Notes From a Lecture at Ryerson University

This post is intended as a link to the presentation I gave today at Ryerson University.  It is substantially the same as the material shown there, with the following changes:

  • Images from the City of Toronto Archives are linked directly from the document so that readers can access the full resolution versions on the City’s site.
  • A few comments have been added

Some material here has been recycled/adapted from the Public Transit 101 Webinar that I gave for the Maytree Foundation earlier in 2010.

The presentation contains some information on the streetcar system as it existed in 1972 when the fight to preserve it was launched, and with it, my “career” as a transit advocate.  This is not intended as a definitive description of the pro-streetcar position, but as an overview of the conditions that applied at the time.

2010.09.24 Ryerson Lecture Notes V2A

16 thoughts on “Notes From a Lecture at Ryerson University

  1. Steve,

    Excellent slide presentation. I wish I had been there to hear you speak. were any of the mayoral candidates there? If not, their transit “dreams and illusions” don’t have much creditability. They need to understand these issues.

    Steve: This was a lecture for a 3rd year planning class.


  2. I am glad you mentioned mobility hubs in your lecture. When I read Metrolinx plan with all the mobility hubs planned with most connected by a GO rail link I thought this type of system would get a lot more people out of cars knowing that they could get around without going to Union Station. If each mobility hub were served by a lot of feeder buses more and more commuters wouldn’t have to drive to a GO station anymore to get on our transit infrastructure.

    I read a stat, I can’t remember where, but it stated that Square One is the second busiest transit station next Union. I hope Mississauga Transit gets an LRT line because it seems they are already pretty dedicated transit users without any rapid transit infrastructure besides their GO Station. I rarely go to Mississauga but I hope for good transit throughout the GTHA.

    Steve: Another major hub, if various agencies would get the lead out, would be the airport. Everyone wants to serve it, but not this year. Come back in a decade or so. Very sad.


  3. I am absolutely astounded at the chart comparing today’s peak hour headways with those of 40 years ago. Imagine the difference in the transit culture, and the approach to riding, that we would have if we had that level of service today.


  4. The drop in Bathurst is jaw-dropping. I had no idea the Bathurst car was ever so well served. How much of that 3/4 drop is attributable to the reintroduction of service on Spadina?

    Steve: The 45 cars/hour (1’20” headway) dates from October 1971 before the Spadina subway opened. By October 1980, it was 24 cars/hour (2’30”). In April 1990, it was 15 ALRVs an hour (4’00”). The wider ALRV headways coupled with irregular service (operators on this short line tend to make up the schedule as they go along), drove away a lot of riding.

    The February 1996 budget cuts took it down to 12 ALRVs/hour (5’00”), and by September 2006, this was 12 CLRVs/hour. Now it is 10.6 CLRVs/hour (5’40”).

    The Spadina car started in July 1997, and so most of the cuts pre-date its introduction. This is a good example of how the TTC managed to decrease its active fleet requirements through service cuts, and now can’t field enough cars out of the fleet it has.

    Although the TTC has 195 CLRVs and 52 ALRVs, peak scheduled service is only 157 CLRVs and 38 ALRVs. This means that for every four CLRVs in service, there is another one in the shop. For every three ALRVs in service, there is one in the shop. These ratios reflect the age of the cars and the difficulty of getting spare parts for equipment designed 30 years ago. Also, for the ALRVs, the cars are used only on Queen, and during the AM peak for part of the King service, and so the peak usage could probably be improved if only the TTC would run more service. (Note that restoration of service to Roncesvalles Avenue will require approximately 5 cars over current peak service.)

    The active bus fleet is about 1700 vehicles of which peak service requires 1469. This means that for every 6.4 buses on the road, there is one in the shop. This spare factor is much more in line with industry norms and reflects the fact that the bus fleet is comparatively new.

    The subway car fleet totals 678 cars of which 556 are required for peak service. This gives a ratio of 4.6 active subway cars for every spare. The ratio is a bit better than the CLRV fleet, but not by much. TTC management claims that the new TR cars will be much more reliable than the equipment they will replace (H4/5/6 series cars). We shall see.


  5. Are there really only 16 cars on the 506 during the AM peak period? Earlier this week I was waiting for an eastbound 506 at Yonge just after noon and over about 10 minutes I watched more than half a dozen 506 cars moving in a convoy westbound plus three running in a pack eastbound. So that’s more than half of the vehicles on the route clustered around Yonge! Is this why NextBus route maps were taken down?

    Steve: There are 32 cars on the 506 Carlton route during the AM peak on a headway of 3’45”. This is equivalent to 16 cars/hour. Note that the chart is cars per hour, not vehicles assigned to the route, as this shows service quality and capacity allegedly available to riders independent of any other effects such as changes in running speed, addition of terminal layovers, etc.

