Has Transit Short-Changed Toronto?

Toronto’s election campaign has produced two real stinkers in the Mayoralty race.  Rob Ford wants a few subway extensions, elimination of streetcars and everyone else left to buses.  Rocco Rossi would sell Toronto Hydro, use the supposed proceeds to build subways, and last but not least, extend the Spadina Expressway via a tunnel to downtown.

I will not waste space on critiques of these plans.  The proposition that subways will solve every problem has been discussed at length here and doesn’t need yet another round.  The idea of an expressway tunnel is so outlandish, so contrary to four decades of city planning, so much an attack on the City of Toronto, so unworthy of one who would be Mayor, that it deserves only contempt.

However, these ideas come from somewhere.  “Out there” the pollsters must say there is a gold mine of resentment by those who drive, and by those who would drive given half a chance.  That translates to support for anyone who wants all transit plans to take a back seat to right-thinking, road-oriented policies.  How, in a city that considers itself a progressive, pro-transit 21st century metropolis, is this possible?

The origins lie decades ago, even before the Spadina Expressway was stopped by then Premier Davis.

In 1966, the TTC network was much smaller, the east-west Bloor-Danforth subway had just opened from Keele to Woodbine and extensions to Islington and Warden would follow in 1968.  The TTC contemplated suburban transit and proposed a ring line using streetcars (what we now call LRT) northeast into Scarborough, then across the Finch hydro corridor, and finally south and west to meet the western subway terminal.  The line included a branch to the airport.

Meanwhile, Queen’s Park, enamoured of high-tech transit, fell into an oft-seen trap of Canadian politics — policy exists to serve industrial development, and plans are gerrymandered to serve industrial/manufacturing aims before the actual needs of the province or city.  This always starts out with the best of intentions, but can do great damage when the product falls short if its hype.

Such was the case with the original scheme for magnetic levitation urban transit and a variation on “personal rapid transit”, probably the most expensive taxi system imaginable.

Leaving aside the debates on maglev, GO Urban and what eventually became the RT technology, there was one basic problem.  The momentum to build into the still-empty suburbs was lost, and the perceived cost of new transit skyrocketed.

By 1990, frustration with the inactivity on transit expansion culminated in an announcement by then Premier Peterson of suburban subway extensions plus the Waterfront West LRT.  The Sheppard subway was added to the mix at the last minute to bump the total spending numbers, a vital part of a pre-election campaign.

Peterson lost to Bob Rae, and the NDP government inherited this plan.  Facing a recession in the construction industry, the last thing the NDP wanted was talk of scaling back expensive transit construction or replacing it with a less-costly alternative.  All we actually built was a tiny chunk of tunnel on Eglinton and the beginning of the Sheppard Subway.

The Rae government begat the Harris regime and an almost complete withdrawal of Queen’s Park from transit funding from which Toronto has never recovered.  The TTC slashed service across the board, and particularly hard-hit was the streetcar system. It gained two new lines (Spadina and Harbourfront), but not, on a permanent basis, the extra cars needed to operate them.  For a time, system riding was down, and a smaller fleet was all the TTC needed.  However, this compromised the TTC’s ability to add service in peak periods.  Streetcar lines that once boasted frequent service all day turned into nightmares of overcrowding and unreliability.

The scheduled AM peak service shows a nearly 20% the decline in service on the streetcar route network.  The numbers below are for the routes that existed in 1981 (all current routes except Harbourfront and Spadina).

  • February 1981:  239 standard-sized cars
  • November 1990:  217 cars of which 34 were ALRVs (75-foot cars) for an equivalent capacity of 234 “standard” cars
  • September 2010:  169 cars of which 38 are ALRVs for an equivalent capacity of 188 “standard” cars.  If the 504 were running to Dundas West Station, this number would rise to about 194.

Streetcars became synonymous with bad transit service just as the city began to reverse the trend to suburban living. The many new downtown and near-downtown condos show there’s a market for in-town living, but the new residents must put up with poor transit service, not the greatest advertisement for life without a car.

TTC compounds the problem with poor line management, indifference to service quality and the attitude that “TTC culture” prevents any improvement.

Bus riders in the suburbs encounter similar problems on busy routes, but at least in recent years a fleet refresh plus improved loading standards make some difference although many would argue that the TTC is still only barely keeping up to demand.

Plans and promises for new transit lines are on the back burner in Malvern and Northern Etobicoke, two remote outer parts of the City.

Car drivers see no improvements. Overwhelmingly they drive outside the core, indeed outside the 416. No subway will help them, and transit in the suburbs is a distant second choice.

Even for commuters to downtown, GO has been starved for expansion, and service is very core-oriented.  Bus service in the 905 generally supports peak direction, peak period travel, and the idea of a “transit lifestyle” is unheard of.  The first line proposed for frequent all day GO service is an airport shuttle at a premium fare serving almost none of the potential demand in its corridor.

There are many plans including the most recent consolidation, Metrolinx’ Big Move, but little action.  Planning aims to reduce congestion and pollution, but even the best case only keep pace as population and travel growth outstrip capacity benefits.

Funding stretches out to the dim future, and politicians’ will to engage in debates of tolls or taxes is held hostage by the “no new tax brigade”.  Even business groups like the Board of Trade recognize the need to invest in transit, but this is very slow to appear.  We won’t see major improvements for years.  The glass is more than half empty.  After $50-billion in transit spending, congestion won’t be much better than it is today, although more people will be riding transit.

Can we blame motorists for thinking nobody takes them seriously, that nothing will ever be done? Politicians talk about transit, but until quite recently did little to actually improve it. Half measures are the norm, and real transit improvement throughout the GTA is always something for tomorrow when fiscal and political pressure might relax enough for a tiny bit of new spending and revenue generation.

How can regional governments justify big spending on transit when they see little hope of Provincial support and Metrolinx treats local service as something others will pay for?

Motorists are left steaming in their traffic jams.  We have built a region on car travel, but at a density the road network cannot support.  No subway line will cure problems on the 401.

Our challenge is to build and run enough transit to handle the demands transit can reasonably address. We will never solve all of the road problems>  On some roads, life will become worse for motorists as more and more capacity is devoted to transit, cycling and pedestrians.

Trying to “solve” congestion by turning the clock back 50 years on highway plans, by gutting the surface transit system, will do nothing but make even worse the long-standing need for better transit. A “war on transit” solves nothing.

Every politician, every agency at the city and provincial level needs to speak with one voice on transit improvements. The TTC above all agencies must show how it can run better service to improve the lot of transit users today.  The City and Province must lead on transit planning, construction and service, and engage voters on the issues of new revenues for capital and operating spending.

Politicians with facile “solutions” who appeal to a motorists’ nirvana that cannot be attained, should be dispatched to the electoral dustbins they so richly deserve.

111 thoughts on “Has Transit Short-Changed Toronto?

