run the buses in dedicated centre lanes, we could get similar consistency to a streetcar. The real issue though, it would cost almost as much to build.
Speed = time, so I’d say speed is more important. If the service sticks to the schedule, even if it’s infrequent at least we know when it’s coming.
By the way, that guy’s views on streetcars are spot on. I take it you don’t agree with him on that.
So let me ask you this, and don’t dodge the question, if three streetcars are running in a pack in mixed traffic due to an earlier accident, how do you adjust service without short turning? Do you propose that we stop the 2nd and 3rd streetcars in the pack and hold all of the auto traffic behind them?
Steve: I agree with Jerrett in that where a streetcar is used to replace an infrequent, low demand bus service, this is a mis-use of the technology. Where a route has today, or could have in the fairly near future, demand that outstrips the capability of buses, the situation is completely changed. Far too many “LRT” systems have been built in the USA care of government handouts that provide easy targets for the anti-LRT/streetcar crowd to shoot at.
As for spacing service, the point that comes through very strongly when you analyze service over a month on several routes is that delays caused by accidents are VERY RARE compared to delays caused by operators just screwing around by taking long layovers or running right behind their leader for several trips in a row. I agree that short turns are needed to recover from real blockages of lines, but there is no excuse for allowing a pack of vehicles to form and remain together, especially when this happens at a terminal.
95 York Mills see bunching, even during times when, headway-wise, it really shouldn’t.
I wonder often about the ability of some communities to process change…are there any examples of going from plain old bus service to BRT then to LRT…I feel like selling BRT is simpler than LRT, but then once the BRT is in place and starts running out of capacity it would be easy to say, we now have to go to LRT to get +50% capacity. If the BRT had been designed correctly, one could imagine that it might be easier to upgrade to LRT from BRT given that alot of the street reconfiguration has already been done.
Steve: But then you have to rip up the BRT roadway to install track, a non-trivial service interruption. Also, if the stations are not designed to at least be “LRT friendly” from the outset, you could have a big problem. Depending on the nature of the BRT implementation, you could have situations where designers want three or four lane sections at stations to allow vehicles to hop-scotch between stopping bays and/or to permit express operations.
To say the least, these articles interested me. One thing with which I don’t necessarily agree is this:
“Where a streetcar is faster or more reliable than the bus route it replaced, this is because other improvements were made at the same time — improvements that could just as well have been made for the bus route.”
Has this been proven? Has or is BRT faster than LRT, with all other conditions being equal (number of passengers, stop frequency, traffic levels)? What about bus in mixed traffic vs. streetcar in mixed traffic? One can only wait and see the results of both speed and reliability of the 502/503 both before and during the construction of Bingham Loop.
As for bringing in the improvements need to create faster, more frequent, and more reliable service, such as headway-managed service, and all-door boarding, I think the only way it will happen is if someone runs for Council, wins, gets appointed to the Commission, and pushes for these improvements until they happen. I still haven’t decided whether or not I should run for Ward 2 (Rob Ford’s current ward).
Steve: Another important point is the capacity and demand in the corridor where the service is implemented. There is a general problem with some systems that would take a huge swath of road space for a comparatively small demand. In specific cases, a BRT line can be shared as a trunk run for multiple routes into a major terminal, but this doesn’t apply in all cases.
I’ve read in many places that short-turns are made inappropriately (right into another parade), bunches are not broken up, vehicles rest at terminals for too long, streetcars following closely behind the next one in front for a prolonged period, etc. and operators screwing around.
Are these intentional? Do operators intentionally bunch or follow their leader closely behind? Why would operators do that?
Steve: Because if you are right behind another vehicle, you don’t have to work very hard at all. Route supervisors don’t seem to work to hard at spacing vehicles either, and there is little or no management of cars re-entering service after short-turns to ensure appropriate spacing.
When it comes to bunching and timing issues – especially with streetcars downtown – has the TTC ever considered ‘branching’ the 500 series vehicles?
i feel that it would eliminate short-turns – because a 501 might travel Humber-Neville…but a 501b might crank back at Church… and a 504b could hit Exhibition west routinely etc…
if it works for bus service – why not try it downtown?
Steve: That was the purpose of the split route operation last fall. It did not work very well, although to what extent that was caused by a lack of enthusiasm for this scheme among operating and supervisor staff I am not sure. I have the vehicle monitoring data for the period of the experiment, but have not yet had a chance to analyze it in detail.
