Update 4 on February 9, 2011 at 9:30 am:
I have now received the official text of the amendments passed by the Commission to the staff recommendations:
i) That staff review all of the routes and services prior to the implementation date to ensure that no routes were improperly assessed under this criteria.
ii) That service re-allocations, including minor reductions and improvements, be reported to the Commission on a quarterly, or semi-annual basis, based on the service thresholds established by the Commission.
iii) That TTC management staff be requested to report back to the Commission on the accuracy of ridership on transit routes that are affected and may qualify to have the service reinstated where the ridership trend may be justified.
Update 3 on February 5, 2011 at 10:30 am:
A section has been added at the end discussing the proportion of Ridership Growth Strategy service improvements that have not been affected by these service cuts.
It is fashionable in the current regime to knock anything done by the Miller/Giambrone administration at the TTC, of which RGS was a major initiative. Saying that the vast majority of the proposed cuts are (or were) to services that were implemented under RGS gives the impression that RGS was a failure. In fact, half of RGS additions to hours of service, and all of the headway improvements remain in place. One might say that there is a mandate for the Ridership Growth Strategy.
One cannot expect a largely new Commission to be aware of these facts, but it is disappointing that TTC staff never pointed them out either in reports or in responses to questions at Commission meetings.
Update 2 on February 3, 2011 at 5:00 pm: A section has been added at the end of the article reviewing some of the planned cutbacks from the viewpoint of alternative ways to deliver service as well as the compound effect of several cuts on routes serving the same area.
Updated February 3, 2011 at 3:00 pm: A section has been added after the main article detailing the positions taken by each member of the Commission.
February 2, 2011, will be remembered as the longest TTC board meeting to date (and I have been attending since late 1972) starting at 1:00 pm and ending after 10:00 pm, but its infamy rests with the abuse suffered by the public at the hands of the Commission.
Beginning at about 4:00 pm (after a long series of public deputations and a vote on the proposed Ashbridge Maintenance and Storage Facility, about which more in a later post), the Commission began to hear deputations on the proposed service cuts. The speakers list had 140 names when we began. A few were added along the way, and by the end of the deps at 8:49 pm, many had given up waiting for their turn. I will write in more detail about the type of issues raised, but the treatment the public received, especially by the Chair, Councillor Karen Stintz, deserves special mention.
Many people spoke to the hardships that cuts to their bus routes would bring, while many others spoke to the general issue that transit service should exist as a basic part of the city. Some services won’t do well, but citizens deserved access to their homes and workplaces.
Some of the deputants took time off work to attend the meeting and speak out for transit service and most were not, like me, “professional” attendees at the TTC. They waited a long time to speak, and those who stayed to the bitter end, waited even longer to find out if they had been heard.
Stintz agreed that, yes, service “reallocations” were the last choice in the tools available to a transit system in meeting growing demands on the system overall, but argued that what staff had recommended was “the greater good for riders”. Those words will haunt her. They should be posted on every service change notice at every affected bus stop.
For the greater good, you no longer will have service.
By the time she addressed her little homily to the multitude, thanking them profusely for their passion about transit, it was clear from other Commissioners’ comments that reversing any of the proposals was a lost cause. We could have saved a great deal of time if, back at the start of the meeting, Stintz had announced that a straw poll of the Commission showed that all of the cuts would be approved, and the deputants should just leave now.
The real insult came in Stintz’ characterization of riders’ pleas as being from self-interest, from saving their own routes at the expense of riders on busier routes elsewhere. That completely misrepresented the majority of the presentations. Some spoke of special needs for residents in neighbourhoods. Some spoke of safety walking late at night. Some showed that TTC riding counts were clearly off because actual usage was higher than TTC stats claimed.
I will return to the arguments in more detail in an update to this article, but a common thread was that there was more to a transit route than the riding counts, counts that many did not believe anyhow. Given the previous flagrant errors in the TTC’s analysis, it wasn’t a stretch to suggest that the counts were wrong too.
Stintz wished that all the riders who will benefit, eventually, from improved service could have attended to show their support. Of course those riders at least have a bus, crowded though it may be.
A mark of a civilized city is that it looks out for everyone, not just those with power, or money, or those whose demands on the municipal infrastructure can be cheaply served. We built the city as it is, hard-to-serve subdivisions and all, and we are stuck with the legacy of that built form. As a city, we owe decent service to our residents all the way from the thousands on rush hour subway trains to the dozens on late night buses.
Karen Stintz prefers to set neighbour against neighbour with the strong, the numerous, getting not just all of the pie, but the crumbs too.
That’s not my Toronto.