  1. “A subway along Queen would draw enough riders from King and Dundas that all three routes could be abandoned. ” M. Briganti

    My situation is fairly typical for downtown users. I take the Dundas car from near Ossington to Univesity to get to work. The trip is usually 15 minutes. But it takes nearly 10 minutes, walking at a good clip, to get from Dundas to Queen. And walking over to Ossington then waiting for a bus to Queen is even longer. You’ll have a hard time persuading the Dundas car riders this proposal is a good idea.

    The King and Queen cars might possible be eliminated, if the subway ran under Adelaide or Richmond, which are within 5 minutes walk of both streets. But I say, put in the subway and leave the streetcars, they serve the short haul needs of the many people who live, work and play in the area.

    That said, I do want a Queen (or King, or Adelaide) subway for long trips, and zipping through the downtown congestion. Furthermore, the subway might attract travellers who now drive along King and Queen, which would reduce the traffic which ties up these streetcars making them more effective too.

    Steve: You have raised an important issue here, the access time to get to (and from) a subway line’s stop. People on the old section of Yonge and BD don’t face huge hurdles for this because stations are close together. On the Eglinton LRT, the proposed layout east of Yonge is not so felicitous, and a surface bus will be required to offset walking distances. Remember, by the way, the word “accessibility” and it refers to more than Wheel Trans. If someone faces a long walk to get to service, especially with a steep grade, that service may as well not exist for some riders. West of Yonge, the station spacing is more like that on the Bloor line, but there will still be complaints about longer walks, I am sure.

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  2. “The problem with this statement is that some choices harm others, and therefore must be suppressed.”

    Indeed, and I’m not understanding this rhetoric of “choice” when it comes to public space. When hundreds of thousands of people have to share limited space, as they do in downtown Toronto, your “choices” are necessarily going to be limited by the need to accommodate other people. Why is making it more expensive to drive an infringement on “choice”, while removing the option to ride a streetcar isn’t? Every government action takes away some choices for some people. That doesn’t tell you anything in and of itself.

    Maybe Stephen Cheung personally supports transit, but his favourite politicians clearly do not. Ford’s transit plan for downtown is all about getting non-drivers out of the way of cars — not getting us where we want to go, just getting us out of the way, in buses or on go-nowhere-in-particular recreational walking and bike trails.

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  3. Adam Kretschmann said “The TTC had 31,000 complaints for the first eleven months of 2009 (I apologize but I could not find the 2010 statistics) which works out to somewhat less than three complaints for every employee”.

    It seems unlikely to me that if every TTC employee is boorish (or churlish, for that matter) they would each get only three complaints from all the people they harass in one year. This statistic does not tell me that most TTC employees are generally boorish to riders. Also my experience, which on the average includes interactions with 3 employees per day, suggests that either I am very lucky to have at most one complaint a year or that TTC employees do not generally deserve to be called boorish. When someone else tells me almost every employee they meet is a boor I think that either they unknowingly do something to get poorer treatment than most people get or they only remember the unpleasant experiences (perhaps confirmation bias).

    Steve: For the record, I ride the TTC a lot. Most employees I meet are at least civil, some downright friendly. There’s the occasional curmudgeon, but often even they are provoked. It is important to distinguish between outright rudeness, and complaints about things like being unable to board, or having transfer disputes.

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  4. With respect to replacing the 501/504 with a subway, dream on. I do believe in a DRL, but mainly as an express routing that will connect the B-D and underserved areas to downtown (such as Liberty Village and the Lower/Don Distillery District). By the time it gets built (if ever), it will be a major priority to relieve overcrowding on the B-D and lower Yonge, not to replace local transit.

    There is no purpose for the DRL to duplicate GO service. We already have GO lines for express travel, and now the discussion is on electrifying them to run much more frequent service, some of which could be in place before a DRL would likely be constructed.

    Such duplication of infrastructure is uneconomical, and express trains are not even the TTC’s target market, but even more uneconomical are long tunnels with no stations. If the money is going to be sunk into tunnels, they must have frequent stations to be easily accessed, well-connected to the broader transit network, and serve a wide variety of destination-origin pairs, in order to draw the high ridership needed to justify their investments. The bread-and-butter of transit is large volumes of scattered shorter trips, and subways are no exception, and need to be capable of that function, especially in the off-peak where it needs every rider it can get.

    Subways should not be express, and like both the original Yonge (1954) and Bloor-Danforth (1966) lines, which are the most successful subways, good subways should replace a popular, heavily-used surface route, and they can if they’re designed as a local service (like central B-D or south Yonge), as they should be.

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  5. To Adam Kretschmann — the fact that the TTC received 31,000 complaints doesn’t prove that the TTC has “churlish employees” unless we know how many of those complaints were actually about employees as opposed to late vehicles, cleanliness, etc.

    To Andrew — your experience notwithstanding, it really is possible to run errands downtown using the streetcar. I do it all the time. My rule is never to wait, because waiting is aggravating — you get the “watched pot never boils” effect, which is pretty powerful even though it’s all in your head. I just start walking right away, and get on the streetcar if and when it comes. (Which, believe it or not, it usually does — and it feels like it comes much sooner if you’re not waiting around for it.)

    Steve: I strongly advise use of the NextBus website if you have browser capability on your PDA of choice. It allows you to “look over the hill and around the corner” to know whether a car is only a few minutes away, or coming some time next week. I use it regularly to make on the spot stay-or-walk decisions, and sometimes to look at alternate routes if they are nearby. It’s the best unadvertised service the TTC has.

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  6. Stuart Hargreaves said:

    “The crucial problem is leaving projects that are (by their very nature) long-term and capital-intensive to the vagaries and whims of short term political expediency. Without a sustained and guaranteed level of funding from the federal and provincial governments, expensive (in the short term) transit projects that will not reap gains for the city until years after their completion will always be a prime target for small-minded politicians like Ford […].”

    Really, the main problem is the fact that it takes so long to construct a project, in combination with the high cost. A number of Transit City routes have received guaranteed funding (even if for staged construction) and the contract for LRVs has been signed, but that hasn’t stopped Ford and others from suggesting that we can turn transportation policy around on a dime. It takes so long to plan, design and build a new line that construction hasn’t progressed that far (ignore the time and budget expended for planning and design), and the construction budget is so large, that it can be tempting to see little consequence in halting construction in favour of substantially different priorities. Transit City was announced not long after Miller’s re-election, and it took four years to plan, design, get the public on board, get other levels of government on board, get funding lined up, get construction contracts signed, and get construction underway.

    For that matter, there were TBMs at work under Eglinton when Harris pulled the plug. Funding wasn’t the issue for that, since funding had been announced and construction was underway — it was the fact that it takes more than one election cycle to get substantial infrastructure projects planned, designed, funded and built. It’s also complicated by having multiple levels of government involved, with different election cycles.