Does this need “proving” in any more strong a sense than you can prove “when it rains, you get wet” by walking outside when it’s raining?
What I mean is that is there anything inherent about LRT that would or should make it faster than BRT, all other things being equal?
Also, the original claim is that a streetcar is no faster/better than BRT… and at least in the Toronto context, I believe Steve consistently points out that streetcar does not equal LRT (or at least not Transit City LRT). I still myself do not see any huge advantage in streetcars over electric trolley buses, especially given that streetcars require rails and wires whereas trolleys just require wires.
Both buses and streetcars (in the Queen St sense) are limited by the speed of the traffic they are in. The only way a streetcar can be signifcantly faster than the bus it replaces is if there are some means for it to travel faster than surronding traffic (e.g. seperated right-of-way, signal priority, etc.) – but those measures can equally be applied to a bus. The main (potential) gain with streetcars is capacity (an ALRV can hold 200+), which can also result in lower operating costs.
The proposed LRT line in Hamilton would be only a few minutes faster end to end than the (limited stop) bus route it’ll replace – but it will have the extra capacity they need.
A lot of the bunching issues on busy TTC bus routes is due to the fact that TTC planners hate express routes.
Routes like the 29 have such frequent service, that there should be two branches. One which operates all stops. And one which operates limited stops, stopping only at major intersections.
Right there, the TTC would probably clear most of the bunching problems on the 29.
The same goes for other busy local bus routes. They have way too many local buses all making stops every 200 meters, and of course that is going to bunch up.
Other routes which need such treatment are at least the 25, 54, and 24.
I would also like to touch on the fact that speed can not be put to the side.
There is a major reason why only 20% of trips in Toronto are by transit, and it is not because Toronto residents do not have frequent transit running by their homes, even in the farthest reaches of Scarborough.
The problem is transit is too slow.
So I think speed is a major issue. The TTC’s own reports show that the number one issue with non-riders and riders a like is that transit takes to long.
In fact I am one of the only people in my subdivision to take transit. And when I ask me neighbours why they don’t use it, it is always the same reason. “It takes to long”. My neighbour worked in the heart of the downtown business district, and drove, because she still got home 40 minutes faster than taking the TTC. She tried the TTC and just gave up, because she could not justify an over one hour transit ride, vs 20-30 minutes in a car.
So speed is of upmost importance, in addition to frequency.
Steve: The TTC studies routes for potential express operations fairly regularly. One point that often comes up is that there is a considerable demand at stops that could be seen as “local only” in a mixed operation. If the origins or destinations of many riders on a route lie at a “local” stop, then they cannot use the “express” services.
There is also a political component to this. When the TTC implemented the 190 Rocket from Don Mills Station to STC, there was a call for more stops so that people could use this as a convenient, one-seat ride from locations on Sheppard to the Town Centre. It gets rather delicate, politically, when you tell people that they are “no longer on the map”. Just look at the controversy over wider station spacings on the Transit City LRT lines, especially Eglinton, compared to the bus services they will replace.
More express services are in the works as part of the Transit City Bus Plan which is scheduled for implementation this fall. An updated version of the plan is expected to surface at a TTC meeting later this spring.
Besides capacity, LRT has an advantage over BRT: public perception.
Whether people like to admit it or not, there is something more attractive about a rail mode of transit over a rubber tire mode. There are people who simply won’t take “the bus” but a rail option is somehow more acceptable, for whatever reason.
If marketed well, BRT can attract a few of the “will never take the bus” crowd, as VIVA in York Region has shown. VIVA Phase 1 is not even true BRT, but because it was branded differently than the rest of the YRT system with a different livery and new logo (in fact, the YRT logo was changed to look more like the VIVA logo three years after VIVA started), it was somehow seen by some as something other than “the bus”. Still, an LRT implementation from day 1 would have attracted a significant amount more just because it is rail.
Jacob Said: Are these intentional? Do operators intentionally bunch or follow their leader closely behind? Why would operators do that?
I think I am going to look at the data that I have and see if this is true. It should be fairly trivial to see if some cars spend more time per day bunched than others. The data may not be conclusive though due to multiple operators using a vehicle during a certain day (not sure how often this happens). Although if they do it for most of their shift it would probably show up.
In any case it would be interesting to see the % time bunched per day for each car. I’ll followup in this thread when the update goes live.
