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.

23 thoughts on “Creeping Toward Earlier Subway Closing?

  1. I would like to find out how other cities handle their rail grinding needs. Berlin, London, New York, Boston, etc.

    Steve: I am still awaiting a reply from the TTC on the reason for this project and the way they are doing it.

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  2. So are night buses running between 7 and 9?

    Steve: It would appear so. Service in that period is part of the Sunday schedule, and will probably operate as normal.

    Day service starts at 5:00 am on 501 Queen, 5:30 on 506 Carlton and 5:20 on 504 King. Service on 320 Yonge builds up starting at 6:00 am southbound from Eglinton.

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  3. If the crowding on the shuttle buses are any indication that closing the subway early as a regular change would not work, I don’t know what would.

    I have had to deal with the shuttles a number of times, and to be honest, I have tried to avoid the subway at all costs north of Eglinton during late night periods. The shuttles take forever to go between the stations, and they are so crowded (despite coming like every minute) that the ride is hellish.

    It really would be easier if the TTC just extended bus routes from Finch, Sheppard, York Mills, and Lawrence to Eglinton during the closures. That way we could just board on buses and not have to ride the shuttle.

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  4. Steve,

    With all due respect to you and everyone else.

    How does anyone justify the Sheppard line being open past midnight-ish.
    There is rarely any passengers east of Woodbine/west of Keele very late at night.
    There is a reason why there is no night bus to cover the University-Spadina line overnight (either than no one road that covers those two sections).

    All the money being spent on keeping the Sheppard stubway open past midnight-ish. Even possibly outside rush hour. There is a bus above you, take it. Running buses is cheaper and appropriate for the line at the current moment.

    The ends of the Bloor-Danforth line same thing. After midnight-ish, it should be Keele-Woodbine only.

    All the money being wasted for 4-5 people. Keeping the lights on at those 16 stations (West of Keele, East of Woodbine to McCowan). Booth collectors, two operators per train (one for the SRT).

    Spend all that money fixing the stations and Wheel-Trans. They could even make the stations fully accessible (I know this last part is a crazy stupid thing to think of).

    We have to think, if there is 20 people at Woodbine going east. Do we run a subway train + SRT or do we get them a bus that will run from Woodbine to McCowan?

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  5. Miroslav, with all due respect, I think that the unbelievable crowding on the 310 Bathurst night bus (Not just south of Bloor where buses often leave passengers curbside due to overcrowding, but they are standing room only until well north of Eglinton every time I have ridden them) is reason enough for the TTC to consider running Spadina trains later, or providing some kind of replacement night service.

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  6. I was thinking about this situation a few weeks back when the Yonge line was closed between Bloor and Eglinton for the crossover installation at St. Clair, but came to a different conclusion. The thought I had was that if the TTC is arranging maintenance work so that sections of the subway are closed for weekends at a time for work, there’s probably very little (if anything) being done on the remainder of the subway during the weekend of the closure. That would mean the unaffected part of the subway could open a couple hours earlier on Sunday mornings if rotating maintenance closures on weekends were to become standard practice, which it almost is now.

    I seriously doubt that the TTC would be inclined to arrange things in such a way that the subway could open an hour or two earlier on Sundays given the political reality of these times where service cuts are in vogue and any idea of an increase of any kind would be a fast way to kill one’s career.

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  7. Hi Steve:-

    Yes the TTC had had subway grinding cars RT14-Rt15, converted from former 4400 series MU PCCs bought originally for the Bloor-Danforth line. They were coupled as a back to back set; thus their fronts gave them the double end capability essential for use in our subway system. They were effective in relieving surface corrugations but according to an Engineer friend, they created another problem as they could not re-profile the rail for an optimum wheel/rail interface, but gradually worsened that problem in the way they removed material from the rail-head. They certainly did the job that they were initially intended to do; minimize noise transmitted from the wheels, to the roadbed through the tunnel walls to the TTC’s neighbours by eliminating the recurring phenomenon of corrugation. Removing corrugation also improved the ride, lengthened the rail’s life and cut down noise heard inside the vehicles. They were limited in what they could do on some curves and near special track-work where the stones, dragged along the rail-head would lose their effectiveness due to lowered operating speeds or plain old, ya gotts lift them while going over frogs and points to avoid breakage of those brittle stones.

    The nearly identical technology of applying a dragged grinding stone to the rail’s surface was installed in new grinding trucks built for the purpose and coupled between Gloucester built subway cars, then employed as locomotives after they were retired from their passenger duties. These new train sets of grinders replaced the aging and exponentially less reliable and increasingly difficult to maintain PCCs (which themselves had replaced former 4 wheeled Toronto Civic Railway passenger streetcars that had been converted for the same purpose). But they still did not address the wheel rail profile problem. Thus the new method employed now.