Updated February 3, 2011 at 3:00 pm:
Updated February 3, 2011 at 3:00 pm:
Although Chair Stintz takes the bulk of my wrath above, comments by other Commissioners are worth reporting.
Commissioner Kelly attempted to rescue the 162 Lawrence-Donway route because of its isolation, and the 116 Morningside Express service to UofT Scarborough campus. His proposals lost on votes of 2 to 6. I doubt that he expected these to succeed.
Commissioner Crisanti observed that the issue had been deferred from the January meeting to allow for feedback that came via the four public consultations. How he could ignore hours of deputations as “feedback” is hard to explain. He proposed a motion that staff review all routes and services to ensure that none were missed under the new criteria. The way this reads implies that he is looking for additional savings, but there was a lot of quick talking by various Commissioners that the real intent was to double-check the figures. The motion passed without any clarifying text, and I suspect that what it says is what it means but this was corrected in the official version posted in the update at the beginning of the article.
Commissioner Augimeri spoke to the issue of safety and long walks late at night. Her specific concerns were the 120 Calvington and 101 Downsview Park services. She noted that staff may do the math based on formulas, but the Commission needs to deal with the public good. To that end, she moved that the requirement for at least ten riders per hour on routes that are more than 600m from an alternative service be dropped so that remote areas would be guaranteed transit access. This motion lost 2 to 6.
Commissioner Milczyn supported the staff proposal, although it was clear that he did not understand how the revised evaluation actually worked. There is a mistaken impression (one that I myself had) that staff looked at a route over a period (say evenings 7 to 10) to determine if it achieved the ridership criterion in any hour. In fact, the change in procedure was to drop the requirement that routes do well weekday midday before they are considered for service at other times. This was a holdover of the pre-Ridership Growth Strategy Service Standards.
The change allows for non-standard demands such as the Downsview Park bus where the traditional sequence of peak, then midday, then evening, then weekend services would be implemented as demand builds. In some cases, there will be weekend or evening demand peculiar to a route, and this needs to be served.
Milczyn noted that when the Commission became engaged in the process, the originally proposed cuts and standards were reviewed on a finer level. He claimed that the cuts were not a “war on transit”, but a reasonable reallocation of resources where they are most needed with many outer suburban routes getting additional service.
He went on to say that 80% of the services to be dropped were added through the Ridership Growth Strategy’s full service initiative. This was a leap of faith, and there had been two years to see whether it achieved its goal. What he missed is that many of the RGS service adds remain in place, and saying 80% of the May 2011 cuts came from RGS does not mean that RGS itself was a bad idea.
It is worth noting that Milczyn has been an advocate and defender of the Humber Bay premium express bus which has not exactly been packing in riders. It will be intriguing to see how this route fares against the new standards for service productivity.
Commissioner Palacio moved that staff report quarterly or semi-annually on service changes and on underperforming routes, and that they report on the accuracy of ridership counts that may justify reinstatement of some cancelled services. He observed that the current proposal is the outcome of transparent public participation, ignoring the fact that none of the comments made in hours of deputations had any effect. Toronto is “broke”, and a fare increase to maintain underperforming routes would hurt the most vulnerable of riders. He missed the irony that some of those vulnerable riders will have no service at all. His motion passed 7-1.
Commissioner Parker echoed Cmmr Milczyn’s remarks and endorsed the staff position.
Commissioner Minnan-Wong stated that the RGS service adds in 2008 had cost the TTC $20-million. Resources are scarce, and deputants spoke against cuts to their own routes. In a bizarre twist, he claimed that advocacy for service on poor routes hurts the cause of transit, sending us backward, because there would be less service where it is needed.
This statement ignored the many deputants who spoke to the general issue of service to areas and times of low demand, and of the importance of having transit everywhere. Minnan-Wong did not even support the current recommendations preferring instead to adopt the original January 2011 list of cuts even though the analysis behind them contains outright errors in application of the TTC’s purported standard.
Commissioner Di Giorgio was not present.
I have already reported on Chair Stintz’ remarks.
As I write this, I await official copies of the text of the motions adopted at this meeting. When they are available, I will update this article.
Updated February 3, 2011 at 5:00 pm:
Following up on the route-specific comments from various deputations, let’s have a look at the alternatives that might have been available, but were not looked at, by the TTC.
Back when routes didn’t run at all hours, it was common practice to look for ways to save vehicles while preserving service, but this has not been done for the current round.
Also, there are cases where multiple services are cut with overlapping territories, but no allowance is made for the combined effect in the TTC’s analysis.
32D Eglinton West to Emmett and 73B Royal York to La Rose
Councillors Nunziata and Lindsay-Luby spoke to these routes, respectively. Each is a loop north of Eglinton.