    (Multiple levels of government could be a challenge for Transit City. We’re relying on Metrolinx and the provincial government as having veto power over a Ford administration, for example, but if the provincial election also results in a change in government to the Hudak Tories, Transit City may lose the support of the two main funding partners.)

    A saving grace could be that it works both ways. If Rossi were to promise a Toronto tunnel, for example, it would be unlikely that construction would be underway by the time he was up for re-election, allowing someone to run on an anti-tunnel position.

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  7. How quickly we forget. 2008 and the price of gasoline and other petroleum products was skyrocketing, only coming down with the recession. We wanted alternatives to the car: less sprawl, more bicycle lanes, more transit.

    We have still not got out of the recession, which is why the price of gasoline is lower than in 2008. The demand is not there, but will return. The price of gasoline will go up, as the supply goes down or the demand goes up. Putting more cars on the road, as some mayoralty candidates seem to want, will also increase demand. Do they own oil stock?

    Remember 2008, and don’t stop building better transit. Build all kinds of public transit now, for our future depends on them.

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  8. Steve says:
    “I strongly advise use of the NextBus website if you have browser capability on your PDA of choice. It allows you to “look over the hill and around the corner” to know whether a car is only a few minutes away, or coming some time next week. I use it regularly to make on the spot stay-or-walk decisions, and sometimes to look at alternate routes if they are nearby. It’s the best unadvertised service the TTC has.”

    I agree BUT, and it’s a big but, is that the NextBus system (Beta though it still is) is not ‘tweaked’ when a route is in a fairly long-term diversion. They have ‘disabled” it for the 504 stops on Roncesvalles while it is under construction but not for the stop not being served for 3+ weeks due to the trackwork at Parliament. It is not very good to tell people that the next car will be at Jarvis in 5 minutes if, when you go there, you see a sign saying “Service on Queen”! Surely it’s not hard to do this – even just a “Construction Project” note on the page for all the stops on a Route would be enough.

    The TTC also needs to connect its various systems better (actually, at all!). It would be useful (and easy?) to add the phone numbers for each stop to NextBus (and the web schedules). The NextBus version for San Francisco has exactly such a note:
    Stop number: 15650
    Phone: 5-1-1
    SMS: 41411 “nbus sf 15650”

    Finally, the route maps on NextBus have still not returned – though I was assured they were coming back ‘soon’ several months ago.

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  9. I also have taken many, many TTC trips to run errands on Queen West. I don’t have context for Andrew’s story — how far away from each other were his destinations? is he unable to walk short distances? was he carrying something heavy? — but I find it amazing that a person who lived downtown would entirely give up on public transit after one bad experience. I’m hardly an uncritical admirer of the 501, but it does get me where I want to go most of the time — and since I don’t have and can’t afford a car, I don’t have the luxury of writing off the TTC.

    I have also had few truly bad experiences with TTC operators, and I’ve been taking the TTC regularly or semi-regularly since 1993.

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  10. “The reality is that many people will ALWAYS choose a car over transit no matter how good that transit it. Conservatives always love subsidies when it for selfish reasons but hate subsidies for the common good. As a car owner, and transit user I would love to see road tolls, higher gas prices, higher taxes to pay for transit and other innovations such as usage based insurance. This would help ensure that where I live is more of a community and less of a highway.

    Steve: Continuing on that sentiment, I am offended by a suburban politician who applies the model of a hypothetically congestion-free, six to eight lane suburban arterial road to streets downtown where people actually walk, shop, eat, live… If this were in Rob Ford’s burbs, there would be acres of parking around the cinemas and no street life, indeed no streets in the “city” sense of that word.”
    ———–
    Hear, Hear!! Both of you! I live downtown and bike, walk, or transit/taxi to fun and services — which works especially great if that “fun” includes any alcohol. I work in northern Don Mills, so commute by car 95% of the time — which works especially well if I’m staying late. Yet as a driver I don’t want to see any changes to downtown that better favour automobiles — I welcomed the Jarvis change (I’ve always HATED that centre alternating lane — the new set-up is clearer, easier to drive and easier for tourists to comprehend, especially for those of us who only end up driving downtown off-peak), I would happily pay a toll for my commute if that went to new projects, and have no complaints about gas taxes that support transit (bring ’em on!). Apparently that makes me crazy to penny-crunching suburbanites, but it’s my neighborhood, my downtown streets that I live on, and my property values at stake… and I reject having them changed just to benefit suburban drivers at my expense. I’ll defend the King Streetcar until I’m blue in the face… and even as a driver on King Street, I’d support a plan to limit car traffic on that road during peak hours (and off-peak too). It’s practically a local street in the evenings — at least east of Yonge anyway — with plenty of capacity on Richmond/Adelaide so aside from old vehicle issues I’ve rarely seen problems with the King car service that are much more than just automobile traffic getting in its way. Fewer drivers on King, and presto! improved King Streetcar service. Ford instead wants to make King into all rubber-wheel traffic, for what gain? None that would benefit the locals, that’s for sure. I don’t want him instilling suburban attitudes onto my neighbourhood, no more so than suburbanites want downtown attitudes foisted onto them. Two different worlds, and I’ll be looking for mayoral candidates that understand there is a difference and don’t look to homogenize all of us under a common suburban-style brush.

    So much of the inner-suburb congestion is related to the street patterns anyway. Downtowners don’t experience gridlock off-peak the same way, as city-core drivers have a closer grid to find workarounds and locals know better than to drive on the same streets that the non-locals get directed to on their GPS. If the new leader wants to start barreling through the mile-and-quarter grid to provide new road space in congested Scarborough and North York, go ahead… get them towards the street pattern that streetcar development at the turn of the last century did and they’ll become happier commuters – way more smaller through streets rather than funneling everything to mega-wide arterials. But much like so many other notions and ideas that too will be sluffed off as crazy and impossible (and let’s face it, it is), but to tackle congestion out there by attacking the areas that work better is equally crazy to me. I suppose I give mild kudos to plans that put heavy rail through stretches of the suburbs, but doing that without radical changes to the street pattern above and alongside that rail just turns the effort into a wasted one to me. You want a downtown style system, you gotta make a downtown style community along it. To me spending less on LRT is better bang for the buck, as it demands less of the wholesale overhaul of the neighbourhood than HRT. Sure, it could be harder to zip along at 80kph in your car, and left turns are a hassle, but you’ve better matched a system to what the planners in the 50s gave us when they devised those roads. But suburbanites, as Steve suggested, often seem to only see things in the patterns and styles they’re accustomed to… for the two big city solitudes, I suspect never the twain shall meet.