    I am unaware why the old technology cars could run effectively during the normal downtime hours and the new ‘modern’ method cannot, but they are doing more presently than just removing corrugation, they are re-profiling too. This is a far more sophisticated process but ultimately will give all concerned, neighbours and maintenance forces, a more desirable outcome once completed.

    I can only speculate that it is a matter of a function of rental cost verses the overall time needed to keep the units on site to accomplish the task of grinding the entire line that demands these lengthier closures.

    Dennis Rankin

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  8. @Jonathon
    Spadina subway probably wouldn’t do much for Bathurst Blue Nite issues. If the capacity is warranted, as you suggest it is, best bet to help matters while using minimal staff would probably be to split the route at St Clair, with buses serving the north and streetcars serving the south. St Clair West Stn does not need to be open for this operation as streetcars have to loop via Vaughan Rd anyway.

    Steve: There’s no reason to convert the Bathurst night bus to St. Clair and impose a connection on through riders that would almost certainly be missed most of the time. If the issue is that more service is needed on the south end of the route, then this could be provided by a short turn branch of the bus.

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  9. Absolutely bizarre. Normally with the BD line unavailable like that, I’d go and use the 506 instead … but for much of October, it’s not much use either, turning at Lansdowne, and also going as far south as Queen to avoid the Gerrard bridge over the Don construction.

    Here’s a tangential question … why in all these years has no one suggested that the 506 be extended up from High Park, along Parkside into Keele station … seems it would make the line far more useful in the west end, and with the cutting of a few trees (which I hear don’t provide any employment) wouldn’t even require any interference with traffic.

    Steve: A connection to Keele Station would be an expensive piece of track relative to the additional riding this would be likely to generate. Maybe you could use this as a reason to convert the 506 to bus operation.

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  10. Oh, if we wanted to play how to improve transit by getting rid of streetcars, we could have a lot of fun. Such as eliminating the Dundas and Kingston Road streetcars, and merging operations such that the 504 would go straight east at Dundas/Broadview to Dundas/Kingston, then continue up Kingston Road to Eglinton. Now that would be a useful route …

    … but do we really want to play that game?

    Steve: Sounds like a typical railfan (busfan?) passtime — draw lines on maps that ignore where people travel.

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  11. Judging by the amount of vehicle traffic eastbound and westbound on Dundas in rush-hour, that’s where a lot of people travel! What I think people don’t do, is travel down Kingston Road and up Coxwell. Travelling down Kingston Road by transit is a nightmare … I’m between Kingston/Woodbine and Gerrard/Woodbine. You take the streetcar a short distance to Kingston Road. You then change to a bus to St. Clair. And then you then change again for another bus to Eglinton … and change yet again to get past Eglinton. It’s absurd, and you never leave a major artery! But the truth is you don’t actually do this. In reality you get in your car and drive … because it’s not convenient to take transit along this route.

    If we dumped streetcars, then dispersing the frequent east-west services to include Dundas/Kingston as well as Queen and Gerrard would help alleviate the overloaded service on these routes – particularly when all the extra buses would be added to carry the existing service.

    I confess I don’t travel much around High Park … but I can’t imagine the 506 working half as well in the east end, if it didn’t provide such good service to Main Station, and instead terminated at Gerrard/Main or Gerrard/Victoria Park.

    I also don’t for a second believe that streetcars should be replaced by buses!

    Steve: I was, of course, joking about a 506 bus too. The fact that Dundas has a lot of cars on it does not necessarily reflect O-D patterns as much as the fact that it is a relatively fast route into downtown, at least to about Parliament Street. Autos go where there is capacity. Transit riders go where there are destinations, or easy links between them.

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  12. Steve: There’s no reason to convert the Bathurst night bus to St. Clair and impose a connection on through riders that would almost certainly be missed most of the time. If the issue is that more service is needed on the south end of the route, then this could be provided by a short turn branch of the bus.

    But that is a route management issue, not an issue inherent to transfers. Frankly, while it varies by agency to agency, my understanding and experience has been that holding for connections is practiced in some parts of the 905; I see no reason why the same can’t be done here if competent route managers are assigned to monitor the operation, an argument you have raised in other discussions. Running a shorter overlapping branch would require more staff than splitting the route with different capacity vehicles plowing their respective stretches. Considering that funding is hard to come by, split routing is worth considering if the overcrowding is to be addressed at all. Since no new infrastructure would be involved and all resources involved are existing, why not use the most cost-effective approach with the proviso that route management meet a certain standard?

    Steve: You are making a huge assumption that there actually is any route management.