Service on Emmett is provided on a 24 minute headway with 2 buses at all times when the service is threatened (after 10 pm Mon-Sat, after 7 pm Sun-Hol). Service on La Rose is provided on a 30 minute headway with 1 bus (after 7 pm all days). Neither of these services is integrated with the routes of which they are nominally branches because the headways do not mesh with the through routes.
I can’t help wondering whether a route could be constructed that served both loops off of Eglinton, either from Eglinton West Station to La Rose via Emmett, or from Royal York to Emmett via La Rose. This should save one bus from the combined operation.
33 Forest Hill, 14 Glencairn and 5 Avenue Road
Service will be removed from both of these routes at various times leaving no transit in the block bounded by St. Clair, Yonge, Eglinton and Bathurst as follows:
Weekday early evenings: Service on 14 and 5, but not on 33.
Weekend early evenings: Service only on 14.
All days late evenings: No service
It is physically impossible for all points within a block 2km on the side to be within 600m of the perimeter where transit is available.
103 Mt. Pleasant North, 124 Sunnybrook and 162 Lawrence-Donway
Service on both 103 and 124 will end at 10 pm Sundays and Holidays, and 162 is cut back to weekday daytime only. This leaves no transit service in the block bounded by Eglinton, Bayview, the west Don River (Glen Echo) and Yonge Street late Sunday night. It is physically impossible that all potential riders are within 600m of transit in a block roughly 2km by 3km.
This route serves the isolated Glenorchy and Bridal Path areas connecting them to the Yonge Subway at Lawrence Station and to the shopping area at Lawrence and Don Mills. It will be cut back to weekday only service during daytimes. The maximum walking distance to alternative service from this area is 1.7km.
There is no alternative for service here.
One point worth noting is that this area includes a school serving special needs children. Originally, service was to be cut except during peak periods, but the midday service used by this school has been restored. However, it wil not be accessible by TTC for any evening or weekend activities.
5 Avenue Road, 6 Bay, 26 Dupont and 127 Davenport
These routes serve the block bounded by Bloor, Bathurst, St. Clair and Yonge, and none of them will operate after 10 pm on Sundays. The Dupont bus will end at 10 pm all days, and the Avenue Road bus will end at 7 pm on weekends. Walking trips to “nearby” services must deal with hills, the main CPR line and some ravines.
101 Downsview Park
Winter (September to May) service on this route was to be cut because it is a “park”, but weekend service has been retained under the new scheme. This leaves weeknight users of facilities in the park with a long, poorly lit walk to transit through an old industrial area. Sheppard West buses could detour into the park at least on weekday evenings when there is demand, and although this would give through riders a slightly longer trip, it would maintain service to the park.
72A Pape via Commissioners
Winter service through the eastern portlands, the Distillery District and the St. Lawrence neighbourhood will end at 7 pm on Sundays. This is a situation where the more populated area west of the Don River is penalized for having a service through an industrial area as part of its route. Would its stats look better as a bus that only served the residential communities? The TTC will soon have to deal with new developments north and east of the Distillery District, and they really need to contemplate better bus service here, especially if the Cherry Street LRT is delayed by funding problems.
This is not an exhaustive review of the service changes, but it begs the question of how thoroughly the TTC tried to find alternatives to simply eliminating routes, and the dedication, if any, of Commissioners to the complexity of working through the problems these proposed “reallocations” bring.
Updated February 5, 2011 at 10:30 am:
The service cuts have been presented as a rollback of Ridership Growth Strategy improvements, and the new transit Commissioners are all too happy to suggest that a major initiative of the Miller years was a failure. In fact, half of RGS service additions and all of the headway improvements remain in place contributing to the overall health of the network.
Sundays after 10pm take the brunt of the cuts. RGS added service to 58 routes, but only 16 of these (28%) retain service. Late evenings in general fare poorly with only 17 of 44 routes (39%) retaining service weekdays, and 17 of 51 routes (33%) on Saturdays.
Early evenings do better with 13 of 21 (62%) retaining service on weekdays, 20 of 36 (56%) on Saturdays, and 20 of 44 (45%) on Sundays.
Weekday middays saw new service on 11 routes, and 9 of these remain in operation (82%). On Saturday afternoons, 15 of 25 (60%) were not cut, and on Sunday afternoons, 21 of 36 (58%) survived.
(Apologies if I missed the odd route. Keeping track of this, even on a spreadsheet, is tedious work and, unlike TTC staff, I am not paid to do it.)
Overall, half (210 out of 423) of the new services added by RGS remain in operation meeting the TTC’s new criteria for acceptable performance. That’s not a wild success, but hardly an abject failure.