Steve: This sort of thing shows up when I look at the all day service graphs (of which I publish only a few due to size and the risk of boring my audience to death). When I see a pattern of behaviour on one day, it’s easy to look at adjacent days, or corresponding days in other weeks, to see if the same pattern is there. This is a dead giveaway of chronic misbehaviour by specific operators, and it’s the sort of thing the TTC could do on their own.
Route supervisors on the street will quickly learn which operators try to play around, and which operators, in a pinch, will try extra hard to get through a line and work to make the best of a bad situation. Much of that personal touch was lost when so many supervisors were moved indoors to CIS Control, and it will take a while to build up again as they move back onto the streets.
In the speed vs frequency debate, it is important to take into account the length of trip.
Using the example given by (another) Michael in this thread, Jane / Finch should be fine with LRT service. Finch LRT would provide a 5-min ride to Finch West subway station, or 20-min ride to Yonge. Full grade separation is not essential as it would shorten the trip by a few minutes only. Finch West LRT can be a very useful line due to good integration with two subway lines.
In contrast, a trip on Sheppard LRT from Malvern to Don Mills subway will take 30-40 minutes dependent on where one boards. This is a bit too long, given that Don Mills is not the final destination for the majority of riders. Agincourt GO connection can help, but only if it gets much more frequent service and fare integration, both of which are uncertain at this point.
Steve: Another factor looking at Malvern and GO is the question of future service on the CPR line that passes through Malvern enroute to North Pickering and Peterborough. For people wanting to travel from northeastern Scarborough to downtown, this is ideal. And, yes, I know that everyone does not want to go downtown, but you mentioned Agincourt GO, and that’s a downtown-oriented service too.
Another important consideration is the number of vehicles required to provide the service.
Let’s say you have a route with 60-min round-trip (including layovers). To maintain the 5-min frequency, you need 12 vehicles and pay 12 drivers.
If you improve the speed so that the round trip takes 50 min and cut the frequency to every 10 min, you need only 5 vehicles and 5 drivers. You can reduce the operational costs, or send the remaining 7 vehicles to serve other routes.
Or, you can keep all 12 vehicles on the given route, but have 4 of them short-turn in the middle. So, those 4 will only serve the half with highest demand. The frequency on the lower-demand half will be 50 min / 8 = 6’15”. On the higher-demand half, the frequency will be 6’15” / 2 = 3’8”. Hence, those who travel the whole length of route, have a slightly worse frequency (6’15” vs 5′), but win 5 min on each trip. Those who board in the middle, see both a higher frequency (3’8” vs 5′) and a slightly shorter trip.
Steve: The other variable you have not mentioned, although it is implicit in the remark about the headway change above, is the capacity of the vehicles (or trains). Larger units (longer cars and/or multiple-unit trains) reduce the labour cost for driving relative to passenger volumes.
george Bell says:
While not trying to defend the TTC and its line supervisors nor operators who intentionally run hot, bunching occurs naturally in an uncontrolled environment. How many times have you gone into a grocery store and nobody is in the line then when you get there 3 people are in front of you? This is a phenomenon called queueing theory. It basically state that things are not distributed uniformly in nature.
The problem is exacerbated on lines like Spadina where you have a 113 second headway on a light cycle time of about 90 to 100 seconds ignoring Front and Lake Shore. This causes some cars to be one light behind the one in front and some 2. The cars that are 2 lights behind pickup more people and get farther behind. The cars 1 light behind pick up fewer people and catch up to the one in front. If a car gets transferees from vehicles going both directions at a transfer point then it too gets farther behind. It is impossible to keep an even spacing on a line where the headway is not a multiple of the signal cycle time.
The above not withstanding the problem gets multiplied when the supervisors start turning cars to try and get them back where they belong. Every time I ride Bathurst from the ex north some “smart person” in charge decides to short turn a northbound car at Wolseley to get it back on time. I am sure that 4 people south of Queen going to the ex appreciate it but the 40 people who get thrown off the car are none too happy. The TTC has to learn that no one cares if all the cars on the line are 15 minutes late as long as they are relatively evenly spaced. Who cares if they get on 10 run instead of 4 run as long as a car goes by every 4 to 5 minutes.