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  13. I was wondering about that rail grinding. Why was it not an issue before.? But I believe it is probably a cost effective new method used by TTC which saves for “them” but cost us riders more in taxi fares or lost time = $.

    If the “state of the art” improves, so should travel time and service in general for passengers.

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  14. In many ways it’s the classic City of Toronto cut services to save money.

    It’s the same way Gardiner/DVP maintenance works. The 401/427 don’t see regular annual closures for maintenance. They do more limited lane closures more frequently … but it costs a lot more $. By fully closing the Gardiner, work can be done a lot quicker, saving money.

    I’m sure the grinding could be done in off-hours, but would take longer, and cost more $.

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  15. TTC riders are lucky that subway service is only negatively affected after midnight. Maintenance is routinely done during the evening on Los Angeles’s rail lines, even though they all finish around 12:30 AM. All stations (usually) remain open, but the time between trains widens to 30 (!) minutes.

    I certainly wouldn’t be in favor of shortening the lines after 12 AM, as that would create passenger confusion. Besides, even if an average of only 10 people were in the car east of Woodbine that would be 60 people per train * 10 trains an hour = 600 passengers an hour – that would require a very large bus replacement. If you had to, close individual stations late at night, especially those that don’t have any bus connections (like Glencairn).

    Hopefully the worst that will come out of this is a demand based headway after 10:30 PM instead of a policy based headway; reducing service from 6 to 10 minutes would save a lot of money but would at least theoretically allow for timed transfers with buses at stations.

    Steve: Actually a demand-based headway has two problems. First, the demand is not uniform over the line, and trains are quite busy in the central area. Short turns would be required to properly implement this. Second, the level of late night demand varies depending on the day of the week and what events are happening. You might have a quiet Monday, but a packed Thursday. Finally, the folks driving the trains are probably the smallest group keeping the subway running. Between the collectors in every station and the maintenance staff that must be available in case of problems, there are more people than you would save from the trains.

    I won’t say anything about the TTC’s ability to maintain a reliable 10-minute subway headway as opposed to a scattering of trains with gaps. As for timed transfers, the challenge is the time it takes to get from platform level to the bus interchange, a time that varies depending on the agility of the rider.

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  16. A demand of 600/hr can be met by a bus somewhere between every 5- to 5-and-a-half minutes, not the busiest service TTC has ever attempted.

    That said, I don’t support closing the subway early. Never underestimate the popularity of “last train.”

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  17. The subway runs fine the way it is and reducing service beyond 5-6 minutes makes the system much more unattractive (one only needs to visit Montreal to see this).

    The problem here, is that Toronto thinks everything has to run packed to the end of the line. If you visit European cities, or other world cities, the subways don’t normally operate fully packed till the end. In Toronto this usually happens due to our massive feeder bus network.

    But when my friend was living in Berlin for example, he said it was normal to only have a few people getting on or off at the last stops.

    And I would love to know what subways you people are riding here in Toronto, because as a Scarborough rider, I can tell you the subway carries good loads of riders well past Woodbine, even late at night.

    Now if the TTC wants to save money on the night bus network, then all they have to do is operate more of the night bus routes into the heart of downtown on Friday and Saturday nights.

    A perfect example of this is the Don Mills night bus, which ends at King/Queen/River Street. That route should extend all the way to Spadina on Friday and Saturday nights, operating down King or Queen Street. So many people would take the route instead of Yonge Street, and that would help relieve the overcrowding issue on Yonge, as many people could transfer to east-west bus routes along Don Mills instead of Yonge.

    In the west, extend Dufferin, Bathurst, and other routes into downtown on the weekends. It would probably result in a net decrease in the amount of buses needed, as you would need a couple buses to add to these routes, but would probably see many more taken off Yonge.

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  18. Ni Michael:-

    You’re almost talking TTC blasphemy here, a downtown relief line indeed!!!

    But the reality is it sounds like a plausible solution to the Yonge sardine line.

    Dennis Rankin

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  19. The thing that I find interesting with rail grinding is that the streetcar section of the TTC says rail grinding isn’t necessary. Yet the subway section says it’s necessary so much so the subway has to close early. How can it be so different in one company?

    Steve: I suspect that there are noise complaints in some areas and possibly some types of wear caused by higher speed operation than one sees on much of the streetcar system. There are some corrugated sections of “new” style rail on the surface system (e.g. Broadview at the north end of Riverdale Park northbound), but this doesn’t seem to be a widespread problem more a local peculiarity. I am still awaiting feedback from the TTC for info on this project.

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  20. So I’ve had to work late on Monday and Tuesday and have got to experience the Bloor Line post-midnight shut down, a few thoughts:

    I’ve been traveling from Bloor-Yonge to St. George and then North on the Spadina line.

