Transit City Cars to be Built by Bombardier

Today, Metrolinx announced that they would exercise the option in the TTC’s order for Light Rail Vehicles with Bombardier for the Transit City fleet.

Here is the press release:

Metrolinx will be entering into formal negotiations with Bombardier Inc. to exercise the option from the replacement streetcar contract to purchase Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs).

The negotiations with Bombardier to procure LRVs are part of Metrolinx’s phased plan which is being developed for the four Light Rail Transit (LRT) projects as requested by the Province.

In June, 2009, following an open competitive procurement process, Bombardier was awarded the original contract to produce vehicles for TTC’s legacy streetcar replacement. This contract contains an option clause that provides Metrolinx with the ability to purchase additional LRVs from Bombardier for the four LRT projects.

Over the past six months, Metrolinx, with the assistance of the TTC and the international transit car expert LTK Engineering Services, evaluated its procurement alternatives. Metrolinx, with the unanimous support of its Board of Directors, concluded that entering the negotiation to exercise the option would obtain the best value for Ontario.

If the negotiations are successful, Metrolinx will announce the details of the procurement when an agreement is reached.

Note the reference to the “phased plan”.  This is the stretched out implementation scheme for the funded Transit City lines contemplated by the March budget cuts to transit.

The timing of this announcement is odd in that it falls between Metrolinx Board Meeting cycles.  It’s almost as if Queen’s Park is trying to tell us that they have not forgotten Transit City.

Updated at 10:15 pm:  See also coverage by the Toronto Star’s and National Post of this announcement.

GO Transit Pile Driving Ruled Unreasonable (Update 3)

Updated April 12, 2010:  Metrolinx has dropped the appeal of the CTA’s order.  The Star quotes Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne:

“This is about working with the community and repairing any damage that has been done and building a good relationship,” said Ontario Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne.

“These transit projects are going to be going to go on for a number of years, as they should be. That means there will be disruption in the communities,” she said.

But the government is committed to working with residents to make the process as comfortable as possible, said Wynne.

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Saving Transit City

Just over two weeks ago, the wheels came off Transit City and many more plans for new transit routes in the GTA.  Queen’s Park, feeling poorly after bailing out the auto industry and promissing tidy sums for non-transit portfolios, decided to defer $4-billion of spending on The Big Move, the GTA’s transit master plan.  The effect was felt most by Transit City whose projects were those already prepared, out the door and ready to build.  Whether the work on VIVA that is also part of the first batch of funded projects will be affected, we don’t yet know.

Metrolinx has been handed the thankless task of figuring out what to do, and they’re being very quiet about it.  Word on the street is that nothing is to be annouced until the May 19, 2010 Metrolinx board meeting.

For months, it was no secret that Metrolinx was working with the TTC to rein in costs on Transit City so that the projects would stay within the funding envelope, and some trimming was expected (if only by way of creating a “phase II” for some projects).  As long as the total stayed within the announced funding, all would be well, or so everyone thought.

Now, Queen’s park wants to push spending (and associated debt) out into future years, and wants to “defer” about half of their previously committed funding.  Reaction at the municipl level was predictable with the Miller administration openly attacking Queen’s Park for renegging on a promise.  Would-be mayors are thrilled with the opportunity to have someone else delay Transit City so that candidates don’t seem obstructionist.  Meanwhile, such bastions of anti-Miller sentiment as the Toronto Star and the Board of Trade have both criticised the transit cutbacks.

The unhappiness does not stop at the 416 border.  Politicians who were expecting funding for transit improvements including BRT and LRT now wonder openly whether their projects will ever see the light of day.

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Electronic Fare Collection: Lessons From New York

The TTC will present an information session on Open Payment systems:

Thursday, April 15, 2010
6:30 to 9:30 pm
Committee Room 1, Toronto City Hall

Here is the meeting description:

Open payment is an exciting breakthrough in fare collection. Instead of using a traditional farecard, it allows transit riders to use their credit or debit cards – even cell phones – at the turnstile or farebox. A prepaid card will also be available for children and others who choose not to use their personal cards.

By using the same technology as every bank, business and retailer, transit operators can be assured that their fare systems will have the highest level of security and will never be obsolete. Visitors from across Canada and around the world will be able to tap and go without having to figure out how to buy a fare.