The last time I was on St. Clair there was a gap caused by some vehicle blocking the right of way followed by 5 cars in a row. The supervisor actually showed some ingenuity in his handling of the gap. He held 2 cars in St. Clair West to fill the westbound gap that would be coming back and had operators changing cars and run numbers in the station to get back on time without short turning most of the service. He had two cars come back from Yonge together to handle the load and then by the time they got to Bathurst the service and the operators were more or less back in place. The cars were all screwed up but changing run numbers took care of that.
The TTC seems to be eliminating all tail and spare tracks from new loops so it will get more difficult to keep bad order cars off the line or to hold cars to fill in gaps. The TTC also needs a short turn loop on Bathurst between Queen and King to short turn south bound cars instead of Northbound to get them back in place or fill gaps. Fleet is too far south. Let’s see, east on Adelaide, south on the first street and back on King, just like Spadina. Bunching is a natural phenomenon; it is what you do to correct it that is controllable and that need to be re-examined.
Steve: If you look at my analyses of various routes, and the headway charts for points at or close to the terminals, you will see a common, regular pattern of short and wide headways. The service starts out bunched, and gets worse from there. This happens on statutory holidays and at hours when there is no conceivable reason for this behaviour.
There is a big problem in that the TTC considers “on time” to be within a margin that is a large percentage of the headway on many lines. The result can be that service is officially within specifications, but is actually experienced as having gaps and bunches.
The signal timings are problematic on some routes, but uneven headways from terminals are common to all of them. It is particularly bad inbound from Long Branch on the Queen car where extended siestas would better describe the time taken by some operators. It’s hard to justify having two or even three cars in the loop at once on such wide headways.
I know the TTC studies express service, however given how little the TTC opereates express service, and always puts up a fuss when they have to, I think it can be said the TTC just does not want to provide anything other than a local bus.
You mentioned that limited stop service would impact riders going to local stops.
However when you take a route like the 29 that has a bus say every 2 minutes during most time periods. Is it really that big of a deal to have people using only local stops to have to wait 4 minutes for a bus? Or for people who want an express service to have to wait 4 minutes? Even more since the buses are bunching and people are waiting that long anyway, it makes sense to space out the service.
The local stop issue is also taken way to seriously. I ride the buses all the time, and by far the highest demand is between major stops. And on frequent buses like the 29, asking local residents to wait another minute or two, is not a big deal, considering these people will get getting on much less crowded and more reliable services.
When Finch East went to the enhanced express service, ridership went up 35% on express stops, vs the local stops.
People love it, and for busy routes, there really is no other way to better space the service, and provide a better faster ride for more riders.
There is no doubt that a limited stop service on the 29 and 25 would be a smash hit, just like it has been on the 190.
And as for residents demanding a stop, well the TTC just has to be tough and say no. I am sorry, but people who have a bus going by their house every 2 minutes, do not need an express bus to stop at their stop.
Starting limited stop services on all the busy bus routes would probably be the best and revenue neutral step the TTC could do to improve service.
Steve: I agree with you on headways for Dufferin, and it is one of many routes planned to get express service with the Transit City Bus Plan. You might want to look at that report and especially the map at page 12 of the PDF which shows the proposed express routes.
All existing express services are listed in a separate report.
The one big shortcoming in the current proposal is that it specifically ignores the future Transit City LRT routes for improvement on the grounds that they would be under construction any day now, and this might hamper the ability to run good service. We all know that TC isn’t going to be built out, especially on unfunded routes, any time soon, and the omission of 25 Dufferin and 35 Jane from the express network sticks out like a sore thumb.
Glad you discovered humantransit, Steve. I find his blog very insightful when it comes to transit planning.
On topic, there are many different kinds of road transport to address different needs, and likewise there needs to be different kinds of public transport to address different needs. With roads you have local arterials with high accessibility and low speed, highway collector lanes with limited accessibility and high speed, and highway express lanes with very limited access designed for long distance travel. Likewise, we have local transit (bus, streetcar), rapid/express transit (subway, BRT) with limited access, and commuter/regional transit (GO train, highway express bus) for long distance. While you can find compromises, it is impossible to have a one-size-fits-all transit solution.
When it comes to speed vs frequency, value becomes a defining factor as well. It may be faster to take the less frequent but faster GO train; but if it isn’t that much faster, becomes too stressful to time it properly, or costs too much many will find themselves taking more local transit options instead.