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  11. Toronto Hydro is a capital asset owned by Toronto and has been paid for over time by Torontonians through their hydro bill. As an asset, it can be sold to raise cash. But the buyer now has a large capital debt that he must service by increasing the hydro bill. Also expect then to add 6-10% just for profit that the city does not currently collect.
    In fact Torontonians will be forced to pay and pay for whatever cash was raised as an increase in hydro rates. This is WORSE than a tax to raise the money.

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  12. The star read some of the complaints long story short, some of the drivers are boorish

    For all the talk of transit expansion has anyone here considered what might happen if interest rates rise? The choice of the next mayor might turn out to be a less important variable than most people think. Also worth pondering – a sovereign debt crisis or even all of the above…

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  13. With the talk about a new subway line and the Dundas, Queen, and King cars I would like to enter the discussion:

    1) What about the services provided by the Dundas and King cars outside the downtown core if these lines are abandoned?

    2) Along with the DRL, we do need a Queen subway. However, the three streetcars mentioned (Dundas, Queen, King) need to be kept for two reasons – to bring people into downtown and for short haul service. The subway will help get people from the suburbs into downtown (and if it serves Roncesvalles Ave. and Broadview) will connect with the King car. I am sorry, but no one can make me believe that people would walk from Dundas St. down to Queen to catch a subway if they are going a short distance.

    3) For me, the subway should start somewhere near Humber River/Humber Loop and head east (or northeast) to Queen and Roncesvalles (with access to the subway there) and then east along Queen to somewhere east of Broadview. This would then make two connections with King (at Roncesvalles and Broadview), but also allow the TTC to re-assign most of the 501 streetcars to provide better service on the east and west ends of the route with some service through the downtown core (in part to supplement the 502 in the core) for short haul users.

    At the end of day, I am not anti-car, but if there is reasonable and convenient service people will take transit. The problem in Toronto is that the service is not always the best as the best option. However, if we did not have it, people would find that it would take longer to get everywhere by car.

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  14. Has transit short-changed Toronto? I think that it is the transit and city planners that have short changed Toronto. Their myopic North American view of how transit should be run has ruined the city of neighbourhoods. Let’s count the examples:

    1) St. Clair ROW – that project was handled so badly that it has spooked many a BIA about building more LRT’s in Toronto.

    2) Scarborough RT – All I can say is this. Thankfully Scarborough is blessed with many local and express connections.

    3) Sheppard Subway – A stubway that doesn’t even help buses run on time because most buses have to pass through the busy Sheppard-404 interchange. Notwithstanding the fact that it acts like a spur of the Yonge line because it doesn’t connect to the Spadina line.

    4) Spadina Subway – Building a subway in the middle of a freeway? Best way to drive away local demand due to high car traffic (not safe for pedestrians).

    5) 501 Queen – Enough said.

    6) TTC-GO connections – I think Toronto is the only city in the world where going from one system to another is difficult and expensive. Not to mention the extra fare North of Steeles/West of Renforth/Airport.

    7) My personal beef: Museum station. Low use station gets a ugly makeover. Gets dirty easily. Still not accessible (not even with chair lifts). Adding this station creates tight curves such that cross platform interchange at St. George or Bay station (like Lionel-Groulx in Montreal) is impossible.

    I could go on, but you get the feeling that transit planners in Toronto don’t really care about making things work in the long run.

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  15. For those people who think that streetcar elimination and road extension might resolve the traffic congestion i would recommend to take a look at Mexico City. It has an extensive subway network. Its streets and boulevards are much wider comparing to Toronto plus it has several highways in the city core. All streetcars but two lines that were converted into LRT/subway lines ceased operation in 1979. They have buses that were supposed to “effectively replace streetcars”. What we have at the end of the day? Enormous traffic congestion. What i’ve heard from its former residents it takes 2 hours min to get to a job. In fact, the entire city is a parking lot now. Is that what you want for Toronto?!

    At the same time, Vienna with its 5 subway lines, 30 tram ( primarily POW) and 83 bus routes doesn’t have major problems with traffic. Having said these two examples I wonder where exaclty would you prefer to drive?

    My point is don’t be ignorant to what is going on “out there” if you don’t want to repeat the mistakes of other cities. No doubt, if you eliminate something now you can get an immediate result, i.e. a little bit faster traffic on this particular street. But, please, also think of what would happen down the road too.

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  16. Re: Karl Junkin

    “Subways should not be express, and like both the original Yonge (1954) and Bloor-Danforth (1966) lines, which are the most successful subways, good subways should replace a popular, heavily-used surface route, and they can if they’re designed as a local service (like central B-D or south Yonge), as they should be.”

    Subways are ideally designed for medium to long distance commutes, not local ones. There are several reasons for this.

    First, costs. When you are spending hundreds of millions of dollars just to build one kilometer of transit in its own corridor, you had better hope it moves faster than the streetcar or bus on the street. Obviously it is also to handle increased demand and capacity, but even the most dense cities in the world operate subways with spaced out stations.

    Secondly, accessibility. Even if we had our subways stopping as frequently as local buses for local access, passengers would still have to navigate into and out of stations rather than simply boarding from the side of the road. This delay makes subways less practical for local use that surface options.

    Finally, it just begs to human nature to increase the speed of transit. People may want transit from their front door straight to their destination at high speeds, but we can’t do both. More frequent stops allows for increases the likelihood of door-to-door commutes, but at slower speeds. Research shows that people are willing to travel longer distances to reach faster transit. Do you think people would drive/walk/bus long distances to suburban GO stations if they stopped every 500 meters? These are overwhelmingly choice riders who choose to take transit over driving because it is faster. In many cases, there are local options available to their destinations, yet people still take faster commuter services.

    Obviously our subway is not designed for long distance commuter trips, that is what commuter rail is for. With subways, it comes down to a balanced compromise between providing speed with good local service. While there is no set rule for station spacing, generally it is about a kilometer give or take depending on density and desired speed.

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  17. Ben, maybe in the suburbs yes, but downtown no. I agree with Karl.

    Ernie said …

    “7) My personal beef: Museum station. Low use station gets a ugly makeover. Gets dirty easily. Still not accessible (not even with chair lifts). Adding this station creates tight curves such that cross platform interchange at St. George or Bay station (like Lionel-Groulx in Montreal) is impossible.”

    I don’t know how many times I have to explain this, but St. George and Bay are inside a *grade* separated wye. They are not transfer stations by design, so the comparison to Montreal is invalid. Those tight curves? … look at the church at Avenue Rd. and Bloor — there’s your answer.

    Steve: Also the ROM and the Massey Building on the southwest and southeast corners respectively. It’s a tight fit for those tunnels.

    “4) Spadina Subway – Building a subway in the middle of a freeway? Best way to drive away local demand due to high car traffic (not safe for pedestrians).”

    Pedestrian access to the Spadina subway does not involve crossing Allen Rd.

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  18. Re: Ben Smith

    Subways are ideally designed for medium to long distance commutes, not local ones. There are several reasons for this.