    As for the convoys, yes, on the NextBus charts they are quite embarrassing. They show up on my route analyses too, but NextBus would make them visible to all. I am pursuing the absence of maps with the TTC. Given that their proposed “open data” policy will include real-time data feeds, there is no reason not to make the maps visible to the public. If they don’t, someone else can fairly easily duplicate this capability.


  6. In the 1970s, the population in the old City of Toronto was in decline. For instance, on Bathurst, the TTC didn’t scare away ridership on the 511. It declined first, and that led to a reduction in service. Increasing car ownership, especially among women, led to a further decline.

    The subway was a different story however. From the schedule I have, it ran on a 3 minute headway OFF PEAK during the weekdays in 1966. To this day I don’t think we’ve ever seen the off-peak service on the Bloor subway that high. Whether the service was that high because of the interlining I don’t know, but it’s strange that the off peak frequency in those days was pretty close to the rush hour service we have now. This one is hard to figure out, given that we now carry 4x the number of passengers we did back then.


  7. I’m sure ridership on the streetcar might pick up if the Bathurst bus offered some semblance of reliable service.

    Steve: Possibly, but the streetcar gets most of its riding at Bathurst Station from the subway, not from the bus. If you watch people getting on or off of the bus, they go to/from the subway. Same for the streetcar. It’s much more a question of origin/destination patterns.

    The great irony is that the TTC’s Hillcrest facility gets unreliable service. Must be all those streetcars fouling up traffic on Bathurst in North York.


  8. @Mimmo Briganti: Weren’t the off-peak trains shorter than the peak trains in 1966? The Gloucesters were a 50/50 mix of cabs and trailers that could split into two trains in the middle. That means that a 3-minute off-peak headway with half-length trains in 1966 is the same capacity as a 6-minute off-peak headway with a full-length train today.

    Steve: Short trains operated only in the evening and on weekends. The practice was discontinued because the overhead of taking trains apart (extra yard and shuttle crews) exceeded the operating savings, and delays associated with breaking trains (it didn’t always work smoothly) were eliminated.


  9. I think that the decline in Bathurst streetcar service can be explained by two things: the deindustrialization of the waterfront, and cannibalization by Spadina and Harbourfront. The Bathurst streetcar would have probably seen high usage by factory workers in those days, whereas in the 80s and 90s that area declined as an industrial area causing a reduction in demand. More recently in the 2000s there has been much condo development along the foot of Bathurst, but the recently built Harbourfront streetcar is generally a more convenient way to access most parts of downtown than the Bathurst streetcar, and so the Bathurst streetcar is relatively underused relative to the rest of the streetcar network (except during the CNE). Also the Spadina streetcar has probably reduced demand on Bathurst to some extent because the very high frequencies that Bathurst used to run have been shifted over to Spadina.


  10. Karl — no, not initially. Line integration forced an excess of service — full-length trains on a 3min headway Mon-Sat all day (2’15” rush) — 4min all day Sunday. Short trains were used on Sat. and Sun. only. I recall that the TTC was specifically grilled about this from the commissioners (as a way to save money and unnecessary car mileage M-F because the TTC first started reporting deficits as soon as BD opened) and their response was “we find it highly desirable that ALL trains stop in the same place”.

    When the lines were split, Bloor ran with 4-car trains all day, even during rush hours. This continued for several years. The shorter trains were annoying — lots of times you’d see passengers standing at the end of the platform running to catch up to a short train that just passed by. I suppose that’s why they built Sheppard with shorter platforms.


  11. What’s the conversion factor between the new streetcars and CRLVs? More importantly, will the new streetcars run on the same headways as existing? Cutting frequency because new vehicles have higher capacity would probably lead to a decrease in usage.

    Steve: The conversion factor is probably close to 2:1, although the TTC has stated that the replacement ratio will be lower taking into account the backlog of demand on some routes, and a maximum 10 minute off-peak headway.


  12. I’m in planning at Ryerson and I’ve never heard of this. What is the course number? The slides are really basic and factual, nothing critical (except of Metrolinx and GO of course). Regional transit, FTW!

    Steve: Don’t know the course number. It’s being given by Richard Gilbert and David Gurin, and they were third year students.


  13. Great presentation – I just got back from a trip to Europe and it is truly astounding how they get the idea that transit leads development, and fund it accordingly, in a way that we don’t. In Vienna for example they have built 6 subway lines since the 1960s in a city that has not grown in population, and continue to build. Yes they pay higher taxes but if it were truly put to Torontonians whether they wanted to pay a transit tax, I believe we would in spades. Infrastructure policy is ultimately social policy, and as important as health care or education in this respect. We don’t fund infrastructure in Canada and this is the problem – we look at it as a frill to be built in good times, and until it it is placed on the same level as other areas of public policy we will continue to suffer the affects of underfunding: gridlock, bad planning and way too many cars.


  14. With respect to the historical vs present day cars per hour, how do PCC cars compare to CLRVs in terms of capacity?

    Steve: About the same. The CLRVs are slightly longer. The real benefit comes with all-door loading when capacity at the back of the car is fully utilized.


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