Here is a good example: I live very close to Don Mills and Steeles. From here to Union station by TTC and GO, it would take 53 minutes (7:50-7:55 on TTC Leslie St bus, 8:09-8:43 on Richmond Hill GO train). Assuming I left at about the same time, it would take 55 minutes by TTC alone (7:47-8:07 on Steeles Ave express bus, 8:13-8:42 on TTC Yonge subway train). Now pretending that both routes cost the same, many would continue to use the TTC exclusively from this area, since the stress of timing it exactly is not worth 2 extra minutes in savings. However, if you compare travel times from points further out in Toronto and the GTA, one may be more willing to time the GO over local transit, since time savings could be more significant.
Finally, this is a good reason of why subway or elevated transit stop spacing should be focused towards speed outside core areas: Because access to the train is slower due to navigating the stations. One will be more willing to invest extra time getting into and out of a station if the transit ride is fast enough to make up for this loss. However, if you are using grade separated transit for local transit (like on Bloor-Danforth), then the passenger is losing time on both the ride and navigating stations.
You are right about that but I find the idea of riding Queen in from Long Branch a bum numbing experience and avoid it. On a 12 minute headway there is no excuse for two cars travelling in a bunch inbound from the loop. This is something that management needs to get under control. As many have said the line is too long.
On Spadina I have seen times when there were no cars southbound between Bloor and Queen or none northbound when they had the map. This is inexcusable. I have seen when the heard breaks southbound and the supervisor sends every second King car down to the Quay to get back on time instead of sending them back up to Bloor to empty the hundreds of people waiting at each stop. Turn the ones that need to get relieved if you must but leave most of them on the part of the line that needs the service. In the morning they seem to like to turn the Union Service back at the Quay leaving the 5 Harbour Front cars to try and carry everybody.
The TTC needs to totally re-evaluate their method of “maintaining and correcting” service. Sending the cars where there are no passengers may get them back “on time” but it pisses off the passengers.
Bunching still happens on Finch East 39, which must be the poster-child route for express service in the GTA.
It’s not at all unusual to wait five or ten minuites, and then have a pack of buses show up. More oddly, it’s common for a pack to be all-express or all-local, especially westbound from Seneca/Don Mills in the afternoon. There’s an interesting game played by many waiting at Seneca for a bus to Finch station: should I take one of the several local buses that just showed up, or should I hold out for an express bus (or two or three) that may be about to appear coming across the 404 overpass?
After months of experience, I can say that there’s no 100% answer (unless I guess you can see the vehicle status realtime). I’ll generally opt for an uncrowded bus with an ambitious-looking driver.
Bunching can continue from one end of the route to the other. Just this morning, there was a large crowd waiting for Finch East buses. Two 39E expresses pulled in, loaded in tandem, left the station in tandem, and ran in tandem to Don Mills. Granted, both were standing-room-only at 10:45AM, so there was no point in one waiting around. The local buses were probably in another pack somewhere approaching Finch station.
Steve, in your response to Micheal, you said,
“I agree with you on headways for Dufferin, and it is one of many routes planned to get express service with the Transit City Bus Plan. You might want to look at that report and especially the map at page 12 of the PDF which shows the proposed express routes.”
The problem is, on page 12 of the plan, it says, “This service will be implemented in the fall of 2014, when system-wide bus requirements begin to decline due to implementation of Transit City light rail lines.”
So in other words, this won’t happen any time soon, or at the very minimum, until we elect a premier who is serious about funding transportation, especially public transit, and we elect a mayor who doesn’t think the only way to get around Toronto is in a car.
Steve: My point in this is that the TTC is looking at express routes. The timing remains to be seen.
in response to Ed. There have been many more route supervisors keeping an eye on the 39 Finch East recently. I have seen them at Warden, Victoria Park and Seneca hill (Seneca College) and I have noticed an increase in the number of 39S buses, in fact I got on one today which was turning at Leslie. So in reality, the TTC is trying to make an effort to break up the bunching.
Regarding St. Clair West: I really, really wish they could do something to eliminate the large loop that the streetcars have to head through just to deposit and pick up passengers. Something more akin to the old Bloor-Yonge streetcar transferway would be nice. Just run the cars through the straight track, depositing and picking up passengers on newly constructed side platforms, and retain the loop track for storage.
I know that the layout of St. Clair West precludes this, but I still wish it were possible.