    A subway has the same economic fundamental as a surface route (rail or free-wheeled): It will perform better, collecting higher revenues while experiencing less crowding, with a higher volume of scattered short trips than a high volume of concentrated long trips. Subways are for short-to-medium distance commutes when built well. Because the original Bloor-Danforth and Yonge lines were replacing local streetcar services, they had to be designed for short as well as medium distance commutes, and this is a good thing as it is a key factor in their strong performance.

    First, costs. When you are spending hundreds of millions of dollars just to build one kilometer of transit in its own corridor, you had better hope it moves faster than the streetcar or bus on the street. Obviously it is also to handle increased demand and capacity, but even the most dense cities in the world operate subways with spaced out stations.

    The primary factor is capacity, not speed, because the simple reality is that any exclusive grade-separated transit route will travel faster than a transit route that shares traffic signals with intersecting road traffic (I’ll exclude mixed traffic and all-door loading issues since that can be resolved on surface routes). When spending hundreds of millions of dollars per kilometre, you have to be able to draw as high a ridership as possible, which you will not do if you are not serving the highest possible set of origin-destination pairs.

    Furthermore, economics dictates that it is woefully inefficient to run both a bus service and a subway service in the same corridor, and only a subway designed to accommodate local as well as medium distance trips will avoid the pitfall of requiring bus running on top of it.

    Capital is one thing, but the operating costs have to be factored in as well, as that’s the recurring, annual, permanent expense that has to be dealt with. The running structure has to be maintained regardless of how many people are riding the trains on it, so it had better be able to serve all transit trips in its corridor.

    Secondly, accessibility. Even if we had our subways stopping as frequently as local buses for local access, passengers would still have to navigate into and out of stations rather than simply boarding from the side of the road. This delay makes subways less practical for local use that surface options.

    Do you know why a subway ultimately cannot stop as frequently as a bus? It’s because subway trains are ~137m long. That’s longer than city blocks in a number of parts of town.

    Having to enter a station does have some impact on accessibility, but this is offset by having 24 sets of doors to load and unload from. This is why the fundamental of subways being built for capacity, not speed, is so critical. It hardly means that a subway cannot serve local trips. If subways couldn’t serve local trips, streetcars would still exist on Bloor St and Danforth Ave, but they don’t, because the Bloor-Danforth line was engineered to serve local trips along the length where it replaced a streetcar (mostly). Beyond Jane and Main, the distances between stations get substantially farther apart, but they weren’t replacing a popular streetcar route at that point and so the engineers lost their way and designed the line poorly in those sections.

    Finally, it just begs to human nature to increase the speed of transit. People may want transit from their front door straight to their destination at high speeds, but we can’t do both. More frequent stops allows for increases the likelihood of door-to-door commutes, but at slower speeds. Research shows that people are willing to travel longer distances to reach faster transit. Do you think people would drive/walk/bus long distances to suburban GO stations if they stopped every 500 meters? These are overwhelmingly choice riders who choose to take transit over driving because it is faster. In many cases, there are local options available to their destinations, yet people still take faster commuter services.

    Most people still drive to most GO stations, and moreover, GO’s schedules still leave a lot to be desired on most (if not all) of its routes. One of the reasons people drive a lot to GO is that any delay on their bus trip to the station would mean 15+ minutes until the next GO train at most stops besides Oakville.

    Subways, even off-peak, generally come at intervals scheduled no greater than 6 minutes. In rush hour, it’s less than 2.5 minutes. It’s that frequency, which when combined with the exclusive grade-separated right-of-way translates into very high reliability, that makes subways so attractive. While the exclusive grade-separated right-of-way increases the speed of service by default, how attractive the service is is determined by its reliability and its convenience. Convenience is influenced by how easily accessed the system is at both ends of a trip, i.e., the origin-destination pairs. The closer the stations along a subway route, the greater the number of origin-destination pairs that subway can serve, and that drives up its ridership.

    If people are travelling very long distances, they should not really be using the subway unless they don’t mind taking a while. They should be using GO service; that’s the kind of trip that GO exists to serve. Fares are an issue, of course, but just because the fare system discriminates against certain trip types doesn’t mean the TTC should be serving trips with subways that are uneconomical for subways to serve. Reality is that subways are uneconomical for large volumes of long haul trips concentrated at a certain destination in/near downtown. So is driving, for that matter, but the road network is subsidized to such unsustainable degrees that nobody realizes how uneconomical it actually is to live so far from work.

    Research shows that able-bodied young adults are willing to walk farther to reach a railway with high travel speeds, but there are many people, which will continue to become an increasing percentage of the population, who are not willing, and some not even able, to walk as far as an able-bodied young adult. What about those travelling with children? What about those travelling with things to carry above a certain weight? What about those that have difficult terrain between them and a subway station? What about access during times of year where the weather is a little less than hospitable? The research that suggests anybody can walk 800m to a subway stop is bogus, because it has far too narrow a scope that is unrepresentative of the broader needs that transit must be designed to service if it is to be a real travel option to most people. Subways must be local in nature to reach the most people, and being able to reach most people is good for the economics of subways.

    Obviously our subway is not designed for long distance commuter trips, that is what commuter rail is for. With subways, it comes down to a balanced compromise between providing speed with good local service. While there is no set rule for station spacing, generally it is about a kilometer give or take depending on density and desired speed.

    A kilometre is way too high, and the Bloor-Danforth line actually never even hits 1km between Jane and Main, although in 4 instances it comes quite close (but one of those is crossing the Don Valley). Almost all are less than 700m, and many are even under 600m. Along southern Yonge, you’ll find stations less than 500m apart. This is good subway design, evident by the ridership that lines with such station spacing carry. It’s also good for the economic activity along a corridor, as businesses do better in areas with close station spacing (see Bloor West east of the Humber) than those with far station spacing (see Bloor West west of the Humber). It’s the convenience of access and the reliability, not the speed, that drive the popularity of the service. Not to suggest that there isn’t a time threshold considered tolerable, but as you seem to agree, that’s where GO comes in, as it is designed for that.

    Steve: I have to chime in with one more observation. Despite much of the TTC mythology to the contrary, large parts of the subway depend for demand not on walk-in trade, but on feeder routes. In areas where that’s your primary mode of access, the placement of the stations is almost secondary because nobody actually walks to them. In areas with significant pedestrian traffic and fine-grained local demand, things are much different. One cannot apply a model from, say, lower Yonge or the central BD line to a suburban subway line.

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  19. One problem I don’t like seeing are these amateur transit planners, who try to put forth their ideas without doing research into their ideas. They don’t know the costs involved, or the infrastructure needed to support it, or what zoning is required to make it so, or what is required to maintain it, or to see what history has produced elsewhere from their or other ideas. They maybe good at brainstorming ideas, but don’t want to take the time to scrutiny them.

