The Toronto Transit Commission held a long Board meeting on July 14, 2010, that, as reported elsewhere, spent much of its time on the Greenwood/Donlands second exit proposals. This article is a compendium report on other agenda items of interest.
The full agenda is available on the TTC website.
The Chief General Manager’s Report brings the stats on TTC operations up to May 29, 2010. Notable points in this report include:
- Ridership is 5.6-million or 3.0% above budget to May 29, and this is 0.9% above the same period last year. TTC staff had budgeted for a ridership drop resulting from the fare increase, but riding continues to climb showing that factors other than cost continue to attract people to transit, at least on a net basis.
- The link between employment and ridership is now totally broken. Starting in 2009, employment in Toronto fell relative to the previous year, but TTC ridership kept growing. An important distinction here, not made by the TTC, is that employment losses have been disproportionately in the suburbs where transit modal split is low.
- The TTC expects to finish the year 7 million rides above budget. This implies that most of the gain has already happened, although there will be some drop-off likely from the week of G20-induced absence of commuting to and from the core area.
- In September, service cuts made in March 2010 based on anticipating riding loss will be reversed, and further cuts planned for the fall will not be implemented. One peak train will be added to the BD line.
- The station cleaning blitz (described later in this article) will require additional temporary personnel.
- The cost of these extras will be recovered partly from higher fare revenue, and partly from savings in tax liabilities, fuel consumption and fuel pricing.
When the Toronto Rocket (TR) trainsets were orders from Bombardier, the contract did not include automatic train control equipment even though a project to resignal the Yonge-University subway was already foreseen.
The TTC has now approved a further $31-million for ATC equipment on the 70 TR trainsets on order (these will replace the H4, H5 and H6 fleets, as well as provide trains for the Spadina extension).
Installation of this equipment will occur at the Thunder Bay plant during manufacture of the trains starting at set 9 in the order. The first 9 trainsets will will require “extensive retrofit work” at the end of the production run.
This staff report presents several alternatives for additional loops, turns and diversion tracks on the streetcar system. Of those proposed (the full list is in the report), five were recommended:
- College & Bathurst, southwest quadrant bothways. This would allow Carlton and Dundas cars to divert via Bathurst between their respective routes. Curves in all other necessary quadrants already exist at the intersections of Bathurst with College and Dundas Streets.
- Carlton & Church, west to south. This curve would aid, to some extent, in diversions although its usefulness is limited by the absence of a matching north-to-east, as well as an east-to-north curve at Dundas & Church.
- King & York, east to north. This curve was proposed the last time this junction was rebuilt, but it was not installed due to budget constraints. A matching curve should also be added north-to-east at York & Adelaide when that intersection is rebuilt.
I raised these issues in a letter to the Commission, and the suggestions noted above have been referred to staff. Another outstanding issue is the question of Broadview Loop. The staff report plays down the benefits of this loop versus its cost, and yet Council recently approved acquisition of the property for it in a land swap between the TTC, the City, the Toronto Parking Authority and private owners. This matter may surface at the TTC again later this year.
A separate suggestion for a track connection on Dufferin north from Queen initially to College by Philip Webb was referred to staff for comment.
The TTC planned to invite proposals from the major vendors of cell phone service (Bell, Rogers and Telus). However, at the meeting, a representative from Bell appeared as a deputation to announce that the three companies had reached agreement in principle to undertake jointly to construct the facilities needed for their systems to operate in subway stations including platform level.
This joint venture will likely eliminate the need for a competitive RFP to the carriers.
The TTC participates in the City’s Open Data Initiative, but only on a limited basis. They are now working to provide feeds that can be used by Google Trip Planner based on current schedule data. Additional data feeds not mentioned in the staff report, but added by request of the Commission include real time data from the GPS-based NextBus system, historical archives of GPS-based data (such as those I have used for route analyses) and exposure of the NextBus real-time maps on the web.
No date has been announced yet for reappearance of the maps on NextBus, but the motion approved by the Commission specified “by the end of 2010”.
A report regarding a final policy on Open Data will come to the September Commission meeting.
Station Cleanliness and Appearance
At the end of this long meeting, staff presented an overview of the current audit of station cleanliness. There are five rating levels assigned to the components in a station.
- Orderly spotlessness (100%)
- Ordinary tidiness (80%)
- Casual inattentiveness (60%)
- Moderate dinginess (40%)
- Unkempt neglect (20%)
The audit and standards are based on industry norms for facilities management, and the evaluation is conducted by an independent party from the TTC. The target level is 80%, but the TTC has only risen with difficulty to a level of 67% as of May 2010. Part of this is due to the size of the available workforce, and partly to the way the staff are deployed.
From February 2008 when the program started to May 2010, the overall ratings have gone from an average at the 60% level (57 stations ranking from 50% to 70%) to a higher average (45 stations in the 60-70% band, and 21 in 70-80%). No station exceeds 80%.
