Updated June 3, 2010:
On June 2, the Commission didn’t decide to implement the 507 Dundas West option (described below), but didn’t kill off the idea entirely either. Some Commissioners balked at the $825k/year pricetag, but the greatest failing was the lack of strong support from the local Councillor who is not a member of the Commission.
I had the sense that individual Commissioners wanted to do what they could to improve service on Lake Shore, but could not figure out a way to do so without out appearing to overrule staff and give in to a local pleading, especially in an election year.
There was a side discussion of the Park Lawn Loop whose installation would extend the 501 Humber service a short distance westward providing better service to some of the Humber Bay condo area, but this project is one of many competing for capital funds in a tight budget.
The motions passed by the Commission were:
That the Lakeshore Boulevard Streetcar service matter be referred to staff for consideration during the 2011 budget process.
That TTC staff consult with City Transportation staff on the possibility of constructing a portion of the civil works related to roads, curbs, sidewalks and utilities required for the Parklawn Loop in conjunction with road construction this year, and further authorize the Chair and Vice-Chair to approve any reallocation of funds required for this.
The Chief General Manager be authorized within his authority spending level of $100,000.00 to approve any pro-active work considered appropriate for the proposed Park Lawn Loop.
[From draft minutes of the meeting supplied by the General Secretary’s office.]
I spoke to the subject, but nobody from the community appeared probably due to timing constraints and a sense that deputations would be fruitless in the face of TTC staff’s position on the matter.
The original post follows the break.
TTC staff continue to recommend against the establishment of a separate 507 Long Branch service in a report to be considered at the Commission meeting on June 2, 2010.
Little is new in this latest episode in the long saga of service to Lake Shore Boulevard west of Humber Loop. Particularly striking, however, is the degree to which TTC staff continues to misrepresent the issue to the Commission.
There are two proposals under study:
- A return to the separate 507 Long Branch car running west from Humber Loop to Brown’s Line, with the 501 Queen route reverting to a Humber-Neville service. Or …
- A 507 service from Long Branch to Dundas West Station via The Queensway and Roncesvalles.
The first of these options is not favoured by residents on Lake Shore because Humber is a poor and at times insecure transfer location, and because separation of the 501 and 507 in this manner will guarantee poor connections as much of the 501 Queen service wil short turn at Sunnyside.
The option of a 507 Dundas West car specifically addresses the need to overlap 501 and 507 services to ensure connections are maintained, and to shift this connection away from Humber Loop. Operating north to Dundas West Station would also supplement the 504 King service which (when it operated with streetcars before the water main replacement completed recently) was notoriously unreliable especially in off-peak periods.
A side effect of splitting off the Long Branch service from Queen is that the route would revert to CLRV operation and ALRVs (the longer streetcars) would be released for 504 King where any additional capacity is badly needed.
The report states:
Customers who use streetcar stops on The Queensway and on Roncesvalles Avenue/Dundas Street would benefit from more-frequent service; from a crowding standards perspective, there is no requirement to provide this additional service.
The issue is not crowding relative to scheduled service, it is the reliability of service that is at issue. A major problem with TTC service standards is that they address the hypothetical average load vehicles would carry if they were regularly spaced and all operated to the scheduled terminus.
Also, there would be some improvements in available capacity for customers who use streetcars on the 504 KING route east of Roncesvalles Avenue. While this would be a positive by-product of this option, it is not the issue which the proposed initiatives are intended to address and does not justify the additional operating costs of implementing this option.
The statement about capacity on 504 east of Roncesvalles relates to the reassignment of ALRVs now used on the west end of 501 Queen to the 504 King car. Contrary to the report, the availability of more ALRVs is one of the reasons behind the proposal. The whole point is to make an integrated set of changes to address a number of service problems.
Customers who use the service on Lake Shore Boulevard, west of Humber Loop, would benefit from some degree of improved reliability and, as noted before, this is the primary concern of customers on Lake Shore Boulevard. It is not possible to accurately predict how much the reliability of the service would be improved by shortening the route. As a result, the number of customers who would be attracted by the resultant improvement in service cannot be projected. Based on the cost increase of $825,000 per year, the service change would have to attract approximately 740 new customer-trips each weekday – or an increase of about 13% — in order to meet the TTC’s financial standard of 0.23 new customers per dollar of net direct additional operating cost. Staff’s assessment is, however, that it is unlikely that the service would meet this ridership and financial target.
As I have already discussed many times before and residents on Lake Shore have repeatedly complained, service west of Humber Loop is extremely unreliable. These data are available to TTC staff through this website, and I have often offered to meet with them on the more general issue of service reliability and the use of their own vehicle monitoring data to evaluate service quality and operations. This offer has never been accepted.
To say that it is impossible to predict how reliability would improve and what ridership gain might result is an abdication of the very purpose of service planning. The ability to predict ridership effects is at the heart of TTC service standards.