The TTC is a full participant in the Presto farecard project and continues to work with the provincial agency to identify funding to bring farecards to Toronto. By proceeding with open payment in parallel with Presto’s traditional farecard the TTC is leading a revolution on how riders experience public transit.

Come to an information session on open payments led by Paul Korczak, former Chair of the Transportation Council of the Smart Card Alliance, a current member of the Near Field Communications Academy, and is actively involved in peer reviews and public forums on transit fare payments around the world.

With all the discussion of Smart Cards, this will bring a much-needed update on the evolution of payment technology to Toronto.

ATU Local 113 Hosts “Let’s Talk” Town Halls (Corrected)

Over the next three weeks, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 will hold a series of public meetings to discuss the improvement of customer service on the TTC.

Sunday April 11, 2010

1:00 to 3:00 pm
Downsview Secondary School
7 Hawksdale Road (northeast of Keele & Wilson)
Moderator:  John Tory
There will be free shuttle buses from Wilson Station between 11:30 and 12:30, and they will provide return trips after the meeting.

Sunday, April 18, 2010 (Corrected)

1:00 to 3:00 pm
Stephen Leacock Collegiate
2450 Birchmount Road (north of Sheppard)
Moderator:  Diane O’Reggio
There will be free shuttle buses from Warden Station between 11:30 and 12:30, and they will provide return trips after the meeting.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

1:00 to 3:00 pm
Ryerson University Library
350 Victoria Street (at Gould, one block north of Dundas)
Moderator: TBA

For more information, please see the ATU page for these events and various Facebook pages that have been created under the general name “Let’s Talk”.

Just Raise Taxes

The ongoing debate about trasnsit funding produced a few rather strange proposals recently.

On April 1, writing in Metro, John Sewell suggested that the “crybabies on Council” who think Transit City is so important should just raise property taxes by $500 per house to generate $400-million/year.  This is a ridiculous proposal for many reasons, notably that a jump of that magnitude would not be politically saleable to anyone on Council.  This year’s increase is far, far lower, and even that produced howls of outrage from those who claim the city taxes too much already.

If taxes were raised enough across the board to generate $400m, that would be a 14% increase.  I can hear the Board of Trade screaming now about how uncompetitive Toronto would be.  If the whole load goes on the backs of the residential taxpayers, the percentage increase would be much higher.

Sewell, of course, is setting up a phony argument here by saying Toronto taxes are so low relative to those in the GTA, and if only we would raise them to the average, we would have all the money we need.  Does he honestly think voters would tolerate such a change?  If he were still mayor, would he run on that platform? Continue reading

TTC E-Initiatives Update (Revision 2)

Revised April 6 at 7:00 am:  A short section has been added about Google Maps.

Revised April 5 at 10:00 pm:  A section has been added at the end covering those e-initiatives which were not included in the discussion at the TTC.

On March 24, 2010, the Transit Commission received an update from staff on the status of various initiatives broadly relating to the use of information technology.  These include:

Internet Trip Planner (ITP)
Next Vehicle Arrival System (NVAS)
Customer Service Disruption Notification (CSDN)
Next Train Arrival System (NTAS)

This article gives a summary of that presentation and a few of my own comments on these and other related matters.

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Open Houses: Ashbridge’s Bay Carhouse & Scarborough LRT

Two upcoming open houses may be of interest to readers.

Ashbridge’s Bay Carhouse

April 8, 2010 from 6:30pm to 9:00pm at the Toronto EMS and Fire Academy, 895 Eastern Avenue

The project website includes notes from previous public sessions and a map of proposed alternative routes to the carhouse from the existing streetcar network.

The notice for this meeting also includes reference to information about the new streetcars.  The final design for these cars is not yet determined, and an advisory committee (of which I will be a member) is now being organized by the TTC to assist with this.

Scarborough RT to LRT Conversion

Two public meetings have been scheduled for the Scarborough LRT conversion project.  This is the official launch of the Transit Project Assessment (TPA).

April 12, 2010 from 6:30pm to 9:00pm at Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School (Cafeteria), 959 Midland Avenue (north of Eglinton)

April 15, 2010 from 6:30pm to 9:00pm at the Chinese Cultural Centre, 5183 Sheppard Avenue East (at Progress Ave)

Analysis of 512 St. Clair for Jan-Feb 2010 (Part 1: Headways)

In the previous series of four articles about the St. Clair car, I review operations in January 2010.  Quite noticeable within the data for January was a change in line management style in the last week of the month with a more regular pattern of short turns and generally more reliable service.