In 2010, the TTC created new escalator cleaning crews and acquired equipment that clears dirt and debris out of the escalator treads. This improves the appearance of the escalator and also reduces the buildup of material that could cause an escalator to stop.
A separate three-person crew has been assigned to capital programs. This will deal with situations where stations undergoing major upgrades and maintenance will be cleaned specially to deal with the side effects of the large projects. One might think this should be an integral part of any project, but at least the TTC has now recognized this omission in its planning and staffed for it.
Additional staff for general cleaning in stations were proposed but not approved by the City Budget Committee for 2010. This situation was, in part, due to an ongoing debate about the status of Special Constables who cost the TTC substantially more than cleaners. The matter has now been resolved with the planned transfer of the Special Constable force to the Toronto Police Service later in 2010, and the proposal for more cleaners will be part of the 2011 TTC budget.
Even without the new full-time staff, the TTC plans a “cleaning blitz” of all 69 stations by the end of 2010 using temporary staff. The effects of this should appear in future system audits.
The TTC’s overall goal is to reach an 80% average rating in 2013.
Related to the station cleanliness program is a scheme to improve ceiling quality both through better management of ceiling slat removal, cleaning and replacement, and the implementation of a new suspended ceiling system using tiles rather than slats. Still to come is a report discussing the plans, if any, under which a station would be converted to use the new system, and whether there would be an ongoing program to change out every station over time.
Floors and walls have begun to receive attention, and this program has expanded from preliminary work notably at St. George to other stations. The TTC plans a 6-year cycle to refresh all stations in the system. Some stations are already underway.
- St. George: This was the prototype station, and everything has been finished except cleaning and repairs on the walls across from the platforms beside track level. Unfortunately, this is the surface most riders see all the time, and the station looks as if it hasn’t been cleaned in years. A constraint here is that track repairs underway at St. George crossover have priority for power cuts and off-hours work, and the walls won’t be dealt with until later in 2010. Why the two jobs cannot take place simultaneously is a complete mystery to me. The TTC will test a process to clean the off-side walls from platform level this month.
- King, Spadina and Chester Stations: In progress
- Yonge and Bay Stations: Replacement wall block is on order.
Subway Car Cleaning
The TTC plans to test a scheme during the last two weeks of August at Downsview and Kennedy Stations. A day shift of cleaners will remove debris from cars as they cycle through terminals, and an evening shift will clean cars as trains go out of service (from Downsview to Wilson, and from Kennedy to Greenwood). This scheme is expected to be much more efficient than having cleaners go through the yards to reach trains for cleaning.
The TTC changed its cleaning procedures for buses in May, and has managed to improve the frequency and quality of cleaning with no additional staff.
Again, I cannot help wondering why it has taken so long for this organization to improve the efficiency of its operations as station and vehicle cleanliness is important both for operator morale and for the general attractiveness of the system. At least we are finally seeing results.
Platform Edge Doors
The agenda included an item on a review of the business case for platform edge doors, but this was deferred for further study.
Council has not approved any work on PEDs, but there will be a provision in the 2011 budget “below the line” (no funding available) as a placeholder.
The designs for two of the Spadina extension stations were on the agenda, but they were not discussed. I looked at a model of Highway 407 station, and what is most notable is the sea of parking beside the station. This is the GO Transit model of suburban stations applied to a TTC environment.
There has been no discussion of the rising cost of stations on the Spadina extension which has consumed all of the project contingency and also required some elements to be simplified or eliminated.
Transit Commissioners should demand a full accounting of this project including any scope changes to stay within budget. This will be important if, once the line opens, we discover that there are “add ons” requiring funding to make up for cuts to the base project. More generally, the Commission (not to mention other politicians and the public) need to understand how costs and scope for projects like the Spadina extension can grow over time.
Far too much media and political attention has been placed on the St. Clair streetcar, a project whose total cost would pay for a bit more than one station on the subway extension. Because the subway has a “charmed” life thanks to its strong political backing, nobody asks embarrassing questions about it.
The design of the Spadina extension at Finch West Station has triggered a problem for the oil industry’s tank farm northeast of the station. A 1954 bylaw prohibits the transportation of inflammable liquids over subway structures, and the layout of both the Finch LRT station and the subway tunnel interfere with existing operations of trucks at the tank farm, and the TTC seeks an exemption to this from Council.
The matter was before the July Council meeting, but was deferred, and this now threatens the Spadina extension project timelines.
I cannot help wondering how many other locations see petroleum products routinely transported through the city, and how this bylaw will affect plans for new lines including the Eglinton LRT, the DRL and any other underground transit expansions.
This report gives an update on the schedule for award of major projects in the Spadina extension project.
A report and presentation on the status of various Transit City projects were on the agenda, but time prevented them from being considered. The presentation has been rescheduled to the August meeting. (Note that the online version of this report is incomplete and is missing most of the appendices. These show maps of all of the lines, and include a report on Community Relations and Outreach.)
The Commission approved the award of the Agincourt Grade Separation contract at this meeting.