After reading what James Bow just said, I now feel that the TTC should have built what he mentions instead of that loop.
Re: Trunk route.
It continues to astonish me that the 126 Christie bus runs outside of the right-of-way on St. Clair West; similarly with the branches of Lansdowne that do use St. Clair (from Caledonia to Lansdowne)
The only vehicles that shouldn’t use the right-of-way are the Keele & Weston Road buses, as they should both be routed over Weston Road (where Keele can rejoin actual Keele Street) and an extension/moderate increase in frequency of the Davenport or Symington buses could pick up the slack to Rogers Road/Keele
If Transit City LRT is delayed, it would be nice to see a commitment to put limited-stop express bus service on these routes as soon as possible.
> Put the stops at *exactly* the same intersections as the proposed Transit City LRT stop locations an no where else.
> Use a distinct bus shelter from regular service. Next bus timing would be ideal!
> Give it a distinct route number and show it on the subway maps
This is not unlike Vancouver’s use of B-Line service on some of the same corridors as future rail transit lines.
If frequency is low (and hence headway is high), then any journey involving a transfer will result in a significant portion of your journey being taken up by waiting… and in that case, increased speed will have little impact on your journey time.
Steve: Yes. Network designs that assume transfers will occur, but don’t take into account service frequency or a lack of protected connections, are doomed to fail. This is the point where we make unkind remarks about the TTC’s trip planner, and they say “but it will be better soon”.
Steve, thanks for linking to my site, Human Transit, and generating such a stimulating debate here as it applies to Toronto. Your readers may also enjoy a current debate at HT over Patrick Condon’s vision for a streetcar-centred Vancouver. It starts here.
I would like to second the suggestion from AL, two comments back. Portions of Transit City that are not moving forward now as LRT should be developed instead as Bus Rapid Transit, with exactly the same degree of exclusivity, frequency, stop spacing, and stop amenity, as was planned for rail. Rather than spending limited funds on building one or two LRTs, you could probably spend the same budget building LRT stations for the entire Transit City network, but run buses to them for now.
This challenge is designed explicitly to clarify the thinking of rail advocates.
If you really think rail is intrinsically wonderful for reasons unrelated to the mobility it provides, you’ll expect a BRT-equivalent to have disappointing ridership, but you won’t object to trying it since it’s clearly better than the status quo. Besides, it’s clearly a step toward building rail in the future.
If, on the other hand, you like rail because of it’s practical capacity potential (which is really about the ratio of customers to drivers — the essence of cost-effectiveness in transit) then you won’t mind trying this either, because it will build the market to the point where the capacity becomes an urgent problem requiring a rail solution, as it seems to be now on Vancouver’s Broadway.
Meanwhile, you can get some measurable mobility improvement in all the transit city corridors, rather than spending so much time on painful and divisive debates about which corridor goes first.
Just thinking out loud. I don’t know Toronto well, but the debate is certainly a familiar one.
Steve: The situation varies from corridor to corridor, and is not as straightforward as simply a rail vs bus debate.
Some corridors already have very frequent bus service and could at best be improved with that technology only by moving to artics, a technology that has not been particularly successful in these parts. Right-of-way constraints, notably on the central part of the Eglinton line, force it underground, a solution not available to a BRT implementation. Another issue with buses vs rail is the frequency of vehicles, and the limitations on signal priority schemes if headways become very short. Mind you, Toronto does not exactly bend over backwards to implement true signal priority, and the politics of that issue are still heavily car-oriented.
Two of the second-tier Transit City corridors (the ones that are further back in the queue for funding: Jane and Don Mills), both have issues with whether the eventual demand can justify underground construction for part of their routes. In the case of Don Mills, part of the line may be more effective as an outer chunk of a new subway line rather than an inner part of an LRT network. However, BRT on the corresponding parts of these routes is unlikely because there is no road space for it. It’s a catch-22 that is unlikely to be resolved in the near future.
In the case of the Scarborough RT, an ICTS line, we have an orphan technology, but one that has a completely dedicated right-of-way and demand that is definitely in LRT territory. The issue here has always been that extension using ICTS is extremely expensive, although the TTC is doing its best to gold-plate the LRT design and seems to be trying to keep the option open until the last possible moment. The extended SRT will share a carhouse with the Sheppard line.