    We saw what happened to cities across North America when the great idea of replacing streetcars with buses happened without good research. We ended up with cities like Detroit with their empty downtowns without sprawl all around.

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  20. The Nanos Research survey of 1,021 Torontonians pegged support from decided voters at: Ford — 45.8 per cent; Smitherman — 21.3 per cent; Joe Pantalone —16.8 per cent; Rocco Rossi — 9.7 per cent; and Sarah Thomson — 6.4 per cent.

    No doubt, such results are devastating. And apparently these elections are all about Ford. Sadly, but we have no choice but to vote either for him or the candidate who could stop him. By now its Smitherman though I personaly would prefer Pantalone. If this disposition changes by October 25, it will make sense to vote for Pantalone or Thomson. Other two candidates MUST revoke their nomination if they really care about Toronto. I have to admit though, even combined these three don’t accumulate enough votes to beat the right extremist Ford (44.5% vs 45.8%).

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  21. I agree with most of what Karl wrote above, but one thing does stick out. He argues that a subway can serve local (i.e., shorter-distance) trips, and that Bloor–Danforth was designed in such a fashion. I should add that while much of this has to do with station spacing, it also has to do with the design of the station itself. In particular, this refers to the distance required to walk (and, to climb stairs) to travel from the entrance to the platform — compare Don Mills with, say, Woodbine — but it can also refer to the route (travel time) for a bus to enter the bus loop (Downsview, I’m looking at you).

    From what I recall, the Spadina extension stations will be moving in one direction, while the underground Eglinton LRT stations will be moving in the other direction.

    I would imagine that the station size / design not only negatively impacts accessibility and convenience, but also cost. A great deal was made of the Sheppard stations being “bare bones” (concrete walls at platform level; unfinished ceilings), but I would have to think more savings would be achieved by more modest station footprints/layouts, closer to what we see on the older stations.

    Steve: Yes, when the Sheppard line opened, I was astounded to find how deep and unfriendly the “secondary” exit from Bayview, the one that would supposedly serve the new high rises to the south, actually was. The older parts of the city have fairly shallow subway stations, generally speaking, with surface connections a short distance from the trains.

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  22. “The TTC contemplated suburban transit and proposed a ring line using streetcars (what we now call LRT) northeast into Scarborough, then across the Finch hydro corridor, and finally south and west to meet the western subway terminal. The line included a branch to the airport.”

    I had not heard of this before. Do you have a link to a map of this proposal?

    Steve: Please refer to a previous article I wrote about the SRT. It includes a link to a Globe and Mail article and map showing this scheme.

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  23. Numerous blogs and “reports” exist explaining why LRT and Streetcars are superior than buses due to economic, financial, environmental, and physical reasons. It is touted in many blogs that Streetcars are very effective at revitalising neighbourhoods and encouraging economic activities.

    Very few articles make a case for streetcars over subways however, besides from that streetcars cost less. I’d like to read up on how streetcars compare with subways not in terms of capital and operating costs (we heard that too many times), but in terms of neighbourhood renewal or economic development. Here are a few questions I have (some may be severely biased):

    What would happen to the neighbourhood if Queen Streetcar were to be replaced by a Queen Subway (with small stop spacing)? How about with longer stop spacing (600 metres)? This is assuming limited or no surface transit on Queen Street.

    Do subways hinder walk-in-trade trips to businesses and services?

    Steve: This is a bit tricky because construction of a Queen Subway would have a very severe impact on the neighbourhoods involved that would make the St. Clair project look like child’s play. It would also depend on how many existing buildings needed to be demolished to provide all of the primary and secondary entrances, as well as emergency tunnel exits for locations with wider station spacing. There is also the question of whether one would do a deep bore tunnel or cut-and-cover. There are tradeoffs in cost, local side-effects, and complexity of stations for this choice. The original Queen subway would have run in a cut rather like the section of the Yonge line north of Rosedale. This would have been along the north side of Queen behind the existing stores through a neighbourhood that was described in the plan as being run down and not seriously affected by that type of invasive construction. Things have changed a bit.

    On the BD line, there were large areas that were affected by the change from streetcar to subway service that caused the loss of walk-in trade, and it took a long time for some areas to recover. Queen Street is also seeing a lot of development either in progress or planned. Wider station spacings would tend to encourage very dense development at the stations.

    Why hasn’t Bloor/Danforth redeveloped into high-density, now that it has a subway line underneath?

    Steve: City policy was to preserve low-rise neighbourhoods, and much of the original BD ran through areas that were not ready for development anyhow. The subway itself does not make development, and this is a myth the TTC has perpetuated for decades.

    Don’t subways increase land values? Doesn’t that mean the small business owner pays higher rent or taxes?

    Steve: Yes, land values tend to go up, and can price neighbourhoods out of small business (and residentail tenant) reach. There would be a similar, if smaller, effect with an surface LRT line, but the downtown streetcar streets are not candidates for that sort of operation.

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  24. In case anyone still cares about my streetcar errand experience …

    I’ve lived downtown for my entire time in Toronto so far, about a decade. I’ve been fortunate always to live near the subway, and have work either within walking distance or also on the subway. Also, over the distance of a few streetcar stops (at which the streetcars apparently excel), I prefer to walk, so I don’t use the streetcars much. I am a metropass holder and a car owner.

    On the day in question, I had a bunch of errands to run, all along Queen Street. I started off at Queen and Church, and decided to do the farthest errand first (around Dufferin) and work my way back — I realize that’s a long distance in streetcar-land, but it’s not an outrageous distance on the map, or on the subway (Gmaps calls it 4.4 km, and along Bloor it would be 7 subway stops from Yonge). Anyway, the first car took forever to arrive, and the car inched through dense Saturday traffic across downtown. From when I started waiting, I think it took an hour to get to Dufferin. My errand completed, I started waiting for the eastbound car. Again, it took forever to arrive and was slow. By this time I knew I had to meet someone later, so I bailed on the rest of my errands and just went home. I got back about three hours after starting. By contrast, taking my car, three hours is tons of time to visit 3-4 places along Queen.

    I grant that this may have been a bad day for the streetcar, but I’ve noticed that bad days are not untypical. I used to live on Dundas east of Yonge, and on a Saturday it would not be unusual for me to walk all the way from my place to Spadina without being passed by a streetcar. Also, on that brutal stretch from Church to Yonge, beside Yonge-Dundas Square, if the streetcar happened to be at the corner I used to hop on for the quick trip to Yonge … until I realized that, even if the streetcar was right there, much of the time it was faster to walk.

    As long as I’ve been a Torontonian, I’ve never really been interested in the streetcars. I put that down to two things: first, I didn’t grow up here, so they are not caught up in any of my fond childhood memories; and second, I’ve been to other cities with tram systems that work well, and it’s dispiriting to then come to Toronto and understand how mediocre the Toronto streetcar system is in comparison.