    Eastbound buses at Yonge & Bloor stop at both the West and East side of Yonge. The bad thing about this is when it’s loading on the East Side Stop you have a parade of people darting across the street as they exit the subway, trying to catch the shuttle. There’s a real risk of some of these people getting hit. Cars are quite aggressive trying to get a green at Yonge & Bloor due to the pedestrian phase, this combined with the darkness and 3 burnt out streetlights right in area make a dangerous combination. Using the West Side stop only would force people to use the traffic lights at Yonge & Bloor.

    Despite being early in the week after midnight,there are still large crowds. I saw many people entering via the rear doors and neither the driver or TTC supervisor tried to stop them, both times I had to wait for a 2nd or 3rd bus just to board. Thursday & Friday nights should be extremely busy this week. The collector at St. George does not check transfers, but was stopping people to make sure they knew that there were only North & Southbound trains operating.

    Automated stop announcements don’t seem to work when the bus is in subway shuttle mode. On Monday the driver was helpful and called out all stops just like they sound on the subway (Next stop is…followed by now arriving at…) however on Tuesday the driver made no announcements at all and let a guy off at Avenue & Bloor because he rang the bell. People used to riding the subway can lose track of where they are, especially on a very crowded bus. Not making stop announcement on a shuttle seems ridiculous. Also it’d be nice for them to clarify if the shuttles are making local bus stops as well as station stops.

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  21. Hi Steve and Frank:-

    Interesting that you would bring up the subject of rail grinding on the surface system. A pet peeve of mine each time I walk along the Kingston Road or over the Main Street bridge. The cars howl on the corrugation. One on new track (Main), the other on the old ‘thunder track’ as Steve calls it.

    There is a misconception with the present management that there is no need for rail grinding on the streetcar track especially now with the car tracks laid in rubber. TTC’s present ‘mis’management says that corrugation will not grow where the track is not concrete bound. They are sadly mistaken and ‘IF’ they have realized their error, maybe admitting it only to themselves, without acknowledging that error to the outside world, I know that model to be truly WRONG!

    Apparently the engineering model prior to the widespread adoption of rubber bound track was that corrugation would never grow over the life of that new track, projected at 30 years. The lie is in. Reality shows us that corrugation grows on steel rails where steel wheels run over them, in rubber or not. Predictions of where this phenomenon will appear can be as much guess work as it is intuition, but it is there and will only get worse as it appears and then is not dealt with. Worsening is a given once corrugation starts. It is an essential aftermath of its first appearance. It cannot go away without intervention; it is just not possible. It only gets deeper and the frequency changes thus the noise increases and worsens.

    On the streetcar system, where speeds are lower, profiling of the rail head is an unnecessary action, thus head grinding in the old drag the grinding block along the track is still a valuable maintenance option. The howling noise of the streetcar wheels running over corrugation is an unnecessary pollution that TTC’s surface maintenance ostriches wish to ignore. Their model has failed, but admitting it and dealing with it are two different things. Those that live along Main Street and the Kingston Road just have to live with it. The fools they are for not moving to the car oriented suburbs anyway! Misguided boobs eh?

    Mind you, when at a public meeting with a ranking surface track maintainer, I accused him of ignoring rail grinding as a behind the scenes attack on the streetcars to get the neighbours along car lines to be so distressed with the roar of the wheels on corrugated rails near their homes that they would be happy to see the abandonment of the system. My suggestion to revisit the old method of grinding was met with the believed by him stated lie that the old method didn’t work. As a former track maintainer myself and a resident along a carline, I know that comment to be pure, unadulterated BS! The old method most DEFINITELY did work.

    The problem lies with the believed untruths in the TTC’s managers and engineers! Where what once was given as normal maintenance practices to appease the neighbours and riders, has been ignored and then whitewashed by lack of knowledge. Why the old ways were even practiced in the first place is no longer even a consideration because the new crowd knows better. Ignore history and you will likely be repeating old errors. And guess what? History is being ignored.

    Dennis Rankin

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  22. There are many places on Lake Shore Blvd. with noisy streetcar track. North (east) of Royal York is a good spot; any streetcar exceeding 40 km/h will make lots of noise. I’m some 500 metres south of Lake Shore by Long Branch loop, and I can clearly hear overnight runs when they speed along Lake Shore.

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  23. Note that when they say it closes at midnight … that doesn’t seem to mean that the last train is at midnight or after. I was at Bathurst at 11:55 pm last night, and though I was in plenty of time for an eastbound train The sign was already up that the station was closed, and the collector said if we ran we had a chance. You’d think they’d either have the last train leave the terminus at midnight or just after … or post the last time trains!

    Also I heard that those just after midnight trying to get westbound shuttles at Bathurst were out of luck, as they were all full.

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