The claim that 740 trips is 13% of current riding implies that the daily ridership on Lake Shore is about 5,700. However, the TTC’s own statistics show that over 8,000 riders used the service west of Humber Loop in 2006. Other statistics and personal riding experience show that this route has strong local demand for travel within the Lake Shore area, particularly in the off peak. Improved service reliability on The Queensway and on Roncesvalles may also contribute to demand.
… the operation of this additional service at Dundas West Station would cause operational conflicts with the 504 KING route and, as a result, it would likely reduce service reliability on that route.
This implies that 507 Long Branch cars would take long layovers at Dundas West and, thereby, block the 504 King service. This is a dubious claim for three reasons:
- 507 Long Branch being a shorter route on less congested streets that 501 Queen would require much less “recovery time” to deal with random delays. This would substantially eliminate extended layovers on this route.
- Operators on the 507 would still enjoy a break with no worry of conflicting 504 service at Long Branch Loop.
- Service on the 504 in peak periods is much more frequent than the proposed 507 route, and most 504 cars would not be dealing with a 507, assuming the 504s even reached Dundas West Station.
- 504 cars themself take breaks (commonly seen at Broadview Station), and if anything it would be the 504 that would have “operational conflicts” with the 507.
TTC staff revert to the proposal of a single 501 service from Neville to Long Branch, and construct a straw man argument about the use of resources in difficult financial times. Having systematically ignored or misrepresented the purpose and benefits of the 507 Dundas West proposal, it is no surprise that they suggest the money spent on it would be a disproportionate use of scarce funding.
The issue of equity relates to the investing of increased resources in the transit service along the Lake Shore corridor, compared to other neighbourhoods in Toronto. There are other bus and streetcar routes where service reliability continues to be a concern to the TTC and to customers. In all cases, investing more resources, above and beyond what is currently supported by the Commission-approved service standards, would improve service quality, and would make transit better for customers. Faced with limited operating resources, however, how should the Commission determine if it appropriate to spend more resources to improve service on Lake Shore Boulevard in particular? In either case, there are no funds for such purposes included in the TTC’s 2010 operating budget owing to the current financial pressures facing the TTC and the resulting need to reduce operating costs to address projected shortfalls.
The Queen route has been plagued with problems ever since it was consolidated with Long Branch in 1995 as, among other things, a cost saving measure. Residents of Lake Shore have been paying that cost in service reliability.
As I have already noted, this proposal is not only about riders on Lake Shore, but also on Roncesvalles and on King Street West. Portraying the 507 Dundas West proposal as benefiting a limited part of the city misrepresents both its intent and scope of effect.
The TTC’s job is to provide service, and at times this requires spending money either on trial operations to test a proposal, or permanent changes in recognition of the cost of doing business. If this were a “squeaky wheel” proposal, funding might appear out of thin air after superficial debate, while changes to the Queen car, debated at length for years, is dismissed on financial grounds.
By contrast, the Humber Bay Express bus was approved by the Commission.
It is projected that the service would be used by approximately 380 customer-trips each weekday, of which approximately 40 would be new to the TTC and would be attracted by the new express service. The total amount of new fare revenue attributed to the service would be $153,000 per year, of which approximately $30,000 would be from the regular fare and premium fare from new customers, and approximately $123,000 would be from the additional premium fare paid by existing customers who would switch, primarily from the existing 501 QUEEN and 508 LAKE SHORE streetcar services.
The service would require three buses in the morning peak-period and two buses in the afternoon peak-period. The additional direct operating costs, net of the additional fare revenue, would be approximately $96,000 per year. The service would generate 0.10 new customers per net direct dollar spent. This is below the TTC’s minimum financial standard of 0.23 and, for this reason, the new service is not recommended. [See report from November 26, 2008]
The Commission approved this service which, reportedly, is carrying very few riders, despite the fact that even as a premium fare route, it requires additional subsidy, and was expected to draw riders mainly by diversion from existing streetcar routes.
The current report concludes with this statement:
Proposed changes to the streetcar service on Lake Shore Boulevard, for the purpose of improving the quality and reliability of streetcar service, would add between $825,000 and $2.4-million to annual operating costs for this route. There are no funds in the 2010 Operating Budget for such initiatives.
The daily cost of operating the Queen car is $87,500 according to the 2008 Service Improvements report. Scaling up to a year (using a factor of 300 to allow for weekends) brings the annual cost of the Queen car to $26.25-million of which the proposed change represents just over 3%.
The $2.4-million figure cited here applies to through-routing all Neville cars to Long Branch, and this is not the proposal under discussion.
I can only conclude that the report is deliberately written to make the effects and costs of changing the service seem much worse than they are, to minimize or ignore offsetting service quality benefits, and to manipulate Commissioners and Councillors into rejecting the scheme.