    It’s true that some drivers wouldn’t take transit under any circumstances, but the vast majority of people, like me, are rational, and will take the best mode of transport that suits their needs. And so, like me, lots of people have decided that they would rather drive on Queen Street than take a slow and frustrating ride on the streetcar. As a result we have jammed streets that slow the streetcars further.

    As long as I’m on the soap box … let me also say this: in retrospect, the decision decades ago to keep the streetcars has been shown to be, more or less, a failure. Two reasons: first, the fact that in 2010 we are still having serious debates about whether to keep the streetcars — while other cities are reinstalling them left and right — is clear evidence that they (i.e., the TTC’s streetcars, not streetcars in general) don’t work as transit. By comparison, our world-class subway system works very well, so it’s no surprise that “subways everywhere” is a resonant message. Second, the mediocre streetcars suck all the oxygen out of the room when it comes to talking about LRT, because everyone’s first impression is that the TTC will be running new streetcar tracks all over the city instead of the subways that everyone wants (memo to the “Where No Streetcar Has Gone Before” people: not helping). If you want to know why Transit City didn’t capture the public imagination, the explanation is three words long: Five Oh One.

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  25. Time for one GTA transit authority?

    I think the time has come for Metrolinx to take over the TTC, MiWay, Viva, GO Transit, etc. under one umbrella organization across the GTA.

    Each organization will still be separate, getting representation from the city they operate under or privately run, but overall control will be from people who
    are more expert in transit than petty politicians with their latest brainstorming idea. And I don’t mean General Motors or their ilk.

    Steve: Sounds like the old political Metrolinx that Queen’s Park got rid of because they couldn’t stand the idea of elected politicians having control. As for “experts”, be careful what you ask for. The gang in power tends to appoint “experts” who support their agendas.

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  26. Once again, I will go on a rant about Boorish TTC employees.

    Bought a day pass last Saturday with my wife. Went first to Chinatown and walked down to the King and Spadina area where I wanted to take a streetcar east to St Andrew Station.

    Wife is holding TTC pass and goes ahead of me first (she’s 5 months pregnant, so she goes ahead). A family of six with 4 kids crowd in front of me before I am able to get on. My wife is waiting for me near the entrance of the streetcar to identify me as her husband.

    Streetcar driver: “Hey, you have to pay your fare”

    Me: “I’m actually with my wife, we have a day pass”.

    Streetcar driver: “I didn’t see you get on with your wife, you’re not with her. Pay your fare.”

    Me: “Well I got separated from my wife when that family came on board.”

    Streetcar driver: “I don’t care. Pay your fare or I have you arrested”.

    Me: “Look, my wife is here, we have a day pass.”

    Streetcar driver: “I don’t care.”

    Me: “Do you want ID identifying myself as her husband? Besides, isn’t it supposed to be two adults who share a pass?”

    Streetcar driver: “I don’t care. I enforce rules. Pay your fare or you will get into trouble.”

    Me (incredulous): “Why? We’re together. We ARE following the rules. We have a day pass.”

    What the streetcar driver said next really got my blood boiling.

    “You ethnic people think you can do what you want? You think you can tell me what to do? You Chinese Right-Wingers are the worst of the lot. Get out or there will be trouble.”

    What makes him think I am a right winger based on my appearance??!!?? And how dare he address me based on race?? Wife tells me to calm down and that we will get off the train. As she gets off, driver snatches the day pass from her hand. The action gives her a nasty papercut.

    Streetcar driver: “You don’t deserve to use this.”

    Me: “Hey, we bought that pass”

    Streetcar driver: “And you misused it. Get out now before I call the police”

    Me: “I want your badge number. I am going to file a report on this”

    Streetcar driver: “You won’t get it. I work hard for you and this is how you treat me? Get out now before there will be trouble”.

    Now at this point several passengers are trying to tell me to get out as I am holding up the car. Wife tells me to let it go and leave. Streetcar doors slam shut and driver speeds off. We end up taking a taxi to Yorkdale.

    This is the umpteenth time I have gone to the TTC and gotten this kind of treatment. Is there something about weekend drivers being absolutely miserable? Why are people defending these people when I encounter them every time I go on the TTC? Boorish employees just a small portion? I think not.

    This time, I did not file a complaint with the TTC customer service. Just too angry to. From now on, I will be driving downtown. We’ve staked out a lot that is $3 per day. Saves me a lot of the stress I have to go through with the TTC being jerks as they are. With my wife being pregnant, she did not have to witness such a jerk ruining our day out for us.

    When Rob Ford is elected (and I know he will), I hope he handles the issue of all boorish TTC employees first and foremost. All of them need to be canned. Now. The TTC needs major housecleaning if they want my business again. Accountability and Customer Service, two words I enjoy hearing but are absolutely missing from the TTC vocabulary.

    Steve: I fully agree that the way you were treated was unacceptable. The problem with large organizations, as even the blustery Rob Ford will find, is that it is not easy to reach down and pluck out the bad apples. This has less to do with the presence of a union than with the fact that the TTC’s culture is one of always finding someone to blame. Many, I would say the vast majority of operators do not act like this, but a culture that says “you’re all at fault” can produce a poisonous environment for everyone. Just this morning, I overheard a conversation between an operator and a fellow employee about how terrible the division they work in is, and how everyone in the TTC knows it. The problem? A superintendent that gives all of the staff a hard time.

    The TTC prefers to co-opt a “customer service” panel and have it write recommendations on how riders should behave.

    Firing everyone is simply not practical, and is undeserved by almost everyone be they staff or management. However, failure to hold those who do screw up accountable, failure to accept that the organization is far from perfect, that is a recipe for disaster which the TTC has managed to bring upon itself.

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  27. I was just at CITYTV’s website and just got to see part 1 of an anti-privatisation video and I think everybody who visits this website very definitely needs to see that video. I’d sure love to read your take on it, Steve.

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  28. Would the need for deep stations have anything to do with the citizenry’s general opposition to cut and cover construction (a design trade off) or is it just a choice that the TTC has made?

    Going back to what Steve has said in the past, a lot of people arriving at the subway do so via a feeder bus. Now look at an old propsoal with express-like station spacings like the old DRL with stops at Queen East, Atiritari, St. Lawrence, Union, Skydome, and Spadina.

    Having very wide spacings like this will force a lot of riders to bookend their trips with transfers on both sides or a transfer and a long walk. So instead of a trip looking like bus-to-subway-to-destination, it would look like bus-to-subway-to-another-bus (or long walk). Which one is more convenient? What’s the point of “saving” a couple of minutes only to lose it to a walk or transfer? As Karl has said before, it is false economy.

