Three Platforms, Little Promise (Update 4)

Updated September 30, 2011 at 5:40pm:  Urban Toronto’s interview with Conservative transportation critic Frank Klees has now been posted.

Updated September 29, 2011 at 2:35pm:  Urban Toronto’s interview with NDP transportation critic Cheri DiNovo has now been posted.

Updated September 28, 2011 at 12:00nn: Urban Toronto will be posting interviews with the three parties about their transportation platforms.  The interview with Liberal Kathleen Wynne is now online.  I will link to the others as they appear.

The NDP has announced that they would commit to electrifying the Air Rail Link from opening day rather than implementing it as a diesel operation and converting later.  This is an ambitious plan, but it has the advantage of forcing GO Transit’s hand.  We hear a lot from Metrolinx about “if” they will electrify, but “when” is a target somewhere in the mists of the future.

Updated September 20, 2011 at 10:45pm:  The calculation of the effect of the NDP proposal has been revised to take into account additional revenue from new transit riding, presuming that this actually materializes in the face of constraints on service.

The original post from September 11 follows below.

Election time in Ontario brings out a fresh batch of promises from political parties, promises they hope will lure our support on voting day, promises that will inevitably be broken no matter who is elected.

Transportation is not at the top of anyone’s priority list in an era of bad economies.  The big ticket items (both for votes and for dollars) are health care, education and jobs.  Transit gets the leftovers if it is mentioned at all.  For many ridings, transit isn’t even an issue, if transit has any presence.

What would the three major parties bring us after October 6?

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Creeping Toward Earlier Subway Closing?

The TTC is increasingly fond of shutting down parts of its subway system for maintenance late at night.  The practice began with the project to repair the tunnel liners on the North Yonge subway (Eglinton to Sheppard) that, through a design flaw, were causing the tunnel to gradually go out of round.  Rather than work for only a few hours each night, the repair window was opened by ending subway service on the affected part of the line at 12:30 am.  This will continue until sometime late in 2012.

The Bloor-Danforth line is now shutting down at midnight for rail grinding with a rolling schedule working across the entire route:

  • September 19 to 23:  Kipling to Islington
  • September 25 to 30:  Kipling to Jane
  • October 2 to 7:  Ossington to Broadview
  • October 9 to 14:  St. George to Broadview
  • October 16 to 19:  St. George to Woodbine
  • October 20 & 21, 23 to 28, 30 to November 2:  Woodbine to Kennedy
  • November 3 & 4, 6 to 11:  Warden to Kennedy

Replacement bus service will operate overlapping the section of the route that is shut down.

This project begs the question of why there is a need to do rail grinding on a scale and with a level of service disruption we have not seen since the subway opened.  Once upon a time, there was a two-car train of PCCs used for grinding, but these are long-retired.  A problem arose many years ago on the high-speed section of the subway north of Eglinton where lateral sway of trains (a particular problem with the H1 series of cars) generated long-period horizontal equivalents of “corrugations” that reinforced the unwanted car movements.

I have asked the TTC for an explanation for this project, and also about any plans they might have for similar work on the Yonge-University-Spadina line.

It will be intriguing to see how the replacement bus service fares especially in the heavily-travelled central section of the line, and whether the crowd control and passenger information provided by the TTC at closed stations will amount to more than a few hand-written signs.

With late night services under attack in some quarters, I can’t help wondering when some bright spark on City Council will conclude that we really don’t need the subway open so late, and with it the many bus services operating to 2:00am and beyond.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, the Nuit Blanche celebrations will see limited overnight subway service on October 1-2 finishing at 7:00am Sunday.  There will be a brief interval where the subway is closed before the start of regular Sunday service at 9:00am (trains are actually out on the line building up service somewhat earlier).

  • BD line: Keele to Woodbine every 12-15 minutes
  • YUS line: St. Clair West to Eglinton every 10-12 minutes

The 300 BD Night Bus will only operate on the outer parts of the route not covered by the subway.  The 320 Yonge Night bus will have frequent service north of Eglinton, and a Spadina shuttle bus will operate north of St. Clair West.

Whether the TTC will put signs on the night bus stops advising that travellers should use the subway remains to be seen.  Even more challenging will be whether people will read them.

A 15-minute headway will operate on the following surface routes overnight transitioning to the start of Sunday daytime service:

  • 301 Queen
  • 305 Eglinton East
  • 306 Carlton
  • 307 Eglinton West
  • 504 King

The question of an earlier closing time for the subway is related to service expansion plans.  As the YUS gets longer and longer, and as the headways are shortened with automatic train control, the number of trains on the line rises considerably.  Most of these trains will originate at Wilson Yard, and there is a physical limit to the number of trains/hour that can enter service for the morning peak.  This will require the loading of service, if not revenue operations, to start earlier than it does now and will limit the time when the line is available for maintenance work.

Available alternatives include earlier shutdowns, extended weekend outages on affected sections of a route or the construction of additional storage capacity elsewhere on the line, preferably on the Yonge side to balance out service loading requirements.