In all cases, the decision to opt for rail is related to the City of Toronto’s Official Plan which foresees the redevelopment of suburban arterials replacing strip commercial and outdated industrial developments with mid-rise residential. A robust debate (which you may already have seen here) can be had about the timing and likelihood of this development, and we could be in a chicken-and-egg situation. However, the population density in parts of the Transit City corridors is expected to grow substantially over coming decades to accommodate population growth. This ties into the issue of whether the Greater Toronto Area can or should continue to accommodate growth by continuing to expand outward, as well as the question of future energy costs related to auto-based commuting.
Some LRT systems, notably in the USA, have developed on the “build it and they will come” philosophy and have been tied to redevelopment hopes for depressed parts of their respective cities. None of the Transit City corridors is depressed, and we have bus ridership and service levels many cities can only dream of. The idea that someone would build an LRT and then run 10-minute service at peak on it is a bit sad, and too many LRT systems provide good examples for LRT opponents claiming that there is a fetish for rail technology (and the higher spending it brings).
There’s a real irony outside Toronto proper up in York Region where the most logical corridor for BRT, Yonge Street, has been removed from the plans by the regional government whose heart is set on a subway extension. They fear that spending money on BRT now would forestall the subway, and parts of the corridor have strong local opposition to any change in the surface road layout.
As for Vancouver, I think that Condon’s proposed streetcar network is overkill, and much of it falls right into the sort of debate you raised about technology change for its own sake. Unfortunately, it’s the sort of proposal that LRT opponents could use to portray the other side of the debate as a bunch of “trolley jollies”.
In Toronto, our worst problem is the botched conversion of the St. Clair line to right-of-way operation, the many (bad) design compromises (some made on the fly during construction), and the chaos of poorly co-ordinated utility work concurrent with the streetcar project. This experience is used to beat the TTC, and LRT plans generally, with a general statement that LRT is an intrusive, destructive technology. A BRT plan might not fare any better, and the real debate is about the loss of road space from cars to transit. This is not to say that BRT might not work in some cases, but getting the space for it won’t be a simple task.
That would have the advantage of allowing the 47B&C northbound to return to using St Clair rather than diverting via Davenport, as there would be enough room for the bus to make the right turn at Caledonia. However, this would require a separate transit-only signal phase to allow the bus to make the right turn across the westbound traffic. There would be a similar need for a transit signal for the right turn at Lansdowne for the southbound buses.
I expect that that is the reason the southbound Christie bus exits the transit-way before the Vaughan Road stop; it would require a specific transit-only turn phase at Christie to be able to make the left turn without tangling with either the turning traffic or the eastbound traffic.
How often would a street-car be delayed behind a bus waiting for that specific phase?
I haven’t looked at the intersections from this point of view, but I expect at least part of the reason that the northbound bus doesn’t enter the transit-way at Christie is that it could not make the right turn onto it without utilizing the westbound tracks as well. This would cause problems if a westbound street-car was caught at the lights.
(I don’t know why they did not chose to enter/exit the transit-way at Wychwood rather than Vaughan, but looking at Google Maps I strongly suspect that the extra width of Vaughan makes it a much easier transition.)
Finally, if the TTC decided to implement this now, it would require resurfacing the transit-way. Most of the western end appears to consist of concrete slabs laid between and beside the rails (think thick concrete tiles). This surface creates a tooth-rattling experience when the buses utilize it, as the 512 is currently doing between Old Weston Road and Keele.
On as side note, if the TTC wants to complain about Transit Priority lights, maybe it needs to fix its own system. A couple of weeks ago, I was on a westbound 512 leaving St Clair West station. Just as we crossed the switch and started the curve to re-enter the main line, the signal light went red, and we had to sit there until the green returned even though no traffic entered either portal.
This is not a unique occurrence. A few days ago we were entering the station on an eastbound car. The light was green, but we stopped to allow a bus entering the eastern portal to make its turn into the loop. Before we could make our turn, the signal went red and again we had to wait through the cycle, even though, like the last time, there was no traffic at all during this phase.
Steve: That signal simply cycles on a timer and has no detection capability for transit vehicles.
According to The Star (Wed April 28), “Mayor David Miller and TTC chair Adam Giambrone will be unveiling more electronic next-vehicle arrival signs at the Broadview subway station on Thursday (April 29).
I wish I could be there to ask about the vanishing NextBus maps. If only there were someone on this blog who lived near Broadview station. Hmmm . . . 🙂