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  29. Roman says:

    For those people who think that streetcar elimination and road extension might resolve the traffic congestion i would recommend to take a look at Mexico City. It has an extensive subway network. Its streets and boulevards are much wider comparing to Toronto plus it has several highways in the city core. All streetcars but two lines that were converted into LRT/subway lines ceased operation in 1979. They have buses that were supposed to “effectively replace streetcars”. What we have at the end of the day? Enormous traffic congestion. What i’ve heard from its former residents it takes 2 hours min to get to a job. In fact, the entire city is a parking lot now. Is that what you want for Toronto?!

    At the same time, Vienna with its 5 subway lines, 30 tram ( primarily POW) and 83 bus routes doesn’t have major problems with traffic. Having said these two examples I wonder where exaclty would you prefer to drive?

    On the other hand Mexico City has 10 times the population of Vienna and 3 times the population of the entire country of Austria which could contribute to traffic a lot more than presence/absence of streetcar lines. I am not disputing that a proper network of LRT/subways will help ease traffic problems, just making an observation on the relative size of the cities in question.

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  30. Pedestrian access to the Spadina subway does not involve crossing Allen Rd.

    @M. Briganti: At Lawrence, it involves crossing the Allen Rd onramps. That’s not fun.

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  31. On Sunday, I exited a bar at Church and Richmond just after noon with the intention of taking the 504 to Broadview. (The 504 is currently diverting along Church and Queen). I walked to Queen and turned right. Queen Street was quiet traffic-wise. 1.3km later according to Google Maps a 504 turned up at Sackville Street. I don’t have a time for that but let’s assume Google’s 15 minute estimate.

    On arrival at Broadview another 504 pulled in behind just after I had alighted, and the LCD display inside indicated the next one would arrive in 19 minutes. On Sundays, the advertised headway at that time of day is 6-7 minutes.

    With Rob Ford polling the way he is, I think we will soon see whether the TTC really wants to keep streetcars in downtown.

    Steve: We will also see what BS excuse they make up to explain why they cannot run reliable service. We can then see how they try to handle all the passengers with buses. This is reminiscent of 1972 when the trolleybus replacement of streetcars on St. Clair assumed a 1:1 replacement and a significant cut in capacity. As things stand, the 504 cannot handle all of the demand it has today in the peak period.

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  32. Mr. Cheung, that is awful and I am so sorry you were so badly treated.

    However, I have to scratch my head at this: When Rob Ford is elected (and I know he will), I hope he handles the issue of all boorish TTC employees first and foremost. All of them need to be canned. Now. The TTC needs major housecleaning if they want my business again. Accountability and Customer Service, two words I enjoy hearing but are absolutely missing from the TTC vocabulary.

    Rob Ford isn’t going to do anything about the quality of service on the TTC, probably not anywhere and certainly not downtown. Rob Ford has made it clear on multiple occasions that he doesn’t use the TTC and his main concern is getting TTC vehicles out of the way of private cars.

    Union-busting tendencies aside, a mayor who doesn’t respect transit riders himself is not going to enforce respect for transit riders.

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  33. “Union-busting tendencies aside, a mayor who doesn’t respect transit riders himself is not going to enforce respect for transit riders.”

    Not necessarily. Rob Ford has been lobbying for better transit in his Etobicoke ward. I don’t have the articles, but I do know that Ford has pushed for better transit service AND gone to bat for some riders victimized by these boorish TTC employees. He’s just as frustrated that these guys are still in the service. He blames union protectionism. So do I.

    Steve: Ford has been totally absent on the issue of the quality of service in southern Etobicoke, and has let other Councillors do a half-assed job of defending their constituents. I have never seen Ford at a Commission meeting in person or by letter advocating for better transit, and of course his own plan contains nothing for Etobicoke.

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  34. While I have had my differences with Mr. Cheung’s stance on the issues, the event he describes, if true, is not acceptable at all and the employee should be disciplined. The general attitude alone sounded disgraceful, but the racial slur cannot be tolerated in a city that prides itself on diversity.

    Having said that, I would like someone on the right to explain to me how they expect someone like Mr. Ford to cut taxes and spending (and let’s not beat around the bush, that means staff wages) and improve customer service as he keeps repeating. I have no issue with a wage freeze when economic circumstances dictate, but if anyone can think that wages can be cut across the board, staff laid off, and the remaining employees threatened into providing better service, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell them. This is especially true at the TTC, as it has been documented here before how they are constantly looking for new operators and the washout rate is high. We can argue that things like fare collection could be done with more automation, but this is not like a supermarket where you can fire all the cashiers and stock clerks one day and have a brand new staff trained a week later.

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  35. The key to transit is a simple one, you need to make transit in such a way that people want to use it, that means that vehicles need to be: on time, clean, frequent, inexpensive, and there should be seats available on most vehicles for most trips. Staff should be courteous and neat. This is really the prime directive of transit.

    What we have in Toronto currently, is vehicles that are late or missing, when it does come, it’s dirty, expensive, crowded the driver looks like a slob and has a horrible attitude. This is what needs to be fixed, fix this and the rest falls into place.

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  36. I really hope that the next commissioner of the TTC, whoever they are, makes service quality a priority. It’s just impossible to advocate for expanded transit when service is unreliable. I obviously don’t know the inside story, but it does seem like one area where Admiral Adam has fallen short.

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  37. Sorry that happened Stephen Cheung, but you really should have reported that specific employee, instead of blaming the entire union and expecting innocent employees to be fired. You can’t just jump to the conclusion that the union condones such behaviour. How would you like it if a distant co-worker of yours got you fired because he said something sexist? That wouldn’t be fair to you or anyone else, whether you’re unionised or not.

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  38. “The general attitude alone sounded disgraceful, but the racial slur cannot be tolerated in a city that prides itself on diversity.”

    The racial slur was less offensive than his comment about me being a right-winger. I frankly don’t care about the fact that I’m chinese, it’s more of the attack on my personal and political views that set me off. Seriously, are TTC employees singling me out because I have conservative tendencies? And how do they figure this out? Someone outside of this forum suggested it is what I wear.

    Oh I get it, it’s because my wife buys my clothing for me. I don’t usually know what I’m wearing, she just hands stuff to me and says “You’re wearing this today”. I just looked at the tag on the shirt on my back and it says Banana Republic.

    It’s all becoming clear now: clean shaven, well dressed guys must be right-wing jerks, that’s what it is. Maybe if I dressed like a slob maybe I’d get more respect from TTC drivers.

    My friend said it correctly: “Wardrobes and TTC together react like hot oil and cold water”.

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  39. He’s just as frustrated that these guys are still in the service. He blames union protectionism. So do I.

    I don’t care how Rob Ford feels about things. I care about what he’s done and what he’s promised to do, and he has promised to make my commuting options worse, not better.

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  40. If Rob Ford were a streetcar operator I have a feeling he would be just as angry, mouthy and possibly racist as the guy in the above incident. Choose your heros carefully.

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