On February 14, the TTC implemented new schedules with longer running times in an attempt to overcome problems with the original versions.  Headway reliability on weekdays improved slightly, although the largest change had already come with the new line management scheme.  On weekends, although the worst of the bunching and gapping was reduced, there continued to be wide variation in vehicle spacing suggesting that the level of management necessary to ensure reliable service was not present.

I have now received February 2010 data for the St. Clair route, and this series of articles will review what it shows about the effect of the new schedules on various aspects of the operation.  Here I will review headways at key points, and in future articles I will look at link times, general line management and intersection delays.

Continue reading

Service Changes Effective May 9, 2010

Construction diversions on several routes will begin or continue in May.

504 King and 508 Lake Shore: 

King cars will continue turning back at Roncesvalles and Queen, but will reach there via Shaw and Queen Streets.  Watermain construction which last year caused Roncesvalles to be torn up last year moves to King between Ronces and Jameson.

The 504 shuttle bus will be rerouted and extended to run between Shaw and Dundas West Station bothways via Roncesvalles looping via Strachan, Douro and Shaw.

No date has been set yet for resumption of streetcar service on Roncesvalles, but this is expected to be in the late fall.  The diversion via Queen and Shaw is expected to last to the end of August 2010.

502 Downtowner and 503 Kingston Road Tripper

The reconstruction of Bingham Loop, deferred from 2009, will occur this summer.  Buses will replace streetcars over both routes until mid-August.

Replacement bus services will loop via Victoria Park, Meadow and Blantyre to Kingston Road.  The peak service on both routes will be improved from 7’30” to 6’00”, but offpeak service on the 502 will remain at 20′.

22 Coxwell and 70 O’Connor

Reconstruction of the bus loop at Coxwell station requires the removal of all bus service.  Routes 22 and 70 will interline, and all of the “O’Connor” service will run through to Queen or to Victoria Park depending on the time of day.

Existing interlines between the O’Connor, Gerrard and McCowan routes will be discontinued during this period.

72 Pape

Construction at Pape Station requires that the Pape bus be rerouted to loop at Donlands Station.  Passengers transferring to this route from the subway at Pape will do so using on street stops.  This diversion will last until the end of 2010.

The seasonal extension to Cherry Beach will operate during the evenings Monday to Friday, and all day on weekends and holidays.  This will run until Labour Day.

512 St. Clair

The mixed streetcar and bus operation on St. Clair is expected to last until the latter part of June 2010 at which point the TTC hopes to restore streetcar service to Gunn’s Loop.

509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina

The seasonal fare collection scheme on Queen’s Quay will be in effect until Labour Day.  No fares will be collected eastbound on Queen’s Quay between Bathurst and Union Station on weekends after 3 pm, and there will be collectors stationed in the tunnel linking the Union Station Loop to the subway.

One PCC car will operate on the Harbourfront route on Sundays until September 5, 2010 between 1130 and 1930.  This will run as an extra, and will be subject to availability of both a car and an operator.

Seasonal Route Extensions

  • 72 Pape to Cherry Beach (see above)
  • 28 Davisville to the Brick Works
  • 29 Dufferin to Ontario Place (service south of Dufferin Loop will be split between the 29B Ontario Place and 29D Princes Gate branches)
  • 86 Scarborough to the Zoo
  • 85 Sheppard East to the Zoo
  • 510 Spadina King short turn extended to Queen’s Quay on weekends
  • 165 Weston Road North to Wonderland

Other Route Changes

  • 25 Don Mills service north of Steeles removed (York Region request)
  • 29 Dufferin trial service in Exhibition Place rerouted to operate via Manitoba Drive, Canada Drive, Princes’ Blvd., Nunavut Rd., and Nova Scotia Ave to Manitoba Drive.
  • 224 Victoria Park North service extended to Elgin Mills (York Region request)
  • 96B Wilson route changed via Claireville Drive
  • 96C Wilson service removed from Thistledown Blvd. early mornings and late evenings

Service Level Changes

Many route have new schedules starting on May 9 primarily for seasonal changes in demand.  The details are in a spreadsheet linked below.

2010.05 Service Changes